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Anthony Bourdain’s Love of Music: A Brief History

Anthony Bourdain was passionate about a lot of things in life: food, travel, and meeting and learning about people from all walks of life. Bourdain was also a rabid music fan, and he had no problems voicing his vast and varied opinions on the subject. He was the kind of chef who might advise someone to boil pasta for the time it takes to listen to a Stooges record instead of telling them to set a timer.

“The music and the musicians who started playing and hanging out with each other at CBGB were an appropriate reaction to the general feelings of hopelessness, absurdity, futility, and disgust of living in New York at the time,” Bourdain wrote in a 2007 essay for Spin about discovering punk rock as a culinary student in 1977. “The irradiated spawn of tormented loners who had grown up listening to the Stooges and the Velvets, wannabe poets, failed romantics–anyone with enough enthusiasm or anger to pick up a guitar, it seemed, converged on the only place that would have them. And briefly (and only for a lucky few), music was good again. When the as-New York-as-it-gets Ramones took the stage, they immediately banished all music that preceded it, dooming it to irrelevance.”

Bourdain, along with Tommy Ramone and some of the 30 Rock cast, later got to rep for one of his heroes in the 2012 video for Joey Ramone’s posthumous single “New York City.”

As much as Bourdain was a culinary expert on his various television shows, he always found a way to incorporate his musician buddies into the productions of his Travel Channel show No Reservations or his more recent CNN series Parts Unknown. Bourdain filmed himself with The Black Keys chowing down on some Ohio barbecue and shotgunned a beer on camera before getting drunkenly tattooed with Sleigh Bells. His all-time favorite guest stars, it seems, were his pals in Queens of the Stone Age, who Bourdain spent a week hanging out in their desert recording studio in 2011. Bourdain told Spin about each member’s cooking style:

They’re good. It’s funny; they all had their different styles. Dave has got a whole kind of New Orleans thing going, he spent a lot of time there. Josh is really into food. He cooks pretty well. He certainly knows his food. Hutch: Excellent cook. Did some slow barbecue. Everybody had a specialty. I’m finding this more and more: people who you’d never expect to be sophisticated about food often turn out to be. They cook a lot out there; it’s a big part of their day-to-day. And they do drink a lot of tequila. It’s just truly un-fucking-believable how much tequila they drink at that place. There’s an entire tree on the property stacked up with Patrón bottles. It’s truly terrifying.

QOTSA’s Josh Homme and Mark Lanegan also recorded the theme for the chef’s CNN show in 2013. Bourdain returned the favor with his emphatic yet strange praise he wrote in the bio for QOTSA’s 2013 album …Like Clockwork:

It came from the desert.

What “it” was, exactly, is still a matter of debate. Are Queens of the Stone Age a band? An association? A concept? The intermittent issue of an unhinged Carlo Von Sexron? The toxic byproduct of other bands? A variously shrinking and expanding group of friends and likeminded visitors? Or a secret society?

Whatever kind of strange and terrible mutation slouched out of the irradiated California wasteland in 1996, it’s evidently still around. It lives. It breathes. It can’t be stopped.

…LIKE CLOCKWORK is the first QOTSA album since 2007’s ERA VULGARIS and, according to its founder and only identifiable constant, Josh Homme, ” …like clockwork’ was the only thing that didn’t happen.”

As adamant as Bourdain was about his fandom, he was just as vocal about the music he didn’t like. In his 2007 SPIN essay, he was critical of disco because it sounded like lame music his parents might like and didn’t feel as urgent and dangerous as what he was listening to at the scummy downtown rock clubs downtown. Shades of that criticism was present in his takedown of EDM during a 2014 Parts Unknown trip to Las Vegas.

“Come ye lords and princelings of douchedom,” Bourdain said in a mock Shakespearian soliloquy over footage of glow-stick toting grownups in a casino club. “Hear my clarion call. Anointeth thyself with gel and heavenly body spray. Maketh the sign of the devil horns with thine hands. Let there be high-fiving and the hugging of many bros, for this is the kingdom and the power. Now frolic.”

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