A Conversation with Kid Millions

Chatting with the drummer, producer, composer, collaborator, solo artist and road-food warrior.

Kid Millions—aka musician John Colpitts—is the drummer for and founder of Oneida, a loud, weird, brainy Brooklyn band that has produced more than a dozen albums since 1997, and whose psychedelic/ electronic noise-rock is now a linchpin of the country’s underground music scene.

But music isn’t their only beat. Throughout their 15-year history, the band has crisscrossed the world and, along the way, they’ve made great eats a priority, too. One example: On a recent tour to promote part three of a record series called Thank Your Parents, they performed in Ancona, where Colpitts admits they missed an opening band—so they could finish their pasta with clams and stuffed cuttlefish. (Check out their keyboard player’s complete Italian dining diary on here.)

When touring the States, Oneida’s bible is Road Food, Jane and Michael Stern’s oft-updated magnum opus on the country’s best greasy spoons and holes-in-the-wall serving regional specialties. And when he’s home in Bushwick, Colpitts often cooks, though he claims he can barely do so. Don’t be fooled. Colpitts—who also heads a drumming ensemble called Man Forever and runs a record label called Brah—is a serious foodie. This drummer owns four kinds of vinegar, has been known to blog about ramen at Brahrecords.com, and makes everything from choucroute garnie to jars of bright-purple pickled eggs and beets.

B.R.F. (before Road Food)

We had done a couple of trips where we were driving along and we’re like, “Fuck, we’re hungry, let’s pull off at this McDonald’s.” I was, like, vegetarian at the time—or not even; I ate fish. So I’d eat a Filet-O-Fish, and it’d be a nightmare. I’d feel sick for, like, a day.Now we don’t eat fast food at all.

The first time we’d thought to [seek out good food] was in Pittsburgh. I asked this guy at the end of the show: “Where’s a place we can go that’s ‘Pittsburgh’ food?” He said, “I know exactly the place.” Boom! We’re going to Primanti’s. French fry sandwiches. It was such a revelation, we were, like, “This is crazy!”

The universe reveals the sacred text

On [tour] we stopped off at [our singer’s] wife’s family’s place on the West Coast, and they had Road Food. They’d never opened it. It was, like, on the shelf. It was, like, a really early edition; a second edition and we were, like, “Oh fuck, this looks perfect!”

Bibles go digital

We have two editions of Road Food, we have Southern Meat and Threes, then we have one called Southern Mouth. They’re in a bag at the studio. But you don’t need books on the road anymore. We just look it up online.

Rock before repast

The only time that we were kind of rolling in somewhere late was from Texas to Memphis. In De Valls Bluff, Arkansas, there’s a barbecue place and a pie shop. It’s, like, hand-painted on the wall of a house: Mary’s Pie Shop. We were late, but Memphis is a late town. As we like to joke, we put the punk in punctual.

Best tour meal ever

The best hospitality we’ve had is Italy, definitely. We are pretty popular there, nothing crazy, but, like, people come to see us in Italy, unlike here. We did this festival last July [in Sardinia], and the promoter made us this insane dinner. There were so many courses. It was, like, deep-fried rabbit with onions. There was a lamb ragu with pasta and then another rabbit dish, and then two kinds of horse—one was steak—and they have this smoked fish egg thing [called bottarga]. They smoke fish eggs, and they’re pressed into a block, and they shave it. And then dessert and, oh, that maggot cheese [called casu marzu]. Have you ever heard of this stuff?

Purple eggs

I make pickled eggs. They’re super easy. I have some in the fridge. I’m into beets. I really wanna do sauerkraut, and I took a class, Peter Berley’s at Brooklyn Kitchen.

What’s really inside that bottle of Frizz

This is olive oil from Sardinia that I had a friend bring me. I just got it. It’s insanity. Our friend in Sardinia—when we were there we were, like, “can we get any food stuff?” And our friend was, like, [with an Italian accent], “Well, we-ah make-ah olive oil, and very, you know, it pretty good. Is good.” And we fucking got some and brought it home and every time he’s come to meet us since at shows we are, like, “Bring it!” I am super psyched to use that.

Better for the bod

I have this from Japan. This is tea. This was a gift. I stopped drinking coffee. It’s been about six months. It’s good for me. I only drank three cups a day but it would be something really strong and crazy. I started having migraines. My body was, like, “Stop!” The tea thing is so much better, ’cause if I miss it it’s cool, instead of missing coffee and really being in bad shape.

Nonstarter

Well, that’s kind of a fraud. What happened was, I was needing to cook for my girlfriend, and I reached out to [Oneida’s vocalist]. And he was like, “OK, dude, this is what you should do. Get this charcoal and fucking grill some shit.” [I did it] up on the roof. I’m a little bit better [at grilling] now, but then I was fully an idiot. My poor girlfriend was, like, “Why did you do this? This sucks.” It was so stressful, with me running around and trying to do this and failing. It just never caught [on fire]. I ended up just putting it on the griddle.

(Don’t) drink me

Absinthe—so dumb. I got that in Spain. Some dude gave it to me.Why do I have that ? I never wanna drink it.

Better luck next year

Creamed onions. My mom’s [Thanksgiving] recipe. I did make them. I did, and I fucked up ’cause I didn’t save the onion stock. I was, like, “Oh fuck, I fucked up.” So it wasn’t awesome, but I’ll make it again. My mom’s a great cook. She’ll say she’s not. But she’s super good.

Mortar and pestle mise en place

I asked my friend Brian Chase, the drummer from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, how to make chai. He’s super into Indian cooking.

Takeout season

My fridge is empty because it’s summer and I’m not really cooking. In December, January, it’s like hunker down, don’t do anything, don’t go out, just work and come home and cook something warm and rich. Summer, I just do takeout. Well, this neighborhood is not that good for that. I’ll go to Williamsburg. I go to Oasis, or if I’m with somebody I’ll go to Radegast or Dumont, something close to the studio.

Jug

That’s my girlfriend’s. She makes glogg.

Used oil

I make doughnuts. I was so into the Pies ’n’ Thighs’ doughnuts I asked them for a recipe.

The Woman’s Day Encyclopedia of Cookery from 1966

These are the fucking jam. They’re awesome. I love them. My mom turned me on to them. They’re so fun. Pull one out! My mom collected them for me. ’Cause she had her own set. They’re so cool. They’re the best. If you want to make something with an ingredient you just look it up. You can just be, like, “OK, I want to make something with whatever—hickory, hominy, and you’re, like, “Fuck, I’ve got some! I’ll make something.” Online is not as fun; you don’t get this kind of bizarre shit.

Photo credit:  Julie Glassberg.

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Rachel Wharton is the former deputy editor of Edible Brooklyn and Edible Manhattan. She won a 2010 James Beard food journalism award, holds a master’s degree in Food Studies from New York University, and has more than 15 years of experience as a writer, editor and reporter. A North Carolina native and a former features food reporter for the New York Daily News, she edited the Edible Brooklyn cookbook and was the co-author of both Handheld Pies and DiPalo's Guide to the Essential Foods of Italy. Her work also appears in publications such as The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and Saveur.