I Had Dinner with Buckethead
A friend of Buckethead’s agent recently invited me to dine with Buckethead in Los Angeles at his oceanfront Manhattan Beach home. Once a month, Buckethead apparently holds invite-only “Dinners with Buckethead.” The invite said, “Please wear long pants.” For a week I wondered what foods the elusive guitar player would serve. When the day arrived, I show up at the address at 7pm sharp in long pants, and a man in a white suit greeted me at the door. Inside, he led me to a table facing the ocean with three place settings. One other person (not Buckethead) was already seated in the middle; a white guy, shorter, with longer brown hair, wearing a trucker hat and big grandma sunglasses that he never took off. We were handed placards with calligraphed menus on them, and a few moments later, out glided a lavender-smelling Buckethead, in the Bucket and mask. No one spoke, or faced each other. We faced the Pacific Ocean, as the sun set, in silence.
No one really knows why Buckethead (born Brian Carroll, May 13, 1969) wears the KFC bucket on his head, and a Michael Myers Halloween-esque mask on his face. In fact, little is known about the virtuoso guitar player. His style spans from progressive metal to bluegrass, jazz, ambient, space. He shreds like Ares lives in his fingers. He’ll speed-pluck Michael Jackson’s “Smooth Criminal,” then segue into the Star Wars theme with a solo that sounds like R2D2 fucking Amadeus at the speed of light. Buckethead is an anomaly. He doesn’t speak, to anyone. He’s released 37 studio albums—14 in 2007 alone. He’s performed on over 50 other albums and has played and toured with Mike Patton, Iggy Pop, Bill Laswell, Bootsy Collins, Les Claypool, Serj Tankian, and was a member of Guns N' Roses from 2000 to 2004.
The “Dinner with Buckethead” placard began with: Potables:
Vodka Martini with Huckleberry Juice “Caviar.” Hand-foraged wild huckleberries spherified into caviar using a sodium alginate gelling agent. How it’s done: Add the alginate little by little to the juice, then drop spoonfuls into a bath of calcium carbonate dissolved in water. A skin will form around the liquid. The process is made known by El Bulli’s Chef Ferran Adria.
It tasted mostly like vodka, and I said, “Are we not talking?” As an icebreaker, but no one answered. Trucker Hat burped quietly. I tried to catch a glimpse of how Buckethead drank under the mask, but didn’t want to stare. He drank like a cat.
The placard continued:
Monkey-Picked Oolong Tea sweetened with Acacia Honey, collected by nomadic bee-keepers operating in a Tuscan National Park. How it’s done: Monkeys were trained by monks in the 18th century to pick tea for the Emperor Qian Long. Nowadays, the term “monkey-picked” simply means the tea is the highest quality available.
No bread or crackers yet. Maybe Buckethead only eats liquids. We should have been speaking at this point, but Buckethead, I guess, wasn’t going to break character. The placard said nothing about not talking. I ventured, “Do y’all know about that place underground in Norway where they store seeds? The Svalbard Global Seed Vault?” To no response. Really? Can’t even talk about the seed vault? I bet Buckethead knows all about the seed vault.
More placard potables: Coffee. Kopi Luwak (Civet-Defecated Coffee). The Luwak or Asian Palm Civet is a Ferret-like creature from from Sumatra. How it’s done: Coffee cherries are eaten by a civet, and defecated in clumps, keeping their shape. They are gathered, cleaned, sun dried, and lightly roasted. Studies show the animal's stomach enzymes digest the beans' covering and ferment the beans. Since the flavor of coffee is due mostly to its proteins, there is a hypothesis that this shift in the numbers and kinds of proteins in beans after being swallowed by civets brings forth their unique flavor. While inside the civet, the beans begin to germinate by malting, which also lowers their bitterness.
An animal eats beans, high in the mountains, shits them out, and they make coffee from it. And Buckethead drinks it. No way. “Is this real?” I asked, There’s no way this is real.” Still silence. Trucker Hat seemed to love the coffee. This had to be a joke. There was no way this was really Buckethead, no way Buckethead drinks coffee that comes out of a rodent’s ass. My friend who knows Buckethead’s agent was playing one of those LA pranks. I got up to take his bucket and mask off, but White Suit man immediately stepped in front of him (I guess he was standing there the whole time) and said, “Please do not approach Bucket.”
Organic Romanesco Broccoli-Foam Shooter with Chinese spoon of Powdered Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil. How it’s done: Juice romanesco and create the foam with lecithin by whipping the juice with an immersion blender; olive oil is powdered using Tapioca Maltodextrin. Finally there was some food. Is a “shooter” food? It tasted like broccoli, with olive oil. I said, “So what are y’all doing later? You got a show, Bucket?” To which Buckethead softly shook his head no. Hey, at least he responded.
1) Purple Potatoes Hand-Cut into Hearts – Steamed and served over a fermented black garlic olive oil emulsion.
2) Vegan Brown Rice Risotto served with a whole Italian White Alba Truffle (~$200/oz.).
3) Hot gelled Japanese Wild Matsutake Mushroom spaghetti in a tofu cream sauce.
How it’s done: Melt agar into the stock and put mushrooms into syringes. Push mushrooms out syringes for “spaghetti.”
I was interested in how Buckethead eats, and stared at him in the reflection off the window. He daintily lifts the mask ever so slightly and takes very small, mannequin style bights, under the mask. He eats with the fucking mask on. The risotto was my favorite, and I ruled out the friend I thought was Buckethead, because he couldn’t afford $200 per oz. of anything. I said, “Buckethead, why the Bucket? Do you sleep in the bucket?”
Salads. Buckethead eats multiple salads. European, post entrée. Hand-Foraged Salad. Wild Miner’s Lettuce Salad, Wild Huckleberries, Organic Wild Pine Nuts. And, World’s Smallest Fruit Salad: Baby Kiwis, Baby Coconuts, Pepquinos served in a Baby Pineapple.
Buckethead must like huckleberries. I said, “Buckethead, your version of “Smooth Criminal” is amazing. You tag that song.” He acknowledged by turning toward me. We were actually looking at each other. Then I said, “Do you think Michael really fondled the kids in that secret Neverland fondle room he had?” He quickly looked back at the ocean, which had fallen into night by this point. Trucker Hat laughed, sort of, dabbing kiwi off his face.
Dessert: Trio of Sorbets – Avocado/Lime, Prickly Pear, and Passion Fruit topped with Szechuan Buttons, and Vegan, Gluten-Free Wild Candy Cap Mushroom Cookies. They tasted like electricity. More civet-shit coffee was brought out. We sipped, stared at the Pacific some more, and to signify the meal’s end, Buckethead rose from his chair in a single, silent motion. He eloquently bowed, with some coconut stuck to the side of the bucket, and then spoke in a high and fragile, almost inaudible voice, “It was a pleasure dining with you both.” Then he looked at Trucker Hat and said, “I’ll have those mixes for you next week, Mr. Hansen.” Before I could lunge at him to rip off the bucket and mask, he was gone. White Suit appeared and said it was time to go.
Whether or not Buckethead was real, I do think the Civet coffee was. The sweet chocolate flavor, and spicy ginger after taste could only come from being defecated out an animal's ass high in the mountains of Sumatra. I woke up the next morning with the taste of risotto in my mouth, and realized it was all a dream. Sadly, the “Dinner with Buckethead” had only taken place in my mind. I wished it wasn’t a dream. The risotto was so real. I got up and made coffee, regular non-defecated coffee.
Or, Ending B: How it works: When I lunge at Bucket, I do manage to grab him, and rip off the bucket and mask, and it’s Katie Holmes. Buckethead is Katie Holmes? Revealed, she’s inconsolable on the floor, whimpering in a fetal position. White Suit exclaims, “Thank you. THANK YOU! You’ve done it! Finally, someone has done it. I’m freeeeee.” And he runs off. Mr. Hansen jumps up on a chair and starts singing Beck’s “Loser” really loudly. Just like Beck. And he’s flinging lime sorbet and baby kiwis around like he’s an orangutan in a food fight. Holmes is crying harder and harder. I try to console her, “Don’t worry, this is only a dream. By the way, I had no idea you could shred like that. I didn’t even know you played guitar. I totally thought Buckethead was Davendra Banhart.”
Ending C had something to do with a nude Danny DeVito popping out of the wall covered in blood with a Chicken McNugget box on his head. It also had something to do with the broccoli foam shooters, and skull-fucking. As to who got skull-fucked, and how it involved foam shooters made out of broccoli, I have no idea. It was a dream, it gets hazy.