The final semester of high school is the most carefree period of a person’s life. With college acceptances in the rearview, the classes you sit through don’t really have any bearing on your life, so who cares if you spend the bulk of the time goofing off? Even the most hardened bookworms end up taking it easy. It takes a really impressive act to stand out as a slacker among an entire class of slackers, but what JP “Rook” Cappelletty did put him on the Mt. Rushmore of Senioritis.

“Machine Gun Kelly called me and I was in my last class of the day,” Rook says. “I literally jumped up and walked out of class and answered my phone. They were like, ‘Can you come to Cleveland today? Where you at right now?’ ‘I’m just about to get out of class.’ Then they said, ‘OK, so you’re in college?’ I’m like, ‘Nah.’

“He was like, ‘Dude, you’re in high school? I don’t know if we can use you,’” he continues. “Nah, nah, hell no. Fuck that, I’m coming. You already gave me the address, I’m showing up. I showed up, they were like, ‘Hell yeah, we fuck with you. Can you play a show tomorrow?’ I ended up staying and I never went back to school.”

Photos by Nathan James

Photos by Nathan James

Rook had been courting Kelly for a while, sending videos showing off his skills. It’s the kind of foolhardy thing a kid with equal amounts of earnestness and ambition would do, hoping their hero will notice them and invite them to join the band. It isn’t supposed to actually work.

With no desire to hang around to space out in the back of the room for a couple of weeks, Rook leapt at the opportunity and joined the band. One day later he was behind the kit when Kelly hit the stage.

“The show was insane,” he says. “It was at this place called the Blind Pig and it was completely sold the fuck out, there was a million people there. I went from decent shows at little clubs with a  good amount of people cause I was in a pretty big metal band. But yo, this was some other shit.”

The band had a house up in Cleveland, so Rook moved right in. Gone were the days of doing homework, meeting curfew and taking out the trash. Most parents wouldn’t have been cool with their kid ditching school to become a drummer, but for the Cappellettys, Rook was merely picking up the family business.

“My dad is actually a drummer and he played in a big band back in the ’80s called Damien,” Rook says. “I grew up with music around my whole life. There were bands rehearsing at my house all the time. My aunt was Ruby Starr, she was a big rock singer back in the ’70s. It’s in my family for sure.

Photos by Nathan James

Photos by Nathan James

“There were always drums at home, so I had that advantage to go and play them,” he continues. “I took it upon myself to sit down every day. I was super into it, especially because I looked up to my dad so much.”

When Rook walked out of his classroom to chase his destiny, Kelly was making very different music than he is today. The role of a drummer for a hip-hop group is completely different than in a pop-punk band. The up-tempo beats in punk are far different than the steadying rhythms of hip-hop, but Rook is more than up for the challenge the songs on “Tickets to My Downfall” present.

“Our shows were already like rock shows,” he says. “So it was just a matter of time before we were just going to make that switch, and luckily that switch worked out very well. I was always one of those kids who was playing different kinds of music growing up. I played in church, so I knew church music. I knew gospel. I knew rock. I knew rap. I knew country.”

Not only does he know how to play all kinds of music, but Rook is an absolute showman while he keeps the beat. You can’t help but be mesmerized every time he throws one of his sticks 30 feet into the air while seamlessly keeping the beat, making it look effortless. If amazing feats like that don’t catch your eyes, then his tattoos certainly will.

Photos by Nathan James

Photos by Nathan James

By this point, Rook is covered with ink. Anchored by the chess piece on his neck—we’ll let you guess which piece it is—his tattoo collection extends down to his fingers. If you pay close attention when he holds his arm aloft, spinning a drumstick, you’ll notice the “Lace Up” tattoo on his wrist.

“Everyone who was already in Machine Gun Kelly already had these ‘Lace Up’ tattoos in the same font and on the same wrist,” he explains. “[My bass player and I] were a little fucked up, our album just came out, we were having a good ol’ time. We wake up early in the morning from a long night and say, ‘Let’s go get our “Lace Up” tattoos and show everybody.’

“We’re at the tattoo shop and he asks, ‘Which wrist?’” he continues. “I’m like, definitely left wrist. 100 percent, left wrist. Mind you, this is my bass player’s first visible tattoo, ever. We get back to the bus, he wakes Kelly up and he’s like, ‘Yo bro, check this out.’ He flips over, looks and goes, ‘Wrong wrist, dumbass.’ We got them on the wrong wrist [laughs]. I was so sure it was the left wrist, but it was definitely not the left wrist.”

Bold confidence is what led Rook to walk out in the middle of class to join the traveling circus that is Machine Gun Kelly’s band, his aplomb is what makes him one of the most dynamic drummers in the world, so he can’t be too angry when that same spirit backfires on occasion.

Photos by Nathan James

Photos by Nathan James