- 11 Feb 21
Foo Fighters drummer Taylor Hawkins takes his turn in the hot seat.
If Covid was supposed to put a stop to frenetic rock ‘n’ roll activity, no one’s bothered telling Taylor Hawkins who spent 2020 juggling his active involvement in five different bands not to mention collaborating with Ozzy Osbourne, Post Malone, Perry Farrell, Nancy Wilson, Chad Smith, Corey Taylor, Duff McKagan, Dave Navarro and Matt Cameron to name just nine of the legendary music folk he’s got on speed-dial.
Christmas was devoted to the putting together of the all-star Ground Control – him, Taylor, Navarro and Chris Chaney – which performed as part of the virtual January 9 tribute to David Bowie organised by Mr. B’s longtime pianist, Mike Garson.
Not content with nailing two of Ziggy’s choicest cuts, ‘Rock ‘N’ Roll Suicide’ and ‘Hang On To Yourself’, they also reminded Ricky Gervais of the public humiliation that was ‘Little Fat Man’.
“That was Navarro’s idea!” Hawkins cackles from the living-room of his palatial Hidden Hills, California residence. “Mike had as a fun thing arranged for Ricky to introduce to us so we thought, ‘Let’s do a Bowie track that no one else would even consider!’ ‘Without wanting to sound immodest, we fucking killed Rock ‘N’ Roll Suicide’, which is a song I’ve been singing for years with my Chevy Metal covers band.
“At three hours the show was perhaps a bit too long, but it was pretty frickin’ awesome to see Gary Oldman – who I had no idea could sing – doing Tin Machine’s ‘I Can’t Read’ and Perry Farrell just owning ‘The Man Who Sold The World’. Perry’s fucking awesome. Have you heard the David Bowie/Jane’s Addiction story?”
No, but I’m about to...
“Apparently, when he was living in LA in the mid-‘80s, David went to see Jane’s Addiction and walked out afterwards saying, ‘That’s the future of rock ‘n’ roll – I want to be in a band again.’ It’s kinda poetic because Perry Farrell really is the David Bowie of our generation. He’d make out with dudes on camera and wear corsets; you’d never seen anything like that motherfucker when he came along in 1987. It was, ‘Wait, what the hell is going on here? He sounds like a ten-year-old on an acid trip.’”
Asked whether he ever got to share oxygen with Bowie, a look of childlike wonderment spreads across Taylor’s face.
“Yeah, it was in 1995 when I was with Alanis Morissette and we were playing a BBC gig headlined by him in Birmingham,” he recalls. “He was doing ‘Halo Spaceboy’ and all that other Earthling stuff with a fucking awesome band that had Zack Alford on drums. Zack was down to be in the Foo Fighters before I snagged the gig. Anyways, I was warming up backstage on my kit and standing there in the corner smoking a Gitanes was David Bowie. I said, ‘Sorry man, am I in your way?’ and he went (adopts familiar Beckenham boy accent) ‘Not at all, keep going.’ I don’t know what the fuck I played, but after a while he goes, ‘You’re really great’ and then walked away, which is the best review I’ve ever had!
“I imagine Grohl told you his story about being in the studio with Bowie and him having sheets of paper spread all over the floor,” Taylor continues. “Well, no one took ‘em so he fucking did and gave them to his sister for Christmas. Best present ever!”
If I was jealous of Dave Grohl getting a hug off Stevie Nicks, I’m postively destroyed I’m not on squeezing terms with Heart’s Nancy Wilson like Taylor is.
“Her hugs are excellent too,” he laughs. “She came over to my house to record; Nancy’s on the last Coattail Riders album and I’ve a song that’s going to be on her solo record. She asked me if I had anything lying around and I said, ‘Yeah, I’ve a song that me and Duff McKagan from Guns N’ Roses worked on, which doesn’t at the moment have a home.’ I gave her the one take backing-track we’d done; it was pretty raw, and Nancy weaved her considerable magic. I remember all those classic songs like ‘Barracuda’ and ‘Crazy On You’, which were like Farah Fawcett on acoustic guitar. That wasn’t lost on me when I met her; Nancy’s still got it. I ought to say that her husband’s a great guy as well! I chipped in with my Queen background vocals; you could call it a sheer Heart attack.”
Boom and, indeed, boom! How is the bauld Mr. McKagan?
“Doing okay up in Seattle,” his bezzie reveals. “I haven’t seen him for nine months, which is a bummer ‘cause Duff’s such a cool guy. Talk about turning your life around, Jesus Christ. He used to be ‘party, party, party’ and now it’s, ‘Dude, let’s get in a gym fight.’ So we did and, let me tell you, that motherfucker packs a punch!
“He’s very intelligent, focused and hard working. The reason Guns N’ Roses stood out from all those other Los Angeles bands when they started was because Duff practiced every day for two hours with Steven Adler to make that rhythm section rock fucking solid. Another person who has that work ethic is Dave Grohl. Man, you would not believe how much of himself he puts into the Foo Fighters. I’ve had the gig long enough not to have to be nice anymore, but it really is a privilege to be in a band with Dave fucking Grohl.”
Sticking with legendary rock ‘n’ rollers; how goes Ozzy?
“I’ve recorded drums on four songs that could potentially be on his new record. I’ve only seen Ozzy briefly since then ‘cause he’s older and really has to be careful in relation to Covid. My friend Chad Smith was supposed to play on it, like he did the last one, but he’s got stuff going on with the Chili Peppers. Chad had explored the more Black Sabbath side of Ozzy with Andrew Watt, his producer, who’s another pal of mine, so I was like, ‘Let’s do ‘Shot In The Dark’ and all that other ‘80s stuff, which reflects the fact that Ozzy’s a Beatles freak.’ So, I stuck on a mask and went in there with him and had fun.”
Seeing as he’s mentioned the C-word, how has Taylor been able to operate at full pelt during the pandemic?
“We’re tested for Covid every fucking day just to be safe and legal,” he reveals. “There have been a lot of false positives, which brings everything to a halt for a few days, but that’s just how things are at the moment. Considering everything, I’m doing okay. I don’t like saying that because a lot of people fucking aren’t okay. Talking about a record seems sort of trite but hopefully it’ll give people something to be happy about in the middle of all this shit.”
While not without its full-on thrash moments – ‘Making A Fire’ being one of them – Medicine At Midnight is by far the Foos’ funkiest ever record
“I’m not sure whether it’s Queen’s The Game or Hot Space,” he laughs again. “Possibly the former. We recorded it in an old house in Encino, which had this really creepy vibe. Weird stuff happened like guitars detuning overnight, and open mic tracks appearing on Pro Tools that weren’t done by us. You’d play them back and it was just strange noises. I really didn’t like being in the house, but the sound we got in it was amazing.”
Also sounding amazing are ‘Long In The Tooth’ and ‘The Path We’re On’, the first two tasters from the band Taylor’s formed with his Pearl Jam drummer counterpart Matt Cameron, Nighttime Boogie Association.
Getting back to the day-job, Foo Fighters took part in last month’s Georgia Comes Alive voter drive event, so are partly responsible for Donald J. getting the send off he deserves. Where was Taylor when all hell broke loose on Capitol Hill?
“In the studio working,” he sighs. “I’d said the previous night to my Trump supporting father-in-law – we’re always arguing and then hugging it out at the end of the night – that with all the unrest he’d been causing something bad was going to happen. When he gave that speech I knew that Y’all Qaeda, Vanilla Isis and the Gravy Seals were going to attack. It’s the most divided this country has fucking been in my lifetime. I’ve been talking about it a lot to (Queen’s) Roger Taylor and he says that it’s not much different to Britain in terms of there being a ‘them’ and an ‘us’. Politics has almost turned into sports – blindly following your team without any critical thinking. As entertaining as that can be at times, it’s a fucking embarrassment. I don’t want to know what the President’s tweeted every day; I’m over that shit now. They tried having a reality TV star running the country and it didn’t work. Big business thought they could control Trump; they thought they had a puppet but he went rogue.
“Can I say one thing before I go,” he concludes, “which is ‘What the fuck do I know?’ I live in a bubble. I don’t want to sound like some rich rock star asshole. I’m so fucking fortunate to have the life I have, I really am.”
Medicine At Midnight is out now.
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