Taylor Hawkins (1972-2022) was born in Dallas, Texas but his family moved to Laguna Beach, California where he began playing drumset at an early age. Some of Hawkins earliest gigs were with the experimental band Sylvia and then with artist Sass Jordan, who he toured with in the early 1990’s at age 22. Hawkins next landed the gig with rock superstar Alanis Morissette. Taylor played with her from the summer of 1995 to March 1997 appearing on her Jagged Little Pill and Can’t Not tours. He also appeared in Morissette’s You Oughta Know, You Learn and All I Really Want music videos. When Dave Grohl, leader of the Foo Fighters, was completing what would become the groundbreaking album The Colour and The Shape, he was looking for a special drummer to complete some of the tracks. Grohl and Hawkins had met at a music festival and Grohl asked Hawkins “if he knew anyone” to join the open drumming chair in the Foo Fighters. Hawkins played on a few tracks from The Colour and The Shape but then joined the band permanently on their 1999’s album There is Nothing Left to Lose as a trio with Grohl and bassist Pat Mendel. However, Taylor’s first appeared with the Foo’s in a music video for the 1997 single “Monkey Wrench.” The Foo Fighters were a perfect fit Hawkins. Grohl loved Taylor’s drumset approach and his ability to sing and play guitar and front the Foo’s on some songs when they played live. This included lead vocals on covers such as Van Halen’s “Ain’t Talkin’ ’bout Love” and Queen’s “Somebody To Love.” Hawkins also composed for the Foo’s and was listed as a co-writer on at least one song on every Foo Fighters album from There Is Nothing Left to Lose to Medicine at Midnight.
Taylor was an intense drum student from the beginning, absorbing the drumming styles of John Bonham, Stewart Copeland, NealPeart, and Phil Collins. Taylor was also influenced by some other hard rocking drummers such as Chad Smith, Steven Adler, and Stephen Perkins of the band Janes Addiction. By freely mixing the styles of classic rock, progressive rock, metal, and alternative styled drummers, Taylor created a style that represented many of the combined featured of these varied influences. When Taylor went on to achieve rock superstardom of his own, he always showed his respect for his (above mentioned) drumming heroes. From Led Zeppelin’s John Bonham, Taylor learned who to play with power and also groove at the same time. From The Police’s Stewart Copeland, he learned how to add subtle hi-hat ideas and how to embellish a groove with intricate snare drum rhythms. His great technical precision came from influences like Neal Peart of Rush and he also mixed in the showmanship countless other modern metal and rock players to form his personal approach to drumset. Among his many other drumming influences came Jim Gordon of Derek and the Dominos, Alex Van Halen of Van Halen, and Roger Taylor of Queen.
Taylor often talked about the huge influence of another great drummer, Phil Collins, from his progressive rock work with Genesis, especially the live album Seconds Out to the studio album Trick of the Tail. He loved Collins’ sound with his open concert toms (no bottom heads), his ability to create musical drumset parts to match the highly complex arrangements of Genesis, and Collin’s ability to sing and front a band while still creating amazing drumset parts.Taylor Hawkins synthesized all of the above mentioned drumming and musical influences to became a unique and very creative drummer. While Hawkins was very happy in the Foo’s, he was a frustrated songwriter (Grohl was the Foo’s main songwriter) and he began a side project by establishing Taylor Hawkins and the Coattail Riders. Hawkins was the band’s lead singer and drummer and in 2006, they released a self-titled album. The Coattail Riders went on to release two more studio albums including 2010’s Red Light Fever and 2019’s Get the Money. Although, the Foo Fighters would always remain Taylor’s main gig, he added guitar, piano, and vocals to albums by an impressive array of artists and bands such as the drum tracks for the Coheed and Cambria album Good Apollo, an Eric Avery debut album titled Help Wanted, the track “Cyborg,” from Queen guitarist Brian May’s 1998 solo album titled Another World and many more. Taylor was also commissioned to finish writing and singing a song by Beach Boys’ drummer Dennis Wilson titled “Holy Man.” Taylor also recorded on an album by guitar great Slash providing backing vocals on the track “Crucify the Dead.” Taylor also recorded in 2021 on Elton John’s The Lockdown Sessions, playing drums on the song “E-Ticket.”
Taylor often spoke about the joys and demands of occupying the drumset chair in the Foo Fighters, one of the biggest rock bands in the world. He imposed a lot of pressure on himself knowing that Dave Grohl was one of rock’s great drummers and felt that he had to “measure up” to the challenge. In a March 2000 addition of Modern Drummer magazine, Taylor spoke about the pressure he felt in Foo Fighter recording sessions when he said “Dave’s (Grohl) the most influential drummer of the ’90’s and that made me a little insecure. There have been a couple of times where it’s beaten me down a little – it’s an identity kind of thing. But the most important thing is the songs, so I try to play for them and be creative.” When asked about his drumming formative years and what best prepared him for challenges like the Foo Fighter gig, Taylor responded that “I really feel like every little thing I’ve done – from high school band and cover bands to the Alanis gig – has prepared me. With each step you learn something new about playing and music.”
Hawkins explored even more new musical possibilities outside of the Foo Fighters. In 2013, he formed a rock cover band called Chevy Metal. In March 2014, Hawkins began another side project called The Birds of Satan. The band’s self-titled debut album was released in April 2014. In 2021, he formed the supergroup NHC with Jane’s Addiction members Dave Navarro and Chris Chaney, where he played drums and provided lead vocals. After NHC recorded the singles, “Feed The Cruel” and “Better Move On,” they released a four-song EP titled Intakes and Outakes. Sadly, Hawkins never got to see the release of NHC’s full-length album, which was recorded in 2021 and slated for release in 2022 (after his death). Taylor also played occasionally with a Police cover band alternately called The Cops and Fallout.
Hawkins’ final performance with the Foo Fighters before his death was at the Lollapalooza Argentina festival on March 20, 2022. Among his many awards, Taylor was voted “Best Rock Drummer” in 2005 by the British drum magazine Rhythm. Taylor posthumously won three Grammys with the Foo Fighters on April 3, 2022. Taylor Hawkins was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2021 as a member of Foo Fighters.
The legacy of drumming great Taylor Hawkins is that of an artist that pushed the art of rock drumming to new levels and established a new excitement in rock drumming for future generations!!
Sources: 1. www.allmusic.com. 2. Rock History – The Musician’s Perspective – by Dr. Rob Brosh 3. www.musicradar.com 4. Modern Drummer Magazine, March 2000