Taylor Hawkins has died aged 50. We are republishing this 2015 feature film as a tribute.
The man best known for providing the beats behind Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl’s band Foo Fighters first rose to prominence as the touring drummer for Canadian singer Alanis Morrisette around the time of her album Jagged Little Pill that sold millions of dollars.
After Grohl parted ways with Foos drummer William Goldsmith and re-recorded the drum parts for 1998’s The Color And The Shape album himself, he welcomed Taylor into the band, beginning a relationship. long and successful that would give the world many, many drum tracks on their six albums since.
A committed Queen fan who has also worked with Brian May and Roger Taylor on various projects over the years, Taylor also leads his own band The Coattail Riders behind the kit.
There’s Nothing Left to Lose (1999)
Taylor’s inventive drum parts on his debut album with Dave Grohl’s outfit have set the pattern for Taylor and The Foos sound ever since. It’s all about big rock grooves, lots of fast singles, and subtle ghost note overlays when needed.
Learn To Fly, of course, has one of the best videos of all time, but flies high thanks to Taylor’s staccato punctuation in the verse with ringing metals and powerful musical fills in the choruses; on Breakout, he makes extensive use of his cymbals in the chorus, applying a tribal tom rhythm to the verses; Stacked Actors’ begins with four-bar snare hits, before a slightly more subdued cocktail rhythm in the verses. It couldn’t have been easy joining a band fronted by drum star Nirvana, but from now on, Taylor has made the gig her own.
In Your Honor (2005)
A double opus of the Foos, with Grohl eager to make his mark as a versatile songwriter and musical chameleon, with as he does one side of rockers and another of softer acoustic tracks.
Guest musos abound, including Led Zep’s JPJ, while Hawkins shows he too has grown musically, with some tracks credited to the stickman. On the album’s undoubted highlight, Best Of You, Taylor starts off big with a thunderous groove that incorporates floor tom and snare drum into an infectious baion-like beat. Reminding us of Ian Paice on DeepPurple’s classic The Mule, towards the end of the track, Taylor lets it all hang out with a stunning assortment of fills with varied subdivision and creative orchestration around a kit for the perfect climax.
With Josh Eppard out of the band, Sanchez and co recruited Chris Pennie from Dillinger Escape Plan, but for contractual reasons Pennie was unable to appear on this band’s fourth studio album. Coheed instead recruited Taylor to create the drum tracks – and Taylor proves he’s got prog chops to spare as he lays down the beats for Claudio Sanchez’s post-hardcore proggy outfit.
Chris Pennie had previously traded drum ideas with Sanchez, and much of Taylor’s work draws on Pennie’s ideas. Taylor’s drumming sounds suitably huge and heavy on No World For Tomorrow metal, while he shows he can do some tasty military rolls in Mother Superior. The Hound (Of Blood And Rank) and Justice In Murder are rock juggernauts, with Taylor driving these beasts with power and finesse.
Red Light Fever (2010)
It’s no secret that Taylor was one of the biggest Queen and Roger Taylor fans in the world. In fact, he’s become best friends with camp-rock superstars, and even performed on Brian May’s 1998 solo album Cyborg and sang backing vocals on the Queen/Paul Rodgers single C-lebrity in 2008. At Live Earth in 2007, Taylor was part of the SOS Allstars drumming group alongside Roger Taylor and Chad Smith. Taylor’s side project band The Coattail Riders do more than a little lip service to this Queen love and feature Gannin Arnold and Nate Wood on guitars, with Jane’s Addiction’s Chris Chaney on bass.
The band’s self-titled debut album was released in 2006, and it was their follow-up in 2010, with the Foos drummer once again taking the mic and paying homage to his rock heroes – not just Queen (the album features Taylor and May ), but but 10CC and Led Zep too.
From the explosive intro and falsetto chorus of Not Bad Luck to the laid-back Never Enough, this is a diverse collection of old school rock tracks that feel good. Taylor’s playing doesn’t suffer from the multitasking of vocals and drums, and killer musical licks and fills are applied with care and consideration, serving up the songs with more of a pop feel than the Foos’ outright rock. .
Wasted Light (2011)
Back to rock fundamentals for this Foos album, with Nevermind producer Butch Vig called in by Grohl to tape the album in the frontman’s garage. Taylor’s drumming is impressive – like much of his Foos output, the album is filled with carefully crafted drum tracks that are integral to the songs.
Bridge Burning has powerful sixteenth-note snare fills, “Dear Rosemary” has a killer drum intro, and Arlandria kicks off with a pseudo double-time feel, and contains a number of different, interlocking feels. all perfectly with the guitars. Bridge Burning features Taylor in typically irrepressible form, with a variety of grooves and fills that are played with maximum power.
On Rope, Taylor smashes the unison snare figure in the sixteenth note and launches into the main groove, to make sense of the track’s deceptive guitar intro, before fast fills become the motif of the song.