Interview: Taylor Hawkins

2011-03-02 13:37
The lobby of the Soho Hotel sounds like a United Nations conference. Journalists from around the world hang out like sharks at feeding time – friendly, but with a dangerous glint in their eyes. Suddenly, around 12:00, the Foo Fighters appear, minus drummer Taylor Hawkins.

I can't believe how young and fresh Dave Grohl looks. With cowboy boots and a beard, guitarist Chris Shiflett looks like a mini version of Hugh Jackman. Pat Smear's there as well. And bassist Nate Mendel, furrowed as usual. 

Then Taylor breezes down the stairs: sunglasses, long blond hair and a goofy grin. He looks like he just stepped off set filming The Lords of Dogtown. "Can I get a bacon roll with no vegetables?" he asks.

Then the whole band's prepped, powdered and shuffled off into different rooms for a hard day's work. When my turn comes, I meet Taylor in the Screening Room.  

In these interviews, do you ever feel like the consolation for journalists that didn't get Dave?

I've been a consolation since the day I joined this fucking band, haven't I? Yeah. Every now and again. But it's okay. I'm fine with it. It's part of the job.  

Did you guys give him a hard time after his NME Godlike Genius Award?

Oh, it'll be never-ending. He says, 'You guys shut the fuck up, I'm a God like genius. Don't ever challenge me again.'

How did last night's Wembley Arena show compare to the more intimate venues you've been playing recently? Good to be back? 

A couple nights before that we played the NME Awards. They were like, 'You just need to play four or five songs'. And we were like, 'No, fuck you. We're here, we're gonna play a whole set'. We really used it as a big, expensive practice space.

Were people into it?

I think at first they were like, "These guys aren't stopping, are they? And they're playing their whole new album. We're not even fans!" We just say fuck it, we'll do whatever the fuck we want. 
You've been in Foo Fighters for 13 years, what keeps it exciting?

It's always a challenge. What keeps it exciting is the shows and recording. It's what I love. It's what I do. It's always scary. It's always fun. Every time I get on stage its do or die. That's the way I am. The only time I ever phoned in shows was when we were doing the acoustic tours. It wasn't that it wasn't as much fun. No, it probably wasn't as much fun. But I would yawn every once in a while.

Not the kind of music you're into?

No, I like mellow music. I listen to more mellow music at home than I do hard rock. But when you're not on edge, pushing your body to the brink of death and exhaustion and mutilation, you tend to sit back. And that's alright in a show like that. You're just doing your little bit to support the songs.             

Now that you're all dads, is touring a lot less wild than the early days? 

It's been a lot less wild for me for a long time. My twenties were absolutely insane. To do this every night, two and half hour shows of intense, hard rock, you have to be in shape. You cannot be hung over. You cannot not get sleep. Actually, last night I played without any sleep because I was jetlagged. And it was tough. But we got through it. I take the athletic aspect of what we do very seriously. Also, having kids and trying to be more of a responsible human being and not some fucking jackoff wannabe rockin' star, you know?       

What was it like recording Wasting Light in Dave's garage, back to basics?

Recording in the garage was more symbolic of what we were trying to achieve. Also, he had this new mini studio built in his house that he was just gonna use on his own, for demos and whatever. And he said, "Fuck it, let's do it here". We've done two albums at our studio. Which is a great, state of the art, bitchin' studio with a lot of space and room to move. And he's like, "Fuck, let's bring a couple of tape machines up to the house and really do it basic". I think in the end it added an element to it.     

I was listening to the album earlier and it's quite surprising. The last song I heard from you was
"Wheels". I was worried you might head off more in that direction?

I think a lot of people were. "Wheels" was what it was. But it wasn't my favourite. I definitely like more interesting songs, musically. A song like "Rope", or "Bridge Is Burning". Stuff that's rhythmically challenging. I want it to be fun. With "Wheels", it was a decided effort not to do too much, just get the song out. And it came out okay.

What was it like having Krist Novoselic, Pat Smear and Butch Vig involved? A bit of Nirvana nostalgia?

Not for me. I think that's more of a perception for other people. I've met Krist a bunch of times. I've known Butch for years. To be honest, when Krist showed up at the studio, I hung out with him for a bit. Then I left and let those guys get through it.

Would you say Wasting Light is your favourite Foo Fighters album?

Absolutely. I think it's the best record we've made since I've been in the band. I joined right after Colour and the Shape. And I think Wasting Light will definitely be one of my favourite records, always. It's more solid. More listenable, from beginning to end.

What was it like watching the documentary and seeing all that history?

It's funny, you think there's not that much drama. But when 15 years of ups and downs and highs and lows is condensed into an hour and 45 minutes, it seems like this is a very dramatic band. I guess, if you look at it that way, it is. But if you look at it as a 15 year span, it seems a lot more easy-going.

Was it quite intense?

It was a little uncomfortable. I don't think I'll be watching it again.  

Did you talk to Dave about "On the Mend" afterwards?

No. I didn't wanna know it was about me. And when he tells them it's about me in the movie… I don't wanna know. I don't ask what his lyrics are about. None of my fucking business. 

What was it like working with Slash and Ozzy Osbourne on "Crucify the Dead"? 

I got a call from the guy that produced that record. He said, "I'm making this Slash record. Do you wanna come down and do some background vocals for this song he's doing with Ozzy". So I thought I'd get there and Slash would be sitting in the corner with his hat and Ozzy would be over there. No one was there. Just the producer. 

How are things going with Taylor Hawkins and the Coattail Riders?

It's on hiatus for now. But it's really fun. It's my vacation home. I love playing with those guys.

Are you still in touch with Alanis Morissette?

No. We never really stayed in touch. She wasn't very happy when I quit. I think she felt I was a bit lame in some of the interviews. I don't think she thought I shed a very nice light on her. In retrospect, I probably was a little less respectful than I should have been. Looking back, those were some of the funnest times of my life. She became a very good friend and I wish we were still in touch.      

Last question: For everyone out there wondering: who'd win a drum-off between you and Dave Grohl? 

Dave Grohl. Absolutely. He's a God-like genius… No, he's one of the greatest drummers of all time. He'll always be, in a way, my musical mentor. He's one of the greatest musicians of all time actually. And I'm lucky enough to be in a band with him, and learn from him. Just as he learned from Kurt. I put Kurt Cobain in line with John Lennon and Bob Dylan… It's like being in a band with Paul McCartney, with this guy that's just so ridiculously talented. So I've learned along the way. When I joined this band, I didn't see the whole picture the way Dave sees it.

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