“When the Foo Fighters release a record,” says the band’s long-time drummer, Taylor Hawkins, “if we get a bad review, it’s like, ‘Hey, I’m just the drummer!’ But with my record, if I get a bad review it’s my ass.”
Hawkins is making the inevitable comparison between his roles in Dave Grohl’s band and in his new venture, which he’s good-naturedly christened Taylor Hawkins & the Coattail Riders. Instead of just keeping time, Hawkins is songwriter, vocalist, and jack-of-all-instruments for the project’s self-titled debut on the Thrive label.
“A bad review means they don’t like my songs. It is a scary position, but at the same time I relish the challenge. And I don’t really care what reviewers say, to be honest, because everybody’s got a fucking opinion.”
Hawkins’s new album dispels certain myths about the Foo Fighters and reveals his renegade songwriting skills, which may surprise those who remember him simply as a hired gun Grohl nabbed from Alanis Morissette’s Jagged Little Pill touring band. Not only is Hawkins’s excitable drumming on display on the new album, but his Eagles–meets–Mahavishnu Orchestra song craft is as bizarre as it is tuneful. It may not prove that Taylor, not Grohl (as has often been assumed), does indeed play all the drums on Foo Fighters recordings. But it does make clear that he’s more than capable of it, not to mention just as versatile as the Foos’ captain, who similarly revealed his talents as a multi-instrumentalist and songwriter on his first post-Nirvana album.
“Whatever, I don’t even care,” Hawkins groans while driving to jury duty in Van Nuys, California. “I don’t mind people thinking it could be Dave [on drums] because he is such a great fucking drummer. But I promise you it is me on the records. So I say ‘rumors?’ Schumors.”
Hawkins’s Coattail Riders disc (on which he does get some help from Panic Channel bassist Chris Chaney and a guitarist named Gannon, who along with drummer Drew Hester comprise the touring band he’ll bring to play the Rumble finals this Friday at the Middle East) is a product of his love for the Laurel Canyon soft-rock of the ’70s. His voice is warm and craggy as drums are bashed with the subtle force of a liberated Stewart Copeland in songs that recall a gentler Rush (“Walking Away”), a stoned Eagles (“Running in Line”), and even forgotten country rockers Poco (“End of the Line”). The album’s first single, “Louise,” is in regular rotation at LA’s tastemaking FM outlet K-Rock — a very good sign. And that’s not just in deference to Hawkins’s Grohl connections: the song’s sweet melodies and Taylor’s instrumental prowess have earned it a spot alongside modern classics by his other band.