Friday, September 30, 2005

taylor talks: a conversation with foo fighters drummer taylor hawkins

When it came time to replace former Foo Fighter William Goldsmith in the figurative hot seat – you know, the drum stool behind the most famous rock drummer since Keith Moon – Dave Grohl reached out and plucked a young Taylor Hawkins from the maelstrom that was Alanis Morrissette’s career. That was eight years ago. Hawkins is still strapped in as Grohl’s anchor and, from his hotel room in Germany as the band headlined its way through the European summer festival circuit, he’s got a few things to say about living la vida rock ‘n’ roll.

* * *

We’re in Munich right now, and we’re not even doing a show in Munich. Where are we doing a show? I don’t know where we’re doing a show. Isn’t that funny? Isn’t that typical?
Because we’re doing these festival shows it doesn’t feel like a tour. It feels like appearances almost or something. You know what I mean? That sounds strange, but it’s kind of the little things that make things different. The food, you know, and the language barriers, even though most people here speak a lot of English.
I enjoy it more now than I used to. I mean, the first time I came to Europe it was all really exciting, just because you’ve never been there, you know, and everything’s new and everything’s weird and everything’s different. And then like once you become a crusty old bastard, you know, a boring bunch, you’re kind of like, Ah, I wish I could have a fucking burrito right now. You know, the typical things, because it’s just work literally.
I mean, I look around a lot more now than I used to, because I used to be all about the nightlife sort of situation. When I was younger, in my 20s, it was about going out and getting fucking plastered and trying to get laid every night.
But now that I’ve grown up a little bit and kind of grown out of that I tend to spend more time kind of looking around. On show days, I really take it easy. I really don’t do much on show days. I try not to. I don’t go for long walks or anything because what I do is pretty physical. I find that I perform best when I’m sort of easy and calm all day.

* * *

A lot of hard things about shows for me are just dealing with stage fright and stuff like that. I mean, I still have the gnarly, insane butterflies before shows. What you try and do is kind of lose yourself in the show, you know. You play better if you’re not having to think about it.
It’s that thing where like you don’t want to lose that to a certain degree because I think it definitely creates a certain energy. But at the same time, it would be nice just to be really comfortable once in a while, because you know you play a little bit better when you’re a little calmer and more relaxed. So it’s just a combination of feelings that you get when you go onstage. It just can be exhausting mentally, really.
I mean, that’s the most exhausting thing on the road for me. It’s not the traveling. It’s the sort of – and this sounds like a wimpy fucking thing - but like it’s the mental anguish I go through every day before I go onstage.

* * *

Who’s my favorite drummer? Well, you know, I have three guys that I loved for all three different reasons when I was kid. I loved Stewart Copeland (The Police) for not only his technique but his energy. I mean, he was a ball of fucking energy, you know. He gave Sting balls basically, I think, which he doesn’t have anymore, in case you haven’t noticed. He’s a brilliant songwriter. I just think he needed that smartass American behind him going, You’re a fucking kook, dude, to make his music kind of have balls, you know what I mean? So Stewart Copeland’s probably my most major influence, and probably the guy I rip off most blatantly.
Roger Taylor (Queen) was a big influence on me. Partly because of his sort of musicality, his orchestrated sort of style of drumming, you know. Because of the music that Queen did, he almost was coming from almost like a Hal Blaine thing, you know. He played very orchestrated-wise. Plus, he had just an awesome rock voice. I don’t know if you know, but like he sang on almost every Queen record. And he had that really high voice. Nobody realizes in “Bohemian Rhapsody” the highest voice back there is his, this screeching witch voice. And you know, I just thought he was cool, too.
The other guy which, you know, God strike me down, I will be forever kicked out of the book of hipness for saying this, is Phil Collins. You say, Phil Collins, and everybody just all of sudden gets “Sussudio” in their heads, you know. But I got turned on to like the early prog rock Genesis stuff when I was a kid. Most people don’t realize that he is really and truly a gifted drummer.

* * *

I don’t really see myself as totally that famous. I see Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston as famous, you know. And I may even see Dave as famous to a certain degree, but I don’t see myself as famous. You know, all day long people don’t run up to me and go, You’re the drummer in the Foo Fighters. I mean, that happens every once in a while but not all the time.
And when someone asks for your autograph you feel like it’s kind of like a joke. It’s not like someone really signing an autograph. You’re just kind of writing on this piece of paper going, Oh God, that really means something. Right. It doesn’t mean anything. It’ll probably be in the trash on the way home, you know. And that’s the way I see it. Really I see myself as a fan who got lucky enough to be in a band, you know, that’s on MTV every once in a while.

* * *

One of the funniest memories I have when I was with Alanis is I remember I was off tour for, you know, three days or whatever because we never stopped, and I was driving somewhere with my brother and we were listening to the Foo Fighters record, and he said, You should be in this band. And I said, Fuck, I wish.
And then we did shows with them and I made friends with Dave and all the guys in the band, even the drummer Will, you know. I didn’t think, you know, he was going to get kicked out of the band or quit or whatever happened really. You know, I thought they were just going to be. They were a band, you know.
But when I joined the band I loved the first album so dearly. I mean, there were three albums I had that year that I just played over and over and over, and they were the first Foo Fighters album and Jeff Buckley’s
Grace – fucking beautiful, I think – and Supergrass’ first record, which I loved too. You know, I was just so overjoyed.
I was playing with Alanis, and that was cool and great and I saw the world and did lots of neat things and was in kind of the biggest act in the world at that period of time. But you were just kind of a piece of the machine sort of, and I feel less like that with the Foo Fighters obviously. I feel like, you know, one of the messengers of Dave’s music.
Now we’re all involved to a certain degree, but you have to let go of your ego a little bit. And you even have to let go of your ego when you’re creating music with Dave, you know, and realize that this guy’s got the vision, and part of that vision is his, you know, drumming style and stuff. We’ve gotten really comfortable with the last two records. It’s kind of realizing the drum parts together to certain degree. He comes up with the basic framework of what he wants the rhythm to be like, but he’s not a hoggish person in that way.
Fuck, I have a song on this record, on the acoustic record. One of the songs on that record is my song, which just goes to show right there that he is not the control freak that a lot of people kind of think he is.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

springsteen, bowie and freakwater

This past week I've been listening, for various reasons, to Springsteen, Bowie (primarily Low) and Freakwater (primarily Thinking of You . . . ). Which is an odd enough mix to possibly explain the recent rather trying days.
Elvis is dead and I don't feel so good myself.

Two pieces, one in Westword (my first appearance there: a slightly abridged version of the Weezer) and one in Boulder Weekly (my fourth: Foo Fighters), published this week.
I write; therefore I am published in Colorado.

The Foo Fighters piece, a talk with drummer Taylor Hawkins formatted oral history style, worked better at conception so I'm posting here.

Monday, September 26, 2005

a typical day in nyc

Ralph Eugene Meatyard

Kind of a typical New York day. Worked eight hours (well, almost) at the day job, with a lunch stop at a MoMA Brown Bag lecture on Meatyard, then an hour and forty minutes trying to get home at day's end (average time: 35 minutes):

Got on the N train at 49th Street, waited maybe five minutes before the conductor announced that neither N nor W trains were going past 57th Street (one stop north) due to a “track fire” between Queensboro Plaza and Ditmars Boulevard. So about three-quarters of the train exited. And then about two minutes later the conductor announced that the problem had been corrected so we all shuffled our asses right back on.
At Lexington (two stops up) the train stopped once more and R trains were added to the list of moving conveyances not entering Queens.
After another ten minute wait another announcement was made: This train is turning back to Brooklyn. If you want to go to Queens, the announcement said, you should either take this train back to Times Square to catch the 7 train, or take the 4, 5, or 6 to Grand Central to catch the 7 train to Queensboro Plaza where you can take an N or W train to Astoria.
So off we go to Grand Central and onto the 7 train with absolutely no problems whatsoever. Until we got to Queensboro Plaza.
No trains. At all. At least no trains going towards Astoria.
However, if you go down to street level, semi-official looking people were saying, you can take either the Q1 or Q 2 bus to Astoria.
Uh, no.
About 500 commuters were lined up on the north side of the street with no bus in sight.
Thus began the long walk home.
But at least it didn’t rain.

Friday, September 23, 2005

more mcelwee

Fairly busy day today - worked the day job of course, interviewed Pete Wentz of Fall Out Boy for an upcoming article, ate dinner with spouse and in-laws at Blue Water Grill and went back to MoMA for another Ross McElwee film. Tonight's feature: Something About The Wall.

Also, Phoenix New Times reprinted the Weezer piece and Cleveland Scene ran the piece on System of a Down.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

song of the day: the wallflowers’ “i am a building”

For the second time in less than a week, logging onto is causing a Netscape error. And Netscape’s not even the browser I’m using.

Up early (too early) because I dreamed about my friend and North Carolina native Will Blythe. I woke up because, in the dream, I got my feelings hurt, which really kind of stays with you longer than one of those simple boogeyman dreams from youth.
The whole episode’s most likely a byproduct of attending last night’s Ross McElwee screening and discussion at MoMA (which continues through the weekend). McElwee is also from North Carolina, and the state plays heavy in his films.

Song of the Day, “I Am A Building,” is in my head, I’m pretty sure, for its infectious, near circus-like instrumentation. I haven’t written about The Wallflowers in months, so I’m not certain why it’s coming back now, unless it’s that Jakob Dylan’s vocals on this song sound exactly like Bruce Springsteen, who, of course, was accused of copping Jakob’s father’s vocal (and lyrical) style on his own early works. And I do perform a hit and run on Geoffrey Himes’ Born In The U.S.A., one of four new 33 1/3 works just released, on the Phila Weekly piece I just submitted.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

the death of jimi hendrix

Room Full of Mirrors: A Biography of Jimi Hendrix

Today is the 35th anniversary of Jimi Hendrix's untimely death. I can recommend Charles Cross's new bio, Room Full of Mirrors, which I'll soon (very soon) be writing about for a Philadelphia Weekly piece.

Yesterday my beloved and I ventured into the city to have lunch at Jean-Georges (where we saw Slash) with her father and his spouse. With a Disfarmer gallery visit on each side (Edwynn Houk before, Steven Kasher following), it made for a nice afternoon, an appreciated break from the workload.

Monday, September 12, 2005

song of the day: randy newman's "louisiana 1927"

The city's drying out and Michael Brown's gone home. But it ain't over yet. Not by a long shot.

If'n you got the time to read, this is a real interesting article from the October '04 issue of National Geographic.

And while you're at it, take a listen to The Randy Newman Songbook, Vol. 1

Sunday, September 11, 2005

the four year anniversary

It's been very hard to watch as the relatives of World Trade Center victims read the names aloud today. Very hard, also, to watch the many filmed remembrances of 9/11 survivors broadcast. But probably more difficult not to.

Thursday, September 8, 2005

weezer and . . .

For those of you keeping score at home (have your pencils and scorepads ready), another two, or three, or four (depending upon your choice of scoring system) pubs have appeared in the world since, well, since I last posted an announcement of recent publications.

No Depression's "Tenth Anniversary Spectacular" also marks my first contribution to the magazine. And hey, if you're going to do something, why not do it as much as you can? It's, as they say, the American Way. The point being, I've got two pieces in the issue.

No Depression doesn't post their articles online, but the mag is well worth the price of admission. My review of Michelle Shocked's afternoon Disney set at Joe's Pub here in New York City can be found beginning on page 21. And a profile, I guess, of a house (the piece focuses on the home studio of Nashville engineer Eric McConnell who refuses to name his studio or answer to "engineer." But his East Nashville residence has played recording host to my friend Will Kimbrough, Todd Snider and the recent Grammy winning sessions of Loretta Lynn, produced by Jack White), entitled "Eight-Track Mind" can be found on page 172.
But I can offer the photograph that ran alongside. Look up (now, a little to your left).
And while we're on topic, and with full knowledge that I might be labeled a suck up, I must mention that it was a pleasure to work with ND editor Grant Alden.

Also - both New Times Broward-Palm Beach and Miami New Times were kind enough to run my feature on Weezer's Rivers Cuomo.
It kindly felt like a big deal in the writing portion, as Rivers doesn't do so many interviews and I rather expect this piece will run at least a couple more places.

Tonight also marks the beginning of Weezer's North American co-headlining tour with Foo Fighters (they started just north of Atlanta). And tomorrow evening the band will serve as musical guest on "The Late Show with David Letterman" (check your local listings).
Which is as good a reason as any to make the song of the day Weezer's "Perfect Situation" (from their latest album, Make Believe).

Tuesday, September 6, 2005

yes virginia, we're having a CONTEST!

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, the evidence suggests that yours truly has owned an iPod for exactly 49 weeks. And as you enlightened members of the civic pool no doubt realize, that means that three weeks hence will mark my one year anniversary of ownership. So here's the deal:

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to name as many of the 25 Most Played Songs in my iTunes library as of 11:59 p.m. Eastern on September 27th.

Each entrant should e-mail their top ten song selections to

1) The entrant with the most correct selections will receive valuable prizes which may include music, literature, and possibly apparel.
2) In case of a tie, a sophisticated ranking formula based on the top 25 Most Played Songs will determine the sole winner.
3) There's no chance in hell that you'll be receiving mine or any other iPod.
4) Leprechauns and residents outside the United States and Canada are not eligible.

Hint #1 - I've written, for legitimate publication, about approximately half of the top 25 artists (which certainly includes duplicates) in the past 12 months.

Friday, September 2, 2005

song of the day: bob dylan's "i'll keep it with mine"

Ev'rybody will help you,
Some people are very kind.
But if I can save you any time,
Come on, give it to me,
I'll keep it with mine.

- Bob Dylan, Biograph