Drummer Taylor Hawkins Talks Birds of Satan, Foo Fighters Recording Progress + More
Taylor Hawkins has a full plate this year. The drummer is currently promoting the self-titled debut disc from his new band, The Birds of Satan, while also balancing the recording of the next Foo Fighters album. Hawkins took a few minutes out of his busy schedule to talk about The Birds of Satan and the current Foo Fighters status with ‘Loudwire Nights’ host Full Metal Jackie. Check out the chat below.
Loudwire Nights, Full Metal Jackie with us on the show tonight very happy to say that we have Taylor Hawkins from the Foo Fighters, how are you?
I’m good, how are you Jackie?
So happy to have you on the show. It’s an honor, huge Foo Fighters fan. I’m a fan of this new record that you’ve got, The Birds of Satan is out now. I have to imagine you’re a Frank Zappa fan.
Sort of. I would say around the side of it, sort of. I have friends who really like it, and I get it, but I don’t get it actually, which is what I like about it. But I know what you’re saying. There’s definitely a silly sort of ridiculousness to this stuff, and I love that. And I do love Frank Zappa, yeah. I do. I don’t listen to him all the time, but I hear where you’re coming from with that comment and I have the utmost respect for him. He’s a genius, brilliant bandleader, musician etc. And really funny. If this record conjures that, I’m down with that. That’s great.
Taylor, schedule-wise you didn’t have much time to make this album. Spontaneity was a necessity. Now that it’s done what do you hear that you like that’s directly a result of recording quickly?
I like everything, to be honest. I like the “you know it works and all” approach because I had a band called The Coattail Riders which was basically just a different version of this with other cats playing. The last record I did with those guys, we spent a lot of time. We tried to make it ‘Night at the Opera,’ ‘Dark Side of the Moon,’ ‘Sgt. Pepper’ as we could. We tried to make it as perfect within any human possibility. We never did the pro-tools thing that much. I decided I just wanted to go the other way A) out of necessity out of the amount of time I had, and B) I just wanted … I was listening to the first Sabbath record and the first Doors record, first Van Halen record, first Zeppelin.
The thing that struck me the most, again, I’ve listened to those records a million times, was the quickness — and early Beatles! Really early Beatles. They recorded their first record in one day. Why? I know we’re never going to be as good as any of those bands, I know it. I’m OK with that. If we could just capture a little bit of that vibe, just apply it to what we’re doing. Early Beatles, first Sabbath, Van Halen I, come on!
We’re talking about The Birds of Satan record. I know some people don’t like the term ‘side project,’ what do you consider it?
It can be a side project, I don’t care. It doesn’t matter. I don’t want to be precious. Part of this record is not being precious. We’ve done these little video vignettes with my buddy and it’s about these little trailers, if you will. If you go to YouTube and type in The Birds of Satan, you’ll see it. The cover of the record, there’s this character, it’s actually a buddy of mine Drew, who’s a percussion player in Foo Fighters and he played percussion on this record and mixed, and helped engineer this record. He plays this down-and-out loser and it’s sort of sad.
Some people are looking at this going, why are you making fun of this sort of thing? I’m like, because it’s only life, you know? Life is funny. If you don’t laugh, you’re in trouble. If someone calls it a side project? Sure, whatever. I don’t care what you call it. You can call it a piece of s—, doesn’t really matter. It’s just music made by some buddies that happened to be recorded and we thought was good enough to be put out as a record. It’s just a record made by friends who love music.
Reviews of the album name-check quite a few bands you listen to as a kid, Queen, Van Halen, Jane’s Addiction. What makes it healthy for career musicians to re-visit where they came from musically?
I don’t re-visit, I know what I’m doing when I’m stacking high vocal harmonies. I know that it’s going to sound like Queen or some amalgamated version of it. Queen weren’t the only band ever to stack high, girly-sounding background vocals. But, they were kind of the most notable for those type of things. There are things that are Sabbath-y and our guitar player loves Eddie Van Halen — that’s his main influence. You’re going to hear Van Halen when he goes for a guitar solo.
These are just sort of in our DNA, our musical DNA. Because The Birds of Satan is essentially a cover band. We have a band called Chevy Metal that goes out and does Sabbath and Van Halen, Stones, Queen and that kind of music at pizza restaurants and stuff like that because that’s how we played together as a band it was just natural to apply those influences. If you watch John Lennon when he’s making Imagine, he goes, I’m doing my Eddie Cochran thing or Paul McCartney is doing his Little Richard thing.
We’re all kind of doing our interpretation of who we were trying to be when we were little kids. That’s what you started out as. I used to dress like Roger Taylor when I was ten because I thought he was cool. In high school I used to dress like Stephen Perkins from Jane’s Addiction because I thought he was cool. You just want to be those guys when you’re that age. Then the older you get you start to find yourself, through all of your musical and life experiences and become who you are. Some amalgamated version of all these influences and stories and haircuts. All of these things you’ve adopted in part of — that have metamorphosed into who you are as a person — musically and personally. We wear our influences pretty heavy on our sleeve on this record, no question.
The Birds of Satan record was recorded at Studio 606, Dave Grohl’s studio. He and Pat Smear even guest on some tracks, why is it inevitable that whenever any of you step away from the Foo Fighters, all of you end up playing on each others tracks anyway?
I haven’t played on everything Dave has done, Dave does a million things. But I did do the ‘Sound City’ thing with him. All the guys in the band worked with him on that too. We’re friends! Socially we get along. We don’t hang out with each other every single day of our lives when we’re not working because we hang out together so much when we are working. But, these are people for me, Dave’s my mentor really. Essentially he’s taught me half of what I know about music since I met him. The half I knew before, he’s helped me crystallize and make better. Without him I don’t think I could have made a record like this. He didn’t play on every song, but he’s always there. When he can come in, and has time off his insane schedule, to help me figure out a couple of these songs and play a little guitar, I’m just blessed he’s there to make it that much better.
Pat? I love Pat. I played Pat the demo for that song ‘Too Far Gone to See,’ which is the last song on the record and he loved it. Mick, the guitar player in Chevy Metal and The Birds of Satan was out of town, and I had to get it done quick so I could get it on the record. So I did everything myself, the acoustic guitars, drums, keyboards and then I had Wiley come in and do the bass. Then Pat came in and put some heavy guitars at the end because he liked the song, and he’s a friend and we had fun. Once again, it’s the fun factor man, we had fun. If it ain’t fun or really great, then don’t do it.
Butch Vig says the next Foo Fighters album is about half done. Dave Grohl has been pretty cryptic saying its being written and recorded like no one has ever done before. Is there anything you can reveal about this top secret process?
Funny, because, I’m eating a Pop Tart and I read that this morning, it was on Rollingstone.com or something and Butch Vig said the record was half done. One of the comments, which was funny, said, can you just relax about this record? It’s not like it’s any ‘Sgt. Pepper’s’ deal. The Foo Fighters are fine, relax. I thought that was funny. All I can say from my seat in the band, which is behind the drums really essentially, maybe a little background vocals here and there. We are playing better than we ever have, as a studio band, which is a new thing. We can go into a studio and track a song almost live and it can be good enough for a Foo Fighters record. That’s new for us.
Dave was so far ahead of us to begin with, as a musician, and everyone has been playing catch up with him for the last 20 years, 10 years or however long. We’re all kind of getting to that level where we can be proficient enough to be that good. That’s exciting to me. That’s on a purely musical level. I’m not talking about the songwriting. I’m not talking about if it’s a hit, or what this, that or the other. I’m not going to worry about that, I have nothing to do with that. All I can do is be the best drummer that I can be for the Foo Fighters. And right now, sitting in that seat feels really good back there. I love it. We’re in a good place right now, musically. That’s all I can say.
Yeah, there’s an interesting way we’re doing the tracking, it’s going to be more than just a record. I think all of our records from now on will always be that way because I think Dave understands in order to promote a product musically these days, you need more than just a record. In the ’80s and ’90s a lot of it was just making a video. Well, they don’t show videos anymore. It’s up on YouTube. You just have to think outside of the box, you really do. Dave is always thinking outside the box.
Essentially, I don’t know what Im trying to say other than this is going to be an exciting couple of years for the Foo Fighters once we’re done with this little deal we’re doing here. Can’t really reveal too much, I don’t want to. I want to keep it kind of exciting and I don’t want to be the guy that lets the cat out of the bag. I’ve been that guy before, I don’t want to be that guy again. But, it’s going to be great. If you’re a Foo Fighters fan, you’re going to love it. If you’re not, than don’t worry about it. Change the channel.
Really appreciate you calling in, Taylor. The Birds of Satan record is out in stores now, we are anticipating more info soon from the Foo Fighters it was a pleasure chatting with you. Thank you so much.
Thanks to Taylor Hawkins for the interview. You can pick up The Birds of Satan’s self-titled album at this location. You can listen to ‘Loudwire Nights’ with host Full Metal Jackie Monday through Friday at 7PM through Midnight on more than 20 stations across America. To find out where you can hear ‘Loudwire Nights,’ click here.
Listen to The Birds of Satan’s ‘Thanks for the Line’