Being the drummer for Foo Fighters is an unenviable task. After all, the group is the baby of the iconic Dave Grohl, yet, despite his lingering shadow, Taylor Hawkins has become an indispensable part of the band.
Before joining the Foo’s, Hawkins initially made his name as a session musician and most notably worked with Alanis Morissette. After two years working with the ‘Ironic’ singer, Hawkins developed a desire to enter the rock world. As luck would have it, a vacancy appeared after William Goldsmith’s departure after a falling out with Grohl.
In truth, Morrissette was wildly more successful than the Foo’s in 1997, and Grohl initially only asked Hawkins to recommend a drummer. Instead, he was left stunned to discover Hawkins wanted the role himself. It’s now almost 25 years since he made that decision, and his responsibility in the group has only continued to expand.
Songwriting is an element of Hawkins’ craft that has also been fruitful for the Foo’s, and he often contributes lyrics to a number of the band’s successful creations. Meanwhile, Hawkins also fronts his side-project, Taylor Hawkins and the Coattail Riders, who have released three albums so far, and a vehicle used to keep his songwriting muscles in check.
In 2017, Hawkins revealed to Rolling Stone the five songs that he wished he had penned, and at the heart of most of his choices is an emotional connection that inextricably ties the drummer to each piece of music.
‘Pigs In Zen’ by Jane’s Addiction arrived in his life during a formative time in Hawkins’ as a late teenager. He found the group a refreshing contrast from what you’d ordinarily hear on the radio, which he disregarded as “dumb”. Hawkins explained, “When I heard Jane’s Addiction the lyrics were like John Lennon’s in a weird way. They were esoteric and they made you think.”
Hawkins also selected ‘The Air That You Breathe’ by The Hollies, which he described as “one of the most fucking beautiful songs, ever.” Meanwhile, the Foo’s percussionist also shared some love for The Police and their track, ‘Synchronicity II’, which he notes as being “the record where you could hear them changing.”
“It was the poppier version of Ghost in the Machine,” Hawkins pontificated. “Something about Synchronicity is kind of bright. I mean, once he wrote ‘Every Breath You Take’, he could go be Sting. It was definitely signalling the end, but they were a machine at that point.”
Jeff Buckley’s ‘So Real’ is another of his choices, and Hawkins can’t listen to the late singer’s voice without feeling gut-wrenching pain about his loss. “I wish I could sing it like him. I love that guy’s voice. That was my’ getting some business’ CD back on the Alanis Morissette tour [in 1995.] I’d put that motherfucking CD in and it was happening. I like it when he whispers, ‘I love you, but I’m afraid to love you’ in this song.”
He added: “What a fucking bummer he died. God, that guy would have made some great music had he lived. I think he was really searching for what his next move was going to be.”
For his final choice, Hawkins decided to opt for Queen’s ‘We Will Rock You’, which he admits is related to the $5million a year that Brian May receives in royalties from the track. On top of being lucrative, Hawkins additionally finds the general absurdity of the song appealing, but the money is undoubtedly his primary motive for its inclusion.
Listen to his selections in a playlist, below.
Five songs Taylor Hawkins wishes he wrote
- Jane’s Addiction – ‘Pigs in Zen’
- The Hollies – ‘The Air That I Breathe’
- The Police – ‘Synchronicity II’
- Jeff Buckley – ‘So Real’
- Queen – ‘We Will Rock You’