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Music

The reason why Taylor Hawkins only played on half of his first Foo Fighters album

The Foo Fighters were in a constant state of disarray when Taylor Hawkins first joined the band. Dave Grohl and the boys had just finished recording their sophomore album, The Colour and the Shape, with Grohl overdubbing his own drum parts at the expense of original drummer William Goldsmith. Goldsmith was understandably disgruntled, leaving the drum position open for Hawkins to fill.

As Hawkins recalled in the documentary Foo Fighters: Back and Forth, only a few days after Hawkins had joined the band, guitarist Pat Smear informed the guys that he was leaving as well. Exhausted by the constant touring and no longer feeling excited about playing in the band, Smear needed time away. Unfortunately, Hawkins originally believed that his presence in the band had caused Smear to walk, something that would be quelled when the two once again became bandmates in the late 2000s.

With Smear now on the way out, Grohl recruited his old Scream bandmate Franz Stahl to finish out the touring commitments. Once the group began writing and rehearsing for their third LP, There Is Nothing Left To Lose, however, Stahl had difficulty finding his place in the band’s dynamic. Grohl had to make the decision to fire Stahl, and the Foo Fighters were reduced to their smallest configuration yet as a three-piece.

Part of the reason Stahl left was that Grohl was the primary (and potentially exclusive) music writer in the band. Stahl had acted as the music writer in Scream, and when Grohl wasn’t receptive to Stahl’s riffs and musical ideas in the Foo Fighters, it caused tension. Grohl wasn’t above taking over arrangements entirely — he had recorded the entire first Foo Fighters album himself, after all. That was something that Hawkins had to deal with while recording There Is Nothing Left To Lose.

“I got in a similar somewhat situation as the first drummer – I was just green,” Hawkins admitted. “I was having a really hard time learning how to play in the studio, because it’s just such a different thing. Because, you know, you’re going to play drums on a record for Dave Grohl, it’s gotta be really top shelf.”

“I don’t play like Dave, I play differently. So the first album I played on, I played half the drums on it, and Dave played the other half,” Hawkins explains. “It was just sort of… I remember at one point, I was like ‘Dave, you play drums on it. I’ll tour. I won’t quit. I have to learn how to do this.'”

Hawkins chalked up his nervousness to “red light fever”, the term that musicians use when they can’t replicate their performances once recording is underway. Hawkins specifies that he played on ‘Breakout’ and ‘M.I.A.’, but he also mentions that he drummed on ‘Aurora’, which represented the first time he was confident about getting his drum takes on record.

Starting with 2002’s One By One, Hawkins took over the drum throne full time, and Grohl relinquished the reigns, having not played full drums on a Foo Fighters album since. Hawkins and Grohl did manage to share drum duties on the Sonic Highways track ‘Subterranean’, with Grohl playing the cymbals and Hawkins playing the acoustic drums.

Check out Hawkins discussing his experience recording There Is Nothing Left to Lose down below.