Losing The Drummer’s Drummer
The e-mail was titled ‘Taylor Hawkins.’ It was late. It wasn’t ‘Taylor Hawkins press release time,’ if you get my drift.
I considered ignoring it. I had four beers and a couple of shots in me, and was getting ready to shut it down for the night. The Iron Maiden IPA is gross, by the way.
So I read the e-mail. Got ready for another solo album announcement. And:
Checked the RSS. No posts about it. Checked their Facebook, right? If it’s real, if this is real, it’s on there. And there it is, in black and white.
My heart coughed. My fingers seized up. Ah, shit, this was real. Happening now. Breaking.
I wrote up a track from his solo album for Kerrang! It was dedicated to his daughter, and it was actually really beautiful. It’s called “Middle Child.” I’m a middle child, middle of three. We’re an intense bunch. The track hit home.
It was the moment where I began to understand exactly who Hawkins was, and why he was such an important part of Foo Fighters. What a figure he was, in the band and in public.
The drummer’s drummer.
In the Foos’ new movie Studio 666, they actually talk about that. When Dave Grohl is demonically possessed and forces Hawkins to record drums, he makes a comment, I’m a drummer, you’re a drummer. It’s a small Nirvana reference, and it’s also a soft reveal of something we’ve maybe thought about in that band. Say what you want about that movie, it’s goofy as fuck, but it’s also a low-key honest look into the life of the most popular rock band on Earth.
Everyone loves the Foo Fighters. And Taylor was identifiable among them, a character, so we all made him part of that.
At my last job before working MetalSucks full-time, I’d done a list of the most metal Foo Fighters songs. It was a fun one to write, and taught me more about what the band had done in the recent past than I knew about most other bands. I said “The Colour and the Shape” was #1, but it was on “Bridge Burning” where I really sang Hawkins’ talents. I called the dude out. I took off my hat to what he’d done.
Now: my sausage digits pounded out some minimum viable product. Texts came flying. Grabbed a legal picture from Wikipedia. I got it up, edited as I found out more, and then watched people tune in. Worst part of the job.
Dude always seemed to be smiling. He seemed like a friend you had. Who everyone had. You know Taylor? Holy shit, I drove to this festival with him once. We went to summer camp together. Have you seen his house? It’s the appeal of the Foo Fighters, at the end of the day. You feel like you’d have a good time hanging out with them. And this dude, wailing on the drums with the big-ass smile on his face? He was probably a good time.
The song I kept coming back to last night was “Best of You.” It’s one of my secret favorites. “Up In Arms” probably wins for me, and “Everlong” is obviously in the running for the greatest rock and roll song of all time (right? I mean, if some alien archeologist wanted to understand the long-extinct human experience via an old tape they found, and the one thing that tape had on it was “Everlong,” that’s enough, right? Same with “Born to Run”). But “Best of You” was a big hit, too, which as a metalhead I have to frump about.
It’s an excellent song. It shows off a band knowing what they’re doing, knowing that they’re cutting right to the core of you. It’s expertise. It’s smart as fuck. The song gets me every time. It’s the sound of people who want to write great music. It’s got the rhythm of of a guy pouring his heart out.
Drummer jokes are common in rock. We often think of them as cinderblock-headed band backbones that never reach the brain stem. But when they matter, they’re vital to us. Taylor Hawkins was vital. We needed him to love this band so much. What’s up next? Can’t even fathom it.
The obit was finished. Another drink. “Best of You,” again. Listen to those drums. Try to smile, despite myself. Meet the dude halfway.