We all know this man very well. He’s a legend behind the kit, has a set of pipes to equal any vocalist, and is just an all-round, stand up guy. Taylor Hawkins has found some time away from Foo Fighters to put out his third Taylor Hawkins And The Coattail Riders album, and if you haven’t listened to Get The Money and its unique blend of sounds yet, it may surprise you.
We managed to catch the man himself to find out more about the album, his relationship with Dave Grohl and how he managed to put this album together with so many featuring musicians.
Taylor! Hi, how are things?
Oh they’re great, how are things with you?
Pretty good thanks, it’s hot and sweaty down here but we love summer.
Well yeah you do, I love Australian summers.
And congratulations on the release of The Coattail Riders new album Get The Money. I think it’s a pretty brilliant album, and it’s been out for a little while how are you feeling?
Thank you! I feel good, I feel like I’ve gotten a lot of good feedback from it. You know, it’s over now it’s out, its done – the baby has left home. I try to read the good reviews and when I think I’m reading a bad one I stop reading (laughs). And I think ‘well that guys an asshole he doesn’t know what he’s talking about!’ No, I don’t know, reviews are funny, I could never review a Drake record; I just couldn’t, it would just be a bad review because I just don’t like that music. But I could review a Jack White record and give it a great review, or a Queens of the Stone Age record. It’s a funny thing, rock and roll record reviewing. Do you do it yourself, Ebony?
I do, I find it a little bit difficult sometimes – especially if the singles are awesome and the rest of the album just doesn’t measure up. But I think the artist or the band has to remember that it’s just an option. It’s just someone’s opinion, and how they feel about it is how they feel about it.
Absolutely. Absolutely, and that’s all you can take it as, you can’t take it as a personal attack. But it’s hard not to! That’s why I try not to read too many of them I just try to take everyone’s word for it and when someone says ‘yeah it’s getting good reviews’ I say good.
I was thinking about how much you do the other day, what is the secret to your time management? Because balancing your personal life, The Coattail Riders and Foo Fighters is not a small task!
Well, I look at The Coattail Riders as being more of a luxury item, something I did out of sheer fun and joy. I really do get a lot of joy out of making my own records and I have a little studio in my guest house, it’s nothing that spectacular but it’s good enough to get what you hear on the record. And I have a big room to record drums in so I get a good drum sound in there, and a nice area to work in where my kids can come in and give me a snuggle, say hi and tell me how their day went at school and then they can go do their homework and I can finish up for the day.
It’s like when you see a 70 year old guy on the bank of a river somewhere, painting. He’s not really doing it to pay his rent, he’s doing it out of the love of just painting and the joy of it. And it’s the same thing for me when I go back to my guest house and I have a song idea and we start putting it together. It’s just me exercising another part of my musical brain (for lack of a better word) that I don’t really get the chance to use so much with the Foo Fighters, because the Foo Fighters, for the most part, is Dave’s project – his songs and, really, his vision. We’re the guys that help him get it done. And he usually comes into the studio with a fairly well formed idea of how he wants the song to be, drums and everything. So, it’s really a matter of us getting it down on tape to his satisfaction and the producer’s satisfaction. And then I kind of wash my hands of it. I’m not saying I’m not proud and it’s not important to me, it is important but I don’t have quite as much of a connection cause they’re not my songs. There’s been a few times where we’ve done a lot of collaborating, but for the most part it’s been pretty straight up what Dave wants to hear. And then I’m not just a session guy, cause there’s more at stake and I’m in the band, but my job is just to put down the drums on the record and some occasional backing vocals.
So for me, the beauty of making a Coattail Riders or a Taylor Hawkins record, whatever the moniker may be, is that no one’s going to worry about paying off their mansion with this record. There’s not a crew of a hundred waiting to make sure the tour is gonna happen if the record does well – there’s nothing to lose or gain but personal joy and satisfaction. And if by chance, someone out there likes it enough to listen and enjoy it; and then if by chance even more so I’m walking out of a Foo Fighters gig or a pizza joint and someone comes up to me and says hey I bought Get The Money and I love it and I love the song ‘Middle Child’ and whatever, that’s enough. I don’t go into this project thinking I’m going to have a hit. I have yet to write a hit song and I’m 47 years old, I’m not imagining I’m going to start at this point. Not only that but let’s be honest, rock music doesn’t really account for a big genre of popular music that’s on the radio. We’re lucky in the Foo Fighters because we’ve been around, I’ve been in the band for about 23 years now and we’re like the elder statesmen of rock music now. It’s funny to say it but it’s true, we’ve been around long enough now that we can go play – knock on wood – and people will come just due to the fact they know they’re going to get a good show and hear those 15 songs that they really want to hear.
My basic point is that I record these records for the joy of making music and to get my ideas of writing songs fleshed out. There’s not as much on the line as there is when we’re writing a Foo Fighters record. I will always make records, no matter what. I can’t help it, it’s what I do for fun! Going back to the question of how do you find the time to do it, I can always fit in piano and write a song. It’s what I did for fun when I was 10, and it’s still what I do for fun, I just have a better place to do it.
And more people to do it with! You have so many esteemed musicians on this album, what were you offering to get them all on board?
Half a million bucks each! And they all agreed (laughs). No, I didn’t offer them anything. I think it goes along with what I was saying earlier, with musicians there’s a part of them that, yes when they show up for work it’s work, but there’s also a part of musicians that really enjoy the pure excitement of doing something new. And when I recorded with Nancy Wilson we were both a little nervous cause we didn’t really know each other, and by the end of the session we were hugging and totally stoked, it was a beautiful thing. It was the same with LeAnn Rimes. And Perry Farrel is a friend and we just had a laugh, and obviously Dave is a blast. And some of the folks were over the internet. Chrissie, I sent her files and she did it. I don’t know why she did, she didn’t have to do it and I owe her for that, it’s not gonna make her career any bigger by doing it but I think she just did it out of the joy of making music. I think it’s just what us musicians do, there’s a side of us where we just play, that’s what we do.
Well my favourite song would have to be ‘I Really Blew It’, I think it’s a great example of how you’ve incorporated different genres into your sound like prog, classic rock, there’s glam in there too. How did you come to this combination? Or is this what you like outside of the Foo Fighters?
I don’t know really, I just remember sitting in my little office where my kids do their homework, it was 6:30am before they were up for school and I just picked up my guitar and played that riff. I had had a fight with my wife about something and I was thinking about how I was gonna have to tell her I was sorry, and I was just thinking about the plight of the married man and how it doesn’t matter who’s fault it was, it’s the man’s fault. So I was writing from that narrative, from being a man saying let’s have the conversation, here we go, all I really wanna know is when is this conversation gonna be over. Ok, I blew it.
It’s funny because I was talking to Pat, the drummer from Weezer, and he was talking about my record and said ‘I really just want you to make a straight forward record someday when you’re not moving around in these sonic spaces all the time.’ But that’s just my natural instinct as a musician. Not to write a Tom Petty song, but to write like Band on the Run or a Queen song, or something a little more grandiose. I like grand arrangements and I like quick sonic theme changes. I did grow up loving some of the prog stuff because I’m a drummer and the music, it’s challenging to drummers with rhythm changes. I don’t know why I write like I do, it’s just a direct correlation to my record collection.
Well, speaking of drummers who also sing, you know it’s not a big club, but it does include the legends Phil Collins and Roger Taylor. For those young drummers who look up to you, what advice would you give them on balancing drumming and singing?
Truly, I think a drummer should do more than just be a drummer. I would say: learn how to play some piano and some guitar, even if it’s just by ear. Learn other instruments and learn how to play a Beatles song and a Tom Petty song, and try to sing along and pick out harmonies. Because you’re just gonna be a better drummer if you’re an all-round musician. You’re gonna have more empathy for the other instruments. You’re gonna be a better drummer if you can understand the way the guitar player is trying to fit his part into whatever’s going on.
I’ve always liked singing, even before I played drums. I wouldn’t consider myself a great singer but I do like to sing, and I’ve gotten better at it through time and my pitch has gotten better, and my confidence. And I’m much better than I was when I started singing in the Foo Fighters 12 years ago, and that just came out of doing it more and being more confident. I just think I’d be a little bored if I were just a drummer. In the Foo Fighters, for the most part, I’m just the drummer. I sing a little bit here and there but I also think being a drummer that writes songs and plays other instruments makes me a better drummer for the Foo Fighters. I really do.
So I think it’s important to remain well rounded, in everything in life, but especially as a musician. So, I would tell a young drummer to pick up a guitar a couple times a week, pick out a few chords and try to learn a few songs, and you’ll just be a better drummer for it. You may even get lucky enough to bang on the drums and go up front and be the lead singer like Dave Grohl.
That’s great advice, and is touring Get The Money something that you’d like to look at doing in the future?
I would love to. Fortunately, and unfortunately, we’re kind of knee deep in the Foo Fighter world right now for the next record. So it doesn’t look like I’m gonna have time right away, but I do think that I will have time to do some shows at some point. I’d love to go to Australia and New Zealand, definitely England. The thing about it, the UK, Australia and New Zealand, they were our first major supporters Foo Fighters wise. They were the first places we ever did big shows and I just feel like they would get it. I toured The Coattail Riders over in England about 9 or 10 years ago and it went over really great. We had great crowds and I feel like it would be the same in Australia and New Zealand. So I would love to.
Taylor, if you do manage to tour over here I will be there with bells on! Thank you so much for your time, it’s been lovely to talk to you.
Thank you, Ebony, be well.
Interview by Ebony Story
Buy Get The Money here.
Taylor Hawkins And The Coattail Riders – Get The Money tracklisting:
1. Crossed The Line (feat. Dave Grohl, Jon Davison)
2. Don’t Look At Me That Way (feat. Duff McKagan, Nancy Wilson)
3. You’re No Good At Life No More (feat. Dave Grohl)
4. I Really Blew It (feat. Dave Grohl, Perry Farrell)
5. Queen Of The Clowns (feat. Mark King)
6. Get The Money (feat. Joe Walsh, Chrissie Hynde, Duff McKagan)
7. C U In Hell (feat. LeAnn Rimes)
8. Middle Child (feat. Dave Grohl)