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Best of 2022: Foo Fighters' Taylor Hawkins was an inspiration to millions, reaffirming the position of the drummer in the band to prove that it's way more important than simply keeping time.
While the news of his untimely death is still sinking in, it's clear that his energetic and always enthusiastic approach to playing the drums, coupled with the right amount of technical ability and great songs reached far and wide, gaining the late drummer fans across all kinds of non-rock-related genres.
He may be gone, but he's left a huge catalogue of songs and drum parts behind. Some of which have been laid-bare, enabling fans to hear Taylor Hawkins' drumming in as raw a way possible. Here, we check out five great isolated drum tracks from the man himself.
All My Life (One By One)
One By One was the first Foo Fighters album to feature Taylor Hawkins exclusively on drums. It followed There Is Nothing Left To Lose where Hawkins and Dave Grohl split the drum parts, and also found themselves as a three piece with Nate Mendel after guitarist Franz Stahl exited the band.
One By One should have seen Foo Fighters return rejuvenated, with replacement guitarist Chris Shiflett on board. Instead, they nearly broke up when recording wasn’t going to Grohl’s satisfaction and the leader took off to record and tour with Queens of The Stone Age.
However, the band regrouped, shelved recordings costing a reported $1,000,000 in studio time (now known as the Million Dollar Demos), and came back with live favourite, All My Life.
Best of You (In Your Honor)
Foo Fighters were hardly a small band when they recorded In Your Honor, but it did mark something of a watershed (excuse the pun) moment in the band’s career for a couple of reasons.
First is the juxtaposition of the half electric/half acoustic double-album. Second is that the former was packed full of stadium-ready anthemic rock music, which would ready the band for the elevation that lay ahead.
Both the electric and acoustic albums were recorded while the paint dried on Foo Fighters’ purpose-built Studio 606 facility in the California San Fernando Valley, with the interior being designed to loosely resemble ABBA’s Polar Studios - which also played host to Hawkins favourites, Genesis (Duke) and Led Zeppelin (In Through The Out Door).
If Everlong became an accidental stadium singalong, Best of You is Foos in proto-stadium mode by design, and it’s reflected in the drum parts.
Pounding eighth-note accents which hammer alongside the octave guitars to create a sound that ensures clarity from the back of an arena. Check out the Live at Wembley version to see how effective it was.
In isolation, what’s most surprising is how vintage the drums sound - snappy tuning and complete with an almost Phil Spector ambience rather than the punchbag smack you might expect.
Hawkins keeps his right foot busy with some half-time gallops in the breakdown, before building with fills around the kit to emerge, packing in more for the outro.
In Your Honor is also notable for Taylor Hawkins’ first album appearance as a lead vocalist on Cold Day In The Sun.
The Pretender (Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace)
For Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace, Foo Fighters re-united with The Colour and The Shape producer, Gil Norton and headed once again to their Studio 606 base - this time with returning guitarist Pat Smear back in the fold and with a renewed sense of dynamics following the extensive acoustic touring for In Your Honor.
Grohl and Hawkins’ drumming styles are so intertwined that it’s sometimes hard to know who’s influencing who. Indeed, there are plenty latter-day Grohl drumming moments where there’s more than a hint of Hawkins’ more technical, rudimental style coming through.
The Pretender sees the perfect melding of the two, with Grohl-esque quarter-notes on the snare complete with interspersed bass drums for the intro, the recurring five-note groups of sixteenths played between hands and feet and the machine-gun snare rolls.
But Hawkins’ finesse also shines through here with a monstrous drum sound and perfect orchestration between the syncopation of the guitar riffs. He leaves a lot of space while still driving the song forward in the verses before opening-up in the choruses with another shift to the ride bell, chalking-up yet another crowd favourite in the process.
Rope (Wasting Light)
For album number seven, Foo Fighters retreated not to the world-class recording studio that they built for In Your Honour, but instead holed-up in…Dave Grohl’s garage.
With Nevermind producer, Butch Vig working the desk, the band had one very simple rule, which it turns out is way less simple to implement: recording to tape, with no digital editing.
The entire process was captured on film for the Back and Forth DVD, and as you can see, it really is just a normal garage (albeit crammed with some very expensive recording gear, and crucially, one Taylor Hawkins.
The simplicity of the verses gives way to a Neil Peart-inspired paradiddle ride pattern, while Hawkins crams in some busy fills toward the end, proving that a plastic Jam Block definitely has its place in rock ’n’ roll.
Something From Nothing (Sonic Highways)
After In Your Honor, a pattern emerged with Foos albums. No longer just a collection of recordings, Foo Fighters - perhaps seeing that bands had to work harder to make LPs more of an event, perhaps helping themselves find inspiration, or perhaps, just doing what they wanted to do - began to often feature a catalyst for each release.
From building a studio and making two albums at once, to recording solely to tape…or travelling around the US to collect inspiration from its musical heritage.
With Butch Vig back overseeing his second consecutive Foos album, there’s plenty to talk about here, but we’d suggest instead, watching the Sonic Highways TV series that accompanied the album. It’s packed with fascinating insight, guest slots and behind-the-scenes views of one of the biggest bands in the world doing what they love.
Upon the news of Taylor Hawkins’ passing, Butch Vig took to his Instagram to mourn the loss of his friend, explaining how Taylor delivered a killer drum take under pressure for the song Something From Nothing.
“When I woke up this morning, the first song I played was Something From Nothing, the first track we recorded for Sonic Highways. I remember being a bit anxious as we walked into the studio on Day 1, and I know “T” was too. The song had a complicated arrangement, and to up the pressure on all of us, everything was being filmed for HBO.
Something From Nothing starts out with a very simple drum pattern, but by the time it gets to the 2nd verse it shifts into a taut funk groove, then the bridge comes in and the song kicks into overdrive, pushed forward by a pounding double floor tom and snare pattern, incredibly hard to play.
Before I hit record, I expected the Foos to do 4 or 5 takes, and since we were recording on 24 track analog tape, I would edit the best bits together with a razor blade.
But after the band crashed into the final five ending chords, I hit the talkback, paused and said, Dudes…you nailed it!” Taylor jumped up from his drum kit he had the biggest shit eating grin on his face, he was so proud!
He didn’t like Pro Tools, didn’t want his performances to be edited, he wanted a live take “‘cause that’s what badass drummers do”. So, listen to that song, that’s a first take. He nailed it.
Butch’s tribute sums-up the Taylor Hawkins that Foo Fighters fans will remember - infectious attitude, and the purest love for drumming and making music.