It’s been nearly 10 months since Foo Fighters drummer Taylor Hawkins tragically and suddenly passed away last March while on tour in Bogotá, Colombia. In the months that have passed since the band and Taylor’s family, alongside his musical heroes, peers and those who he influenced have dealt with the loss by celebrating his life and legacy.
This culminated in two huge Taylor Hawkins Tribute concerts which gave us one of the greatest collective displays of rock drumming we’ve seen - and are likely to see - in decades.
On New Year’s Eve, Foo Fighters released a statement to fans confirming their intentions to carry on as a band. “As we say goodbye to the most difficult and tragic year that our band has ever known we are reminded of how thankful we are for the people that we love and cherish most, and for the loved ones who are no longer with us.” It begins.
“Foo Fighters were formed 27 years ago to represent the healing power of music and a continuation of life. And for the past 27 years our fans have built a worldwide community, a devoted support system that has helped us all get through the darkest of times together. A place to share our joy and our pain, our hopes and fears, and to join in a chorus of life together through music.
"Without Taylor, we never would have become the band that we were - and without Taylor, we know that we’re going to be a different band going forward. We also know that you, the fans, meant as much to Taylor as he meant to you. And we know that when we see you again - and we will soon - he’ll be there in spirit with us every night.”
They said they’d see us soon, and followed up less than two weeks later with a string of festival announcements - two in the US and one in Brazil. But curiously, there’s still no word on who will be drumming for the dates.
A quick scan of social media comment reveals a number of suggestions by fans, ranging from the logical to the possible, to the absurd. Here, we’re exploring some of what we think are the most likely scenarios, as well as a couple of wildcard outcomes.
• Watch the Taylor Hawkins Tribute Concert in full on Paramount+ (opens in new tab)
We think the smart money is on seasoned session ace, Josh Freese. Why? Well let’s just look at the evidence. Freese has played with a who’s who of rock legends, to the point where he even forgets doing some of them (opens in new tab).
Ability is one thing (and his performances at the Taylor Hawkins tribute concerts proved he has that, as if there was any doubt), but stepping into one of the biggest rock bands on the planet is a daunting prospect for many.
With a CV that boasts hundreds of recordings (opens in new tab), and live work spanning everything from club gigs to stadiums, there’s no chance of Freese finding a gig of Foo Fighters’ size intimidating. Plus, as a California resident, Freese (who’s just celebrated his 50th birthday) is a prime candidate for the job in terms of logistics and age.
“Yeah, but he’s a session drummer, he’ll be too busy to be a full-time member!”. Yes, he is, but while Freese possesses the slick session player ability to slot in to musical situations as varied as Nine Inch Nails to Sting or Michael Bublé, he’s also cut from the same ‘band guy’ musical cloth as Grohl and co.
Let’s also remind ourselves that Foo Fighters is led by one of the most influential drummers of the last 30 years, so it’s no stretch to imagine a situation where Grohl handles the recording duties, and Josh Freese plays them live, keeping his diary free for other gigs. After all, the first two Foo Fighters albums featured Grohl on drums almost exclusively, and There is Nothing Left to Lose featured drum tracks by Taylor Hawkins and Dave Grohl.
Yes, it’s a curveball. Who better to provide the backbeat for Foo Fighters than the guy who pens the songs and leads the band? As drummers, it’s fair to say that we’d love nothing more than to see Grohl back in action on the drums for more than just side projects and one-off performances.
As we mentioned above, this would absolutely work in a studio context, with Grohl laying it down for recordings as he already has countless times. But live? He’s still the band’s vocalist, and would need to choose between playing guitar or drums.
Remember all those times you went to watch a stadium band and they were ‘fronted’ from the back by a singing drummer? It might have worked intermittently for The Eagles, and Foo Fighters would only need to replace Grohl on guitar to maintain the triple-pronged six-string attack.
Indeed, Taylor Hawkins even stayed seated for performances of Cold Day In The Sun. But a drum kit placed centre-stage with Grohl resorting to a headset mic for an entire gig? We just don’t see it.
There’s no denying that the case for Rufus Taylor sitting behind the kit for Foo Fighters is a strong one. His performances at the Taylor Hawkins Tribute Concerts ranked among the fan favourites, and deservedly so.
As Rufus told MusicRadar in our recent interview, he grew up from age six with Taylor Hawkins as his “mentor, hero and big brother”, and watching Rufus back the band showed just how big an impact Taylor Hawkins had on his approach to the drums. In short, he nailed it.
It was clearly an emotional evening for Rufus, too, as he sat in for one of the Foo Fighters’ biggest hits and performed a nerve-wracking drum solo in honour of a drumming icon who he - with no exaggeration - considers family.
However, Rufus is, of course, the drummer in The Darkness and about to embark on a UK tour with his band (opens in new tab). You don’t have to look very far on the comments of any recent post relating to The Darkness or Foo Fighters before Rufus’ name comes up, and for many fans his playing style and energy - not to mention the at times uncanny resemblance - make him the perfect fit.
But, it’s important to consider just how deep Rufus’ connection to Taylor Hawkins was and still is - and it’s one that goes way beyond being the drummer in a rock band.
We’re not sure anyone expected what would come next when Shane Hawkins - the teenage son of Taylor Hawkins - stepped on stage to perform My Hero. The original’s famous double-tracked drum intro from The Color and The Shape pre-dates Taylor Hawkins’ time in the band, and spare a brief period where Foo Fighters hauled two drum kits on tour for a duet, it’s been amalgamated into a one-kit part.
But what did follow was a jaw-dropping display of power and accuracy from Shane: hair flailing, right arm perched at the same angle, left foot constantly bouncing on the hi-hat pedal, and even some stick twirls for good measure.
The unimaginable emotional weight of what Shane’s performance - heavier than that of any other drummer on the line-up, and at Wembley Stadium, no less - must have taken shouldn’t be overlooked. But by the time he gets to the machine-gun roll that brings in the outro, or the trashcan ending it’s clear that playing drums on a huge stage is something Shane was born to do.
But Shane is still young, with plenty of time to forge his own musical path and we think that’s the most likely outcome.
None of the above, some of the above or the people below
So far, we’ve spoken about drummers who put in the stand-out performances at the Taylor Hawkins Tribute shows, and there’s a reason for that. Just go back and look at the cast of drummers who played.
Even if we narrow it down to only include those who played Foo Fighters songs, it incorporates a lot of the biggest hitters in the rock drumming world: Travis Barker (Blink-182), Chad Smith (RHCP), Brad Wilk (RATM), Jon Theodore (QOTSA), Matt Cameron (Pearl Jam), Patrick Wilson (Weezer) and Omar Hakim (session).
There are a lot of potentials there, and given that Dave Grohl is often a fan of experimenting with the way Foo Fighters do things, it could be a case of expecting the unexpected.
Matt Cameron in particular has proved that it’s possible to be a member of two huge bands simultaneously. Touring with half-a-dozen drummers doesn’t really make sense, but we wouldn’t be surprised if Foo Fighters continued - at least for now - with a rotating line-up of drummers for different tours. Clearly, there’s no shortage of options, and with gigs booked we’ll know for certain pretty soon!