“I'm not one of those incredible fucking YouTube kids you see today, doing chops that I've never even heard of!” admits Rufus Taylor, drummer for The Darkness.
He’s here ahead of the band's forthcoming UK tour with Black Stone Cherry to tell us about the albums that mean the most to him, but given that his introduction to the drums was via his father Roger - who’s known for forming the rhythmic backbone to one of the greatest rock bands of all time - we’re intrigued: how he did first pick up the sticks?
“Basically, ever since I can remember, there was always at least one drum kit set up downstairs in the house. So I always had fun sneaking downstairs and just going and bashing about, but obviously too young to know what I was doing.
“I had a cassette player, and I managed to get every Beatles album that you could get on tape, and Elvis. I was just obsessed with the Beatles and Elvis. I just would not stop listening to them all day with my headphones.
"My old man started noticing it was kind of all I was listening to. So he would show me things like Little Richard and his drummer, Charles Connor."
Rufus' early obsession with vintage rock and roll became more serious when his father tasked him with learning a drumming rite of passage. “When I turned 11 or 12 and I was taking drums more seriously, my dad suggested learning Wipe Out by The Surfaris. He was like, 'If you can get that one, right. You'll be fine.'
"So that's what I did. To get it exact timing-wise and not deviate was a good learning curve. That was the first proper song that did it for me.”
Since those early days, Rufus has gone on to forge a career from drumming. He took up the drum stool for The Darkness in 2015, and has subsequently recorded three albums with the band.
However it’s well known that Rufus also found a close friend and mentor in late Foo Fighters drummer, Taylor Hawkins - himself a huge fan of Queen - who he describes as “my hero, my mentor, my big brother”.
“I think I was six years old when I first met him. My dad introduced me to him as his close mate,” Rufus tells us. “I was instantly just in love with the guy, I just thought he was the coolest person I'd ever met.
"He was always really sweet to me. We just kind of clicked together immediately, and the more I grew up it was just strange how similar we were - a lot because I idolised him and everything - but we ended up like twins, in the end.
“He always supported every single thing I ever did. He always said that I approach drums and music the hard way, which I really respected him for saying. The fact that he noticed stuff like that was just so cool to me.”
By ‘approaching it the hard way’ Hawkins was referring to Rufus’ reluctance to rely on family connections in the music business. “I auditioned for a bunch of stuff. Even for the We Will Rock You musical. I just did a bunch of really hard work before venturing into the…bigger leagues, I guess. I was really touched by how he picked up on that stuff.
“I had a lot of people slating me at the time because I’d just started playing drums professionally. They just always assumed it was to do with my dad, but Taylor just always got that, where most people didn’t.”
In 2022, Rufus and The Darkness frontman Justin Hawkins both put in stellar performances at the two Taylor Hawkins Tribute Concerts in London and LA, respectively. The concerts were two of the biggest musical events of the year, and certainly the biggest showcase of drumming icons we’re likely to see in a long time.
The six-hour marathon set featured a revolving cast of A-list musicians and clearly, nearly as many emotions. Simultaneously cathartic and heartbreaking, uplifting in the face of tragedy, but consistently triumphant, we can’t help but wonder what it was like to be tasked with sitting in for not only one of the best-loved drummers in rock, but someone who is “basically family”.
“Well, These Days was fine. Best of You was scary because after the first stop, it's just an unmapped freestyle kind of thing. I'm used to doing jams and stuff, but not when they're built around a drum solo!
“So I was shitting myself a little bit going into the rehearsals. Because I knew that it was gonna be a room full of the best drummers in the world, like Omar Hakim, Dave, and Stewart fucking Copeland, all these monster players.
“Obviously, I know Dave, but Stewart and Omar, all those guys - me and Taylor used to talk about them all the time. So now I suddenly have to go in and play a nine-minute solo in front of them! I still hadn't mapped it out in my head. I didn't know what was gonna happen. But it all kind of went really smooth in the end.
“When I was touring with The Darkness in the States, there were a lot of times immediately after [Taylor's passing], I would do these flams and little fills here and there and I'd go, 'Oh my God. I stole that from him years ago.' I've always been doing it and I never thought about it. It was very weird.
“But seeing the Foos guys - they are like family to me - seeing them in rehearsals and then doing what my guy always did was quite surreal. But I had to just think, 'If he was in the room, would he be proud? What would he say?' He would just be egging me on, I know it. So that kind of thought got me through it. But yeah, it was nerve-wracking.”
With that, we’re back on-topic, and it’s time to quiz Rufus about the 10 albums - in no particular order - that changed his life.
The Darkness tour UK arenas co-headline with Black Stone Cherry - Jan 28th - Feb 4th. Tickets available here.
1. Van Morrison - Astral Weeks
"I think that Astral Weeks is just one of those albums, it's a world-beater. People always talk about how old albums took you on journeys, and that is one. Even if the first couple of times you listen to it you don't understand what he's talking about, you know? It's just beautiful music, beautiful lyrics.
"The first line of the first song (Astral Weeks) 'If I ventured in the slipstream, between the viaducts of your dreams'. Give me another writer who can compete with that. Madam George is my favourite. I chose this mainly for the songwriting, but every instrument is perfection.
"I think that the drums are amazing. Obviously it's loads of brushes and stuff I never use. But yeah, definitely. The first time I heard it, whenever I discovered an album I used to just put it on in my headphones and sit behind a kit. It was one of my favourite things to do, just feel it out.
"You always pick up stuff from each one like that. And Astral Weeks was definitely one of those. Just that kind of swingy, stay really loose feel, and it taught me how to tickle them a bit more instead of the Dave/Taylor/John Bonham sort of way."
2. Led Zeppelin - Led Zeppelin II
"It's fucking insane. Obviously, Whole Lotta Love is the ultimate rock and roll song. You know, the vocal breakdown…it's just the coolest thing ever. But The Lemon Song blew my mind. I can't remember who I was listening to at the time before I discovered Led Zeppelin. But it was a much more modern band.
"I remember my dad saw I was listening to like a modern version of Zeppelin, basically and he was like, "Mate, you're so… What the fuck? Just put this on!". But yeah, The Lemon Song was just ridiculous. It just taught me that if you want to write music like this, you can do whatever you want. There aren't any kind of boundaries or limits.
"It just kind of goes off and does all sorts of stuff. And it's just really interesting the whole time. I thought it was amazing. Brilliant, brilliant stuff. And the first time I ever heard quad fills and all that stuff.
"Then you’ve got Heartbreaker, Living Loving Maid (She's Just a Woman), Ramble On. Moby Dick - probably the ultimate drum solo ever, but also one of the ultimate guitar riffs you've ever heard.
"When I first saw the video of him doing it barehanded. I was like, 'Right. How do I do this? Let's work it out'. The Bonzo thing for me, like any rock drummer, was just, mind blown, world altered.
"Good Times, Bad times - it’s not on that album, that was on the first album - but the bass drum/hi-hat triplet thing was an immediate, 'What's he doing?’ kind of thing.
"It took a while, when somebody showed me - it might have been Taylor actually - like, 'Yeah, you just add in the hi-hat and use it as a triplet'. Once you get it, it's one of the coolest tricks I've ever seen, still to this day.
"I’ve always used a single pedal. I probably should learn how to use a double. But I just don't like them. I don't know why, I just find as soon as you get one, all your fills become about that. You know? I can always hear a fill when it's using double pedal and I never like it. But I like using doubles, even triples sometimes on a single pedal."
3. The Beatles - The Beatles
"I went with the White Album. Just because… it's the White Album! As soon a you mention a band like The Beatles you've got so many albums you're juggling. But The White Album I had on tape all through my childhood and I just never ever stopped listening to it. It just carried on playing all the fucking time.
"Back in the USSR, Dear Prudence, Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da, While My Guitar Gently Weeps, Blackbird, Helter Skelter… the amount of fucking songs on that album. I mean, it's a double anyway, but the amount of really great songs on there is just absurd, and powerful.
"I even got to see Omar play Helter Skelter with Paul at Wembley. At the end of the show we were all sat in different places watching Paul. When they finished someone said, 'Don't go anywhere, we're all going to do a bow'.
"So I just stayed sat down and I was like, 'Okay, let's let the heavyweights go up first'. I saw Dave walk out there, and Stewart, Lars, Omar and all those guys. Then I was like, okay, there's a bunch of people, I think I can squeeze on there somehow!’.
"I start walking, and I felt these two hands slap on my shoulders. I turned around, and it's fucking Paul McCartney! He goes 'You were fucking great!' It was just unbelievable. I didn't know what to say. I wanted to say that I've been listening to him on my tape recorder my entire life! But then I thought 'No, I can't say that'.
"My old man always used to talk about the music he likes - like The Beatles, Bob Dylan, people like that - with massive admiration. So I think we're all just fans. I will throw Rubber Soul in there as well.
"I was just mesmerised by Michelle, and In My Life. It's one of those songs you can just listen to over, and over, and over. It just doesn't get boring, which is really fucking difficult to do.
"Paving the way for the pop world, too. It's just ridiculous. I've heard a lot of comparisons to The Beatles and it's like, do you know who you're talking about? They're just so difficult to beat.
"I think [the Ringo hate] is a load of bollocks. I just think, 'It's Ringo fucking Starr! He was a Beatle, who the fuck are you?' You have no leg to stand on, I don't care what band you're in! You can't you can't dog any Beatle.
"Then when you get two people - I know they all wrote songs - but when you get people like John and Paul competing to write, you get this mixture of Jealous Guy and Let it Be and it's just another level."
4. Foo Fighters - There is Nothing Left to Lose
"There is Nothing Left to Lose was when I started trying to play what Taylor was doing. He actually sent me his [gold record]. He sent this to me years ago and I've always had it on my wall wherever I go. It literally just arrived at my mum's one day. I was like, 'Are you kidding me. Did you just give that to me?' I love the album, it had a huge impact on me.
"I spent a long time, like years, in my little room with an electronic kit at the time, because I was pretty loud. My mum used to say I was in there for eight, ten hours, totally drenched in sweat by the end of it. I'd wear swimming shorts, do the whole thing like him.
"It's really chilled, that album, but in such a lovely way. I just love every track on it. It's another good journey album, really musical.
"They played Aurora at the tribute show and that was so nice because it was always one of my favourites. They took it out of their set for ages, so it was really nice to hear that again. But Taylor used to play that song so nicely.
The feel to it is so good, you just can't help but go along with that. It’s a really cool song. So that was a very special album to me, and always will be."
5. Little Richard - Here’s Little Richard
"I’m gonna go with Here's Little Richard. When I was listening to Elvis and The Beatles as a young kid - weird kid! - I got introduced to Little Richard and I'd never heard a voice like that, or seen energy like that. It was just insane. I mean, you watch that old footage of Little Richard - the guy is the ultimate performer. He's a freak. Freakishly good raspy voice.
"Obviously, there were times where I'd discover something and play it to my old man and he'd be like, 'Yeah, I know!'. He would always explain how, before then, there wasn't that kind of energy.
"It wasn't that ‘blow the fucking roof off the place’ thing. Even snare drum solos. That wasn't done, and Charles Connor did some cool stuff there. He did loads of awesome fills, and you can just sense how that was completely new. He was definitely breaking new ground.
"You hear things like the ride cymbal really just crashing out and it's like 'Oh, that's loud and fucking heavy!’. I just think that Little Richard and his band were just…There's a reason he's called The Godfather of Rock. He really fucking is. He smashed open the door, you’ve gotta love that."
6. Deep Purple - Machine Head
"Ian Paice was definitely one of my biggest influences, still is. That guy is a machine. He's kind of everything you want to be in a rock drummer, apart from left-handed, for me! But yeah, his fills - always musical, always for the song, never showing off.
"Even if sometimes on Machine Head some of them start off slow and graduate to the speed of fucking light. I just love that album. I listened to it a lot when I discovered it and then didn't listen to it for years. I just recently got back into it, I forgot how ridiculously great it is. Yeah, so that definitely had a big impact. It was the first time I heard Ian Paice really and discovered him. Then I discovered Fireball after that, like 'Oh fuck! Okay.'
"His double pedal playing is never like, 'Look how fast this is'. or 'Look how many of these I can do'. It's never like that. It's always just tastefully done. It's like cooking, he's just chucking in some spice.
"I saw him in an airport once. We did the same festival a couple times with The Darkness and I saw him coming back at Heathrow. I was like, 'Oh my God, it's Ian Paice!' Dan [Hawkins] said 'Go over and say hi!' I was like, 'Yeah, okay,' so I started walking and I went 'Nope! No, no, no!'.
"Usually I would have but I thought 'It's Ian fucking Paice! Where do you even start?' But anyway, what a legend and yeah, he still massively influences everything I do, for sure."
7. Bob Dylan - Bringing it All Back Home
"Don't Think Twice, It’s Alright from …Freewheelin' could be in my top three all time favourite songs, but I’ve gone with Bringing It All Back Home. Not really from a drumming point of view, just big impact and just because it's a beautiful album. It's All Right Ma' (I'm Only Bleeding) is simply awesome.
"His new album is out of this world, too. It's really difficult to wrap your mind around it. I've heard each song 100 times. Each and every time you listen, you find new things. It's really mind blowing, the music's simple and really beautiful in the background, but the lyrics are just like this coming from the smartest brain in the world. Really powerful, poignant and just genius, just pure fucking genius.
"All my favourite drummers are musical players. It doesn't have to be difficult, it doesn't have to be impressive, or the newest thing you've learned. It doesn't have to be anything like that. It just has to flow with the song, That's always what I really look out for on these albums."
8. Jimi Hendrix - Are You Experienced?
"Mitch Mitchell was huge for me. I want to say ‘influence’, but it's really weird, I can play the songs, but I think learning them was definitely like learning something completely different. I've never really played like that before.
"I was actually really lucky, I got to play with Jeff Beck for a couple of years off and on with little studio sessions and we did a couple of shows, which was mind blowing. And I knew exactly how lucky I was. He liked my style and he liked how I just kind of laid it down, kept it simple and didn't fill too much.
"But I remember the first day I played with him, he came in for this one rehearsal. He was in there for about half an hour maybe, because he doesn't really rehearse. He just walks in and does it. He came in and he goes, 'I kind of want to do a Jimi song as well. Shall we do Manic Depression?' We tried it, and couldn’t really get it together.
"So I went and listened to it on my own, then we played it. It was the first time I'd ever really tried to play it properly, the whole way through in front of people, and we pretty much nailed it. Then after that moment, he was just throwing Hendrix songs at me!
"So that was cool. And he would say things like, 'Yeah, he actually stole this lick from me.' I'm thinking, 'I believe you, too, because you're fucking Jeff Beck!'. So yeah, Are You Experienced? is my favourite Jimi album.
"Mitch Mitchell. What a freak. Because he's just dancing around it. Again, it's so musical. He's playing the drums like, Jimi's playing the guitar. It's beautiful stuff and kind of the only thing like that Very much of its own thing."
9. Queen - News Of The World/A Night At The Opera
"I would be lying if I didn't say News of the World or Night at the Opera. I think the first time I properly listened to News of the World, I was just coming to an age where I knew dad was a musician, I could figure that much out.
"Then obviously, he'd get some attention here and there and I realised people know who he is. Then I heard that and I was like, 'Okay, yeah. Wow. I get it.'
"I think maybe that was the first time I'd heard that music from an outsider's point of view, I guess. I was just blown away by the songwriting. Purely from a fan point of view, you've got four brilliant songwriters in their own right. Four really clever guys. So their songwriting is in turn, very clever."
"I could go on forever about them but those two albums were huge to me. They're just brilliant. You can tell who wrote which ones as well. Like Fight From the Inside, that was all the old man on every instrument.
"There's not a lot of albums where you get that kind of thing, and they all each wrote different songs on both of those albums. Freddie usually wrote the main bunch, and every single one of those is always genius, I think.
"When I first started understanding, and properly listening to lyrics, and putting arrangements together; then you're imagining doing it on tape with all these weird guitar solos and genius, little backing vocal hooks. It's like, 'Fuck me!' How did you just sit down and come up with that? I've tried to write songs, but to come up with something like that…
"Stuff like It's Late. One of the coolest rock and roll intros ever. I really think that guitar riff and Freddie, those two things together at the beginning of that song is just one of the ultimate rock and roll snippets.
"It grabs you right from the first second and then it's got this, six-and-a-half minute long, insane arrangement with all sorts of different showcases. But tastefully done.
"He [Roger Taylor] is another musical player. You're My Best Friend and stuff like that, all those really musical fills. It's always for the song."