Q&A with Foo Fighters’ Taylor Hawkins

Photos & Interview by Lynn Levitt

The late 1990s was a special time for drummer Taylor Hawkins. He had landed a gig with Canadian singer Alanis Morissette. And soon after, Dave Grohl, the former drummer of Nirvana and founder of the Foo Fighters, asked Hawkins if he knew anyone who could fill his recently vacant drummer spot in his new band. Hawkins said me, and the rest is history.


What is your favorite take-out food?

My favorite take-out food? Hmm… not like fast food, but take-out food. I think my favorite take-out food in general would be Chinese food.

And is that why you are so skinny?

What, is Chinese food generally a skinny food? There’s a lot of rice and stuff, but then again, I don’t know. No, because I don’t eat a lot of Chinese food. I’m skinny because I mountain bike every day, and play drums all the time and I am pretty contentious of what I eat so.

I did some research on the Internet and I heard you landed this role as Iggy Pop.

Yep. It’s these folks that are making this movie called CBGB or about CBGB.  It is about this famous club in New York City, called CBGB and I actually met them because they started taking about making a movie about this guy Dennis Wilson who was the drummer of the Beach Boys.  And they were interested in me possibly playing Dennis Wilson in this movie. Now I’ve never done any acting. I’m not really that comfortable at it as well.  So I think they decided they had this other guy named Aaron Eckheart, and he was going to play Dennis Wilson, and it didn’t really work out, and so they were thinking of me as possibility. But nothing has come of that, so they said well we got a role for Iggy Pop, so do you want to do that? And you’re skinny and you got six lines. So I said OK. It was literally one day I flew out to Savannah, Georgia. One day, I did my six lines and that was it.  You know.

So how do you feel knowing that this year Iggy Pop was voted as the number one ugliest celebrity?

Well I’m okay with that you know.  Extremes. It’s all about extremes, so if you are right at the edge of ugliness, that’s right at the edge of beauty, isn’t it? There is a fine line between crazy and brilliant. Well, there is a fine line between grotesquely ugly and beautiful. He wasn’t ugly when he was younger.

What was the defining moment in your life that you realized that life is a real thing versus the dream and naivety that we usually go forward with?

I spent my 20s trying to be a rock star and I spent my 30s trying not to be one. I think that when I sort of became successful to the level I dreamed of as a child and when I was younger, I never really thought it could happen. But when it really did happen and it got to that point, I realized that I am still the same, and nothing changed inside of me, and I was waiting for it to change and I think that kind of freaked me out a little bit. I thought this was going to be the answer to all my prayers. Once this happened I thought I would feel like a million bucks, and you don’t. Life isn’t like that. There is no one answer and no one defining thing that is going to say oh you’re complete now. Your life is going to be great from now on; it’s not like that. I thought that success was becoming a famous rock ‘n’ roll musician. And you are lost for a second. And then, you’re still just you and you know I get so much joy out of other things. I mean, I still get a lot of joy out of playing music. It’s awesome when you win a Grammy or your record does well. That’s really good. That means you did the work and somebody noticed it. I get just as much joy out of raising my children or going mountain biking. I really do actually.

How do you handle mistakes during a performance?

Better than I used to. I used to let it ruin my shows, but now I have kind of learned to sort of take it as part of the process of being a human being on stage, and knowing that perfection is not really in the cards, and that expression is really important, and the live experience. If you’re going to play live with no holds barred, meaning no computers or anything, really just four or five human beings up there, interacting musically up there with no help from computers then you have to be OK with a few imperfections. I always have to remember when I was a kid sometimes I would go see one of my favorite bands, which I just thought were really perfect. When they would have sort of a *.ck up, it would be one of my favorite moments in the show because you always kind of thought of them as being super human, and to see them human for a second was kind of nice, you know? Not that I see myself with the same eyes I saw my heroes, but it’s part of the experience. I don’t care that much anymore.

Who is your drum sponsor now?

Gretsch drums and Zildjian cymbals, but I was sponsored by Ludwig, Slingerland, Drum Workshop, Orange County Drum and Percussion, and at one point, Toma.

Does your music carry a particular message or is it just meant for pleasure?

As far as the music I make with the Foo Fighters, I’m just sort of one of the helping hands in the musical side of things.  I really don’t write music in the band. It’s more Dave. I’ve written one song, and that message was purely personal. All the songs I have written on the side for my little bands and stuff like that, the only message is just personal, nothing political.

Do you still have the Coattails?

I don’t right now, I’m not doing that right now. I stopped doing that right now. I am thinking about doing something else. It’s hard to find the time. Between the Foo Fighters and helping Dave with his movie project Sound City, and we are talking about doing something with the Foo Fighters again. I don’t know if I’m going to have any time. I’m writing songs. Whether anyone will ever hear them, who knows?

Can you talk about a fan encounter that took you completely by surprise?

I think all of them do. There is this kid across the street who jams with one of the Marley kids. And he is the drummer, and he started playing drums because of me. Because his sister had the Alanis Morissette tour video, I used to play drums with Alanis, and that’s the reason he started playing drums. I don’t see myself as the kind of person that would get someone started doing anything, you know. I’m the guy that sees other people. That makes me excited. Fan encounters are surreal.

Before you married, tell me, women or cars?

Women! Sure you know. I don’t give a *hit about cars. You see my collection. All of my cars add up to the price of one person’s car on the street. You know, I really don’t like fancy cars. I do like cars, but I like funky cars, like 1980s cars, trucks and vans.

What is you daily attire?

Well you know, really during half the year, I wear shorts, surf trunks, as little as possible. Mountain bike shorts the first half of the day, because I am usually mountain biking the first half of the day.

Where do you go mountain biking?

Everywhere here—Topanga Canyon, you know. I go to Ahmanson Ranch and Cheseboro. Everywhere.

You are a father and a husband. Isn’t that number one on your list?


Yeah it really is, it really is. And father mainly, which becomes husband. It’s all part of one thing really, but yes, that is the most important thing. Absolutely. It’s all part of the same life. My work has become part of that, supporting my family you know.


There was a Halloween, and your son was dressed as Axel Rose, and he said he was a rock star. You corrected him and said, “No, we are musicians.”

Sometime about eight or nine years ago, people started using this term rock star, like I’m going to party like a rock star, and I think there was an energy drink called Rockstar and I just felt it was offensive to a musician.  A rock star is someone else’s perception, and I think at the end of the day, going back to what I said earlier, where you wait for something special to happen once you’re on MTV, or something, and nothing does happen inside your soul, inside your heart, “rock star” is almost demeaning. It’s taking away the fact that you actually do the work.

OK, so you played for the Grammys and won how many Grammies and in the same week you played for the president of the United States.

I have performed for the president, a couple of times actually. Yeah, we went to the White House and played on the Fourth of July, three or four years ago, and we just did the Kennedy Center Honors, which the president was up for that too, honoring Led Zeppelin.

Did you get to speak with him?

Yes, I’ve met him a couple of times. You know what, I have actually played for the president three times. Excuse me. And, yes, it was the week of the Grammys. You are right! So, yes, I performed for him three times. I have met him a couple of times. He’s cool. His wife is really cool. She is the coolest. She is the bomb. She’s super cool. Yeah, it’s kind of fun having a hip president. He is a hip guy. He is cool, you know, and I think his heart is in the right place.

What makes a good session?

A good song. The end of the day, if you haven’t got that, you could have a fun session, but what makes a good session is a good song.

What message do you have for future musicians?

The only message that I have would be play music because you love music, not because you want to make money or be famous, because  I’m here to tell you one thing. Fame is absolutely not going to fill your hole,  and I have had little tiny bits of it. I’m on the low, low, low scale of fame, and it doesn’t do anything for you. And big fame seems like more problems for you. Who would want to be Brad Pitt?  He can’t like go to Taco Bell. He can’t go to his favorite record store without being flanked by a bunch of people. That’s no good. So if you want to play music, play because you want to play music, not because you want to be rich and famous, because chances are you are not going to be rich and famous. If you get lucky like me, you may make a really good living, and that is luck and hard work, and all the hard work in the world does not mean it’s necessarily going to happen either. And that’s my message really, that you should play music because you love it. Because I will tell you one thing, if I worked at Home Depot or whatever, I’d still play music. I know I would. I’d have too!