As a young drummer, Taylor Hawkins loved the police. “My brother gave me a copy of Zenyatta Mondatta”” Hawkins told the BBC in 2019. “It was in 1982. He says ‘”If you want to be good, you have to play it like this guy.”My first two big inspirations — probably the two guys who shaped a lot of what I do when I play drums in a rock band – are Roger Taylor and Stewart Copeland.”
Hawkins finally met his hero in 2005, and they began a long friendship that consisted of jams at Copeland’s home studio, the Sacred Grove, late-night phone conversations and frequent hang-ups. Copeland called Rolling Stone to share his memories of the late drummer.
All of us in the drummer community are texting back and forth to express our shock and horror at this unexpected event. Actually, not to get too grim about it, but the last time I saw Taylor physically — although we talked a lot on the phone — was just as lockdown was starting, at Neil’s (Peart’s) memorial. I was there with Doane Perry (from Jethro Tull), Danny Carey (from Tool) and Chad Smith (from the Red Hot Chili Peppers) and Taylor, all lamenting the loss of our guide Neil Peart. And now we will be summoned again.
We enjoyed each other’s company. Much more than guitarists. You’d think we’d be more competitive, because there’s only one drum set on stage and you can have any number of amps. But for some reason we like the extra rhythms that are banging around us. He was a big part of the drum tribe. Brothers of the stick. We have our own language, not understood by guitarists, and especially alien to keyboardists.
Taylor was a big shot, and there’s a big hole where a lot of laughs lived. When we weren’t joking with each other, we were talking on the phone about moron theories, get-rich-quick schemes, and general bullshit. He was just tirelessly cheerful. He was also emotional, but that only spiced up his cheerfulness.
He’s always been Mister Fanboy, but that was part of his bullshit. “OKAY, OKAY, Taylor, calm down!”One of his social tricks was that every time we went out, he selected a police T-shirt from his extensive collection. When he was dating Neil, he had his Rush t-shirt on. He was 50 years old and eight years old.
He was a fan of everyone, a real enthusiast. Even though he was a star, he was very interested in all the other people, how they got there and what they do. He knew everything — all the different things that anyone could do. Each flammadiddle and rattamacue played by its heroes.
He was on his way to his vast estate, at the end of which there is a guest house, which he turned into a drum palace. He could do the John Bonham double bass kick before they invented the double bass pedals. Neil’s single shot brings down all 14 tom-toms. All my stuff, Roger Taylor’s stuff, Phil Collins’ stuff. He was fascinated by it all — and I’m sure it was his own style — but he had his own thing. He went straight for the money.
He had no sense of competition or team spirit, and we all know the reason: because his boss was a drummer. The worst indignity: His boss was one of the best drummers of all time. So, it made all of us, other drummers with our axes to grind and our grips, look at the world more calmly. Think about Taylor’s concert.
I was thinking about when we met. I received a strange invitation out of the blue from the Foo Fighters to join them on their jet to San Francisco to play a show (in 2005), then directly to New York where they did 24 hours of Foo on MTV. I think this is the first time I’ve met these guys. What really impressed me about each of them was that not only were they the headliners, but they all had side bands that were the supporting acts. Workers, these young musicians.
I don’t know if it was Taylor or Dave who decided “That’s it, during the Police reunion tour (in 2007), we’re opening for the police, dammit!”They were already a stadium act! So when we played at Dodger Stadium, they insisted on opening for the police. It was a very good thing, because they lit up the whole stadium. All we had to do was go out and look beautiful, and the place was ours. There was that moment (in the 2008 Certifiable concert documentary) when Dave said, “They’ve got lamb. We don’t have any lamb.”By the way, they had lamb.
He had a lot more chops than he ever showed in the context of Foo Fighters. The singing part came later. He always wanted to be part of the band Klark Kent (Copeland’s first solo album in 1980). I said “Listen, everyone wants to play drums on this, can you play guitar or sing?”And at the time, I felt like he didn’t have that. Dave probably pushed him to the front of the stage. He found out, in the same way Dave did, “Hey, this isn’t rocket science. All you have to do is have charisma and you can sing.”Dave and Taylor were so brotherly. They scratched each other’s jugular veins and kissed very soon after. In a way that only brothers can.
As I enter my 70th year, I am an agony aunt to all my stick brothers. I never gave him any advice on how to play his damn drums — I wouldn’t be so impertinent — but we talked long into the night about the complexities of life. OK, I’m giving the game away here, but he was a rock star, but also a father of three, Allison’s husband. The three children, Oliver, Annabelle and Everleigh. And since I have seven children and five grandchildren, I had a few words of wisdom to pass on. But in that sense, he was extremely solid.
He used to come here to some of our parties. Some of them were sober evenings during the day, others at night. Some of them were extremely un-sober. But I can say that Taylor has never been an uncontrollable party animal, or even controllable. It was a pretty straight arrow, as far as I know.
I had just finished a show with the Nashville Symphony (when I found out he was dead). It was just an amazing sight. I walked off stage, the hotel was a block and a half away, so I was in the shower before the audience left the building, with endorphins coming out of every pore. I was heading to the bar, and just as I’m walking out the door of my hotel room, I get the TEXT. “Oh, for God’s sake, you’re kidding.”I go down to the bar, which is full of a crowd of cheerful and cheerful people who are all saying “Good show.”
Natural endorphins are always strong and, at the same time, overwhelmed with disbelief and shock. As I said, Neil saw his train coming and he had a first class ticket. No one saw Taylor coming. He was just a life force that seemed unstoppable. He was a living thing, not a thing that will ever die. So the suddenness was profound.
The music, of course, is going to be important for a lot of people, but the hang, that’s what I miss. The guy, that laugh, the kind of hoarse voice he had, that surfer voice. He was definitely the ultimate surfer guy. Laguna Beach to the end. Was he actually a surfer? I never had a chance to ask her.
I’m so sorry about Allison and those kids. Dave, the band. That’s what gets me through my day, is how much deeper and more profound, sudden their loss is. They have a much bigger emotional mountain to climb. But for his people who are more than his laugh buddies, it takes longer to sink in than there is a hole there. You know, if it had been anyone else, Taylor and I would be on the phone right now, thinking deeply about it. I just miss him.