It’s The Foos’ Taylor Hawkins’ Turn To Prove He’s More Than Just A Drummer

Foo Fighters drummer recording with his new band, Taylor Hawkins and the Coattail Riders.

Taylor Hawkins knows all the drummer jokes.

What was the last thing the drummer said before being fired from the band? Hey guys, I have an idea!

How do you get the drummer to stop knocking on your door? Pay him for the pizza.

“The drummer is stereotypically the dumb guy,” Hawkins said Tuesday as he loaded albums (Secret Machines, Queens of the Stone Age) into his iPod for a long summer of touring. “Maybe that’s why I always respect drummers who do more than drum. You know? I’m in a band with one.”

Hawkins, who is finishing the first record from his own band, Taylor Hawkins and the Coattail Riders, is of course in the Foo Fighters with drummer-turned-singer/guitarist Dave Grohl, although he’s not exactly following in Grohl’s footsteps.

“I’m not trying to be the next Dave Grohl or Phil Collins,” said Hawkins, who makes his debut as a lead singer on “Cold Day in the Sun” from the Foos’ new In Your Honor. “I just want to get these songs out and go and play a little bit live when I’m not working my real job.”

About four years ago, after buying his first house and building a studio inside, Hawkins set out on his first serious side project, a collaboration with Eric Avery, the original bassist for Hawkins’ favorite band, Jane’s Addiction.

“He was going in a gothic techno way, though, and I was going in a rock/pop kind of way,” Hawkins recalled. “So we said, ‘F— it.’

Hawkins was also realizing that he didn’t work so well at home. So he took the songs he was writing to his drummer friend Drew Hester’s home studio and started recording them. Hawkins recruited Hester’s roommate, Gannin, a guitar teacher in Los Angeles, to play the guitar and bass parts he was writing, and eventually called over Chris Chaney, with whom he played in Alanis Morissette’s band before joining the Foo Fighters, to play bass. (Interestingly, Chaney went on fill the ever-shifting bassist slot in Jane’s Addiction.)

We started recording demos, and although it’s not the best sound quality in the world, we worked really well together and we said, ‘Let’s call it an album, put it out on an indie label,’ ” Hawkins said.

After settling on the name the Coattail Riders (which won out over Casanova and the Sunshine Band), the trio signed to Thrive Records. “The label changed the name to Taylor Hawkins and the Coattail Riders, which I guess sort of has a cool ’60s feel, like Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels,” Hawkins said. “Even if it makes me sound like an a–hole.”

The band’s self-titled debut is due in January, although curious fans can hear some of the tracks on Hawkins’ Web site (TaylorHawkins.com), including one called “Louise,” likely to be the first single.

“[The album is] pretty diverse,” Hawkins said. “The funny thing is, I love ABBA, the Eagles, sh– like that, sort of poppy stuff, but being a drummer, I also tend to like stuff that’s somewhat rhythmically interesting, going back to prog-rock.

“I always thought if I had a band it would have the energy and feel of early Police, since that’s where my roots are, and then the harmonies of the Eagles, and the technique of King Crimson or something like that,” he added. “Fast, up-tempo, beat-the-hell-out-of-the-drums, because that’s my style. Energy, but sophistication, rhythmically and melodically.”

Taylor Hawkins and the Coattail Riders plan to tour later in the year, when the Foo Fighters take a break, or as Hawkins puts it, “when Dave decides he’s going to play with Led Zeppelin or make another record with Trent Reznor or something.”

“If I wasn’t in the Foo Fighters, this would be my 100 percent priority, I’d jump in a van right now,” he said. “There’s a part of me that wishes I could do that, because I am passionate about it, but I’m also very loyal to the Foo Fighters. I love those guys.”

For a feature on the Foo Fighters, check out “Dave Grohl: The Gambler” .