Taylor Hawkins is the kind of guy who can never sit still. Whether it’s the hyperkinetic whirlybird of arms and legs he becomes behind the drum kit for the Foo Fighters, or the crouching ball of cigarettes and energy he morphs into during interviews, the dude is a wellspring of nonstop activity.
So it should be no surprise that on March 6 — despite the fact that he’s spent the majority of the past 16 months writing, recording and touring with the Foos — Hawkins will release his first solo album, an unabashed ode to classic rock he’s calling Taylor Hawkins and the Coattail Riders (see “It’s The Foos’ Taylor Hawkins’ Turn To Prove He’s More Than Just A Drummer” ). For him, “free time” is a relative term.
“I don’t take breaks, man. In the past, I used to spend my free time getting in trouble, and now I spend it working on my music,” Hawkins laughed. “If I’m not playing drums with my cover band, Chevy Metal, I’m working on songs for myself. And I was working on these songs with my buddy Drew [Hester], and one day I was just like, ’This should be a solo album.’ So the Coattail Riders were born.”
Hawkins and the rest of the Riders — guitarist and “complete Jeff-Beck-head” Gannin (that’s right, just Gannin) and Jane’s Addiction bassist Chris Chaney — recorded 16 tracks in less than three weeks in the summer of 2004 and then set them aside while Hawkins began work on the Foo Fighters’ In Your Honor (see “Foo Fighters Album Preview: Grohl Gets Grand On In Your Honor” ). But he always planned on returning to those tunes, and midway through 2005, while the Foos were on a break, Hawkins got to work shaping them into a proper album. It’s already met with glowing approval by one of Hawkins’ famous friends.
“I gave [former Police drummer] Stewart Copeland a copy of the album, and I was really nervous, because not only is he like the best drummer ever, but he’s got this really smart, really dry sense of humor,” Hawkins explained. “So like a week later, he calls me and goes, ’Taylor, I have the Coattail Riders CD here in the car, and the kids are loving it. It’s a big hit in the Copeland family car.’ Which I guess is a pretty good compliment.”
It’s especially high praise when you consider that the Police are one of the main influences on Hawkins and the Coattails — with some flourishes of Devo and Queen thrown in for good measure. And the whole thing is wrapped in just the right amount of home-studio scuzz, which is just the way Hawkins wanted it.
“It’s supposed to be a sort of warts-and-all record. I mean, I recorded the drums in a garage,” he laughed. “I think that debut albums are supposed to sound sort of raw. You don’t want to record Sgt. Pepper’s as your first album, because where do you go from there?”
And with a full slate of Foo dates on the bill for 2006 (including a winter tour of Europe and a round of “more intimate” U.S. shows booked for the summer), Hawkins isn’t totally sure when the Coattail Riders will hit the road, but he promises that he’ll find time to make it happen.
“We’re gonna have to fit a tour in between all the crevasses of time. But we’re gonna do it. I want to take this band out and play small clubs, and we’ll do it,” Hawkins said. “I’ve been practicing like crazy in my basement, singing and drumming at the same time. And honestly, I think that’s gonna be the biggest obstacle for us: me being able to sing and play drums. Because for one, I have to tone down my regular, wild way of playing. And also, I want to sing into a regular mic. I don’t want to wear one of those headsets, because you definitely look like a dork doing that.”