May 3, 2014
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Foo Fighters' Taylor Hawkins forms The Birds of Satan
Drummer chats about new Rush-inspired group, rejoining the mothership and what life on the road with Alanis Morissette was really like
By Jane Stevenson, Toronto Sun

The Birds of Satan

Idle hands are the Devil’s workshop.

But in the case of Foo Fighters’ drummer Taylor Hawkins, his downtime led to the prog-meets-hard-rock side project, The Birds of Satan, whose sound was inspired by the likes of Queen, Aerosmith and Toronto’s Rush.

The band and accompanying self-titled album - whose moniker was taken from a line in Red Hot Chili Peppers frontman Anthony Kiedis’ 2004 autobiography Scar Tissue - materialized after the Foos took some time off following their last tour and Foo leader Dave Grohl’s directorial debut with the documentary, Sound City.

“I had a couple of songs that I had little demos for, like three or four respective songs, just very rough little ideas, and then a couple of little other things lying around,” said Hawkins, who recorded in the Foos’ 606 studio in the San Fernando Valley.

Because Hawkins’ mates in his previous side band, the Coattail Riders were all busy, he hooked up with Chevy Metal members Wiley Hodgden on bass and Mick Murphy on guitar.

“We’d been doing these gigs and I had this one week (booked in the studio) so I said to those guys, ‘Do you think we can make an EP in a week?’ And they were like, ‘F—- yeah!’ ... And it was just good and it was super fun and super loose and raw and sounds like the records I loved growing up. ... It’s got that loose, raw, band-in-a-room, jamming feel. ... There’s out of tune vocals and out of time drums. All sorts of s— all over it but I think it sounds fun and exciting.”

We caught up with the chatty and friendly Hawkins, 42, down the line from L.A. recently as his car made its way along the Pacific Coast Highway to chat more about The Birds of Satan, being a Rush super-fan, the Foos’ next LP and touring with Alanis Morissette.

What makes you such a Rush uber-fan, having helped Grohl to induct them into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame last year?

I love all of them. (Bassist) Geddy Lee, he’s a bad motherf—er. He comes off as this kind of quiet guy. Oh, my God, you get into a corner with that guy, he is so funny and he’s a smartass and he’s a bad ass. He’s a motherf—er, one of the funniest goofiest guys in the world, he really is, and obviously a brilliant bass player, and they’re just a great f—ing true rock and roll band and I love them. I’ve always loved them. And I owe them so much. And obviously you will hear a lot of Rush on my record. It comes right out of the gate kind of like a Rush album.

Will you tour with The Birds of Satan in Canada?

I’d love to be up there for three weeks touring around in a van. I would love to. If I can, I will. But I have this other thing that I do which is obviously the mothership (the Foo Fighters), and that will be taking up my time. That’s where it all lies really. And then there’s this other thing as well called Annabelle, Shane and Alison and that is my wife and my two kids. And I can be slightly selfish but I can’t be 100% selfish. My son doesn’t like it when I’m gone. (My kids are) five and seven. But they’re really getting to that age when they need me there. Unless I’m out making a million bucks with the Foo Fighters, I have to pick and chose.

Producer Butch Vig recently told Kerrang! the next Foo Fighters album “was half-way done?” Care to respond?

We’ve been a little bit active.  ... My politically correct answer is this, when we play together right now, it’s really good. We’re on another level. I don’t know what it is but we’re on another level. We’ve been making records for so long and I feel like we’re finally able to get to the point where we can kind of be anywhere near Dave’s talent. You know what I mean? The guy’s just a f—ing dynamo... I feel like this band is finally as a band getting there... We are playing better than we’ve ever played when someone hits the record button whether it’s a f—ing demo or whether it’s the final recording, I’m not going to tell you, and what it’s for, and how we’re doing it. ‘Cause the idea’s huge, of course, ‘cause it’s Dave, there’s more to it than just the record, and the next one will be even more to it.

How do the Foos generally record?

We go through months and months of jamming and playing Dave’s ideas before we even go consider that we’re going to go make a record. As you would imagine, Dave’s got 175 thousand riff ideas and we get to play every one of them until we fall on things that make Dave excited to think about turning it into a song. I means, sometimes he’ll come and the whole song’s almost done on a demo ‘cause he can play anything.

Were you in Brooklyn when Dave got inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as part of the Nirvana lineup earlier this month?

No I was not actually. It’s just not my world. I didn’t know Dave then. I didn’t know Kurt. I didn’t know any of those guys. I kind of feel like when he’s in that world, out of respect, I stay out of his way.

But you guys are close, so you must be proud of his induction?

Yeah I am. I haven’t talked to him in a couple of weeks, but I was. And I got a full report (from Nirvana touring guitarist) Pat Smear. And he said it went really great. Everybody minded their manners. I’m not going to name names but there was no certain type of flareups from a certain person.

I’m guessing you’re talking about Kurt’s widow Courtney Love who apparently walked up to the podium hand in hand with Grohl, who she’s previously been at odds with?

I love that. I mean f---in’ A, that’s the way it should be. Get over it guys. It’s bulls—. I hope that that’s over. ‘Cause I can honestly tell you that Dave can be a f—in’ dick to me because we’re like best friends. Sometimes I can’t stand him but that’s on like a brotherly level. And I know he loves me and he knows I love him. But the real pit of his soul, of who he is as a person, he’s one of the good guys. He really is. He ain’t perfect but he’s one of the good guys. And he doesn’t deserve that s— from her. He just doesn’t. And I understand that’s part of her trip, sort of creating publicity, yeah drama and all that stuff. The first time I met her she gave me s—. And I didn’t even know her. She made fun of me a bunch. After I joined the Foo Fighters she kept calling me Alanis Morissette because I played drums with Alanis Morissette. I guess that was her way of going, ‘Nah, nah, whatever.’ But f— that, Alanis Morissette was super f—ing talented and rad.

What WAS touring with Alanis like?

The Alanis Morissette tour everybody thinks that was all sitting around, lighting candles and talking intelligently about synergy and big words. That band was so gnarly. We were such scumbags. Alanis had no idea. We were like Van Halen. The chicks and the drugs and the partying and that tour was like 18 months long and it never stopped. I remembering pulling up - God bless (late Pantera guitarist) Dimebag Darrell - and there was a tour bus parked and it was Pantera’s. And our band and Pantera went drink for drink, joint for joint, til the f—ing sun came up. And I remember Dimebag just being like, ‘Wow, I never would have thought the Alanis Morissette band would be such f--king scumbags.’”

Breaking down the Foo Fighters' side projects

Foo Fighters, founded by Dave Grohl in 1994 following the death of Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain, have collectively boasted an impressive list of side projects since. Here are the highlights:

Dave Grohl (singer-guitarist): Drummer/co-founder of the rock supergroup Them Crooked Vultures with Josh Homme (Queens of the Stone Age)and John Paul Jones (Led Zeppelin) who released one self-titled album and embarked on the Deserve the Future world tour in 2009. Grohl also had short-lived side projects Late! and Probot, and has been involved with QOTSA in the past decade. Also joined fellow surviving Nirvana members Krist Novoselic and Pat Smear for a variety of television and live appearances in 2012/2013 with frontman Paul McCartney, dubbed Sirvana, and they together recorded Cut Me Some Slack, the first track from the documentary soundtrack for Sound City, directed by Grohl.

Taylor Hawkins (drummer): Has released two albums under Taylor Hawkins and the Coattail Riders, plays in a three-piece cover band, Chevy Metal, also his bandmates on his new side project, The Birds of Satan.

Nate Mendel (bassist): Started in Seattle band Sunny Day Real Estate before joining Foos. SDRL has reunited several times since and he joined members Jeremy Enigk and William Goldsmith to form The Fire Theft. They have released one album.

Chris Shiflett (lead guitarist): Currently plays in the punk rock cover band Me First and the Gimme Gimmes, his own side-project, Jackson United as well as Viva Death with his brother Scott. His country-oriented side project, Chris Shiflett & the Dead Peasants, have released two albums.

Pat Smear (guitarist): Before joining the Foo Fighters, from whom he took a hiatus from 1997-2005, he was a member of punk rock act Germs. He rejoined them in for a slate of reunion shows in 2005.

Twitter: @JaneCStevenson

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