I know I’ve realized way beyond my dreams,” says Foo Fighters drummer Taylor Hawkins. “I’ve actually been a professional musician since 1994. That’s a long time in which I’ve been lucky enough to keep a gig and be successful at what I do, which is also my passion: playing drums. So I’m very, very blessed to live this crazy, unimaginable life.”
Although he’s the idol of millions for his drumming prowess, Hawkins’ first rock ‘n’ roll dreams didn’t focus on the drums; rather, they were centered on the guitar because, as he puts it, “Nobody looks at the drummer.”
As a 10-year-old in Laguna, California, he tried in vain to play his neighbor’s six string, but the instrument didn’t feel right; it required “too much work.” Hawkins’ boyhood visions of rock glory might’ve ended right there. Luckily, however, that same neighbor had a drum set, and from the moment Taylor sat down at the kit, everything clicked; with two sticks in his hands, he was a natural.
“Life started when I began playing the drums,” Hawkins explains. “Drums became my coat of armor, my identity. I just automatically fell in love with them and they became everything in my life. I’d look at drum magazines and pictures of drum sets the same way other kids looked at car mags and stuff like that.”
Scraping together $150, Taylor bought his first drums from another neighbor. “I’m not sure what brand they were,” he says, “but the snare was a Gretsch, which is what I play now.”
Completely self-taught, Hawkins favored a French grip over a traditional or German style, and he progressed quickly as a hard-hitting player, moving from school talent shows (he still remembers fellow students cheering his drum solos) to gigging with local cover bands. Queen, David Bowie, Sweet and other ’70s-era British acts were huge influences, but Taylor didn’t just absorb the drumming on those acts’ records, he also developed a deep understanding of the song craft and vocal harmonies that made them work. “Writing good songs is something I’ve always aspired to do,” he says. “It’s difficult for some and easy for others. It’s a process.”