Taylor Hawkins’ Classic Rock Influences: In His Own Words

Even as he became a superstar member of a famous rock band, late Foo Fighters drummer Taylor Hawkins remained a passionate fan of the groups that came before him.

Never modest when discussing his influences, the drummer regularly heaped praise on Rush, Genesis and the Police – bands that just happened to employ some of the greatest drummers in rock history: Neil Peart, Phil Collins and Stewart Copeland, respectively.

Hawkins was an aficionado of all things rock, with a fandom that spread back to his youth. During a ninth-grade talent show, the drummer covered Van Halen’s “Panama.” Decades later, he and his cover band Chevy Metal would deliver a set made up entirely of Van Halen material at the 2019 Beach Life festival.

“I gotta tell you, being Van Halen for the day is pretty fuckin’ awesome,” he explained from the stage that day. “It’s the best fuckin’ set list you’re ever gonna find, right?”

Still, there was no band Hawkins held in higher regard than Queen. When he was just 10 years old, the future Foo Fighter saw Freddie Mercury and his band perform in Southern California. Hawkins’ mind was blown. “After that concert, I don’t think I slept for three days,” he recalled during a 2021 conversation with Kerrang! “It changed everything, and I was never the same because of it. It was the beginning of my obsession with rock ’n’ roll, and I knew that I wanted to be in a huge rock band after seeing Queen. I was just starting to get into the drums, and Roger Taylor became my hero. I remember telling my mom that I’d play there one day.”

Below are some of the biggest classic rock artists who influenced Hawkins and what they meant to him, in his own words.

Ian Tyas, Getty Images

Ian Tyas, Getty Images

Queen (Roger Taylor)

“Roger Taylor playing ‘We Are the Champions’ with Queen – I will never forget watching that. I remember all this sweat flying off his hair – he was so visual, the ultimate in cool and collected. He was rock ‘n’ roll.”Rhythm magazine (2002)

“I remember one time with the Foo Fighters when we were on our way to a rehearsal studio in Virginia just before we made (1999 album] There Is Nothing Left to Lose. We were driving along, with the radio playing, and ‘Under Pressure’ came on. We sat there, silent, just listening. Then, when it was over, Dave Grohl turned round to the rest of us and just laughed; ‘Why are we even trying? Like we’re going to do anything even close to that song.’Q (2005)

“[Roger Taylor] swings like no one else, and that’s impossible to emulate. You know it’s him when you hear the hi-hat open up every time he hits the snare. I can play every fill he’s ever done, but I could never get his feel. I’ve tried and it’s impossible!” – Rhythm magazine (2002)

“Roger gave Queen their heavy feel and big sound. His playing was laid back, loose and – I use this term loosely – punk rock because he did have that sort of rough edge to his drumming, too. And he always put on a real show – he was a very theatrical drummer.” Rhythm magazine (2002)

“Roger and I hang out and we’re friends, but he is also still this mythical superhero to me. We played double drums at Shepherds Bush a few years ago and more recently in 2001 when Queen were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, which was amazing. If you watch my face on that Hall of Fame thing, I’m just smiling the entire time.” Rhythm magazine (2002)

 

Fin Costello, Getty Images

Fin Costello, Getty Images

Rush (Neil Peart)

“The chorus beat in [Foo Fighters’ 2001 song] ‘Rope’ is a paradiddle, directly lifted from Neil Peart. It’s ‘The Spirit of Radio’ all the way. When we were doing the demo for ‘Rope,’ everyone thought it was my idea. But I have to say to Neil Peart in Modern Drummer: I’m sorry I stole that from you, Neil, but it was Dave’s idea to do that, not mine!”Modern Drummer (2011)

“Me and Dave grew up loving Rush. They’re a great band for when you’re a kid and you’re trying to learn as many licks as you can. There’s plenty someone can learn from a Rush record.” Kerrang! (2021)

“I got into prog when I started drumming. I must have been 10 or 11, and the first band I heard were Rush. It was the live album Exit … Stage Left. I picked up so much from listening to Neil Peart.” Prog (2014)

“There can never be another Neil Peart. No way. He had the craziest hands, and he just had such a unique thing.” – Radio interview with 94.9 The Rock

“Neil Peart had the hands of God. End of story.” Instagram post following Peart’s death in 2020

“A lot of my favorite drummers — like Stewart Copeland and Neil Peart — weren’t just backbeat drummers, they had just as much profile as a guitar player usually does. I guess that’s what I’ve been strug­gling for most of my life – to make the drums as important as everything else.” Sunday Times (2010)

 

Hulton Archive, Getty Images

Hulton Archive, Getty Images

The Police (Stewart Copeland)

“I always use the Police’s first album as an example. It basically sounds like a shitty demo, but it fucking rocks. It’s amazing – and with rock ‘n’ roll it’s all about energy, isn’t it? When you hear the energy off the drums and music like that, you just want to put it on loud and drive down the street with it blasting. It’s like, ‘Hey, dudes, this rocks!” Rhythm magazine (1998)

“Stewart Copeland is so intense live. He looks like he might kill you.” Drum! magazine (2007)

“He was probably my earliest, like, real drum influence, He was my first drum hero and that had a lot to do with my brother, who’s five years older than me – I still have the Police Around the World, video which I remember him getting me as a kid when I was first learning to play.” Metal Hammer (2003)

“I have no rudimental training. My rudimental training was Rush’s Exit … Stage Left and the Police’s Zenyatta Mondatta. I emulated my heroes. I played along with those records. That’s how I learned. Ghost in the Machine and Zenyatta, those were my two Police bibles. Copeland is definitely one of my major heroes.” Modern Drummer (2011)

“But you listen to the level of musicianship they invoked – how brilliant were they? This was a band who could do it all and made the concept of musicianship so cool. They had an influence on so many others – after all, would Rush have attempted something like … ‘Spirit of Radio’ with the reggae part were it not for the Police?” Prog (2014)

 

Graham Wood, Getty Images

Graham Wood, Getty Images

Genesis (Phil Collins)

“It was thanks to Rush that I got into Genesis. After listening to Neil, I bought the Seconds Out live album, which was released in 1977. It’s just amazing. Not only hearing Phil Collins playing the drums, but also singing. He gets a really bad rap from some people for ‘daring’ to take over after Peter Gabriel quit, but you just hear the way he sounds here.” Prog (2014)

“People seem to have forgotten that Phil [Collins] is one of the greatest rock drummers ever to have walked the planet. I’ve been lucky enough to have had drum lessons from people like Chad [Smith] and Dave in the past, but I’d love to get a lesson from him. So Phil, if you’re out there, please come and teach me how to play ‘properly.’” Rhythm magazine (2003)

“He did some corny shit in the 1980s, but so did everybody. I interviewed Phil once for Rhythm magazine and he’s one cool, humble, self-deprecating dude. He knows that people make fun of him all the time, but you know what, fuck ’em! Twenty or 30 years from now, you will still hear Phil Collins songs and the people who make fun of him will have disappeared. That’s the truth.” The Sunday Times (2010)

“He’s such a ridiculously amazing drummer – you listen to those old Genesis records, even the first ones he sang on, incredible.” Globe & Mail (2005)

“You know, people forget that he was a great drummer as well as a sweater-wearing nice guy from the ’80s, poor fella.” Associated Press (2019)

 

Paul Natkin, Getty Images

Paul Natkin, Getty Images

Jane’s Addiction (Steven Perkins)

“Steve Perkins, especially when Jane’s Addiction was at their height, he was so on fire. And he was my favorite drummer for years, the last drummer I consciously emulated. If you go back and watch me play with Alanis [Morissette], it was very obvious. Perkins wasn’t a showman but he was showy. He had a lot of vibe live, and he was fun to watch.” Drum! magazine (2007)

“There was something about Jane’s Addiction that was bigger than the four people in the band. I was from down south in Laguna, which is basically like being from Cornwall as opposed to London, if you know what I mean, and me and my friends hitched all the way up to L.A. to watch them. Jane’s Addiction at the time were basically just freaks – nobody had dreadlocks, nobody had nose rings, back in ’87. Perry Farrell was just a provocative and insane lead singer. He was just fucking crazy, and they were this amazing band.” Melody Maker (2011)

“A big influence on me was Steve Perkins. I remember watching him with Jane’s Addiction … his big Afro. He was like an animal behind the drums. Not as hard-hitting as I thought he was — he’s got a lighter touch than I do. He reminds me of Gene Krupa. He’s got a bouncy feel. He’s really creative. I am so lucky — just after high school, I had Steve Perkins, Matt Cameron, Dave Grohl and Jimmy Chamberlin. These amazing stylistic drummers who had their own thing and were so awesome and so creative and had so much feel.” Modern Drummer (2011)

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