Foo Fighters' drummer Taylor Hawkins is stepping out into the spotlight with his own band, Taylor Hawkins & The Coattail Riders - And, he reveals, he's ready to be liberated...
"I'm gonna be playing to 400 people tonight but I know they probably wouldn't give a crap if I wasn't in the Foo Fighters," laughs Taylor Hawkins, sitting pre-gig at The Troubadour club in Los Angeles.
Indeed, like Foos frontman Dave Grohl did after Nirvana's demise in 1994, Taylor is stepping out into the limelight himself to front his new band The Coattail Riders. And, just as Dave discovered when he made his first musical steps following Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain's suicide, Taylor is also finding that his other incarnation is hard to move aside from completely. But embracing his Foo Fighters-related fame, instead of hiding from it, is, he admits, par for the course.
"It's a huge part of who I am now, but if it gets more people to listen to the record, I'm fine with that," he smiles.
Formed in 2004 and completed by guitarists Gannin Arnold and Nate Wood, and bassist Chris Chaney, The Coattail Riders first emerged with their self-titled debut in 2006, although it never received an official UK release. The band's second album Red Light Fever, out this week, is the first real chance, then, for fans on this side of the pond to hear Taylor's unashamed stadium rock songs, paying homage to the classic rock heroes that shaped him when he was young. And it's Queen, in particular, that are a huge reference point.
"For you guys [in the UK], Queen are what Bruce Springsteen or The Eagles are for Americans," Taylor says with geeky enthusiasm. "But over here, they're more exotic because they weren't that big in the 1980s." Having already collaborated with Queen guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor in his day job, Taylor invited the duo to apply their unique kind of magic to his own songs too (Roger assumes vocal duties on Your Shoes, with Brian lending his guitar skills to Way Down and Don't Have To Speak). But Red Light Fever is not just about who Taylor knows, it's given the drummer a chance to put his experiences into his own songs, something that he rarely gets the opportunity to do.
"[The songs are] all things that have happened to me or people around me," he explains. "I don't want to try to write [a concept album] about goblins or anything! [The song] I Don't Think I Trust You Anymore is about two people I know. They got married, had a baby and then one of them started cheating on the other. That song came out of watching what they were going through."
Still, never straying too far from the path of the Foo Fighters, tonight's show will see Dave Grohl's Them Crooked Vultures bandmate John Paul Jones in attendance, and Dave himself will step up to the drum kit for a rendition of the Taylor-penned Foos B-side Cold Day In The Sun. There's an informal vibe to The Coattail Riders' performance and as Taylor adds, it's in stark contrast to the Foo Fighters mammoth touring machine.
"Going on tour with the Foo Fighters involves big tour buses, lots of assistants for everything and nice hotels," he explains. "It's lavish and comfortable, but it's also kind of isolating. With this, it's more liberating because you're in a van and you play clubs."
But even with The Coattail Riders hitting their stride and due to play shows throughout the summer - including a series of European club dates in July - Taylor is quick to point out that the Foos are still a priority and a new album is on the horizon.
"Me and Dave have been working on demos for the next record," he reveals. "It'll probably be out in 2011 but we already have a good idea of what it's gonna be. There probably won't be 20 songs or some acoustic numbers; I think it's gonna be a tight, concise, hard rock record.
"Until then," he grins, "I'm treating this like my little vacation home."