Exerpt from a piece on drummers-turned-frontmen in The Sunday Times 'Culture' magazine
Whereas drummers turned frontmen Phil Selway [Radiohead] and Andy Burrows [Razorlight] are taking tentative first steps away from the comfort zone, Taylor Hawkins of the Foo Fighters lets his more extrovert nature shine through the Coattail Riders, a stadium-rock-flavoured side project who released Red Light Fever earlier this year (their second album overall, but first to earn a release in the UK). "Growing up as a drummer, 1 was always the kid who was trying to steal the show and get the attention," laughs Hawkins, who actually sticks to playing drums for his side project, reasoning that he's just not very good at guitar. "A lot of my favourite drummers — like Stewart Copeland [the Police] and Neil Peart [Rush] — 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." It almost goes without saying that in the shape of his Foo Fighters band mate Dave Grohl, Hawkins can refer to the ultimate template of how to go from drummer to rock star, but he's quick to downplay comparisons.
"Dave had a lot of balls starting the Foos after Nirvana because he had nothing to fall back on. The Coattail Riders is my little art project and I get to go back to being the Foo Fighters' drummer. There's no pressure for me, but Dave didn't have that luxury."
Adored though he is, Grohl is not the main idol for drummers looking to venture into new territory. The real patron-saint figure is undoubtedly Phil Collins, who just happens to be lining up a return with Going Back (his first album for eight years) at a time when his legacy appears to be blooming.
While it's a name that makes music snobs snort with disgust, drummers, on the other hand, have a natural inclination to protect their own. It's almost like a mini musical mafia — and Collins is definitely the Don Corleonc of the operation and Hawkins is adamant in his adulatory opinion of the Genesis man. "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 thirty 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."
Of course, the truth won't stop the jokes, but that's okay — the ability to laugh at oneself is a crucial part of the drummer psyche. That and being able mercilessly to take the mickey out of the bass player, obviously.
The Sunday Times