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Foo Fighters’ Taylor Hawkins: 5 Songs I Wish I Wrote

Drummer/songwriter on the weirdness of Jane’s Addiction, the genius of Jeff Buckley and more

Taylor Hawkins Five Songs I Wish I Wrote

Foo Fighters drummer Taylor Hawkins discusses five songs he wishes he'd written, including classics by Queen, Jeff Buckley and Jane's Addiction.

Rex

In November, Foo Fighters drummer Taylor Hawkins released his debut solo effort, KOTA, on which he plays nearly every instrument. “I’m trying to make catchy music,” he said in an interview about the project. “That’s the trick always. … Can you make catchy music that’s interesting and not just fucking [sings like Drake], ‘You can call me on my cell phone.'” Below he discusses five of his favorite songs by other artists.

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The Hollies, “The Air That I Breathe”

Albert Hammond Sr, the father of Albert Hammond Jr. of the Strokes, wrote this. I think this is one of the most fucking beautiful songs, ever. Radiohead got sued over it since it sounds a lot like “Creep.” I discovered them late in life. They’ve got a cool drummer. This is from after Graham Nash left. It was sort of their last hurrah.

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The Police, “Synchronicity II”

I love how the song tells the story of how everyday simple life drives you bonkers. I think by that point Sting was like, “I don’t want to be in a band anymore.” There are certain guys like David Bowie and Sting that just aren’t band guys, never were. They’d rather just do it themselves, or at least not hear from the nosey asshole drummer in the back. They were a democracy to a certain degree, but they slowly faded out of democracy and I don’t think the other guys could handle it.

Stewart Copeland is one of my heroes. I love him to death. The best music that Sting ever made was with Stewart Copeland. That’s the fucking truth. That’s partially because he had some guy in the back going, “Nah, that’s stupid! Let’s try it like this.” I understand Sting was probably like, “Fuck it, I don’t want to deal with that shit.” I think they still loved each other though.

Synchronicity is definitely the record where you could hear them them changing. It was the poppier version of Ghost in the Machine. Something about Synchronicity is kind of bright. I mean, once he wrote “Every Breath You Take” he could go be Sting. It was definitely signaling the end, but they were a machine at that point.

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Jane’s Addiction, “Pigs in Zen”

This came out at a time when music was getting kind of dumb in terms of the rock & roll that was on the radio. I wasn’t really hip to underground stuff as much as some people. I was just listening to the radio. I remember around 1988 I really just listened to old records like Rush and early Queen and the Police. I was discovering Pink Floyd. The pop on the radio was really just the soundtrack to making out with your girlfriend, like Whitesnake and all that shit. I still can enjoy it just by the memories of hearing it now. Whenever I hear “Here I Go Again” I remember making out with a chick to that and I was just starting to get a piece.

Jane’s Addiction made hard rock interesting lyrically again and kind of put some brains back in there when the brains were getting knocked out of hard rock. Metallica was doing it too, on a certain level, and Bad Brains, but I wasn’t in the weeds. I was just more discovering 1970s bands at that point. When I heard Jane’s Addiction the lyrics were like John Lennon’s in a a weird way. They were esoteric and they made you think.

I remember hearing “Pigs in Zen” and thinking, “He’s talking about pigs fucking right now. This means something, doesn’t it? There’s more to this. He’s not just talking about pigs.” It really made you think. Then Perry Farrell’s Siouxsie and the Banshees–meets–Jon Anderson–on-heroin-and-crack thing was just otherworldly. It was so much scarier than anything pretending to be scary at that point. That song made me think, “What the fuck is he talking about?”

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Queen, “We Will Rock You”

I’ve heard Brian May makes, like, 5 million a year off that song. There’s your retirement plan: “We Will Rock You.” “I don’t need to do anything this year because I’m going to make 5 million dollars a year off ‘We Will Rock You.'” “Fuck you.” “Really? Go fuck yourself. I’m not going anywhere. I’ve got 5 million dollars for ‘We Will Rock You.'”

I think it’s one of those things you had to believe in it to get it started. Can you imagine coming into the studio with your friends like, “OK, here’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to clap our hands, stomp our feet and be like, ‘boom boom cha’ and chant ‘we will rock you’ over and over. Then I wrote these lyrics like, ‘Boy make a big man some day.'” I guess he’s talking about life, the trajectory of life, I suppose. It doesn’t matter because it says ‘we will rock you’ over and over again. Every fucking football game, baseball game, basketball game they play that motherfucker.”

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Jeff Buckley, “So Real”

I wish I could sing it like him. I love that guy’s voice. That was my “getting some business” CD back on the Alanis Morissette tour [in 1995.] I’d put that motherfucking CD in and it was happening. I like it when he whispers, “I love you, but I’m afraid to love you” in this song.

What a fucking bummer he died. God, that guy would have made some great music had he lived. I think he was really searching for what his next move was going to be. That first record, Grace, nobody knew about it. It took so long. Now everybody is like, “Ah, I’m such a big Jeff Buckley fan.” People really started loving it after he fucking died. I think Page and Plant were on tour and they did a couple shows with him. Those guys aren’t scared of anybody. I heard he opened up for them once and Robert Plant was like, “I’m not fucking going onstage.”

Some people aren’t meant to be here a long time, I guess. It was weird because he was a continuum of his dad, but dare I say it, better. There’s people that would be really upset with me for saying that, like Tim Buckley fans. I’ve listened to him and can’t get into it like Jeff Buckley. That Grace record is just a masterpiece. That’s one of the 10 best records ever, up there with OK Computer and Nevermind and Ritual de lo Habitual. That’s one of the 10 greatest records of the 1990s. 

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