February 8, 2023


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Foo Fighters Tour: Who Can Play Drums After Taylor Hawkins?

5 min read

Foo Fighters, who suffered the painful loss of drummer Taylor Hawkins last year, are rumored to be hitting the road this spring: Boston Calling and Sonic Temple Festival in May and Bonnaroo Festival in June were announced Tuesday, with more dates likely to follow. But the big question remains: Who will play the drums?

Hawkins, who joined the Foo Fighters in 1997 and died suddenly of unknown causes last March while the band was on tour in South America, was not only a star drummer but also an outstanding figure: with his long blond hair and flamboyant style, he was the frontman , the band’s visual focal point with founder and BFF Dave Grohl. His absence leaves a painful and difficult void that the band can never fully fill, but certainly if they are to continue as a band. (A representative for Foo Fighters declined to comment for this article.)

At the all-star Hawkins tribute concerts played in London and Los Angeles last fall, the band worked with several drummers, including session ad Josh Freeze and Omar Hakim, Darkness drummer Rufus Taylor (son of Queen drummer Roger Taylor), and Superstar Cameo. From Metallica’s Lars Ulrich, ex-Police drummer Stuart Copeland and Blink-182 star Travis Barker, along with 12-year-old British star Nandi Bushell and Hawkins’ son Oliver. But they were special events; Joining a hard-touring band like the Foos is a long-term commitment and calls for a musician with the experience and stamina to play the band’s famous two-plus-hour-long shows several times a week. They fill big, big shoes.

Based on his work with Nirvana alone, Grohl is indisputably one of the greatest drummers in rock history, so Hawkins had a lot to overcome when he joined the band. He did so in spectacular fashion: his playing style was distinct, fluid and powerful, and dramatically different from Grohl’s. He was just as technically proficient but more complex, showing huge influence from Copeland as well as hard rock drummers. But he could also play in an easy, powerhouse style that was more reminiscent of Grohl, without necessarily sounding like him.

It seems possible but unlikely that Grohl himself will take the role; He certainly is can, But it’s difficult to front a rock band from behind a drum kit, and the rest of the Foo Fighters are so used to playing supporting roles on stage that it will be a challenge for them to convey Grohl’s charisma and level of excitement in arenas, festivals and stadium stages. So it seems safe to cross that option off the list.

Looking outside the band, the first instinct might be to consider who could bring Hawkins’ musical and visual flair to the band. But realistically, a bigger figure would be the worst thing Foos could do – anyone trying to stunt as Hawkins’ replacement would look disrespectful. But by the same token, the new drama can’t be intimidated by the role.

It’s possible that the tribute shows were some sort of outsized audition – if a drummer could deliver on that stadium stage, they could probably handle a tour too – which would make Freeze and Rufus Taylor seem like the most likely candidates.

Nandi Bushell and Oliver Hawkins may make guest appearances, but they are not realistic options for a full-time replacement. Veteran session drummer Omar Hakim, who also played with Fuss in concert, brings decades of experience as a jazz and rock drummer (he played drums on David Bowie’s “Modern Love”), but at age 63 he’s remarkably long in the big band.

Taylor, 31, brings with him the legacy of Queen, a band that both Hawkins and Grohl grew up with, and his years in the dark (not to mention his family history) mean he’s already an old hand at the touring and rock lifestyle. His performance during the tribute concert was strong, and the legacy of his background put him in a Jason Bonham-in-Led Zeppelin situation without the pressure of direct family ties. Yet his long blond hair — not to mention the slightly surprising name similarity (Darkness’ lead singer is named Justin Hawkins) — can make for some inadvertently awkward moments.

However, multiple sources say diversity If that’s not a Freese The front-runner, and there are many reasons why he will understand.

He is a longtime friend of both Grohl and Hawkins and is a veteran session hero who has performed with Guns N’ Roses, A Perfect Circle, Puddle of Mood, Nine Inch Nails, Weezer, Paramore, The Replacements, Sting and The Vandals. And those are just the rock acts he’s worked with. Over the years he has played with a mind-boggling array of different musicians on over 300 recordings, from pop to rock: his versatility is demonstrated by the fact that at last year’s Coachella festival, he performed with both Danny Elfman and New wave vet Oingo Boingo and Tim Burton’s favorite film composer and both frontmen of hyper-pop wizards 100 Gecs – two dramatically different artists who required vastly different styles and he delivered with both.

But as Frees is more than just a deeply experienced and versatile musician who knows the band and its music, his presence will also solve many of the challenges that anyone stepping into Hawkins’ role might face: He’s renowned as one of the top session drummers. In the business he is well known to musicians, and the fact that he is less known to the public is actually a plus, so there will be no associations from previous bands (although he has played with dozens). As his long resume shows, he can play virtually any style — and at 50, he’s of the same generation as the other band members.

Also, it’s unclear if the man who’s been drumming with the Foos on this tour will actually join as a full-time member. An extended freelance role relieves the pressure either way: Bands, especially veterans like the Foo Fighters, have a decades-long family relationship that takes time to embrace.

Looking back decades for comparison, Kenny Jones was quickly replaced by the late Keith Moon as a full member of the Who. Yet he and singer Roger Daltrey didn’t get along — and Daltrey says he resented Jones as a full financial member of the band — and the lineup never really gelled; The band split (for the first time) three years after he joined. On the other hand, in 1975 the Rolling Stones replaced outgoing guitarist Mick Taylor with Ron Wood on an interim basis – although they had not been friendly with Wood for years, he had toured and recorded with the band before being officially named a member. Years after he started playing with them. Almost 50 years later, he’s still there.

But this is all mere speculation, with zero input from Foo Fighters or the potential candidates above: there are dozens of other possibilities, and perhaps the band hasn’t made a decision yet. The first of the shows announced Tuesday is no more than five months away, which is plenty of time for a professional drummer to clear their schedule and rehearse with a band.

But history says that whoever drums with the Foo Fighters on this upcoming tour will be a worthy choice and welcomed by fans — and it’s just as likely that the band will make the announcement via social media, so everyone finds out at once.

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