TAYLOR HAWKINS - Birth of a Legend
IN LOVING MEMORY OF TAYLOR HAWKINS
RIZ STORY - June 26th, 2022
The first time Taylor invited me up to his house to hear him play in the late 80's I was blown away by his power and fervor. I'd been playing with drummers who were extremely accomplished, very technical players. I'd played with the great Jara Harris who had the most solid groove imaginable. I'd played with Dean Butterworth who had the most incredible chops. But Taylor had something different.
The thing that distinguished Taylor was his hyperactive power. His sheer force, facilitated by his long arms, is combined with a tendency to gradually speed up. Most professional drummers keep the tempo steady. Lesser players often slow down as they begin to tire. But Taylor was extraordinary in that his natural tendency was to gradually speed up. This gives the listener a sense of building energy. It also gives the song a sense of youthful endurance, overbrimming with energy to spare. Like watching a marathon runner who on the home-stretch manages to break into a sprint.
Because we recorded 'The Sylvia Sessions' with no click track to keep the tempo steady the pace of the song is determined completely by Taylor, as the band follows. In most all of his later recordings, and on most professional albums, the drummer is guided by a metronome. Without a click track we can clearly hear Taylor's total freedom as he expresses himself fully and shreds any concept of keeping it 'steady'. In todays music world of computerized 'beats' this sounds radical, expressive and rebellious.
I don't think I've ever heard a song that better captures this extraordinary aspect of Taylor's drumming than DEAR SYLVIA (Vintage Version). By the time the band came together Taylor and Juano (Jon Davison) had been jamming together for years. They had tons of unnamed jams they would launch into. One of those jams caught my ear and I wrote a song around it right away. Because it was a jam that Taylor had written it obviously came very natural to him. Us musicians would say he 'owned it'.
Taylor's drum groove is in 6/4 time, a staggered waltz played ultra-fast. It is influenced by Taylor's favorite drummer and main influence at the time, Stephen Perkins of Jane's Addiction. But it also had a Neil Peart aspect as well, in its fills across the toms.
On this version of DEAR SYLVIA you can glimpse into the 1993 recording sessions as the band joke and break into laughter before Taylor counts in the song. Any drummer will tell you that Taylor's drum part is incredibly difficult with it's complexity and detail, all performed at an incredibly fast tempo. But what makes it extraordinary is the power that is behind his attack as he draws every ounce of tone out of his cheap 2nd hand drum set and cracked cymbals.
As I took a long drag from the joint that Taylor passed to me and we launched into Dear Sylvia, I knew that I was witnessing the birth of a legend.