Taylor Hawkins calls the Birds of Satan, his latest “other” band, “a cover band making a record of original songs.”
The Foo Fighters drummer put the group together last year with Wiley Hodgden and Mick Murphy from his 70s/80s classic rock cover band Chevy Metal. “I’m always kinda trying to learn how to teach myself how to write different kinds of songs,” Hawkins tells Billboard. Compared to his other-other group Coattail Riders, which he describes as “almost like Steely Dan meets Queen or something, real kind of perfect and thought-out,” the Birds of Satan is “just all real old school rock with all sorts of little flares and touches. It’s like a love letter to the music I love, a nod to everything, a homage sometimes. You’ll hear the (Rolling) Stones song that we learned last week and the Move song, or you’ll hear the Van Halen song or the James Gang song or whatever, but in our own songs.”
Hawkins and company recorded the Birds of Satan’s self-titled seven-track debut album, which comes out April 15, mostly during a one-week session at Foo Fighter leader Dave Grohl’s Studio 606. Grohl guests on several songs and had a hand in co-writing the nearly 10-minute proggy opening suite “The Ballad of the Birds of Satan,” while the trio also got help from fellow Foos Pat Smear and touring keyboardist Rami Jaffee, Butch Vig, Drew Hester and current Yes frontman Jon Davison, Hawkins’ friend since childhood, who’s also part of several songs including the nominal single “Pieces of the Puzzle.”
Listen to that track below, premiering exclusively on Billboard.com:
“It’s all a mélange,” Hawkins says of the Birds’ approach. “I don’t really sit there and go, ‘Let’s do a Van Halen-style song’ or ‘Let’s do a Queen-style song’ or ‘Let’s do a Jane’s Addiction-style song’ or ‘Let’s do a Police-style song’ or ‘Let’s do a Stones-style song or the Beatles or whatever. But it’s all there. I hope it’s not so on-the-nose that people go, ‘Oh, they’re just trying to sound like Van Halen’ or ‘They’re trying to sound like Queen.’ But it’s there. I’m under the influence, no question. It’s in my DNA.”
Hawkins would like to do some live dates with the Birds of Satan, but feels the group’s ranks may have to swell to make that happens. “It’s not going to be easy to play these songs and for me to sing and play drums live on this stuff,” Hawkins notes. “We’ve got to find, like, three or four days where we can really get in the jam room and see if we can do this and do justice to this stuff live. I’m thinking we’ll definitely get a couple in shape, and if we just whip ’em out at a Chevy Metal show, that’s fine, too.” He is, however, hoping to line up some late-night TV appearances for the group.
And, lest we forget, Hawkins is also busy working on Foo Fighters’ next album, which he hopes will be released before the end of the year. But he’s not offering much in the way of details – including whether the group is recording in different, legendary studios as has been reported.
“We’re still kind of in the middle of a project, and I can’t really discuss what it is,” Hawkins says. “Whatever you’ve heard… OK. I’m trying to keep it kind of mellow. The only thing I can tell you, and this is the God’s honest truth, is that as a band moreseo than ever we can walk into a studo and record a song anywhere we want, as quick as we want, to the best of our ability and that’s a development. As a band we’re playng better than we’ve ever played. I just know it. I can feel it. I can hear it, and that’s the most important thing. We’re playing with utmost confience, and Dave’s writing and thinking of millions of ideas on an insane level. That’s the really exciting part.”