Most of the time when a “supergroup” comes together comprised of accomplished members from other already accomplished bands, the result is underwhelming. Maybe there’s a fun single or two, an album or two, and poof, that’s it. Rarely does the sum of its parts exceed the parts themselves.
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But that isn’t the case with the newest supergroup on the proverbial block: NHC. The name itself is democratic, taking the first initial of each of the three members’ last names: [Dave] Navarro, [Taylor] Hawkins, and [Chris] Chaney, each of whom plays guitar, drums, and bass, respectively.
Navarro, of course, is in Jane’s Addiction. As is Chaney. Taylor famously drums in Foo Fighters. And when the group first released a few of its singles last year, fans could tell they were solid. But now with the band’s new EP, Intakes & Outtakes, set to drop on Friday (February 4), it’s clear the band is onto something unique that has both legs and staying power.
NHC is rooted not just in talent, opportunity, and accessibility to recording equipment and big industry connections. More so than that, the group is founded in friendship, the kind that is unconditional, the kind where the relationships supersede the accolades. That’s the mixture for good songs. It’s like family.
American Songwriter caught up with Navarro, Hawkins, and Chaney to talk with them about the group’s formation, how it’s stuck together since 2020 and what went into their new EP, Intakes & Outtakes, which is out today (and includes two cover songs originally by Pink Floyd and Level 42).
American Songwriter: Dave, what were the events that led to the formation of NHC?
Dave Navarro: The band started in 2020 right at the beginning of the pandemic. The three of us found ourselves with, really, a lot of time on our hands. And Taylor has a beautiful home recording studio and—actually, let me backtrack.
We got together to do this thing with [Slipknot’s] Corey Taylor, this Alice in Chains cover for when they got inducted to the Seattle MoPop [Museum of Popular Culture], which was a big honor for Alice in Chains. So, Jerry Cantrell reached out to me and said, “Would you want to put a band together and do one of our songs?” I was like, “Play an Alice in Chains song? Are you kidding me? Of course!”
Layne [Staley of Alice in Chains] was a dear, dear friend of mine back in the early ’90s and we hung out a lot and with Jerry, as well. So, of course, I wanted to do that. So, I called Chris, and Chris was in. And Chris said we should get Taylor to play drums. And I called Corey Taylor and we just all walked into a room to record a song that we’d never played before together. And the chemistry was undeniable.
The chemistry was undeniable, the fun that we had was undeniable and just the hanging out that we experienced was undeniable. So, it was not long after that that we all just went over to Taylor’s house to, essentially, fuck around in the studio and see what happens. And while we were there, we kind of realized we’re on to something here. This little trio has got a magical connection and chemistry to it.
So, to answer your question, when did it start? It’s really hard to say because we just started writing songs and working on songs and a lot of them were ones that Taylor already had written but that we wanted to reinvent. We just started layering ideas and pretty soon we started writing new songs and one day we kind of looked at each other, like, I think we have an album here. So, that was well before the Ohana show.
Taylor Hawkins: Yeah, the Ohana show happened because we were in this project and having so much fun together. I’ve always tried to do stuff outside of the band, the Foo Fighters. I think all of us are like that and I think everyone in the Foo Fighters is like that. It’s really nice to have another—even Dave’s like that, Grohl’s like that. He just keeps on doing other projects. And the older I get, the more those projects, as well as the band I’m in, matter because I sometimes think I should have done so much more in my 20s, besides just whatever.
But it took me a while to get comfortable singing. And I always—me and Chaney have been together since Alanis Morisette—but I’m a huge Jane’s Addiction fan. Huge. I’m a huge Dave [Navarro] fan. I’m a huge Perry [Farrell] fan, a huge [Stephen] Perkins fan. All of ‘em. They’re one of the most important bands in my life, still are. So, that’s one of the cool things about what we do is when we have free time, we can go do these things that just spark a new thing for you.
DN: If I can add onto that real quick, what’s really magical for me as a guitar player is to step into a rhythm section that has been working together for 30 years, you know what I mean? These guys are so connected as a rhythm section and can predict what each other’s going to do and be locked up and in unison in that prediction of where Taylor might go, Chris will play with that. As opposed to staying steady on his instrument and letting Taylor—they have a tapestry of how they play together. So, for me to just step into that and have that foundation just locked and loaded.
Chris Chaney: You and I have that, Dave. You and I have that.
DN: That’s right. Chris and I have that, too. So, there were all these little tapestries that were formed over 20-25 years within one another that when we got together it was just easy. I don’t want to say that, you know, that we don’t work hard, because we do. But it was just, like, easy and fun and exciting and none of us had an ego or an agenda about what we wanted to do or how things should go. These guys are more than welcome to comment on ideas for guitar parts as well as I am welcome to comment on bass and drum parts. It just became this thing that was, like Taylor calls it, our Vacation Home.
CC: One thing that’s interesting, though, is the sheer level of musical influences and different genres that can merge that we all draw upon—it’s vast.
TH: I never in my mind would have thought that Dave Navarro would be playing a Level 42 song. I made that happen for you, Dave. You’re welcome, Dave!
DN: It’s really funny. We have a cover of “Something About You” by Level 42 coming out on our EP.
TH: It’s one of my favorite songs of all time.
DN: It’s one of Taylor’s favorite songs of all time. It was a massive hit. And they laid down the basic tracks for it and I had literally never heard the song once in my life.
CC: Which is insane, by the way. That in itself. I don’t understand that.
DN: I think when that came—when did that come out?
CC: These are all lies!
TH: It came out about the time you joined Jane’s. So, I think, you probably got out of pop culture by then and went underground completely at that point.
DN: I went strictly from heavy metal into post-punk-goth. So, anything that had—there was no way. Back then, there was no way—unless I was shopping at a Macy’s, I would never have heard that song.
TH: Thanks a lot! You guys didn’t have MTV on at the Wilton house?
DN: No. We didn’t have cable at the Wilton house. Cable?! But that’s the magic thing, so when we did the cover and they wanted to play it for me, I was like, “I don’t want to hear it, I don’t want to hear it. Let me just experiment.” Then at a certain point, I did listen to it while we were working on it, just to see what their dynamics were. But it’s one of my favorite things we’ve done and this song I’d never heard and it’s actually, lyrically, really beautiful.
CC: Just musically, Dave your part in the verse is a game-changer part. Because it’s so uncharacteristic of that song, that I remember when you stumbled upon that. And I think one of the beauties is not knowing how it was originally conceived, that was a light bulb moment for me. I know no one’s heard it [yet] but when you hear it, make special note of the verse and Mr. Navarro.
AS: You’ve mentioned the friendship and the chemistry and the history that the band started with, which is great. But let me ask, does it feel like you’ve grown since the earliest days of NHC? What progress or new ground have you possibly found?
TH: Yeah, I mean, it’s fun to do something with no real rules whatsoever because no one’s counting on it other than us to make ourselves musically happy. There’s not a crew of workers and a whole other thing happening. We just do it to play and that gives it no rules and, as Dave said earlier, there are no egos about it because it doesn’t really fucking matter, as long as we’re all happy. And we all respect each other, musically speaking, big time. So, if Dave thinks there can be something brought out of a bridge that I’m not hearing, I’m going to listen to what he says, because he’s fucking Dave Navarro. He played on Nothing’s Shocking, I’m going to listen to what he says.
DN: And now that bridge is my favorite part of that song. So, what Taylor is talking about, we have a new song we just did and we were talking about striking the bridge or cutting the bridge and I knew that there was something in it that was powerful and important. So, I got with one of our producers and engineers and I did a little road map of what I thought it could do and then Taylor went in and took that and went completely into left field, into basically Yes land. And what we have now is something that was close to being on the chopping block is now one of my favorite parts of a song.
So, what that shows you about the chemistry, and back to your question, is that we trust each other. And I think that even more so when you say “what have we learned” or “what have we gained” from the progression, I think that we’ve gained a deeper sense of gratitude for what we have. We just, you know—I’ll have ideas and then we’ll tweak ‘em and I’ll run them by the guys, and either they’ll like ‘em or not. And if we don’t like them, I’m like, cool. Not married to it. And they’ll do the same thing. Like, cool, not married to it. Or, yes I fucking love that. Whatever it is. But we all come to a consensus at one point where we’re all happy and nobody has ever said, “Yeah, but that’s my part and it has to be in there.” It’s not about that.
TH: But see, we haven’t made any money yet. Once you start making money, that’s when that’s going to happen. It’s going to be like, “But I wrote that.” Just kidding.
AS: The whole thing seems so freeing for all three of you. It almost—and I know you have decades of experience together—but it almost feels like your first band in a way. I don’t want to say that it’s a new feeling for you each, but you can just tell in the music and in talking with you how you feel about the band and the songs.
TH: You can do anything you want now, which is the one good thing about the interweb. And you can make a band and you can make a record at your house and just put it out. And there’s a platform called YouTube and there’s a platform called Instagram and all that stuff. So, there’s no—it doesn’t really take much to do it. And we just get a lot of joy from it. So, yeah, I want to do more shows, we’re just so busy with everything else. But it’s going to happen. It’s going to happen.
DN: I would also say that all of us come from bands—if you think about it, Perry Farrell is the leader of Jane’s Addiction. Dave Grohl is the leader of Foo Fighters. Even when Taylor and Chris were with Alanis, she was the leader of that band. And so, you know, I would say that Taylor is the leader of this band.
DN: But the difference is, the difference is that he’s also a player. And he’s a player first. His sensibilities in terms of being a leader don’t come from the same kinds of places that our past experiences come from, which leaves him a lot more willing and open to be flexible about things because he’s a musician and he’s probably—I mean, I’ll say this out loud: Chris and Taylor are the greatest two musicians I’ve worked with in terms of just range and ideas and flow and ethic, work ethic.
It’s been really refreshing for me. And had it not been for this band—because my love of music and live music and recording was really fading. Like, we were doing Jane’s Addiction shows and those are fun when they happened and all that stuff. But having done this with these guys, when Chris and I do go back to Jane’s Addiction, we have way more fun and I have way more invested and I’m way more present. Because this has reignited my love of making music again.
AS: It does come through and I think that’s a big draw. And I don’t subscribe to the idea that “rock is dead,” that’s just silly headline attempts. But there is a sense of rejuvenation with NHC. So, Chris, I’ll ask you, how does the future feal for you given the progress NHC has made together?
CC: I mean, I think of this project as, first of all, it’s a dream come true for me. These guys, to reiterate, Taylor and I have been making music together for 27 years, on and off, and done a bunch of Coattail Riders records. And Dave and I have been making music since 2002-2003 and it’s like that sailing off into the sunset project of me. I don’t want to start another band. I don’t want to do anything different. These are my brothers on multiple fronts. Musically, we can finish each other’s sentences. So, when people say “rock is dead,” I mean, I don’t know. The Foo Fighters and Jane’s are playing Lollapaloozas and they’re headlining next month in South America. So, if that’s “rock is dead,” I’ll take it.
TH: We’re having our cake and eating it too. I mean, we both play in two of the best rock bands, I mean—Jane’s Addiction is one of the best rock bands of all time and always will be. And I get to play with Dave Grohl and he’s a frickin’ beast. And then we get to do this. So, we get to just have everything. Right on.
AS: And Taylor your voice is so good on the songs that I’ve heard. There have been a handful released already and there’s the new EP, which I’ve gotten to hear, that’s out on Friday. The first track on the EP is stunning. Is there anything you’d like to say about singing here?
TH: What song is the first one on the EP?
AS: The first song is “One and the Same.” Love that song.
TH: I mean, what can I say about singing? I don’t know much about it other than I try. I get a little more confident with each thing. Doing these shows has brought up my confidence and just learning tactically how to do it. Not just spazzing or performing, but trying to sing good. I sound kind of horse right now.
CC: It’s part of your voice, T. It’s part of your voice.
DN: If I can speak to that, not only is Taylor a brilliant singer and an identifiable singer. You know, there are lots of great singers that when you hear them, you’re not really sure who it is. But Taylor has one of those voices that’s great and you know who it is if you’ve heard him sing, which I really love. But don’t forget that 80% of the shows that we do, he’s also playing drums while he’s singing, which is fucking crazy.
CC: Which is Levon Helm, Don Henley on steroids, and then some.
AS: It’s so hard to do.
TH: You guys, man.
CC: Just take it, bask in it.
DN: I’ll be playing rhythm guitar and he’ll want me to do a backup and I just can’t compute it. There’s just no way. I can do this one, but I can’t do that one. You know, there are certain times I can do it and certain times that I can’t.
TH: You can do it.
DN: And the amount of stuff that he is doing simultaneously is fucking insane, man. It’s mind-blowing!
CC: To put it another way, as a drummer, I’m fortunate, Dave and Taylor—we’ve played with other drummers who are phenomenal. I’ve played with a lot of drummers. And some of these drummers try to play some of the grooves that Taylor plays and can barely pull that off and not with the swagger and the feel. Forget the singing and the melodic range he has as a vocalist. So, the marriage of those…
TH: This makes me uncomfortable, come on stop.
CC: Cover it up.
TH: Shut up.
CC: He also has beautiful teeth.
DN: I don’t want to make him uncomfortable, but it is one of those things. So, we played the Ohana Fest. Obviously, we rehearsed a bunch and then we played the Troubadour [in Los Angeles], we did a show there. And there are times when I’m on stage and I’m playing and I look to him and, like, I get lost in what I’m doing because I’m just fucking marveling at what I’m actually seeing happening. This guy’s holding a melody and doing insane fills and keeping the groove going. You’re like, what? This guy’s from fucking outer space, man. It’s inhuman talent.
CC: Inhuman independence and range.
TH: We had to figure it out. I couldn’t do it until we did that first Coattail Riders tour. And it was just like, well—when me and Chris did the first Coattails tour, out of necessity came me just saying fuck it, I’m going to have to do this. It’s a party trick.
AS: Final question for you three and maybe we can just go around the room here, but what do you love most about music?
DN: Well, that’s a multi-tiered answer. One is that it gives me the ability to express myself without language. So, whatever’s going on with me emotionally, whatever’s going on with me psychologically or mentally or in my heart-space or whatever, I can put that into a space that doesn’t require words. And sometimes the human vessel can’t come up with words to describe how we’re feeling. But with sound, it’s an endless space that you can explore to explore what’s going on within.
I love the fact that it can take me back to being 10-years-old and having a certain feeling when I hear, say, something off the album, Tommy, and I can go back and transport myself to being a little kid and have a melancholy memory of it. And also it can provide me with thoughts of the future and transport me into a place that isn’t present, that isn’t past. Maybe it’s not the future but it’s another realm. So, it’s also very much an escape.
It’s interesting. You know, it really is the one form of entertainment. I’m a big film buff and cynophile, you know. We’ve seen lots of movies over and over again but you don’t watch movies over and over again as you listen to songs over and over again. There’s something about knowing that a certain piece of music can touch a part of your soul or touch a part of something that you’re feeling and expand on that and knowing which way to go with that and making those choices. I would say those are some of the things that I love about it. Because it’s too broad an answer for me.
CC: I’ll ditto onto what Dave just said. Everything you just said and that’s all I have to say—no. For me, music is just infinite, too. The discovery of new music, the process of coming up with your own music, there’s just no rules. All bets off. It can go anywhere. All the emotional side. The nostalgic side. Like you said, Dave, it just brings you back to a place. I can put on a song and it transports you.
TH: It’s just where I hide [laughs]. Music’s where I hide. Where I can kind of forget about everything and yet everything is brought up by it, as well. I don’t know. Once it was in—it always had its claws in me. But as soon as I picked up a pair of drumsticks and realized I could be part of the process when I was 10-years-old, I haven’t wanted to do anything else, really.
DN: If I could piggyback on what Taylor said, yes, music is a place for me to hide. But it’s also a place for me to freely expose within—so, you got to this place to hide and by doing so, you’re exposing everything about yourself in a really beautiful way, you know what I mean? So, it’s safe in terms of feeling like you’re within this thing that feels safe and hidden.
But while you’re there, you’re really opening up what’s going on in your soul to whoever is willing to listen to it. There’s really not a whole lot of things that you can do both of those things in at once. And also in terms of just what I love about it, I know in Indian cultures and different cultures, there’s lots of in-between notes. What do you call that, Chris?
DN: Semi-tones, right. But we traditionally work with 12 notes, right?
TH: Some of us work with less! [Laughs]
CC: Oh, I know. [Laughs]
DN: But the fact that we have to keep inventing something completely new with those 12 notes over and over and over again is a challenge that is really fun to explore. There’s so much to talk about why we love music but I think that the three of us have covered it all.
Courtesy The Oriel Company