Remember When: Taylor Hawkins Was Alanis Morissette’s Drummer

Taylor Hawkins was the rhythmic pillar of the Foo Fighters from 1997 until his unexpected death in 2022. He played on eight albums, appeared in numerous videos, and developed a palpable comedic chemistry with frontman Dave Grohl. The two of them riffed off of each other, and occasionally the drummer stepped out from behind the kit to sing a song or to interact with the audience. Luckily, this high-profile gig was not the first time the blonde basher had performed for large crowds.

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Before he was a member of one of the biggest rock bands in the world, Hawkins toured with one of the biggest solo artists of the modern era, Alanis Morissette. This is where he really built up his road chops.

Back in June 1995, Morissette released her third studio album Jagged Little Pill through Madonna’s Maverick label. The album was her true introduction to American audiences after two Canadian pop releases, and her angry anthem of emotional retribution, “You Oughta Know,” became a rock hit practically out of the gate. She would soon go on the road for what became the 18-month Can’t Not world tour to support an album that has reportedly sold 33 million copies globally.

A Crack Touring Band

Given that the album was mainly recorded by Morissette and collaborative producer/multi-instrumentalist Glen Ballard, she needed a crack touring band to give her the sonic boost and onstage support she needed to promote and perform such a huge release. She thus enlisted bassist Chris Chaney, guitarists Nick Lashley and Jesse Tobias, and drummer Taylor Hawkins. They were all in their 20s, some older or younger than Morissette. Previously, Hawkins had toured with Canadian rock singer Sass Jordan, who in a recent interview with Songfacts spoke about what he was like then.

“This was his first professional band, so he was learning the ropes,” Jordan recalled of their 1994 tour together. “Just being on a tour bus, traveling from country to country … and being a part of a working band and playing these huge shows. His whole life up to that point, he was 22 I’d say, had been dreaming of doing this. It was like he suddenly felt like he was catapulted into it, and he was living the dream. He was having the best time ever. And his incredible joy and his incredible energy just made everything kick up a notch.”

Hawkins brought that same enthusiasm to his shows with Morissette and her band. He provided a lot of energy and rhythmic propulsion that was important for her stage shows. None of them expected it to be that big. The tour was grueling and exhausting, but it was also a great learning experience for all of them. 

“The cool thing with Alanis was that she was very open to my playing, and let me do whatever I wanted,” Hawkins told Rhythm magazine in 1998. “She allowed me to way overplay stuff, and I f–ked up so many of her songs live. I really should have had a bit more taste than I did. I listen to some of those live tapes now, and I can’t believe she let me get away with it. But she was sweet, and wanted me to enjoy what I was doing.” 

Brothers from Another Mother

During Morissette’s global trek, Hawkins met the Foo Fighters on a European festival date. Hawkins loved Nirvana and quickly connected with Grohl, and they sometimes played the same venues. They became the classic brothers from another mother.

After the Jagged Little Pill tour ended, Grohl reached out to Hawkins to ask for suggestions for a drummer because William Goldsmith had departed the band. Having free time available post-touring, Hawkins immediately offered his services. The Foos singer did not think the drummer would want to leave such a coveted position with a huge singer/songwriter, but Hawkins had thought that if he could join any other rock band, this would be it. His first meeting with Grohl went well, and then he let Morrisette know that he would be leaving to join the Foos.

“It wasn’t that I was ever unhappy playing with Alanis,” Hawkins explained to Rhythm. “She’s very talented. But when you’re working for somebody, it’s a completely different atmosphere to being in a band. With Alanis I had to watch what I did and said. With the Foo Fighters I’m my own boss, and it feels good to be part of a family.”

Morissette reportedly expressed disappointment over his decision to leave. It must have felt like a betrayal, and that is understandable given both the intense tour they had been through and especially in light of the later statements made by the drummer.

In a 2011 interview with South African news outlet News24, Hawkins admitted he had not stayed in touch with the singer after his departure. 

“She wasn’t very happy when I quit,” Hawkins said. “I think she felt I was a bit lame in some of the interviews. I don’t think she thought I shed a very nice light on her. In retrospect, I probably was a little less respectful than I should have been. Looking back, those were some of the funnest times of my life. She became a very good friend and I wish we were still in touch.”

Patching Things Up

Hawkins and Morissette would eventually patch things up. In 2019, he presented her with the Icon Award at the annual Billboard Women In Music event. He delivered a heartfelt speech about how important she was to him and the world, and it was underscored by obvious nervousness. He also admitted to everyone there that without her hiring him he would probably be delivering pizzas today.

Both musicians went on to have consistently successful careers, and in some interviews Hawkins said he was grateful to Morissette for hiring him. Upon learning of the drummer’s untimely death in 2022, Morissette paid tribute to him at her show in London’s O2 Arena during “Ironic” by showing a video montage of them together from when they toured. She also performed “You Oughta Know” with his bandmates at the second tribute concert for him in California. It was positive acknowledgment of their time together.

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Photo by Mike Lawrie/Getty Images

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