Taylor Hawkins of the Foo Fighters makes no bones about the fact that his occasional hard rock side project Chevy Metal is basically a wedding band. That is, if you feel like getting married in the Church of Satan. Since 2002, he's manned the drum kit behind a three (sometimes four)-piece outfit that specializes in the fiery squall of deep track heavy metal covers a la Ted Nugent, Motley Crue, Van Halen, Black Sabbath and tons more. Picture a 14 year-old boys room in 1982 covered in rock posters and that's essentially where their song book aligns.
Growing up in Laguna Beach, Hawkins' history of starting bands and mobbing out to record stores with his friends in their mom's minivans is a palpable part of what inspired the project, in a time when kids were raised on FM radio instead of iTunes. On Saturday, Chevy Metal takes the stage for Costa Mesa's 60th Anniversary celebration at the OC Fairgrounds, sandwiched between Eric Burdon & The Animals and Adam Green & Binki Shapiro. It's kind of a full circle move for Chevy Metal. Unbeknownst to most, Hawkins credits one of the city's legendary, now defunct record stores for becoming the drummer he is today.
“One of my biggest memories of that city is this big record store called Music Market,” Hawkins says. “It was huge. That's where a lot of my music influences came to life because you could bins and bins of used records and they were like 50 cents.” Hawkins remembers plenty of trips to the vinyl mecca, cruising alongside his childhood friend Jon “Juano” Davidson (now the lead singer of Yes) in his mom's Ford Taurus.
“We had braces, no chicks [laughs], no chance of getting laid whatsoever. So we'd go buy Rush records, UFO records or whatever. That's why he's in Yes now and now and I'm playing with Chevy Metal and the Foo Fighters.” Though the store closed in 1992, Music Market is forever stained on his memory. “So much of who I am as a musician was born in that place.”
Chevy Metal began a decade later when Hawkins–now a full-fledged rock star drummer– volunteered himself to play drums for an acoustic project of long time friend, bassist/vocalist Wiley Hodgden and Achim Dangerfield. He thought they sounded horrible and should ditch the acoustic thing, plug in and play some old-school metal instead. They willingly obliged and began a series of gigs shredding wherever they could find a stage, Mexican Cantinas, sports bars and parties. Dangerfield later bowed out, replaced by Foo Fighter guitarist Chris Shiflett, who was recently replaced with Mick Murphy of thunderous alt-metal band My Ruin. Though Hodgden takes on most of the vocal duties, Hawkins, an accomplished singer himself, will often jump up to be front man for a song or two.
Together, they've taken the cover band schtick about as far as possible without taking the whole thing too seriously. It's a good time band that occasionally gets calls to do pretty strange, awesome gigs, like play a kids version of Lollapalooza in Chile with Perry Ferrell, or rock out at an Saturday Night Live After party with Mick Jagger on vocals. And of course, Foo front man Dave Grohl is known to pop in on guitar from time to time. Of course the mood is a tad bit lighter than his main gig.
“When I jump up on stage to play with the Foo Fighters in front of 50,000 people in London, that's serious fucking business,” Hawkins says. :As lighthearted as it may seem, we're up there doing everything we can to make sure it's the best fucking show in the world. When Chevy metal's up there, we kinda just don't give a fuck. That's part of the fun.”
Chevy Metal plays Saturday, June 29. For more ticket info, click here.