Facebook R&B crooner Mario has been relatively quiet on the music front for…
- Posted on May 18th 2010 1:00PM by Chris Mugan
His Coattail Riders bring together a handful of long-standing chums. Hawkins new bassist Chris Chaney from a pre-Foo's time in Alanis Morissette's tour band while Gannin Arnold was already a veteran session guitarist. More recently, second guitar player Nate Wood has provided extra ballast.
For second album 'Red Light Fever,' Hawkins also called in favours from bandmate Dave Grohl, the Cars' Elliot Easton and Queen's Brian May and Roger Taylor. Along with higher production values and a bigger sound, the drummer is taking his singing and vocal duties more seriously. The result is an album of pounding riffs and startling harmonies that is much harder to ignore.
'Red Light Fever' is a high-powered release compared to your low-key debut. How far have you deliberately raised your game on this record?
It was just a development. The first record happened by accident in a way. It was just me doing some demos at Drew's [Hester, old mate of Hawkins and producer on both records] house and I thought, 'Why not do an album?'
We wanted to make it like the Knack, tight, little garage rock. I was more self-conscious on the first record, so I kept it low-key, just so no-one would think I was going to do a 'Sgt. Pepper's.' I think I have a bit more confidence now, so I just sought of went over the top and didn't hold anything back. We also had access to the Foo Fighters' studio, which we built five years ago, and that gave me relatively endless time, a couple of months.
The album's clearly your baby; how much do you contribute to the band?
I bring the lyrics and I write the basic tunes, but I'm not a very good guitar player. Gannin and Chaney are much more capable of taking things further. Their parts are so important to the record, because I may have come up with the germ of an idea, a basic melody, but they are a big part of it.
Did your lyrics shape the direction of the album, or were they influenced by your greater ambition?
Neither, lyrics to me are a means to the end. I have to write the lyrics so there's words. If I knew someone that I loved who was an amazing poet-lyricist, I wouldn't mind collaborating. If there's anywhere I come up short-handed, it's lyrically. I'm honest and real about what comes to me, but I'm not Bob Dylan, I'm not John Lennon. I hate to say it, but it's the least important part of the music; it's all about the rhythm and melodies for me."
So what do you get out of the Coattails that you don't get with Foo Fighters?
It's not about not getting something from the Foo Fighters, it's about me having another outlet. I like to play and make music all the time. I've had a lot of time off over the past year-and-a-half or so and it's been great, because I've been raising my family. It's been nice to be present for my kids, but for that to happen, I need to be fulfilled musically.
"[The Coattails] give me a chance to write songs and express myself in other ways; and we have a really good time when we go on tour. We extend the songs and it's a lot of fun."
In your sleeve notes you say "we were lucky enough to have Dave G. there at the beginning." How did he contribute?
Dave actually helped me arrange the songs. I had 15 demos, either just me or with Gannin and Chris. We went through each song and made notes, where we needed to write a bridge, all that kind of thing. And he played a lot of rhythm guitar. He's always supportive -- we played in L.A. a couple of weeks ago and he got up and played with us."
How important was it to have Taylor and May on board?
They're like mentors, musical heroes -- the harmonies, the dramatics and stops and starts in Queen's music, I always liked that. They almost influenced the record once they put their parts on it, because they were involved early on and led me in that over-the-top direction. The first record, I didn't really do all the harmonies. Here, I decided to go that way.
Given the amount of collaborations you have done -- guesting on each other's music, they must have found it hard to say 'No.'
Ever since I've been in the Foo Fighters we've been coming over here -- a lot because our home is here, almost, because we're most loved here -- every time we come over we hook up with those guys and they get up on stage. I guess I instigated it originally, but Dave's friends with them now and they're part of the family.
There's no hesitation about lauding Queen, even if they are not seen as being cool.
"Maybe in England, because they're so popular and part of your culture; it's like Bruce Springsteen in America. In the States, you have Beck and people from Sonic Youth namechecking Queen as some of their most important influences. Cool is cool, but at the end of the day, it all comes down to the songs."
Any other formative influences making an appearance on 'Red Line Fever?'
There's everything I've ever listened to, from the Police to the Bee Gees to Bad Brains ... Jane's Addiction, it's all there. I like aggressive music played by people that can play their instruments. High-intensity music is what I play naturally, but I like people that can play too.
You mentioned Dave helped a lot with your arrangements. It must have been around that time he was getting Them Crooked Vultures together. How aware were you of what he was what up to? And did you have to negotiate your separate release dates?
When Dave does something it's a big deal, so there's no competition. You can't compete with Dave Grohl and I don't try on any level. Not that it's about that. We're always texting and talking. We actually started this record before he started the Vultures album, but we're all supportive of each other, there's no reason not to be."
So what next for the Foo Fighters?
I'd say by the end of the summer we'll be recording seriously, in-depth and somewhere in 2011 there will be another record, but I don't know when or what kind of music. Well, it will be Foo Fighters music. We have to be ready for it after we've spent the last six or seven years going full on. Dave's got to be ready for that to make it good and we all do. We want people to miss us before we come back and not be like, 'Oh, here they are again.'"
'Red Light Fever' is out now on Shanabelle/Columbia Records. The band play the Wireless Festival in London on July 2.