Foo Fighters Publicist on the Difficultly of Breaking the News About Taylor Hawkins’ Death
One of the biggest and most tragic stories in rock music in 2022 was the sudden death of Foo Fighters drummer Taylor Hawkins. News of his death was confirmed in a statement from the band which was written by Steve Martin, the founder of Nasty Little Man, the publicity firm that counts the Foos among its list of high-profile clients. Also part of Nasty Little Man’s client list is Paul McCartney, David Bowie, Metallica, Radiohead, Beastie Boys, Depeche Mode and more.
Variety recently published an interview with Martin in honor of the 30th anniversary of Nasty Little Man. When asked how he handles news like the untimely passing of Hawkins, Martin responded, “It’s hard to say. Unfortunately, in the last 10 years, I’ve had to write confirmations of an artist’s passing three times: Adam Yauch in 2012, Bowie in 2016 and Taylor earlier this year.”
Martin continued, “The first step is getting the right tone when you’re writing that statement. I don’t know how I do it, because it has always been done in a state of shock. It’s a blessing and a curse that I’ve seemed to get it right in all three of those situations.”
He added, “With Taylor, it was more sensitive, because there were a lot of details coming out from the Colombian media. There was a lot of second-hand talk in another magazine story, with people relaying things Taylor might have actually said but should have been left to friends talking amongst friends. Managing that, and trying to make it cause as little pain as possible, was a really delicate procedure.”
The magazine story Martin is likely referencing is a piece from Rolling Stone published in May. The piece was a feature that quoted a number of Hawkins’ high-profile friends in music. Among those quoted were Pearl Jam’s Matt Cameron and Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Chad Smith. Both Cameron and Smith touched on how Hawkins allegedly told them he was exhausted from the Foo Fighters’ schedule and wanted to dial things back. Shortly after Rolling Stone published the piece, Cameron and Smith issued individual statements saying they were misled about the intention of the piece and thought it was going to be about celebrating Hawkins’ life and career.
Martin touched on his relationship with Hawkins telling Variety, “It was really rough: I’m very pragmatic about who amongst the clients becomes an actual friend, but Taylor was one. If the band didn’t work for four or five weeks and we didn’t have any contact, he’d call me just to say ‘What’s up?’ He did that with a lot of people he considered friends, which I didn’t really learn until after he died.”
Martin added, “He had so much energy and positivity to share. He didn’t have to do that: He played drums full-time in one of the biggest bands in the world, had all his side projects and session work, and was helping to raise three kids. He somehow found the time to brighten so many people’s days with these morning calls about a U2 b-side or something.”