Foo Fighters’ longstanding publicist, Steve Martin, has spoken candidly about the “delicate process” involved in announcing – and handling the sensitive media coverage of – the untimely death of drummer Taylor Hawkins.
- READ MORE: Inside the Taylor Hawkins Tribute Concert: “A gigantic fucking night for a gigantic fucking person”
Martin founded the PR firm Nasty Little Man in 1992, and has spent the last three decades racking up a clientele of such legendary acts as Radiohead, Metallica, Nirvana, Gorillaz, Rammstein, David Bowie and the Beastie Boys. Working with so many time-honoured acts, however, Martin is well accustomed to the difficulties of managing the publicity of a celebrity’s death.
Hawkins – who in March of this year, at age 50, was found dead in his hotel room hours before the Foos were scheduled to play a festival in Bogotá, Colombia – was Martin’s third client to pass away in the last decade. He’d previously managed the public release of information surrounding the deaths of Beastie Boys member Adam Yaunch (aka Ad-Rock) in 2012, and Bowie in 2016.
Speaking to Variety last Friday (December 16), Martin noted that Hawkins’ death was “more sensitive” than the former two, largely due to the discrepancies between American and Colombian media practices.
“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,” he said. “Managing that, and trying to make it cause as little pain as possible, was a really delicate procedure.”
Martin went on to admit that handling the PR narrative on Hawkins’ death was “really rough” particularly because he’d been personal friends with the late drummer. He continued: “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. 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.”
On the overall process involved in announcing a famous artist’s death, Martin explained that “getting the right tone” in the most crucial aspect to consider when it comes to “writing that statement”. He added: “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.”
Hawkins’ death sent shockwaves through the music industry this year; he was mourned publicly at star-studded tribute concerts in London and Los Angeles, and individually by the likes of Paul McCartney, Rush, Joan Jett, Alanis Morissette and Iggy Pop.
Other notable tributes to come in the months following Hawkins’ death included a segment at this year’s Grammys, a drum circle in Hawkins’ hometown, and a live performance of the Foos’ song ‘My Hero’ by more than 1,000 musicians.