Bill Hawkinson has been denting skins and smashing cymbals for years. If you’ve had the opportunity to catch Left of Reason live you’ve probably been able to check out his ink from afar. I met up with Bill to talk about his tattoos and the stories behind them.
Rock|Life: When did you get your first tattoo and what was the subject matter?
Bill Hawkinson: I got my first tattoo right before I turned 18. My first tattoo has actually been covered up but it was a little devil on my arm.
RL: Do your tattoos have meanings behind them?
BH: Some of them do, yeah. My whole left arm is for my family, which has a lot of meaning [to me] and my right arm is all oriental art. The oriental art doesn’t really have meaning; I just love oriental art of all kinds. I have a tattoo on my side that I wrote myself after a really bad year. Basically a bunch of people died in a 6-month period of time. It really pissed me off so I wrote a little note to self and went in that day, drunk as fuck and had it tattooed on me. Another tattoo that I have I got in a garage while sniffing Vicodin and slamming Jägermeister. It was a terrible, terrible, idea and it’s never been finished. I’ve had it for about 7 years and I’ve been leaving it unfinished to punish myself but this year I’ll finally be getting it covered up. I’m going to have a music collage put over it with a bass rig, flying snare drums, flying guitars, and flying microphones.
RL: When you first started drumming, did your journey include lessons?
BH: I’ve never had a lesson in my life. The first drum kit I ever had was a 1972 Ludwig Red Sparkle 4-piece that I got from my grandma’s neighbor for $50. Before I purchased it I had harassed my mom all day to give me $50. Eventually she gave in and I took it home and beat the fuck out of it. Then she was like, “Maybe I should do something with this kid. He’s been down there for like 4 days straight days, beating the fuck out of that shit.” So she looked into lessons. I walked in for my first lesson and the dude had pizzas. We played for like 20 minutes, and he’s like, “One E and uh, two E and uh, three E and uh…” And I was like “Dude, do you see this other shit here? The fuck is going on?” And he’s like, “No, you have to do this and that!” So I left there, took a piece of his pizza, and never went back. I play everything by ear.
RL: For your second EP, “No Teeth, No Problems,” you guys worked with producer Matt LaPlant. How did you guys get hooked up with him? What was that experience like?
BH: We met Matt at a show at The Annex here in Madison, Wisconsin. We bullshitted with him for a while at the venue, honestly I barely talked to him. Shortly after talking with Matt, we played in St. Petersburg, Florida at the State Theater for a competition and he happened to be one of the judges. Come to find out we were staying at the same hotel, so when we got done playing we went back to the hotel. We ended up staying up all night getting wasted together and talked about working with him and whatnot. Not even a week later he hit us up and said he wanted to work with us. It was one of the best recording experiences I’ve ever had.
RL: Didn’t you have some van trouble while making the trip to Florida?
BH: Yeah man, the rear end of the van blew up. It was on fire and we had to put the fire out by throwing bottles of water underneath the van. I was lying on the ground chucking water bottles under there and we ended up emptying out a whole case of water to put the fire out. Nathan and Matt were helping while refilling water bottles out of the cooler. Once the fire finally went out we were able to see that the gear actually blew through the pumpkin, the whole thing was glowing orange. The oil had been spraying out of it for maybe 300 miles or something. The crazy part is that the whole metal area was glowing orange and the gas tank was right there. It could have been really bad… $1,400 later we were back on the road.
RL: You guys are a 3-piece band now? Is that permanent?
BH: It’s until somebody falls in our laps, I think. We’re completely done looking. If someone falls in our lap, has pro-ready gear, doesn’t have a shitty attitude and likes to drink… Then we’ll probably hang on to him.
RL: Are you guys planning on doing any music videos for the new EP?
BH: Our last two music videos were live performance videos so I think for this one we’re going to try and do half performance and half story line that we’ll add in later.
RL: If you had to describe your music to a stranger, how would you describe it?
BH: Everybody compares us to Seether, I don’t know why. I think it’s Matt’s voice. We definitely have that grungy sound. Matt’s a huge Nirvana, Green Day and Seether fan. For me, I was more Metallica, Megadeth and Slayer. I graduated in 1995 when Green Day had just came out. By that time I was already so into the heavy metal. I was listening to the Beach Boys, The Jackson 5, and Willy Nelson, thanks to my mom. I went through every stage and then arrived at Nirvana and Green Day. It was like, “what is happening here?” Once I started playing that style of music, I loved it. It’s kind of weird when we play together because Matt’s influences are way different than mine, yet I have a ton of the same influences.
RL: Rapid fire questions!…Katy Perry or Justin Bieber?
BH: Katy Perry.
RL: Liquor or beer?
BH: Beer. I’ll do liquor for fun, but I’m a beer guy. You don’t need me on Jack Daniels too often man. Super hero, asshole Bill… not pleasant. I woke up half naked in my yard one time with that shit. Lost my phone… Lost my keys… I think they might have been in my ass, I don’t know.