An Interview With Jacoby Shaddix From Papa Roach
In Vacaville, California, a city nestled in the Northeast corner of the San Francisco Bay area, two friends (Jacoby Shaddix and Dave Buckner) met up at a football game and the two fell into a conversation about music. Later on, they were joined by a trombonist by the name of Ben Luther and bassist Will James and they all decided to enter the school’s talent contest, where they performed a version of Jimi Hendrix’s Fire…which is hard to imagine being performed with a trombone accompaniment. It didn’t matter much as Ben Luther was replaced by a lead guitarist by the name of Jerry Horton. The band called themselves Papa Roach, which was culled from the nickname of Jacoby’s step-grandfather Howard William Roatch, who would later, in 2006, commit suicide. In the early days, Papa Roach toured around the bay area in a van nicknamed Moby Dick, honing their skills, getting exposed to various genres of music and garnering fans.
Around 1994, the band compiled and recorded an EP titled Potatoes For Christmas and remained on their grueling tour schedule. They followed up that recording with a demo call Caca Bonita, which was cut in 1995. Will James became more involved in going to a church camp, making it impossible for him to attend gigs and practices, so the group replaced him with their roadie, Tobin Esperance. In ’97, the group recorded their first LP, Old Friends From Young Years, which they supported by touring with the likes of Incubus, Powerman 5000, Hed PE, Snot, Far and Static-X. In 1998 and 1999, Papa Roach recorded Five Tracks Deep and Let ‘Em Know, respectively, and while it sold well and garnered some interest from a high profile record company, the boys at Warner Bros. Took a declined to sign the band, passing up songs like Infest, Last Resort and Broken Home.
DreamWorks Records picked up the band in 1999 and, upon some reworking of older material and laying down the tracks for some new material, Papa Roach released their major label debut album on April 25th, 2000…and it sold 30,000 copies the first week.
The passing years has seen Papa Roach emerging as a distinctive force in the rock and roll arena, morphing from their nu metal rage into something that you cannot easily put your finger on. It’s almost like you can see the band with their eyes, ears and fingers straining to take in the ambient sounds of the world, melding it into a streaming stream of satisfied angst, borrowing elements of electronica, the glitter bands, the arena rockers, the anthemic masters and twisting it into a new sound. In listening to the tight live tracks and the crunching electronic loops on their new album, Time For Annihalation, it seems that Papa’s got a brand new bag indeed.
I was lucky enough to be able to get an interview with Jacoby Shaddix, lead singer of Papa Roach, before their appearance at X-Fest in Dayton, Ohio.
J.T.: Hey, how are you doing today? (static) Are we on?
Jacoby: Yeah, can you hear me?
J.T.: Just barely. Can you hear me alright?
Jacoby: Can you hear me?
J.T.: (line clears up) Ah! There we go. That’s better. How are you doing today?
Jacoby: Fine, man. We just got done with the European tour and we flew in yesterday, so I’m just hitting the ground running, you know? We’ve only got a short time before the new album comes out.
J.T.: What date is that due to drop again?
Jacoby: August 31st.
J.T.: Okay. So that means everyone’s going to be all over it right when you get to X-Fest here.
Jacoby: Oh, hell yeah.
J.T.: Now, how many times have you guys played the Dayton area?
Jacoby: As far as X-Fest, to be honest, maybe once or twice before, but I know we’ve been in Dayton a bunch over our career.
J.T.: With the new album, one of the things I wanted to talk to you about is that, especially when you listen to other bands, Papa Roach seems to have matured rather quickly in comparison. Was that intentional? Was that like everybody in the band had the same vision and focus?
Jacoby: I mean, yeah, for us, years and years of being a band and making music together really…we weren’t going so much for more of a mature sound, but more about letting the music take us where it’s going to take us. With our first record, we came in with Nu Metal and rap metal with things like Last Resort and Between Angels And Insects and then, over the years, it kind of evolved into into a more straight ahead rock band. We really enjoy that: me in particular to prove myself as a valid rock and roll singer. I think over the past two records, we really been able to secure ourselves as a staple of rock music and earn some respect over the years and backed that up with a lot of touring and we’ve put out a few records now, so it’s not our rookie year no more and we’re here to stay. That’s what’s up.
J.T.: Yeah, You know, a lot of bands spend their whole career striving to create a “signature sound,” and you guys seem to head in the opposite direction and just follow what interests you at the time. Has that alienated any of your fan base?
Jacoby: Oh, I think, really and truly, that that has really afforded us an opportunity maintain our relevance as a rock and roll band. I think that if we had just done the same thing over and over, we would have just been a one trick pony and become a parody of ourselves. I really just don’t see that happening. I grew up listening to bands like the Red Hot Chilli Peppers and Led Zeppelin…particularly Led Zeppelin was one of those bands that just always evolved. They had elements of folk in their music. They had elements of metal. They had elements of rhythm and blues and just straight ahead rock and roll. They had a lot of different influences in their style and, yeah, they were a rock band, but they experimented a lot with their sound. We look at that and go, ‘Alright, I want to do that! I want to evolve!’ Not necessarily to sound like Led Zeppelin, but just to have the freedom to explore different sounds.
J.T.: Well, with these festivals or on some of the larger tours the band has been on, does it kind of get you out of the vacuum and you hear things that other people are doing and spark your brain into going in another direction?
Jacoby: Oh yeah, definitely. I think sharing the stage with a lot of different types of bands…we just went to Europe and we did shows with metal bands, but then we did shows with super alternative bands like The Sound and even hip hop reggae groups, which were killer, so we hear that and I’m like, ‘Fuck! That would be cool to just funk it up again!’ I mean, who knows? I do really enjoy playing with a bunch of different styles of bands though.
J.T.: Well, whenever you guys have a new release and it hits the radio, I’ll listen to the song and then the DJ will be like, ‘…and that was Papa Roach!’ and I’ll be like, ‘Really?’ Usually I can pick up on who a group is by vocals and style, but even your vocals change up, which is amazing.
Jacoby: Yeah, we always try to push it, man. We always try to do something different.
J.T.: Well, like with the new one, the live tracks that are on it…I’ve never heard a live album that made you feel as if you were there. It was just so crisp and such a good balance of the band and the audience…
Jacoby: Well, pretty much the way we recorded the show, we obviously put microphones on the instruments and did that whole nine, but also, we put a lot of microphones in the crowd. That was the goal. We wanted to make the listener feel like they were a part of this experience going on and I think we captured the energy of the crowd sing-a-longs and stuff like that. That’s the one thing: we always involve our audience with our show and I believe that it’s a live record that will inspire the fans to want to come to see the show.
J.T.: So do you think, with the album dropping so soon before X-Fest, are you guys going to be riding that in?
Jacoby: Oh yeah! We’re going to be playing new stuff as well as the classics, so it’s going to be a bangin’ set.
J.T.: Well, I am guessing that you are on one of the press junket marathons, so I will try and cut this short for you…
Jacoby: Oh, I got some time…what’s up?
J.T.: Okay! Well, what do you think about Kick In The Teeth…that has kind of that throwback, old style anthem rock vibe to it…
Jacoby: It’s kind of got sort of a Gary Glitter vibe to it.
Jacoby: We heard that and it’s kind of got that anthemic thing to it and it’s different and we kind of twisted it up. We listen to other bands and it inspires us to write our own shit. It’s just got that arena rock/anthemic thing to it that we like and it’s got that killer crowd sing-a-long stuff. When we were working on that song, it was apparent that it would fit really well in the ‘live’ realm, like in front of an audience. That’s what it’s about. We’re really proud of that song. I think Burn is another song that is a little more…we also wanted to go with a little more modern sounding stuff like with a distorted violin loop and stuff like that and just mix it up and have a good time, and that song Burn, I think is another big rock anthem. We’re going to go shoot a video for it here in a minute, so I’m excited about that too.
J.T.: Yeah, I love that song. When I got the album, that was the first song I homed in on because I thought it was a cover of that Nine Inch Nails song.
Jacoby: Yeah! That’s that song off the Natural Born Killers soundtrack, right?
Jacoby: Yeah, that’s a bad ass track right there.
J.T.: Well, coming off of this album, are you already looking towards the direction of the next one?
Jacoby: Oh, well, when we go out on our next headlining tour, we’ll start writing new material. I think it will be interesting with songs like Burn that has those keyboard sounds and loops and stuff like that, we kind of want to keep going down that path. That is kind of the direction that we want to keep going in and I think that knowing that now will really help us focus in and make it easy for us to create the sound that we’re going for.
J.T.: You know, I just spoke with Chris Stein from Blondie and some other musicians from that CBGB era in the seventies and I just kind of submerged myself in that scene. There’s a lot of music there that seemed to miss at that time, but feels like it would hit with some of the technological advances in music and production that we have now. It’s almost like it needs to be revisited.
Jacoby: Oh yeah, that is some great classic punk rock.
J.T.: I think Papa Roach’s music seems to embrace a lot of that early, raw sound.
Jacoby: I think, for us, that is a sound that has a lot of raw power and energy and it’s something that we’re drawn to and strive for. It think that the early punk rock is the most honest sound. I mean, those guys were just wearing their hearts on their sleeves and that is a lot like Papa Roach. Do we actually sound like an early seventies punk band? No. But the spirit is definitely alive within our music.
J.T.: I remember reading a quote from you that you said you would never do the nu metal/rap type music again. If it came up and fit in the writing of a song, would it be something that you would pursue?
Jacoby: Oh I mean, at any point in time, anything goes. I think we went with achieving a goal and proving ourselves as a valid rock band and now that we have, the playing field is really open now. I will never say never.
J.T.: Cool. Is there anything out there that I haven’t asked you that you want out there?
Jacoby: Um…that’s pretty much it. That’s what’s going on in our world right now.
J.T.: Well, I guess send a message to Dayton and have them come out to X-Fest.
Jacoby: Dayton: Anybody coming to X-Fest, you better wear your diapers because we’re going to rock the shit out of you!
J.T.: (laughs) That should be a t-shirt for your merch table.
Jacoby: There you go, baby!
J.T.: Well, I thank you very much for your time and…
Jacoby: Well, hopefully I’ll see you in Dayton.
J.T.: Yeah, hopefully I’ll be able to catch up with you in the press tent at X-Fest then.
Jacoby: Alright. Take care and if you see me, tap me on the shoulder and tell me that you’re the guy who interviewed me.
J.T.: Okay, cool. I sure will. I’ll talk to you later.
Jacoby: Okay, take it easy bro’.
Papa Roach will be joined by Shinedown, Seether, the Sick Puppies, Drowning Pool, the Dirty Heads, Redline Chemistry, the Paper Tongues, American Bang and Janus on September 12th at the Montgomery County Fairgrounds during X-Fest. The festival begins at noon and you can purchase tickets at any Ticketmaster outlet for $35 or at the gate the day of the show for $40.