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PAPA ROACH – Facing Everything
Anthony Morgan
February 2015

Papa Roach (l-r): Tobin Esperance, Jacoby Shaddix, Tony Palermo and Jerry

Entering a recording studio to cut a prospective full-length, Vacaville, California-based rock outfit Papa Roach usually lays down a handful of demos beforehand, vocalist Jacoby Shaddix having penned several sets of lyrics and choruses in addition. This wasn’t the case with January 2015 full-length F.E.A.R. – the band’s seventh overall, and second to be issued through Eleven Seven Music.

“Writing songs for this new record was very challenging for me, in the beginning,” Jacoby admits. “I went in this time with nothing… Well, not nothing. I had one chorus written for a song called ‘Broken As Me’, so that was kind of like ‘Well, alright. If you’ve got one chorus, then let’s start there and write a song, and just finish it from beginning to end.’ Once we got through that first track, the floodgate just opened.

“I wasn’t really into the idea of going to Vegas and making a record there, period. I wasn’t into the idea of not getting together for a month before, and just jamming as a band, and coming up with a bunch of ideas, but everybody else in the band was like ‘Dude, we’ll just show up. We’ll just throw it at a wall, get after it, and see what happens.’ In hindsight, it was exactly… It was awesome. I was very fearful of it to be honest, like ‘Alright, I’ll just show up, but what if I’ve got writer’s block?’ It was… I don’t know, man. The experience was exactly the opposite of what I made up in my head of how it was gonna be. We killed it, dude. The band was on fire from the beginning of the sessions all the way until the end. It was probably some of the most inspired, convicted sessions that we’ve been a part of and that I’ve been a part of.”

The Papa Roach frontman was fearful of convening in Las Vegas for recording sessions, to be more precise. “You can just lose yourself in it,” he explains. “All the temptations and all this, it’s a dark city. You can fall into all those old… Me, I don’t drink no more, and that’s been kind of a battle for me over the last ten years. I’ll be on the road and stuff, and then you come to Vegas, and that’s what everybody does. It’s gonna be shitty, and I’ll fucking do shit that I’ll regret (laughs). I just didn’t really care for being in that city at this point in time, but the producer wasn’t willing to come to Sacramento. I really wanted to work with these guys, so I went there against my better judgement, but through the whole process ultimately became a stronger person, and became more confident as a songwriter.

“The relationships within the band became stronger, because we really relied on each other. It was about the music. Honestly, in the city where you could lose focus the quickest, we were the most focused that we’ve ever been making a record, and I’d love to do it again. When we first came up with the idea though, I was like ‘Fuck that.’”

The ‘guys’ in question Jacoby really wished to work with happen to be Kevin and Kane Churko, a father and son production team. “We heard about the team” he reveals. “There was a record called Blood (August 2012) by a band named In This Moment that came out a few years ago, and I just loved the sonic textures in the record. I loved the drums – it was just very in-your-face. They’re pretty progressive with some of their production techniques, and I just thought that it would be cool to hear Papa Roach through their filter in essence. After we had a few meetings with them, we really liked them, man.

“There was just an air of confidence about them and their process that was intriguing to me, because it was very different. The way that their process in making records is totally the opposite of how we’ve made records before. We usually go in, jam songs out, and come up with ideas, bash them out in a room, record the drums, then record the guitars, then record the bass, and then record the vocals. It was come into the studio, programme out some crazy beats, come up with some wild ass ideas, find something that’s inspiring, write a chorus, if the chorus is great then move on, and then build the song some more.

“The drums were actually the last thing that was recorded, and so that was an interesting process for us. Our drummer (Tony Palermo) had a great time in the studio too though, because we were programming stuff in the beginning for the songs. It was a very different approach, but I think we were just kind of ready to shake things up. We’ve been making records and playing together as a band for years, and years, and years, so I think it’s healthy to do things like that at times.”

Having heard In This Moment’s 2012 opus, Papa Roach invited frontwoman Maria Brink to lend guest vocals to the number ‘Gravity’. “‘Gravity’ is one of those tracks,” the singer enthuses. “In the course of making a record, there’s always a track that just stands out. That’s just very different, but it’s just undeniable. That song, I wanted to rap on it, but the band was like ‘Ahh… I’m not sure about that.’ I was like ‘Well, let me just go and lay something down.’ They were like ‘If you don’t put something down that just moves us in a major way, we’re gonna go back to the drawing board on it.’ I went away and wrote this very revealing story of myself and my relationship with my wife, and my failures as a husband.

“I just felt that having a female voice as a counterpart on the track, and having Maria come in and just lace the track with her fire… She just came in and killed it, and really helped take the song to the next level. That’s always what we’re looking for, is how to create something that’s inspiring for us as musicians. We feel like that’s our responsibility as a band, is to kind of push the envelope for what we do as a band and take our fans on a ride. ‘Gravity’ is definitely one of those songs.”

As a whole, F.E.A.R. lyrically delves into Jacoby’s personal struggles. “The general theme of this record is in the face of everything that arises, the core,” he details. “It’s about taking a step back from yourself, and so I really took a long, hard look at my life, and my actions, and my behaviours, and my failures as a man. I looked at my part in those things, and owned my shit. I said ‘This is where I fucked up, and this is where I have failed, and this is my brokenness.’ This record is about the hunt for a better version of myself. Tracks like ‘Falling Apart’ talk about that, ‘Broken As Me’, ‘Skeletons’. ‘Skeletons’ just talks about the way that sometimes when I get in that dark place, I just build up walls around myself and isolate myself, and shut out the people who love me the most. I’m just learning from those mistakes in my life; I’m putting them into songs and making them part of my growth, instead of my demise.”

The mainman’s hunt for a better version of himself is ‘a daily battle’. “I believe that sometimes the progression is just very slow – minute – but when you’re headed in the right direction slowly for a few years, you turn around and look back,” he observes. “I look at where my life was three years ago, and how I saw myself, and how I just… I don’t know, man. I was really into just pushing the self-destruct button. That’s not my outlook any more. I value this life that I have, and I value my relationships, and I value the people in my life who love me. I just used to kind of walk on those relationships, and just not really honour them. I definitely feel like there’s some growth.”

Detroit, Michigan-based rapper Royce da 5’9″ – one-half of rapper duo Bad Meets Evil with Eminem – is F.E.A.R.’s second guest vocalist, appearing on swansong composition ‘Warriors’. “He’s one of my favourite emcees, from Detroit,” Jacoby compliments. “Me and my friend, we were talking about rappers. I was like ‘Dude, it’d be so sick to get Royce on a track. I just don’t know how to get a hold of him.’ He was like ‘If I figure out how to get his phone number, you’ve gotta fucking call him up and see if he’s down.’ So long goes by, then my friend is like ‘I’ve got his number.’ I’m like ‘Are you fucking kidding me?’ I shot him a text. I was like ‘Yo dude…’ – totally random, out of the blue – ‘… This is Jacoby from Papa Roach. I’m a huge fan. Just wanted to see if you had any interest in collaborating on a track.’

“He just hit me back instantly. He was like ‘Dude, I would love to. I love you guys.’ He knew about us, because we used to do some tours with Eminem back in the day – he knew about our band. So yeah, that’s how that collaboration came about, dude. Just a great emcee, a great person in general. We identify with each other on a lot of real life shit; we battle some of the same demons, so I think that common bond really just brought us together.”

Inaugurating F.E.A.R., meanwhile, is its title track. “I wanted to name a song on the record ‘Face Everything And Rise’,” the lyricist divulges. “I had a friend that had a tattoo on her neck – ‘F.E.A.R.’ I was like ‘What’s that mean?’ She said ‘Face everything and rise.’ I was like ‘That is epic,’ and it’s trippy. After I heard that, I started to see all these memes come up on social media, Instagram – ‘Face Everything And Rise’. I started to see it places, and I was like ‘That’s the message, man.’ I connect with that. That’s where I’m at in my life, and so I wanted to write the anthem of that.

“The song, it really paints a picture. I wanted to paint a picture of this brokenness in the world that I see through metaphor, and how it goes in line with myself. Kind of in the bridge, there’s the lyrics ‘Just throw me in the fire, and I’ll never be the same. I’ll come alive when I’m burning in the flames.’ It’s essentially just being baptised by fire; admitting all my faults and burning them up, and in that bringing new life. That’s been a great experience for me.”

F.E.A.R. incorporates elements of both older and newer Papa Roach material. “I think this record has some flavour of some old school Papa Roach in there with the big rocking riffs, and some of the heavy groove elements that we dabbled in early in our career,” Jacoby critiques. “I think it ties into a record like Infest (April 2000) or Lovehatetragedy (June 2002) in the brutal honesty, and just the really heartfelt message I feel. It definitely has a modern approach to the way that we’re writing our music though, with some of the effects in the music, some keyboards, and some loop samples and stuff like that. I think it’s kind of like the best of old and new mashed into one.”

Debut proper Infest celebrates its 15th anniversary in April 2015. “That’s a solid fucking record, man,” the frontman submits. “That record is a snapshot of who we were as young men, and I feel that there was a huge purpose in that record. That record took us on a wild ride across the world, and we sold a shit ton of records. It put a stake in the ground: ‘P. Roach is here’. I look back on that record, and I’m very proud of it. We’ve been actually going in, and rehearsing some songs that we haven’t played in years from that record. It’s just interesting to get in the headspace again of some of those songs. We were just hard, and I guess that as I’ve grown as a writer, I’ve just become a lot more open emotionally and I guess a bit more vulnerable. But yeah man, that first record. It’s fire, dude.”

Papa Roach (l-r): Tobin Esperance, Tony Palermo, Jacoby Shaddix and Jerry

Through the years, Jacoby’s vocal approach has evolved. “I would say that early on when I first started out as a singer, there were no melodies,” he muses. “It was just screaming and rapping, and just scatterbrain spastic-style vocals. As we were writing Infest, I started to kind of find my voice a bit. There’s a lot of melody on that first record, Infest, even though it’s mixed in with some of the rapping. It was kind of telling the direction of where we were headed, because before Infest, we didn’t sound like that either. There was an evolution before people even knew who we were, and so it’s been a very natural progression for me. I really kind of just fell out of love with hip-hop for a while in my career, and wanted to prove myself as a valid rock singer. That’s when over the course of the years, touring and playing shows every night really just helped me find my voice as a rock singer.

“Now, I have a pretty large range as a vocalist singer… As a vocalist, sorry. A vocalist singer? That’s totally redundant… As a vocalist, and it’s just come from I guess getting out there. Practice makes a little bit better (laughs). For me now, anything goes, because I believe that in my mind. I’ve proved what I wanted to prove as a rock singer, and now I’m not afraid to go back in and dabble in some of those old school tactics – rapping on tracks. That’s what music is for me. It’s a path of self-discovery; sometimes you turn over old stones, and discover some old things that you’re passionate about.”

Papa Roach embarks on a tour of the United Kingdom during March 2015. Beginning on the 8th at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, England, the jaunt concludes on the 21st at The Limelight in Belfast, Northern Ireland. “The next tour that we’re doing in the UK is gonna be fuckin’ bangin’,” the singer raves. “It’s selling really well, which we’re very excited about. We’ve got a little something special planned for one of the UK dates that’s gonna blow old school Papa Roach fans away. I can’t really let the cat out of the bag, but it’s gonna be a great tour and we’re very excited. We’re playing the classics from Infest mixed in with a bunch of stuff from all of the records in-between, and new cuts. I think right now – just live – we’re more on fire than we’ve ever been, and I think that that just comes from being away from the road for a little while. Plus, we just have something special going on with our fans in the UK.”

F.E.A.R. was released on January 26th, 2015 in United Kingdom and subsequently on the 27th in North America, all via Eleven Seven Music.

Interview published in February 2015.

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