with Tobin Esperance
When not on stage dishing out Papa Roach’s hardcore rap
rock sound, bassist Tobin Esperance chills out to Portishead,
Morcheeba, and jazz – music that strays far from Papa Roach’s
hit-making contemporaries. Citing influences that include Bad
Religion, Jane’s Addiction, and the Pixies, Tobin and the
band create music with an edge, borrowing from classic genres
like old-school punk, reggae, hip hop, rather than emulating the
current crop of hard-rock trendsetters such as Korn and Limp Bizkit.
NYROCK: Can you give
me a little background on the band?
We come from Northern California, a little town called Vacaville.
We were fortunate enough to build up our own hometown scene and
then branched out: Sacramento, San Francisco. They're like our
second homes. Then we moved on to LA.
I'm the youngest one.
I'm 20. The oldest one, Jerry [guitarist], is 25. The rest of
the guys are 23.
We've been doing this
for a long time. The band started in '93 at a talent show in high
school. I wasn't in the band then. I've been with the band for
five and a half years.
It was pretty funny,
when they first started out they just had a bass player, a drummer,
a singer and a trombone player. Like Chili Peppers style.
When did it become full time?
When we got to quit our day jobs. That was when we got signed
back in October . Everything happened pretty quick. They
threw us in the studio and got the record out like boom.
Tell me about the name "Papa Roach"?
It doesn't have anything to do with weed, just so you know. A
lot of people think it does.
Our singer's grandpa,
his last name was Roach. And they called him Papa Roach. They
were fumbling around with names way back in the day… There
was this old jazz album from this cat named Poncho Sanchez called
Papa Gato. I guess they wanted to name the band that, but our
singer was like, "No, no, name it Papa Roach. That was my
grandfather's name." So, that's where they got it from.
And we just kind of
made our own meaning out of it over time.... The cockroach being
the symbol of longevity. Cockroaches can survive anything, a nuclear
holocaust. They'll always be around.
You have a lot of heavy themes going on in your lyrics: suicide,
alcoholism, greed, betrayal. Tell me a little about the thought
behind the lyrics. Do you think it's important to address such
I think it's important because kids can connect. They don't feel
so alone. When they hear those lyrics they realize there are other
people out there who have been through the same stuff and are
getting through it. I don't think it's anything consciously done.
We write about things that have happened to our singer, specifically,
and friends around us. It's real life stuff. We're not writing
about shit that we don't know about, like girls and cars and money
– sex, drugs, and rock and roll. We only know real life
bullshit that happens.
We like the fact that
kids come up to us and are like, "We totally connect to the
lyrics in this song. That's my life."
We're always going
to write music that is true to ourselves and the people around
us, not making up bullshit just to sell records.
Anything you want to say to fans, critics, and readers alike?
We've been doing this for a while. A lot of people think that
we just came up in the scene. Like some over-night sensation.
It wasn't like we just got lucky. We worked our asses off for
this. We're grateful for our loyal fans.
It's like, you're living
your life. You have a normal life. You do your 9-to-5 job –
that you hate – and you deal with all the drama around you.
And all of a sudden your band gets signed and you're on the road
and you're in a tour bus and you're playing shows in every city.
I mean, we're totally happy because this is what we love to do
but our lives have been totally turned upside down. There's always
going to be that fine line between good and evil. We're always
going to recognize what's good and what's not.
We're just trying to
have fun. Make good music. Play good-vibe rock shows and entertain
How is DreamWorks Records treating you?
The label is great. We love DreamWorks. We found a great home.
The cool thing is they let us do whatever we want. Whatever we
want. They didn't have any say.
We didn't expect all
this to come, at least so quickly. We're really grateful for everything.
We just hope that people don't think we're selling out. A lot
of people don't realize that we don't have control over success
or what happens. We're just out there doing our thing, doing what
we love, making the music that we want to make. If people like
our music, what's wrong with that?
So we're just gonna
keep on going. We strive for longevity. We're not trying to get
up in this game and out – just make a quick one-hit wonder.
We want to do this for a long time because this is what we love
to do. I'm actually quite curious to see what's going to happen.
Interviewed by Chris Steffen
It’s hard to
escape from the nu-metal and rap-rock scene with your heads held
high, so somewhere along the way, Papa Roach figured out that
the best way to make it out alive was to jump ship. The band followed
up the multi-platinum smash “Infest” with “lovehatetragedy,”
which nearly eliminated the rapping, and showed a band much more
interested in rocking than drowning in angst. The album wasn’t
the commercial success its predecessor was, even though it earned
The band now returns
with its first record since the buyout of Dreamworks, “Getting
Away With Murder.” The rapping is now completely gone, and
the band’s vision is one into the future. Outspoken frontman
Jacoby Shaddix [aka Coby Dick] spoke with the Dallas Music Guide
about the recording process, his personal cleansing which lead
to a substantial portion of the album’s lyrical content
[without overdoing it, “St. Anger”-style] and why
you can’t trust the media.
Dallas Music Guide:
Bands often make a big deal about how they feel their new records
improve on the past ones – how does “Getting Away
With Murder” improve on “lovehatetragedy?”
Coby Dick: As far as
my part is, I was really searching out my vocals and fine-tuning
them and trying to work on choruses that would be just big sing-a-longs.
So I tried to write the biggest anthems I could for Papa Roach
songs, you know. I’m just singing my ass off on this new
album and experimenting with some new shit. There’s some
stuff that’s metal style vocals, some stuff that’s
more punk, some that’s more rock n’ roll. I just try
to fit into the character of the song and what the song is doing,
instead of just saying, ‘This is my vocal style, and you
have to write everything around that.’ Then it just expands
the horizons for the band, too. As far as the music goes, it just
is. In a weird way, it’s a little bit scattered, but that’s
what makes P. Roach who we are. We’ve always been a band
who – ever since our early releases before we had a label
– our albums were always pretty different from each other.
With this one, we made a progression that I think our fans will
really like, understand and get, so I’m really excited about
was the follow-up to “Infest,” which had just blown
up, but it wasn’t able to replicate the response –
why do you think that happened?
CD: There was all kinds
of shit. We only got one single out of the label. They only worked
us one deep. The label wasn’t backing us like they were.
Granted, we wrote a record that was different, and not all of
our fans understood it, but fuck it, we just go where the music
takes us. It was a good experience for us – we went out
and toured, we went through Europe twice on that record, went
to Japan, went to Australia. Granted, we didn’t sell as
many records as we did the first time, but we sold a good amount
of records – one and a half, almost two million worldwide
- so it wasn’t like we fell off the face of the earth, but
as far as promo goes, it as kind of…but it’s cool,
we’re not on Dreamworks anymore. When we were making “Getting
Away With Murder,” Dreamworks got bought out, so we didn’t
have a label telling us what to do and wasn’t telling us,
‘Hurry up, get the record done,’ and we didn’t
have any rushing, so that was cool. But it was a little nerve-racking,
because we didn’t know if we had a deal or not when we were
making this record. But when Geffen heard it, they were flipping
out about it, and that was a really good thing for us, not to
have extra hands in the pot while we were cooking the shit.
Stone” even listed the record as one of the most disappointing
– commercially – of the year, while they critically
raved about it.
CD: You win some, you
lose some. It can be disheartening, you want to be the biggest
band in the world, after you’ve sold so many, but the reality
is that we weren’t. I think we came through it cool, though.
We came through it with a good perspective on where we stood as
a band and what the business is about. It’s hard business,
and we were either going to go and recapture what we had on “Infest”
or push things forward, and the vote was to push things forward.
It’s another risk that we’re taking by not giving
them exactly what they bought the first time, but fuck it, it’s
a risk we’re willing to take.
DMG: One thing that’s
mentioned a lot is that the rapping is gone.
CD: That’s right,
bitch, the rapping’s gone! I don’t feel like rapping.
I’m just over that shit. It’s cool, I dig hip-hop,
I just kind of became disenchanted with it. What it is and what
it represents in the mainstream…there are some good artists,
but just ninety percent of it is shit. There is good, underground
hip-hop, but I’m a rocker, man. As far as what we’re
doing, I just want to be a rocker. It’s what I wanted to
be when I was a kid.
DMG: Who were you in
front of the mirror back in the day?
CD: It was Poison for
a while, then it was Guns N’ Roses, then I got into Fugazi
and Social Distortion and Helmet. I always wanted to be a rocker.
DMG: Do you think that
jumping ship from the whole rap/rock thing has helped you guys
or hurt you, at least to this point?
CD: I don’t know.
It’s hard to say what we’d be like if we stayed a
rap-metal band. We have some people that are bummed, but you can’t
please everybody. We’d be selling ourselves out if we weren’t
going in the direction that we’re going in. We’re
completely happy with what we’ve achieved on this new album
– I’m saying this before it comes out, before we know
what it sells or any of that shit. We think we’re in the
right place as a band right now. This is what Papa Roach is, and
where we’re at as artists and musicians in this point in
time. The thing with “lovehatetragedy” was cool because
the fans that got it love it. They’re really feelin’
it, and for me, that’s rad, to walk away from it and have
fans totally digging that record.
DMG: What are you getting
at with the lyrics to “Not Listening?” [chorus lyric:
“I’m not listening, not anymore/The more I learn the
more I ignore]
CD: Lyrically, it’s
about looking into media and what’s going on in the world
today and it’s like it’s all half-truths. It’s
never the entire story. It’s filtered. They’re saying,
‘Let’s feed America what we think they should eat.’
The more I look at all the aspects of the media and look at what’s
going on with it, I realize that it’s all half-truths, and
it’s not really the truth and that’s where the chorus
comes from. When I turn on the news, it’s like, ‘Am
I going to believe everything I see? Hell-motherfucking-no.’
Question the media. People need to do that. This political shit
that’s going down right now is all shady, and people are
okay with it, and I’m not. People either ignore it on purpose,
or they’ve just been hoodwinked into believing that what’s
going on now is the right thing to be doing.
DMG: The record seems
to focus on a theme of self-improvement – songs frequently
mention things you plan on stop doing or ways to change yourself
– are you undergoing some sort of cleansing?
CD: Definitely. Through
the process of making this record, I quit drinking and shit. I
was taking a look at my life and saying, ‘What’s broken?’
No one’s going to fix my life for me, I won’t let
that happen. I have to go in and root out the shit that’s
making me crazy and deal with it. As far as fixing myself, that’s
what this music is for. I can cry on this band’s shoulder,
and it’s okay, but this isn’t like a ‘poor me’
record. It’s just a record about what’s going on in
my head. There are moments on this record that aren’t really
‘I’m going to bare my soul to the entire world’
moments. There are songs on the record like “Blanket of
Fear” and “Tyranny of Normality” and “Not
Listening” and “Stop Looking, Start Seeing”
that are more like ‘rattle-your-bones, wake up and look
at what’s going on around you’ type songs. It takes
you into different realms of what’s going on in my head.
I think that’s a good direction, because we don’t
want to be a pity-rock band, that’s not what we’re
going for. I’m not looking for some sympathy – just
DMG: The title track
doesn’t open in typical fashion for you guys – how
did that come together?
CD: For us, it was
just like, when we were writing this riff, it had an industrial,
metallic, rugged, insane vibe to it. So when we were producing
the demo, we took and made a drum loop from Dave playing a beat
live in a club, and put it on overdrive so it sounds all blasted-out,
put it in with a regular beat, made a loop, and just started playing
this riff over the loop, and worked on the chorus – which
is fucking huge in this song – and it just became what it
is. It’s like I said earlier, go where the music takes you
and get into the character of the song. It’s this dark,
ominous, groovy, evil-sounding song, and the ‘Getting away
with murder’ line really seemed to fit the character of
what that song was. So hence, the song is very different from
a lot of the stuff on the record, but I don’t think any
one song represents the album as a whole, you have to get into
this piece of work we did to understand it. We don’t want
to put out a record that’s carbon-copies of every song –
‘here’s the melody part, this is the scream, and here’s
the melody again,’ and I think we succeeded – I don’t
think it’s cookie-cutter, every song is very different.
DMG: The final track,
“Do Or Die,” has almost an Andrew WK vibe to it –
it’s really over the top and has tons of layers of guitars
– whose idea was it to go so over-the-top with that one?
CD: For us, that song
is the mood swing within the song that really makes that chorus
pop out. The verse is real dark and has this groovy riff and it’s
kind of slimy, and then you go into this anthemic, pop-rock chorus,
and it has major chords and stuff. I think the juxtaposition of
the verse riff and the chorus make sit stand out huge. As far
as the guitars go, we were just going for big. We achieved that
shit. I think it’s the perfect song to be the last song
on the record. It’s just like you go through all this crazy
shit, these lyrics take you to all these different places, sometimes
dark, sometimes uplifting, and the end is like, ‘It’s
never too late to live your life, the time is now, it’s
do or die,’ and through all of it, there’s clarity,
so it kind of caps it off cool. I like that song a lot.
DMG: What’s the
story about the problems with the cover art?
CD: Yeah, we have to
put a Wal-Mart version out with a sticker over our cover. It’s
a bunch of skull and bones, and it says “Papa Roach”
with a bloody fingerprint. But since it’s a human heart
with bird wings, apparently it’s too graphic. I figured
that in protest to that, I’m going to go to Wal-Mart on
the 31st and I’m going to buy a shotgun. And our album.
A censored version of our album and a shotgun. It’s fucking
ridiculous, the way everything is so uptight right now and how
everyone is trying to be so ultra-sensitive about everything,
it’s fucking obnoxious. There’s no room to be dangerous
anymore. It’s like we got to do what we do, and if they
want to censor us, they’re going to do it. And I’m
going to have a middle finger in the air the whole time.
DMG: What are the plans
for touring once the record comes out?
CD: Come October, we’re
going to put together a fucking strong package, so the kids will
want to pay their hard-earned money to come see that shit. We’re
going to do 1,500-2,500 person venues. We want to try to do it
while the single is really popping, so the radio stations can
let people know when we’re coming to town. I’m really
excited about this. I think it’s going to be a good run
DMG: What’s going
on with Fight the Sky right now?
CD: Fight the Sky –
it’s metal music. Our guitar tech plays guitar for it, and
another friend that’s on the road now with us is playing
guitar, and we have an African-American drummer. We have a mixed-nut
crazy metal band. It’s just crazy metal. It’s just
something that’s totally different than what P. Roach does.
They were like, ‘Hey, want to do some vocals on this?’
So I’ll do some vocals on the road, pop in on some studios
here and there. We’ll throw some shit on the net, give some
shit out for free, and release something once we’re done
touring with Papa Roach. We’re just doing it indie-style,
we’re not doing it through a major label. We’ll just
get it out to the kids through the underground. Who knows what
the kids on the underground will think. They might be surprised,
because it’s pretty fucking good. It’s cool to be
involved in something that’s so different.
Getting Away With Murder
is released on August 31.
Papa Roach interviews