Papa Roach


Interview with Tobin Esperance

Alice Hammond
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 [1999]. 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 issues?

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 people.

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.

June 2000


Papa Roach

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 critical raves.

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 it.

DMG: “lovehatetragedy” 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.

DMG: “Rolling 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 understanding.

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 for us.

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.

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