Ever since transitioning from nü metal to melodic hard rock with metallic tinges, Papa Roach have become one of my favorite bands. Starting with their third album, 2004’s Getting Away With Murder, the Northern Californian quartet has found a way to marry ear-catching melodies with soul baring lyrical content. Singer/lyricist Jacob Shaddix has no trouble opening up about everything from addiction to heartache, and that sincerity and honesty tempered with the group’s adrenalized riffs gives them a potent one-two punch.
Their latest release, Time For Annihilation…On The Record & On The Road, combines five new tracks with nine live cuts. The new material retains the group’s inherent grittiness and emotional pyrotechnics, stirs in some propulsive grooves and spices things up with some electronic elements through the Gary Glitter stomp of “Kick In The Teeth” and the majestic and melodic aggro vibe of “Burn,” while “No Matter What” serves up a hopeful, romantic ballad that’s a contrast to their darker hit “Scars”. Just prior to their new release, I chatted with P-Roach frontman Jacoby Shaddix for The Aquarian, and I also asked him some Qs for A.D.D.
Papa Roach recently switched labels from Geffen to Eleven Seven. It seems like your record sales were still pretty decent for a major label band. Wikipedia is reporting that your last couple of records did 400,000 units each.
On the last record [Metamorphosis] we just cracked over 250,000 [domestically], so it’s hard out there for rock bands, especially at a label that doesn’t really support rock music. That’s the cool thing about what we do — we’re not about just selling pieces of plastic. Our fans come to see us live. We have the power, we have the art, we have the music. We’re definitely stoked to be on an independent label now because they pay attention to us. If you look at the roster that we were on at Interscope/Geffen: Queens of the Stone Age left, Nine Inch Nails left, Marilyn Manson left, Papa Roach left, Weezer just left. All the rock bands on the label realized they had to go and it wasn’t working.
Do you think that rock is starting to go underground a little bit again?
Most definitely, but I think it’s a good thing. It’s going underground in the sense that the rock radio isn’t the biggest thing in the world, and MTV doesn’t play music videos no more, but rock is really living on the streets and it’s living on the Internet. We put up our video on Vevo, and we got an insane number of hits, moreso than if we got on MTV as the number one video. It’s a different terrain now for the music and the way that we get it to people, and for us it’s been really cool because our touring has gotten a lot better over the last few years. Outside of a couple of canceled shows because of a promoter — and I feel sorry for that guy — fans are coming out in force to rock shows.
I read that you guys don’t own your catalog or don’t own your publishing. Is that true?
We own the publishing, but not the rights to the songs. That’s why Geffen released the greatest hits. We can get our catalog back after X amount of years. That’s the beast. When you sign to a major label it’s a deal with the Devil. But it’s all right because we were one of the last of the bands to get really good record deals. Now when bands are going to get record deals, they’re signing over their publishing, their merchandise and touring, so record companies are getting a piece of everything off of the younger bands. Thank God I didn’t come through on that wave because that’s just fucking rugged.
It’s not the best time to be an up-and-coming band. There are more ways than ever to get your music heard, but ironically there seem to be less ways to make money at it.
To support yourself or to support your family, it’s tough for a lot of musicians out there.
“I’m not exactly mellow, I’m just not blacked out wasted [anymore].”
Nearly a decade ago you said to me was that P-Roach was touring Europe because when things would get lean in America, you could always go back there.
Europe’s rockin’ for us. Our fanbase over there is alive and kicking and doing really well, as well as our Stateside fan base. It’s really starting to pick up for us because now we’re a decade into our career and people are realizing that we’re not going anywhere. We’ve gotten a lot of good slots on festivals in America and Europe. The touring industry is recognizing that this band is real and not just a flash in the pan, and it’s taken years to prove that.
Rock music is about playing live now. Taylor Hawkins from Foo Fighters recently said that he felt Pro Tools really ruined rock music. Bands don’t have to learn how to play their songs all the way through now. The cut-and-paste mentality has permeated the recording industry.
It’s really a perspective thing. If you look at a band like Muse, they run tracks but nobody thinks that they’re shitty. They are amazing musicians; they just use it to embellish their sound. It’s really up to how an artist would use that. But I can see his point-of-view because there are bands that just rely on it to do their show for them. They couldn’t play a show without it, and that’s what sucks. But everybody has an opinion about something.
On the first couple of Papa Roach albums the band had a slightly more generic image, then with Getting Away With Murder the group got a little bit more glam and a little bit more Goth and became much more aware of style. There’s definitely been a visual evolution with the band. You’re trying to be rock stars now.
We downplayed it. But then I got tired of being in an airport and having people think I’m on a soccer team. I was tired of dressing like a fucking janitor. Plus I got heavily into tattoos. My whole upper body is covered with tattoos now. We’re just letting go and play with the image. I think it’s fun, and being in a rock ‘n roll band affords me the opportunity to be the freak that I want to be.
You have a chest tattoo that declares “Here lies Jacoby Dakota Shaddix”. Where did that originate from?
I will be cremated, so that’s my gravestone. It’s kind of morbid. It came at a morbid time in my life when I would rather be dead. I did that on the lovehatetragedy record in 2002. I was a fucking, miserable mess.
That was a tough period for the band. You had had this triple platinum album and got this big endorsement deal with Pepsi —
Which was horrid.
Then the album only went gold.
That was when everybody put their hands in the air and said, “We want nothing to do with this band.” But we fought on.
When Getting Away With Murder came out, you were a hungry band once more and went platinum again. One thing that has struck me about your lyrics over the years is that they’re very honest. Perhaps some people might have a hard time relating to some of your lyrical themes because they’re often quite bleak and dark, but it seems that that keeps this band going. I can’t imagine you guys being a multiplatinum, hit-making band because it just doesn’t work for what you do and who you are. It seems like you have to have that edginess to move forward.
For me it’s an expression of myself, and I’ve got to be myself. That’s it.
“A lot of the fans who really dig into the emotional side of our music will put posts of their writing on our website; send me their own poetry or their own songwriting. Kids will come with their journal and say, ‘Read this.’ I trip on that.”
Are there any other tattoos that have a deep meaning for you?
I have a Japanese-style snake on one side of my body and a Japanese-style Dragon on the other side of my body. That represents my wife and I; she was born the year of the snake, and I was born the year of the dragon.
Is the band still party hearty now, or are you more sedate than you used to be?
Tony and Tobin — we call them TNT — they explode, they’re buck wild, they are the Led Zeppelin of Papa Roach, as we like to call them. It’s a balance, it’s the dichotomy of the band.
So you and Jerry are mellower now?
I’m not exactly mellow, I’m just not blacked out wasted [anymore].
Corey from Stone Sour was telling me that after he got sober he could still have a drink, but he did not feel the need to have more.
I’m not that way. I wish I was.
The singer from Trapt off-handedly mentioned to me a couple of years ago that three albums in, his art had become his job, but in a good way. Does being in Papa Roach feel like a job to you?
The only time it feels like a job to me is when I’ve been gone away from home and haven’t seen my family in a long time and start to miss them. At points I start to resent it. All I’ve got to do is get home and see my family for a few days, and that’s all I need. Then it all comes back to where it was — my love for music. If everything was a fucking joyride all the time, it would be great, but that’s not the case. I could sit here and bullshit you and say it’s fucking great all the time, but sometimes I just want to be home.
Obviously you’re able to relieve your stress and anger by going on stage and putting on a great performance. Some rockers joke that if they weren’t in bands they would probably be in jail. But for fans who don’t have that kind of outlet, isn’t it important to be creative in other ways?
It’s a great place for us to be ourselves — carefree, freethinking, wild folks. This job allows that to a certain extent. A lot of the fans who really dig into the emotional side of our music will put posts of their writing on our website; send me their own poetry or their own songwriting. Kids will come with their journal and say, “Read this.” I trip on that. I think it’s great because we’re inspiring some young people to express themselves. I think that’s killer.
Do you think a lot of Papa Roach fans come from the same background as you?
We call our fans the Mixed Nuts. Our fans come from all different walks of life, everything from a little teenage Goth girl to a Mexican gangster type to an average Joe to a housewife to a metalhead. Our fans are a very diverse group of kids and adults.
You had a side project called Fight The Sky at one point. What happened with that?
That’s not happening. I thought it was a good idea, but I realized I could express myself every which way with Papa Roach.
What is the biggest life lesson that
you’ve learned over the last ten years?
Don’t ever try to lie to yourself.