The ever-evolving Papa Roach

Papa Roach is part of those controversial bands, mainly because of its « commercial » side. That’s said. « Commercial », a term which makes you lose credibility, and for many the antonym of integrity; but what’s more a supreme insult in the world of underground. As if creating a song with evident melodies, lively rhythms and seducing most of its listeners was necessarily a sign of bad taste.

But Papa Roach doesn’t care. The band continues on its merry way, without giving  a damn. In more than 10 years, the cockroach band has evolved from a new-metal style (with many hits) to a « hard US » style, with glam tendencies thanks to a finest « Metamorphosis ». The band already thinks to its future, as we learn from the guitarist and founder member Jerry Horton (no relationship with the elephant who believes that a dust talks to him.) : « I think we may try to go with a little more electronics in there. We’re gonna focus on groove stuff and try to mix it up a little bit more. » And the worst in this is that despite this permanent metamorphosis, the band keeps being appreciated better and better by the audience. As people who weren’t so convinced by their new-metal but who were charmed by their recent artistic turning-point, as much as by their remarkable performances.

Besides, it was high time one of those was immortalized on cd. It’s finally wrapped up, partly with their last baby « Time for Annihilation », a mix of studio and live recording.

As a matter of fact, Jerry Horton tells us a little more stuff about this topic, as about many other ones.

« We’re in an age where mystery isn’t as important as contact with fans.« 

Radio Metal : Papa Roach has just released Time For Annihilation, half of which is composed of new songs, and the other half of live songs. However, I heard you guys had originally planned a full live album. Why did the CD end up as such?

Jerry Horton (guitar) : We wanted to do a live album for a while, but we also knew that people wanted new songs from us. First we decided to do a couple of new songs, but then we thought: “We might as well do five songs and make it kind of an EP”. That’s where it came from: we didn’t want to put out a live album, we wanted to give people something new.

Didn’t you have enough songs to release a new studio album?

We didn’t want to take the amount of time that it takes to make a full album. We wanted to do it quickly, but to do the best five songs that we could.

Was there really a need to release a new product right now? Why not wait a little longer to have a full studio album?

We got out of our deal with Interscope and Universal, and we thought it was the right time to put out a live album – that was the main focus of what we were going to release. The new songs were kind of an afterthought, we figured we might as well do something new. We didn’t want to take the time or the money to make a full album.

The band’s live shows have an excellent reputation. Do you think only half an album’s worth of live songs does the band’s live shows justice? Especially since this is the first live album the band releases…

I do think it does it justice. We wanted to give our fans the ability to live the experience, or at least part of the experience, on a CD. As far as the new stuff is concerned, throughout our career, whenever we put out a new album, we never played the whole thing. We just picked songs and put them in with other songs. This is the first time we’ll be able to play all the new songs in a set. We’ve been doing it for three weeks now, and we’ve been getting a very good response from everybody. They’re just saying that they love the new stuff and that it complements the rest of the songs very well also.

Apart from a DVD, this is the band’s first live release. Do you consider that the band is at the top of its art now?

I don’t think so. I think we’ve got a lot more musical territory to explore. We’re constantly changing and working on the next thing, and in that respect, we’re never content. We’re constantly working on new stuff and tying to really bring something new.

The title “Time For Annihilation” kind of sounds like a statement. Also, it’s released only one year after Metamorphosis. Is it important for you to tell people that the band is alive and well, and really here to stay?

Yes, that’s part of it. Actually, the title came from a friend of ours, who suggested it. Jacoby asked people on Twitter what we should name the album, and somebody responded with that. The phrase is actually from one of our songs, called “Crash”. It also happens to be what we say before every show: we get in a huddle, and when we break from it, we say: “Time for annihilation”. We thought it was perfect for a live album, because of this attitude before we go up on stage. We just have to annihilate!

As early as January, the band gave regular updates on Internet about the new CD. Do you think it’s important to stay in touch with your fans and to give regular updates on the band’s activities?

I do think it’s important. I think we’re in an age where mystery isn’t as important as contact with fans. Because there’s so much media and so much entertainment, pools of potential fans are very small. We think it’s really important to maintain the relationship with our fans and let them know what’s going on. If you don’t, they just sort of feel like you went away, and that’s not what we want.

« The people who only like the rap-rock part of Papa Roach are gonna be disappointed. But as artists, we can’t do the same thing over and over again. […] Change is the only thing that is constant in the world.« 

When we hear the live songs on Time For Annihilation, we can clearly hear a lot of women in the audience. What’s your secret?

(laughs) Over the years, a few of the songs that have been singles have connected with the ladies, for whatever reason. I think it’s definitely a good thing. None of us like to look out on the crowd and see only guys. It’s good for the mix of the crowd, and I think it’s actually good for the guys in the crowd. It brings more of a party atmosphere to the show. If it’s all guys, it ends up being very aggressive. I think it’s good for the whole atmosphere.

The band’s former label, Geffen Records, released a greatest hits album this summer. However, the band insisted that the fans should not buy it, because it was released without your consent and because you weren’t making money out of it. How is that possible?

We didn’t go so far as to say we weren’t making money out of it. It was really the simple fact that we had recorded this new album, we were putting it out, we had a release date – and Universal was going to release their own album without our knowledge or consent. They were capitalizing on the work that we were doing, and they didn’t really have to do anything. They would have to put songs together on a CD and put it out. They were trying to make their last quick dollar off Papa Roach. The main thing was that it was creating confusion with our fans. All their heard was: “New album, new greatest hits from Papa Roach”. They didn’t know where it was coming from. There was nothing new on the Universal greatest hits, it was all songs most of our fans already had. We felt kind of betrayed, but it was not something we were totally blown away by. That’s something the major labels always do, if you know what I mean. It should be expected, but we didn’t think that they would do that. Obviously, they did.

I’ve read that the band no longer owns the rights to its songs, although you can still play them live. Is this true?

With any major label record deal, the label owns the songs. That’s just how it is. Even when we were recording them, they belonged to the label. You can take any artist, even Lady Gaga – the label owns the songs. On the next few years, we’ll be working on getting our songs back, on buying them back from the label.

Isn’t it a bit frustrating as an artist to know that you don’t own the rights to your own creations?

Yes, but there are compromises you have to make. But that’s the business side, and I don’t think people really want or need to know the business side of it.

You’re now on Eleven Seven Music, which is a small label. Do you feel more at ease with this kind of small-sized structure?

I do feel more at ease. We feel much better at Eleven Seven. They’re smaller, but they’re committing their resources 100% to us; as opposed to Universal, where they would probably commit 10%. Eleven Seven is a rock label, and they’re passionate about our songs and us as a band. They want to see us succeed. It feels great.

What’s striking with Papa Roach is that the band has evolved a lot through time: it started out more or less in the nu metal genre, then the band softened its sound and now falls more in the modern hard rock category. There are even some pretty glam-oriented songs on Metamorphosis, like “Night Of Love” or “State Of Emergency”, for example. It’s also the case on Time For Annihilation, with the single “Kick In The Teeth”. What drives you to rethink the musical orientation of the band so often?

It’s not something that we really think about. It’s something that we’ve always done, we’ve always changed. If you go back before we got signed, we sounded different than that. When people heard Infest, that was basically when the world heard us for the first time. That wasn’t what we were doing the whole time. That’s just what we sounded like at that point in our career. We’ve always changed. But we do have things about us that remain the same. There are some things about our music that people can tell when they hear it: “That kind of sounds like Papa Roach”. We like to keep the groove, and I guess we have a certain way of writing melodies and harmonies and that kind of things. Like I said, we’ve always changed, throughout our seventeen years.

Can we say that this diversity of genres throughout Papa Roach’s career is a result of the members’ diversity regarding musical tastes?

I think… Yeah, I guess you could say that. We do have a lot of musical tastes in common, we do like a lot of the same things, but there are some things that each one of us are into that sort of define our contribution to the band. I guess that diversity does help to change things up a bit.

Aren’t you afraid that you’ll confuse the fans by changing your musical style? Or do you see this as a quality that tends to renew the fans’ interest?

We see it as a strong point. We would feel like we were cheating the fans if we made the same record over and over again. Obviously there are some people that only want to hear that one thing, but that’s the risk we have to take. The people who only like the rap-rock part of Papa Roach are gonna be disappointed. But as artists, we can’t do the same thing over and over again. It becomes stale, and you sort of end up becoming like a parody of yourself. From our point of view, change is good. Change is the only thing that is constant in the world. I just feel like we would be doing ourselves and our fans a disservice if we always did the same thing.

Some people say that changing the band’s musical orientation is a way to adapt to current trends. What would you answer to that?

I don’t think we really ever followed the current trend. We came in with a genre that was in fashion, but the record that came after Infest was not following the trend. At that time, the trend was garage rock, and after that it was emo. We’ve never been part of either one of those. We have a certain input at the time of each recording, but they’re never what the trend is.

« We’ve never really been media darlings.« 

Papa Roach often received bad comments, but the band is still here, thirteen years after its debut album. Do you think the popularity of a band can be measured by the number of its detractors?

I guess so, to a certain degree. We’ve never really been media darlings. We’ve always just kind of done our own thing, staying really focused on the fans. We’ve just tried to write the best songs that we could.

Can we see the five songs on Time For Annihilation as a hint on what to expect for the next album?

That was sort of the idea. I think we may try to go with a little more electronics in there. We’re gonna focus on groove stuff and try to mix it up a little bit more.

There’s a message from Jacoby at the end of Time For Annihilation: he encourages fans to help fight homelessness and hunger, and to donate to WhyHunger. Why did the band choose this particular organization? Is it something that you, Jacoby or people close to the band are concerned with?

There was a time in our hometown of Sacramento where a lot of people were losing their homes. Jacoby went down to a local shelter to help out and serve food. We talked about it and thought: “If there’s anything we can do on a national level while we’re on tour, it would be great to help out”. The shelter in Sacramento is called Loaves And Fishes, and they’re associated with World Hunger Year. World Hunger Year is not a charity itself, it’s just an organization that is affiliated with many local shelters. They’re very good at getting as much money as possible for any kind of donation to these local charities. We ourselves have been auctioning off VIP meet-and-greets, where people can meet the band and watch the soundcheck, they can take a tour of our bus and they can see how it’s like. They also get to sit on the stage while we play. It’s been great, we’ve raised a lot of money, helped a lot of people, and we feel good about it. We thank all the fans that have been doing that, because 33 cents will put on a meal on the table at a shelter. Our fans have helped a lot of people, and we definitely appreciate that. Like you said, Jacoby put a message at the end of the record: people who want to donate just have to text to 90999 to give five dollars. It will put 14 meals on the table at a shelter.

Papa Roach performed at Crüe Fest in 2008, along with Buckcherry and Sixx:A.M. Plus Metamorphosis was co-produced by James Michael, who actually worked on the last Mötley Crüe album. He’s also lead vocalist in Sixx:A.M. Has this tour somehow played a part in the glam orientation of some of the songs on Metamorphosis?

No. Honestly, I don’t know where the glam part is coming from. We finished that record before we went on Crüe Fest. James Michael helped with some lyrics and vocals on a couple of songs, but that was about it. The music had already been written. There was a couple of things Jacoby was having problems with, figuring things out. He just needed a bit of help.

Are the Mötley Crüe guys as crazy as their reputation says they are?

I think they’ve probably calmed down a little bit. Tommy Lee, though, is still as crazy as ever! He just doesn’t stop, he always has loud music in the dressing room… He’s a great guy, though, a super nice guy. We were definitely happy to be out on tour with them.

Do you have any cool stories for us about what you experienced or witnessed with Mötley Crüe?

One of the cool stories is that we asked Mick Mars to play a solo on one of the songs from Metamorphosis, “Into The Light”. I played him the song, and he was excited about it. I told him it was an honor to have him play, and he said: “Well, I don’t know… I think it would be cool, though!” I grew up listening to Mötley Crüe, and it was a little bit intimidating for me to be on tour with them. But they turned out to be really cool guys. We definitely had a great time on that tour.

I’ve heard the Mötley Crüe guys were quite demanding, like they needed seventy towels and stuff… Is this true?

I don’t know. I would imagine that they’re probably a little demanding. They’ve been doing it for a long time, you know. I don’t think they need anything out of the ordinary. I guess it just depends on your perspective.

Interview conducted in december, 2010 by phone
Myspace Papa Roach: www.myspace.com/paparoach

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