Facing Everything: An Interview with Papa Roach

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Despite what some might believe, I wasn’t born the sad and hateful old man that I am today; there was actually a time when I was sad and hateful teenager. And I was angsty. It wasn’t “only” your run-of-the-mill “you don’t get me, mom!” (although I’m sure there was plenty of that) but also dealing with a bunch of personal issues, like the death of my dad, that made some of those years very unpleasant. Although the whole thing was far from unique, in the mind of my insufferable teenage self, it sure as hell felt that way.

Even though I was never a committed Papa Roach fan, and for the most part I stopped following their career after the release of Getting Away with Murder, I always had a soft spot for them. Although nowadays I won’t touch anything even resembling rapping with 10-foot pole, back then listening to this guy sing about the way I felt (as generic as it might have been) actually made me feel better.

It has been more than 15 years since the first time that I heard “Last Resort”, and now armies of teenagers are relating to this music that I once thought was almost certainly “totally written about me!” If nothing else, the fact that Papa Roach‘s lyrics have been able to go beyond generations, and touch the lives of so many, is something admirable on its own right.

And so, my teenage self is very happy to present you this interview that I conducted with Jacoby Shaddix, the singer and founder of Papa Roach. He was nice enough to talk to me about those lyrics, as well as about their upcoming all-out show at Soundwave.

We have a responsibility as a band to take our fans for a ride.

Photo: David E. Jackson
Photo: David E. Jackson

MB: Although I’m sure you’ve talked about this with everyone already, the first thing I want to know is about your new album F.E.A.R, “face everything and rise”, particularly when we put it side-by-side with your older material. How do you feel the band has evolved since the Infest days until now?
Jacoby Shaddix: We’ve been a band since 1993, and even before the world knew us with “Last Resort”, our first breakout single, we were constantly evolving; I mean, by 1999 we didn’t sound the same way we did in 1993. We started as sort of a funk/punk experimental band, and then fell in love with hip-hop, east coast hardcore and metal music, and that’s kind of where we came with the sound that appeared in Infest.
There was always a rock edge to our band, there are songs in Infest where I’m just singing with the melody, but it got overshadowed by the “rap-rock”, and in the industry we got pidgeonholed as a “nu-metal” band. We didn’t want to be pidgeonholed, we saw ourselves as a career band early on, and so we took some bold moves to distance ourselves from that genre and pave our own path. Over the course of the next records I wanted to prove myself as a valid rock singer and stretch out the boundaries of what we do as a band.
By the late 2000’s, as I became more competent as a rock singer, I fell in love with 70’s rock music like Queen, The Who, Steppenwolf, Super Tramp, Led Zeppelin, etc., and we released the album Metamorphosis, which kind of evolved the style that we had been playing so far. We were pushing for a more straightforward rock and roll, even changing our image, and next thing you know we were opening for Mötley Crüe, which was just surreal.
After that we were just wondering what was next, what we could do to continue pushing forward. It’s always about progression, and so we recorded Time for Annihilation, a live record, and which I believe really solidified Papa Roach as a staple of rock music in America, the UK and Germany.
By the time we recorded The Connection (2012) we were bringing some influences from bands like Nine Inch Nails and The Prodigy. That was our next progression, although always maintaining our core of who we were in terms of our passionate conviction towards writing, and feeling that we had a responsibility as a band to take our fans for a ride.
With F.E.A.R. we’ve picked up where we left off with The Connection, and worked with producers that would bring the best out of us, Kane and Kevin Churko. It was a pretty bold move; we went in with no material written and just showed up and started writing from day one. After we wrote Broken as Me” we realized we believed in this process and decided to just throw ourselves to the fire and see what happens.
I’ve had a lot of personal struggles and I’ve put that in the music, and that has always been a running theme. F.E.A.R., face everything and rise, also deals with that, as there was a lot of fear on my part walking on a creative process without a bag full of lyrics, without a bunch of demos. I think that just doing it like that is what made this record very powerful, strong, in the moment and spontaneous. We didn’t overthink things, which I think was very healthy for us. I had a lot of personal issues about going to a place like Las Vegas to record, because of my past and substance abuse issues, since I’ve been clean and sober for a couple of years now. I went there and came out a stronger person, I came out as a free man, not trapped by my own fears. I can’t let those things imprison me.

MB: I think that one of the most amazing things about Papa Roach, despite the problems that you might have faced at the beginning being pidgeonholed as “rap metal”, was the way in which you managed to get your fanbase to feel very connected with your music. Most musicians wish they could do that, create that sort of emotional connection. And so, when I read “Face Everything I Rise”, I immediately thought that there was a deeper meaning to it, and that you were again trying to bring out all of the emotions from your fans. Am I correct on that?
JS: Most definitely man, I feel that the more that I reveal about myself and about what’s going on in my heart and in my life, the more I am deeply connected to our fans. The emotion, the brutal honesty, the brokenness that I expose about myself connects me deeply to our fanbase. I’ve even found that out about myself, I mean this music has even saved my life at moments, and so I love approaching records that way. 

MB: Speaking about this honesty, something that I noticed today is that the official video for “Last Resort” on Youtube censors all the references to suicide, self-mutilation, violence, etc. Considering the seriousness of what you’re talking about here, and the many people who are affected by it, how do you feel as an artist to see the message watered down that way?
JS: I’m not a fan of the censorship, but that definitely did not stop the message. That made people want to look deeper, and find out what it was we were saying. When something is real and pure censorship cannot stop it.

Photo: David E. Jackson
Photo: David E. Jackson

MB: At what point do you think you felt that you were creating such a strong emotional connection among your fans?
JS: It was really early on; when we went out and toured for Infestafter we wrote “Last Resort”, or “Broken Home”, songs that spoke to people on a real level, We traveled the world for 2 years and every night we’d meet people who would tell their stories to us, and how they could identify with what we were saying.
Back then even though I “got” it, I didn’t want to accept the responsibility as a vocalist to be some kind of role model; that’s not what I set out to be. Over the course of the years though, when you hear this every day, you just start to appreciate the purity of this thing that we have with our fans, and it’s real. Those are the moments that we have time and time again, and whenever I start to doubt my purpose it convinces me again, it lifts me up and fuels that fire to keep trudging this road as a touring musician and as a songwriter. To just try to be as real as I can; we are always searching, we are always trying to be part of something bigger than ourselves, and I think that with Papa Roach I found that, and a lot of fans connected with that.

[The PR person for the label lets us know in pretty clear terms that we have to wrap it up]

MB: Sadly, we are running out of time. So, before we say goodbye, tell me about what your fans in Australia can expect from your upcoming show at the Soundwave festival?
JS: A fucking band on fire! A band on stage that has just been waiting to come to Australia again. We want to go there and prove a point, that we are the real deal, and we’ll prove that on stage.
We’re going to play the classics, the new stuff, and everything in between. The fans that have taken this ride with us are really going to love this set. We are on fire right now; we’ve been killing it on this tour here in America, so we’re set to go, ready to rip this fucking show up!
You all better be ready for some rock and roll! For some Papa Roach! Unleash the beast!

For more information about Papa Roach and the rest of the great bands that will shock the  Soundwave Festival, click here!

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Considered by his mother as the brightest and prettiest boy, J’s interest in metal started in his early teens, listening to bands like Iron Maiden and Metallica (coupled with an embarrassing period in which Marilyn Manson “totally represents me, man”) eventually moving into the realm of power, black, and death metal.
He holds a PhD in law, trains martial arts, practices law, and enjoys coming up with excuses as to why he has to miss work after going to a concert. He also dabbles as a concert photographer, you can see his sub-par work on his instagram.