Interview: Papa RoachWritten by Timo Claes
How was the tour so far?
The start was great, the crowds have been insane. We’re excited.
You guys have a new album out, Crooked Teeth. What’s the overall message you want to give to us?
Basically the title of the record is Crooked Teeth the fact that we’re getting a lot of farce stuff with social media. There are like so many perfect things and people are making themselves up with the selfies and make themselves look perfect. But they’re not, everybody got flaws. So straight across the board it’s just really generally saying: “Embrace your flaws, don’t think that you need to be as perfect as people trying appear to be.” That’s just the general message of it, kind of what we’re with everybody. We know the fact that everybody has their own flaws and embrace that.
Could you say this album is a cycle through the years of Papa Roach? Because it has all the elements in it from the previous albums.
Right! We took elements from rapping, some of the energy of the earlier guitar riffs. Going into it, we knew that we wanted to break out of course and we’re always trying to expand our boundaries. Musically, lyrically and we have songs like Periscope which is poppier, not a lot of big guitars and that’s something that we prior ourself on. It’s just exploring and we listen to so many different things, we have so many different influences. It’s finding like the right producers to actually bring that out in us and make us feel like it’s safe to do. But we also like firsthand when things are getting to far out, like something is too crazy, we still want to sound like Papa Roach, but we still want to break down some barriers and keep going further out. Songs like Periscope, None Of The Above have proven live that people are really embracing those songs as well as the classics and some of the harder stuff. It’s been a good run so far and having that feedback every night without even reading anything about it. When you play the songs, you see that initial reaction. That’s been huge for us and we’re so excited to see that people embrace those styles. Papa Roach is always about evolution, so we want to continue to evolve and bring out new stuff, but also acknowledge the core fans. There are people that really embrace the rap stuff and for a while Jacoby wasn’t doing that. He was working on becoming more of a singer. We just go through phases. It’s like you just want to dive back into it. And then working with our producers Nick and Colin, they are younger guys and they are so energetic. They were like “What if you rap right here?” So there were conflicts between management “Rapping is not that cool anymore.” And we were like “Dude, some of the number one songs are like rap songs”. We were kind of like going butting heads a little bit through the process with that and we’re just like “Let us turn a record in and see what you feel”.
Are you guys a band that all band members have something to say in the development of the album or is it like two people writing the whole album and then you have your ideas with it or do you all sit together and write the songs?
It depends, there are some songs that were brought in by demo, which Tobin wrote. Everybody writes some stuff in their own time but then when you get in the studio we start exploring different ideas together. And we throw our own ideas in. Jacoby is pretty much the one that has the lyrics. He doesn’t really write any lyrics until he’s heard the music, he really has to be inspired first hand by the riff or drum beat. That will create a mood for him to pick a topic to write on, instead of just coming with lyrics and write a song to that. He needs to really feel it and that is just the way that he has worked in the past and the way he has always worked. Different people, do different shit. I know guys that write lyrics all the time. But that way there is spontaneity with the current situation in Jacoby's brain. When he is writing lyrics as far as how he’s feeling in this song, this guitar riff or this drum beat. It makes him feel a certain way so he’s going to sing about that connection he has with that riff. If it’s a positive one or if it’s a hopeful one or dark and going through a bunch of shit in my head, this song makes me think about that and this riff makes me feel about that. But there is a lot of individual writing and then we all get in with the producer and we form the songs and then the record starts to form. And you see what kind of songs we have written already and we see what’s missing. Maybe we need a faster one or we need a slower one, a poppier one. It just all falls in that way.
Do you have the feeling that writing has changed over the years? The way how you record a record, has it changed since the beginning?
The thing that has changed for us is that we used to get a room and jam. And then somebody plays a riff or I play a beat. There is always somebody sparking something. From the last two records it’s been more writing in the studio, less jamming behind our instruments, more writing on a computer. So that part of it has changed for us. We still like to jam but we’re finding ourselves with the timeframe that we have for writing and recording is more condensed now. When we were jamming, we would spend like six months in the studio. Living in it, playing, whatever and build a record out of that. Now it’s a quicker process. There’s quicker deadlines so it’s less jamming and more like “I have a riff, write a beat to go underneath it”. It’s more what I call “finger drums”, so a lot of program stuff. Another thing that’s changed for me personally is drumming. I used to record first, now I record last. So we program the drums and everybody records all their instruments to it. Then at the end I’ll get songs sent to me and I play with those songs at home to them. And then I come up with my own drumming. Because when we write, I go on the computer and it’s all programmed “finger drumming”, there is not a lot of feel to it. It’s just establishing how the kick drum pattern and the beats sound. So I come in last and that’s been awesome because I can play to a somewhat finished product. There are vocals, guitars, bass and most of the sounds are finished and I play to that and I have the freedom to do my thing on it. Which has been cool, I’ve never ever recorded that way from when I was a kid to now. The process was always that drums go first. I even tell my friends now that they got to try and tell their band to just let you record last. So it’s a different process but it’s been cool. Other than that the writing process has been pretty much the same.
How do you go with the fact you’ve just come home from tour, been surrounded by people and then suddenly you come home, how do you go with that?
It’s funny cause we’re all married so we get home after being out for five or six weeks. Things are running the way they do at home. With our kids and wives. We get home and I need to put the brakes on from this circus and then it’s like we have to fit back in into the daily schedule. After I get home from let’s say this European tour and Monday morning I could be in my car driving my kid to school. We enjoy being on the road, it’s our passion to play live for people and we enjoy being home as well. The cool thing is, doing this affords us when we come home, we don’t have to work. So when we come home we can take time with our family. But it gets to the point where our wives sometimes say “When are you going back on tour?” cause we are home all the time. We enjoy both but the first week being back home is kind of weird. Cause you are used to be taken care of. It’s a whole different scenario.
Let’s end with something you want to tell us, something aimed at starting bands, musicians, music writers, people who want to make it in the music industry. Do you have tips & tricks for those people?
For a musician, obviously when I was a kid I practiced a lot. I practiced every day after school for three hours until my parents told me to shut it down. I really homed in my style and my skills and I just kept playing with so many different people. That really helps you grow as a musician because everybody plays differently. I just try to maintain focus. If I was in a band and I wasn’t really feeling it anymore, I would just move on. And I just kept moving on through bands and through life and getting better and getting hooked up with different musicians, started to go on tour. That builds into here, gigs with Papa Roach. It’s possible, you just have to stay true to yourself. Make sure you do what feels right for you and that will make you a complete player. And then there is the business side to it, which is a whole other monster. Cause this whole music thing is not for everybody. This could apply to photographers, producers, musicians and so on. I know guys at home that say that being in a band is cool but they like to write songs so they make money of writing songs for people. And that’s a whole other thing too. It’s great, you just sit at home, you write songs and sell your songs and you don’t have to go out on tour cause not a lot of people like to tour.