Interview with Papa Roach: “I used to beat myself in the head with the microphone until I bled.” (Musicalypse Archive)


PAPA ROACH‘s special brand of rock music may not be for everyone, but if you’ve heard his music on the radio, you can’t deny that it’s pretty catchy. The band has been rocking around since 1993 and their shows are the embodiment of professionalism and high quality entertainment. Jacoby ShaddixPAPA’s energizer frontman – spent some time with us at the beginning of the Taste of Chaos Tour to chat about all things Jacoby and expressed his distaste for the shallow culture of Hollywood.

How do you like playing with DISTURBED? Do you think you share a lot in common with them?

We did some tours with them before. We did Ozzfest back in the day with those guys and we’ve always talked about getting together on a tour, it just hasn’t happened. So finally the Taste of Chaos Tour came around and they called us and we were like, “Yes let’s do it!” I think it’s a cool bill, a cool line up as well: HALESTORM, BUCKCHERRY, PAPA ROACH, and DISTURBED – we all are hard rock, DISTURBED’s a little more metal than us, but we all are kind of different from each other, so it makes it a cool show for the fans to come check out.

Tell me more about your latest album – what’s the message?

Pretty much our message is, “PAPA ROACH is a kick-ass live band and here’s some new songs, we hope you like ’em!”

What was the biggest challenge in making this record?

Well with the new songs – just really trying to come up with something that’s fresh and original and different, but also still true to the core of what PAPA ROACH is as a rock band. The new songs are personal to me, ‘cause I write a lot about what’s going on in my life and put it in the music. But also with the sound, it’s fun to push it in new directions. Songs like “Kick in the Teeth” or “Burn”… they’ve got a bit of a modern kind of flare to it with some of the sequences, keyboards, and loops and stuff inside the song that make it fun for us to keep making music. I kind of equate music with sex: if you do it the same way with the same person, same repetition, it gets boring.

What gets to you more: the response of your fans or the critical acclaim?

The fans, when they are excited about the music. I don’t write music for critics. I write music for myself first and for the fans and that’s what it’s all about. It’s nice to get critical acclaim, that’s all fine and dandy, but at the end of the day that’s not what matters. What matters is if you like the music and you feel that it’s a representation of yourself and if your fans dig it.

Can you tell me more about the conflict you had with Interscope?

Pretty much we fulfilled our contract with them and towards the end of our relationship with them we just wanted out. We didn’t see eye to eye on music or on anything, so we left. We were done, we didn’t have to do another record for them, we were like, “Cool, thank you guys, peace, we’re moving on.” As we were in the plans of releasing our live record with five new songs, they were like, “No, we are just going to release a Greatest Hits record while you guys are on tour.” We didn’t feel that it was the right time for our band to release a greatest hits record; it just doesn’t feel right to me. But they did it and it is what it is, but… fuck off, I’m done. That was my last experience with them, so I am glad to be where I am at right now – at an independent rock label where we have full control. We’ve always had full control of our creativity and the way we market it. It was just… we would get on the phone with this new record company and we were like, “All right, we want this guy to produce the record and we want this guy to mix the record, we want to work with this guy to do the music videos, these people will do the CD layout, and these people will do the website, and this is the artistic vision,” all in one phone call. When on a major label it’s like, “Ok you gotta talk to this guy and they gotta wait to get a call from this person,” so it made everything slower. Everything got done, it just got done slower. And for us – it’s not how we wanna work. I’m glad we’ve gone too, ‘cause Interscope and Universal America – NINE INCH NAILS left and then it was Marilyn Manson, then it was QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE, then it was us, then it was WEEZER, then it was A.F.I. – you know all of these bands, but they don’t do rock music anymore, so it’s a good thing that we are not working with them anymore, because rock music isn’t really a priority to them and I’m in a fucking rock band.

You seem to be more concerned with social problems, so music for you is different than just sex, drugs, and rock ’n’ roll. Why are you doing music in the first place?

People are always looking for meaning in their lives: like what is this whole thing we call life, what’s my purpose? I’ve had the same question about myself growing up. And when I found music, I didn’t have that question anymore. That was it: it just feels like making music is my calling. I’m driven by that and so it’s an opportunity to be myself, be a free thinker, travel the world – it’s a beautiful thing. I fucking love it; I don’t know what I would do without it.

You mentioned that one of the motives to start a band is to get out of the “9 to 5” society. What’s so scary about it?

I went from the “9 to 5” lifestyle to the 24/7 lifestyle, you know, that’s music and rock ’n’ roll. I was working the day job and I just didn’t see myself doing that for the rest of my life, ‘cause when you get into the work force… sometimes I’m sad ‘cause I miss my family, being away from home, sometimes it gets hard. But then I think of so many people who would just love to be doing what I’m doing. I try not to take it for granted.

What would you say are the best and worst memories about going from a high school band to being rock stars?

The best thing is being able to see the world, meet new people every day, and experience new things – that is amazing. And then the worst thing, like I said, is being away from your family: I’ve got two kids and wife and I’m away from them a lot, so that’s really hard. But this is the life I chose, so you gotta take it as it comes at ya. After this tour we get 2 months off – I can’t wait. I haven’t had 2 months off in years, so I’m ready for it.

Your music has helped a lot of people to go through some dark moments, so what music helped you to pull through when life was hard?

There’s one record in particular by SOCIAL DISTORTION called “White Light, White Heat, White Trash.” It came to me at a point of my life where I was just in a dark place and I heard this music and the lyrics were introspective, but then also about the world around him and it was about his frustrations and his anger, but also about his love for himself or the world, or things in his life. So it was a record [which had] love and hate just scattered all over it. And it spoke to me. It was that record that I had for a while and I didn’t really listen to it and then one day some shit happened in my life and that record just meant everything to me. I still put it on and I listen to the lyrics. I think it’s one of the best records lyrically.

How do you prepare yourself before you hit the stage?

Well we usually listen to dubstep music, electronic music, and heavy metal, and get pumped up from that. Some of the guys have a couple of drinks. I’m warming up my vocals. Like 45 minutes before the show I start to warm up, do that for like 20 minutes, and then stretch out. When we get on stage, we go off, so I don’t want to break my back or something. It’s almost a little athletic in a way, I jump rope a little, it sounds funny, but it gets my cardio and my lungs going, so that when I’m up there singing – I’m strong.

You seem to get quite wild on stage – what was the craziest thing you have done?

I used to beat myself in the head with the microphone until I bled and I did that for about a year and a half. I started to have migraines all the time and what it was is there was too much fluid in my head and it was pressing on my brain and that’s why I was getting migraines. So I had to stop doing that. But when I am on stage, I don’t feel any pain, it’s weird. I can beat the shit out of myself and I won’t feel any pain and then when I come off stage I’m like [moans]. But that came at a point in time of my life when I was in the full self-destructive mode. It wasn’t really the world that I hated, it was just that I hated myself and I took it out on myself on stage. So I’m not in that place in my head and in my life anymore.

You tour with guys all the time… are there any stupid pranks that you play on each other?

Oh yeah, we fuck with each other all the time. That’s part of being on the road. It’s like someone would be in their bunk and you put your ass in their bunk and fart on their head. One dude once passed out in the bus, so we put a swastika on his forehead and he didn’t realize it and was walking into a hotel and people were looking at him and he [didn’t understand why]. And then he gets to his hotel room and he’s like, “Oh you motherfuckers!”

Then what’s your favorite activity while on the road?

We have what’s called “metal nights” on the tour bus and our merch guy will DJ a heavy metal party in the front lounge and play everything from early heavy metal, you know, early SCORPIONS, QUEEN, a lot of GAMMA RAY, HELLOWEEN, IRON MAIDEN. And it’s like a heavy metal party on the tour bus. And then we also have “easy-listening” nights which is ’80s cool, nice hits.

You recorded “Metamorphosis” and “The Paramour Sessions” in a place that was rumored to be haunted. Did you choose this intentionally to get a creepier atmosphere?

We wanted to go somewhere that just had a spirit about it, somewhere that was inspiring. And the Paramour [mansion], we checked it out online and we were like, “That is the place!” It just seemed killer. It’s on the top of the highest hill in Los Angeles and it looks out over everything. I hate to say it, but it was magical. It just gave us music. We went there, plugged in, and it just poured out of us. And that was a great experience for us, I think – living in that house and doing that, it really evolved our sound and gave us an opportunity to explore our music freely. Some stuff we did there was totally weird and nobody heard it. And some stuff that we thought was cool made it to the record. At that time too we were listening to a lot of classic rock. ‘Cause I didn’t really listen to classic rock growing up, it’s something that I fell in love with about 4 or 5 years ago. My father-in-law gave me all his old records, so we started listening to all that stuff, got rid of our computers and our iPods and our CDs and just listened to this and just let it inspire us. And that’s why our sound had evolved at that time. After those two records I [decided] that I over-listened to classic records right now and let’s go trip out on some new shit. So now we are listening to a whole different slew of music, it’s a lot different now.

Would you say that European rock scene is different from American?

Fuck yeah, it’s better. The European rock scene is way better, it’s more diverse. We can play on the same stage with bands like MOTÖRHEAD and CARCASS and NEUROSIS and all these other bands that in America we can never share the stage with. It’s a very clique-y scene there; over in Europe people are more open-minded and we enjoy that part of it. As well as the audiences are just fun. The people like to sing along, they dance, drink, and smoke and camp out at the big festivals. For me, that’s what I live for when I come over here in the summer time, those big festivals are phenomenal and they don’t really do that in America. You have Lollapalooza, it’s cool, it’s 2 days, but there’s no camping. I think that that really adds to the spirit and the connection of the people, ‘cause you’re living together, and you’re rocking out together, kids are losing their virginity, take acid for the first time, smoke pot for their first time, fall in love. That whole energy just explodes at the rock show.

Do you have any interesting stories or concepts behind your tattoos?

Well, I got this pirate ship here ‘cause being in a rock ’n’ roll band is kind of like being a pirate. I call myself a Black Sea’s Pirate, ‘cause we’re sailing the roads in that tour bus, going from port to port, city to city, show up and fucking pillage and leave. And my wife has an anchor tattooed on her. In essence, she really is my anchor to the real world, to the other side of my life. Because I’ve really come to a point where I have two lives: two completely different separate lives – this rock life, and when I go home, I have family life. I still look the same, but I have kids and all. It’s weird.

Regarding the song “Hollywood Whore,” even though you come from California, you seem to be against this typical blonde silicone look?

Yeah. I look at it in the Hollywood scene; bitches like Paris Hilton represent shallow culture. Culture that’s materialistic and just about money and fame and I don’t get it. I don’t understand it. To me it’s actually repulsive. I feel bad for the girls that are fat and they look at these girls that are super skinny and it gives them like a mental complex. People idolize it and it’s just repulsive to me. I want something with heart and soul to it, that’s what I look for.

Your fans comment quite often that your looks are getting closer to Nikki Sixx. Has that been a conscious decision?

I’m actually great friends with Nikki now and he’s always like, “Dude, you’re like a young me!” And I say, “Yeah dude, you’re fucking cool!” But as far as the evolution of the way that I look, it started when I was working a 9 to 5 job somewhere when we released “Last Resort.” I had to have that clean cut [look], no tattoos, ‘cause I was in the workforce. And then I got a tattoo and my band exploded and I could be who I really want to be. So for me tattoos are something that I’ve really enjoyed. I have what’s called a “long-sleeved shirt” now, so I’m tattooed all the way down on my back, on my sides… and it’s just something that I really like. If people say that I look like a young Nikki Sixx that’s fine by me. He’s a good-looking guy.

I saw that you appeared in MÖTLEY CRÜE’s video, “Saints of Los Angeles.” How did that happen?

We did Crüe-Fest in America and part of the promotion for it was to get all the singers from all the bands to come and do the gang vocal on the chorus and then we got to go out and sing every night with them.

Would you consider yourself to be the “saint of Los Angeles”?

For that song most definitely yes, we were a part of the gang. They initiated us into the fucking MÖTLEY CRÜE gang. I grew up listening to MÖTLEY CRÜE; that was one of my favorite bands. To be able to share the stage with them, get to know them. Nikki is a good friend of mine and I trip out on that sometimes like, “Wow, Nikki Sixx is my friend.” But then once you’re playing music for 10 years and you start to meet other band members and you realize that aside from the rock star shit, we’re all just people as well, so it really doesn’t trip me out that I’m friends with Nikki Sixx now [laughs].

To what do you attribute the longevity of your band?

All of our personal drives towards music, all of us love music, we can’t go a day without thinking about music or making music or being creative or playing a rock show. That’s what’s in our blood. We all have that drive inside ourselves and we also respect each other and we love each other.

Where do you see yourself in 30 years?

Still doing this.

Interview by Tanja Caciur
Musicalypse, 2010
OV: 3272+



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