“We’re in a good place now we’ve had the longevity, we’ve had the ups and downs and now we’re going back up. So it’s a good feeling,” Papa Roach frontman Jacoby Shaddix says.
Ups and downs go hand in hand with longevity in music. Look at any musician and even those you imagine never experienced the downs will surprise you. But in the what have you done for me lately world of music all that matters is where you are right now. And Shaddix is right.
Papa Roach just released a successful album, Ego Trip, they are in the midst of a headlining tour run with openers Falling In Reverse, Hollywood Undead and Bad Wolves, and, most importantly, they are pushing themselves artistically and thriving by doing things like occasional acoustic sets.
I spoke with Shaddix as well as guitarist Jerry Horton and bassist Tobin Esperance about their favorite books, the new album, going back to their live roots with intimate gigs and much more.
Steve Baltin: What are your favorite books?
Jacoby Shaddix: I was a really big fan of Chuck Palahniuk for years. I loved pretty much all of his books I ever read. Chuck’s, one of the standouts for me. There’s another author, James Rollins, he writes similar to Dan Brown. Every chapter as a cliffhanger, it’s always some kind of action happening. There’s these multiple stories that are happening at the same time, and they all just feather in together towards the end. And so it’s one of those kind of get out of your head type of reads that just I find myself loving. But I haven’t really been in a big reading phase lately, I’ve just kind of fell out of it for a while.
Baltin: I just watched the HBO show about the Lakers, Winning Time. If they made a show about or a movie about you guys that you hated, how would you respond?
Jerry Horton: Yeah, that would suck. It’s tough.
Shaddix: The reality is if somebody made a show about us and we f**king hated it, it was probably pretty close to reality then, right?
Tobin Esperance: That’s what I thought when I watched the first couple of episodes that I watched of the Pam and Tommy Lee have a thing. And it’s like you watch it, and you’re like, “Geez.” It paints him in so many different ways. Yeah, he’s this crazy chaotic rock star icon but then it kind of makes him look like an ass. So it goes both ways.
Shaddix: I love that dude.
Baltin: You just played Shakey’s Pizza. It doesn’t get better than that.
Esperance: Seriously, then we made it.
Shaddix: To the top Steve.
Esperance: The question really is, what’s been the highlight of our career? And now I know the answer, Shakey’s pizza.
Baltin: That was brilliant. It was right after the Grammy’s. I was at Steven Tyler’s Grammy party. I was at Elton John’s Oscar party. I got more responses to Papa Roach Shakey’s than I did to those two parties combined. And I’m sure it probably felt like going back to the very beginning because you’re playing in a place where everybody’s eye level with you and everybody’s close together.
Shaddix: Yeah, man. It’s full circle right there for us. And it’s like the anti-ego trip essentially. And we’ve been around the world and played all the places, played all the concert halls, all the stadiums, all the arenas, all the festivals. And there’s something special about having that full circle moment and taking it back to where it started. And if I could paint a picture for you, this is P Roach back in 1997, ’98, ’96. There’s a place called the Fatty Mocha in Merced, California. And we would go play this place. It was this punk dude, he’d put on shows at this coffee shop and the band is set up on the floor, mosh pit people getting smashed in our faces. Jerry’s f**king waving his guitar in people’s faces, so they don’t step on his pedal board. Tobin’s got his back to the crowd, leaning into the crowd, and that’s where we came from. We’re just like those moments right there. And for us doing that dirty nasty lowbrow stuff is gonna be essential throughout this cycle. Just with the theme of the album. Ego Trip. We’re flipping it on its head.
Baltin: For you guys, do you feel like getting back to the down and dirty will become essential for you in future touring because it does take you back to your roots?
Jerry Horton: Yeah, the intimacy is something that we look forward to, you’re right. And because of the pandemic, everybody’s just been so disconnected for two years. So not only having shows again, but then having that intimacy just amplifies kind of the togetherness. We did a show in Mexico and by no means was it an intimate show ’cause it was 5,000 people at a festival. But we did an acoustic set, and we were kind of naked up there. Even though it was big, it felt intimate. And I definitely can see us doing some of that intimate stuff later on in the year, probably just to do a different thing and get that intimacy.
Shaddix: Our stage manager flew back with us to Chesapeake, he was gonna dump all the gear from the tour. He’s all, “Dude, we’re f**king doing it, man. It’s the P Roach’s ripping dip.” We were talking on a conference call the other day. I was like, “Let’s continue this rip and dip situation.” Where it’s like, “Yo,we’re gonna play your garage.” Within a tour where we go do these big shows and these big moments, how do we have these moments that are just stripped raw and in your face? And it keeps it fun. It keeps it fresh, and it keeps people talking. And it’s like, “How do you cut through the whole mess of the world right now with creativity? You find different ways to do it. And full circle is rip and dip, down and dirty is a good way to do it.
Esperance: It’s the ultimate after party. I remember hearing Prince used to do that all the time. He’d go find a club after he’d sell out an arena, and then he’d go play for two or three hours and just jam. And it just takes it back to where it all started ’cause it started off as an underground thing. It was like street level kids putting on shows in small sweaty dingy clubs and basements and parties and stuff. And it became mainstream thanks to MTV and the Lollapaloozas and the Coachellas. But when you’re in front of people, and they’re sweating on you, and you’re sweating on them and there’s stage diving and pits and all that stuff, we still live for that.
Baltin: Can you keep up with that? Are you at the point where you could take the stage at 2:00 in the morning?
Esperance: Yeah. The adrenaline rush that you get when you’re on stage and you’re playing and connecting with people, it’ll keep you up all night easily.
Shaddix: Yeah, dude. When I’m on tour, I’m a night owl. I’m up till the wee hours. When I’m home, that’s not the case. But there’s a tour life and a home life. We’re gonna find ourselves out there in the rip and dip situation throughout this cycle at one point or another, so I look forward to it for sure.
Baltin: What’s a favorite hangout that would be the most fun to play for each of you to play?
Esperance: That’s a good one. We could literally do it anywhere now, because we realize how we don’t really need to rely on a whole lot. We were talking about doing one in all the chains. It’s like Tim Horton’s in the Northwest or Waffle Houses in the South and doing it all.
Shaddix: I’d love to go back to Fatty Mocha.
Esperance: Yeah, coffee shops. Every little town, every downtown has a place where the artists like to go and hang and entertain with their music or their poetry or local band stuff like that. Whatever that place is, we’re down to join in. I like to keep those places alive for sure.
Baltin: For you guys, do you feel like doing these types of shows, the acoustic, whatever it is, keeps things more fresh for you guys?
Esperance: Absolutely. It’s still a creative challenge for sure. And we have such a deep catalog of songs and that would sound great acoustic that we could pull out. I just know it’s one of those things that not only are the fans gonna love, but it’s gonna make us better as performers and musicians as well.
Shaddix: Yeah, after we did that acoustic thing down in Mexico, we were all fired up from it.We realized that this is something that we want to do. So we’re actively looking later this year, fourth quarter doing some dates, acoustic we’re also dropping a book. So we’re gonna do an evening with storyteller, with the book, with the acoustic performance and this whole kind of experience. And we look forward to doing that, ’cause it’s like you said, how do you keep it fresh? And how do you keep it fun and exciting? And Tobin, like he said, it’s like, how do we challenge ourselves? And so that dynamic is part of what makes us who we are.
Baltin: Are there songs that you’ve developed new appreciations for during the time off from touring?
Esperance: For sure.. Some songs don’t translate easily from a loud distorted guitar riff to an acoustic thing. But then it makes you go, “Oh, well maybe we can alter the chords and just the approach and change it a little bit.” And in doing that it always kind of brings a fresh new vibe to it. But as long as the vibe’s there, the storytelling’s there, the lyrics are always the same, but it doesn’t get too crazy, it’s always fun for me when we’re able to do that. And then there’s some songs that we would imagine would never work, but they just have such a party vibe. Believe it or not, a lot of our songs start by an acoustic guitar and a melody. And anytime you can break down your song to its essence, the simple purest form, just being like an acoustic guitar and the vocals, they always say three chords and the truth, you know you got a good song.
Shaddix: During COVID we went and did a performance of our first album in its entirety for the fans to tune into. And revisiting that record was just a rad moment for all of us celebrating 20 years of that record. And there’s a track on that record in particular called “Revenge.” It’s so out there and experimental in a way, but so just awesomely unique. I was explaining this to my son Jagger yesterday, ’cause he was asking me about this song. And I was like, “In the bridge of the song we wanted to make the music feel like it was a comic book.” And then we created this Godzilla moment within the song. And there’s no Godzilla sounds in it, but lyrically it’s taking you to this whole other world. And going back and looking at that experimental element of who we were early on and the fact that where we’re at now with our new music, that we’re still utilizing that freak s**t within our music, it’s like, “We still got it going on, man. It still feels right.” When we can get weird like that and it means something. So yeah, Revenge for me is one of those tracks.
Horton: Yeah. For me, going back to what Tobin said, doing “Kill The Noise” acoustic, it’s definitely not something you would think works acoustically. And it’s not only stripped down of its loud electric guitars, but also stripped of its riff, basically. It still holds up and I love playing that version of it.
Baltin: When you look at this new album, are there songs that you are excited to see how they change?
Horton: Oh yeah. There’s a song on the new record called “Leave A Light On,” which I just wake up sometimes and visualize how that song is gonna go down when we play it live. And that’s really exciting, when you haven’t performed something yet, but you’re visualizing it in your head. And it’s really inspiring because that makes you want to keep creating music. And if your own song is inspiring you to want to make more music, that’s a great thing.
Shaddix: I’d say for me, “Ego Trip” would be an interesting song in the future to re-imagine. It’s so f**king wild and wacky and kind of odd. It’s got this feel about it that I know it’s gonna be a classic when we perform it live.