Papa Roach’s Jacoby Shaddix: ‘This Is The Record That Our Fans Have Been Waiting For’
The road to the release of Papa Roach’s new disc ‘The Connection’ (out Oct. 2) has not always been a smooth one, but that’s part of what powers the strength that it delivers. Written during a tumultuous time during lead vocalist Jacoby Shaddix’s life, the disc portrays a dark time for the band played out song by song. Kicking it off is the face-punching lead-off single ‘Still Swingin’ which is merely the prelude to the darkness that lies within.
Sonically, ‘The Connection’ draws from the elements that Papa Roach have mastered with past discs, and melds them into a new approach to their own brand of rock.
We recently caught up with Shaddix, who filled us in on his health status after recent vocal surgery, all facets of the new disc from the writing process to the studio and how he came out ‘Still Swingin’ on the other side at the end of it all.
Now that you can sit back and appreciate the fruits of your labor, how would you reflect on the whole writing and recording process on ‘The Connection’ as compared to past discs?
I would say that this one was just the f—ing hardest, most insane, most fun, exciting, crazier records we’ve ever made. Just the process of it, what we were all going through personally, making the record in Sacramento, we really made the record that we set out to make and it kind of exceeded our expectations. We got to the end and we listened to the record we were like “Oh f—, this record’s dope.”
This is the record that our fans have been waiting for. I think it encompasses all of our styles over the years of our career and we kind of just brought it all back around on this record. It’s really exciting. It’s an exciting time and rock music is at an interesting place right now and I just feel like this is the right record for rock music and P-Roach.
Talk a bit about the impact of having producer James Michael in the studio with you; you’ve said that he really gets you and the vision for the band.
James Michael – first and foremost I love that guy like a brother. We all really connected in the studio. I was fighting for him, I was like, and “Man I want James Michael to produce the record.” The guys were like, “Let’s take meetings with a bunch of people.” And I was like, “No! James Michael is the guy!” I really wanted him, and they took my lead.
We had a meeting with him and everybody just clicked. It’s funny, towards the end of the process it got to the point where I was like I would start a sentence and he would finish it. We were just in tune. It was like having a fifth band member in the room because he’s a songwriter, he’s a singer, he’s a musician, he’s a producer, he understands where we’re coming from. It’s not like other producers don’t, it just felt like we were doing the right thing with the right people at the right time. It was great working with him in the studio, he really helped us.
We had concepts and ideas in our head and had these visions of what we wanted to create sonically and he really helped us see those things through from beginning to end. And also, just in the process of making the record, when we’re a little unsure of ourselves at times, he would always be like, “Guys, you are on the f—ing right path, don’t second guess yourselves right now because you are in it.” Because when you’re in the process of making music and you’ve got ten songs boiling at once, it was really cool to have that outside perspective looking at it from a helicopter’s point of view going okay, cool; it’s all good, because we get wound up.
The first single ‘Still Swingin’ is quintessential Papa Roach through and through. There’s no foreplay, it just starts out with a direct punch to the face – what kind of statement did you want to make with that song?
With this song, it’s like we hit a barn door with a barn door. It’s just plain and simple, and I think that’s really what we needed at this point and time for a lead single is just something that just would grab people’s attention. Especially with the riff off the top, it just bounces, it’s like “Oh sh–, something’s coming at you.”
Lyrically, it’s a little more lighthearted than the rest of the record and I think it’s a great way to start, it’s like the opening title when you go to see a movie, it grabs your attention. It just felt natural for us to use that as a lead single, and in the spirit of P-Roach it’s what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. This is just the tip of the iceberg on this record, it’s a very dark record, so once you get past this song we take you down this deep dark hole and the process of making this record where when you’re in that deep dark hole there’s always that light, shining somewhere in there in the corner, it’s a great way to introduce people to this record. It will be interesting to see what people think about the ride.
Speaking of dark, talk to me about the song ‘Before I Die,’ because that song speaks quite loudly and I think that anyone who’s ever felt those things is going to immediately identify with it. Where did that come from from a personal perspective?
I was going through a separation with my wife during the process of making the record, fast forward to the present and we’re working it out now, but in the process of making this record we were separated. I was at the end of my rope; I was in a lot of pain. This music is where I found my sanctuary, where I could express myself and just take myself out it for a second and not feel the pain and just be creative. During the process of making this song, ‘Before I Die’ I felt like everything was taken from me and I was just left out there raw and broken, it made everything clear to me, what really mattered to me.
It wasn’t the material things that I have in my life, which I’m not a materialistic person when it comes down to it, but you know at the end of the day it’s the people that I love in my life that are the most important to me and sometimes when you treat the people that you love the most the worst, that’s the wrong path. I had to take a long hard look at myself and realize how I was living my life and make those changes. Just being out there on my own and having those realizations, that’s where the song came from.
On this song, in addition to many others on the new disc, you really seemed to lay it all out there lyrically putting you in a very exposed and vulnerable place. Do you feel like you pushed a personal boundary this time around with respect to your lyrics?
Oh yeah, this record, a lot of it was written when I was depressed and a pretty pathetic and sad individual. It came from that place but it was also a snapshot. A lot of this record is a snapshot of me at my most vulnerable, broken, weak, point in my life but there was so much strength in it, in a weird way. When you ain’t got nothing, you’ve really got a whole lot because you start thinking about those basic simple things that you’re so grateful for in your life. So it gave me a whole new perspective on myself, on my life, and how I live it. It’s a trip because I’m on a bit of a different path now than I was seven or eight months ago.
I have to ask you about a recent situation – Wye Oak’s Jenn Wanser chose Papa Roach’s ‘Scars’ as her most hated song and in return, you allegedly sent her flowers. So the first question is did that actually happen and the second is, why did you opt for that response?
Yes, it’s true. I thought it would be a funny thing to do. I use to take that stuff so personally, I’d be like, “I’m not worth anything” and it would belittle me but now, it’s just funny. In reality, that song has meant so much to so many people so to watch it get torn apart as if it was some nursery rhyme bullsh–, I just thought it was kind of funny. So for me, it was just taking the high road.
Ready to play some Wikipedia-True or False? Wikipedia says that the first instrument you played was clarinet in the school orchestra – true or false?
That is true. I played clarinet for like nine years. I am a certified band geek.
Lamb of God’s Randy Blythe is a friend of yours and you said that we could all really learn a lot from the way he’s been handling his current situation, what have you personally taken away from it?
It’s pretty incredible to see people go through these dark experiences in life and learn a lot, and that’s what I got from that. It’s like you get lemons, you make lemonade, and it’s pretty cool to see someone that’s going through something like that just have such a solid perspective on life and a positive outlook. For me, that’s pretty dope.
Any parting messages to your fans?
If you’re a fan of the band, go buy the record — we want to show up on the charts. I think it’s very important for this band right now to make a statement because we’re on an independent label. We’re another one of those rock ‘n’ roll bands trying to keep this genre alive and so if you dig it, go support it or you can go watch f—ing Justin Bieber take the No. 1 spot.