Taproot’s Mike DeWolf Talks Upcoming Album, Tour Plans and Ironic Mustaches
Michigan rock band Taproot have been grinding it out for a decade and a half. The band broke on to the scene in the late 90’s with a string of independent releases, which eventually landed them a deal with Atlantic Records. Their debut album ‘Gift’ dropped in 2000 and the band has since released several successful singles such as ‘Poem’ and ‘Calling.’
On April 10, Taproot returns with their sixth studio album, ‘The Episodes,’ which is the first concept album the band has attempted. Once again, producer Tim Patalan returned to helm the board for the release in his third consecutive outing with the band.
We recently spoke with Taproot guitarist Mike DeWolf to get the lowdown on everything from the band’s new album to their appreciation of mustaches.
Taproot is back with a new album in just two years. That seems like a pretty quick turn-around, but you guys have actually been working on ‘The Episodes’ for a while now.
Yeah absolutely. We kind of put this album together in the middle of one of our other albums — [2008’s] ‘Our Long Road Home’ — it came together really quick but we decided to go another direction. When it came time for album number six we said, “It’s time. Let’s finish this off.” So we just hopped right into the studio with our producer Tim Patalan and knocked it out.
Was the album complete and ready to go or did you have a lot of finishing touches and things to add before it was ready for release?
It was all pretty much finished. We totally did go back and rework a lot of the things to try and step it up to make it that much bigger and make it make that much more sense. We definitely worked with it quite a bit but basically it was all done — it was fun for sure.
‘The Episodes’ is a concept album, what’s it about?
It’s a life journey kind of concept about growing up and making choices and the effects of the choices you make in your life — one way or the other. It’s got three main characters and it’s something that hopefully each person can take something different away from — something that can be special to each person individually.
Was recording a conceptual piece more difficult that doing a standard album?
In a way. As far as when we wrote it — it came together a thousand times faster than any other album. We did everything completely different. We had this idea — “What if we wrote a story, broke it into ten pieces, and the wrote the music around that?” Instead of the opposite because the music always comes pretty easy to us but the lyrics usually take a little while longer. We were kind of getting the hard part out of the way right off the bat and having fun with it all the rest of the way. It came together, literally, in 15 days — written and demoed.
Your first single from the record is ‘No Surrender.’ What is that song about and how does it relate to the concept of the record as a whole?
That’s episode number two. [The main character] wakes up in episode number one and he’s in a really bad place in his life. ‘No Surrender’ is him deciding to pick himself up and get the hell out of there … and run [laughs]. Run away basically and try to find something better for his life.
Was it difficult to pick a single due to ‘The Episodes’ being a concept album as opposed to a collection of separate songs?
Yeah, it was difficult — picking a single is always difficult. You never know what’s going to work, otherwise everyone would be rich rock stars [laughs].
Are there any plans to bring ‘The Episodes’ to a different format such as film?
That’s [been] the vision all along the way. We’re trying to work on that as best as we can at the moment, so we’ll see where that goes. We just filmed a video for ‘No Surrender.’ We tried to pull in a little bit from some of the other stories — aspects of it. So he’ll be flashing-back [and forward] a little bit into some of the other songs. We plan on recording at least two other videos. It would be wonderful to finish off the whole package but we’ll see.
You guys recorded with producer Tim Patalan for three consecutive albums. Is it easier recording with Tim now that he’s worked on a few of your albums?
I’ll say it’s fun — it’s never easy. It’s as much as him knowing our process as us knowing his. He’s pretty much a madman and likes to jump around every which way. We could walk in and start on song number one and then just close it down and go to number six and to seven and just jump all over day to day. It’s kind of crazy workng that way but we always seem to get it done and we’re always happy.
Taproot worked with Billy Corgan on ‘Blue Sky Research.’ As a guitar player, that must have been pretty bad-ass. Did you guys take away a lot from that experience?
Absolutely. It’s such a cool thing to have in your memory and be able to say you’ve done — so it was an amazing experience. One of the main things I took from it, overall, was there are no rules — just have fun and make it exciting.
Taproot has been together for 15 years, at this point is the band like an old married couple?
Yeah. We bicker and argue…but we’re all in it together. We all want the same things at the end of the day — we just want to keep playing our music and keep it going.
Not many bands make it to that milestone, do you have any special plans to commemorate the anniversary?
Just touring. No special celebration or anything. We’re just happy to be able to be doing this and really appreciative. We got our tour starting to line up right now and we’ll go from there. We’re planning on playing the new album front to back at The Machine Shop [in Flint, Michigan] on April 10th. We’re starting on the 10th and then were going down to Florida and coming back, we’ll have a little short break and then the full, full tour after that — so [tour] dates should be showing up pretty soon.
I noticed that Phil had a pretty boss mustache in the promo shots for your last album. He’s clean shaven in the new promo pics but Nick is now rocking the stache – are you guys on an ‘Ironic Mustache’ rotation? Will we see you with a Sam Elliot on the next album sleeve?
[Laughs] I don’t think so. I grew one for a minute there but it was hard to notice because I cant grow any facial hair…but Nick is rocking quite the ‘stache currently.
Taproot’s eighth album, ‘The Episodes,’ is set for release on April 10.