On 11/20/2014, I had the honor of receiving a phone call from Jerry Horton, guitarist of the legendary Papa Roach, to talk about their upcoming record, “F.E.A.R.” (Face Everything And Rise) which will be released world-wide on 01/27/2015 via Eleven Seven Music.
Andrew Wayne (MelodicEnmity) of New-Transcendence: Hi Jerry, first off let me say how it is such an honor to be interviewing you right now, and congratulations on your upcoming album “F.E.A.R.” (Face Everything And Rise) dropping on 01/27/2015. Now, Jacoby has been saying that “F.E.A.R.” is certainly the most positive Papa Roach album to date and that there have been new elements added such as electronic aspects to the music. What does the album mean personally to you and what was the writing process like for both you and the rest of Papa Roach in comparison to your other records?
Jerry Horton of Papa Roach: Oh, thank you! The process was really a lot different from anything we had done before. We didn’t have any material going into the recording of the record. We put a lot of time and pressure on ourselves because In This Moment were coming into the studio a month after we were to start, and we were probably a little overzealous on that. We worked with Kevin Churko for about a month and the rest of the songs we worked on with Kane, his son. But, the flow was very different than anything we had experienced. We couldn’t really jam together. The rooms were situated so that the live room that we would have jammed in was adjacent to the control room. It wasn’t working for us to play at the same time that Kevin was working in the control room. There was one song that came from a jam that was early on.
NT: What song was that?
JH: “Skeletons.” I was in the control room recording guitar for another song while Tobin and Tony were in the live room jamming that out. It was pretty cool hearing it come together on the other side of the wall, but after that, Kevin said that we can’t do that anymore and needed to get more work done. We all lived in a house together and we had a little studio set up there. So, we would just write there during the day, program drum beats, record guitars and bass, put everything together, and then took it to the studio in the late afternoon or evening to play it for everybody. If everybody was feeling it or stoked about it, we would record it for real, and if not, we would just throw it to the side and start working on something else. Once we got into that flow, it worked, but, it took a little bit in order to really wrap our heads around it and accept it.
NT: It is really fascinating that you wrote and recorded the album “on the fly” like that. How long did it take you to write it?
JH: We didn’t do what we normally do where we write everything and then record everything. It was more write a song, record it, write a song, record it. That took about, in total, approximately 3 months.
NT: There are 10 tracks in total on “F.E.A.R.” Are there any songs that you scrapped or B-sides that your fans have to look forward to in addition to those 10 tracks?
JH: There are bonus tracks. There are a few bonus tracks. Jacoby originally wanted all the tracks to be on the record, but the rest of us wanted to do a 10 song record. Plus, everyone loves B-sides.
NT: I imagine then that those tracks will appear as Best Buy and/or iTunes bonus tracks?
JH: Yeah. I don’t know exactly where or when they’ll show up, but they’ll be there.
NT: You all travelled to Las Vegas to work with Kevin Churko (In This Moment/Five Finger Death Punch) in his studio. What is the story behind coming to work with him and how was that experience?
JH: Based on the sounds in this record, he and Kane have a very in-your-face, kind of pounding approach, which is great for heavy music. We actually initially asked him to come to Sacramento, but he said that they could not because they had their whole setup there and could not move it, so we decided to go to Vegas. The studio and the house we stayed at were not near the strip so we were able to really just focus on the music. There were nothing but houses and restaurants out there, so besides venturing out for some good food, everything was mainly recording and writing.
NT: You and Papa Roach have been at this for 20+ years, and I feel that “F.E.A.R.” is a phenomenal record. I absolutely love the track “Gravity” featuring Maria Brink from In This Moment, especially how it is a little bit of a throwback to the “Infest” days. Where did the idea for “Gravity” come from and how did all come together?
JH: We knew In This Moment were coming and we had talked about doing a female duet for a long time actually, but we never really could decide who it should be with. Once we found out that In This Moment were coming in, we immediately just said, “Oh, well there you go. That’s what we got to do.” The music was initially just a chord progression that I came up with. I wasn’t really sure about it at first, but I talked to Tobin about it. He helped direct me into a rhythm. The music actually went through a couple of different changes. The thing that was the most solid through the whole process of it was the chorus. Once all the music was done, Jacoby came in and did the chorus which was amazing from the get-go. The subject matter for “Gravity” was really intimate and he felt like he wanted to do a rap on it. The rest of us weren’t sure at first and we weren’t really feeling it just because it had a certain quality because part of it was a little bit shocking, and the other part of it we thought was too drastic of a juxtaposition. So, Jacoby then changed the vocals, but changed them back. Then, the more we heard it, the more we realized that it worked. Having that rap really draws you into what he’s saying. It is more effective I think than just singing it. It took us a minute to come around to it, but we realized that it was supposed to be that way and we were really happy with how it came out. The background vocals were something that Kevin had put together before Maria Brink came in. “Gravity” was either the second or third song that we started on. Then, Maria wrote the bridge to it when In This Moment got there and recorded it right then. It’s crazy how everything came together, but we’re stoked with how it turned out.
NT: What is your favorite track off of “F.E.A.R.” and why?
JH: Besides “Gravity?”
NT: So “Gravity” is your favorite track?
JH: Yes. Besides that I really like “Love Me Till It Hurts” just because it’s so different. It’s just got this pulse to it that’s really cool. Also, the chord progressions are different too, which I really like.
NT: I really do love the new record, and I am one of those die-hard “Infest” fans myself. How would you describe “F.E.A.R.” to all the older “Infest” and “LoveHateTragedy” fans out there?
JH: Whether you like the style or not, the lyrics come from a genuine place. They really get to the heart of the struggle of what Jacoby is going through at a certain time. I feel like if you really need that nu-metal, there might be a couple of nuggets in there for you. But, I feel like for the people who have grown up with us, maybe they’ve matured a little bit and can come at it with fresh ears. I think that this record has just as much, if not more substance to it than our earlier records.
NT: The music itself also has a very emotional aspect to it and can be so much more than just chord progressions. What do you hope that fans will take away from “F.E.A.R.,” not only lyrically, but musically as well?
JH: That’s true. Tobin writes a lot of stuff, and he is really good at riffs and grooves. My forte is a bit more of the reflective and mellower stuff. But, there are tracks on here that are just pounding, and there are also tracks that are a little mellower and have a lot of vibe to them. I personally feel that this is our best record, but for the “Infest” fans, if they give it a chance, it will grow on them for sure.
NT: From your independent albums to the present, there has certainly been a great evolution in sound and style over the years for Papa Roach. What do you attribute that most to and where do you draw the most influence from?
JH: It’s been our M.O. to change it up. We’re looking for something new to keep it fresh for us and for our fans as well. We look up to bands like The Red Hot Chili Peppers and Faith No More who have evolved over the years and tried new things. My favorite Mr. Bungle record, “California,” when they did what they would consider a Beach Boys kind of pop-record. When bands try new things…that, to me, is when the magic happens. That is something that we are always looking towards; to bring that new influence in and to see where it is going to take our music. And, a few times we’ve missed, but a lot of the time we come out with something we really are happy with.
NT: You have been with Schecter guitars practically since Papa Roach’s inception. For all the other audiophiles and musicians out there like myself, do you mind walking both myself and our readers through your current rig setup?
JH: My current rig is an exercise in practicality, which is not I’m sure what a lot of people want to hear. I’m using the Axe FX. We have done a lot of fly dates over the past couple of years, and I just got tired of having to travel to places like Russia and South America where we would have to either pay thousands of dollars to ship our gear or to rent gear and not know what we’re going to get. So, somebody told me about the Axe FX a couple of years ago, and it is really amazing what that little box can do. I used to have a rack that was 20 spaces tall and probably weighed 400 pounds, and now I have a 6 space rack that weighs 40 pounds. I can take it everywhere I go, and the tone of it, realistically, I’d say is about 93% of what my monster rig does. I’m still tweaking, still trying to find the perfect balance between everything, but I’m pretty happy with the compromise between size and sound.
NT: Do you use anything else in conjunction with the Axe FX?
JH: A small power amp for my cabinets, but we don’t mic them. A wireless unit, and power. It’s really small and compact. The pedal board is really cool because I can have just one expression pedal for volume, wah, whammy, and all that. I can assign it to just one thing and it’s pretty simple. We do have some electronic tracks that we play live, and for that stuff we may use ProTools next year, in which case, hopefully, I’ll be able to have ProTools do all of my switching, so I can run around the stage like an idiot and not have to worry about hitting the wrong button.
NT: Slightly off-topic, but I’m sure by now everyone around the world has heard the controversy that Gene Simmons started by claiming rock and roll is dead and/or dying and if KISS was a brand new band today that they would have no opportunities like they did when they started out. What is your opinion on what Gene Simmons stated and what advice would you give to bands that are struggling to come up in the world today?
JH: I don’t agree with what he’s saying. I think that the internet provides a lot of opportunity for people. I think that KISS wouldn’t be around because they don’t have the mentality that kids do in regards to navigating the internet. I think that if you have great music, great lyrics, you’re committed and not afraid to put it all on the line and get out there and play shows, that bands can still do it. It is tougher nowadays because people aren’t buying records, but I think that part of the whole experience of rock-n-roll is the show. It’s that tribal experience of everyone getting together for a common thing and a common experience, which is not something that you can download. Yes, you can watch it on YouTube, but it is nowhere near the same thing. So, if a band can get all of those things in line and make a great show, they can survive. There are fairly new bands that are doing it and are killing it live. We just did a tour with In Flames in Europe, and the two opening bands were Wovenwar and While She Sleeps. Those bands just ripped it up. I’m sure that they’re not at a level where they want to be yet, but I think that if they weather the storm that they’ll come out on the other side and be alright.
NT: It’s about time to wrap this all up. You did Shiprocked earlier this year, you have your co-headlining tour with Seether first thing next year, and of course, you have the release of your new album, “F.E.A.R.” on January 27th. Is there anything else you’re looking forward to in 2015 and beyond?
JH: I’m looking forward to going to new territories. We haven’t been to Indonesia, Thailand, or anywhere really in south-east Asia. I want to go to more Eastern Europe, possibly even parts of the Middle East, and China. I’m not saying that we’re definitely doing all of that, but that’s kind of the focus for this new record cycle; to try and get to new places and go back to places that we haven’t been to in a long time. We made a promise to South America to come back a couple of years ago, and we’re going back to Australia finally after 12 years.
NT: Do you see something like Shiprocked again in your future?
JH: I would say no Shiprocked. Possibly again in the future, but not coming up.
NT: Before you go, I just wanted to thank you so much for taking the time to do this. Is there anything else that you would like to say about “F.E.A.R.” or just in general to your fans and our readers?
JH: To any of the fans that are still around after all those years: thanks for sticking with us. And, check out the new record!
Make sure you pre-order your copy of Papa Roach’s new album, “F.E.A.R.” where ever music is sold!