I'll be the first to openly admit that I enjoy well-executed Nü-Metal Metal as much--if not more--than the average red-blooded American male. In fact, for as long as I can remember, I've had what can only be described as a genuine and sincere appreciation for acts such as Drowning Pool, Limp Bizkit and to a lesser extent, the woefully-overexposed Trapt (“Headstrong”, anyone?). With the sub-genre as a whole being plagued throughout by clichés, stereotypes and an unfortunate focus on dreadfully shortsighted arrangements, few groups of such ilk survived to fruition (or, for that matter, released significant amounts of memorable material). Needless to say, when we were initially approached regarding F.E.A.R., the latest highly-anticipated offering from improbably long-running Vacaville, California-born stalwarts Papa Roach, we were more than happy to oblige...
Todd: What were the primary inspiration behind the title F.E.A.R.? Had you always intended to send a message?
Tobin: “I think that's just where we're at, especially for (vocalist) Jacoby (Shaddix). That's where he was at lyrically and with his own personal life. It was really something that he had always said when we were going into the record. Lyrically, the theme was 'Out of the darkness and into the light'. It was all about creating a sense of hope out of all the hopelessness. ...You can't always be depressed. You've got to figure out a way to take yourself out of that. ...It's like how do get up and dust yourself off and make yourself stronger? ...I think a lot of things have a lot to do with it because we're older and we're grown men with families and responsibilities. I think also has a lot to do with Jacoby's sobriety. It probably has a lot to do with that, but it's also about learning how to deal with life head on and becoming a better version of yourself. When you're young and you're like 'Fuck the world', but you can't have that attitude your entire life. ...You want to figure out what your purpose is.”
Todd: How much of the material featured on F.E.A.R. was written prior to the group entering the studio? How prepared was everyone? I've heard different rumors regarding how the group changed their process on F.E.A.R...
Tobin: “Actually, that was probably the most different thing about recording this record. We came into the writing process with nothing really pre-written as a band. The band didn't get together and work out songs and have anything done before we entered the studio. ...We went directly into the studio with a Producer that we had only met a couple of weeks before. We spoke on the phone a little bit here and there in preparation, but it was pretty much like 'Hey, let's just go in and not pressure ourselves and worry about having all these ideas pre-written. Let's just see what happens' We showed up with the one chorus idea and turned that into a song. ...Once we finished that one song and we listened to it back, we were like 'Okay, we're getting somewhere. Let's just do that twelve more times.' When we were finished with the first idea musically, then Jacoby would work on it lyrically. And then, while he was working on that first song, we would be on to the next song musically, so it was just a snowball effect after that. Once we realized that, we knew what we were doing. We've made a lot of records and we had a confidence and a focus that wasn't there on previous records, so that's definitely helped it.”
Todd: How difficult is it for you to focus the creativity on an 'on demand' basis? I would imagine it as stressful...
Tobin: “It's not hard at all. For me, that's the time when we have to shut yourself off of the outside world, lock yourself in, and just be like 'It's time to get creative.' For me, that's the fun part of being in a band. The songwriting process, the arrangement and adding all the different layers and dimensions of sound and sonic elements. For me it's fun. The creative challenge is the best part for me. Sometimes being on tour is just one amazing because you're playing for your fans and you're handing those songs over to the crowd. and feeding off the energy. But at the same time, you're doing the same thing every night. When you're actually creating something and then you get to hear the outcome at the end. That, to me, is the best part. That's my favorite part.”
Todd: Throughout the course of your career, how has the songwriting dynamic changed within the group?
Does everyone still collaborate in a similar manner or has time and technologies changed how you all create together?
Tobin: “It's changed a little bit. Back in the day, we used to work more together as a band because we would always be in the rehearsal spot jamming it out and figuring out how to write songs. We didn't really know how to do it in a technical way, which is great because if you look at a song like “Last Resort”, which is one of our most loved and successful songs, we didn't know what we were doing. People just gravitated toward that song and related to it. I always think it's funny how we really started with the hook on that one because it starts with the vocal, comes right in with the riff and just gets right to it right away. We've never written a song like that again. ...People always say 'Why don't you write another song like that?' I don't know why, really. ...We don't like to repeat ourselves, but we probably should. With all the technology now, a lot of us write ideas and then bring them in later with demos. I'll make a whole demo and I'll have everything pre-written before and then I'll bring it in and show it to the guys and we get a yay or nay on the song as a whole or on certain parts and then build off that. ...So, it's a lot of different ways. And then there's also that element of spontaneous jamming that we like to do where I'll get in a room and I'll just be playing stuff and someone will be like 'Hey, I really like that riff' or 'That chorus or verse idea that you just played could be a great song' and then we just build off that.”
Todd: At this point in your career, do you still find yourself drawn to the 'Rock Star' aspect of being a musician?
Tobin: “I think that's different for everyone. A lot of people are caught up and into the whole 'Rock Star' thing with just walking around and being cool and having people scream and yell your name and being adored. But for me, it's about being in the studio and thinking 'What is this song about? What is the emotion in the music? What is it portraying? What is the message?' and then imagining how it's going to go over live with the crowd. Is it anthemic? Will it get the crowd to sing along and jump up and down? That's the most exciting part for me.”
Todd: Prior to the beginning of the recording process for F.E.A.R, did the group have any pre-concieved notions regarding what direction you'd be going in? I'd imagine there are some elements that will constantly be in place.
Tobin: “We just do what we do and let whatever happens naturally happen. We really try not to think about it too much. We'll have talks and be like 'Hey, what do you think we should do on this next record?', but you never know what state of mind we're going to be in at that moment. We just try to capture where we're at at that moment and that's pretty much it. We don't do anything crazy or special to prepare for getting in the studio. ...I think we have this natural thing where our sound always progresses a little bit. It's really funny because I always hear people saying 'I wish Papa Roach should go back to their old sound and do something just like Infest.' And it's always funny to me because I actually take that into consideration. ...We all have different influences and styles of music that we're into. ...Lately, it's been like 'What's the essence of Papa Roach? What are the best elements of Papa Roach and how can we capture that youthful energy?' And I think we did a pretty good job of that on this record. ...That combined with the more mature melodies and the sonic fatness, it's just in your face.”
Todd: What prompted the group to record F.E.A.R in Las Vegas? I would imagine that could be very distracting.
Tobin: “The Producer that we wanted to work with had a studio in Las Vegas of all places. It was really the last place that we wanted to go to make a record, but that's where his studio was and we decided 'You know what? We're at that point where it's not like we're trying to be on the Sunset Strip every night, hanging out. We're here to make a record.' So, it wasn't actually that hard. ...It's easy now. When we were young, we were definitely distracted. We did all the cliché things that you could think of a Rock and Roll band doing in Vegas. ...We're at that point now where it's like 'Let's just get down to business.' We wanted to go home on the weekends anyways, so it's like 'Let's just get as much stuff done as we can so we can go home on the weekends.' We would work in the studio from ten to midnight every day and then go home on the weekends. We all have kids. I have a baby, so we've all got busy lives. It's important for us to go home and spend time because we're on the road so much.”
Todd: What did Producers Kevin and Kan Churko have on the overall end results of F.E.A.R? Was it significant?
Tobin: “Everything, really. It was just about us working together. We collaborated a lot on this record. They have a certain sound that's very punchy and in your face. It's a modern Metal approach but with a lot of obvious Pop sensibilities because they're really into having a very simple song structure. They're the type of Producers who can do it all. They're very hands on. I've worked with Producers who don't touch a thing or don't even play any instruments, but...they can write, they can perform, they can sing, they're good with vocals and they're good with guitar players and drummers. They are the type of Producers that if you get with Kevin or Kane, it's a one on one thing the whole time and they're overseeing everything. They're very much in tune with what each person in the band, what their strengths and what their weaknesses are and bringing out the best in that. And they have this modern touch. The sound is just so incredibly massive. ...This is by far our best sounding record.”
Todd: Did they offer the group an opportunity to change their trademark sound or was the goal to simply expand upon what everyone has already accomplished? I can't imagine the group sounding too drastically different now.
Tobin: “Not really. They were familiar with the band and they know what works for us. I think that's what gave us the spark; the fact that we hadn't worked together before and we didn't know each other that well. It was kind of like getting to know each other and them presenting new ideas to us, and us presenting new ideas to them. To be honest, it was really strange at first being in the studio with them because they have a certain way that they work that we have never done before. We chose them, so we had to get into working in this process where it's about being in the studio and plugging straight in to modeling amps and not being in a live room together where we're all playing at the same time, jamming it out. It was very much like 'Now we're going to focus on this and we're going to plug into this and we can fuck with it and change it all we want later.' We weren't really used to doing that because we hadn't made too many records where we were entirely focused on the more modern approach to recording. ...We were just literally sitting in a little room and focusing on each part until the song came together as a whole, whereas usually we would all be in a big room together, ya know? We'd be hashing it out for hours and hours trying to finish the song, from the beginning to the end. That can be really fun and great and all, but sometimes, man, that's the way your ears get tired really quick and then you start fighting and stuff.”
Todd: Collectively, did you approach the songwriting process for F.E.A.R differently than your previous efforts?
Tobin: “With this record, we were more focused on the songs, plus we didn't over-think every single idea. We really wanted to be like 'That works, that sounds good. Let's not over-think it and move on to the next one.' ...It wasn't like we were sitting there trying to over-think everything. We've made a lot of records, so we know how to simplify things. Less is more with Papa Roach. It's really about the message and the emotion in the music and not 'How can we play a bunch of notes and do something crazy.' ...It's like 'Let's just get to the point', ya know?”
Todd: As far as songwriting 'quirks' are concerned, does everyone bring something specific to the new material?
Tobin: “I think we all have weird things that we do. I like to write songs that have space. We've all grown up loving Hip-Hop music, but we've also grown up loving Funk, Soul and Punk Rock. And the thing about that music is its simple. It's all about the beat. The bass line is very simple and groovy and with Punk Rock music, it's just three chords and the truth. It's never been about being flashy or the super fast avant garde craziness. ...When I give an idea to him, he always wants it to be simple. Anytime I give him some crazy riff and some beat that's all over the place that I think is cool and all progressive metal and shit, he's like 'I can't really feel it. I can't get any ideas over it. Can you just make it simple, man, so I can just sing?' And anytime I do that...it all comes together and makes sense. I don't have to sit there and do all this crazy noodling on the guitar, even though I love to do that. I know what works for Papa Roach. ...You have to realize your strengths and your weaknesses and focus on it. That's how you stay true to Papa Roach fans. ...That's just what we all do naturally.”
Todd: At this point, does anyone have commercial expectations for F.E.A.R ? Are there specific goal(s) in mind?
Tobin: “No. The music business is in such a fucked up state right now and it's hard to put that kind of pressure on yourself. It's like 'Man, we've got to write songs that can sell off this record because no one even buys records anyway.' Or, it's like 'we've got to write songs that can get on the radio', but we do that naturally. We have a natural Pop sensibilities in our music without even trying, really. It's just something that we've always done. It's not like we try to do it or there's a record label telling us to do it. It's just the kind of band that we are.”
Todd: Once the tour with Seether, Islander and Kyng begins, how well do you feel you'll be received by each group's core following? While there are definitely similarities, each group is also drastically different sonically...
Tobin: “We've toured together many times. And even if we're not, that's cool too. That's pretty much what we do best; winning over a crowd that might have some pre-concieved notion or expectation of the band. Hopefully we'll win them over in a positive way, change their mind and make them a fan in some way. ...And there are a lot of times where we do actually, because we get thrown in some pretty crazy touring situations. We've played with everyone from Guns 'n' Roses, Mötley Crüe and Iron Maiden and we just got off a tour with In Flames. They're known as a Swedish Melodic Death Metal band and when you think of Papa Roach, you definitely don't think of Death Metal. It's a challenge to be in that position. Just like when we go out on an all Hip-Hop tour where it's (acclaimed Hip-Hop artists) Ludacris, Eminem and Xzibit. It's really all about being ourselves on stage and trying to win them over with our passion and our message. Hopefully we can connect to them with the music and the message. We've got a pretty good way of reeling them in now and making them love us. We're all pretty fucking handsome and charming when we're all together, so I don't know, really ...We got it all going on.”
Todd: What type of set list will the group be working with? Will you be utilizing a lot of material from F.E.A.R?
Tobin: “Now that we have a new record, it's going to be tough because I think every band always wants to overdo it with a whole bunch of new songs, which is fun and exciting for the band. But I think this time around because we're celebrating the fifteen year anniversary of Infest, we want to play a lot of old school tracks. We're going to play a lot of old songs off Infest with a good mixture of songs off of every album in between and of course, a lot of new songs. ...And then we'll have some surprises in the middle. We always try to switch it up, especially since we're out with Seether. We've been talking with those guys about how we could collaborate somehow in the set, either in our show or in their show. ...We've done it in the past. Jacoby would go up and sing the (Seether) song “Broken” with (Seether frontman) Shawn (Morgan). ...That was very cool, so we'll see.”
The Connection (2012)
Time For Annihilation (2010)
...To Be Loved: The Best Of Papa Roach (2010)
Naked And Fearless Acoustic EP (EP) (2009)
Lifeline (EP) (2009)
Hollywood Whore (EP) (2008)
The Paramour Sessions (2006)
Live At Rock Am Ring (DVD (2005)
Live & Murderous In Chicago (DVD) (2005)
Getting Away With Murder (2004)
She Loves Me Not (EP) (2002)
Let 'Em Know (EP) (1999)
5 Tracks Deep (EP) (1998)
Old Friends From Young Years (1997)
Caca Bonita (EP) (1995)
Potatoes For Christmas (EP) (1994)
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