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The Metamorphosis of Papa Roach: An Interview with Jerry Horton



At the begining of the decade, “nu metal” ruled the Earth. Grunge had finally come to an end and music fans were hungry for something with an edgier feel. It was the pivotal time in the music scene where “hard rock” and “metal” were starting to become more mainstream. Limp Bizkit, Incubus, Korn, Linkin Park and dozens of other bands looking to make their mark on the landscape pumped from stereos coast-to-coast. It was during this time when, seemingly out of nowhere, Papa Roach exploded onto the scene with their debut album ‘Infest’. The album introduced the band’s powerful vocals, hard hitting riffs and an “in your face” attitude, it didn’t take long for fans to take notice of the four-piece from Vacaville, California and make them a household name. ‘Infest’ would go on to spawn two hit singles, while going platinum three times over. 

Almost a decade and three hit laden albums later, Papa Roach has outlasted most of their nu-metal peers and continue to rock crowds worldwide. Ever-fearless, the boys in Papa Roach stand ready to unleash their 5th studio album, ‘Metamorphosis’, on March 24th, 2009. Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently sat down with guitarist Jerry Horton about his past, his thoughts on band’s longevity and the arrival of the highly anticipated new album.

Icon Vs. Icon: How did music first come into your life?

Jerry Horton: Oh! Starting out with a heavy hitter there! I have always been around music. When I was a baby my parents would put me in front of a speaker and I would hang out or go to sleep in front of it. So, my whole life I grew up with it and it became an important part of my life. Music was a part of my parents life, so I think that helped steer me that way.

What drove you to make music your career?

When I originally joined the band, it was just for fun. As time went on, we started taking it more seriously. I loved doing it and I felt like I would be stupid not to chase it a little bit. I wanted to see if I could make a career out of something that I love doing as opposed to getting up everyday and going to a job I really didn’t like.


Well it looks like it is working out for you so far!

Yeah! [laughs]

Who and what were some of the influences that have helped shape you, the musician, that we know today?

Kinda the same as a lot of guitar players, I started playing because of Metallica. When I was 14 or 15, I was kinda of a “metal head.” As I got in the band (Papa Roach), the other guys introduced me to a lot of other stuff. They were really into the Red Hot Chili Peppers and more punk rock stuff. That kind of broadened my whole spectrum. I think that really started me on the path of just listening, exploring and always being open to something new.

Papa Roach has been around for more than a decade and has seen great success. To what do you attribute the longevity of the band?

I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that if you keep writing good songs, that people are going to listen to them but aside from the obvious, we have really tried not to pigeon hole ourselves as musicians. We have continued to change it up and to take risks. We never put limitations on ourselves as far as our style of music. I think that has a lot to do with how broad our fan base is. There is something for everyone on any one of our records.

How do you think you have evolved as an artist since starting out?

Apart from all the normal stuff, I feel like I know what I like to hear and play. I suppose I play with a little more feel than technicality. We have been together as a band for 16 years and I would say we are all still learning and continuing to grow.

You are releasing “Metamorphosis” on March 25, 2009. What can you tell us about the new album?

I think that the new album is our rock record of the decade. It covers the spectrum with a lot of different flavor. There are a lot of different styles on the record. I think that is what separates this record from the previous ones in that the songs on this one fit together really well and it makes for a really cohesive record.

On this album you again worked with producer Jay Baumgardner, who you had worked with on Infest. What was it like working with him years later?

Oddly enough, the process was very similar. Even though we have grown and he has done a lot of things since then. We had to feel it out but it was very similar. It was more of a co-producing thing where we pulled a lot from ourselves and tried to step it up and do a lot by ourselves and then consult him for ideas. It was a good experience for us because eventually we want to produce our own stuff. This kinda lead us to being able to do that.


What was the biggest challenge in making the record?

I think that time was the biggest challenge. We had to finish the album on the road because we went out on Cruefest. We didn’t really record much in the way of music on the road but there were a few songs that needed some tightening up on the lyrics and vocals. So that was basically it, we had a major block of it done and the ideas were done and recorded but we ran into a situation where we needed to go out and tour. We decided to finish it on the road and it worked! It worked for Jacoby (Shaddix) especially because he got a chance to work with James Michael of SIXX A.M. James did the recording on the road and helped him with a few lyrics here and there and kinda sped the process along. I think we came out with something really great.

The band recently tapped Christopher Sims to direct the video for the first single, “Lifeline,” when can fans expect to see the video?

We just got the first cut the other day and I think it will probably be done within a week and a half. Turn around times are a lot quicker these days because there is not so much involved with it. I think the concept is pretty simple but it gets the point across. It’s going to be cool and I really like it.

You are currently out on tour with Avenged Sevenfold, Buckcherry and Saving Abel and the reviews of your shows have been very positive. What has this tour been like for you?

It’s been great! We have been on tour for about nine months already. We have never toured with Avenged Sevenfold, so that has been a great opportunity for us. Their fans have been very receptive and there have been great shows every night.

What do you hope that people come away with after listening to your music or seeing your live performance?

A lot of it for us is the energy exchange between us and the audience. We want them to be involved and the more into they get, the more into it . We get so we really go back and forth with them. That is really what we want people to walk away with is a different kind of experience than just going to see a band play.


Ever had a Spinal Tap moment on stage (where something totally unexpected happened)?

Yeah! It happens more than people think. I think Jacoby might have said the wrong name of the city once or twice. [laughs]

Well as much as you guys tour, I can see how that could happen.

Yeah, a lot of times people don’t understand how that could happen but it is really easy. When we are on tour, we usually don’t know what day it so or where we are. [laughs] It’s kinda funny but we have to write it down everyday. That movie is pretty dead on in how it portrays the life of a band.

Is their something that jumps out at you in your mind as the defining moment of your career, so far?

Wow, there have been a lot of experiences where I have just had to pinch myself. I think one of the big ones was playing Rock in Rio. That was in 2001. We flew in from the hotel to the venue in a helicopter and we were able to overlook the whole place which was about 270,000 people. We had been doing big shows for about a year but that is one where my knees went week for a minute just because I couldn’t see the end of the crowd from the stage. It was the craziest thing! 

Has the digital revolution of music (downloading, filesharing, etc.) been positive or negative for someone like yourself?

It depends on your outlook. It is probably better for the underground, the emerging artists as a promotional tool. People will just have to adjust the way they do things. A lot of what we do now revolves around touring and getting people to come see us play. I think that is where we really shine. We have fun doing both recording and touring, but touring is where we really get to connect with people. We just have to make the best record we can so people want to listen to the whole record, not just a few songs. We want to make the album very cohesive and listen from front to back. We try to project as much live energy into it, so that people want to come see us play. 

What does a lifelong musician like yourself think of the Guitar Hero and Rock Band video game craze we are currently having?

I think it is cool that it is getting people into music and listening to what the music is as opposed to just having it on in the background. It makes people think of the mechanics of it and I think that has played a hand in getting some people to play guitar. Not only is it a great way to introduce your music to people and but also a great way to get people to want to play music. I think it is a really good thing. 

paparoach42It looks like 2009 is shaping up to be quite a big year for you. You will be headed out for a European tour next month, after that, what can we expect from Papa Roach?

After Europe, we are doing a two week run in Canada. Then in June we go back to Europe for the festival season. Then we are talking about doing a U.S. headlining tour this fall… late summer and into the fall. We want to try and re-cultivate our audiences outside of the United States and go to new places that we haven’t been. We have played Europe and have been to Australia and Japan but there are so many more places that we want to go. We’re getting demand from people in other countries for us to go, so I think now is definitely the time to do it. It’s time to take it worldwide again!

Is there anything else you want to add or let your fans know?

Yeah! Check out the record! We have been working on it for a long time and have been putting a lot of energy into it! We have a new drummer, his name is Tony Palermo. He was in Unwritten Law and before that he was in a band called Ten Foot Pole. He has injected new life into the band. I think that Metamorphosis shows how we have grown as a band and it takes us a step further. I think that there is something for everyone on this record. There is hard stuff, there is mellow stuff and I think that the lyrics get to people on a different level than our records in the past. It is a kick ass rock record, so check it out!

Thanks for your time, Jerry! We wish you guys all the best out there on the road and are looking forward to the new record!

Thanks, man! Peace!