An Interview with Papa Roach’s Jerry Horton: “We have goals of trying new things and expanding”

Papa Roach 2014 Band Promo Photo

Last month, before their show in Norwich, I caught up with Jerry Horton of Papa Roach. We chatted about Papa Roach, past and present, releasing F.E.A.R., and Jerry’s fingers and legs.

Papa Roach has been around since 1993, and still going strong in the scene, how does it feel?

We’re definitely fortunate. There’s a lot of bands that came up around the time that we did that are no longer here. Its really nice. We’re still continuing to develop some places, like France, we just did a really nice sold out show. We’re going to start expanding to other cities. We’re delighted, but we’re not content. We have goals of trying new things and expanding. We’re happy to be here.

How does the first 10 years of being a band compare to being a band now?

It’s a completely different landscape. On one hand you want people to buy the music because we grew up in an era where music was extremely valuable. Obviously we’d share stuff with friends and make mix tapes. But if you really liked the band you would support them; it’s difficult because its kind of a paradox where people want quality music. If they don’t pay for it, its hard for the artist to spend that time to make the quality music. Not to say that we go about it half-assed but you know, time is definitely helpful in that sort of production value. On the other hand, the way that we’re viewing it now is that, obviously if you love the record, buy it and especially now that we’re not on a major label, you definitely would be supporting us and not this huge corporation. But also we are looking to get people out of their houses and at the show. Because that’s an experience that you can watch a show on YouTube but it’s not the same. That’s our ultimate thing is that we’d like people to come out and have the tribal experience. Hopefully not just sit there with your phone recording the whole show! It’s cool, cause you know it gets the word out, plus more people know that it’s fun.

Leaving a major record label, have you found that quite difficult to release music?

We’re not doing everything ourselves. We are on an independent label. We gave up that huge machine that gets the promotion out on a massive scale. But we’ve gained a lot more freedom as far as creativity. It’s not difficult to something we want to do, it’s not difficult to make it happen.

Here we are in 2015. It’s here. F.E.A.R. However, it’s not what people think it stands for. Could you just go through the title of the album?

We saw a tattoo on a friend of ours that was obviously the letters but it was also an acronym and she told us. Face everything and rise. The concept really struck us. We really can’t believe it took us that long to discover the acronym. It seemed to just really fit the record. A lot of our music in the past has been Jacoby’s internal struggle and relationship problems, alcoholism and all that stuff, and he talks about that. There are parts of our music that are dark but the general theme that we still to stick to is that there’s always hope. If you can be strong enough just to get through that struggle, you’ll come out there other side and be okay. So taking that fear, taking the negative and turning it into a positive, just really seemed to encompass the whole subject matter of the album.

Broken as Me was the first track the band created, how did that steer you, in what you thought was, the right direction?

We actually intended to only make a heavy album. What we normally do is we’ll do all the recording pieces. We would write everything and then record drums, then guitar, then bass, then vocals on all of the songs. This time we did it song by song, so everybody recorded their piece on the song and then five days later we got to hear it fully mixed. So that gave us immediate reassurance that everything is gonna be okay because we didn’t have anything written before we went into the studio which was completely disconcerting for Jacoby and me, Tobin was saying it’ll be fine the whole time. When we heard this song, we knew the heaviness was a great direction to go in. It wasn’t until the fourth song in, Gravity, that came kinda out of no where. It was something that I was working on. The way that we view writing music its sort of the more the merrier, come one, come all. Its everybody’s into it. We always make a point to explore everything; make it Papa Roach. There’s been a few songs in past records where Tobin has written things on his own and not really intending them to be Papa Roach songs, we hear them and say, we need to work on that! That was kind of the case for this one. Everybody felt like they needed to explore and that set the tone to say that, no this wasn’t going to be a completely heavy album. In true Papa Roach fashion we just kind of mixed it up and figure out how to fit everything together later.

There are a lot of tracks that Jacoby has said stands out, was there a particular track that stands out to you?

It would have to be Gravity. I hate saying it over and over again but because it’s so different. The fact that Maria from  In This Moment is singing on it. Everybody that was involved just fell in love with it and put 100% in to it. I think that it shows with that track.

This is the first album that Papa Roach has had people feature on an album. Is that a particular reason why?

We had been talking about actually having a female vocalist on a song for I don’t know, six or seven years, eight, nine years. We could never agreed. Somebody would say this person and I would say, no that I don’t want that. It never ended up happening and then we were on tour with Shinedown and In This Moment. We found out that we’d be working in the studio at the same time at the same place. We were like cool, we’re gonna do it. Maria was all in. We were there, two or three weeks before they got there. When we went into the studio, we said, we’re just going to write and record the album, then figure out what song she should be on. Then Gravity came and Kevin, the producer, he actually wrote the harmonies and recorded his vocals in falsetto. So we got a chuckle every time we heard it until Maria actually sang on it. It was a no-brainer for everybody; she was excited about it and I think she did a great job.

So looking back on all of your past work, and all the things you’ve been through as a band. How did you find that trust? Creativity is about finding that trust people to help support your side of the music and you supporting them?

In the beginning, it was more of a, ‘Hey I have this idea we need to work on it whether its good or not’. Sometimes we would do that and end up with a song, that was maybe okay. We weren’t 100% about it. Then I think right around Love. Hate. Tragedy. where we just said, let’s try and be in the mind of what’s best for the album. We took that route. There are egos in the band, any band you talk to. We finally just decided to get over ourselves and really not be precious with everything. And of course let each other down easy; just being realists in the sense that if its not great then we set it aside and come back to it later. Focusing on what’s great at the moment.

You’ve got a new album, and you’ve got this tour. How is Papa Roach going to move forward?

We’re going to be touring for eighteen months. That’s what on our brains right now. We’ve explored electronics, we’ll probably continue some of that. We also may take it back to bare bones, back to, not the song style of Infest but we’ve been getting into, there’s a band from Sacramento called Middle Class Rut and they don’t have a lot of harmonies. They’ve got epic sounding songs but there’s not a lot of layers to it. May end up doing something like that. I’m just one person, I could never predict what’s gonna happen. We’ve been getting into bands like that a little more lately.

The rock scene is making its way into the main charts, how exciting is that for Papa Roach?

Since we’ve been around for so long, we’ve seen genres come and go. The popularity of rock music is very cyclical, just because people are fickle, on to the next. I feel like rock music is something that can be a lot more authentic and honest. It’s great to see bands, people playing instruments and having that connection with people. We’ve been doing festivals and watching bands play. When you see a band that performs and plays their instruments, it’s very impressive. Obviously near and dear to our hearts. It’s crazy that a lot of bands that are coming up on a larger scale now have talked about the fact that we influenced them in some way; it’s cool to know that we’ve had an effect on people’s lives and entertaining people, and having an effect on the music landscape as well.

Is there anything that gives you that strange feeling that makes you feel proud to be a musician. Any moment that stands out that makes you feel you’ve done something special?

For me as a guitar player having people wanting to learn our stuff is really cool. Makes it gratifying for me. Also we get a lot of people that talk about the fact that Jacoby’s lyrics and the subjects helps them through difficult times in their lives. Even some people say that they were attempting suicide and listening to our music decided not to. That’s very humbling to hear. It makes this whole thing so much more worth it. Not just us being on stage and feeding our egos. It’s a much deeper connection, I feel grateful to be a part of that.

Last question, would you rather have fingers as long as your legs, or legs as long as your fingers?

Umm… It would have to be fingers as long as my legs. It would be difficult to play guitar. Maybe have it on a stand? Still the same amount of joints? Just really long sections. I couldn’t walk around on legs that long.

Papa Roach’s album F.E.A.R (Face Everything and Rise) is out now on Eleven Seven Music.


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