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Back on the Boil: Papa Roach

Bringing the rap back to their radio rock

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It's been 26 years since Bay Area band Papa Roach formed, but it wasn't until 2000 and the sophomore Infest album that they really blew up internationally. The accompanying "Last Resort" single was everywhere at the dawn of the new millennium. You just couldn't escape it, as nu-metal threatened to take over the world, and rock/metal bands with hip-hop influences were all the rage.

Of course, the problem was always going to be the follow-up and, while 2002's Lovehatetragedy was far from a disaster, it didn't have the same cultural—or indeed commercial—impact. And that kinda set a pattern. Right up until 2015's F.E.A.R. album, Papa Roach dialed up the radio-rock vibe, increasingly cut out the hip-hop, and saw sales dwindle. Then, in 2017, they put out the Crooked Teeth album and started to right the ship.

"I think for me, the F.E.A.R. record is the pinnacle as far as discovering what I can do as a rock vocalist," says singer Jacoby Shaddix. "I really feel like, when I got done recording that record and we went and toured on it, I had a feeling inside, like we need a little bit of a reinvention of ourselves. When I was writing, throwing down ideas and whatnot, I was just doing the same shit over and over. I was just, man it's time to shake shit up and do some new stuff. When we went in to do Crooked Teeth, we were like, let's work with some fresh blood. Who are the young producers—the new cats? So we went and did some things with those guys, and really put ourselves back in our own lane again."

He's talking about Nicholas "RAS" Furlong and Colin Brittain, whose list of credits are impressive and far reaching. On the new album, Who Do You Trust?, which landed in January, both of those men were brought back, and Jason Evigan was added to the mix. Together, they've helped the band recapture some magic.

"We've been putting back the hip-hop influence in the music a bit more heavily," Shaddix says. "And in a sense making it a bit more kooky, different and not trying to make radio singles. Just make catchy music, good music, but something that took you on a different journey down the path of P. Roach. We just discovered this whole new realm with our band, writing and recording Crooked Teeth, and Who Do You Trust? is just an extension. Farther down the rabbit hole we go on this record. This record is all about extremes. The track 'Suffer Well,' for example, is extremely fucking punk rock. 'Maniac' is super grungy and lo-fi. So everything was about extreme versions of what we were trying to pull off stylistically."

The title of the new record is interesting; in these turbulent times, everything sounds like it might be political and it's easy to interpret a sentiment like "who do you trust?" as a commentary on the country's current state of division. That's not necessarily what it's about though.

"Who do you trust, y'know? It's a question," says Shaddix. "That's what I like about it. That's an interesting perspective for us this time around—an album title that's a question. We wanted to engage the fans. But for me, the more research I do, the more I learn, the more I'm like, what can I trust? What person? What institution? What idea? What thought? I guess as I've gotten older and a little bit wiser, the list is quite short. I think that quest for me is what this record is about."

While it's fair to say that Papa Roach are far from "cool" in 2019, that fact has led to a level of freedom. They can just worry about the music, doing what they want. And it's working—the new album has been met with generally positive reviews so far.

"We've gotten a lot of good reviews on the record, which is nice," Shaddix says. "I can't complain about that. We've gotten a good reaction from fans too. It seems pretty positive. There's some fans that are like, 'You guys are fucking not metal anymore.' I'm like, 'Bro we never were metal so don't trip.' So you're occasionally going to get the haters but you can't please everyone, especially in the climate of the internet chatter. People can just say some vicious ass shit. But primarily it's very positive, so I'm stoked about that."

This Saturday, Papa Roach plays with Shinedown, Asking Alexandria and Fever 333 as part of the KFMADay at Kino Veterans Memorial Stadium. Shaddix says that it's going to be a "banger" of a mini-fest.

"I'm excited about it," he says. "We're out right now with Shinedown and Asking Alexandria, and the shows have been going great. A lot of sell-outs which has been awesome. The audience comes from the moment the doors open. A massive line. People are coming out early to check out Asking Alexandria, and in Tucson it's Fever 333 opening. They're sick as fuck. Tell the people to get out early to see that band."

Shaddix says that he always has a great time in this state, even though the dry wrecks his sinuses.

"Every time I roll out there I get a bloody nose and everybody thinks I'm doing cocaine and I'm like, 'I swear to God I'm not'," he says. "It's just so damn dry here. I'll have my nasal spray, yes I will. I have a crew of friends from Tucson that are all really excited that we're coming back. I'm excited to be doing a show there and it'll be a great way to wrap up because I'm close to the West Coast so it won't be a long flight home either. It's a win-win."

As for the set, Shaddix says that the band has to manage without fire and explosions, but that's OK because he IS the fire and explosions.

"We just set it off," he says. "It'll be a good balance of old and new music. On this tour, we're doing five new songs off the new record each night. We're promoting this new album. We love playing the new stuff live—it gives the set a fresh feel. But we don't deny the fans the classics."

After that, Papa Roach will be taking a break before heading over to the UK for a headline tour. It would appear that Papa Roach is very much back on the boil.

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