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Members include DavidBuckner, drums;CobyDick(born Jacoby Shaddix), vocals; TobinEsperance (joined band in 1996), bass; JerryHorton, guitar; Will James (member from 1993 to 1996), bass. Addresses: Record company--DreamWorks Records: 9268 W. 3rd St., Beverly Hills, CA 90210 Phone: (310) 234-7700, Fax: (310) 234-7750.
"A cockroach can survive anything: earthquake, nuclear holocaust. They come in small numbers, and then they infest. We want to infest the world." That's vocalist Coby Dick explaining the raison d'etre of Papa Roach, the Northern California band that has indeed infested the music world with their blend of hip-hop, hardcore, and heavy metal.
Hailing from Vacaville, a mostly middle-class community known for being the "onion capital of the world," the four band members--Dick, Jerry Horton, Dave Buckner, and Will James--met in high school and formed the group in 1993. Dick and Buckner were on the football team, but knew that playing sports was not their genuine calling. "Neither of us wanted to be jocks; we wanted to be rockers," Dick told Rolling Stone.
The band took its early inspiration from records by the Beastie Boys, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Faith No More, and Metallica. As with most acts starting out, their ambition outstripped their abilities. At a high-school talent show, an early version of the group tried to play the Jimi Hendrix classic "Fire" using a trombone as the lead instrument instead of a guitar.
They christened themselves Papa Roach, initially as a tribute to Dick's step-grandfather, whose name was Roatch, and was known as Papa. Eventually, the appellation began to take on greater meaning for the group. "We looked at ourselves like cockroaches--we're survivors," Dick told Rolling Stone. Still, he confided to Pause & Play, "We admit that Papa Roach is one of the stupidest band names ever."
For three years, the quartet made the rounds of the local pizza joints and beer parties, using fake IDs when necessary to play bars. They began to develop a devoted local following and some regional allegiances as well, and gradually began stepping up to higher-profile gigs at the Cactus Club in San Jose and the Cattle Club in Sacramento. They opened shows for the Deftones, and even headlined bills that included groups such as Incubus, Snot, Far, Human Waste Project, Downset, and Fu Manchu.
In 1996, however, changes were afoot within the band. Bassist James left the fold when his commitment to attending a church camp prevented him from playing and practicing with the band for the entire summer. The group turned to Tobin Esperence, then 16, who since the beginning had hung out with the band and occasionally served as a roadie, albeit a somewhat ineffective one. "He'd go smoke all the weed and drink all the beer while we loaded up our equipment after the show," Dick recalled.
Despite their somewhat homogenous surroundings growing up, the band members reflect a variety of personalities and personal styles. Dick, for example, seems the typically gregarious rocker, who has spent his time as a party animal and relishes the chance to indulge in occasional rock star behavior, trashing a hotel room or two along the way. Guitarist Horton, on the other hand, is a devotee of the straight-edge philosophy--he doesn't drink, take drugs, smoke cigarettes, or even eat red meat. "I don't even hear him cuss," Esperence marveled to Rolling Stone. "We used to try to get him to drink and smoke, but after a while we realized how cool it was. We gotta let Jerry be Jerry."
That would seem to be a good idea, considering that once the final lineup was in place, things began to click for Papa Roach. After changing management, the group recorded its first album, the 13-track Old Friends From Young Years, on a budget of just $700. (An early EP, Caca Bonita, had been recorded in 1995.) Radio stations in Northern California picked up on Old Friends, even though there was no money to promote or publicize the album. Tracks such as "Orange Drive Palms" and "Liquid Diet" sprang up on the playlists of stations in Chico, Davis, San Jose, Sacramento, and the Bay Area, and substantial crowds greeted the band's record release parties in Berkeley, Sacramento, and Vacaville.
The success of their debut album led to a pair of EPs, 5 Tracks Deep in 1998 and Let 'Em Know a year later. 5 Tracks featured the song "Revenge in Japanese," which gained exposure on the MTV series Road Rules and was retooled as "Revenge" on the band's major-label debut, Infest.
Their 2000 album Infest came about after relentless touring brought them to the attention of Warner Brothers Records, who signed them to a deal that financed their demo recordings. The results were rejected, however, but immediately thereafter, the DreamWorks label came calling--"literally the next day," Dick recalled.
Infest represents a quantum leap in the band's approach, their musicianship, and mostly, in Dick's lyrics. "When we started out, I dabbled in crackspeak," the singer told Rolling Stone. "Just real scatterbrained lyrics. My brother was diagnosed with ADD, and I think I have it, too. I'm pretty hyperactive and mood-swingy. I had a bed-wetting problem until I was sixteen. It was not cool; I had some issues. My mother tried to take me to counseling, but I wasn't going to talk to someone who didn't know me. By the time I was nineteen, I found a different way: I decided to write my life down on paper. And on this record, I'm venting my emotions. It's blunt."
While some might think Dick's revelations contain, as they say, too much information, it's clear that when having a conversation or shouting out his lyrics, Dick holds nothing back. That much is clear on Infest, which contains soul-searching songs about difficult subjects--families falling apart, binge drinking, teen suicide, and the line between good and evil. "We spit the heavy-metal hellfire," he told Rolling Stone, to which Horton added, "We have a metal sound but a punk rock vibe. Punk rock's our heart and soul--singing about your life and doing it all for the music."
That much is clear from "Last Resort," the band's first major hit. It's a song about contemplating suicide, which Dick wrote after a friend he was living with slipped into a harrowing downward spiral and eventually tried to kill himself. The chorus, "Losing my sight, losing my mind/Wish somebody would tell me I'm fine," has particularly resonated with fans, many of whom have contacted the band with messages detailing their own despair and their efforts to struggle with their depression.
"We've gotten so many e-mails from people who tell us 'Last Resort' saved their lives," Dick told Rolling Stone. "It makes some people feel less alone. But it's hard, too. A lot of people tell us they're thinking about suicide and don't know what to do. All we can say is, 'Keep your head up; find a friend, family member or counselor you can talk to. And if that doesn't work, write a song or just write it all down." Horton added, "A lot of people think we have the answers. The only one we have is, 'Don't do it.'"
Some critics and others who haven't read the album's lyric sheet see the band's hard-edge sound as another instance of blind rage, and sometimes Dick seems to confirm that notion. "I read a review of us saying 'Just another band who is mad; it's so easy to be mad,'" he told the Los Angeles Times. "Well, yeah, it's so easy to push your problems to the back of your mind until it all explodes on you. We're not mad to be cool; we're mad because we're (expletive) mad! This is my way of venting it."
In fact, he is quite adept at articulating feelings of helplessness at being caught in the middle of divorcing parents ("Broken Home"), being in the throes of alcohol abuse ("Binge"), and witnessing an abusive relationship ("Revenge"). That such songs have resonated so much with teen audiences shouldn't seem a surprise, but it has been for Dick, who says he only wrote those words for his own well-being.
"At first I didn't even think of the listener," he told the Los Angeles Times. "I've written a lot of songs that dealt with my past. I realized, 'Hey, Coby, this is your outlet.' If there's anything in the world good for me, it's this and bringing all those negative things to light. Afterward, I found people were connecting with my songs."
Despite the depth and variety of subjects covered on Infest and the album's huge success--it has sold more than two million copies--Dick doesn't consider himself written out just yet. "I still have things in my past [to work through]," he told the Los Angeles Times. "One album ain't gonna cure me."
by Daniel Durchholz
Papa Roach's Career
Formed by high school friends Shaddix, Horton, James, and Buckner in Vacaville, CA, in 1993. After replacing James with Esperence, the group began releasing a series of their own EPs and the album Old Friends From Young Years. They signed with DreamWorks Records, and their major-label debut, Infest, became a multi-platinum hit with tracks such as "Last Resort" and "Broken Home."
- Selected discography
- Caca Bonita (EP), Onion Hardcore Recordings, 1995.
- Old Friends From Young Years , Onion Hardcore Recordings, 1997.
- 5 Tracks Deep (EP), Onion Hardcore Recordings, 1998.
- Let 'Em Know (EP), Onion Hardcore Recordings, 1999.
- Infest , DreamWorks Records, 2000.
August 31, 2004: Papa Roach's album, Getting Away with Murder, was released. Source: All Music Guide, www.allmusic.com, September 2, 2004.
July 2005: Band member Dave Buckner and his wife of nearly two years, model Mia Tyler, split up. Source: People, August 1, 2005, p. 69.
- Los Angeles Times, June 29, 2000.
- Metro, October 7-13, 1999.
- Papa Roach, www.paparoach.com (September 2000).
- Pause and Play, www.pauseandplay.com (September 10, 2000).
- Wall of Sound, www.wallofsound.com (September 10, 2000).
- Additional information taken from DreamWorks Records press materials.
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