Substance Abuse Will Get You Kicked Out of Papa Roach, Unless it Doesn't

It's not easy to promote your new album when most people think you vanished a half-decade ago, but then again, that's not Papa Roach's only problem.

Earlier this year, the group faced a lawsuit from its founding drummer, Dave Buckner, who was unceremoniously kicked out of the band in 2007 for his substance abuse problems. Though the lawsuit has been widely reported, details of the conflagration have not, and the story illustrates the band's tumultuous trajectory.

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Papa Roach performs Saturday, May 9, at Pizza Hut Park in Frisco as part of Edgefest 19.

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Buckner and Papa Roach lead singer Jacoby Shaddix formed the group in Vacaville, California, in the early '90s, touring for nearly seven years before signing with Dreamworks and releasing the triple-platinum Infest in 2000. At the time, the inexplicable popularity of the rap-rock hybrid style was leading to all sorts of, um, nookie for nu-metal purveyors, with Limp Bizkit frontman Fred Durst even reportedly hooking up with a still-tasty Britney Spears. Papa Roach's star, meanwhile, rose so high that its members began dating celebrities and Playmates—and even marrying them to boot. Guitarist Jerry Horton shacked up with brunette August 1996 Playboy Playmate Jessica Lee, while Buckner wed Mia Tyler, the daughter of Aerosmith's Steven Tyler.

Buckner says he never got to spend much time with his father-in-law, though, as the marriage didn't last long. And as things unraveled, he turned to drugs and alcohol. In 2006, he checked himself into a Northern California hospital but quickly relapsed, and a particularly destructive episode followed a Grand Rapids, Michigan, show—his last with the group.

"I had been drinking and taken a handful of pills a friend had given me. Things escalated into a situation that went a bit too far," Buckner remembered earlier this year. He's hazy on details, but knows an argument with the other group members followed, and he woke up with his hands throbbing.

The next day, frontman Shaddix told Buckner that the band thought he should take the rest of the tour off. Papa Roach then began employing Tony Palermo, formerly of San Diego group Unwritten Law, although its stated plan was for Buckner to return. On Christmas Eve of 2007, though, Buckner was told he'd been voted out of the group.

Initially, he took the decision in stride and began attempting to dissolve the band's business partnerships. It had long since spun-off a corporate entity to control record royalties, touring earnings and real estate interests. But Buckner's lawsuit contends that his ex-band mates stalled and proceeded to borrow money for recording and videos, which effectively cost him hundreds of thousands of dollars. Buckner's claim, filed in Sacramento Superior Court in December, sought financial compensation and to dissolve the corporate entity.

Just days before Papa Roach's latest album, Metamorphosis, was released in late March, however, Shaddix announced that the parties had settled, although the amount Buckner received was not clear. Though Shaddix insists he has affection for his old drummer, Buckner clearly doesn't see things that way: "I really do hope we can maintain a friendly relationship," he said, the most diplomatic thing he was able to say in a conversation largely off the record. But what clearly pisses off Buckner is that, over the years, Shaddix has also attended rehab and fallen off the wagon.

The song "Scars," for example, off the band's 2004 album Getting Away With Murder, is about an intoxicated night Shaddix had in Las Vegas that landed him in the hospital. "Hollywood Whore," the band's first single off Metamorphosis is also partly about the singer's issues with substances and fame.

"I'm guilty as charged," of being a Hollywood whore, Shaddix said in January. Meaning what, exactly? "Cocaine nose. Maybe I found out I had no soul."

Double standard or not, Buckner is soldiering on with new projects, but it's clear there's no love lost with his old band. El Paso weekly What's Up recently asked Papa Roach's bassist, Tobin Esperance, if letting go of Buckner was a hard decision, or if it was more akin to "getting rid of dead weight."

"It was a very hard decision," responded Esperance, "getting rid of all that dead weight."

 
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