The Papa Roach Members Don't Hang Out and Everything We Learned Ahead of Their Irving Show | Dallas Observer

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Papa Roach Is a Rock Band, But if You Call Them Nu Metal, They’re Cool With That

Call Papa Roach whatever you want as long as you make it to their show.
Call Papa Roach whatever you want as long as you make it to their show. Byson Roatch
Before Papa Roach cut our lives into pieces with their megahit “Last Resort,” they were just kids from a small town in California who liked playing rock music. Back in 1993, guitarist Jerry Horton had no idea that he and his four friends would one day become pop culture icons and the de facto forefathers of nu metal. It’s hard to believe that was three decades ago. Yes, millennials, we are ancient.

“Jacoby [Shaddix] one day called me up and said, ‘Why don’t you play guitar for our band?’” Horton tells us ahead of the band's stop in Irving on Feb.18. “I was a metal kid; I didn’t really want to be in the band because they were a different style than I was into. He just kept calling me and bugging the crap out of me, like on a daily basis. I finally relented, and then, of course, I had a blast. ... Every once in a while I’ll see photos from that period, and all I can think about is just how much fun it was.””

Papa Roach played tirelessly and indiscriminately for years in their local area before they considered trying to make a career out of gigging. They played shows everywhere they could, from parties to community centers or even gas stations. Getting noticed wasn’t easy by any means.

“There was a certain amount of delusions of grandeur at that point, but I think that was somewhat instrumental in us just keeping that train rolling,” Horton says. “We did whatever it took, you know? We got turned down by every single label that you could think of.”

Once things started happening for the band, though, they happened fast. Papa Roach was signed to DreamWorks Records in 1999, and from that point the members were either in the recording studio working on new music or out on the road touring and living what Horton refers to as “the rock star life.” In addition to the usual partying and insanity one might expect, the rock star life involved meeting and rubbing elbows with some of their musical idols, from Korn to members of Metallica and Queen, and getting plenty of sage advice along the way.

“One thing I’ll never forget is that after the Warped Tour, we went on a tour with Korn, and they kinda took us under their wing and showed us the good and the bad ways,” Horton said. “[Korn’s bassist] Fieldy told us one time that how we came up wasn’t the natural way; we just kinda blew up. He was like, ‘Don’t expect this to last the way it is, there’s gonna be ups and downs.’ He was right.”

They certainly have had their fair share of ups and downs, but three decades in, Horton and his bandmates, frontman and founding member Jacoby Shaddix, bassist Tobin Esperance and drummer Tony Palermo, are still at it and show no signs of stopping.

Thirty years is longer than most marriages last these days, and Horton says the secret to their longevity essentially comes down to work-life balance — and plenty of time apart.

“We obviously are close friends, but I think the way that we stay close friends is that when we’re not on the road and we’re not working, we’re not really friends in the traditional sense. We don’t hang out,” he says. “But I think that’s healthy because we also have families. So, we always say at the end of a tour, ‘I’d like to say I’m gonna miss you, but I’m not.’”

Because Papa Roach rose to fame alongside Limp Bizkit, Korn, Slip Knot and the like, they’ve been labeled as “nu metal,” something that hasn't always sat well with them. To be fair, the definition of nu metal is pretty nebulous, encompassing anything that combines elements of traditional metal with other styles, which could range from rap and hip-hop to funk, grunge and everything in between.

"Ultimately, we’re a rock band, but if people wanna call us nu metal, whatever.” – Jerry Horton

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“It used to bother us. We would always say we’re just a rock band, but that’s the nature of the beast," Horton says. "People like to put labels on things, it helps them make sense of everything in their heads. We’re still doing it, we’re still making music, we’re still pushing boundaries and incorporating different styles and genres into our music. Ultimately, we’re a rock band, but if people wanna call us nu metal, whatever.”

The group has also embraced the staying power of their biggest hit, which Horton calls “a blessing and a curse,” conceding that the impact “Last Resort” has had on pop culture is something that a lot of bands dream of but never get to experience.

“["Last Resort:] is what most people know us by, so that’s sometimes all they know us by," Horton says. "But it’s also a blessing in that it gives us a way to open the door for people to listen to the rest of our catalog. We hope that it’s enough of a driver for people to come to the show. Once they come to the show, they’ll see how important our live show is to us and how much work we put into it.”

If you somehow still think that Papa Roach is a one-hit wonder, you’re sorely mistaken. The group recently dropped their 11th studio album, Ego Trip, and are hitting the road yet again, stopping in D/FW on Feb. 18 at Pavilion at Toyota Music Factory. Horton says this album hearkens back to Papa Roach’s roots, experimenting with a variety of styles and giving them a chance to “just get weird, crazy and heavy.”

“We’re what some call a ‘legacy band,’ but we’re not the typical legacy band that only goes out and just does the same tour every couple of years,” he says. "We’re constantly putting out new music. I think that if people give our new stuff a chance, they’ll be surprised. To further that, if they come and take a chance on the show, they might become fans for life, you never know.”
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