CAN'T KILL THE ‘ROACH
Everybody knows Papa Roach’s “Last Resort”, the angsty alt-rock anthem that announced them to an international audience, but you’d be surprised at just how many other hits you’d know and just how often they’ve been dishing them up. They’ve released another seven albums since “Last Resort” hit, the impact of which was seen when huge crowds swarmed in for their sets on the 2015 Soundwave festival run. So why has it taken them three years to return to our shores?
“We’ve had a lot of people say they want us to come back to Australia,” explains guitarist Jerry Horton, gearing up for the first of two packed shows at Sydney’s Metro Theatre. “It’s obviously very expensive to come here. I think the biggest part of it is that we haven’t developed a market in South-East Asia. If we worked with a normal promoter, we would be losing money just to do it. We just said, ‘We’ve got to figure out how to make it work.’ We talked to promoters but nobody wanted to take it. They said, ‘We’re not confident that you guys are going to sell tickets.’ So we basically became our own promoter and did it ourselves.”
It’s an impressive turnout, and the interesting thing is that this crowd seems to include a lot of younger fans as well. Is that something you’ve noticed across Australia?
It is everywhere, yeah. I think a lot of it has to do with our evolution as a band. In more recent years, we’ve tried to really just hone in on what was great about the old-school stuff, but also bring the modern technological elements in. If there’s a drum loop or a synth background we can fit in the mix, we’ll at least consider it. We’re trying to modernise the sound of the recordings. We’ve also tried to sort of affiliate ourselves with and position ourselves alongside some of the younger bands as well. It’s helped out a lot because of who we’ve been touring with – we’ve done shows with Bring Me The Horizon and Of Mice And Men, so we have a lot of those fans coming over. A lot of those people would just think about us being an old-school band, but when they see the show, it’s a whole different experience.
Listening to the new album, there’s definitely a sense of evolution, but there’s also a clear presence of that classic Papa Roach sound: big grooves and big guitars. For you as a guitarist, where did that style of playing develop?
The influences have been so wide. It’s anywhere from Metallica and Nine Inch Nails, Faith No More and Red Hot Chilli Peppers, to The Metres and James Brown, and then just everywhere inbetween. It’s really just about finding the groove – that’s basically what we’re about. To be honest, the biggest thing that sets us apart from most other bands is our rhythm section – the bass and drums and the way that they interact with each other. The way Tobin [Esperance, bass] goes between the guitar and the drums is really tasty.
For me, it’s just about finding a riff. Sometimes we’ll talk about it beforehand and we lay down a bit of a checklist or some goalposts or whatever – however you want to look at it – and we sort of try to meet those things and throw ideas around. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.
So you’re organising this tour yourselves – what does that mean for your live rig?
Right now, I’m using the Axe-FX. I used to run cabinets onstage, but my entire rig is just that now.
Is that an economical choice or a sound thing? How do you feel about it?
It’s mostly to do with practicality and being compact and all that. I used to use the Marshall JMP one – the preamp and the power amp. I had the MIDI switching system and a 20-space rack. The thing weighed 200 kilos, and to ship that around, it gets expensive. A few years ago, we started to do a lot more fly dates where we got to go to Russia for a week. To try and save money, we just switched. Like I said, I used to run a cabinet just so I could have that air – so that the transition was a little more gradual, I guess. It’s great for the separation between the front of house and the monitors. And we make sure it’s loud in the foldback. Things have changed a little bit over the years in terms of our sound and how I approach those tones. It’s a little different. It used to be a little more metal.
Everyone eventually makes the shift from Metallica to AC/DC, right?
Totally. I mean, it’s cool. For somebody that’s learning and playing in their bedroom, having that metal tone is cool and fun. But when you really have to sit down and make a record, those tones don’t work. It’s something that you have to learn either by doing it or listening to people who have been doing it for a long time. They’d say to use a Marshall Plexi and a Les Paul, and I’d go, “No, that’s not metal!” They’d say, “Just do it and listen back.” And then I’d get it. It was a very long learning experience, but we finally have it to the point where we know our gear and what we’re doing out there.