Interview conducted November 04 2015
Interview published November 07 2015
"So when some of the pure
metal fans talk shit about our band, it doesn't affect me."
Papa Roach is currently touring
Europe with Five Finger Death Punch and support act Devil You Know. Metal
Covenant met up with bass player Tobin Esperance
prior to the band's show in Stockholm, Sweden, to talk about the band's
latest album F.E.A.R. (Release date January 27th 2015) and what it's like
being a nu-metal band in a heavy metal environment and also to have a
few words about the band's past and present.
Tobbe: So let's talk a little about your
latest album, which was released just over 9 months ago
Tobin: I think it was longer than that. [Shouting
out to a few members of the crew] Has it only been 9 months since our
record's been out?... When our record came out, I don't even know. Nobody
You released a couple of singles last year, like 14 months ago or something.
So if you try to look back at it, at this point, do you think it still
is as great as it is or are there things that you would have done differently
if you would go back to it now?
Tobin: When I look back at our previous records,
there's always things that I'd wanna change or do different. But you're
not really supposed to do that, you know what I mean? Like you shouldn't
do that, because it is what it is. It's like you capture that moment
in time and there's really no going back. You just kind of have to leave
it alone. Sometimes I think that's just like, you know, you strive for
some sort of perfection and you wish you could redo things. But all
those ideas you just kind of save in the back of your mind for the next
time you go and make a record.
Tobbe: You always seem to have one or two,
or a few hit songs on each record, so what is your secret with coming
out with those couple of songs?
Tobin: No secret. I think it's just; I noticed
that every time we write a song that's maybe a little bit riskier than
some of the other ones, you know, if the song has a different vibe than
everything else, it always sticks out more for us and for the listeners,
you know, and people, they notice us kind of like taking a chance with
the sound that we're creating. And those songs always seem to be the
ones that people kind of gravitate towards. I don't know why, I just
think maybe 'cause it sticks out from the rest of what everyone else
is doing. I think being in a rock band these days, you really have to
be something special, otherwise most of the bands, to me, just start
sounding the same.
Tobbe: So it is important for you to be
kind of original, but is this just something musicians say to like sound
cool or get validity?
Tobin: I mean, it's just a natural thing for
us. A lot of the elements and influences, I guess, that we have are
a lot different from what I think a lot of other bands maybe might be
trying to do, you know. Certain things, like groove, you know, is really
important to us, and melody, and just coming from a background that
was really like hip hop influenced. You know, everything we do has a
very anthemic quality to it and what Jacoby [Shaddix, vocals] is talking
about with those lyrics. It's always from personal experiences, you
know what I mean? So it makes it easy to relate to, you know.
Tobbe: As time passes, you have become a
little bit more melodic than you were initially. Is this something that
you think about or do you just approach songwriting as it comes?
Tobin: I mean, we definitely love melodic music.
I think melodies are important, because it's what really sticks in your
head, you know, and anytime you have a classic song, a timeless song,
the melodies in the lyrics, you know, they last forever. I don't think
as many people look back on a breakdown in a song and like "Man!
That breakdown from that song back, you know, 10 years ago, was the
shit!" and everyone's like singing a breakdown. No, they're singing
the chorus, you know. They know that melody is just timeless and I think
that's something we've always wanted to be a part of.
mean, I appreciate pop music and I love classical music and I love music
that has a lot of, you know, tangible melodies to it, but just as much
I love hardcore, ambient, doom, or jazz music, where it's just more
of like you just kind of get lost in the moment. You know, really just
singing along to it. It's just respect for all those things, but we
do incorporate a lot of melody into our music.
Tobbe: The record is merely 36 minutes long,
which is actually quite short for a CD format, but did you at some point
consider to add a couple of songs to extend its playing time?
Tobin: Yeah, we did. We had more songs, but this
thing with this record, and probably the reason why it is so short,
is because we didn't really spend that much time making the record.
We booked studio time and we showed up there with nothing pre-written.
We wrote the music and recorded it, like, as the ideas were coming.
So we finished like 14 songs, I think, and initially we wanted to put
all those songs out. We were just trying to make good songs and get
right to the point and kind of force us not to overthink everything.
So as soon as we wrote like x amount of songs and everybody's like "Okay.
I think you're done. You have the record.", you know, it's cool,
but "Put the music out.".
But, you know, labels and management and people,
they always try to take a couple of songs and save 'em because they
wanna make 'em special for like b-sides, or certain countries wanna
feel special, so they get a song there and they add it later. You know,
that's just like the politics of the music business, you know, whatever,
and you just kind of go along with it. I mean, yeah, we could have put
all those songs on the record, but I think fans also get excited and
they feel special when they get a song later, or they buy some other
deluxe bullshit with extra re-recorded junk on it, you know. It's just
the things that people do. We do it too. [Laughs]
Tobbe: But I like shorter albums, because
then I tend to listen to them for many more times.
Tobin: Especially nowadays, I think, sometimes
a short album is good, because a lot of kids these days don't have the
capacity to listen to a full-blown record. That's why a lot of people
just buy singles. I sometimes find myself guilty. I know I love that
song, but I can't even tell you who sings it or what the name of the
song is called, you know. You're bouncing around on Spotify and listening
to all this different music and it's so easily accessible and kids are
just consumed by instant gratification, you know what I mean?
Tobbe: You know, with Spotify and all that.
It's been like 10 years since your albums went gold and platinum. Is it
sometimes frustrating to not have those kind of sales figures anymore?
Tobin: I mean, it used to be frustrating, because
I hadn't maybe fully accepted the transition and what the platform of
music is now. But, you know, now, people really like the way they're
getting music and discovering new artists. You can't take that away
from people, you know. I do think that some of the artists do probably
get screwed. You know, with how they monetize the payment of royalties
for the songs being streamed or whatever. It does take away from certain
things, but there's a lot of new music that's being discovered. Really,
it's just like if your song is good and people can listen to it, on
whatever platform, hopefully that drives people to wanna go buy a ticket.
You know, come to the show and see the artist live or eventually go
and download the song.
Papa Roach has been existent for over 20 years now. Is this something
you think about, or like put some value to, or is time just flying by?
Tobin: I think time just flies by. I would like
to think that we're not just some like nostalgic band. People always
say, you know, you're as successful or as popular as you're last single
or your last big hit. I mean, we always have songs. You know, people
dig our songs and they can relate to 'em and they get played on the
radio stations or whatever. But we're not having, like huge hits and
success, you know, at all these different formats of radio. I mean,
I wouldn't be mad if we did. I would like that very much, but I think
we've just kept a consistent level. You know, the longevity and the
amount of people that we get to play in front of every night has been
really consistent, I think, just because we put on a good live show
and, you know, just kind of like the respect that we've gained over
the years and consistently putting out music that people can connect
with. I think that's pretty rare, you know.
Tobbe: So what did you guys actually have
back then, when you first started out or when you released your first
couple of albums, that other bands didn't, that eventually made you to
one of the bigger names in your genre?
Tobin: Um, I don't know. I guess attitude, you
know. I think a lot of it comes down to just having your own attitude,
your own chemistry within the band, just honesty, you know what I mean?
Just the spontaneous things. That's just the kind of shit that, you
know, you can't like coordinate. That's just stuff that people, you
know; they see it and they're like "That's happening, right now.
That's from real shit." and people will connect with it. And we
went to some phases in our career where we didn't know what the fuck
we were doing and we did some dumb-ass shit. There's definitely some
things that I wish I didn't do, or there's even songs and records that
I'm not like entirely proud of. But I just think, that's life.
Tobbe: So if we get back to this present
day. What can you do now, as a band, to get even more acknowledgement
around the world?
Tobin: I think it's really just about writing
good songs, you know, that people can have a feeling for. And we're
also trying to broaden our audience too and getting in front of some
more younger fans. I feel like sometimes we play with bands that, you
know, maybe are kind of like; you know, they would expect us to play
with these bands. And sometimes when you play with just a certain type
of genre of bands, then it's like you're playing in front of the same
people all the time. Sometimes it's good for a band like us to go and
play in front of a completely different audience and win over some new
fans. You know, make new fans, whether it's playing with younger band
that have younger fans, or playing with a hip hop band or something
like that. You know, we make friends and we meet people all the time
when we're out on tour.
have friends in The Prodigy and we're like "Wow! We would love
to do some shows with you." and playing in front of totally different
people than we normally do. Or we make friends with Yelawolf. You know,
we just hung out with him a couple of weeks ago. If we were to do it,
2 together, that would bring so many different types of people, 'cause
he has, you know, a hip hop audience as well. So, you know, a live music
loving audience. It's really like just kind of like stretching out and
playing in front of different people.
Tobbe: Now you've been touring with Five
Finger Death Punch quite a lot recently, and what makes you guys fit so
well together for a tour?
Tobin: I think the same thing. You know, we
have different fanbases, but at the same time I think we come from different
schools of styles of music, you know what I mean? We both have a different
sound, so it's different enough for it to work, to be cool and interesting.
You always want the tour to be kind of interesting and fun for the audience.
I think if you would have had 4 bands that sound exactly like Five Finger
I mean, who knows? Maybe people will like that more,
but I would be fucking bored. That doesn't sound exciting to me.
Tobbe: You know, the metal community is
pretty conservative sometimes and people like to say what is metal and
what is not metal. And you started out as a nu-metal band, so have people
been questioning your choice of type of metal, which you chose to play?
Tobin: Yeah. I mean, for myself personally,
I'm not much of a metal guy. I mean, it's easy for us to be labeled
a metal band, because to me, I can take anything that I write and I
can play it on a guitar, you know 'cause I can play the guitar as well,
and I can put on a bunch of gain and distortion and turn it up really
loud and it'll probably end up sounding like metal, so. I mean, we can
do that, you know what I mean? And we have done that. And there are
classic metal bands that I did grow up listening to, but for the most
part I've always been more influenced by punk rock bands and hardcore
bands and, you know, I guess just other types of music, other than classic
metal. So when some of the pure metal fans talk shit about our band,
it doesn't affect me. I don't care, because I'm not making music for
you anyways. [Laughs]
Tobbe: How do you, again as a band or each
individual, each and everyone of you, try to develop your own playing
styles at this point in your career? Like, you've been around for like
2 decades now, so is it in some way possible to come out a little bit
different with your instruments if you want to?
Tobin: Yeah, absolutely. There's always a possibility
and I think, for me, I constantly am studying music, or practicing,
or learning new things about my instrument, or other instruments. You
know, or the desire to record, you know, at different styles, and different
techniques. It's really hard to like kind of create your own way to
do it, but I think about it constantly, you know. I strive to do something
that really maybe takes people by surprise. But sometimes there's the
simplicity to what we do and sometimes we come out and we'll play songs
and we'll do shit and people just don't get it. It goes right over their
head, you know what I mean? But yeah, there's all kinds of things that
we wanna experiment with as a band, definitely.
If you look back, from like the viewpoint that you had when you first
started out, do you guys have any goals left to achieve?
Tobin: It's really about just having fun and
we're really just fulfilling everything that we wanna do, I think, as
musicians, and our goal is to perform at a level that's entertaining
for everybody, you know what I mean? You know, we could be the biggest
band in the world and be playing sold out arenas every night, but if
we're not having fun and the band is miserable, that's like the worst
day ever, you know. I wouldn't want that. Or we could be playing songs
that we really believe in and making a record that we truly love and
playing in front of, you know, not that many people, and putting on
the show that we felt was great, and be happy. It's really just finding,
you know, that balance.
Tobbe: You're not a huge band, but still
you're a pretty big band in this world, so maybe it's easy for you to
say that you can do this and do that?
Tobin: Yeah, I mean, it's like, we'll play in
front of a lot of people tonight, but if the show doesn't feel like
it's reached our expectations, we still come off stage and we're like
"Man, that didn't feel right.", you know what I mean? Because
we base everything off of the energy that's in the crowd, you know,
'cause we expel a lot of energy and if the crowd doesn't somehow match
it, then we feel like we didn't do our job, you know.
Tobbe: But maybe you did?
Tobin: But maybe we did, yeah. That's just our
own mindfuck, you know.
Tobbe: Tony [Palermo, drums] joined the
band in 2007 and the rest of you guys have been together since 1996 or
even earlier, so what makes you guys still stick together?
Tobin: Um, I don't know. It's just like that
small town family vibe, you know what I mean? It's something that just
works because it's like a brotherhood, you know. I mean, even though,
when we go home, we don't really see each other all that much, 'cause
we all have families and other things that we do in our off-time, it's
the chemistry and all the differences and personalities that we have.
It's all those things that make Papa Roach what it is. I think if you
would have a band that was, you know, of 4 of Jacobys, it would just
be too much. It sounds like a great idea, but it doesn't work, you know.
It's just the chemistry, I guess.