» Tobin Esperance - Papa Roach
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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 answers.

Tobbe: 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.

I 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.

Tobbe: 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.

We 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 Death Punch… 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.

Tobbe: 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.

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