Interview: Jacoby Shaddix on facing up to F.E.A.R.

Papa Roach will release their eighth studio album, F.E.A.R. (Face Everything And Rise), through Eleven Seven Music on January 26.

Recorded in Las Vegas with Kevin and Kane Churko (Ozzy Osbourne, Five Finger Death Punch), the ten track album has been hailed by vocalist Jacoby Shaddix as the Vacaville, California quartet’s most personal record to date. TeamRock caught up with Shaddix recently for the lowdown on F.E.A.R.

You went into the studio to make your new album with no songs written, a clean slate: what was the idea behind that?

“Well, for me personally, I hadn’t done any writing on tour ahead of making this record, I was just really focussed on keeping my life together on the road. Every time I went out on tour before I’d be cool for six months and then the wheels would come off and I’d start drinking and using again and shit would just get wacky, and I’d come home and be a wreck and bring that into the studio. This time I came back with a clear head and when we were talking about getting together for the process of making the record our bass player [Tobin Esperance] was just like ‘Dude, let’s just roll up to the studio, press Record and see what happens. If it works it works, if it doesn’t, it doesn’t.’ So we called our producer and he was all for it, he was like ‘You guys have been writing music for 20 years, let’s just turn the mics on and see what happens.’ So we did that, and it was fucking scary, but it worked out.”

The album is called F.E.A.R. (Face Everything And Rise) so was the idea of fear a central theme and motivating factor in making the record?

“Oh, most definitely. Walking in there, not knowing what was going to happen, was slightly frightening for me as a vocalist and lyricist. But the band was writing music that was inspiring and going back to Las Vegas – a city which has seen some of my greatest failures as a man – seemed quite fitting: I had to go back there and do things right this time. And just being in that city, and knowing that there’d been a war over my soul in that city, just really brought out the best in me this time. I’ve been fighting to get to a better version of myself for the last few years and so being in Vegas was just that test. And it came through good. I threw myself in the fire and we wrote some music that we’re really, really proud of.”

Would you say that F.E.A.R. is as personal a record as Papa Roach have ever made?

“Oh yes sir, most definitely man. I dig deep on this one. Sometimes I paint a picture that isn’t so pretty, but it’s kinda recognising my brokenness as a part of who I am as a person, and what makes me who I am. I guesses it humanises the rock star or whatever that people look at. It’s very important to me to be fucking honest, to be real. That’s what we do in Papa Roach music.”

There’s one song on the record – Gravity, which features Maria Brink from In This Moment - specifically written about your relationship with your wife and the challenges you’ve faced together: was that a difficult song to write knowing that it’ll be a song that your wife and kids are going to hear?

“Yeah man, but the whole thing about making this record was about facing our fears. And also this record is about forgiveness too. My wife has forgiven me for past indiscretions over the past few years and really this song is about me forgiving myself. When we write music where we just lay it all out on the line that’s the most powerful music that we do. My wife said ‘Why do you always have to sing about the dirt?’ and I just said ‘Well, this could be a testament to other people that are going through hard times that, like, you can betray each other and hurt each other but of you really love another you can get through it.’ That’s really what this song is about. No matter how far out there I was my wife always fought for me, because she sees things in me that sometimes I don’t see in myself, and I’m blessed man to have a woman like I’ve got. What Maria brought to the table was exactly what was needed to be said: I told her ‘This is my perspective, now you’ve gotta come from a lady’s perspective’ and she just killed it, just nailed it. It was an honour to have her on the track.”

Do you sit down with your bandmates and explain to them what songs are about, or at this stage of your friendship are they able to understand without you explicitly pulling apart the lyrics?

“Well, I’m an open book, especially to my band: my band knows exactly what’s going on in my life. I’m very fortunate to have buddies that I can open up to and be honest and real with, and they’ve always been very understanding and supportive of me through my highs and my lows.”

One of the most deeply personal songs on the record is Never Have To Say Goodbye which I understand is about a friend who has passed away…

“Yeah. For years I’ve struggled with substance abuse, I’ve had issues with booze and drugs, and this guy was one of the guys who reached out and pulled me out of the depths of Hell at a very dark point in my life. He was almost like a father figure to me. I’d be out on the road, using and abusing, and he’d keep reaching out to me and I’d never return his calls because I never wanted him to know how fucked up I was. Anyway, at one point he went out to Las Vegas for a gambling tournament and had a heart attack and died. And it just gutted me. I felt so terrible, because he’d be checking in with so many calls like ‘Hey man, how you doing? I miss you, love you brother, hope you’re doing good’ and I wouldn’t be replying because I couldn’t just be honest with this guy that loved me so much. So this is now a way for me to say goodbye within a song. But now if I can stay clean and stay on the right path I think I’ll be honouring his spirit and his memory and his soul and his name. He comes to me in my prayers and in my dreams sometimes and so I have a dialogue with him to this day which is important to me, because he was one of the most important men in my life.”

With all the struggles you’ve been through, you could easily have lost your band too: do you feel that Papa Roach are at the peak of your abilities now that you have that focus back?

“Well, I feel bad about being so fucked up at points and just not being emotionally available to my brothers. It’s like, ‘The captain of the ship is fucked up, so now we’re all on this ship and we don’t know where it’s fucking headed’. That’s how the band described living with me when I was out of my head. And so all I can do now to make living amends is to show up and kick ass every day. We all face our struggles and our battles in our personal lives, but it’s a matter of how we face those fears that truly define who we become in our lives, so I’m just going to keep fighting that fight. That’s what this record is about – facing those things and dealing with those things and just realising that fear is just a fucked up emotion in your head and once you get through to the other side you’re good for it.”

Papa Roach fans have a little longer to wait until they hear the new album: have you any message to those fans as they wait impatiently…

“Well, believe me, it pains me just as much as it pains you guys to have to wait these few months: I want our fans to hear it right now. But we worked really hard on this record to ensure we do this properly, so y’know, patience – it’s a virtue! One that I don’t have!”

**Papa Roach have announced a 10 date tour of the UK and Ireland for March 2015. **See the full list of dates here. ** **

Paul Brannigan
Contributing Editor, Louder

A music writer since 1993, formerly Editor of Kerrang! and Planet Rock magazine (RIP), Paul Brannigan is a Contributing Editor to Louder. Having previously written books on Lemmy, Dave Grohl (the Sunday Times best-seller This Is A Call) and Metallica (Birth School Metallica Death, co-authored with Ian Winwood), his Eddie Van Halen biography (Eruption in the UK, Unchained in the US) emerged in 2021. He has written for Rolling Stone, Mojo and Q, hung out with Fugazi at Dischord House, flown on Ozzy Osbourne's private jet, played Angus Young's Gibson SG, and interviewed everyone from Aerosmith and Beastie Boys to Young Gods and ZZ Top. Born in the North of Ireland, Brannigan lives in North London and supports The Arsenal.