In 1999, Jacoby Shaddix was leading a life of extremes. From Friday to Tuesday, he was the vocalist in Papa Roach, a band he’d formed six years prior during high school and whose rap-rock, Deftones-inspired sound was finally starting to gather some steam. Then, after cramming the long weekend with gigs, he would return to his “dirty job” as a janitor in a Californian military hospital, where he spent the rest of the week mopping blood off the operating room floor, sweeping up bone fragments and collecting body parts for the incinerator. “It was my last job before I was a rock star,” he grins today.
Life came at him fast. Less than a year later, their now- classic 2000 album, Infest, and indestructible single, Last Resort, had made Papa Roach nu metal royalty and global superstars, although, by the time they headed into the studio to record 2002’s Lovehatetragedy, they sensed the tide was turning. “We had a feeling nu metal was dead,” he says. “That’s when I set out to prove myself as a valid rock singer, so I really focused on melody.”
Now, more than 20 years after the genre’s commercial peak, Jacoby is still a permanent, inspirational and larger-than-life fixture in our world, the face of a band who has surpassed all expectations and steadily embraced new sounds, and who’s hit rock bottom on more than one occasion, only to rise from the ashes. This is the story of his life.
When you were born, your family was homeless. What’s your earliest memory?
“My father was a Vietnam veteran. He came back and he wanted to unplug from society and go live in the sticks. We lived in a van for a while, then when I was two, we lived in a tent. After that, we lived in a tepee for a year. My mom told me stories of cooking outside and about how they’d dig a trench and squat over it, go to the bathroom and then kick the dirt right on top of the mess.”
You’ve spoken about the trauma your dad experienced during the war. What impact did growing up around that have on your own life?
“The baggage and wreckage that he had in his head, growing up in a dysfunctional alcoholic family, then getting drafted and going away to war, destroyed my dad’s heart. He took a liking to heroin and partying when he was away, and he brought that home with him. It started to get out of hand again and he wasn’t really showing up. He’d disappear for a week or so, come back, then disappear for another 10 days. Eventually my mom had enough. I was eight when they split and nine when she got remarried. Then I didn’t have to watch [my dad] struggle anymore. It hurt me deeply. I was his little sidekick then all of a sudden, I didn’t have this person in my life. It was a hard decision for my mother but as I look back, it had to happen. It wasn’t a healthy life for her.”
Did you reconnect with him later in life?
“It wasn’t until years later that I linked back up with him. I searched him out when I was 21 and I found I had two half-sisters. We sat on a hilltop and smoked a bowl together and I just straight up asked him, ‘What the fuck happened to you?’ He spilled his guts to me about his childhood and the atrocities of being drafted to a war and killing people. Understanding how raw, true, utter violence destroyed my dad, it made me realise I didn’t want to partake in violence in my own life. I’ve never been in a fist fight in my life. I’m 45 years old. That’s what I learned from my father: what an awesome gift from all that pain and trauma.”
You wrote the song No Apologies, on Papa Roach’s new album, Ego Trip, about forgiving your father…
“He was just doing the best he could with the cards he was dealt in his life. There’s no need for you to say sorry to me, old man. There is no ill will towards you at all. I totally forgive you, all I got is love. I’ve come to that moment a couple of times over in my life and then I find myself being resentful again. It’s been a process for me.”
You became a singer because your bass guitar was stolen, but do you think you would have ended up as a singer anyway?
“I don’t know if I would have become a singer. I loved Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers, but then again, I would have met Tobin [Esperance, Papa Roach bassist], and been like, ‘Oh my God, you play way better than me.’ Now that I look back upon my life, this was my destiny. I feel like this was my calling. I played clarinet all the way through grade school, so I had a real understanding of breath control, and I understood the value of rehearsal. Those elements got me prepared for being in a band more than anything.”
When was the last time you listened to Papa Roach’s 1997 debut album, Old Friends From Young Years?
“Oh man, it’s been a minute. It’s probably been five or six years. There’s one song, Orange Drive Palms, that we talk about bringing the riff back and rewriting it into a new song because it’s such a dope riff.”
You married your high-school girlfriend aged 20. Why so young?
“I found my girl young. I was at my 18th birthday party and Kelly, who is now my wife, bought me socks and underwear. After the party, my mother pulled me aside and said, ‘Now that’s the kind of girl you want. She’s practical.’ Kelly is the love of my life. She loved what I did with the band. Her parents thought it was terrible. We built our life together and here we are 20 years later. I can’t say it hasn’t come without its struggles. I’ve had my moral failures as a husband and I’ve done the work to make good on that in my relationship.”
Are you referring to your struggles with alcohol?
“I drank and partied heavy in my early 20s. Then once the band started touring, that’s when it took off for me. It’s the lifestyle and I was a willing participant. I had a fucking blast and then eventually it just was like, ‘Oh god, what are you doing? You’re a fucking disaster, get your life together.’ It took me falling on my face a few times before I realised it was time to hang it up. I think I was 27, or 28, maybe 30, I don’t know, when I first got sober. I stayed sober for a minute, fell off, struggled with it for years then finally, 2012 was the last time I drank. It’s coming up on a decade for me. That’s a miracle. A straight-up, absolute miracle because I lived to drink and party.”
What was your rock bottom, the moment you knew you needed help?
“The first time I got sober, I was in a blackout and was threatening to burn down the house. You know when you’re so drunk and the next morning you wake up and you’re like, ‘What happened?’ That’s when I was like, ‘Shit, maybe I need to quit this thing.’ Quit alcohol. I had a few moments like that throughout the years, you know, of hitting rock bottom. It’s not something I’m proud of, but I’m proud that I’ve been able to put the drink down and stay off it this long.”
How much money do you make off Last Resort streams in a year?
“I can’t necessarily tell you the exact amount of money, but it still goes the fuck off. I’m so grateful to have a song like Last Resort, it’s just evergreen. It won’t go away. Stations still play it. Kids are still discovering it. I went out shopping last night at [skate shop] Zumiez and kids were buggin’ the fuck out that I’m shopping at their store.”
When Avenged Sevenfold guitarist Synyster Gates was a guitar teacher, he says he was asked to teach kids how to play Last Resort more than any other song…
“I remember being out on tour with Avenged back in the day, when [late drummer] The Rev was still alive and kicking. We had a blast with those dudes, we partied our asses off. Brian [Gates] told me, ‘Dude, I know that song like the back of my hand. That was the song all the kids came in to learn.’ That’s such a cool thing that our music has inspired people to pick up guitars and join bands. That’s friggin’ awesome.”
You made your name as part of the original wave of nu metal bands, but you’ve been dismissive of the genre in the past…
“I hated it, I couldn’t stand it. Everyone was trying to compare me to Fred Durst and I was like, ‘I am so much more fucking punk rock than this dude. He’s on the hip hop side.’ No disrespect to Fred. I think he’s fucking great at what he does, and I dig him.”
How do you feel about it now?
“It was a new interpretation of what metal music could be and we were pulling inspiration from all over the place. Ministry were an influence, Faith No More were an influence. They were like the OGs of nu metal. They hate to own it, but they are. Mike Patton, you fucking motherfucker, you started it.”
What was the biggest WTF moment you had when the genre was at its commercial peak?
“We played Rock In Rio [in 2001], and I was in the pool drinking with Queens Of The Stone Age and Foo Fighters. Axl Rose was over there having lunch. Britney Spears was in the pool. So then I was like, ‘All the famous people are in the pool, I gotta pee in the pool.’”
And did you?
“Of course! Everyone’s drinking at the swim-up bar. They put the chlorine in there, right?”
In 2001 you started a riot onstage at Ozzfest and got a right bollocking from Sharon Osbourne. What was that like?
“She cursed me out. Rightfully she was pissed as fuck because the fans destroyed the venue, it was a fucking disaster. Slipknot and Ozzy still had to play and the place was in a shambles. I tried to leave in the trunk of a car, but they found out and I had to turn myself into the cops. Then I had to go sit with Sharon in the office and she just cursed me and I was just like, ‘I am so sorry, I will never do this again.’ I think if I’d just dealt with the cops and paid the money off, I’d have been like, ‘Fuck it, whatever.’ I would have carried on just numb-skulling. But I had this verbal assassination from Mrs Osbourne. Don’t fuck with Sharon.”
Whatever happened to your post-hardcore side-project, Fight The Sky?
“I went and started this side-project, then I put the brakes on it before I even put any vocals on it. I was just like, I got to get back out with P Roach man, what am I doing? I stepped away from it and never stepped back to it.”
Will we ever get to hear it?
“Nah. I think I’d do some solo tracks before I did that. Another reason is, I got a family. I made the choice to have kids so step up and be a father. I still get to live that rock star dream when we go do this thing with Papa Roach, and it takes me all over the world for months and years. But when I’m not doing P Roach, if I fired up a side-project, I’d never be home. My kids wouldn’t even know who the hell I was.”
You’ve done a ton of collabs – more than the average singer in the heavy world – but never released any solo material. Why?
“With Papa Roach I get to scratch all the itches I have creatively. I really do. If we want to write something that’s punk as fuck, we do it. If we want to write something that’s hip hop and pop, something that’s metal, fucking riffing, or straight-up rock, we’ll do it. And we’ve done that throughout our career. In the last six years, since [2017’s] Crooked Teeth, we’ve reinvented the band. It feels like we’re in our own lane again. I felt for a minute we were starting to turn into an average white guy rock band, and I don’t want to sound like that.”
Recently you made a video with Ice Nine Kills for their single, Hip To Be Scared, and you seemed to enjoy the acting aspect of that. Is that something you’d like to do more of?
“I had a part in this film called The Retaliators [2021 horror also starring Mötley Crüe’s Tommy Lee and members of Five Finger Death Punch]. [This year,] I’m going to go sit down with an agency and talk about it.”
What kind of films would you like to make?
“Considering my image and the way I look, I’m probably going to have to focus towards seedier, edgier parts. I’m cool with that. I like action films. I like drama, I like mystery and thrillers. At this point in my life, I’m up for a challenge. When I get outside the comfort zone, I hate it, I really do. But that’s when you get to live. That’s when I feel alive, when I’m like, ‘Fuck is everything going to fall apart and go wrong right now? I don’t know but let’s go!’”
2023 will mark 30 years of Papa Roach. How are you planning to celebrate?
“Fuck! You’re the first person who’s told me about that shit, I’m going to have to start thinking! Thirty years. I can’t even believe it. THERE’S GOING TO BE A PARTY!”
Published in Metal Hammer #360. Papa Roach’s new album, Ego Trip, is out now