"Some people were like, ‘Oh, you ****ing ripped off Iron Maiden!" How a near-tragic experience, an iconic video and definitely NOT ripping off Iron Maiden helped Papa Roach's Last Resort become nu metal's first post-2000 mega-anthem

Papa Roach's Last Resort video
(Image credit: YouTube (Papa Roach))

When you think of genuinely iconic images from the nu metal era, a few immediately spring to mind. Fred Durst dancing atop the World Trade Center. Korn being stalked by a stray bullet as Jonathan Davis scats himself silly. Serj Tankian eating a Chinese. And right up there, fighting it out for a podium position, is the image of Papa Roach's Jacoby Shaddix, passionately throwing his hands around and yelling straight into a fisheye camera lense, surrounded by legions of Millennial metal fans. 

With almost a billion streams on Spotify and hundreds of millions of views on YouTube, Last Resort isn't just by far Papa Roach's biggest hit, but one of the most beloved, enduring metal anthems of the last 25 years. Released on March 7, 2000 as the lead single from the band's second album and major label debut, Infest, the track's candid, non-flinching, emotional tale of suicide has resonated deeply with generations of fans. Its lyrics were inspired by the plight of a close friend of the band's frontman, Jacoby Shaddix, that had attempted to take his own life a few years before.

“A lot of people thought this song was about me, but it wasn’t," Shaddix told Metal Hammer in 2017. "I had been living with a friend of mine, and he attempted suicide. I wanted to write about him, and this song just felt like the time. He went into a mental facility and eventually came out better. He’s in a better place now – he’s a family man, his life’s on fire, he’s killing it. But that song was his story, and I told it in the music.”

While it was in October of 1999 that Papa Roach entered Hollywood's NRG studios to record their sophomore record after being picked up by David Geffen's Dreamworks subsidiary, Last Resort was one of a number of songs that the band had had in their locker for some time, and had been released in rougher form on a previous EP. The track's mega-earworm of a riff was conjured up by Roach bassist Tobin Esperance - not on a guitar, as it happens, but on a piano the band had access to while camped out in a house in Sacramento in the mid-90s with a number of other rock bands from the local Cali scene.

“We were living in this infamous house, and we were rehearsing in there at the time," Shaddix explained. "The first time the Last Resort riff came around, Tobin was playing it on piano. It sounded like a classical music piece, but we put it on the guitar, gave it that beat, and I remember our manager heard it through the wall and he barged through, like, ‘Play that again, man! that was sick!’ I was like, ‘We need to put this on the record.’”

Shaddix's lyrics would give the song an added layer of emotional urgency; he began to formulate them while listening to a rough recording of the music as he was working his day job at the time.

"I was working as a janitor in an Air Force hospital," he told Hammer. "So I was walking around with my headphones in, and I was humming the melody to it, and I brought that melody back to the guys, spit a verse on it, and they were like, ‘That’s just fucking dope!’ I was like, ‘I wanna start this song with a vocal. Every other song starts with a riff, but I wanna come out with, "Cut my life into pieces…"'

"The band said, ‘Fuck it, man, let’s do it. Let’s get people’s attention.’ And as soon as we took that song and started playing it at shows, our fans at the time were just like, ‘Play that one again!’ We were playing it at small clubs, parties, coffee shops, shopping centres, skate parks…"

And so, the song's legacy grew - so much so that by the time it came to picking a lead single for Infest, it was clear that, despite having been on the scene in some form for years by that point, the newly recorded and revamped version of Last Resort was an obvious winner.

An instant hit upon release and supported by that incredible aforementioned video, directed by Marcos Siega, Last Resort would chart around the world and even go top ten in seven countries, including a debut at number three in the UK, where it would eventually go double platinum. In the US, it would peak at number one on Billboard's Alternative Airplay chart, helping to propel Infest to millions of sales. Until Limp Bizkit turned up with Rollin' a few months later, it was comfortably the biggest nu metal hit of 2000. Naturally, while Papa Roach's popularity was skyrocketing, certain corners of the metal world found something to moan about - namely that the song's iconic riff bore a strong resemblance to the bridge of old school Iron Maiden banger Genghis Khan.

“We caught some flack for that," laughed Shaddix to Hammer in 2017. "Some people were like, ‘Oh, you fucking ripped off Iron Maiden. With all due respect, I wasn’t an Iron Maiden fan when I was a kid. I didn’t become a Maiden fan until 2004."

Eerie similarities aside, the song's riff didn't help just seal Last Resort's place on rock club night playlists forever more, but helped to inspire a generation of kids to start shredding for themselves.

“As years have gone by, we’ve met so many different guitar players who are out now that are like, ‘That was the riff that made me wanna pick up the guitar,'" Shaddix noted. "Brian [Haner Jr, aka Synyster Gates] from Avenged Sevenfold was a guitar teacher, and he told me, ‘You have no idea how many kids came to me with Last Resort and asked me to teach them it.’ And Zoltan from Five Finger Death Punch told me, ‘Man, when I heard that song, I was just a kid from Hungary, and that song got me into metal.’ You think about those moments and how much of an impact that song really had.”

The song's impact hasn't abated over time. While Papa Roach themselves have evolved and expanded their sound enough to easily outlive the nu metal boom of the early 2000s, you only need see them live today to know which song still gets the biggest reaction live. 

Last Resort's popularity is by no means running on pure nostalgia, either: in 2021, Papa Roach teamed up with TikTok star Jeris Johnson for a 'reloaded' version of the song that went immediately viral, while earlier this year, Falling In Reverse released a new take on the track, ironically bringing it back to its piano-driven roots. The cover has amassed over 15 million streams so far.

While its insanely catchy lead riff and anthemic chorus make it an easy song to love, for the band, it's Last Resort's core message and powerful subject matter that has seen it stay timeless. Over two decades since its release, it's still finding ways to reach people - and it's something that will never get boring for the band that wrote it.

“It’s still fresh, it still means something, it still unites audiences every night, and it’s saved many, many lives," Shaddix told Hammer. "I meet people every single day of my life, and somebody will tell me that shit. Maybe my purpose on this Earth was to write that song, and that’s fuckin’ A, man. It’s something that’s had a massive impact on music, but also on individuals, and I’m so grateful. It’s one of those songs where it could just be a riff, and you rock out to it, or it could be a life raft. And for me, that’s dope.”

Merlin Alderslade
Executive Editor, Louder

Merlin moved into his role as Executive Editor of Louder in early 2022, following over ten years working at Metal Hammer. While there, he served as Online Editor and Deputy Editor, before being promoted to Editor in 2016. Before joining Metal Hammer, Merlin worked as Associate Editor at Terrorizer Magazine and has previously written for the likes of Classic Rock, Rock Sound, eFestivals and others. Across his career he has interviewed legends including Ozzy Osbourne, Lemmy, Metallica, Iron Maiden (including getting a trip on Ed Force One courtesy of Bruce Dickinson), Guns N' Roses, KISS, Slipknot, System Of A Down and Meat Loaf. He has also presented and produced the Metal Hammer Podcast, presented the Metal Hammer Radio Show and is probably responsible for 90% of all nu metal-related content making it onto the site.