New album, new outlook

Papa Roach, Five Finger Death Punch in Cincinnati

By Alan Sculley

Photo: Papa Roach will perform with Five Finger Death Punch on Sept. 5 at U.S. Bank Arena

This year marks the 15th anniversary for Papa Roach as a recording act. Looking back, vocalist Jacoby Shaddix can say, at the least, it’s been quite an adventure.

“The long and short of it is it’s been a f–king roller coaster,” he says over the phone. “There have been moments where we felt like the wheels were going to fall off. There were some great high points and some extreme low points.”

For Shaddix in particular, the past three years have been something of a microcosm of the extremes that have characterized the band’s entire career. But today, he’s excited about where his life is and what Papa Roach can accomplish moving forward.

“I feel like we’re in the middle of the ride and I see 15 more years, 20 more years of doing what we do,” he says.

Three years ago, Shaddix wasn’t able to see a future with anything like that sort of optimism. As the band was working on its 2012 album, The Connection, its singer was hitting rock bottom.

“Halfway through the record I was like, ‘I’ve got to get sober again,’” Shaddix explains. “My wife left me. I’m just really broken and in the most desperate place in my life. And my confidence as a musician was gone, as a person, everything. I was shattered. That record was really the record that I felt the power of music, how it could, [like] people say, ‘Music saved my life, man. Music saved my life.’ I’d hear people say that, but I never really knew the true effect of it until that record, The Connection. That record saved my life, in a literal sense.”

The drinking and drug problems were nothing new for Shaddix. He’d been battling his addictions for a decade, moving from periods where he cleaned up and went on the wagon, only to relapse into familiar indulgences.

Despite Shaddix’s various phases of addiction and sobriety, Papa Roach managed to thrive musically through much of its first 15 years as a band and opened a new chapter in January with the release of its eighth studio album, F.E.A.R.

The band, which formed in 1993 in Vacaville, California, blasted into prominence with its 2000 major label debut, Infest, which sold more than three million copies and featured the hit single “Last Resort.”

The 2002 follow-up CD, Lovehatetragedy, however, topped out at about 700,000 copies, but 2004’s Getting Away With Murder was another platinum-selling hit and featured two top-five rock radio hits: “Getting Away With Murder” and “Scars.”

Like most rock bands, sales of Papa Roach’s more recent albums have dipped significantly—most likely because of illegal downloading. But Papa Roach has continued to turn out top-five rock radio hits like “Forever” (from the 2006 The Paramour Sessions) “Lifeline” (from the 2009 Metamorphisis) and “Still Swingin’” (from The Connection).

Along the way there have been a couple of personnel changes—the most notable being the 2007 dismissal of long-time drummer Dave Buckner—as well as Shaddix’s personal ups and downs that culminated in his low point during the making of The Connection. That’s when Shaddix decided he had to make sobriety work once and for all.

“I went out on the road, and we toured for that record,” he says. “And I stayed sober the whole record cycle.”

In recording F.E.A.R. (it stands for “Face Everything And Rise”), Shaddix gave himself a major test to see if he could resist the behaviors that had at times threatened not only his health, but the existence of Papa Roach.

“I went to Las Vegas, the scene of the crime, to record this record,” Shaddix says. “Some of the greatest failures of my life have been in that city. I had to go back there and try to like make things right with myself, and I just threw myself into this record and was on fire from the first note that was written.”

Shaddix is clearly proud of the F.E.A.R. album, and feels that Papa Roach has really hit its stride musically in finishing The Connection and then making the new album. The band’s sound, which originally had a strong rap-rock element (an emerging trend in the early ’90s), has shifted toward more of a melodic hard rock sound on recent albums.

“We definitely picked up where we left off on The Connection, moving into F.E.A.R. stylistically and musically,” Shaddix says. “We kind of settled into a place that we thought was just good for the band. There are some old-school sounds in there, bringing back those big riffs.”

Papa Roach, which also includes guitarist Jerry Horton, bassist Tobin Esperance and drummer Tony Palermo, has been introducing its newest material on tour much of the year and will spend part of the fall on a co-headlining tour with Five Finger Death Punch.

“We’ll probably play three or four new songs on this tour,” Shaddix says. “And then we’ll just pick and pull the classics from the older records. There are a couple of mandatory tracks we have to play.”

Papa Roach will perform with Five Finger Death Punch Saturday, Sept. 5 at U.S. Bank Arena, 100 Broadway St. in Cincinnati. Doors open at 6:15 p.m. For more information, please visit

Reach DCP freelance writer Alan Sculley at

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Reach DCP freelance writer Alan Sculley at

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