Skip to content

MTV’s Ultimate Spin Winner

By: Dana VinsonLast summer, Spin set out to discover a new rock writer.Qualifications: must be talented, unpublished, and read to dodgeflying cold cuts. Our 20-year-old contest winner survived threedays on the road with Papa Roach, and MTV got it all on tape. Thisis her report. Find out what happens Papa Roach stop being politeand start getting real

IN KEEPING WITH Papa Roach tradition, birthdays call for a sneak attack. Their drum tech, Rocky, turns 40 today,so the band is scouring the backstage of Albuquerque’s Tingley Coliseum for ammunition. “Usually we use pies, but we couldn’t findany whipped cream,” says guitarist Jerry Horton. “But we’ve got mayonnaise, mustard, and strawberry syrup.”

“Dude!” singer Jacoby Shaddix interjects. “Lunch meat!” He points to two deli trays filled with turkey and other sweaty cold cuts.He darts over to test their stickability to human skin. The verdict: perfect, if you throw the meat hard and fast enough.

But Rocky is safe for now. It’s almost show time, and Papa Roach need to warm up for what could prove to be a tough performance.Practically every night is a challenge when you’re the only rock band on the summer’s biggest hip-hop bill, the Anger ManagementTour, which features Eminem, D12, Ludacris, X-ecutioners, and Xzibit. To make matters worse, Papa Roach play right before SlimShady, who’s got a full-blown Ferris wheel in his set; all they’ve got is a red curtain. “This is definitely something different,”bassist Tobin Esperance says as the walls shake with the thudding bass of Ludacris’ “Move Bitch.” “We’ve never been on an all-raptour before. This was an excuse to do something new and just kind of be, like, the bastards on the bill.”

“The first major tour we did with our first record [2000’s nü-metal smash Infest] was Warped Tour,” adds drummer David Buckner.”And we didn’t quite fit in there, either. But we won those punk kids over, and by the end we were headlining with Green Day.”

Tonight, it takes a massive effort to convert the crowd. When Shaddix charges the stage, grabs the mic, and screams, “I’mstrong, I’m fearless, only ’cause I got rock’n’roll!” a few teenage girls in the front row giggle and roll their eyes, as if tosay, “Who are these jokers? Where’s Eminem?” Other people mill around and chat, completely ignoring the band. Only a crusty,tattooed man in an Iron Maiden T-shirt is banging his head. But Shaddix is relentless–he hops on the speakers, jumps into theaudience, slaps hands. “So how’s everybody feeling tonight?” he asks. “I feel fabulous!” When a kid heckles him between songs,he leans down and retorts, “You sure got a purdy mouth, little boy.” The band launches into “She Loves Me Not,” the first singlefrom their latest album, Lovehatetragedy, lunging forward in time to the beat. Their energy is so contagious that a small mosh piterupts. By the time Papa Roach play their biggest hit, “Last Resort,” most of the arena seems to be jumping up and down, screamingalong to the chorus.

“Those guys are up there killing it every single night,” says Rob Swift of the X-ecutioners. “It was scary when the roles werereversed and we were opening for Linkin Park and dealing with a predominantly rock crowd. You need to go up there and play withconfidence and look like you belong. And that’s exactly what Papa Roach do.”

The largest men on earth are stationed outside the rappers’ dressing rooms. One bouncer wears a T-shirt that reads I see smallpeople.He’s at least seven feet tall, and he is not amused when all the would-be groupies try to sweet-talk their way behind closeddoors. Meanwhile, a cameraman from Girls Gone Wild is trying to get those tiny tops off those tiny girls. “There are two types ofchicks in their videos,” a bystander quips. “One is, like, ‘Okay!’ and then lifts her shirt over her head; the other says, ‘I’m notthat kind of girl!’ and then lifts her shirt over her head.”

Papa Roach’s door is wide open, with no security guards (or groupies) to be seen. They call Rocky into the room, and Buckner pretendsthat he needs to talk business. Then, without warning, the attack begins. Globs of mustard and mayo fly through the air, and the bandslathers Rocky’s back with strawberry syrup. When Shaddix whips a tray of cold cuts at him, he keeps his head down and takes it like aman, with a big smile on his face. Papa Roach finish the celebration with a group hug. “This turkey is still good!” Shaddix says, as hemakes a sticky sandwich with a shoe print on it. He and the new touring guitarist, Mike Doherty, egg each other on until they both takea disgusting bite.

The band is in high spirits after their knockout performance. “We go onstage and wear all black,” Esperance says, “because we don’twant any front. We don’t wear masks or costumes or leather pants. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, because that’s entertainmentas well, but we just like to give it to people as ‘just us.’ There’s a punk-rock power to it.”

“I hate being a band in America!” says Shaddix, as the self-proclaimed “A.D.D. boy” fidgets on a floppy couch. “Everybody is sofucking scenester here. It’s like you’re never cool enough. We don’t have the right hairstyles or the right weight or the right shoesor the right outfits or the right music–we’re just us, and that’s all we can be. That’s why we’re the bastard cousin to every scene.”

Back when Shaddix called himself “Coby Dick,” however, Papa Roach were considered leaders of the rap-metal scene thanks to thetriple-platinum Infest. “Last Resort,” a searing song about a friend on the brink of suicide, was one of the biggest rock singlesof 2000. Their follow-up hit, “Broken Home,” featured confessional lyrics like “I’m stuck in between my parents / I wish I had someoneto talk to.” Growing up around Vacaville, California, everyone in the band but Horton was a child of a broken home. Esperance barelyknew his father until he was a teenager; abandoned by his dad when he was born, Buckner was later adopted by his stepfather; Shaddix’spop, a troubled Vietnam vet, also split. The singer and his mother lived alternately in a van, a tepee, and a laundry room.

“My mom tried to get me to go to counseling when I was young,” Shaddix says. “I had bed-wetting problems until I was 16. I wasreally just this whacked-out kid. I’m the kind of person who bottles it up, and I couldn’t open up to someone just because he was aguy in a suit who gets paid for it. My music has been my way of being able to open up to someone without talking to them, you knowwhat I mean?”

Not that singing about his problems was a magical cure. Quick success brought constant pressure, and Shaddix responded withself-destructive binges. He says his attitude was’ “I don’t fucking care about anything, so I’m just going to beat the shit out ofmyself.” He abused drugs and alcohol until, he says, “Coby Dick came home dead in a body bag and I had to rebuild my perspective ofwho I was.” That meant dropping his stage name, marrying his longtime girlfriend, Kelly, and having a son. “I’m 26 now,” he says,”and I’ve come to a point where I’m more comfortable in my skin.” (“Jacoby is a fun kind of dad,” says his mother, Colleen. “And it’sno big deal if he has to change diapers.”) But fatherhood brought another set of pressures: The lyrics on Lovehatetragedy involve theconflict between the rock-star life and family responsibility. In “Decompression Period,” Shaddix sings, “Mile by mile we’re fartherapart / And it’s one empty bottle and two broken hearts.”

“My wife feels sometimes that my music takes up so much of my time, my energy, and my self that she plays second fiddle,” he says.”I understand, because she does sometimes. This is a weird job to have; it’s hard for her to understand that it’s like a job for me,but it’s also fun, too.”

Their relationship may be stormy at times, but Shaddix clearly loves his wife deeply. When he speaks about his “lady,” theboisterous loudmouth becomes soft-spoken and shy. There were pictures of the pretty, petite woman all over the tour bus, but when heheard the cameras were coming, he quickly took them down to protect her privacy. “Sometimes I’ll sing, ‘She loves me not,’ but I knowshe loves me,” he says. “We’ve been together almost nine years. The lyrics are more about my frustrations with points in ourrelationship. She’s cool with it, as long as I’m not like, ‘You know I want to kill the bitch!'”

Working with producer Brendan O’Brien (Pearl Jam, Rage Against the Machine), Papa Roach dumped rap metal for what Buckner calls”a really basic, really solid rock sound.” Everyone in the band has broad musical tastes–Weezer (especially Pinkerton), Fugazi, andthe Pixies, whose “Gouge Away” they cover on Lovehatetragedy. They joke that their friend Greg Patterson, who is shooting them for anupcoming DVD, is an emo kid who gets paid to play them records and give them street cred. “We could have just written Last Resort PartII,” says Shaddix, “but we said, ‘Fuck it, let’s take a risk.’

“My lyrics are really straight-up and blunt,” he adds. “Maybe next time I can get more creative and leave more room forinterpretation. You’ve got to keep evolving. When I see American Idol, I just want to vomit. They are making someone believe thisperson is an icon, and all they are is some manufactured fuck who sings somebody else’s songs. We write our own music and do our ownshit. Assholes!”

“I have this new person growing inside of me,” Shaddix says. “His name is Johnny Vodka, and he’s like this lunatic, evil, wild,out of control grrrrrr!” He pauses for a moment and backtracks. “I’m talking about myself in the third person–what the fuck is wrongwith me? Dude, that’s when you know you’re fucking losing it!”

He’s not, really. He’s trying to grow up in public as best he can. “Jacoby’s a wild one, but he’s always had a mature side whendealing with life,” Colleen says.

“I see myself doing some stupid- ass shit, but I’m all right,” Shaddix agrees. “I’m doing all right.” He stares at his shoes. “Am I?”

“Sorry,” he says after a long pause. “I was feeling insecure.”