Papa Roach's Tobin Esperance on Soundwave, Silly Song Titles and Spirituality...

He will be Walkabout Man...

It’s 6:15am on Australia Day. I’m already slicked with sweat from the humidity but where is Papa Roach’s king of bass (and programming, mind!) Tobin Esperance? As he tells me via the telling bone: “Man, I’m just tryin’ to stay warm – I’m in Chicago; it’s freezing, windy and cold.”

This leads me into my first question rather neatly, in which case you must be looking forward to heading to Australia next month for the Soundwave tour cycle? “Definitely.” – and do you have any specific Australian related activities that you want to do? He gets very excited and runs off a list. “I wanna go to the beach and just do everything that’s typical of visiting Australia; just hang out with the people, drink some beers, soak in the vibe and the sun – if I have time, fuck it! I’ll go in-land, dude! I’ll go walkabout! I wanna do it all!” He mentions that the band was last out in 2002, with the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Australia obviously left a good impression on him and he’s mad keen to come back and do it all again.

I ask about the new album F.E.A.R (Face Everything And Rise) and how the band’s sound has evolved over their numerous albums; does F.E.A.R represent the band’s current direction? “Yeah; we’ve always had hard rock and metal, hip-hop and punk rock influences with what we do and we’ve experimented with electronic elements, and over the years it’s just become our sound that people know as Papa Roach, and we just tried to go into the studio this time and make a record that was the best representation of all the best things from Papa Roach at this moment in time. We weren’t setting up any boundaries or rules, especially with this record because making it was a quicker, faster process, with the aspect of writing and recording at the same time and not over-thinking every song or idea. It was really just a case of making the biggest, most bad-ass, most real Papa Roach record we could make.” He also points out that the band never knows what direction they’re heading in and this allows them to experiment with all manner of sounds and dynamics. As he points out “I think the door’s wide open…”

The band worked with producer Kevin Churko on F.E.A.R and I ask about his influence on the finished product. “Kevin brings a sound, he has a sonic quality that’s very punchy and modern-sounding and in your face, and not only that but he’s an amazing engineer. He used to work for Mutt Lange (produced AC/DC, Def Leppard etc) and he used to do all the programming for a lot of the big records that Mutt did. He definitely knows what he’s doin’ and he’s got a son (Kane Churko)who’s right behind him, and we worked closely with both of them in the making of this record. I think the end result was great. I’m really proud of the record.” I ask if there were any cross words or possible physical violence but there’s no juicy gossip to be had, as Tobin says “No, none of that. I think we’re a pretty easy band to work with - and for me that means a lot because that’s how I wanna come off. I love being in the studio and I love working with people who share that intensity when it comes to making a record.” So you guys are not prima-donna rock stars, demanding red M 'n' Ms? He laughs, adding “No, no, no! None of that! I mean, we’ll always find some stupid little thing to complain about but we’re not prima-donnas in any way. We’ve been through so much as a band, so many highs, so many lows, and we have families too that really bring us back down to reality. We’ve seen so much happen and transition in this music business that if you don’t learn from the things that happen and the things that you see going on around you then you’re an idiot.”

So what’s happening with the tour for F.E.A.R? “We’re probably gonna be touring for the next year and a half…” – Blimey! Will you cope? “It’s always a little scary and a little bit tough when the touring gets really heavy with the grind, especially now we’re putting out the record, there’s a lot of press, people are wanting us to do special performances, and sometimes you have to be like ‘Whoa! We can’t do five shows in a row; we have to have a couple of days off’ because the way that we perform, we give 150 per cent…”

Tell me about the kind of set the band are looking at playing. “Right now we’ve got a really good mix of classic P.Roach songs from Infest (2000) – we’re celebrating 15 years since the release of that record – and we’re playin’ a lot of old stuff and we’ll be playin’ some new stuff and everything in between. It’s gonna be a really good mix. We’ve got a great set and we’re tighter than ever and we’re really excited to come and rip it up at Soundwave. “

Tobin gets excited again (and who can blame him?) as he elaborates “I love festivals and we love getting’ the crowd interaction going – watching that whole sea of people just jumpin’ up and down in unison – that shit’s bad-ass!” I mention that the band is always welcome in Australia and he responds with a heart-felt “Right on!” – he strikes me as being genuinely enamoured with his work, which is always a nice thing.

Let’s talk about the working titles for Papa Roach’s tunes: ‘Salami Scissor’ and ‘Yee-haw 22’ – what did these become and did they make it on to F.E.A.R? “Yeah! The working titles for our songs are awful! Before we actually know what the songs are called, they’re the dumbest things ever! Face Everything And Rise, I think that was called Boo-Ya. On the last record The Connection (2012) we had a song called Silence Is the Enemy which was titled Dancy McPants Off; just weird, stupid names…we’ll take two bands that we think the song reminds us of and we’ll squish ‘em together. We had one called Bronx Case because we thought one of the riffs sounded like The Bronx and the other riff sounded like a Snapcase song.”

Vocalist Jacoby Shaddix has mentioned some of his personal favourite tracks as Just as Broken as Me and Never Have to Say Goodbye, what about yourself? “I really like Falling Apart and Gravity. I think that those are two of the most dynamic, kind of unexpected songs on the record. I like takin’ chances and really goin’ for it and taking listeners on a journey, really telling a story and providing this visually and emotionally, and I think those two songs really do that.”

Without wishing to rehash Jacoby’s dark times and coming to the lord, how do you see the role of spirituality in the band’s make-up? We don’t get too heavy but Tobin says“I think this is probably one of our most spiritual records; definitely for Jacoby, I know that. For him, he was thinking a lot about things that mattered to him and how he could focus on creating this positive light. It’s like finding that sense of hope and that light at the end of the tunnel as opposed to being angst-ridden and screaming but not actually having anything resolved. I feel that’s where we’re at on this record. It’s definitely one of our most expressive records.” Fine sentiment and an excellent way to finish the interview. Hopefully we’ll catch up for some cooling beverages at the Brisbane leg of the Soundwave tour.

“Right on, man! We’re lookin’ forward to coming down – we love it! It’s gonna be a fuckin’ blast!”