When it rains, it sometimes pours. Just ask rock/rap act Papa Roach, who were recently invited to perform on two of the hottest summer festival tours: the Vans Warped tour and Ozzfest. The problem was both tours take place around the same time. "We chose the Warped tour because we're not really a metal band," says guitarist Jerry Horton. "But I realize we'll probably stick out like a sore thumb because we're not really punk either."
For several weeks now, the group's major label debut, Infest, and its heart-pounding single "Last Resort" have been crawling up the charts. Not bad for a band who busted their butts for nearly eight years as indie rockers - and held down day jobs in the process - before signing to DreamWorks last year.
Produced by Jay Baumgardner (Coal Chamber, System of a Down), Infest recalls the rap-thrash of Rage Against the Machine and other alt-metal bands. Still, Horton was pretty miffed when Rolling Stone called the band a "Rage knockoff." "I don't think we sound like Rage," he says. "There are basic similarities considering we both do hip-hop and rock, but there's so many other bands doing that, too."
Horton talked with Guitar.com about blistering guitar work, the metamorphosis of his band, and the making of Infest.
Guitar.com: How do you approach your playing?
Jerry Horton: I play by "feel" really. I don't really have knowledge of theory. I can't read music. But I do what I feel. I just get in there and say, "Okay, here I go."
Guitar.com: What guitarists have influenced you?
Horton: Oh, no one. I'm influenced by bands. I think my guitar playing is influenced by what I've been listening to over the past few years. Lately, I've been getting into a lot of emocore [a melodic and emotion style of hardcore punk] like Snapcase, Refused, and Mock Orange. And we're looking forward to playing with Snapcase every day [on the Warped tour]. They're one of our favorite bands. Other bands that have influenced me are Faith No More, Mr. Bungle, and obviously Metallica. The reason I started playing guitar was to learn their songs.
Guitar.com: You joined Papa Roach when you were 18, a month after the band was formed. How did you hook up with the guys?
Horton: I was introduced to them through an ex-girlfriend. [Papa Roach singer Coby] Dick called me up and said, "Come over and jam, dude!" But I didn't think it was gonna work. Back then, I was listening to metal and industrial bands like Godflesh, Ministry, Skinny Puppy, Pigface, and Nine Inch Nails, and they were all about punk and funk - stuff like the Red Hot Chili Peppers. But he was like "Come over anyway, who cares?" I had to adjust to them a little bit because I had never even played with anybody else before. Oddly enough, the mixture first ended up sounding like Primus.
Guitar.com: What does your name mean?
Horton: It partly comes from Coby's great-grandfather, on his step dad's side. His last name is Roatch, spelled that way, and he has the nickname Papa Roatch. As soon as we get a break later in the year, I think we're gonna visit him. He's like a 100 years old. Anyway, it started out from the great-grandfather's name but we adopted the cockroach thing as well.
Guitar.com: There's a picture of a cockroach on the cover of Infest.
Horton: Cockroaches have been around for a more than a million years. They're survivors and so are we. We've been a band for almost eight years and we're not going away. We also chose the cockroach thing because we didn't want to imply a drug reference.
Guitar.com: Do you think kids still might assume the band is into pot?
Horton: No, because I think there are enough cock roaches on our CD, posters and whatever else we put out.
Guitar.com: Who wrote the bulk of the music on Infest?
Horton: Most of the songs were written by our bass player, Tobin [Esperance]. He would come up with a basic idea or riff and give it to me, and I'd adjust it a little bit, put my touches on it. Tobin also played a couple of harmony guitar tracks. He would have an idea and want to get it down. But I played all the rest of the stuff. Many of the songs are hip-hop oriented.
Guitar.com: How so?
Horton: The breakdown sections and the way they're arranged with the beat, the riffs, the rhythms, and some of the melodies. "Last Resort" has hip-hop as well as classical elements. Some people have even sad that its noodley lead riff sounds like Iron Maiden, but we don't listen to Iron Maiden so we couldn't have made that connection. The song actually comes more from listening to [hip-hop artist] Nas.
Guitar.com: Any good anecdotes about recording Infest?
Horton: Across the street from our recording studio, [NRG in North Hollywood, California] is a rehearsal studio called Leeds, and we heard Hole was holding their bass player auditions over there and that only girls were trying out. So on a whim, Dave [Buckner], our drummer, got the video camera out and said "Okay, Tobin, put on this wig." So they went over, stormed into the room, and said "We're here for the audition!" Dave got it all on videotape. Courtney [Love] wasn't there, but you see [guitarist] Eric [Erlandson] and other people in Hole and they're just totally confused and kicking the guys out.
Guitar.com: How did producer Jay Baumgardner impact your playing?
Horton: He actually made me be more creative. He'd come in and say, "Okay, you're done with your basic stuff, but this part needs another one, and put some effects on it." The other thing we learned from him is if you have an idea for a song, get it down right away. If you don't like it, you can always take it out later. I don't think I would have gotten a lot of ideas if it weren't for him pushing and kicking me to "go do it."
Guitar.com: Some of the songs on Infest have some heavy themes. "Last Resort" deals with suicide.
Horton: I kind of relate to "Last Resort." I've been through some depression periods, although I wasn't at the severe point of almost committing suicide. Most of Coby's lyrics are from personal experiences and observations. He didn't have a happy childhood. His main focus is to tell the kids that they're not alone in what they're feeling, so they don't have to feel that there's something wrong with them and that they're freaks.
Guitar.com: Before recording Infest, you self-released your records on a label called Onion Recordings. What was the indie experience like?
Horton: It was really challenging because we were all holding down day job while trying to keep the momentum going as far writing songs, playing shows, keeping fans, and getting CDs and other merchandise out there. We did it all on our own, with our own funding, and it was hard. But it was also rewarding. Everything we got, we worked for.
Guitar.com: Are you thinking about new material for a follow-up to Infest yet?
Horton: Yeah, we are kind of. We have a little four-track that we take on the bus, and if we have ideas, we get 'em down real quick.
Guitar.com: What's the band's schedule following the Warped tour?
Horton: We leave the Warped tour on July 20th and then we start the Korn tour [which also features Powerman 5000] on July 21st.