Taproot - Looking a Gifthorse In The Mouth and Laughing All The Way

Most bands would be excited to hear from Limp Bizkit's Fred Durst. At first, Ann Arbor, Michigan's Taproot were no exception. Singer Stephen Richards had gotten Bizkit's debut album a week early and fired off a tape of rough demos after reading in the albums notes that Durst was looking for new bands to work with. Durst called a month later pledge his support and, initially Taproot were overjoyed. But then Durst got busy and Taproot were spreading their music via the Internet so effectively other labels and managers came running. "The deal Durst offered wasn't too good," says guitarist Mike DeWolf, "and in the long run we were glad we found out what we would've been dealing with," he admits. That's putting it mildly.

Taproot signed with Velvet Hammer/Atlantic for their major label debut, Gift, and prompted the now infamous phone call from the dark side of Durst. You know, the one that begins with, "Hey man, you fucked up. You don't ever bite the hand that feeds in this business, bro..." and includes such sentiments as, "Took you under my wing, brought you to my house... and you embarrassed, like, me and the Interscope family ... Your manager slings our name around, he's going to be blackballed and probably erased and you will, too. The message ends with the well-wishing, All the luck, brother. Fuck ya."

DeWolf doesn't see a twin bill for the two bands anytime soon, and that's just fine with him. Taproot recently performed as part of the Ozzfest tour and their major label debut Gift is stirring up a buzz amongst in the Korn-loving masses. Produced by Ulrich Wild (Pantera, Powerman 5000), the album is a clear step above Taproots early recordings -- the self released ...Something More Than Nothing and Mentobe EP (reissued a year later with bonus cuts as Upon Us). "It wasn't hard (to improve the sound) since most of the early stuff was just us playing live with an extra guitar part over the top," admits DeWolf.

Producer Wild sharpened the sound until it was on the far side of heavy and helped DeWolf get his tone together, shifting him from his standard Gibson SG to a customized Yamaha for better tuning control. "It's actually a mix between the 550 and another model that they customized for me," he explains.

His amp set-up is also a true and twisted double-barrel attack. DeWolf runs his custom ax through two heads and cabinets: a Mesa/Boogie and a Peavey 5150. "I have both of them running at the same time. It gives me two kinds of dirty that sounds like one sound and also two kinds of clean that sounds like one sound." The addition of a full compliment of Boss pedals from a bass synthesizer to a wah to the Mutron guarantees DeWolf never gets bored with his arsenal.

Though a few songs have been shuttled off to radio ("Again & Again" is the album's first single), Taproot aren't looking to fickle radio programmers for salvation. They, in fact, waited two months into their initial tour before servicing any station. "Get the real fan base going before jumping into it," explains DeWolf.

He should know. DeWolf and the other members of the band tirelessly promoted Taproot on the Internet long before any music industry hotshots put any promotional muscle behind them. "Just plastering (the band's website) everywhere, just like putting up a flyer downtown but a million more kids are going to see it," he says. Taproot would play a show and kids were wearing their T-Shirts, ordered directly off the Net. Since major label honchos and professional management teams sometimes attended the shows to support their headliners, they got to see first-hand Taproot's successful grass roots approach. "We knew they weren't going to come to us ever," says DeWolf. "So we had to do something to get to them and that was the only way we knew how -- by showing them that we could do it ourselves."

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