Taproot- Mike DeWolfe Interview
Having the dubious distinction of being the band that turned and 'bit the hand' of Fred Durst, made for a remarkable war story told by a youthful band out of Michigan. But now it's just part of the growing legacy that is Taproot. I have to believe that even they are getting tired of telling the tale but for those of you who aren't familiar with the story, I'll give you the cliff notes version. Popular Michigan-based band sends tapes to Fred. Fred likes tape. Fred sez, Fred will sign band. Fred is busy. Fred doesn't get around to signing band. Band gets tons of attention from labels other than Fred's. Band signs with someone other than Fred. Fred leaves heavy message on band answering machine. Band puts Fred's message online. (if you search around some of the fan sites, you can hear Fred's actual message to the band - www.taprootmusic.com). But I digress...
Enough about the past because Taproot has just released Welcome. Produced by Toby Wright of Alice in Chains, Korn and Metallica fame, this new collection of songs will stretch any preconceived notions you may have had about this band. Wrights' tenacity and doggedness really shines through to the benefit of Taproot. With the first single 'Poem' already doing well at rock radio, 'Mine' (the second single) will soon invade your minds with its trip-hop tinged beat, memorable harmonies, and sonic bombast.
After returning from a several week tour of the UK, Taproot is gearing up for a US tour of clubs and smaller venues that will last throughout the rest of 2002. Mike DeWolfe took a few minutes out of his busy schedule to speak with us, here at Guitar.com.
Guitar.com: How was it getting back out on the road after a year off?
Mike DeWolfe: It's been really great. The UK tour went really well and we start up here in the States next week.
Guitar.com: The UK dates were with Pitchshifter?
DeWolfe: Yeah, and in the States we'll be having Project 86 and Pulse Ultra open up.
Guitar.com Your fan-base is truly incredible. I counted over 40 fan-based sites online. That's really how you got the word out about Taproot early on, isn't it?
DeWolfe: Yeah, the web has been really good to us. We had a whole thing going on while we were recording. We had a pic of the day and over 200 pics of when we were in the studio. And out on the road. We try to put one up almost every day. We have a little journal, a voice journal thing where we can just call in leave a message
Guitar.com: Very cool. Now is that you (bandmembers) running the site or do you have a real webmaster or some company running things?
DeWolfe: It's basically all ours but we have a friend that keeps it up and running while we're away and stuff.
Guitar.com: I read a number of post-Gift interviews where there were all sorts of producers' names being thrown around - all in preparation for what would become Welcome. Fred Maher - I think you did some demos with him - Ben Grosse (Filter), Glen Ballard (Aerosmith, Alanis Morissette), Terry Date (Limp Bizkit, Soundgarden). How did you decide to go with Toby Wright?
DeWolfe: We had met with Toby before Gift. We had wanted to work with him way back then even. But that didn't work out. We met with all those people and even more and it just came right back to Toby. And that was pretty much it. He's got like this reputation for being this hardass, military-style kind of guy. We just felt like we needed to be pushed around and put into shape.
Guitar.com: I think after listening to Gift and then Welcome, I think there's huge growth - it's significantly different - or maybe instead of growth, maturity is a better word. I sensed a little of the Alice (referring to Toby Wright, who had produced Alice In Chains) influence but I detected a little of that going back to Gift as well.
DeWolfe: Thank you (laughs)
Guitar.com: I think there's a tip-of-the-hat (to Alice in Chains) and I know that some bands get pissed when they become associated or compared to another band......I think it was Revolver Magazine that said something to the effect of - Taproot takes over where Alice In Chains left off with a kick in the ass from Korn or something like. And I thought that was pretty succinct. Were you an Alice in Chains fan?
DeWolfe: That's like the funny thing. We all listened to them, years and years ago but not until pretty much after we were done with the record did we all start to get really, really into it. And nowadays, we're listening to it all the time, even Jerry's (Cantrell) stuff. Up 'til that point, none of us were huge fans, you know. But now we can look back at everything and totally appreciate it for what it was. Just amazing stuff and I'm proud to be lumped into 'there' rather than included in some of the other categories that are out there right now.
Guitar.com: I think people are going to find this new record a big step up for Taproot. It's a challenge to listen to and I don't think there's a lot of that in music today.
DeWolfe: Thanks again for saying that you noticed a little 'Alice' going back to the first album cause a lot of people are just like - 'Steve is doing melodies and harmonies now, what's that all about'. It was always there!
Guitar.com: Exactly - there's some very specific harmonies and melodic relationships that you can attribute to Alice in Chains and you can hear that in the vocals on Welcome. Maybe not as prominently on Gift but I think it's still there.
DeWolfe: I think that overall, we focused on doing everything really crisp, clear and clean. And Toby helped a great deal.
Guitar.com: Now how are you pulling that off live, with all the harmonies and such...
DeWolfe: Our drummer Jerrod is doing some of the backups. So, that's seems to be working.
Guitar.com: So you're not doing the full three-part thing...
DeWolfe: No, live for us is kind of a different thing....
Guitar.com: I would think - the energy you must generate is pretty intense. It's hard to think with the percussive nature of what you're doing, three-part harmonies are what it's about...
DeWolfe: Yeah, we just go for hardcore energy.
Guitar.com: Absolutely. For anyone that's not familiar with Taproot, I wasn't aware of just how much material you had release even before Gift? Pimp Ass Sounds, Something More than Nothing - are there any gems on there that new fans should dig out after they pickup Welcome?
DeWolfe: A lot of that material ended up on Gift, oddly enough.....There's some funny stuff (laughs). I mean like all that stuff that we did back then, you know, we just go in the studio. Lay down all the tracks in one take. And then throw on an extra vocal and an extra guitar and that was it. We didn't have any money but they somehow turned out pretty good.
Guitar.com: Well it got people to pay attention....so you're headed back out on the road. Will you be doing clubs or larger venues?
DeWolfe: Mostly clubs. Smaller sized placed
Guitar.com: What will you be taking out with you guitar-wise? You're an Ibanez endorsee?
DeWolfe: Yeah, they make great stuff - I have some pretty custom, custom stuff that they did for me. I used so many guitars in the studio but I'm just going to take the few guitars that help me do what I did on the record, live.
Guitar.com: What about your rig - what will you take out?
DeWolfe: I have a Crate 2 x 12' cabinet for my clean and a Crate 4 x12' for my dirty and I have all Mesa Boogie heads. And my effects are all Line 6 rack gear. I just switched over...
Guitar.com: What....no more Mutron?
DeWolfe: (Laughs) - yeah, no more Mutron....
Guitar.com: I used to have one of those years ago....I loved that thing
DeWolfe: I one of the biggest supporters of the pedal thing ever but sometimes they go in and out and they don't always work. I just love those so much - they're always natural sounding....
Guitar.com: Well hopefully you still held onto your Mutron....
DeWolfe: Oh yeah, and I have one of the original ones...
Guitar.com: That's the one to have
DeWolfe: I've never really liked any rack gear, whatsoever, cause I always thought it sounded so processed and unnatural but the Line 6 gear that I got sounds so close to my pedals that I was just like, it's way easier and sounds so good so...
Guitar.com: What Line 6 gear do you have?
DeWolfe: I've got the Echo Pro, the Filter Pro and the Mod Pro or the green, purple and blue one....(laughs)...
Guitar.com: There was an interview online where you and Steve (vocalist - Stephen Richards) were talking about some of the music that you were listening to and I was surprised. Steve was deep into early Queen, Pink Floyd, David Bowie and I don't think you hear much of that currently. I mean, you don't hear a lot of current rock acts talking about digging in and listening to 'Classic Rock' artists. Is that you as well...
DeWolfe: Yeah, I've spent many a night with Steve listening to that.. My CD collection is not very pop-py however.
Guitar.com: What do you normally listen to?
DeWolfe: Oh I don't know....all sorts of crazy stuff. Trip-hop, like underground DJ stuff.
DeWolfe: Fifties'esque stuff...
Guitar.com: There's been a lot of talk that 'Guitar-Rock' is making a comeback and I think Taproot could fit under that heading to some degree. Some people might put it in the Nu-Metal category but when I think Guitar Rock, where the music is heavy, thunderous guitars, Taproot is that. I mean you still have the full-on shred style going on....Joe Satriani or Eric Johnson maybe, but it's all about driving guitar sounds. Do you listen to any straight up guitar rock?
DeWolfe: Not really, whatsoever. But I agree with you. I think Pulse Ultra, one of the bands that we're talking out with us on this next leg, they're from Montreal. I met up with those guys, about two years ago; heard their demo and sent it into our management and got them signed to our label.
Guitar.com: That's great - that was mighty nice of you...
DeWolfe: (laughs) Yeah, what can I say....basically, that's what I was looking at for guitar rock. The kid in this band is a total guitar god.
Guitar.com: What's his name?
DeWolfe: Dominic Cirarelli (www.pulseultra.com)
Guitar.com: I'm not familiar with him. I'll have to look him up.
DeWolfe: Yeah, but there are no guitar gods anymore.
Guitar.com: I think that guitar heroes have kind of gone underground for the time being. But the cycle is coming around again...
DeWolfe: Right....but this band totally caught me. Plus they have great songs, they're a little bit underground and a little bit, ya know.....rock.
Guitar.com: How about tunings - on Welcome, did you use any drop tunings?
DeWolfe: Most of it was standard but tuned to 'A.' All the way down...(laughs)
Guitar.com: Do you use a heavy string gauge because of that....
DeWolfe: Yeah, they're all .015 - .074 (laughs)
Guitar.com: Yeow - now that's heavy - I knew a guy who played strictly rhythm guitar, back in the '80s and he had a custom-made Jackson. It had two truss rods in the neck and the string gauge was like .018 to .080. Standard tuning - when he hit an 'E' chord, it would kill you. Your tone must be nice and fat....total thunder.
DeWolfe: When I went to Ibanez, I had them make a near baritone guitar.
Guitar.com: Is the scale length different then standard?
DeWolfe: Yeah, it's almost the same as a baritone length, but not quite.
Guitar.com: Okay one last segment of questions for you - how about some word association. I give you a word and you fire off the first words that come to your head....
Guitar.com: You ready?
Guitar.com: Ulrich Wild (produced Gift)
DeWolfe: The man with the ears
Guitar.com: Ozzfest (was on the bill for two years)
DeWolfe: Parking lot
Guitar.com: Toby Wright (produced Welcome)
Guitar.com: One last one for you and this is the only mention I made of his name through the whole interview - Fred Durst
DeWolfe: In a world of his own.....(laughs)
Guitar.com: (laughs along) - Any words of wisdom for young guitarists or band out there looking to strike gold?
DeWolfe: Listen to yourself and don't care what anyone else has to say. Please yourself first and that'll make people listen.
Guitar.com: Do you have a horror story from the road
DeWolfe: I've had a lot of those. I think the worst was at a gig in Boston, with Deadsy.....I went through three amps in the first 20 minutes of the show. I didn't have anything. They would come on for two minutes and then go out.
Guitar.com: That is a guitarists worst nightmare....
DeWolfe: They were scrambling around trying to find me another amp
Guitar.com: and a bass player and lead singers dream....(laughs)
DeWolfe: (laughs)...yeah, that's true
Guitar.com: Well, Mike thanks for taking the time to speak with us, here at Guitar.com. Best of luck on the tour this fall.
You can visit with Taproot - at Taproot.com