Interview: Papa Roach

Matt Lambert talks to drummer Tony Palermo (pictured) from Papa Roach at Rock City, about recently joining the band, the new album and Download festival.

You’ve only recently joined the band, so what was it about them that made you want to join?

Well I started filling in when they were having some problems, so I got to play with them before I actually joined, and I was amazed at how much power the band projected on stage. That was the first thing that really clicked with me, and then it was also the way that they run everything on the business side of it, the way they treat people and the way the guys in the band are.

So they were appealing musically as well as personally?

Exactly. That’s a big part of it ‘cos you can play anybody’s music if you’re good enough, but you gotta be able to live with people on tour and get along. You’re always gonna encounter little road bumps, but when you can talk it through and work it out, then it’s worth it.

Was it difficult to get to grips with their music, and did it help you get better yourself?

Yeah it definitely helped me get better. Before this I was playing more up tempo punk rock stuff with Pulley and Unwritten Law but joining Papa Roach allowed me to get better at locking in with the groove, which is something I always wanted to do.

Now that you’ve been playing with them for a while, can you see what it is that makes Papa Roach so successful?

Well I think definitely the fact that they’ve never written the same record. They’ve evolved as bands should in my opinion. Also just the lyrical aspect; Jacoby writes and sings about a lot of personal stuff that everybody goes through and that, along with the music just draws people in. He’s never singing about going to the carnival, it’s real stuff, and the way that he translates it is why their evolution has continued.

What was it like recording at the Paramour Mansions? It’s previously been mentioned that it’s haunted.

We were there for a month and we wrote there, we didn’t actually record there. But there were a couple of things, not to me, but Jerry, our guitar player, encountered something near this big ballroom where we set up all the gear. There’s a little room upstairs that overlooks the ballroom, and it was dark and he walked in there and heard somebody say ‘Can I help you?’ There was nobody else up there so he was like ‘OKaay…’ and shut the door. There’s another funny story – Jacoby’s room was on the second level, and there’s a second room underneath. He was in his room one night and he heard this whoosh and then behind him whoosh and then one more time whoosh. He freaked himself out so bad and couldn’t sleep for a while, and the next day he was telling everyone the story and Bob our bass tech was like ‘oh…well that was me shutting my curtains’, so that was pretty funny.

What was the most difficult thing about recording the new album?

Well for me just making sure the groove was in the Papa Roach style. I think for me that was one thing that I needed to capture for myself as well as to make the band happy and make them feel like they chose the right guy.

Was there any specific idea that influenced the album or was it more of a collection of ideas?

Definitely a collection. When we moved into the Paramour, for the first week and a half we literally just vomited music. We’d play an idea, one or two riffs, and the engineer Casey would document everything. Then in the second and third weeks we really started fine tuning and honing in on those cool ideas and expanding on them. Then Jacoby would come up with a melody and write some lyrics later.

The album title Metamorphosis gives the idea of moving on and change. Was that something that was a key idea when you were recording?

It wasn’t initially but after we started throwing album titles around it was totally fitting because obviously I was new, the band had changed management, booking agent and everything was changing around the band and they were really nervous. The title was completely fitting.

Where do you see the band going from here?

…Home [laughs]

And beyond that?

Well we’re deep into the cycle now, we’ve been touring since last July, which was 8 months before the record came out. We’re gonna finish out the cycle, and keep playing as far into next year as we can, then take a few months off and hit it again and get back in the studio. The band bought a studio in Sacramento a few years back and it’s finally being put together properly and we’re gonna start booking bands out of there while we’re gone, then write the next record and record it there. But musically we’re open. We’re not gonna make a right turn into dance music, it’s still going to have that Papa Roach edge, but we’re open to whatever we’re influenced by at the time.

I saw you play the Download Festival back in June. How does that compare to festivals back in the States?

Well, in terms of sheer number it doesn’t compare. It’s one of a kind. Walking out on stage there was just like ‘Oh fuck!’. It was so widespread. Looking out, I couldn’t understand how people at the back could hear. It’s the same thing with German festivals where you walk out and see 60-70,000 people, it’s amazing. With the festivals in the States, some of the bigger ones are in stadiums – it’s still big but it’s just a round stadium and there’s maybe 30,000 at most. From what we play the bigger ones are definitely here.

Have you had experience of Nottingham? Have you been here before?

You know what I’ve never been here before. I got up today and just tooled about. I cruised down to the city centre, hit some shops up and checked out the local birds [laughs]. I noticed there’s a lot of younger people here too.

Living with people at university, there’s a lot of pranks that people play on each other, does that happen a lot on tour?

Not so much anymore. It used to happen a lot on the last show of a tour where you’d prank the band on stage. We went on tour with Avenged Sevenfold, Buckcherry and Saving Abel. There’s this thing if you go online, and somebody has put up different sound bites to ‘Running with the Devil’ by Van Halen, and you can click on each soundbite and it’s David Lee Roth’s vocals split into different parts. We were playing David Lee Roth’s voice through Saving Abel’s monitors, so instead of them playing you’d hear David Lee Roth going ‘WOO!’. That’s the last one that we did but there’s been some good ones pulled on Papa Roach before me involving feathers…

What’s it been like touring with the support groups?

Great. I’ve played with Madina Lake before with Unwritten Law. Those guys are fucking funny as shit and they’re a really good band too. We did some shows with Heaven’s Basement on our last UK run and they’re a really good rock band – good players, good show. We’ve teamed up with some good packages over here so far.

Matthew Lambert


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