Papa Roach ready to rock MGM National Harbor with more hits than you realize

Listen to our full conversation on my podcast “Beyond the Fame.”

WTOP's Jason Fraley preview Papa Roach at MGM National Harbor (Part 1)

Some bands are so famous for one song that you forget just how many hits they had.

That’s the case with 21st century rockers Papa Roach, who bring more than just their smash hit “Last Resort” to MGM National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Maryland on Wednesday.

“The album ‘Ego Trip’ drops April 8,” Frontman Jacoby Shaddix told WTOP. “This album we’re just so very proud of. We really took a lot of time and care in working on this one. We dug deep stylistically, we really dug into the old-school vibes of Papa Roach as far as the riff goes. … We were like, ‘Dude, the guitar’s just gotta be blazing hot with sick riffs.”

It’s the band’s first tour since the pandemic began two years ago.

“We came home when it all got locked down … we took the last flights out of Europe,” Shaddix said. “Fast forward two years, I’ve done lost my mind three times over, made a record that we’re really proud of, and now finally we just got back out on the road in the beginning of March. It feels great. … It’s awesome to play new music and to get back.”

Born in Mariposa, California in 1976, Shaddix grew up with humble beginnings.

“It was the sticks where I was living,” Shaddix said. “I didn’t have no shoes, I didn’t have a TV until I was 10. I had an interesting childhood growing up in that area, eventually grew up, met my dudes in high school. … Papa Roach was just a way to escape the doldrums of what felt like a dead-end town. Papa Roach was my first band and I’m still in it.”

He formed the band in 1993 with Jerry Horton (guitar), Dave Buckner (drummer, later replaced by Tony Palermo) and Will James (bass, quickly replaced by Tobin Esperance).

“It’s a family man,” Shaddix said. “We’ve made all of our mistakes together with this band, and we’ve had all of our success together with this band. This journey has been so wild.”

How did they come up with the name Papa Roach?

“My step dad’s last name is Roach and we called my great grandfather Papa Roach,” Shaddix said. “They wanted to name the band Papa Gato. I was like, ‘Nah, dude, ‘Papa Roach! Cockroaches live forever!’ Here we are 20-some years later with a terrible name.”

Their breakthrough album “Infest” (2000) went triple platinum with the hit “Last Resort.”

“That insane guitar riff was originally written on piano,” Shaddix said. “When you play it on piano it almost reminds me of something that would be on The Fugees’ ‘The Score,’ but when you put it on distorted guitar … this beautiful thing turned into something menacing.”

The song’s suicidal lyrics were based on his best friend.

“I sang in the first person about my best friend that I was living with, going through this dark, downward spiral that ended with him attempting suicide,” Shaddix said. “He did not succeed, thank God, and now, years later, his life is completely different. He’s got a beautiful family, a wife he’s been married to for 20-plus years, two awesome kids.”

He says fans still come up to him thanking him for the song.

“It’s inspired so many people and been a beacon of light … understanding you might have these feelings, but don’t make a permanent decision to a temporary problem,” Shaddix said. “We’ve met so many people across the world that say that song ‘saved their lives.’ I’ve heard that so many times. If that’s true, it just shows how powerful music can be.”

The same album also tackled family trauma in “Broken Home.”

“Growing up in a broken home,” Shaddix said. “Fortunately, I am not repeating that cycle. Me and my wife, we’ll be married in July now for 25 years. That’s my ride or die. We’re going to get old and wrinkly together. A lot of people throw in the towel, but when rubber meets the road, I don’t want to repeat that cycle of abandonment and brokenness.”

Meanwhile, “Between Angels & Insects” declared: “There’s no money, there’s no possessions, only obsession, I don’t need that sh*t. … You’re a slave to the system working jobs that you hate for sh*t you don’t need, too bad the world is based on greed.”

“Growing up poor … it didn’t take things to make us happy,” Shaddix said. “Greed is the punisher of the people. It’s like chasing the wind. You see these ultra gazillionaires, it don’t solve their problems, you hear stories of rich people blowing out their brains. … Pursuit of the dollar has never been my North Star. … I don’t stand for that. I rage against that.”

The album got Papa Roach nominated for Best New Artist at the 2001 Grammys alongside Brad Paisley, Jill Scott, Sisqo and Shelby Lynne, but they didn’t attend the ceremony.

“We had better sh*t to do,” Shaddix said. “We were on tour. We were like, ‘We’re going to play rock shows for our fans instead of rub elbows with a bunch of dimwits.’ It really is a nice honor, but we were just on tour, we had to rock, you know what I mean? We got nominated for another one this year for Best Remix. … We actually will be on tour.”

Their next album “Lovehatetragedy” (2002) featured another hit song with “She Loves Me Not,” featuring the lyrics, “Fighting all the time, this is out of line, she loves me not, loves me not! Do you realize, I won’t compromise? She loves me not, loves me not!”

“Being in a relationship is tough, compromise is tough,” Shaddix said. “I’ve been told that I’m a selfish bastard, and at moments in my life, it’s true! It’s getting through tough times when your relationship breaks or falls apart a little, you’re picking up the pieces and the glue that you put that thing back together with is what makes you stronger.”

Their next album “Getting Away with Murder (2004) featured the hit song “Scars” with the singable hook, “I tear my heart open, I sold myself short, my weakness is that I care too much, and my scars remind me that the past is real, I tear my heart open just to feel.”

“‘Scars’ was just so different … there was something special about it,” Shaddix said. “I had been in the throes of alcoholism for a few years and hit rock bottom. The song is about dealing with somebody that’s got a real problem they don’t want to face. … It was a wakeup call for me [and] I put the bottle down. … Now I got 10 years without drinking.”

After the album “The Paramour Sessions” (2006), featuring singles like “Forever” and “To Be Loved,” the next album “Metamorphosis” (2008) delivered the hit song “Lifeline.” Everybody sing along: “I’ve been looking for a lifeline, for what seems like a lifetime, I’m drowning in the pain, breaking down again, looking for a lifeline.”

“That’s just the story of a man struggling,” Shaddix said. “I just had to come to a point and had some humility and reached out for help. … I would try to do everything my way without anyone’s input. … I finally came to a point in my life where I was humbled enough by my failures to go, ‘I don’t have this figured out.’ That was a straight cry for help to God.”

Today, he’s a devout Christian with a new sense of spirituality.

“It was another pinnacle moment in my life; I gained a spiritual life,” Shaddix said. “I’ve found that when I live my life by my will … I always find myself in a foxhole praying for a way out. … The last thing I ever wanted to do was be sober and follow God and Jesus, but here I am years later, and it’s been such a healthy growth for me to humble myself.”

He insists he’s not judging others, but rather holding himself accountable.

“I’m not perfect, I ain’t judging nobody else, I’m judging myself,” Shaddix said. “I don’t follow Christians, I follow Jesus. I’m not here to judge people, because these Westboro Baptist people are monsters. … I believe that love, acceptance, inclusion, tolerance, that’s the way to peace. Judgement upon another human is not … so that’s the path I walk.”

WTOP's Jason Fraley preview Papa Roach at MGM National Harbor (Part 2)

Listen to our full conversation on my podcast “Beyond the Fame.”

Jason Fraley

Hailed by The Washington Post for “his savantlike ability to name every Best Picture winner in history," Jason Fraley began at WTOP as Morning Drive Writer in 2008, film critic in 2011 and Entertainment Editor in 2014, providing daily arts coverage on-air and online.

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