23 Years Ago: Papa Roach Break Out With ‘Infest’
As the late '90s arrived, a hybrid of hard rock with rap and hip-hop elements began to emerge and take hold at radio. One of the acts to catch things just right was a Vacaville, California upstart band called Papa Roach and on April 25, 2000, they saw their star skyrocket with the release of their Infest album.
The seeds for Papa Roach had started a few years earlier, first with 1994 EP followed by their first full-length album, the self-produced, independently released Old Friends From Young Years. Supporting some up-and-coming West Coast acts and a couple of EPs later, they began to turn a few heads and eventually caught the ears of the Warner Music Group, who contemplated signing the group and backed a five-track demo CD. While Warner didn't sign them, four of the tracks on the demo got the ball rolling on what would eventually become the Infest album and would eventually lead them to DreamWorks.
The band set up shop at NRG Studios in Hollywood with producer Jay Baumgardner and the pairing would work out well for both the band and the producer. Guitarist Jerry Horton credited Baumgardner with pushing the band's creative side in an interview with Guitar.com around the time of the release.
"He actually made me be more creative," stated Horton. "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.'"
Though Baumgardner had worked on discs prior to Infest, his "to do" list started filling up after. He counts Alien Ant Farm's ANThology, Drowning Pool's Sinner, Coal Chamber's self-titled album and more recent disc's like Bush's Man on the Run, Lacuna Coil's Broken Crown Halo and Papa Roach's Metamorphosis among his producing credits. Meanwhile, Papa Roach have gone on to have one of the more successful careers in rock over the last decade-plus following that initial pairing with Baumgardner.
Around the time of the release, Horton revealed to Guitar.com that many of the tracks started with bassist Tobin Esperance and had a hip-hop oriented feel to them. He stated at the time, "The breakdown sections and the way they're arranged with the beat, the riffs, the rhythms and some of the melodies [has that vibe]. 'Last Resort' has hip-hop as well as classical elements. Some people have even said that it's noodle-y 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 Nas." Horton would later tell Loudwire that the "Last Resort" riff was initially written on piano and he later transcribed it for guitar.
Papa Roach, "Last Resort"
Papa Roach's Jacoby Shaddix echoed those sentiments in Loudwire's 'Wikipedia: Fact or Fiction?,' recalling, "I wasn't a Maiden fan when I was younger when we wrote that. I wasn't really a metalhead. And once everyone started telling us we ripped off Maiden, it was like, 'Well, I might as well check out Maiden.' Now, I've become a fan."
As for "Last Resort," it was penned about depression and dealing with suicidal thoughts. Horton stated, "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."
With the killer licks and Shaddix's vulnerable and personal delivery, a lot of people identified with the track and it became a monster hit. The track would become the band's first No. 1 single and also became the subject of several parodies. It was included in Weird Al Yankovic's "Angry White Boy Polka," turned up as a cover by lounge singer Richard Cheese and was even part of a Saturday Night Live sketch featuring Will Ferrell and Ana Gasteyer as the Culp Family Singers.
The Marcos Siega-directed video also blew up at MTV and it wasn't long before everyone knew who Papa Roach was. Bassist Tobin Esperance recalls in the exclusive video above, "We did ... Warped Tour. It was like we were playing this little side stage and nobody had heard of us yet, but it was just getting started. But literally, it was only like two days we were on this little side stage and then we moved up to being one of the headlining acts of Warped Tour. The single was taking off and at the time we were super excited -- young kids living the dream -- because we didn't realize what was about to happen. Then we jumped off Warped Tour early to do our first arena tour with Korn. We were like, 'This is just taking off like crazy.' The fans were multiplying, the record sales, it was crazy and then we just traveled the world."
The second single, "Broken Home," would not replicate the success of "Last Resort," but still enjoyed a pretty lengthy and solid run at radio. Much like "Last Resort," "Broken Home" would also pull from Shaddix's difficult childhood, and that was later replicated in Siega's second video for the band. This time, viewers were treated to the story through a series of flashbacks with the band eventually getting to destroy the home around them.
Papa Roach, "Broken Home"
A third single, "Between Angels and Insects," followed in the late spring of 2001, and it too enjoyed a nice run at radio. The track, however, probably enjoyed more success in concert as it became a live favorite that still is one of the most popular tracks in their sets. And while those three songs got the most airplay, tracks like "Dead Cell" and "Blood Brothers" also have stayed popular amongst fans as well.
By the time Papa Roach had completed the Infest cycle, things had really blown up for the group. What had started off as touring in a van playing a side stage at the Vans Warped Tour had now turned into prime spots on the Anger Management and Ozzfest tours. In addition, the band was also granted their own New Noize imprint that they used to bring another up-and-coming band, Alien Ant Farm, into the spotlight.
Over time, Papa Roach would realize that to survive, they would need to evolve their sound and some of what was dubbed the "nu metal" sound that put them on map would eventually give way to a harder rocking, energy-driven sound. But the openness of Shaddix in his lyrical content expressed on Infest remained and it has kept a connection with fans that has lasted through the years.
Speaking with Metal Forces magazine, Shaddix stated, "That's a solid f---ing record, man. That record is a snapshot of who we were as young men, and I feel that there was a huge purpose in that record. That record took us on a wild ride across the world, and we sold a shit ton of records. It put a stake in the ground: 'P. ROACH is here'. I look back on that record, and I'm very proud of it."
The singer told Loudwire, "We got a classic track and a record that was a big part of the soundtrack to [everyone's] summer. 'Cause it came out in April and by summer it just popped off the hinges. We met countless kids that were like, 'That was the record that made me want to pick up guitar or maybe made me want to start a band or that was the record that made me get into rock music, period.' To know that, that's cool that we're part of that history of rock in some way. That little [bit], it's awesome."