Q&A (2004)


Q: How do you feel the Getting Away With Murder album stands apart from your previous works?

JS: We knew what we had to do on this record.  It’s either fuckin’ sink or swim on this shit, you know what I’m saying? I’d say with this album, particularly vocally, I wanted to set out and prove myself as a solid rock n’ roll singer.  We knew we had to take it to the next level and I had to figure out what I was gonna do to get it there.  When we were doing the demos for this album, we didn’t want to waste any time fucking around.  We just wanted it to be to the point–the catchiest rock songs that we could write, without being pompous or sounding overboard.  This is probably the most pop stuff we’ve written, but it’s just kind of where our band is.  You know, I love bands like Social Distortion; straight-ahead, simple songs. One of my favorite Social Distortion albums is White Light, White Heat, White Trash. That album is like the record that fucking changed everything for me.

Q: For Getting Away With Murder, how did you get yourself into the mindset–and up to the physical challenge–of recording?

JS: When I came home off the road, I was pretty much just a fucking wack-ass mess of a person. I had to figure something out to change and fix things in my life.  It came to a point where I just realized I had to stop partying because it was getting way out of hand. When I came home I thought I was going to chill and that was just not the case–I had to quit partying.  This was the catalyst to focusing all my energy toward my ,  because music is the only thing that has saved me from myself, you know?  It was really tough to do; it’s still the hardest thing I have to fucking struggle with everyday.  For me, cleaning my act up is being totally focused.  My voice is stronger now; I’m in the best physical condition I’ve been in in a long time.  Mentally, I’m a little bit more stable and it helped me gain more of a positive perspective on my life.

Q: Well, you can definitely hear it.  Especially on the song “Scars,” that cuts deep.  This is soul-baring, melodic and powerful stuff.

JS: I think having a sense of vulnerability is one of the most powerful elements of this record.  That’s something that we haven’t really delved into completely before.

Q: Did any event trigger these songs?

JS: I’d say “Blood” is kind of like a song that goes out to our fans and to the industry. “Not Listening” is a track that comes from being a musician–it’s just natural to be rebellious and to go against the grain and always question authority.  The more I’ve delved into learning about politics and what’s going on in the world, the more I sometimes think ignorance is bliss, because the more I find about all the shady shit that goes on in that world, the more paranoid I get and the more agitated I become.  The lyric is “The more I learn, the more I ignore.”

“Take Me” is kind of about our position as a band–you know, we’re on the outside of everything looking in because we don’t really fit with any genre of music or any style of people. We’re just a rock band and it’s like we stand alone.  This is a song that reaches out to people saying, “take us, let us in, understand us, believe in us.”

That’s a powerful sentiment.

JS: Yeah. That’s where our band is at right now. We’re just the lone soldiers out here on tour doing it our own way.  It feels good because it’s a part of our career that we totally skipped in 2000.  The part of your career where you go out and just work and build and pack houses off of kick-ass songs and a kick-ass record instead of all the hype.

Q: Can you talk about “Be Free, Be Free?

JS: Let’s say it’s just straight about addiction and that’s just my song.

Q: What about “Tyranny of Normality?

JS: I wanted to name our record Tyranny of Normality a couple of years ago.  It was a line that stuck in my head and I wrote a song–it’s pretty much about “the death of outrage.”  I don’t understand why more people aren’t outraged about what’s going on in the world right now.  It just seems like a lot of people are very complacent.  Admittedly, I feel that way myself sometimes–I don’t know what to do or how to change the world.  I’m just one human being, so I put my thoughts–and how I feel–into the music.  So if we spark other people that feel the same way and they wake the fuck up, then that’s good.

Q: You address how fearful people are in “Blanket of Fear.”

JS: The lyric is like, “I am awake under this blanket of fear/And none of the people I see belong here.”  All this shit that’s fed to people through TV just keeps people scared and pacified with their fear. I don’t succumb to that. I’m thinking critically and that’s the first step in the right direction for myself. Several friends I hang with have a lot of the same beliefs I do.  But at the same time we’re not trying to shove our political opinions down people’s throats. I remember when a friend was trying to turn me Christian.  He was just shoving it down my throat and saying “oh you’re accountable and you’re going to go to hell” and this and that–it wasn’t very intriguing to me.  We don’t want to be the band that states, “we are this and this is the only fucking way.”

It’s important for artists to throw some ideas out there and for people to draw their own conclusions.

JS: Fuck yeah man, ‘cause that’s been the artist’s role since fucking the beginning of time. You have to perpetuate ideas in new and different ways outside the norm.

Q: The music business keeps changing–what’s your overall impression of it these days?

JS: Well, I mean, right now really what’s going on is that hip-hop and pop are blowing the roof off and rock n’ roll is just a bit more underground at this point. Which I think is ok, because everything goes in cycles.  As far as the rock scene goes, there’s a lot of different kinds of things going on.  You’ve got this screamo, emo thing now. I’ve learned that every genre comes and runs its course and then there’s a few bands that are able to outlive that tag and the coat they’re wearing at that moment.

Papa Roach is proving it has staying power.

JS: The thing about our music and where we’re going with it is this: if it comes from an honest and real place and it’s passionate and it’s got a heart and soul, then our fans will appreciate and understand it.  As far as where we’re headed in the industry, we’re just trying to solidify a fanbase with good songs and not worry about all the hype because the hype comes and goes.  It’s also cool to look at a band like Green Day, where their hype came and went years ago and they slugged it out in the trenches, worked their asses off, got a really hardcore fanbase and then went and made one of the records of their lifetime. That gives us inspiration because we understand, you know, that shit can happen again.

Q: When you’re on tour and not onstage, what’s you’re favorite thing to do when no one else is around?

JS: I used to never read, but I’m just changing gears a bit.  I’m reading a book called Days of War, Nights of Love and another called Diary by Chuck Palahniuk, who also wrote Fight Club. The books I read, movies I see and music I listen to are always shaping my creative outlook.  For me, it’s a healthy way to stay artistically stimulated.  Checking out art, getting into different art, etc. I’ve got friends who do clothing design so I’m always seeing what their new shit is and trying to stay aware of what’s going on around me, you know?  I create my own art out of this inspiration.

Q: Which is crucial.  You mentioned films–any particular ones you’re keen on?

JS: Let’s see…This really hasn’t like influenced my artistic life, but The Lebowski is something that helps me on a life level, because it’s just a funny fucking movie and sometimes when you’re on the road and you just want to stab yourself in the eye, you watch The Big Lebowski and you just feel better.

Art can keep you really sane…

JS: Even that new hype, Napoleon Dynamite, that movie is like visual Prozac.  I swear to it, if you watch it, you’ll feel like you’re on Prozac.

Q:  Any cult movies?

JS: Pulp Fiction is another movie that’s really big on our list.  Obviously, we like the old gangster films and Scarface is a pretty quintessential film in the catalog of Papa Roach.

Q: How do you want Papa Roach to be remembered in the history books?

JS: I’d say as a band that always stayed true to what they believed in and that our music is something that people can relate to on a real life level.  Also, kick ass rock stars too.  Honestly, I love being a rock star.  I’m hooked on this shit like crack.

Q: The addiction to applause and fan support and being lifted high–what does it feel like?

JS: For me, I’m a Leo, so it’s pretty much in my character to love being in the center of attention and it works out really well being the frontman in a rock band. The power of a social gathering like a rock show is fucking one of my favorite things in the world.  I love to go see live music and live theatre. Live performance art–I believe in that shit to the bone. To be at the head of a performance every night seeing smiles on people’s faces, or watching them in the front rows crying and just wigging out–it’s awesome to be able to provide the arena for people to do that. That social experience is something we gotta hold on to…you don’t want to lose that.

The live experience frees people.

JS: It’s the one key element that can’t be downloaded, can’t be fucking stolen, can’t be taken away.  The live show–that live gathering–is the last sacred thing that musicians have.  It’s a social event for people–they get their friends and their 40s and they go drink them before going in the show. And then when they come in, they go crazy and maybe they meet a girl and maybe they get laid later that night–it’s a bad-ass experience.

The amazing thing about the live experience is that every gig is different.

JS: Exactly. It’s not formula.  Every night is a bit different and that’s the thing that really attracts me to music, the freedom within it.  I’ve always been searching for personal freedom and I find it in music because I can express myself and I can do whatever the hell I want to within it.

Q: Talk a little bit about that crazy mad feeling of being somewhere else in the world and communicating and sending out a lifeline to people.

JS: Our first visit to Mexico City was insane.  We had armed police guards with us everywhere we went–we were trippin’! We were like ‘fuck, it’s never like this.’  When we stepped on that stage, the place ignited.  Beyond the language barrier, the music transcends, regardless. Those kids are singing the words even though they don’t understand what they’re saying sometimes.  But that passion is untamed, you can’t contain it.  Doing festivals in Germany and going to Japan and Australia is a trip because I’m an American in a band, but I also consider myself a citizen of the world.

This band has afforded me the opportunity to go out and meet other people in other cultures. It’s cool because you know what?  I’m representing America out there. I’m representing our country in a different manner than our government represents our country. Artists and musicians out there–we’re representing in a different manner.

Q:  Which musical figures do you feel you most identify with?

JS: As a band we really look up to Led Zeppelin.  Just because they came in and had a different sound and they got a lot of flack in the press, which said stuff like ‘who’s this guy, he sounds like a chick’ and whatever.  They just stuck to their guns and evolved creatively, pushing music forward in a lot of different directions.  The thing about them is you always knew it was Led Zeppelin, even through their folk, rock and bluesy phases.  They turned out to be one of the most legendary rock n’ roll bands ever. They’ve stood the test of time because they wrote bad-ass songs.

Q:  Aside from musicians, which actors, appeal to you?

JS: I really like Ed Norton.  I think he’s pretty fucking intense because he’s real versatile in his roles.  He can play a fucking hard-core motherfucker, or he can play a geeky nerdy motherfucker.  And then there’s Al Pacino in movies like Scarface and DeNiro in Taxi Driver.  I’ve got that shit sewn on the side of my fucking jacket.  I’d say those are two roles by those particular actors that stick in my mind.  Just straight fucking rebel souls who were reckless to the bone.  And that’s always intriguing when you’re a young man. There’s beauty in their performances and it’s just so fucking mean and rugged.

Q:  Moving on from there, you’re traveling around and there’s feelings of loneliness.  Just being displaced from a normal home life.  What’s your philosophical outlook so you can keep it together? 

JS: I don’t know how to keep it together.  I’m still trying to figure that one out.  I still go stir crazy out here on the road and fucking lose my mind.  I have to be honest, I’m having a really hard time staying sober out here, you know?  There’s fucking moments when I’m totally ready to fly off the fucking handle, but I need to keep that fucking shit together because that’s the only way I’m going to be able to maintain out here.  Honestly, when people ask me how I balance my personal life and my rock life–that’s an art that I have not fucking yet tried to even master.  It’s just too much.  Somebody was like, How do you balance it,” and I answered, “I don’t balance it, I’m a fucking mess.”  It’s the hardest thing, to go from being on the road to being home, there’s different parts of my personality that I have to tuck away and hide from.  It’s going from a rock star to being a fucking normal human being father.