“I live by this term,” Jacoby Shaddix shared. “Come as you are, but don’t stay as you are.” This was just one of the mantra-esque hymns the Papa Roach frontman crooned throughout our brief conversation last year. It’s hard to put into words just how profound and thought-provoking the star was, all while giving off an endless energetic authenticity. While this brand of self-help could seem self-serving and pretentious coming from other rock stars, Jacoby obviously just wants to connect with people – including me, a complete stranger speaking to him over a spotty Zoom connection. This week, Papa Roach hit the road in the UK with Don Broco, almost one year after the release of their 11th studio album, Ego Trip, which we spoke about at length.
Jacoby is a lightning ball of energy, flitting between topics and anecdotes quicker than your mind can keep up. At one point, he stopped the conversation to pull a painting off of his hotel room wall to show me the (signed!) graffiti artwork he had just finished drawing underneath. But – just inches from the mischievous rock star’s surface, Jacoby is – like all of us – a work in progress.
Over the years, he has been extremely open about his issues. After struggling with substance abuse and suicidal thoughts, he is now more than a decade sober, something he’s extremely proud of. “It’s always about that evolution of self,” he explained, before admitting he truly struggled to keep himself in a positive headspace throughout 2020. “The pandemic, for me, had an effect of me spending a lot of time alone in my head. And that’s not really a good place for a person like myself. Ruminating on negativity is one of my downfalls, and I really had to stop myself from spiralling into a really dark space. I struggled for a while.”
He revealed that, despite having his family and friends around him, the fact that the biggest aspects of his life (touring, writing, recording, performing, et al) were all “torn away” from him, was too much to handle. “I think a lot of people could identify right?” he went on. “We have this life and this routine and then all of a sudden it’s like – nope, you’re f****ng locked away. It’s not good for the spirit, not good for the soul.”
So, naturally, Jacoby and the rest of his Papa Roach crew decided to get away from everything once they began recording what would become Ego Trip. The band and their engineers, producers (and a chef) etc, rented a “compound” and holed up in the extravagant building until their album was finished a month later.
“That was different for us,” Jacoby admitted, calling it a “safe space” but also a “very intimate process”. There was a tinge of reluctance there, though. Hanging out with your best friends 24/7 to record music might sound like an incredible holiday, but Jacoby confessed things got extremely raw between the band members during that time.
Jacoby said: “We peeled back the layers of ourselves … I mean, we broke down a lot of barriers and walls and learned things about each other that we didn’t know about each other.” Did Papa Roach argue during their time in their recording compound? “[We] hashed out some resentments, you know what I mean?” Jacoby smiled. “Worked through some of those issues, you know? Because we’ve been a band for 20-plus years, and so after a while, some things start to stack up.”
The star explained how each member of Papa Roach worked hard to openly appreciate the rest of the band, allowing them to “shine on the record creatively”. But it wasn’t always easy. Jacoby lamented being “pushed” by the rest of his band to turn in the best performance he possibly could. “I can remember a few times just being like: ‘F**k off man!'” he recalled.
Despite these tensions within the band, Jacoby assured me this challenge was “good for him”.
“That’s where growth really begins,” he waxed. “In those uncomfortable conversations. Those spaces where we don’t feel easy. Outside of my comfort zone is where I grow, period … my bass player, Tobin [Esperance], really pushes me to get outside of my comfort zone. It makes me uncomfortable, I get irritated with him, I get angry – but on the flip side of it, it makes me a better writer – a better communicator – through art.”
To some, this might sound a little phoney, but Jacoby practises what he preaches. He was the first to bring up pieces of his own history that he hasn’t been happy with while bookending his statements with the declaration that he wanted to “be accountable for his own actions”.
Perhaps most importantly, Jacoby funnels all of this emotional work directly into his art – always has done, and always will. “I didn’t want to write about [these issues],” he revealed. “But my producer was like: ‘That’s the good stuff, you’ve got to be uncomfortable!'”
With an infectious grin, he added: “It’s all good, though. Because I got to the other side of the process and really came to terms with some things in my life… [such as] being able to forgive my father for, essentially, abandoning me as a child. And writing a song about how I forgive this man. That’s some powerful stuff; forgiveness is a big one.”
Looking ahead, Jacoby is mostly thankful of the fans who have kept Papa Roach relevant, successful, and stronger than ever. Jacoby is, of course, glad to be back on stage regularly now, but he now views his job with a new perspective. Now, he wants to “celebrate the fans” and make connections with as many people as possible. He said: “I’m approaching it with a sense of gratitude. Not that i wasn’t grateful before, but you can feel it coming off the crowd. They’re like: ‘God it’s good to be back.'”
It’s good to have you back, Jacoby.
Papa Roach – Ego Trip is out now.