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No Stranger To The Game: Taproot’s Loud and Heavy Return

Photos and interview by NuCoreJess

Taproot has without a doubt secured their spot in the legacy of nu metal music. The band is no stranger to the genre which combines heavy riffs and lyrics, with an almost hypnotically melodic sound. Following the overwhelmingly positive reception of their sophomore album Welcome which featured their massive hit “Poem”, Taproot cemented their place on the music charts. To date, Taproot has toured with Ozzy Osbourne’s Ozzfest, Deftones, Korn, Sevendust, and Disturbed, among many other names. With an almost intuitively heavy sound, it was no surprise that Taproot’s return from their hiatus album, SC\SCRS, sounded as though they had never left. SC\SCRS includes new favorites like “Favorite Song” which features Nonpoint’s Elias Soriano, to softer melodies like “Love Without You”, featuring female country singer Audrey Ray. Fresh off of an incredible show at the historic Whisky A Gogo in Los Angeles and a massive performance at Sick New World Festival in Las Vegas, I was able to catch up with vocalist Stephen “SCI\SSRS” Richards and drummer Jarrod Montague.

Jess: Thank you so much for joining us and congrats on playing Sick New World. I saw you guys at the Whisky A Go-Go the other night- Steve, you were talking about some type of food flavored wine?

Stephen: Oh Portwine?

Yes, tell me a little about it.

Stephen: It’s a dessert wine. It's a lot thicker and a lot stronger than your regular average wine and I never heard of it or tried it, but when we did our first record Gift, Ulrich the producer was like “You know if you want something to coat your throat, or loosen you up a little bit” because it was our first album. So I was a little bit tentative in figuring out what to do.

Right on, and I understand that SC\SCRS is the first return album after 6-7 years?

Stephen: Actually, our last record we released in 2012. It just took me 6 or 7 years because I could only work for 4-5 hours a week. So it took me 6-7 years to do the whole record, but I did the math and it all boils down to like 2 months of all of us going at it for 12 to 16 hours a day...adds up the exact same.

Jarrod: Does it really? Yeah, that’s cool.

And how has the reception been to the album?

Stephen: Pretty good. A lot of people like different tracks for different reasons which is kinda cool, the ones I write are my favorites. But, you know, some people like the song “Hey” that’s just a bonus track and that is a lot of people's favorite song. Like “Oh cool, I guess that should have been track #3 instead of a bonus track.”

For sure! By the way, how was it playing a small venue like the Whisky to Sick New World? How does it feel to play at such an intimate venue and then go to one of the largest festivals all within one week?

Jarrod: They are both awesome for different reasons. Obviously, at the Whisky, it's always fun to be able to see the individual faces. I feel like in the larger venue setting like we had at Sick New World you see a lot more faces which is awesome, but from my perspective as the drummer I have to work hard not only to put on a show and to project further out, but also you have to win some of those people over that aren’t necessarily there to see you. We could see a lot of people singing along and enjoying what we were doing yesterday which was awesome.

Stephen: Yeah, we’ve done a lot of big festival shows like Ozzfest which is fun to do, but after having not played for so long getting back to Whisky- I mean aside from CBGB, I don't think there is a more famous club in the United States and we had a great show there. In the early days, there would have been a lot of industry people just kind of judging you. Maybe some fans, having fun, going crazy. But this last time was just straight-up fans that hadn’t seen us in so long so it was full-on singing, there was a balcony to jump off...

I definitely appreciated that for the last song "Poem" you got off stage and allowed the entire audience to come on. That was so awesome to witness.

Stephen: I was going to try that yesterday but we didn’t have much time. It would have taken a while and security wouldn't have liked it but I love doing that. Yesterday I couldn't bring them up so I just threw them the mic and let them sing it. I think that stands out that they’ll all remember like “Holy shit, I got to sing at this concert that we all wanted to go to and they let us do their biggest song.”

Jarrod: I had a fan reach out maybe a month ago after we played at the Gramercy Theater in New York City and he asked me “Do you know how much impact you have on fans?” and I said “Well that's a really tough question, right?” I said “It's interesting to be in this position because this is just kinda something that we’ve done for a long time.” Of course, we all have our favorite bands and it's hard for us to imagine that there is someone that thinks about our band the same way we think about our favorite bands because we are just these guys, right? So I tried to explain that to him and then he said “Ok well that's a cool perspective because this was one of the best nights of my life.” and he sent me a picture of him on stage with us at the New York show and yeah, it’s awesome. We’ve heard that a few times from people. So for him to kinda embrace that and make that be part of the show, knowing that you could potentially be giving somebody one of the best nights of their lives is kind of mind-blowing. It makes it that much more fun to try to make it work and do it.

Yeah, I have to agree with that.

As you know I’m with the Nu Metal Agenda and Nu Metal used to have this negative connotation, whereas now it's kinda having its deserved moment. I am going to go ahead and say that Taproot played such a big influence on that genre. Do you guys welcome nu metal being associated with Taproot? How do you guys feel about embracing the genre?

Stephen: I think for sure, we love tying to nu metal. When we came out, nu metal was just a term to me and I don't think we were punk rock and definitely weren't death metal, so we just fell into that glump of bands that were at that point “relevant” and luckily we were on the upper end of the relevance. So it was totally cool. Our bassist kinda points out that nu metal was kind of a genre back then, but everyone grows up a little bit and strays. So nu metal to him is more of like an era, like a time, it's not just a style by itself. That rings true in some ways, but to me at the end of the day, we are just a nu metal band, I don't have a problem with it.

I don't have a problem with it either. Speaking of Nu Metal, could we say that the situation with Fred Durst has been squashed?

Stephen: I’d assume so at this point. I don't see why he’d give a flying f whatsoever. That was weird too because people always ask about like “Yeah, so do you still hate Fred?” and I’m like “We never hated Fred.” He got mad at us for a good reason and held a grudge because we kinda, you know, ended up doing our own thing and not what he wanted so that's why he got pissed off but at no point was I ever mad at Fred. I mean he left a funny message back then and it was in a mini cassette recorder for voicemail on a regular phone. But we were never mad at him, he only ever helped us out and did good stuff for us so, whatever.

Jarrod: Yeah, even when we were on tour with Staind and P.O.D and Flyleaf in 2005, I was talking to Aaron Lewis one night and of course, Fred and Bizkit had signed Staind to Flip. The conversation came up and I asked him if he happened to know if Fred had any issues with us and he said “No, that’s just Fred being Fred. That’s probably what he was doing, probably had a bad day.” and then even after that at some point, I knew that he had reached out to our old manager about possibly helping to manage or market one of the newer Bizkit records. He talked a lot of crap about David Orbino in that message and I don't think that if he was holding a grudge he would have reached out and asked him to potentially work with him. I think it was all done many years ago. We would love to maybe come across them-maybe we’ll manifest this here-love to maybe come across them, someday. Steve always says it would be awesome to get back and sing "Stuck" with them or something.

Hell yeah! Would you ever consider doing a Limp Bizkit, Taproot collab?

Stephen: I would. I’d make it way better.

Jarrod: Absolutely, that would be sweet!

Talk to me about the collaborations on this latest album

Stephen: It was awesome. We got Elias from Nonpoint to do a pretty big one, I mean, he sang the whole thing but I gave him the bridge of “Favorite Song” which is my favorite song on the record. He slayed it. He didn’t have to do anything crazy, he just sent me his idea and I was like “perfect” so he did it, nailed it, and had it really quick. Obviously we’ve known him for a long time and to have him be a part of the nu metal movement and come in, it made sense.

Audry does my little attempt at “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” with my cheesy ass guitar solos that I just had to do for fun. She did a great job, her vocals were amazing. I just organized. Tim, our producer, the guy that I worked with in the studio, had her come in and do a couple of ideas and lines and I just moved everything around. She didn’t come in properly to sing a song with me or do anything, I just used what she laid out as some vocal ideas and it worked out perfectly.

Now that this door is open, could we be expecting future albums and projects from Taproot?

Stephen: It's a definite possibility, I mean, who knows. We’re just kinda still enjoying the whole wildness because when I did the record I literally just planned on it just being like “here” to a couple thousand fans and friends on Instagram or Facebook, you know, like “here is the new stuff if you wanna hear it.” But I wrote the material to be the next Taproot record back in 2012. Once Phil caught wind I planned on doing a soft release he was like “ No, dude, you wrote this to be the next Taproot record. It's the next Taproot record.” So that’s when I met up with Tom, made it a full-on release and we’re out playing shows and promoting. I’m still just taking this in. I quit my job to play these random shows, so I'm having fun.

Did you guys get to check out any bands at Sick New World after your set?

Jarrod: We went over to watch Nonpoint, they opened the show. They had a campaign all over social media, like “we are number 1, we’re the first ones going.” They were awesome, they were great and opened the show. Then we watched Fear Factory, they were fantastic. I got to watch Helmet, it's one of my favorite bands and then I told somebody last night, that was the best warm up music and fun I’ve had getting ready for a show because the stage rotated and there’s a wall in between. So Helmet was playing while we were getting ready on the other side of the thing. So yeah, one of my favorite band’s music is playing and I’m just getting all pumped up. That was awesome.

Stephen: Technically on the same stage. You should have hit a couple snares.

Jarrod: Yeah, I think you’re right. That was fun, then we watched Alice in Chains, and we got to meet one of our favorite drummers, Tim Alexander from Primus. That was unbelievable. Probably, kind of the third time I met him, but he was super nice.

That sounds awesome! So what’s coming up next for Taproot this year?

Stephen: A bunch of more festivals and cool headlining shows, kinda the same thing we’ve been doing for the last 6 months, however long it's been, I can’t count.

Jarrod: Yeah, we're doing some cool shows. We’re doing a bunch of more festivals, I think the next one is in Florida Welcome to Rockville, a bunch of huge bands on that 4-day deal, then we're doing a couple shows with Hinder, Hed PE, and Nonpoint.  It's really awesome that we getting to reconnect with a lot of these bands that we came up with and doing shows with them again.

Well thank you both, it was great chatting with you!

Jarrod: Sure, thank you.

Stephen: Alright, I’m glad it was good.