Although it pains most people to admit it, I have no shame in saying that I was a fan of nü-metal. It all started with Korn’s self-titled release back in ‘94, and since the fateful day that that cassette (yes, cassette), graced my boom box with its presence, my musical journey took a turn for the nü.

In an interesting turn of events, nü-metal became a Pandora’s box of sorts, exposing me to the likes of bands such as Tool and Faith No More. But before I was able to truly expand my musical horizons, I spent a good portion of my youth mesmerized by the genre’s forefathers, including Limp Bizkit, Godsmack, and of course, Papa Roach. And while most of nü-metal’s heavy hitters have since fallen by the wayside, Papa Roach continues to carry the torch throughout the modern metal scene.

After releasing their seventh album, Time for Annihilation…, back in August, the band has barely had time to catch their breath, appearing on the European rendition of the Taste of Chaos tour, select cities of the winter Jägermeister Music Tour, and now, their own Raid the Nation tour. Prior to the band’s appearance at the House of Blues last week, I had the chance to speak with bassist Tobin Esperance about Papa Roach’s longevity, the move from the majors, and his most memorable moments with the band.

You guys just kicked off the Raid the Nation tour. How have the shows been treating you so far?

Great! We just had the first show last night in Anaheim, and it was great. It really is going to take probably a good week into the tour to really kind of feel out how everything is going, because I have yet to make friends with the other bands. When you’re playing shows close to home, you’re just completely out of it, you know? You’ve got to leave the home turf before the real bro-down starts to happen.

Well on this half of the run, you’ve got support from Finger Eleven and Pop Evil. Do you guys generally pick the bands that you tour with?

Sometimes, very rarely though, it seems like. It’s really just–I don’t know, unfortunately not. (LAUGHS) But we’re bringing our friends in tonight from Alien Ant Farm. It’s kind of like a throwback.

I didn’t realize they were playing the show.

It was like a last minute thing. We were like, “Come on down and fucking play!”

Time for Annihilation… was released late last year and is actually Papa Roach’s first live album. As a band that’s been performing now for nearly two decades, how has there not been a live effort already?

I don’t know, that’s a good question. I think the timing was perfect though, for us to kind of do like a decade of Papa Roach, to celebrate the fact that Infest came out in 2000. In 2010, a lot has changed and we were just kind of transitioning.

We had just finished our contract with Geffen at Interscope, and we were making a move to go independent, so I think that signaled a good time to kinda just show everything that we had done in the past and get a little bit of a taste for what we’re doing in the present. And definitely, the new songs have a new sound, so it kind of gives the future–like the past, present, and future of Papa Roach.

There’s a hidden track on the record with a message from Jacoby encouraging fans to help combat hunger and homelessness. I know that you guys have partnered up with WhyHunger–how did you get involved in their cause?

As everyone knows, the economy was hit hard, and especially where we’re from in Sacramento. We got involved with the local homeless shelters very early on, and we just kind of wanted to take it to a bigger level, nationwide, so we did our research to find the best organization. Somebody said, “Bruce Springsteen, U2…” and we were like, “Cool, we want to give whatever part we can as well.” And that ended up being the best organization for us. We raised a lot of money…

I had read that you guys were volunteering at the homeless shelters as well.

Yeah, yeah, we go down every now and then and volunteer and serve food to the homeless people and whatnot. It just kind of humbles you, and you really get to see people and hear stories about what they’re going through, and it feels good to serve people in different ways.

You recently changed labels to Eleven Seven Music. Now aside from the label being home to a lot of your peers, like Buckcherry and Sixx AM, what brought on the change of scenery?

We just wanted to get the fuck away from the major labels! They’re just too complicated; they couldn’t really get shit done. They’re so one-dimensional in how they approach things, and it was about the time that we took control.

We had learned a lot over the years, and we had built a fan base and respect all over. It was time to take control of our own music and our business and be more hands-on. It was time to work with people who were going to listen to us without it being a big deal.

So when the time came for us to transition, we were like, “Sign me up! Let’s get the fuck out of here and build this all on our own!” and that’s how it should be. Some bands just need to be in control of their own destiny.

The band’s sound has definitely changed quite a bit over the last decade or so. Do you still enjoy the music you made in the early years?

There’s something about the things that we’ve done, and the people that we were back then, and the things that we were going through, and what those songs mean to other people–that’s what’s most important. But you know, I’m sure that in some ways, we’re completely different people than we were when we wrote songs that we wrote 15 or 10 years ago. So it’s more like we just kind of move on. I know that I do, as far as being a songwriter goes.

I’m into other things, other styles of music, and I’m approaching songwriting in a different way than I was ten years ago. But there’s something really special about channeling that energy that we had when we were a lot younger, and I think we do a good job of that. I’d be lying if I said, “Oh, I love playing ‘Last Resort’ over and over again, all the time, and the same old songs that we wrote fifteen years ago, and I just want to keep writing songs just like that.” We’re artists and we grow and we want to try new things, but I think we always have a very good balance, and we always maintain the essence of Papa Roach.

Earlier this year on your website, the band began releasing Top Five lists on Fridays. So along with that, I was hoping to get your top five experiences being a part of Papa Roach.

Oh yeah, that’s easy, there’s been so many! We’ve been so fortunate, and so lucky doing what we do, and we’ve been all over the world.

But I’d say the first time we ever played Rock in Rio, we went down to Brazil and just had an amazing time. We played with Guns ‘N Roses and Foo Fighters. We were all hanging out in the same hotel, you know, with Britney Spears, so it was a trip. And we played this humongous show in front of like 350,000 people, and we flew in by helicopter–it was totally one of those rock star moments where you’re just like, “Wow, I can’t believe this is happening!” We were like little kids, just having so much fun…maybe partying a little too much. (LAUGHS)

Also, the first time we did the MTV Music Awards and being nominated for a Grammy and all that stuff early on was amazing. Just getting the chance to play in places that you never thought that you would go. We’ve done shows in Russia, and playing Wembley Arena in London was awesome. We just did that and destroyed it. That was definitely a dream come true, you know, to play Wembley.

Just recently, we had an amazing show. We headlined–this is kind of funny actually–Woodstock in Poland. (LAUGHS) And it was the largest show we’ve ever played. It was like 500,000 people, and the roar from the crowd was just intense, like really intense. It was just a sea of people; we couldn’t even see where it ended, and everyone was just going crazy. It was definitely a moment where we had to pinch ourselves.

I didn’t realize there’d be such a giant festival in Poland…

Exactly! It was intense.

So you’ll be in the States through much of the summer–after that, what’s the rest of the year looking like for the band?

We’re going to tour all the way to the end of July. We’re doing the US Raid the Nation tour, of course, with Finger Eleven and then Escape the Fate. After that, we’re going to be heading over to Europe to do some festivals. We’ll be hitting up all of the Sonisphere dates and then doing a bunch of our own headliners between.

That whole time that we’ll be touring, we’re going to have a new single out called “No Matter What,” and also be writing for a new record that we’re going to drop first thing next year.

Check out the rest of our pictures (thanks to Quartiano Photography) from the band’s performance at the House of Blues on April 26th:

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