Michelle LaRose talks with Steve Richards for Metal Masters
Photographs by Michelle LaRose
Hi you’re crunching it out on Metal Masters with Michelle. I’m here today with Steve from Taproot.
Steve: Good. Thank you.
MM: Good. I was just talking to you… you’re from Ann Arbor Michigan. I’m from Lansing Michigan.
Steve: Ann Ahbah
MM: Ann Ahbah. You have that funny accent like I do. You’re on tour with Mudvayne now. You just started touring with them a couple days ago?
Steve: Yeah, like four days ago. We’ve played three shows. It’s off to a good start. Tonight’s going to be great. Ybor City, beautiful place.
MM: In the last couple years you have done Ozzfest. How’s that been? Doing Ozzfest? That’s pretty big.
Steve: Yeah. Our first Ozzfest in 2000 was the first time that we actually toured the country, for an extensive period of time. Getting on a bus. It’s a great way to meet a lot of up and coming bands. We made a lot of great friends the first year. The second time through it was just kind of like going through the motions. We had to focus on writing our new record Welcome too.
MM: Right, you have the new record Welcome. You came to the table with a bunch of songs loaded and ready to go and your producer, Toby made you change what you were doing?
Steve: We spent two weeks just working on the first five songs that we ended up keeping. He was like there is no way we are going to be ready to go into the studio within a year if we just keep trying to make these songs better. So we kept the five that we really loved and dropped about twenty-five and he said, “You guys have to write ten more songs, call me when you’re ready.” He gave us two or three weeks and when they came back, he was blown away.
MM: That’s great. So he pushed you in a different direction to re-shape you. This album was a little different from your first album.
Steve: Yeah. He begged us to find ourselves musically instead of just sitting there and playing songs from point A to point C. You know, why not throw in a point B? Why not throw in a little something that makes us little bit happier, a little more creative, have fun and put smiles on our faces.
MM: It sounds like it was a learning experience for you.
Steve: Definitely. Especially when you use twenty-five songs, that’s a lot of writing. A lot of creative energy that you’ve put on to paper that you’ve had to express and to just have it all get thrown away really kicks you in the butt and you have to focus on starting over again.
MM: Maybe some of the old stuff can come back. You can re-group it as something.
Steve: I used a little bit too. But yeah.
MM: You just got back from Europe?
Steve: Yeah. We did two weeks in the U.K. with Pit Shifter and that was, “ehhh”.
Steve: I like Pit Shifter but we’re not that big of fans for traveling over seas.
MM: I hear you are on Fred Durst’s shit list. I heard a phone message that he left for you that wasn’t a very nice message, lets put it that way. He said that he was going to “erase” you. That’s very scary. How do you feel about that?
Steve: I don’t know. Like a mental image of Back To The Future when his sister starts disappearing then his family starts disappearing. I don’t think I can be erased so I wasn’t too scared. Fred just got pissed off one day and that’s all it was. I haven’t talked to him since.
MM: It sounds like he made a mountain out of a molehill.
Steve: Yeah. How often have you ever been really upset and really, really ticked off and imagine having everyone think that’s what your like all the time. He’s not like that.
MM: He just flew off the handle at the moment.
Steve: Yeah, yeah. I’ve seen his good. I’ve seen his bad.
MM: I’ve seen interviews with you where you say West coast audiences differ from East coast audiences. How is that different, West coast from East coast?
Steve: Not necessarily coastal, I’d say it’s more of the L.A. vibe. The shows there are really, really different than say New York or Chicago or farther East. It’s definitely closer to home for us, Michigan and the East coast is a lot more responsive for us. I’d say our biggest markets are New York, Philly and Chicago. Those are our best markets to play shows in. That’s just the way it is. When you play in L.A. its kind of like your playing for a whole bunch of rich kids that just want to stand there and throw their name around.
MM: We’re going to go into your first video or your latest video I should say Poem. That seems to be a pretty straightforward video. It looked like you guys had fun making that.
Steve: It was two hard days of jumping around, spray paint and soot but it was fun.
MM: Sounds great. We’re going into Poem with Taproot here on Metal Masters.
[Poem video plays]
You’re rocking out. This is Michelle. I’m with Steve from Taproot.
MM: Now Steve, you did a couple of independent albums before the two latest albums you have on Atlantic records. You burned those yourself? Packed em’, shipped em’ off. You did the whole deal yourself?
Steve: Yeah. That’s what young bands have to do to get exposure. We didn’t really record them as albums and try to send them out. We were basically doing it as demo’s then luckily with our shows getting a reputation of being really energetic, a good place to go for kids to see good bands perform… The kids starting asking us, “Where can I get your music? Where can I get your music?” So it was like crap! We’re going to have to go break into the U of M and use their computers. Kids would be getting ready to write their thesis at the University of Michigan we’d be sitting there like, “No!” We’d be using six computers burning our own CD’s and packaging them and sending them out. It started out a couple a week in the beginning then when we stopped doing it and got signed it was probably forty or fifty a day.
MM: Wow! That’s pretty good. That’s a lot of hard work and it looks like it’s paid off for you guys.
Steve: We’re happy. We got signed and that’s all we’ve ever wanted. We got to do a second record and we’re touring across the world. Its great!
MM: That’s fabulous. Who are some of your musical influences?
Steve: [Laughing] Too many to name I suppose. I found myself, especially after dropping those twenty-five songs having to really find some inspiration. I found myself going back to stuff that’s as funny as Abba that I remember listening to when I was growing up when my Mom would vacuum or something. David Bowie to Pink Floyd and Duran Duran, just a lot of older stuff that used to make me smile, that made me want to get into music in the first place.
MM: One of the reasons I asked you that question is, today I was surfing the internet and I came across a site that was for a band out of New Jersey called Courtesy Of Nothing and they listed you guys as one of their musical influences. How does that make you feel when other bands say, “Taproot is my influence?”
Steve: [Laughing. Looking at band’s name on off-camera cue card] I’ve never heard that before!
Steve: [Double look at cue card] That’s nuts!
MM: That must make you feel great, right?
Steve: [Triple take] Yeah, I guess, I don’t know. I’ll have to check them out. Hopefully they took the good parts of our music and not the bad.
MM: Taproot is a very interesting name. Where did you come up with Taproot?
Steve: The thesaurus! [Laughing] It’s not that interesting of a story. [Laughing] Basically it was our guitarist, who was looking for cool names in the thesaurus. That’s the best place to do it because you can figure out what you want your band name to represent. I think for us, Taproot is the best name. It doesn’t really sound too metal, it doesn’t sound too alternative. It could be folk, it could be blues, it’s like a universal word for everything. It doesn’t really have to be like Nu-Metal.
MM: More of a neutral name. I heard you were into alternative medicine?
Steve: I used to be into a whole bunch of stuff. Living on the road your mind kind of.. [Laughing]
MM: Easier said than done.
Steve: Yeah, yeah. Always think positive. But I’m not big on aspirin, I don’t like popping pills. I definitely think the more and more you do stuff, the more often you have to do it again. I try to stay clean but I do drink a lot on the road. [Laughing]
MM: So you try to stay health conscience and that’s good, you need to be healthy to be on the road like that.
Steve: Yeah. It doesn’t always work.
MM: On the new album, Welcome, they also have a video. If you buy the CD the video is ‘The making of Welcome’. That was an interesting video. It looks like you had a lot of fun making the album, a lot of goofing around and giggling on it.
Steve: Actually I put that whole thing together. People always ask me, “Why’d you do that? I don’t get why you guys are always laughing.” I’m like, “Well if you don’t understand how funny Jarrod’s laugh is then I guess you don’t need to see an inside look at Taproot.”
MM: I think it’s great! It shows you guys having a lot of fun and that’s what it should be about. You should have a lot of fun when you’re out there doing this.
Steve: Well we do. Anything that makes Jarrod laugh will brighten your day up every day.
MM: That’s wonderful. Now we’re going to go in to the next video, which is Again And Again with Taproot here on Metal Masters.