Jerry Horton on Papa Roach's 'F.E.A.R'

Papa Roach’s eighth full-length album, F.EA.R. [Eleven Seven Music Group] contains the explosive, high-octane intensity fans expect from the Nor Cal rockers, only this album is fueled by a new element: hope.
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Papa Roach’s eighth full-length album, F.EA.R. [Eleven Seven Music Group] contains the explosive, high-octane intensity fans expect from the Nor Cal rockers, only this album is fueled by a new element: hope. Guitarist Jerry Horton attributes the positive lyrics to their singer-songwriter Jacoby Shaddix’s sobriety and new outlook on life.

“We were 80 percent finished with the album, and we were still searching for a title when Jacoby wrote ‘F.E.A.R. (Face Everything and Rise),’ says Horton. “He said that fear is something he faces every day, and the song is about taking a negative and turning it into a positive.”

F.E.A.R, named Loudwire’s “Most Anticipated Album of January 2015” in fan polls, was pre-released via streaming before the album dropped on January 27. For the new album, Jerry downsized his gear arsenal, trading in his “big spaceship” loaded with preamps, power amps, tons of pedals, and a MIDI-switching system for a Fractal Audio Systems Axe-FX II.

“Even with all that gear, before I had the Axe-FX II I still had to have my guitar tech increase the gain for me manually on certain pedals during parts of certain songs, such as ‘Hollywood Whore,’” says Horton. “But the Axe-FX II is so programmable that I don’t need to have my tech do those kinds of things anymore.”

However, the new system doesn’t mean Horton is immune to technical glitches.

“It’s a computer, so things can happen,” he says. “For example, I switched to this clean chorus sound for a song, but the system got stuck on that patch, so when it was time for me to play the huge, ballsy part for the song’s chorus, my tone was like, “Plink-plink-plink- plink.” Power outages are a problem as well. This one venue just wasn’t prepared for all of our gear—they didn’t have all the backup power they should have had—and right in the middle of the show, I lost all the power to my rig. It came back up pretty quickly, but when that happens, it seems like forever until your rig turns on again. Even things like wireless systems can be a problem. In major cities like New York and Chicago where there are lots of radio frequencies running, my wireless can get squashed down. So we have to find other frequencies to use, or just go to a cable. We’re always trying to make everything as bulletproof as possible when we’re on tour, because computers are a whole other beast—more reliable in some ways, but potentially catastrophic. We’re talking about getting an APC battery backup for the show, but even if we do, it won’t stop the reality that you always have to be prepared to deal with problems as they come.”

The band’s last album, The Connection, utilized electronic tracks for texture and depth, and F.E.A.R. follows the same direction—this time guided by the father/son production team of Kevin and Kane Churko.

“We heard their production of Blood by In This Moment, and we loved it,” says Horton. “So we started listening to other records they had done, and we fell in love with their sound. We went in with open minds, and surrendered ourselves to their process. We were of the mindset that if there’s anything we’re adamant about then we’ll say something, but, otherwise, we’ll just trust them, because we already knew that they put out great stuff.”

In fact, F.E.A.R. is the first time since 2006 that Papa Roach has left its home base of Sacramento, California, to record an album. Tracks were done at the Churko’s Hideout Recording Studio in Las Vegas, and the band took temporary residence in the city during the three months it took to complete the project. Amazingly, the group arrived on the scene with virtually zero songs.

“We had one chorus,” says Horton. “We basically had nothing. It was scary, but also liberating. We wrote songs during the day, and played them for Kevin and Kane at night. We programmed the drums in Pro Tools, and used Logic for the guitar sounds. That was the one hiccup, because the Churkos use Pro Tools, but all of our plug-in were on Logic. We just bounced the audio over, and, if needed, we’d re-record parts. As we had programmed drums to play to, we recorded guitar, bass, electronics, and vocals, and waited to track the drums until the very end—which is completely backwards from how we usually make records. But it was cool, because it allowed Tony [Palermo, Papa Roach drummer] to find the holes in the music and the vocals, and get creative at filling them. When the drums go down with the basic tracks, often the vocals aren’t finished, so Tony has to guess what might be there later. This time, we could tell he was having fun playing to an almost completed track, and he was just going for it.”

Horton also dug how the Churkos mix as they record.

“They’re always working on a mix throughout the recording process,” he says. “So when we finished all the tracks for a song, we could hear 90 percent of what the finished product was going to sound like. It was really cool that we didn’t have to wait until the mix to see how we were going to feel about a song.”

Ever since singer/songwriter Shahnaz harmonized with Shaddix on “Not That Beautiful” from The Connection, the band had talked about another female collaborator, but they couldn’t agree on anyone. But in one of those “meant to be” moments, former touring mates In This Moment happened to be in the studio at the same time, so the Papa Roach crew decided to ask their singer, Maria Brink, to lend her talents to “Gravity.”

“We’re super stoked with how everything turned out,” says Horton. “Maria’s voice adds a whole new dimension to the song.”

On tour, Horton is playing two hollowbody prototypes based on his Schecter Tempest signature model.

“I wanted a classic one and modern one,” he says Horton, “so we did two test models. The classic guitar is a glossy white archtop with chrome hardware, and the modern version is a matte-white flat-top with black hardware. I also have a Schecter PT loaded with a Sustainiac that I use instead of an EBow, as well as my signature models. I use Dunlop strings, gauged .013-.056 to handle our lower tunings and keep everything tight. I run the Axe-FX through Matrix power amps to my cabinets—but only for me to hear, as the sound goes from the Axe-FX directly to the front-of-house mix. My wireless system is a Lectrosonic.”

The hard rockers—not now, not ever “nu-metal,” please—are already enjoying a rousing response from fans about F.E.A.R., and they’re happy the new album’s cathartic message is being heard.

“You simply have to face your fears and know that no matter what happens, you’ll be alright,” says Horton.

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