Papa Roach Help Fight Hunger at New York Food Bank
Aside from the half-dozen photographers gathered on the edge of Harlem, N.Y. at 9:45 AM, it’s a normal day at the Yorkville Common Pantry. Inside, volunteers are packing grocery bags with cereal, juice and vegetables. Outside, people who are unemployed, disabled, homeless or otherwise unable to put food on the table are lining up to receive their allotment. Then, without fanfare showmanship, Papa Roach vocalist Jacoby Shaddix and bassist Tobin Esperance walk up to the center.
Obviously, when a major rock band shows up at a food bank, it’s a golden press opportunity, and Papa Roach are happy to take advantage of the situation — but not strictly for their benefit. For more than a year now, the band has been involved in helping to fight hunger, and recently they’ve taken an active role with WhyHunger. The organization is also supported by Bruce Springsteen, Carlos Santana, Lenny Kravitz and Good Charlotte.
On their new ‘Time For Annihilation’ album, Shaddix recorded a message to fans urging them to support WhyHunger, commenting that 1.2 billion people around the world are hungry and 16,000 people die each day from hunger related causes. He also suggests that fans make a five dollar donation to WhyHunger by texting WHY to 90999.
Between shifts packing groceries and passing out bags to recipients, Shaddix talked to Noisecreep about his involvement with hunger organizations and his experience with homelessness and poverty both as a child and a starving artist. He also spoke about a cover of Deep Purple‘s ‘Smoke on the Water’ he recorded with Carlos Santana and how when you’re with your wife, a hotel room delivery of white roses can get you in trouble.
When did you start working with WhyHunger?
We started working with a shelter back home called Loaves and Fishes. We were working on a record and we started volunteering there. I talked to the woman there, Sister Libby, about what we could do as a rock band to help out more and she said we could do a food drive at one of our shows. So we did that and it was successful. We had everybody who came to the show donate waters, matches and propane. There were a lot of people in this tent city outside of Sacramento that we were trying to help out. And, after that we were like, “Well, this was cool to do in our hometown. How do we do this nationwide?” So we got involved with WhyHunger. A couple weeks ago we, volunteered in L.A., and we’ve put together a VIP Package on this tour to raise money.
What does that entail?
We auction off a couple pairs of tickets, and the winners get to come to the show and meet the band. We’re raising anywhere from $1,000 to $1,500 a night with that. Thirty-three cents puts a meal on a table, and if you’re doing that five days a week, that’s $5,000 to $7,500 a week while we’re on tour, and we’re on tour 10 months out of the year. So it’s working out really well.
You’ve mentioned that homelessness and hunger are issues with which you’ve had personal experience.
The first year of my life, my family was homeless. My father was a Vietnam veteran, so he was a recluse. We were mountain folks, so it wasn’t like we were inner city homeless people. But it was tight. We lived in a tent for a while. It’s kind of funny though. My parents come from a hippy movement as well, so we also lived in a teepee and I lived out of a van. Then, we were in a screened-in porch. A neighbor gave up some space to us. I was the kid who always had the hand-me-downs. But it wasn’t a big deal to me. I came from a non-materialistic background, and at the time I didn’t know any better. That’s just how life was. As I grew up, my parents split up and my mom got remarried. My second dad was a blue-collar worker, so we were able to step up a little. He bought me my first television when I was 8.
You’ve come a long way, baby.
It’s a trip. I’ve got my own kids and I’m able to provide for them more than enough. But I feel it is a very important thing for me personally to take an active position. Even today on Twitter, I was like, “Listen up, fans. I’m going to volunteer at a shelter. What are you doing to help your community today?” I want to encourage people to go do something. It’s not always about giving money, it’s also about helping out and getting your hands dirty. To me, service to others is really gratifying. And I find that in music as well. When you’re playing a rock show and you’re seeing people smiling and you meet people after the show who say, “Man, your music has really helped me out through a lot of darker times in my life,” that’s always really great to hear. There’s a certain amount of well-being I get from coming out and doing things like this.
When you started going to school, was it difficult to see other affluent kids who had more than you?
All my friends were poor when I was growing up, so it was all good. Then, in middle school, that’s when my mother had gotten remarried and we weren’t rich kids or nothing like that. But in my era, it was cool to shop in thrift stores. It was stylish. So somehow I made that transition from being broke into being cool. It’s funny; when I needed help nobody was willing to give us stuff, and now as a rock ‘n’ roll band, they’re giving us free guitars and free drums. It’s like, man, that’s kind of ass-backwards.
In the beginning of your music career, how close did Papa Roach come to starving?
For six years I was juggling day job and playing music at the same time. We were the weekend warrior band where we’d take Thursday through Sunday and do the weekend tour in California. We were the starving artists for years. I’ve been in this band for 17 years and lived on Top Ramen for quite a while. But hey man, it’ll make a turd, so it’s all good. This is our opportunity to go, “OK, cool. We have a voice. People listen to us. People are paying attention to us. Let’s not only use it for our advantage, but to help other people as well.”
Papa Roach have a new single, ‘Kick in the Teeth,’ that’s doing well at commercial radio.
That’s really rewarding because we just went independent, too. We left the major labels and we’re taking a swing at it on an independent label, and it’s going good so far. I’m very happy about that, and I just think we’ve always got a shot to have that next big hit. ‘Kick in the Teeth’ is doing really well for us as a rock track, so we feel blessed. We’re still making an impact on people with our music, and that’s very rewarding.
You also just did a song for Carlos Santana’s new album.
We did Deep Purple’s ‘Smoke on the Water,’ which was rippin’. It’s the two of us with his band and I sang the s— out of it. My voice fits in perfectly with the track, and it was so cool to be in the studio with Santana. He’s a rad dude. I showed up at the house and there were white roses, and my wife goes, “Who the hell’s sending you flowers?” I’m like, “Uhh, I dunno.” I pick it up and there’s a note that says, “You have a precious voice, you have a gift, you are blessed — Santana.” I was like, “Santana sent me flowers! Oh my God.”