Taproot: 'We Were Looking For A Natural Kind Of Sound'
The band currently has a home at the independent label Velvet Hammer, which released the new album Our Long Road Home on September 16.
Posted on Nov 19, 2008 04:57 pm
After touring with the likes of Korn, Disturbed, and Linkin Park (not to mention writing briefly with Billy Corgan), it might seem that Taproot would be riding high right about now. But as most have come to expect, the music industry is a fickle one. Although the Michigan-based band's 2nd release on Atlantic Records, Welcome, sold close to 400,000 and peaked at #17 on the charts, the follow-up Blue-Sky Research didn't quite make the numbers the label needed. Taproot was dropped from Atlantic in 2006, but now there's more creative freedom in their hands.
The band currently has a home at the independent label Velvet Hammer, which released the new album Our Long Road Home on September 16. The recording process was a bit different for Taproot, particularly when it came to hiring new producer Tim Patalan. While the band was happy with Toby Wright's production work on past albums, guitarist Mike DeWolf said that Patalan was very much like another member of the band, particularly when it came to selecting the right equipment for each track. Because DeWolf doesn't really consider himself a gearhead by any stretch of the imagination, musical guru Patalan introduced the guitarist to a world of new possibilities in the studio.
UG: With the latest album Our Long Road Home, you had the opportunity to record in a new studio setting that was much closer to home. Did that change the recording process for the better?Mike DeWolf: I don't know if that necessarily did. I mean, being home for sure offered us a completely different way of life. I think that helped in itself for the record. Recording with Tim Patalan, his whole style is completely different and completely refreshing and exciting. It was just a great experience.
We would start with a seed of a song and then be like, That's really great. Let's move on. You would never know what it was going to sound like until it was done. We were working out stuff while recording. Everything was always changing. It was a really exciting new way to work for us. On previous albums we would hash out all the songs, know exactly how we were going to record them, and rehearse them first for a month. Then we would just go and record what we had. This time around it was always like, How else can we improve this? What if we tried this? It was a really fun and free and open way of working.
Were those the reasons that inspired you to change from your previous producer Toby Wright to Tim Patalan?
Not necessarily. Our manager actually said, Hey, have you guys ever heard of this Tim guy? When Steve and I were in high school even, we had heard of this guy who had this studio in his barn who recorded Sponge and a couple other big things back then. We were like, Oh, that would be sweet to go work with him! We knew of him since high school, but we never crossed paths and we never got to meet him. But when our manager brought him up we were like, Well, we've never met him, but we'd love to. It turned out that he's just extremely knowledgeable in music - more so than any of us or anyone else that we've ever worked with! It was just really refreshing to have an extra band member to be like, What if we tried this? He knows all his stuff.
"I just happened to be at one of the most creative points in my life."
Did Tim offer up any specific new ideas in terms of playing technique?
I think technique-wise - I don't know if I'm supposed to say it - but I think he went to U of M for a full-ride scholarship for cello. He's extremely knowledgeable. So when he goes, Hey, Mike. I think I know exactly what you're trying to do here, but try moving this knob to that knob and see how that feels. Then I would try it and be like, Oh, my God! How did you just think of that? It just became pretty apparent that we could really trust him for any ideas that he had. We could give it a good shot.
Were you introduced to any particular studio equipment that worked really well with Taproot's sound?
Not really! We pretty much brought all of our stuff in there with what we had. I think starting out we discussed what we were kind of looking for. We were looking for a natural kind of sound, a more realistic kind of sound instead of the oversaturated or overproduced sounds that a lot of bands in our genre go for these days.
Would you say that you stuck with pretty much the same studio setup that you had on previous album Blue-Sky Research?
On the last album we rented a lot of equipment. So we could pick and choose from all different types of stuff.
When it comes to the majority of your faster tempo rock tracks, do things change that much in terms of the tone you'll dial in?
I think on any album, you find your go-to guys for a heavy sound or a general clean sound and then go from there. It wasn't really any different on this album. We know what works.
What specific guitars and effects are we hearing on Our Long Road Home?
I have a custom Ibanez AX. It has the dimebucker in it. That's my main live guitar. It's my favorite one and that's my go-to guitar. As far as effects, I literally only have one effect. I try to make due. If you show me the different ways to use it or different techniques, then it's going to sound like a whole different effect. But basically it's just a delay! The one I have right now is a Rocktron.
There are some really interesting guitar parts occurring in Be The 1. Can you give us an idea of how you approached that song?
I don't know if I necessarily had a lot offer in there. It was actually somewhat of standard Taproot track. Steve and I played guitar when we were messing around with parts, and we came up with some pretty strange layers to it. I don't know any technical jargon or what not!
Are there any unique voicings going on between the guitars?
Steve and I always use pretty weirdo harmonizing on the guitar! I guess it was pretty standard! We don't know how we work - we just work!
In the beginning moments of Stethoscope, are those digital sounds or is that a delay pedal?
Yeah, I think that is the guitar with delay. I think in a lot of it we used a program called Reason. It's just kind of a digital thing like you said. I think there are a lot of things going on, whether it's an orchestral kind of thing or it's the heartbeat sound.
"It was a really exciting new way to work for us."
I read that you actually included your daughter's voice in that song. Is that correct?
Yeah. We handed her the microphone and we said, Hey, can you come on over and sing for us? She was like, No! But we finally had that part and had it for quite a while. When we decided on the mood for the album, we wanted to try and fit it in there because it's weird!
Did the songwriting process change in any way on this album? I do understand that you wrote the lyrics for As One instead of Stephen Richards.
Yeah, it was one of those things where Stephen hit a point where he needed some help, and I just happened to be at one of the most creative points in my life. I don't think I've felt that way since then so it happened at a good time!
In terms of the music, do you usually come in with most of the first riffs and then the other band members will offer up their ideas?
You know, for the first album it was actually a lot like that. Stephen and I would get together and play some songs, and then we'd introduce that to the other guys. On other albums everyone would come in with their own parts, but for Our Long Road Home it was kind of like it was in the beginning. Stephen and I would get together and lay down a song, and then introduce it to the guys.
I read that you had an opportunity on the last album to write songs with Billy Corgan as well.
Yeah, he sat down with us and worked on several songs. That in itself was a learning experience!
You've toured with such a wide variety of well-known bands, the most current one being Sevendust. Do you sense that this might be the big year that you'll break through to a larger audience?
Yeah, we always try to think that way and keep that approach to playing.
Interview by Amy Kelly