Taproot tools to the next level via Milwaukee
No matter whom they come in contact with, Taproot makes an impression. A few years ago, they met Jack Osbourne -- as in son of Ozzy -- and made such a strong impression on him that they found themselves performing at OzzFest and receiving gobs of national attention.
After Ozzfest, they quickly fattened their fanbase and before long, both Atlantic Records and Interscope, the label of Limp Bizkit's Fred Durst, were competing to sign the Michigan foursome. When Taproot chose Atlantic, Durst was so angry, he supposedly left an abusive message on Taproot frontman Stephen Richard's answering machine.
Part of the band's mystique is their dichotomy. Clearly influenced by metal, the band also has a softer side, with emotionally charged lyrics about self-loathing and loneliness. Although they sometimes sound like Alice in Chains and sometimes a little like Korn, they always have traces of more dramatic bands like Star Sailor and old Genesis.
Currently, their song, "Mine," is climbing the charts, while the first single, "Poem," remains in the top ten many months after its release. Incredible record sales of their second album, "Welcome," suggest that more singles from the album are just a business meeting away.
After touring through Europe and Japan, Taproot is on the first day of their North American tour, kicking it off in Green Bay. We tracked down bassist Phil Lipscomb while he relaxed in the Frozen Tundra and asked him a few questions. Now, our only question is: Will Taproot leave its usual strong impression on Milwaukee?
OMC: So how's Green Bay?
PL: Cold. Not much else to say. We got in last night and it's our first time playing here. But we have high hopes for this tour. We're really good friends with Disturbed and we heard the guys in Chevelle were cool, so there will be a lot of hanging out, a lot of drinking.
OMC: Are you guys big partiers?
PL: We drink and smoke cigarettes, but we don't do hard drugs or smoke weed. We're one of the few bands, I think, that don't smoke weed. It's a very un-bandly thing to do.
OMC: So you guys are pretty low key, both off and on the road?
PL: Definitely. We're not rock stars. We don't do the drug thing. We don't have a bunch of girls on the bus. Basically, we like to play video games and listen to music.
Are you still friends with Jack Osbourne?
PL: Yeah, but we don't see him as much. He's in LA, doing his own thing with "The Osbornes" and trying to find bands and get himself established early in the business. We saw Kelly (Osbourne) recently, She's a friend, too. Basically, we're friends with everyone in the family except Ozzy. I mean, don't get me wrong, I love Ozzy and Black Sabbath, but we haven't had the opportunity to become friends and I'm not into becoming friends with him just because I can.
OMC: How long have you been playing bass?
PL: I started late, at 19. I had only been playing for a year and a half when Stephen invited me to play in the band. I got really lucky. I lived in a house with Jared (Montague) and he was always drumming, and there were other people in the house who played music, so it was easy for me to get really obsessed with my bass as soon as I picked it up.
OMC: Would you agree that most of your fans are teenaged males?
PL: I think they are who seems to get it the most, but that was never our goal. We like to try to be on the edge of what's coming out, beyond just the normal stuff. And a lot of the people who are older like what they know, so we try the new stuff on the younger kids and they're into it. But we have a few girls out there in the audience now, too.
OMC: How old are you?
PL: I'm 26. Everyone in the band is in their mid-20s.
OMC: What bands influenced you as a bassist?
PL: When I first started playing, there were certain bands that I already liked but didn't realize what a cool bassist they had. Like Red Hot Chili Peppers. I was like, "Holy s--t, this Flea guy is amazing." Also Primus and even like the Police. Sting is amazing. He does really cool stuff.
OMC So how would you describe Taproot's music?
PL: I don't know anymore. We're not RapCore or NuMetal. Maybe we were NuMetal on our first record, but we've expanded way beyond that.
OMC: How has fame been disappointing so far?
PL: It hasn't been disappointing, just different. You know, the perception of what you think it's going to be like and what it is. It's not quite as glamorous. I'm not driving around in a BMW just because my band's on MTV. MTV doesn't mean s--t. It doesn't guarantee anything.
Another thing that's different is famous people don't intimidate me anymore. I'm in awe of people, but not intimidated.
OMC: Who are you in awe of?
PL: Flea. Actors and actresses. Britney Spears. I would probably freak out if I met her.
OMC: You're a Britney fan?
PL: Definitely. But so many people you meet don't live up to what you want them to be. Maybe they act like rock stars or do too many drugs and it sours you on their whole thing.
OMC: Has life and work gotten harder or easier now that you're somewhat established?
PL: It's a little easier now. We saw how busy things can get, though. Now, we play 45 minutes or an hour a day, but we had to work much harder when we really had to fight for our fans and people weren't paying attention at shows. But we're kind of at a midpoint right now. Hopefully we'll get to the next level.
OMC: What is the next level?
PL: I don't know. Not sure what's out there, but there's gotta be something else after this.
OMC: Any advice for young musicians?
PL: Keep writing music, keep trying new things. Don't try to copy anybody but don't be afraid to fit into a genre. You have to fit somewhere if you want to make it. And use the Internet as tool. It's a great way to get your music out there.
Taproot will play with Disturbed and Chevelle on Mon., Mar. 10 at the Eagles Ballroom.
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