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Tapping the Musical Impact:

An interview with Stephen Richards of Taproot

by Alicia Downs - August 2001

    Know what happens when you have three hours of sleep and then proceed to spend the rest of the day in 100+ degree weather at a venue that is out of water and food? Now imagine that I also proceeded to beat the hell out of my body riding a mechanical bull, attempting (key word here attempting) to climb a rock wall as well as singing "Oops I Did It Again" on the Pringle's stage and then bungee jumping on this trampoline type thingie. It was actually a pretty cool day - minus the heat exhaustion and dehydration - but then came the twisted part. By around six that night I attempted (again, key word here is attempted) to conduct an interview with Stephen Richards from Taproot. Luckily, he was totally cool because after listening to the tape I realized that I sounded completely spaced out.

    So, after spending a weekend checking out Taproot at two - count 'em, two - nights of shows (first in Old Bridge, NJ and second at Ozzfest in Hartford) I got the opportunity to sit down and chill with vocalist Richards, talking about the inner workings of Taproot.

Rough Edge: So how was Ozzfest?

Stephen Richards: Ozzfest is good. We did Ozzfest last year - I think the second stage bands got to know each other a little better last year, but it's warming up. I think the rowdiness here kind of sucked too cause the farther west you go the shows seem to be a lot less crowd oriented, less supportive I guess. So now that we are coming back east it has been real good. We actually got to spend about five days back home in Michigan last week. It's getting good but it's almost over and our focus as a band right now is on our next album which we going to be working on after Ozzfest is over. We are kind of ready for the next project.

Rough Edge: Speaking of the next album I know that I heard somebody say that it is going to be very different from "Gift' - like that its going to be a whole new start. Want to elaborate on that any?

Stephen Richards: The person that you have probably heard that from is probably someone who has followed Taproot or at least knows us. A lot of people actually don't realize that the album "Gift" was written four years ago - there are only three songs on the album that were actually written for the album, all the rest were older songs that we did not want to let go of - we wanted to release them and a lot of that has a real thick heavy sound. I think that a lot of the new stuff is still thick and heavy but at the same time I think between the years of 18 and 21 you do a lot of growing up and that's when I wrote those songs. And now I'm 23 and think that I've grown up quite a bit and matured somewhat so I think that a lot of the lyrics and music - well, I think you'll see the similarities between the two because we're still the same band and Mike and I are still the same songwriters, but I think you'll also see the mature development. 

Rough Edge: And you're working with producer Fred Mahar ...

Stephen Richards: On the demos we did.

(Interviewers Note: Here's where the delirium began to set it - after listening to this tape I realized I sound like I was on drugs!)

Rough Edge: I just totally lost my train of thought but there was a question there but it's gone now ...

Stephen Richards: That's okay. Let me help you out here - we did six demo songs just for our pleasure and for the label for them to see where we were at. We've got about 14 or 15 right now totally written. We pretty much have an album's worth of material right now but after the tour we're going to go and write for another couple of weeks so that we'll probably have about 20 when we go into the studio. We'll probably make the album 12 [tracks] or something like that but the six that we did with Fred Mahar were just basically demos.

Rough Edge: So when are you thinking that you might have everything done? Any dates you are looking at?

Stephen Richards: Looks like recording and all that stuff will be done during October and November. A couple of months for post-production so we are hoping that it comes out by April or early May of next year.

Rough Edge: Are your plans just to spend the time recording and taking a break?

Stephen Richards: Yeah, we want to spend like three months on the album and we'll want Christmas home, too, back home with the family. I think that for the first couple of months of next year we will probably be out promoting the album and get back out on the road and do what we're used to doing so we'll be back. 

Rough Edge: So how have the headline club dates that you've been playing along this tour been going? 

Stephen Richards: They've been awesome. I think they have been a lot better than Ozzfest ...

Rough Edge: You think?

Stephen Richards: Oh, yeah. Ozzfest is Ozzfest is and there are just thousands of kids that just hear your band name and support you when they hear the name. When we were on tour with the Deftones, Incubus, and some of the bigger bands we can pull it off and step it up a notch to play some of the bigger venues, but I think to see Taproot play a club for an hour other than twenty-five minutes you can tell where we stand and where we're coming from a lot more.

Rough Edge: What do you think is coming out of your live show? And maybe some of the differences between the two settings? Ozzfest versus club dates?

Stephen Richards: It's probably really similar but I feel that like on Ozzfest everything is kind of rushed. Its not an Ozzfest problem, its just that the crowd is just starting to get into it after twenty minutes if they don't know who you are so it's kind of like Ozzfest is a good [opportunity] to try to win over a crowd.

Rough Edge: And how has the Ozzfest crowd response been with a lot of those unfamiliar or who didn't catch you all here last year? Good response?

Stephen Richards: Good enough. I think that the farther west you go like I said, the first half of the tour was like West Coast, California and stuff and for some reason those shows were a little more low key. Like today wasn't the most crazy crowd we've played for (Interviewer's Note: Hartford, CT Ozzfest show August 5, 2001) on the tour but it was consistent - when I asked them to jump up and down they did it and they don't have to. There were supporters who were singing and were moshing so today was a good day but at the headlining shows its like a free for all. The crowd is doing their own thing and they are getting into the music so it's not like you have to instruct them. 

Rough Edge: Well, I saw you all last night and then again today in the two different settings ...

Stephen Richards: Oh, last night was not a good show.

Rough Edge: I actually could not see you all because I was all the way in the back and I'm pretty short, but I could hear you all.

Stephen Richards: Dude, the crowd was rad last night, but this is like a real bad week for us because today is our seventh day in a row performing and usually you get like four days off ...

Rough Edge: You did like Michigan Ozzfest two days last week and then some off dates ...

Stephen Richards: Yeah, we did a Grand Rapids show and last night in New Jersey and then here. So it was like seven shows in a row. 

Rough Edge: So you are pretty worn out?

Stephen Richards: Yeah, we're burnt. It's like tomorrow's a day off. It's my mom's birthday so I'll see her tomorrow in Boston and we'll go out to dinner and relax. Then we start over again and finish the tour.

Rough Edge: Okay, so future plans and what not. Things of that nature. I'm worn out and so are you so just whatever you say here ...

Stephen Richards: Well, our focus is just on the next album. Right now, where we're at, a lot of people think we're a real big band - which we're not per se - we don't have a gold record and we're not even half way there - but a lot of people think that we do.

Rough Edge: Well, you've toured with a lot of big bands ...

Stephen Richards: Exactly. It's like the name is out there and we have a good foundation for the next record to come out where we'll only go up. We didn't want the first album to come out and be a radio hit and have to write another one to stay up there. We want to build a career for ourselves. 

Rough Edge: So what do you think about the new radio boom picking up on the metal and the melodic metal sounds especially. Think it's a trend that is going to fade out - here today, gone tomorrow?

Stephen Richards: I definitely see that happening. I think that a lot of the bands that have the hits out now are going to be the next one hit wonders. I don't think that is necessarily the way that it should be, but I don't think that all bands are writing hits just for radio - some are - but basically I think that the reason you get signed and the radio picks up the song is because there is something catchy there - there is some kind of melody. Things just work out that way I guess. We do get played on the radio around here quite a bit but, overall, we have yet to have a successful single on radio but we are still played all over the country. So we are at a good level now where we don't have to worry about it. We know that we have support and that we have people that come out to see the shows and support Taproot and that's what we are trying to get.

Rough Edge: So you're fairly content?

Stephen Richards: Yes, very.

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Copyright 2001 by R. Scott Bolton. All rights reserved.
Revised: 23 Aug 2016 22:57:09 -0400