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Ex-Taproot Drummer Tells The Tale Of The Band Being Courted By Fred Durst In New Book Excerpt


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If you’re up on your nü metal history, you’ll recall a number of years ago now that Limp Bizkit frontman Fred Durst originally had plans to sign Taproot and take them on as his protégés. As history has shown, that didn’t happen, with the band eventually signing with Atlantic/Velvet Hammer. The deal falling through was particularly memorable thanks to this leaked message left by Durst for the band, which found him angrily condemning them for going with someone else.

In a newly shared excerpt from his book, ‘True Rockstars: 12 Guiding Principles For Success And Happiness‘, the band’s then drummer Jarrod Montague recalls the happier times they had with Durst and Limp Bizkit. You can pick up the book for yourself at this location.

“When I started taking classes at MSU’s College of Human Medicine, I was also working in the Gastrointestinal Physiology Lab at the University of Michigan Hospital 20 hours a week and playing shows almost every weekend with my band Taproot. Needless to say I was awfully busy but the abundant network of friends and family I had nurtured was supporting me. My parents were supplementing my income for college.

Dozens of my friends were coming to Taproot shows and buying our homemade demos and T-shirts. Taproot was also building a following on the internet. In early 1999, there were only two unsigned bands that were marketing themselves well in that relatively new medium: Taproot and Juice who would become Adema.

We found small pockets of fans were developing outside of Michigan. Across the country one or two people would order a CD, send us cash or a check, and then we would ship them a CD with a hand-written “Thank You” note. Apparently they would listen then tell their friends about Taproot because we would obtain subsequent orders from quite a few other people in the same city.

On occasion, we had fans offer to pay for a hotel and gas money for us to come to their city and play a show. We actually fulfilled these requests in Chicago, Pittsburgh, and Owensboro, Kentucky to name a few.

True to his word, Fred Durst from Limp Bizkit began letting our singer Stephen know when he was in the nearby cities of Detroit, Pontiac, and Toledo. Fred and his bandmates were really digging our music. Upon returning from one of his hangs with Limp Bizkit, Stephen told my bandmates and me about how Fred and guitarist Wes Borland displayed their fandom of our song “Comeback” that we recorded on our first full-length independent CD, Something More Than Nothing. They sang the pre-chorus in unison:
“So I pray
And wait for a sign from my guides
They help me proceed as I lay
And dream of my future
I miss those times”

Fred set out to promote us by dropping the Taproot name in a variety of press outlets and wearing our shirts on stage when he came into town. He told us that we were the “next big thing” and he wanted to make a deal with us. It frankly seemed too good to be true given that we had become such adoring fans of Limp Bizkit.

Between our local fan base, our online presence gaining momentum, and interest from a well-known lead singer, the Taproot brand was growing rapidly. We went back to the Woodshed Studio in Ferndale and recorded new songs. We combined these new tracks with the best tunes from our first release Something More Than Nothing and our 1998 EP Mentobe to create the full-length CD Upon Us. During the summer of 1999, I was practicing, writing, and playing shows, wrapping up my 2nd semester of grad school and working full time at U of M hospital.

Early that summer Stephen, with new music in hand, was invited by Fred to come out to Los Angeles to visit his house and the office of Interscope Records. Stephen sat in on the promotional meetings for the upcoming release of Limp Bizkit’s second album Significant Other. The label was discussing plans for a video shoot for their first single “Nookie,” and how they would advertise on the streets of New York City outside of MTV Studios.

Limp Bizkit was topping the charts of the popular MTV video show Total Request Live (TRL) hosted by Carson Daly. This show was a strong driver of CD sales at the time. There was a constant battle between the Boy Bands and the Hard Rockers, with N’SYNC and the Backstreet Boys battling with Korn and Limp Bizkit for the top spots on the music countdown every day. The well-produced sound and video for Limp Bizkit’s “Nookie” was the right combination to keep up their momentum from the success they found with the cover of George Michael’s “Faith” on their first record.

After Stephen got back to Michigan he got a call from Fred who said they were going to be playing some “guerrilla-type” shows to promote their new album. One of those shows would be near Detroit and Fred wanted to take the opportunity to see us play together as a band.

Our home base was Ann Arbor, and our rehearsal space was a tiny bedroom at the house where Stephen and his mom lived. Within a couple weeks, the guy who we were watching on MTV every day, Fred Durst, pulled into Stephen’s driveway where we were all waiting. I was shocked and pumped.

Fred came upstairs and said he intended to get us out of this jam room and on the road. We played three songs for Fred and he was really into them. While we were casually chatting, he was talking about how had just been on the Howard Stern show talking about hooking up with Carmen Electra. The whole thing seemed absolutely surreal. This growing music icon was now sitting in our small jam space, telling us how he was on the Howard Stern show and at the same time discussing the future of our music career.

Fred then graciously asked us if we would like to join them at their hotel in Detroit to hang out before their guerilla show. They had just played on top of a parking garage in Boston the day before and the Detroit area was next. The shows were not only making headlines on MTV News but also national mainstream news.

The next day, my bandmates and I drove down to the parking lot of a hotel in Detroit and knocked on the tour bus door. The guys from Limp Bizkit all welcomed us up onto their home on wheels. This was my first time on a real tour bus. I was impressed with how lavish it was: a large TV in the front lounge, lots of bunks in the middle for sleeping, and a cool back lounge. Everything about it exuded luxury and fun: the black leather seats, the mirror on the ceiling, the lights embedded on the aisle of the floor, and the sharp sound of a component stereo system with dialed-in surround sound.

It didn’t take long for Fred to ask us if we’d like to listen to his entire new album, Significant Other, which was due for release in a couple weeks. Being big fans, we replied affirmatively and listened intently and enthusiastically to the unreleased tracks. After he played the first song, he skipped #2 which was “Nookie.” That push of the next button on the CD player screamed, “I know you guys are fans of ours and you’ve already heard it a ton because it’s all over MTV, so we don’t need to listen to it right now.”

We heard the entire album from front to back, mostly with just Fred, but the other band members were in and out of the bus too, so we met and talked with all of them. Wes Borland, the guitar brains behind the Limp Bizkit operation, was very kind and complimentary of what he had heard from our band, which was awesome. It was like a dream, being fans of these guys and having them comment favorably about our music, especially given that their fame was increasing exponentially by the day.

They invited us to come out to a nightclub later that night and we had a blast hanging out with these Rockstars. They were recognized by just about everyone in the club and before long, we were all surrounded by girls and free drink offers. I was astounded by the way people acted around these up-and-coming celebrities and the attention garnered from just being in close proximity with them was thrilling.

The next day, we headed to Royal Oak, Michigan where Fred and company appeared atop a two-story record store and started playing on its roof. We had the inside information of where this event was going to go down so we were part of a small group of apparent other insiders that gathered on the sidewalk to watch the rooftop show. The loud amplifiers and energetic band playing on the edge of the roof quickly attracted a lot of attention and a crowd formed in the street to watch.

This began to impede traffic so within a few short minutes, the police shut down Limp Bizkit early in their set. A chorus of boos and groans erupted from the crowd as the spectacle was stopped by the local law enforcement. This was one of the last times we would see Fred on good terms.

Soon after this epic 24 hour hang we got a call from a representative from Arista Records, and he asked to have lunch with us to discuss our aspirations. This was definitely an indicator that things were now escalating to a new level for Taproot. Here was someone from outside the Bizkit crew expressing interest in our band.

We had a valuable lunch conversation with him in which he expressed significant interest in our story. We explained to him how we had sold 10,000 homemade CDs in a genuinely grass roots manner. At the time we were selling them at shows and through mail orders. He was notably impressed with our accomplishment.

During that time in 1999, there was a show on MTV called “The Diary of…” where the network would chose different celebrities and follow their daily life. Limp Bizkit and Fred Durst were becoming household names, so naturally MTV picked them for their documentary style show. In addition to being big fans of the band, we felt like we had a solid personal relationship with Fred so we were excited to watch this episode.

My bandmates were playing it cool but I’d bet they were just as nervous with anticipation to watch the episode as I was to see if Fred would mention Taproot or even wear one of our T-Shirts we had given him. I even asked my parents to record the episode on a VHS tape just in case there was a moment worth capturing.

We all watched together and Fred did not disappoint. MTV followed Limp Bizkit and Kid Rock around for this particular episode. This was dually cool since our Detroit hometown hero Mr. Rock was also quickly gaining notoriety. The show filmed these young men as they played music to thousands of people, hung out on luxurious tour buses and partied with adoring fans and beautiful girls. It all looked so glamorous!

At one point Fred is being filmed while riding in the back lounge of his tour bus. He looked right at the camera and said, “I just became the Vice President of Interscope Records. I’m looking for bands, I’m signing bands.” My heart skipped a beat as I knew he was thinking about us when he said that. Just then, there is a quick cut to Fred talking on his cell phone and we hear him say, “…sign Taproot to a production deal and 30 Seconds to Mars to a production deal.” Holy crap! I just heard my band’s name on MTV!

Shortly after this exciting name drop we received an actual hard copy of the production deal contract. It proposed that we record three songs with Interscope Records and if the label liked how they turned out we would sign a full record deal. However, if they didn’t like the tunes, the label would retain the rights to the music and we wouldn’t be able to use the songs on another record.

Our opinion was that this seemed a bit shady because we would obviously want to record our best three songs on whichever label would take us. The fact that we would be prohibited from using the songs on another label if this didn’t pan out didn’t seem fair.”

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