Taproot’s Drummer Reflects On “Gift” Turning 17, Touring ‘Ozzfest’ 2000 And Meeting Dr. Dre


Today, June 27th, 2017, marks the 17th anniversary of the release of Taproot‘s debut album, “Gift“. To celebrate the band’s drummer Jarrod Montague has shared a lengthy excerpt from his upcoming book “True Rockstars: 12 Guiding Principles for Success and Happiness“. This particular excerpt focuses on some aspects of the album’s production at the same studio Dr. Dre and Eminem were in as well as touring on the ‘Ozzfest‘ and more in support of the album.

“Once all the tracks were recorded we entered the legendary Larrabee Sound Studio in Hollywood where some of the biggest artists in the world have mixed their records including Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, U2, Fleetwood Mac, and Prince. The receptionist was expecting us the first time we pulled in the driveway. After recognizing our faces through the exterior camera, the large iron gate slowly began to open to allow us to enter the parking lot. The studio was sweet, complete with a pool table, kitchen, and an NBA Jam arcade game. This was bound to be an awe-inspiring place to spend a couple weeks mixing our debut album.

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After a few days of regularly entering the studio and listening to mixes, we pulled up one morning to a completely different scene. Instead of the large gate automatically opening the driver’s side intercom was accompanied by a large black man in a fine black suit. He said in an intimidatingly deep voice, “Who are you guys?”

I replied, “Um, we’re the band Taproot. We’re mixing our record here.”

He exchanged a few words to someone inside the building over his walkie talkie and the gate began to slide open to the left. We parked and walked through the front door into the lobby. In addition to the receptionist at the desk the chairs that were usually empty were filled with three more large black men in lavish suits. When we got inside the console room of our studio we asked our manager what the heck was going on.

“Oh, Eminem is mixing his new single in the other studio.”

Awesome! The artist from our home state was creating the highly anticipated follow up to his first record that included the massive hit, “My Name Is.” I walked over to the outside of the other studio and heard a quirky beat over and over again. A couple months later I recognized the loop as the huge MTV staple that summer, “The Real Slim Shady.”

As I milled around Larrabee that day I eventually walked past the hometown hero himself, Eminem. He was sitting at a small table on the phone loudly arguing with someone. Based on what I knew of his tumultuous relationship with his daughter Hayley’s mom Kim, I surmised that maybe he was talking to her.

Around dinner time, I went into the kitchen to get a water out of the fridge and there he was: the notorious Dr. Dre was standing in the middle of the kitchen just hanging out. As the mastermind behind signing and producing Eminem, it made total sense that he would be present. I shook his hand and introduced myself. I told him that I used to listen to N.W.A. every day on my way home from high school and I appreciated his work as an artist and producer. Dre replied with a smile and a chuckle, “All right, all right. Nice to meet you.” Even though he may have been thinking I was another silly white dude that has no business listening to his groundbreaking group, he was very polite and friendly.

We totally finished “Gift” in March of 2000. Ulrich was a fantastic guide throughout the process of making our debut record. He advanced our sound to a new level and taught us a ton about the tedious work that goes into recording, engineering and mixing a major label release.

We took a short break back home in Michigan. One beautiful day in mid-April a van arrived in the driveway of Steve’s house along with our new Tour Manager / Sound Guy / Guitar Tech, Steve Varga. Steve was a long-haired Aussie with a great sense of humor and positive spirit. He had worked with System of a Down, had some great road experience and was recommended by the management team we shared with System. We took two days to drive across the country to Sacramento, California where our first tour was to kick off at the Crest Theater with another new band from Vacaville, California called Papa Roach.

When the tour with Papa Roach was booked a couple months earlier we had never heard of them. They had a great following in California and had a similar grass-roots story to what we had built in Michigan. The tour was to hit many major markets across the country and the initial thought was that Papa Roach would headline all shows west of the Mississippi and Taproot would headline everything to the east.

The first night of the tour near Papa Roach’s hometown coincided with the same day their debut album “Infest” was released. In the couple weeks leading up to the start of the tour the first single “Last Resort” had quickly caught on fire, becoming a mainstay on rock radio and the popular MTV video countdown show Total Request Live.

When we met the guys at sound check on April 25, 2000, we felt like we already knew them because we had seen their video numerous times. Singer Jacoby Shaddix was hyper, outgoing, energetic and friendly. Drummer Dave Buckner was laid back, funny, and cool. Guitarist Jerry Horton was a bit quiet but very humble and kind. Bassist Tobin Esperance exuded a calm confidence as a primary songwriter of the band. The first show was a total blast and the rabid Papa Roach fans responded fantastically to our comparable brand of what was being termed Nu Metal.

By the end of the week it was obvious that Papa Roach was blowing up with tens of thousands of records sold in their first week and a bona fide hit at rock radio. They traded in their van for a luxury tour bus and the tour was quickly restructured such that they would headline the majority of the tour with the exception of our homecoming shows in Detroit and Ann Arbor, Michigan. “Infest” sold about 10 million copies worldwide and I’m happy to consider those guys friends to this day. They are among the kindest and most down-do-earth guys and family men I know. That tour was also their first national tour and they still remember it fondly.

We got our first taste of the tour bus life when we did a few shows with Slipknot, Mudvayne, Hed PE and Static-X. All of the bands were on the rise. We had been listening to the first Slipknot CD in the van on the Papa Roach tour and we had been listening to the first Hed PE album since it came out in 1997. All the bands including Taproot had records that had either come out recent months or were coming out soon.

We hit it off with Ryan Martinie that night, the monster bassist of Mudvayne. He was enjoying hanging out on our fancy bus since his band did not have one. We invited him to take a bunk and ride with us to the next city, which he accepted. The late night was packed with discussions about musical influences, listening to one CD after another from our collections, and the consumption of several adult beverages.

We also shot our first music video in Long Beach, California for our first single, “Again and Again.” We had a chance to review video treatments which are essentially plot stories for videos. They all seemed very cheesy and it’s hard to envision what the video could possibly look like. We chose the least of the evils which involved us playing on a stage in front of a crowd with people on the outside of the place frantically trying to get into the door to see us.

The process of making a video is very long, repetitive and exhausting. In the case of this video, almost of all of the crowd were hired extras that make a few bucks in exchange for acting like they really enjoy the song playing over and over for 12 to14 hours. Two of my good friends Gary McLellan and Brady Doll flew to California to be in the video along with the extras. Seeing them banging their heads to our first single while movie cameras smoothly moved around our performance stage was an unforgettable experience for them and me.

Ozzfest 2000 kicked off in West Palm Beach, Florida on June 2, 2000 and took us on a whirlwind tour of America’s outdoor amphitheaters. We usually played on the 2nd Stage but rotated through the opening spot on the main stages along with the other artists. The bands included Ozzy Osbourne, Pantera, Godsmack, Static-X, Incubus, Methods of Mayhem, P.O.D., Queens of the Stone Age, Black Label Society, Apartment 26, Soulfly, Kittie, Disturbed, Slaves on Dope, Reveille, Shuvel, Primer 55, The Deadlights, Pitchshifter, Crazy Town and Pumpjack.

On June 27, 2000, our debut album “Gift” was finally released. We sold about 10,000 albums the first week which was considered a great start for a new band. The record would go on to sell 300,000 copies. It was received quite well by the critics and continues to be a favorite of many fans.

Ozzfest is like hard rock summer camp with lots of socializing and watching loud music all day and late night hangs all night. During the course of the tour, I would go to sleep in my bunk in the middle section of the luxury tour bus around 4 am. I was usually awoken by a loud rock band firing up at 11 am on the 2nd Stage, less than 100 yards from where our bus had landed and parked after our driver drove throughout the night from the last city.

After wiping the sleep out of my eyes and brushing my teeth, I would climb off the bus to the smell of multiple tour bus generators running in close proximity and a hot sunny summer day. Looking out across the landscape I’d see a field full of hard rock fans dressed in their favorite black T-shirt and a stage of young men bashing their instruments to a pleased crowd. The catering area was often where the new comers to the scene would have the opportunity to interact with some of the legends of rock.

One of my favorite drummers Vinnie Paul and his brother guitarist Dimebag Darrell from Pantera were usually filming video of a prank they were putting together, laughing and chatting with all of us musicians who had been influenced by them.

One night at a club I formally introduced myself to Vinnie and told him I was Taproot’s drummer and it was an honor to share the tour with them. He came close to my face and said, “I heard Taproot is the best band on the 2nd Stage. I’ll definitely come check ya’ll out!” Sure enough, he did and he would give me a friendly nod when I saw him for the rest of the tour.”

More info on the book itself can be here.

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