By John Parks
Taproot made their mark via a series of big rock radio hits and videos, but the Michigan-based rockers have always been a live band first and foremost, dating all the way back to some of their memorable early appearances on megatours like Ozzfest. The guys will be headlining at The Back Bar, 1901 Beloit Ave., Janesville, Wis., Saturday, May 18, and guitarist Mike DeWolf recently took some time out to talk to us.
Q: Thanks for talking with us, guys. We are based out of the Midwest, and you guys are from Michigan. Does it feel good to get back out and start doing dates here while the weather is halfway decent?
A: Thank you! We really appreciate it. Absolutely. We were pretty lucky this time and headed down South pretty early on, actually. So, we’ve had some really nice weather thus far, and we’ve been enjoying it.
Q: This particular tour is kind of special because you are really honoring your roots and longtime fans by playing your entire debut album every night. Do you guys ever experience a lot of the same déjà vu or memories the fans do when you launch into that material?
A: Yeah, it’s been quite cool so far for both us and our fans. It was a bit of a challenge to pull out some of these songs that we haven’t played in over a decade, but we stepped up, and it’s been fun. Maybe not déjà vu, but we pulled out all the stops to bring these songs back to life, so it’s pretty exciting to hear the whole album with all the bells and whistles and whatnot.
Q: The timing of your first album was an exciting, yet stressful, period for the band, and some of those initial business dealings must have taught you a thing or two. Do you feel everything that happened contributed to the band’s determination and strength?
A: For sure! You cannot succeed without failures. So, we always do our best to make sure we learn and grow from all of our experiences. We’ve definitely had our share of ups and downs, but determination was never a question. We are determined, and somehow, always find the strength. It’s a Midwest work ethic thing!
Q: Does it kind of feel weird that you have weathered so much and come through so many changes in the biz? In many respects, you are really one of the bands out there who experienced the last big wave when the record industry was thriving and CDs were selling like hotcakes. It is much harder for baby bands to make that initial first impression because of the flood of bands all vying for that same viewer on YouTube or the web.
A: Like I said, we are determined. Being strong means knowing how to bend, and necessity is the mother of invention. We REALLY wanted this. I understand that it has to be extremely hard to stand out nowadays, but when we were starting out, I felt the same way — like it was impossible. But we persevered and pushed on. It may sound naïve, but I believe people will take notice when you’re making your own waves. I have faith in that.
Q: Taproot is kind of a serious band that has very thought-provoking videos and lyrics. What is one completely goofy or NOT serious thing that has happened to the band over the years that might surprise your fans?
A: This is true. But to hang out with us on a day-to-day basis, you’d never guess it. We are complete goofballs and sarcastic to a fault. Honestly, there are too many to name. Goofy things happen to us every day, and when they do, we call them our Spinal Taproot moments.
Q: Your last album was a bit of an evolution and was pretty conceptually strong. It also got some of your best reviews. Do you foresee the next album taking more chances or maybe going even going back to your roots again?
A: Thank you! I think we’re always willing to take chances, I mean, you have to be. For us, it is a way to grow creatively and musically, which I think we did on The Episodes. As far as moving forward, it’s hard to say. We kind of never know what we’re going to get until it’s done, but it’s safe to say that it will be a good mix of everything Taproot. We’ve already got a start on things, and so far, so good.
Q: The band has cultivated its fan base the old-fashioned way. Social media and interviews and all that is fine, but your website made me smile. It says “on tour … always.” Do you guys appreciate seeing your fans, old and new, as much as they appreciate knowing the band will continue to be there for them and hit their town?
A: With the music industry as it is, touring is everything. We’ve always been road dogs, but now more than ever, it’s important to focus a lot of energy on the live show. We want people to walk away and think to themselves, “Damn, now that was a show!” Yes, we appreciate it immensely, and try to mingle about as much as possible.
Q: All that warm and fuzzy stuff aside, it can be taxing being in a touring band and not nearly as easy as some might think. After a while, everyone misses someone, and the band can even get pretty sick of each other. But you guys are experts at this. What little habits or rituals get you through when it gets tough or you just wanna go back to Ann Arbor?
A: It can be very taxing, indeed. I miss my daughter, girlfriend and family on a daily basis. But it goes with the territory. So, as my girlfriend says, sometimes I have to put on my big boy pants and buck up. Appreciation of where you are and where you could be is very helpful, I’ve learned. We are very blessed to be able to do what we do, so I try not to take that for granted. Also, keeping busy and always having goals.
Q: Most venues genuinely want everything to go well, everyone to have fun and make sure all ends are met financially. When the crap hits the fan and the inevitable “off” gig occurs, what is usually to blame? A crappy sound, a greedy promoter, a gaggle of aggressive drunk patrons?
A: Usually, all of the above! Like I said, being strong means knowing how to bend. We’ve gotten pretty good at it.
Q: Thanks again for talking to us. Hopefully you can keep making return visits to the Rockford/Janesville, Wis., area. Is there anything we didn’t mention that you wanna let peeps know before we wrap up?
A: Just … thank you! We really appreciate it. In addition to the Janesville show, we’ll also be in Chicago May 22, so we hope to see you there! Connect with me on twitter @DeWolfMichael, follow us @followtaproot and visit us on Facebook and at taprootmusic.com.
From the May 15-21, 2013, issue