Papa Roach by Travis Shinn

Like many great guitarists, Papa Roach’s Jerry Horton was inspired to pick up the six-string after hearing James Hetfield and Kirk Hammett’s blazing riffs.

“The band that made me want to play guitar I’m going to have to say is Metallica,” Horton told “I started out listening to Mötley Crüe, but it wasn’t really until I got into Metallica that I really wanted to start playing.”

“I took lessons for a couple of months,” he added, “but after that, I decided I just wanted to learn by ear-- learning songs and developing my own sound.”

Now, Horton’s band, Papa Roach is one of modern rock’s most recognizable talents. Songs such as “Last Resort,” “Scars,” “Forever,” “Still Swinging” and, most recently, “Leader of the Broken Hearts” are regulars on rock playlists around the world.

Papa Roach bring together a straight-ahead hard rock and metal sound with strong pop melodies. I sat down with Papa Roach a few hours before the band’s set at the 2013 Carnival of Madness Tour to chat about the band’s mix of hard rock and pop, the challenges of playing guitar in Papa Roach and when to expect the follow-up to 2012’s “The Connection.”

The Carnival of Madness Tour – which also features Shinedown, Skillet, In This Moment and We as Human – runs through Sept. 18 in Puyallup, Wash. For a full list of upcoming tour dates, head to

Papa Roach’s latest album, “The Connection,” dropped last fall, and it features heavy riffs and some atmospheric electronic flourishes. How did you approach the guitars for this album?

We generally like to pick a guitar and amp combo that’s appropriate for the song. If it’s a heavy song, we’ll go for a heavier tone, but if not, it doesn’t have to be as heavy. If it’s an actual riff, we try to make it as cool as possible and have it really gel with the drums and the bass. There’s only one guitar player, so it’s another key for us is to have the bass not just follow the guitar and sort of sound like it’s another guitar. That’s really important to Papa Roach’s sound: having the bass almost act like a second guitar.

Papa Roach have a steady hard rock sound, but your music also has a pop sensibility. Where do you get that pop influence?

It’s weird because we’ve always had it. Even bringing in influences from Metallica or Red Hot Chili Peppers of Faith No More or Wu-Tang early on, we just, for some reason—I don’t know if it’s the simplicity of the pop format, but we’ve always taken to it. We look to bands like the Beatles for that kind of stuff. They were so skilled at writing those kinds of songs that it just they perfected it so much that it was something we aspired to in that realm. Even when we try to write differently, we still come back to it.

What’s the biggest challenge of playing guitar in Papa Roach?

I don’t know! I think really just to find the space between the bass and the drums. We’re very conscious of the rhythm section and having everything really line up together, but also to have the melody and the harmony, as well. I think that’s the challenge, is to find that space.

What’s next for Papa Roach after Carnival of Madness wraps?

We’re going until the end of this year touring. We finish up in Europe at the end of this year. Next year, we’re going to start writing again. We’ll probably take the holidays off and take January off, but we’ll probably get into the studio again somewhere around March or April, and then have the record out by August.

Have you been writing for the record on tour?

We have ideas floating around here and there, but we haven’t actually gotten together to write songs. This kind of tour makes things a little easier for that, since we have a little more room, so we’re starting to do that, but it’s been kind of crazy, because we’re doing three or four meet-and-greets per day, so time gets eaten up. But we’re going to start pretty soon. We took six months to write the next record, and we don’t want to do that again, so we’re trying to be prepared.

Photo credit: Travis Shinn