The members of Taproot recently hired former Smashing Pumpkins frontman Billy Corgan to help them with material for their next album.
The Michigan-born band flew to Chicago to spend six days with Corgan, who listened to what they had written and offered suggestions on how the songs could be improved. "He really helped us to build a little bit of anticipation with the music rather than just have heavy parts and soft parts," frontman Stephen Richards said. "He helped us turn songs that were already 8 or 9s [out of 10] into 11s."
At the end of the counseling sessions, Corgan provided the band a bonus, writing a melody and guitar riff, then handing it over to his clients to mold as they see fit. "We totally didn't expect that," Richards said. "He basically wrote a new song for us with us in mind. We haven't had a chance to do anything with it yet, but we will."
The band connected with Corgan through its label, which wanted to provide Taproot with tools to help them write. "We sat down with our label and thought about who we wanted to produce this record," Richards said. "We rattled off the three or four top guys who are known as producers. Then our A&R guy went, 'Is there anyone you might want to work with who's not a producer?' And the main two musicians we were interested in were Dave Grohl and Billy Corgan. So they made the call and he said he'd love to work with us."
After flying to Chicago, the excitement began to die down and nervousness set in. "We were excited to meet him, but we weren't 100 percent sure if we were going to have him write songs from scratch or what," Richards said. "The first night we arrived, he called us up and asked us if we wanted to get a couple drinks just to get all the cobwebs out of the way. So we did that and it was good. It really helped to set us up for the week."
Taproot are in pre-production with producer Michael Beinhorn and have also tapped Deftones guitarist Stephen Carpenter to help them out with musical ideas for the album, which Richards said will be darker but more eclectic than the band's last disc, 2002's Welcome.
"There's gonna be a lot of aggression and a lot of heavy stuff, but there's more room to grow as songwriters and musicians when you strip everything down and try to write great songs, and that's why we asked Billy to work with us," Richards said. "A heavy song doesn't have to come across with screaming and wailing guitars."
And while the lyrics on the next Taproot album will address such heavy subjects as molestation and dependency, Richards said the tone will ultimately be positive.
"A lot of it is about rooting for the underdog," he said. "It's important to have a lot of faith and try to find happiness in times when you usually find yourself falling into a dark place. I'm really trying now to grasp to those positive elements in life and not sit around and wallow."