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      Hard Rock / Alternative Rock
      Stephen Richards: vocals * Michael DeWolf: guitars * Philip Lipscomb: bass * Jarrod Montague: drums I make an impact on lives/through truth as well as lies I overcome your eyes and leave an etched memory forever/It's my gift "We just want to reach as many people as possible," ... read more
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      Stephen Richards: vocals * Michael DeWolf: guitars * Philip Lipscomb: bass * Jarrod Montague: drums

      I make an impact on lives/through truth as well as lies I overcome your eyes and leave an etched memory forever/It's my gift

      "We just want to reach as many people as possible," says TapRoot singer/lyricist Stephen Richards. "I think our message and our music can affect a lot of people in a positive way, so we want it to be very successful for that reason and that reason only." TapRoot's Velvet Hammer/Atlantic debut, "GIFT," unveils the Michigan-based foursome's distinctive hard rock sound, an insistent sonic whirlpool of staccato riffing, relentless rhythms, and memorably hook-laden choruses, made all the more potent by Richards' emphatic throat-rending vocals and impassioned lyricism. Tracks such as "Again and Again" and "Now" possess a transcendent raw power, an emotional force that demands an equally strong response.

      Best friends since their early teens, Mike DeWolf and Stephen Richards attended high school together in the hallowed rock territory of Ann Arbor, spending much of their free time playing in various rock bands. Best efforts not withstanding, it wasn't always a pretty sight. "When we were 15 and 16-years-old, we were playing in these death metal bands with 25-year-old guys that just had no talent whatsoever," Richards says, laughing. As they hit their twenties, Richards and DeWolf began jamming around with a pair of University of Michigan students, drummer Jarrod Montague and bassist Philip Lipscomb, who shared a house with Stephen's cousin. Taking inspiration from such stalwart veterans as Rush, Faith No More, and Tool not to mention Stephen's serious Bone Thugs-N-Harmony fixation TapRoot officially formed in late 1997, and quickly cut the five-track "PIMP ASS SOUNDS" cassette if only for friends and the few/the proud, their early fans. In the wake of the tape's proliferation, as boosted by continued gigging, the quartet quickly developed a loyal local following and were embraced by U of M's Michigan Daily for creating "music that crushes, soothes, excites, more often than not, in the same song." Right from the start, TapRoot placed themselves among the new breed of young bands taking advantage of the internet's possibilities for innovation and independence, as well as the opportunity to make deeper, more personal, connections with an audience. In April of 1998, they committed a friendly takeover on a fan's TapRoot site one of a remarkable 30 such sites now operating and using Mike's graphic design abilities and Philip's computer skills, turned it into their official page.

      "The internet was a huge help in getting the positive reaction we got early on," Richards enthuses. "We're up to 90,000 hits now. We're able to reach thousands of kids in a split second. You can't beat it."

      In addition to disseminating information about the band, the site also served effectively as a distribution base for their first self-released CD, "SOMETHING MORE THAN NOTHING." The group continued their entrepreneurial and musical success at the end of 1998, with the release of the "MENTOBE" EP, which included three new tracks, including the title song. (The EP was reissued a year later as the "UPON US" mini-album with three bonus songs, including "Again and Again.")

      "We burned them at the U of M lab," Stephen says, detailing the process by which TapRoot sold some 10,000 CDs. "I'd personally hand package it and send it out myself and we'd do it all at cost. Starting off, it was sending out a couple of CDs every week or two, but it slowly progressed to getting 25 orders a day. These kids would send checks in my name, cause I was just using my personal bank account, and I kept getting all these checks and money orders made out to me. Some were even sending cash, taking that chance just to get our music."

      As the buzz around taproot continued to build, Stephen sent a demo to Fred Durst of Limp Bizkit, who were about to release their debut album and were looking to "work" with up-and-coming bands. A friendship grew between the two bands, with Durst promising to sign and produce TapRoot as soon as possible. However, it wasn't until TapRoot began getting interest from other labels that Durst made his pitch, an offer Stephen describes as "a bunch of bullshit." When TapRoot earned the chance to head out to Los Angeles to play a showcase for producer/impresario Rick Rubin, Durst finally snapped. "We got home from Los Angeles on the day that Limp were in town to do Family Values and that's when the message was on my machine," Stephen says. "I was in shock, hearing someone so pissed at me, just for looking out for my band's best interests." The now-infamous message begins ominously: "Steve. Fred Durst. Hey man, you fucked up. You don't ever bite the hand that feeds in this business, bro"

      "To sum it up, it was 'you fucked your career before it even started,'" Richards explains. "He flat out said that if he saw me at one of his shows again I'd be 'fucked.' He said if we 'sling' his name around, we'll be 'blackballed and probably erased.' He must've said 'fuck' 30 times in a 30-second message. It's really funny."

      The Limp saga further served to underscore the band's convictions with regards to ends and means, about what they wanted to be and definitely didn't want to become.

      "The bands that we truly respect, like Deftones and Korn, it's not just for their music, but for the way that they approach things," notes Stephen. "Even if they're on MTV and sell a lot of records, they do it in a way that's more respectable. They're doing the music that expresses what they are. It's something different and it's passionate and it's what it is because that's what it is, not because of the exposure they're getting."

      Meanwhile, TapRoot continued to grow, in terms of audience as well as their music. The group's explosive sound began veering from its rap-metal roots towards a more accessible and expressive sonic approach.

      "We had a whole bunch of songs that went from a hundred per cent rap with drum machine into live music on the choruses and heavy parts," Stephen explains. "Once we saw how many bands were kind of taking that idea, but were doing it poorly, I think that's when we realized that rapcore was probably going to be just kind of a fad.

      "The stuff that always hits me in our songs are the real cool melodies. That's what draws you in. We started writing songs based around that vibe the whole way through something flowing and passionate. Plus, the lyrics I was writing were better suited to singing and not a rap thing. I rap so fast no one can understand the words, so I kind of toned it down and made the words easier to catch on to."

      TapRoot's dense and aggressive music goes head-to-head with Richards' evocative, introspective lyricism. Often intense and angry, other times poignant and provocative, songs such as "Emotional Times" evince a modern spirituality that's fuelled by a disdain for the Old Gods and the desire to find something New, something he can call his own. "I miss those oldschool meditations when relaxing and getting visions was a given," Richards sings on "Comeback." "I propose a toast to my self to find the time to ask my lord and galaxy to comeback to me."

      "I've had people tell me that listening to my lyrics understanding where I'm coming from spiritually and gleaning a bit of my overall outlook on life kind of helps them to cope," he says. "It makes them feel good about themselves again, like they're not alone. We love that."

      Categories: Music | Alternative | Hip Hop/Rap | Rock | Pop

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