Inquirer: Jerry Horton of Papa Roach

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What inspired you to pick up a guitar?
We had one in the house. My brother had started to play, but he quit. It was sort of my introduction to metal. I wanted to learn how to play some of the songs I was listening to.

What was your first guitar?
It was just a cheap nylon acoustic. I don’t remember the brand. My parents got me my first electric, an Epiphone Strat, and a little cheap combo amp. The first guitar I bought for myself was a used Ibanez. Then I upgraded to a blue sunburst Carvin. That was at the point when Papa Roach went from a hobby to something we did regularly.

What was the first song you learned?
Metallica’s “…And Justice for All,” and then a couple other songs on that record.

Do you recall your first time playing live?
The summer of ’93 at a house party in my ex-girlfriend’s backyard. It backed up onto an apple orchard. There might have been 20 of our friends, and it was hot. We played five songs—a couple of them twice, because we didn’t have many. It was Papa Roach; I had just replaced the trombone player [the first incarnation of the group featured trombonist Ben Luther], and we had to write all new songs because they didn’t have a guitar player. Let’s just be clear: we were pretty bad at that point. I was into metal and they were into the Chili Peppers— Freaky Styley and The Uplift Mofo Party Plan. That was really weird stuff to me.

Ever had an embarrassing onstage moment?
We’ve had more than a few. We’d started listening to Snapcase for about five or six months before we wrote “Dead Cell.” It sort of had that Snapcase vibe to it and reminded us of one of their songs. The first time we played it, I confused it with the Snapcase song. I started playing, and everybody looked at each other; we all had no idea what was goin’ on. I’ll never forget that moment of complete fright, just looking at each other like, Oh shit.

What is your proudest moment as a player on Papa Roach’s new album, The Connection?
There’s one moment in the song “Before I Die.” It’s not technically great; it just happened spontaneously. We were recording everything while we wrote it, and at the bridge I started playin’ this melody line. There was something in that performance that we felt we had to keep, so the actual jam is on the record.

What’s your favorite piece of gear?
Right now it’s my main guitar for the record: my latest Schecter signature series guitar. And I have another Schecter, but it’s a Tele-style guitar and it’s hollowed out. We used that a lot for overdubs. It has a pretty distinctive sound.

Do you have any advice for young players?
Practice. If you want to be in a band and write songs and have a career, just listen to as much different music as you can and keep writing. If you keep at it, you’ll only get better. To be a career band, you need songs that people love.