As long as the root survives, the plant will always have a chance to grow back. Let’s hope Dirt Fest has a really green thumb.
Stephen Richards (Vocals), Philip Lipscomb (Bass), and Dave Coughlin (Drums) are moving forward in what some may say is putting a toe in the water to test the conditions of coming back to a full time band. Dirt Fest 2015 is seeing many unique things this year and possible comebacks are now on the list as well. Phil, fresh off his honeymoon, took some time to think of some great answers to the National Rock Review‘s questionnaire. Someone really needs to explain to us what a brown note is. Anyhow, enjoy the interview!
NRR: You guys are from the Ann Arbor, MI area and pretty much Dirt Fest is in your backyard. What’s been going on with the band in the last year, and I understand if you don’t go into full details on some of the more serious issues?
Phil Lipscomb: Taproot toured and recorded consistently for 14 years without many breaks in between. Our hiatus was brought upon by a need to address some personal issues and focus on our lives outside of Taproot for a bit. I can’t speak for the rest of the guys as we didn’t speak much, but I started giving guitar and bass lessons online and filled in on bass with Smile Empty Soul last summer.
It was quite the experience touring with them as I have only really played and toured with Taproot before. It was especially exciting/terrifying as I didn’t get any rehearsal time with them because they were already on tour. I joined up and we drove 48 hours to Iowa where my first time playing with them was at the show. Touring with those guys was incredibly fun and rewarding, it gave me more confidence as a player, and it was nice to take a backseat to all the duties I take on with Taproot. Our singer Stephen and drummer Dave came to a show at the Machine Shop, and if you want to talk about a surreal moment, it was seeing Stephen in the crowd when I’m used to sharing a stage with him. I literally missed a note when that happened.
Also, while touring with Smile Empty Soul, I met a girl who would become my future wife. We’re married as of just over a week ago. The break from Taproot and constant touring helped my personal life dramatically!
NRR: Congratulations on the new blushing bride. Hopefully you guys have a great time on stage this year. Are you looking forward to anything in particular at Dirt Fest 2015?
Phil Lipscomb: I’m mainly just looking forward to playing again! I haven’t played live in nearly a year, and haven’t played with Taproot in nearly two years. My wife was just telling me yesterday how happy I looked rehearsing… she hasn’t seen anything yet! It’ll be her first time seeing me play live so I’m very much looking forward to that. We’re bringing her four year old son out too. He loves music and he’s already saying he’s going to come out on stage and sing with us. We’ll see if he holds true to his word.
NRR: I got to see you guys at another summer festival a few years ago where you had the lights turned off on you really early into your set. When things like that happen, do you just have to chalk it up to things you can’t control and move on?
Phil Lipscomb: You’ll have to narrow it down, there are two festivals that come to mind. It’s frustrating when that kind of thing happens, and doubly so when it happens in our home state. We have a solid fan base in Michigan, friends and family as well, that spend money and take time out of their lives to see us play. It sucks for us but it also sucks for them. Unfortunately there’s nothing any of us can do about it. We try not to work with promoters that screw bands over like that. We have a very short list of people that we swear to never work with again.
NRR: Have you guys finalized a set list yet for the show? Or would it be fun just to wing it on stage?
Phil Lipscomb: After not playing Taproot songs for nearly two years, it would certainly NOT be fun to wing it on stage! It didn’t take very long to get the songs comfortable under my fingers again, but if you threw in a song I haven’t practiced recently, some terrible things might happen.
NRR: (Laughing), point taken. You guys have been around since the late 90s, what has been some of the harder lessons to learn while trying to become an icon musically?
Phil Lipscomb: I don’t know if we were ever trying to become an icon, we were just playing the music that we loved playing. Humbleness aside, the hardest lesson was learning to depend on ourselves more than anyone else. Going back to our DIY roots was the best thing we’ve ever done. It allowed us to continue our career despite not having a huge label behind us. In this day and age, a band has to be self-sufficient and bring as much to the table as possible. We were lost when we first split from Atlantic in 2006, but we managed to navigate the rough waters and still continue as a band. Not saying we did it completely on our own, we’ve definitely had help, but we’re much more particular about who we let into our circle these days.
Taproot – Poem (Video) Album/Precision Version Audio
NRR: There are a lot of bands this weekend that should pay that a lot of attention. What can we expect from the Taproot camp in the coming days after Dirt Fest is but a dream of a metal, angry, sleeping dwarf until 2016?
Phil Lipscomb: I really have no idea. This show came about somewhat unexpectedly. We’re going to see how it goes first and go from there. I’m not looking any further than this one show for now. I just want to get on stage and have fun. We’ll figure out the rest after.
NRR: Fair enough. Is there a band or bands on this year’s Dirt Fest line-up that you are looking forward to seeing as fans?
Phil Lipscomb: I’m bummed I’ll be missing Coal Chamber and Fear Factory the night before we play. On Saturday, I’m most excited for Psychostick! I love those guys! I’ve heard really good things about Starset and Red Sun Rising as well so I’m going to try to check them out too. I love live music so I’ll be around watching as many bands as I can.
NRR: How important is selling merch for a well established group like yours at a festival like this? What might be the most unique item to ever hit the Taproot merch table?
Phil Lipscomb: Merch is extremely important for a touring band. It’s great for publicity which is why we spend the few extra dollars to get the nicer shirts that people will actually want to wear because they are comfortable. In addition, it helps keep the business alive. Without merch, most bands couldn’t even tour. With all the expenses that are incurred from touring, and there are many, it’s a great way to offset some of those costs.
At one point we did Taproot lighters. I know it’s not particularly unique, but it’s not all that common either, and I still have a working Taproot lighter in my possession so that’s why I remembered it.
NRR: For anyone that might not have heard your music before, and they would have to have been crazy not to know you by now, what can they expect to get from your sound on stage being self described as a Rock/Alternative band?
Phil Lipscomb: If they listen really, really closely, they can expect to hear the fabled “brown note”…so don’t listen too closely and just enjoy yourselves.
NRR: You have been on tour and the road for I’m sure a few million miles by now. Is there a moment that would be your Spinal Tap moment, a bizarre, fun, or even slightly embarrassing story that you can think of and wouldn’t mind sharing with me?
Phil Lipscomb: When we first started doing this back in the early 2000’s, we’d do signings all the time at various record store and book stores. Some of them were really big events with lines out the door and you couldn’t help but feel good afterwards. Around 2005-ish, these events became a little more rare although in particularly good markets, we could still pull them off. Fast forward to 2012 where someone at the record label decided it would be a good idea to try to bring this tradition back. They set up a few of them along our tour where time would permit. I don’t remember the cities, but the best ones had about five to ten people at them, and the worst one had nobody except an awkward staff member with a stack of about 100 posters. Pretty much straight out of Spinal Tap. When these moments happen, and there are definitely more stories, we refer to ourselves as Spinal Taproot. Good times!
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