Interview – Mike DeWolf of Taproot

Taproot roared onto the nu-metal scene in 2000 with their critically acclaimed debut album Gift. Two years later the band followed up with their popular album Welcome. The lead single off the album “Poem” was a massive rock hit in various rock formats and to this day still spun on rock radio.

Flying high from their major success early on Taproot matured over the years weathering the ups and downs of a rock n roll band. Together now for the better part of 16 years the guys are still going and writing some of the best music of their career. Recently we sat down with guitarist Mike DeWolf for an in depth look into the key to longevity, managing success, and the future of Taproot. Taproot has stood the test of time now plugging away since 1997. Tell me what the key to keeping the band going now for the better part of 16 years?

Mike Dewolf – Any number of things but at the root of it all is we love music and we want to play music, that’s what we do. We all understand that and we do whatever we need to make that happen. There have been lots of peaks and valleys throughout the years. If you get knocked 8 times you get up 9, we never back down. – That has definitely shown because you guys are still around. Now in that time you guys had your share of success with your major label debut Gift in 2000 and Welcome in 2002. When you look back on those albums now how do you feel about the success you had with them?

Mike Dewolf – I’m grateful, happy, and lucky that those albums keep us going and keep us doing what we do. I am very thankful for the opportunity we had when we were on Atlantic Records. They put us out there in front of a really large audience, it was a great experience. Pretty much everything past then and up until now has been a learning experience and something good, you can always take something good away from anything.

Taproot – Gift / Atlantic (2000)
Taproot – Welcome / Atlantic (2002) – Yes and you have released many good albums since that time. Now the album Blue-Sky Search in 2005 was a sort of different direction for Taproot. It seems since this time the band has continuously experimented with their sound from album to album. Was it a conscious decision for the band to change your sound from Blue-Sky Search and beyond?

Mike Dewolf – For me it was, that album I switched from my baritone A tuning to a D standard tuning which is a lot higher and immediately a different sound no matter what I’m writing. The baritone guitars are kind of hard to deal with and when you’re playing that low sometimes it’s even kind of hard to distinguish what you’re playing. As a player I wanted to switch things up so yes it was a conscious decision.

As far as writing, I think we’re always writing from our hearts and experiences at the times. We all have our personal lives and things are always happening, we’re always growing and changing. We use that and put that in our music, so our music is never going to be the same cookie cutter stuff, because we are going from our lives that are changing. – That is good to change things up and keep people on their toes. It’s good for musicians.

Mike Dewolf – Yea absolutely but no matter how far I try and go in some other direction and try and do something completely different, it always sounds like us no matter what, so there’s almost no running away from it. (laughs) – Right because it’s still Taproot no matter what. Since then you guys have released 3 more records, most recently The Episodes in 2012, all different albums in their own right. Let’s talk about The Episodes, a very strong album for Taproot. What was the outlook going into this record?

Mike Dewolf – That one was completely different from all our other records. We actually made that right in the middle of Our Long Road Home (2008). We were in the middle of that album and running into some road blocks. I was watching some VH1 documentaries on Pink Floyd and The Who and I had this idea that if we did this concept album and we wrote up a story, it didn’t even matter what the story was at all, it was like an experiment. If we did that, wrote the story, broke it into 10 parts, and just wrote the music to the lyrics this is going to go a hundred times better than trying writing an album. I got together with Steve and we banged out a story in one day, broke it down into lyrics the other day, and then literally the next 10-12 days we had all the songs written and recorded.

Taproot – Blue-Sky Research / Atlantic (2005)
Taproot – Plead the Fifth / Victory (2010) – Wow that’s a pretty quick process. I am sure it happened really organically.

Mike Dewolf – Yea it was a totally new experience for us. It was really inspiring and fun. We’d never done anything like that so it was really cool. – You are in the midst of touring right now and what makes this tour so unique is your playing your entire debut album Gift. What made the band decide to celebrate the album on this tour?

Mike Dewolf – When we did the first leg of this tour it was more west coast and down south and we did that for two months. This is the second leg and it’s about 3 weeks long. We were getting toward the end of our cycle with The Episodes and we wanted to keep touring, so we thought what’s a fun way to go out there and bring something different to our fans? We came up with the idea and thought it would be fun for us to re-learn all these songs, some of which we haven’t ever played live, and some of that we haven’t played in 10-12 years. We thought it would be fun for the fans and we just went for it and it’s been really nice.

Taproot – Episodes / Victory (2012) – That major label debut album is 13 years old now. Amazing how time has passed. You’ve managed to keep the core of Taproot together with yourself Stephen and Phil after all these years. How do you keep the chemistry going between yourselves?

Mike Dewolf – We’re friends to start with but at the same time we keep our distance. We get on each other’s nerves like brothers, so it can be pretty intense. We all kind of know our limits and how to push each other buttons and try to stay a good distance from each other when we need to. We’ve learned all the negative stuff, like how to push buttons and how to push things to the limit but at the same time we learned how not to do that (laughs) – It’s been a long time for Taproot and it’s clear you found that balance. What is next on the horizon for Taproot?

Mike Dewolf – I think after this tour we are going to go home for a couple of weeks. I think we have a couple more random shows planned out and maybe a little bit more touring. Then we are going to start focusing on the next album, we are hoping for early 2014. – Is the new record going in a completely different direction again?

Mike Dewolf – I don’t know, we never know until it’s all done. We never know what it’s going to sound like. – That keeps things interesting. What are some of your music influences?

Mike Dewolf – For me the reason why I started playing guitar was Eddie Van Halen. I had my room painted all red with the white stripes and Van Halen posters all over. I woke up one day and said hey I should probably get a guitar. Luckily enough my mom and dad helped me get my first guitar and amp. That’s the whole reason I started to play, I never wanted to play anything like him, I knew I probably couldn’t. At the time it was the Van Hagar days and they wrote really great songs that touched me and inspired me and that’s what I wanted to do for other people. – So for you which is your favorite, Van Halen or Van Hagar?

Mike Dewolf – Van Hagar! I know a lot of people are the opposite of that. I just look at the amount of hits and the great songs they had with Sammy. – Now my last question for you is pertaining to films. covers rock/metal and horror movies so we like to focus on both genres. If you are a horror movie fan what are some of your favorite horror movies?

Mike Dewolf – I’m not a huge horror movie guy at all. Most notably, I like Halloween H20 (1998). I’m probably going to get flack for that (laughs). I like the Rob Zombie version of Halloween (2007). I really like the remake of Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003). The type of horror I like is the ones that can actually happen. The one’s where a guy can wake up and say I want to go murder 200 people. That scares the shit out of me, opposed to some strange monster.

Be sure to check out Taproot at  and like them on facebook. Follow them on twitter . Follow Mike DeWolf on twitter.

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  • I’ve seen Taproot 3 times on the ‘GIFT’ tour..all the shows have been awesome.Their show at Peabodys is one of the best concerts i have ever been to.The energy in the place was amazing.It brought back alot of great memories from back when that album came out.Taproot has so many amazing well written songs and their albums are well produced.They truly are thee hardest working band on the planet.They have heart and a love for music which comes across in their live shows.I’ve grown to love the smaller venues they play..alot of them are cool places which makes seeing them even more fun.although its a long drive to many of their shows i have gone to ..its well worth it.since i have not been in the best of health their music has helped me through alot.when i see them perform it lifts my spirits.there is really nothing better..and thats what music is suppose to do..

    • That is a very inspiring comment Mandy. Thank you for your readership. I hope you get well soon and the music continues to keep you strong!

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