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Taproot Tap Billy Corgan

Hard rockers turn to head Pumpkin for songwriting tips

July 19, 2005 12:00 AM ET

As Taproot were writing songs for their third album -- the August 16th release, Blue-Sky Research -- the Michigan-based hard rockers began tossing around names of dream producers and collaborators, such as Dave Grohl and Billy Corgan.

"We heard Billy was working with Breaking Benjamin so we knew that it was possible that he might be interested in working with us," says Taproot frontman Stephen Richards. "We sent a couple CDs to his people, and he thought we had a lot of talent but wanted to point out some habits that he thought we were falling into that he wanted to help us break. We kind of fell into a comfort zone with the way we wrote songs, going heavy to quiet, not really exploring how to keep the song interesting all the way through."

The Ozzfest veterans teamed with the former Smashing Pumpkins frontman for the tracks "Lost in the Woods," "Violent Seas" and "Promise," with Corgan chipping in the occasional guitar part and vocal melody, along with his advice.

"At first it was just a feeling-out process," Richards says. "We weren't quite sure if we were going there to sit down and write songs together or if we were just going to tear some of our existing stuff apart and rework it with him. It ended up being a little bit of both. He was really honest with us like, 'I see what you're doing there, but it doesn't really do anything for me. Gimme something else you guys are really psyched on.'"

Corgan's critiques helped focus the group. "We used to throw in extra beats and use odd time signatures just to fuck with your head," Richards says. "This time, we wanted to have more straight-ahead, good songs, and I think we do."

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Song Stories

“Try a Little Tenderness”

Otis Redding | 1966

This pop standard had been previously recorded by dozens of artists, including by Bing Crosby 33 years before Otis Redding, who usually wrote his own songs, cut it. It was actually Sam Cooke’s 1964 take, which Redding’s manager played for Otis, that inspired the initially reluctant singer to take on the song. Isaac Hayes, then working as Stax Records’ in-house producer, handled the arrangement, and Booker T. and the MG’s were the backing band. Redding’s soulful version begins quite slowly and tenderly itself before mounting into a rousing, almost religious “You’ve gotta hold her, squeeze her …” climax. “I did that damn song you told me to do,” Redding told his manager. “It’s a brand new song now.”

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