High above the Los Angeles suburb of Silver Lake sits a house – a large Italian-style villa, built in 1922. Over the years, this house has served as a finishing school for girls, an orphanage of sorts run by Franciscan nuns, and, as rumour has it, a brothel.
But originally, more than 80 years ago, this storied estate was actually a home – the marital home of silent film star Antonio Moreno and his wife, an oil heiress named Daisy Canfield Danziger. The couple called their mansion Paramour, and used it to lavishly entertain a who’s who of Hollywood icons: Buster Keaton, Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Astor.
It didn’t last. Daisy and Antonio divorced in 1933, and though the relationship ended on friendly terms, it marked the end of a golden era for the mansion. Daisy turned Paramour into the finishing school, calling it the Chloe P. Canfield School for Girls after her mother. And then, that very same year, the Daisy died tragically in a car accident. Her Cadillac plunged 300 feet off a Mulholland Drive cliff after her chauffeur missed a curve. They buried her body at the Paramour.
When the mansion came under new ownership in 1998, it was converted into a fully functioning recording studio and performance space. Gwen Stefani, Eddie Vedder, Sheryl Crow, and Sarah McLachlan have put together records there, while contestants on both seasons of “Rock Star” have made it their home. But few seem to have connected with the Paramour as intimately as the members of Papa Roach did last year.
“I truly believe that the psychic energy at that house from the haunting or whatever you want to call it gave us some of these songs,” says drummer Dave Buckner, referring to the band’s appropriately-titled new album “The Paramour Sessions.” “The material we had been writing on the road, none of those songs made the record. Every song that made the record was a song we wrote at this house.”
The band opted to take the unconventional studio route after getting a feel for the experience from Slipknot. Their last record, “Vol. 3 (The Subliminal Verses),” was recorded at the Houdini mansion in the Hollywood hills. When Papa Roach went up to visit their masked friends, Buckner says it immediately turned them off the more traditional approach to making a record.
“It’s a real bonding experience for the band,” he says. “Everyone lives together, no one’s there to bug you, and it’s not a sterile studio environment. We caught a really cool vibe just being in the Houdini mansion.”
So in 2005, when they came off the road from touring, Papa Roach took their creative momentum straight to the Paramour. They also brought along producer Howard Benson, who’d worked on the band’s last record, 2004′s “Getting Away with Murder.”
“We didn’t even call any other producers,” says Buckner, explaining that it was the first time they hadn’t picked someone new for the job. “The thing that Howard really brings to table is that he focuses mostly on [singer] Jacoby [Shaddix] and lets us do our own thing and make the bed that we want to create for Jacoby to put his vocals on top of.”
For the next four months or so, the band (rounded out by bassist Tobin Esperance and guitarist Jerry Horton) “set up Rock’n'Roll World,” as Buckner puts it, “living, eating and breathing music.”
“As the owner says, we exploded all over the property like a bunch of wild teenagers,” laughs Buckner. “We pretty much ran amok everywhere.”
The fact that they were essentially living in the studio gave the band a big dose of freedom. Gone were the tight timelines and recording schedules they had been subjected to in the past. At the Paramour, the band didn’t have any set structure. They could work alone in their rooms, jam together in the rehearsal hall, or just enjoy the property.
For Shaddix, though, exploring the estate didn’t always mean a break from work. The singer used his surroundings – and the spiritual presence that he felt there – for inspiration.
“He’d hear us jam something, and then take his lyric book down the hill to Daisy’s gravesite and just chill there for hours and meditate or whatever it is he had to do and just channel lyrics,” recalls Buckner. “I truly believe there are a lot of ghosts hanging around that property – not just her, I think there’s a lot more that have been attracted to the open area around the hill.”
But now that the record is finished and ready for a September 12 release, Papa Roach is looking forward to reconnecting with the living. This October, they’ll hit the road for the “No Sleep Till Halloween” tour with Finland’s HIM (only one Canadian stop is scheduled, at Toronto’s Ricoh Coliseum on October 24).
Buckner says that the tour came together out of chance, when Shaddix ran into HIM front-man Ville Valo at the legendary Rainbow Bar & Grill in West Hollywood.
“It was like, ‘Hey, let’s go on tour,’ and sometimes it’s just as easy as that,” says Buckner of the meeting. “We’ve never played together, but I guess we share quite a lot of fans. It’s not the most obvious pairing of bands, but yet it works. I think it’s going to be a great tour.”