Taproot are set to return to the stage at this year’s Dirt Fest, but things don’t appear to be going smoothly. Guitarist Mike DeWolf has said that he will not perform, and claims that vocalist Stephen Richards quit the band. Bassist Phil Lipscomb has since issued his own statement, saying that Richards never quit the band, and that DeWolf’s comments are false.
Here’s what DeWolf said on Twitter:
“I have chosen to not participate in upcoming “taproot” shows because @steelestephenr quit the band 2 years ago. Respectfully so. I have moved on. Responsibly. They have not. 2 years later, and they are desperate and want use/abuse the name of which I came up with and branded. It’s fine. Oh well. It’s much more in depth, but at the core, it’s sad, ungrateful, and depressing. To my family & theirs. But hey, at least @Dirtfest & @FollowTaproot get to advertise it as such. My sincere apologies to our friends & listeners.”
Here’s what Lipscomb posted on the band’s Facebook:
“I’ve been trying to take the high road and not air out our dirty laundry on Social Media, but given recent comments made by Mike DeWolf on Twitter and even a news story by the PRP (http://www.theprp.com/2015/06/17/news/taproot-and-guitarist-mike-dewolf-appear-to-be-feuding/), I feel a statement is necessary from us because there is more to the story than what Mike is presenting. For those of you who this is completely new to, I will attempt to bring you up to date.
Towards the end of 2013, we were talking about doing another album when Stephen told us he couldn’t commit to doing another record and needed a break from playing for a while. He had a lot on his plate in his personal life (health issues, both personally and in regards to his mother) and needed time to figure some things out. He told us he was aware that him needing a break might hurt us financially since being in a band is all Stephen, Mike and I had as income at the time. Stephen gave us his blessing to continue without him if that’s what we felt we needed to do to keep our livelihoods going. Contrary to what Mike is stating, Stephen never said that he quit Taproot. He said he needed a break. The plan always was to be open to doing something else in the future if it made sense.
Over the next year and a half, we all went on with our lives. I can’t speak for what the rest of the guys were up to, but I was giving guitar and bass lessons, had a blast touring with Smile Empty Soul and simply enjoying my time not dealing with all the responsibilities I had being in Taproot. I could focus more on the music side of the industry rather than the business side. Also during this break, I’ve enjoyed enormous developments in my personal life. I am getting married in a few weeks to a wonderful woman and I’m about to become a stepfather to a wonderful four year old son. I have never felt so content and happy in my life, and I’m looking forward to growing our family in the future. As for the band, I always kept my ear open for potential gigs because I knew when the time was right, I’d be playing with Taproot again, something I still have a passion for and enjoy doing, even if it’s not full time.
A little over a month ago, we received an offer to play on Dirtfest. This is a festival that is about 45 minutes away from home, basically in our backyard and essentially a hometown show. In my view, this seemed like a great place to get Taproot back on the scene. I wrote an email to Stephen and Mike to see what everyone’s thoughts were. I won’t go into all of the details on the back and forth, but the short of it was Stephen was down to play it and Mike was not. Mike had settled into his new life at home with a regular job and wasn’t interested in playing with Taproot anymore.
That was disappointing for us, but Stephen and I both were happy for him for having found some stability in his life. To say Mike wasn’t happy with us being willing to continue without him would be an understatement. After the emails and his derogatory comments on Twitter, I tried to have a conversation on the phone with him about the situation to try to proceed without this getting ugly. What I got from him was a lot of egotistical talk, about how this was “his band” and “he created it” because he came up with the name, how he sacrificed so much for it. To hear him talk, Stephen and I were riding his coattails this whole time while he did all of the work, which is absolutely NOT the case.
Stephen and Mike have been in bands since they were kids. They started Taproot together in 1997 and when Jarrod and I joined up, the original line up was complete. The hard work of all four of us got us signed. We all sacrificed and made this band what it is. Each of us put our lives into Taproot. When family life came calling Jarrod, he pulled away gracefully and we’re all still friends. When life got in the way for Stephen and he needed to take a break, he gave us his blessing to continue without him if need be.
If something got in the way for me where I was not able to play with Taproot, I know I’d help the guys as best I could in the transition and wish them the best. Mike gets a real job and doesn’t need Taproot anymore and all of a sudden Stephen and I are supposed to call it quits too. We didn’t put 18 years of our lives into Taproot for Mike to tell us we’re not allowed to play anymore. I’m not asking anyone to take sides in this. Our fans shouldn’t have to.
Mike chose not to continue, Stephen and I are going to proceed without him. It’s as simple as that for me. Nobody was kicked out, there should be no reason for hostility. Perhaps I should have released this statement earlier, but I had honestly hoped that I wouldn’t have to and it wouldn’t come to this. Much love to all of you for sticking with us all of these years. –Phil Lipscomb““