Slipknot – Interview [1999]

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Slipknot

Des Moines, Iowa doesn’t seem like a place that would spawn the next step in the evolution of heavy metal, but it has. Slipknot, the heart and soul of Des Moines’ brutally heavy underground scene, has officially begun their rampage. Having grown from six pieces to nine over the last three years, Slipknot presents a shocking picture of the harshness of commercialism today. Dressed in matching jumpsuits, each individually numbered, the members of Slipknot are purveyors of a madness that has never been tapped in the metal community. Blending intense rhythms and blast beats with twisted samples and scratching has become easy for this band. They blend every element that has made metal heavy, and they do it with a precision that is insofar unparalleled. Their live show is a free for all of chaos and craziness that stole the show the first night of the Ozzfest summer metal gathering.

Their short history has many twists and turns, and it has led them down the path to the doorstep of metal guru Ross Robinson. He produced their debut album, Slipknot (Explicit), out at the end of June on Roadrunner Records, and gave them the support they needed to jump out at mainstream America on the Ozzfest tour with some of metal’s biggest names today. Their presence will be known very soon, and the interview that follows will tell you why.

Give me a brief history of the band.

Shaun: Basically, we’ve been together since late ’95, and we started off as a six piece. We played here locally in Des Moines, Iowa, and our philosophy had always been we wanted to do something really different. Back at the time, there was no metal going on, there was no hardcore, nothing, so we decided to be true to ourselves. We had all been in bands that had opened up for each other, and the scene had become just terrible. No one really gave a fuck about music, so we formed Slipknot, and we played this all reggae bar. It was in a terrible part of town, we could only get Thursday nights, and we used to flyer so much in this town, we were putting up three thousand to five thousand flyers. The bar owner would get a call from the city saying they were going to fine him for every flyer. He’d call us, and we apologized, but he said ‘Keep it Up!’ So we started bringing a lot of people and we kind of started a new scene. The music has always been the most important thing with Slipknot, but we also have a stage show. It just started everything here in Des Moines.

Cory: It just got sicker and sicker as it went on, it was just really cool. We just kept pushing the boundaries of what people thought was the norm. We just said, ‘Fuck that. We’re gonna do what we want, when we want, how we want it, and we’re gonna make this buzz’ that was in our heads come out musically, and it just transferred that way.

Shaun: We released an album, and it was called Mate. Feed. Kill. Repeat. It was an eight-song demo with a hidden track. That whole album didn’t really have any structure. The thing that Slipknot was about was that we’d try anything we wanted, as long as it felt, as a band, that it belonged to Slipknot. We have songs that go from total death metal to grindcore right into funk and disco, all in like four majors. But we made it Slipknot. We made it so it wasn’t a joke. It was really powerful and it was really us. We were basically soul-searching for our true entity, and trying to figure out exactly what we were going to be. Things have definitely changed now; that was all before we got signed to Roadrunner, and we figured it all out. We just played lots of shows.

Cory: We busted our ass for two years straight.

Shaun: Lots of work, playing the Midwest, developing the music, developing the lyrics, and the concept behind Slipknot. When the music was solid, well, we’re the type of band, number one, we have this ongoing joke, whether you’re male, female, animal, bird, we don’t care what you are, when you come into the practice room, everybody in the band, in unison, will say

Cory: Girl in the practice room!

Shaun: No matter what, that’s what we say. And we’ve always had this philosophy: We don’t want any outside sources trying to develop our minds. We don’t allow people in our practice room unless it’s absolutely necessary. Ross Robinson came to look at us, so we had to let him in our practice room. We still said, ‘Girl in the practice room.’ Of course, Ross was the tenth member without even knowing it yet. We’ve always cared about what we think. We don’t want friends downstairs going, ‘That riff is really cool.’ We won’t even release a song live until we’ve played it for a month and really analyzed it. We just busted our ass with our concept, and once the music is done, because it is the most important thing, then we start thinking about other little things to push the envelope with the show. We’ve always stood away from being this band who felt like they have to have women on the stage getting naked.

Cory: We’re one of the few bands who don’t try to cater to the audience. It’s pretty funny, because that just draws more people in. It keeps us true to ourselves, and the audience true to what they dig. Once you start writing to a particular audience, then you’re screwed. You’ve lost your individuality, your creativity, and your niche on what your were trying to do in the first place. You try to keep the purest form of expression possible. That’s when the shit that gives you shivers comes out.

Shawn: We’ve tried to stay away from strippers, big fancy explosions. That’s not saying in the future we won’t push the envelope wherever we’re going. We’ll always push it to the next level. The thing that’s really special about Slipknot is that when you come to a show you have nine crazed motherfuckers who are in your face, completely aggressive. Brutality is our first name. What happens is the way you perceive us is so natural to the way we act; it’s not the stage. The masks are an extension of ourselves. Everybody fits into their entity. The way we act is so natural to the way we are as real people that we don’t need all that crap. Once in a while we do things, Corey and I got a severed beaver tail from a fan. It actually came from a police officer. Because beaver tail, in Iowa, are extremely illegal, unless you have a permit to trap beaver. So this officer had it, and he gave it to us, he said we were the only people in the world who would appreciate something like this. At the time, I don’t know what the fuck I’m going to do with a beaver tail. So I bring it, and I tell Corey, ‘I got a present for you!’ Next thing you know, we get out there and, boom, we’re gone, dude. When we’re onstage, it’s the whole thing. Corey and I pretty much start digesting this beaver tail. We’re squeezing the juice, oozing the fluids all over us.

Cory: We get offstage and we’re like puking our guts out. What the fuck was I thinking, you know? But when you’re onstage, you’re in that zone, you’ll do anything and everything possible to bring it out of your system. I don’t know if that’s good or bad.

Shawn: We’ll do lots of things that don’t make sense to us either, until we indulge in the act of doing it, spontaneously.

You’re all numbered. What reasons do you give for that?

Cory: I think, originally, we were just going to wear jumpsuits and have the barcodes on the back. We figured we might as well take that further and number ourselves. If we were going to be wearing the barcode anyway, we were basically saying, ‘Hey, how ya doing? We’re a product.’ But it was more than that. It’s a symbol of how far people take shit in the world today, as far as commercially. The real reason we started doing music in the first place was like, ‘Hey, fuck you. Your symbolism is bullshit!’ We started putting numbers on the jumpsuits, and I basically said, ‘I want the number eight.’ For some reason or another, the number eight has always been I guess you’d say a lucky number, but it just made sense to me, to grab the number eight. Shawn grabbed six because it meant something to him, and it just followed suit.

Shawn: It was weird, because everybody when we did it, the barcode, the boiler suits we wear, there is a lot more to them, we just leave a lot of things for the fans, they can take it the way they want. We have our own little entities that we think of, but it was highly unusual that when we actually did number ourselves, that everybody fell into a number. No one thought. It’s zero through eight. We discussed stuff, like what about the number ten, but it just happened the way it did. It really felt good. Everyone had different reasons for picking their numbers.

You recorded with Ross Robinson (Soulfly, Limp Bizkit, Sepultura, Korn). To me, he’s recorded some of the best albums in the last five years. What’s it like being up at Indigo Ranch, hanging out and the whole process? How long were you actually there?

Cory: We were in pre-production in Cole Rehearsal Space for about a week, then we went right to the studio and started getting the sound down. It was about a month and a half.

Shawn: One thing I can tell you with Ross is that we are a highly aggressive band, and we get real crazy. We were so hungry for this album. We were so fucking sick of waiting to be signed. I don’t know if bands talk about the anxiety they go through, trying to make this happen. Sometimes it can put people against each other. So we get there, and Ross tells us we’re the hungriest band he’s ever witnessed. The first day we were tracking drums, we did seven songs. Ross literally made us stop because we would’ve done the whole album in one night, and we wouldn’t be able to enjoy ourselves in LA. We did all the songs in three days, for the drums. It was amazing. Ross would get in there with us, and he would slam so hard with us, that sometimes his pants would fall off. It was so amazing. He would punch my guitar player in the face, in the arm. He’d grab the guitar. He was throwing shit at the camera, at the cameraman. He threw a plant at my drummer while he was tracking. My drummer ducked, all this during tracking, and it blew up on the wall and dirt got in my drummer’s mouth and almost made him gag. But he fucking loved it! He just kept slamming harder and harder and we kept the whole session. From the beginning, Ross was just an amazing producer and he’s part of us. He grabbed something, and knew it was there. He was like, ‘I am here to unleash it!’

Cory: You have to understand that the last couple of years have been crazy for us. Everybody saw an opportunity, everyone saw they could make money on this. They were like, ‘Let’s try and go a little commercial on something’ or ‘Let’s try and radio this up. Can we put a melody on that somewhere?’ We’ve never written anything for a specific anything. We were so stressed out and screwed up in the head that we forgot we could write really killer fucking songs for a while. We got together with Ross and he brought back out of us the music we’ve been trying to fucking write for the longest time. He’s like, ‘Dude, make it sick! Bring it back, go fucking old school and do it!’ He brought some of the sickest shit out of us that I’ve ever heard us do.

Shawn: When we were trying to get signed, there was kind of a bidding war, and we were having a hard time because of the way we are live. Ross has an imprint now with Roadrunner, I AM Records. Ross was going to take us, fund our album himself, and make sure it got where it was supposed to go. That’s how much he believed in us. He didn’t have to do that because of the Roadrunner thing, but that’s how much he dug us. He’s such a friend now; he’s an incredible human being. The really cool thing about Ross is that he lets the band have the final say. All you have to do is say, ‘Man, you added this effect on guitar and we’re not really digging it.’ Ross just said, ‘Done.’ No arguing. We didn’t lose sleep over anything. He’s behind you as an artist, which is an incredible feeling, being able to create what you’re born with. We’ll definitely be working with Ross again.

You have three different percussionists. Do you each do different things?

Shawn: What goes on is this. The main drummer, Joey, is an amazing drummer. He’s got all that double bass shit going on. What we learned was that, in the early days when we were recording, Joey and I learned that we can step on each other. I can muddy up his parts. Really, he’s the drummer, I’m only extra. We have to be very careful what the two extra drummers play because it will sound muddy and the average listener will think there are mistakes being played. There won’t be mistakes, but they’re so many layers of some of the same things being done. It’s been a lot of work. Here’s the steps we did. We decided to cut it, down to bare bones. Chris and I, who are the other percussionists, we play straight on power. No lap percussion, and nothing too technical. Just boom, boom, boom. We got that beat in there, we keep it real. That’s just us hitting the fucking drums as hard as we can. That’s one step.

Cory: Just a lot of flavor and emphasis. It brings a lot of heaviness out on certain riffs. Joey will do a really good drum beat, and they’ll add more percussion to add flavor to that. Where it’s needed, it’s put. It just adds a sweetness to it.

Shawn: We use kegs, cans, chopsaws, all kinds of shit. The other thing we learned was that whatever we used had to be a little bit different than Joey so we got different depths in drums. My drum, I’m the only guy in the world with an all Titanium drumset.

Did you build that?

Shawn: I’m a welder, and I’m really into steel and the theory behind metal and everything. I’ve made things that the band likes. Our old album cover had this cage on it called Patiently Awaiting The Jigsaw Flesh. It was a sculpture that three of us made. Every time we carry it, someone gets brutally cut. I had come up with this idea; I was getting bored with wood so I made this lift that picks me up in that air, it holds my drums and everything. It’s all out of metal, and I made the other drummer this sculpture on gymnastic springs. And all his drums are on it. He bounces around the stage. The only thing missing was my drums. So I met this guy and he invented the first Titanium snare, and I was like ‘That’s my gig!’ He let me custom build them, and they’re designed all for me, they’re all custom. They have the most unique sound. My bass drum that I use, it’s 24X18, it is fucking bad. It has power that is so unreal, that if people listen they actually appreciate the power on some of the songs. It’s a lot because I know how to hit the drums, but at the same time I have these wonderful drums that are helping to create a separate sound from Joey. We’ve been longing for that for years, to finally separate us. This is just a crazy band, and I destroy everything. We want something I can’t destroy and Titanium is the strongest metal in the world.

Cory: You don’t know how many times we’ve had to get this fucker drums because he’s completely splintered the fuck out of them. He also has a bad habit of breaking microphones. He’ll definitely be getting a Shure endorsement.

Shawn: That’s what’s up with the three drummers. The way our stage plot goes is we have three drummers, there’s Cory, there’s two guitar players, a bassist, DJ, and then the sampler. And the way the stage plot is set is myself and the other percussionists, we’re all the way left and right on the stage. Cory is in the middle, guitar players are left and right of him, bass player usually sits back a little bit, sampler and DJ are back too, and the main drummer in the mid back. We have this power, we always believed in the triangle, two drummers up front and Joey in the back as this surround thing. When we started the band a long time ago, the one thing I wanted was the three drummers because drums are the most primitive instrument in the world, and people don’t even know why they like them. It’s in our heritage, it’s in our DNA. When you start something with drums, you’ll automatically like it. It’s like sucking your thumb or something.

What’s the difference between the sampler and the DJ?

Cory: The DJ runs the turntables and gives us some crazy cuts and shit. Our sampler, well, there’s phrases cut from movies, like sound bytes, and he’ll run them in certain places. We’ll have an intro before a song called “Sick” that we created in the studio. He’ll run it before we play the song. He’ll do some sick sampling in between songs. Just basically crazy shit. It’s like we have the best of both worlds. We have Sid, who’s throwing down cool beats and scratches, and then we have Craig going over the top of him, or he’s putting lines on top of that. We can do anything we want. We’re not limiting ourselves in any shape or form.

Shawn: Plus the sampler guy does our webpage.

How did you get hooked up with the Ozzfest?

Cory: Ozzfest was kind of fate, we always knew we were going to play it. We just feel really blessed we’re getting a chance to play it in the first place. Roadrunner people have always had a close connection with Ozzfest; in the past there was always Roadrunner bands there, along with some bigger acts. It seems lately a lot of bigger bands are keeping the torch with Roadrunner bands, plus we just knew we were going to be on Ozzfest and we just worked towards it. We fought to get on it.

It doesn’t start until May 27th [1999]. Are you doing anything before that?

Cory: We’re doing a couple of warm up shows. We haven’t done anything in a while because we’ve been doing the album. We want to get the virus back for playing live.

You’re a very extreme band, doing extreme things onstage. Have you gotten any negative criticism yet?

Cory: Not yet, we’re kind of waiting until the CD is out, when our message hits, you know? I think people have a hard time accepting responsibility when it comes to bad things happening in their lives. They usually push it off on people in a higher view. I like to think we’re doing something that’s never been done before. We’re trying to say something that’s never been said before. Because we’re doing that, we’ll naturally be a target. We’ll have red dots on our faces and floating around our masks. We know we’re bringing that to us. If you really want to put your stamp on the world, you’re going to have to take the punches right along with the kisses.

Shawn: Plus, we’ve always believed in being responsible, and we take every action and everything we do to approach it as adults. We approach it responsibly. And if we feel that in our souls we need to do something and it’s right, we do it without asking anybody’s permission.

Cory: We don’t do anything for shock value. We do it because we think it’s cool and because it’ll make us puke after a show.

Thanks for your time guys, you’ve been really open with things. Do you have anything to add before we go?

Cory: Watch out! We’re coming!

Shawn: Be prepared to be taken over!

Thanks again guys. See you in West Palm!

Shawn, Cory: Thanks. See ya!

+ rick hinkson

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