All right, we are talking about the most dynamic, hardcore bunch of fools ever to disgrace the stage. To help you figure out what their music’s energy and emotion is like I suggest you take a razor blade and cut yourself 1000 times. Now go and slip your ass into a vat of radioactive waste. Feel that? That’s close. Now all you need to do is ram a pencil in your fuckin’ eye and twist. There you go.
The ‘Knot started fuckin’ shit up in the basements and garages of sleepy ass Des Moines in 1996. The melodic hate they branded started a big, heavy thing rolling through the hardcore scene, rolling over and through everything that had come before it. Redefining hardcore the word, and, hardcore the scene. An indie album was followed by 1999’s self-titled Roadrunner debut, which was the one to put ‘em on the map. Iowa, the band’s smash album released earlier this year, continues their trend of destructive, trend-kill industrial metal laced with cyanide and occasional pop hooks.
I have had the pleasure of hanging out with these cats every time they have come to the Pacific North West and one thing has never changed since their first tour on Ozzfest: these guys are totally laid back and not at all full of themselves, like I would be, if I had reached their level of success. They are handling their rise to the top gracefully and I don’t see a single Kurt Cobain in the bunch.
The following interview took place in Portland during the Pledge Allegiance tour. It was a raging night that started with Mudvayne, a band that will have you bouncing off the ceiling and sailor diving the concrete. Ramstein put on a huge show with their usual pyrotechnics explosions sending blast concussions into the chests of all present. System of a Down came up next sportin’ new shit and old shit, good shit. When Slipknot came on, the crowd popped. If you weren’t moving, you were fucked cause the rest of them were coming over the top of you. Elbows and assholes is what I saw. A few of the assholes even got a boot inserted in them for their troubles. A good night with a couple thousand kids pledging their allegiance to the only system they see that works and motivates.
Here are the goods from the dressing room that night with Slipknot -- DJ Sid Wilson, drummer Joey Jordison, bassist Paul Grey, percussionist Chris Fehn, guitarist James Root, sampler/programmer Craig Jones, percussionist Shawn Crahan, guitarist Mic Thompson, and vocalist Corey Taylor:
KNAC.COM: So the band started in ’96. What was the first year of gigs like?
ROOT: Well, I don’t know. I wasn’t in the band then. (Turns to Clown) Clown, where did you guys play gigs in the first year?
CLOWN: We played all over. We played a lot in Madison.
KNAC.COM: When was the first time you wore the masks. What inspired the anti-image?
ROOT: Basically, as I understand it, um, Shawn kinda brought the Clown mask in and Joey…Joey, come on man, tell the story.
JOEY: Where are we at?
JOEY: Well, we made the music first. Shawn had his mask first, then I brought one in. It just kept evolving and evolving. It was like the music just brought that image to us without even working on it. It was never contrived. So when it came time to play the first show everyone was all excited about who was playing with who that we just didn’t even let them see us. We played so many shows and worked so hard 10 years prior [with other bands] to, you know, even playing our first show and recording [with Slipknot]. Everyone was so hand picked, when it came time everyone was talking about us. We didn’t even give them the pleasure of seeing us. No one would come out to the shows five years ago and all of a sudden everyone wants to talk about the band. It was like, fuck you pretty much.
KNAC.COM: Right on. I see how it is. So what was your first practice pad like? It had to be big for nine guys to practice.
ROOT: Oh man. The first places we practiced in were basements and garages basically. Uh, every band we were in even before Slipknot was like that. I know Joey was in some bands. They practiced in his basement you know. Shawn’s basement, in some of the houses he had. We practiced in Sid’s basement before, uh. When I joined the band we went up to Indigo for a while. We were in Sid’s parents basement and it was fuckin’ tiny. We were all packed in there. It was basically like, all of us with walls of amps, pointed right in Joey’s face. We were all like three feet in front of him, you know?
KNAC.COM: How is it that you got on Ozzfest for your first national tour?
ROOT: How did we get on it? Um…
KNAC.COM: Yeah, and what was that like?
ROOT: Pretty fuckin’ killer. I just remember Shawn callin’ me up and saying, “How does it feel to be the first band on Ozzfest or on Ozzfest for your first tour?” I was just like, “YYYEEEEEESSSSSSSS,” you know?
KNAC.COM: How did the second tour on Ozzfest differ from the first?
ROOT: For us it was way different… ‘Cause we were on the main stage instead of the second stage and I prefer the second stage ‘cause it’s a lot more intimate. You know its more one on one with the fans and shit. On the main stage you got so many people and they are all clear in the back. I don’t know, it’s just weird.
KNAC.COM: Will the road always end in Des Moines?
ROOT: (Laughs). I don’t know. Shane lives in Tahoe. I am thinking that might be a cool place to end up.
KNAC.COM: Hell yeah! Fuckin’ snowboardin’! Um, so like, when you are walkin’ around backstage and shit, do you have anonymity ‘cause you wear the masks and no body knows what you look like…and is the anonymity cool?
ROOT: I think it is very cool but it is wearing off. The more and more we tour and the more people we meet and talk to. You know, the more people are able to pick us out. And if one person knows who you are they will just be like “Hey, there is Mick or Jim” or whatever. Then you are busted out.
KNAC.COM: So what kind of music do you listen to? I’ve seen Corey sing “Stray Cat Strut” at the 5 Point in Seattle so I know it’s not all hardcore. What kind of music influences you?
ROOT: I don’t know about influences me but uh, right now I am listening to Radiohead, and some Portishead and Burned In Flames. Some of the Haunted. I’ve got a lot of shit I am listening to, some Zeppelin and Beatles that I am in to. Pink Floyd, shit like that.
KNAC.COM: So how did you guys come up with nine? Have you ever considered 10? Have you found yourselves saying, “We need a [sic] harmonica player?
ROOT: No… I don’t
KNAC.COM: ‘Cause I can play a mean harmonica.
ROOT: No, nine is magic.
KNAC.COM: OK. So Pantera has always said that they would never sell out and go mainstream and even name a couple bands that they say have. You guys haven’t turned it down. You haven’t sold out, you have only gotten more hardcore and yet, somehow you are getting the mainstream radio airplay. What’s the formula that makes this possible?
”I don’t think we necessarily have a formula. The way we write it, it just comes out. I just think it’s the fact that, you know, nine different people, nine different personalities.”
ROOT: I don’t really know. I don’t think we necessarily have a formula. Um, the way we write it, it just comes out. I just think it’s the fact that, you know, nine different people, nine different personalities. Whatever we write, it just comes out that way. With everybody’s diverse styles of music. I mean we all came from heavy backgrounds, heavy music basically. I think it’s all of that and Corey is a pretty melodic singer. May be that has something to do with it.
KNAC.COM: So how does the song creation process go? I mean with nine of you is it hectic like, um, how was “Skin Ticket” born?
ROOT: Um, yeah “Skin Ticket” is a really good example of how a song gets written. That basically, we were sitting in Shawn’s basement and he came over. He’s got this old SG piece of shit bass and he’s kind of messing with this idea, you know? Then Mick came up with something. Then Paul came up with something. We all… It just kind of evolved. I mean that song was pretty much written that night. Same thing with songs like, “Spit It Out.” I think those are some of the best songs. When everybody brings something to the table and it just happens you know?
KNAC.COM: As you tour around the world, what is your favorite place to play? I mean, what has really struck you where you are like, “That’s fucking awesome”?
ROOT: I don’t know man, Europe’s pretty fuckin’ cool. The fans are so into it there. You do the festival shows and there are so many fucking people there. You look out and there’s just a fucking sea of people. Just bouncing around. That’s pretty hard to beat. The Ozzfest shows are fucking cool too. It’s really hard to say but, um, as far as geography goes I really dig Australia.
KNAC.COM: How has September 11th affected you as individuals and as a band?
ROOT: Well as a band we haven’t really focused on it much or really talked about it. As an individual, I was freaking out. I was like, this is it. This is the end of the world you know. Um, I am still kind of shocked by it. I don’t know...what to think about it. Obviously there has been terrorism for many years but it hasn’t been this close to home and on this level. I don’t think there has ever been this kind of terrorism any where in the world. So, I, its just a really touchy subject. My heart goes out to everyone that got affected. And we have just got to come to gather and learn to fuckin’ love one another.
KNAC.COM: Word. What do you have to say to the racist pig, pieces of shit, motherfuckers who are now taking it out on Arab Americans? You spoke out about it during the show.
ROOT: They basically need to grow up. People are people. It was a small group of people who did this. It’s not a whole race of people. We all know what happens when somebody tries to take out their aggressions on a whole race of people. It’s pretty fucking ugly. So grow up!
KNAC.COM: Right. So kids today listen to Slipknot and their parents think that it is just a form of rebellion. And there is a real rebellious attitude to it that you guys are capitalizing on. What are your kids going to listen to that is going to freak you out?
ROOT: I don’t know man I don’t think I am ever going to have kids (Laughs) but like I said, on the 11th I thought that was the end. May be they won’t be listening to anything. Who knows man? It’s hard to say. Shit, my Dad was probably listening to shit his parents thought, you know…
KNAC.COM: That’s my point. Where does it go from here? What could be worse than this on a parent?
ROOT: And who knows? Everything evolves. Slipknot is going to evolve too so who knows man? Who knows what kind of society we are even going to be in the next 10, 15 years. Hard to say.
KNAC.COM: I think my kid is going to listen to country and that will be fine rebellion for ‘ol pop.