2001 was a confusing year – Star Wars was back, but it wasn’t good anymore; people could download music to their home computers with this newfangled technology called ‘iTunes’; and sales of Jenga plummeted for absolutely no reason at all, with no unfortunate incidents that could make the concept for such a game look slightly awkward.
If there was one thing we could be certain of, though, it’s that Slipknot were a force to be reckoned with. They still are, of course, but they especially were in 2001, on the cusp of releasing their landmark second album, Iowa.
As the album celebrates its 20th anniversary this week, we’ve dug deep into the archives and dusted off our copy of BLUNT #1 – that’s right, the first ever issue – to reminisce on the time Slipknot still had to sell people on Iowa. Because after all, it’s no stretch to say the record was a risky one. Corey Taylor himself pulled BLUNT’s Mark Hughes backstage at the 2001 Ozzfest to fill us in on what to expect from nu-metal’s saving grace, and as you’ll see, he certainly didn’t hold back.
FASTER, SICKER AND
VERY, VERY EVIL
BLUNT writer Mark Hughes ropes Slipknot singer Corey Taylor backstage on the Californian leg of Ozzfest 2001 to talk about their forthcoming new release Iowa.
When an unsigned Slipknot rampaged their way into the collective Conscience of metal fans on the 1999 Ozzfest tour, a new stone was turned on the metal scene. Make that a huge fucking boulder. The bands’ unrepentant sonic attack of hardcore rap-style vocals backed with a demented three-way percussive assault, low-end rumble, piercing riffs and weird samples were matched by a stage show of brutal proportions. Every live performance left band members in a lather of blood, sweat and vomit and facing a potential ride to the nearest hospital. Marry that with the all-out visual assault of members dressed uniformly in overalls with their faces hidden by evil masks and Slipknot had single-handedly returned heavy metal back to the realm of the armed and dangerous. With the imminent release of their second album, the Iowa lads are promising not only to bring out the big guns, but to blow your f#%kin’ head off as well.
“I’ll put it this way – this album is going to scare the fuck out of everyone who liked Wait and Bleed!” announces vocalist Corey Taylor “It’s going to be a f#%king monster. The music is a lot heavier, a lot darker, a lot faster and the lyrics are a lot deeper.” It’s a huge statement from the Slipknot frontman, especially considering where the band left off with their debut album, which was one of dark heavy brutal beast lashed with frantic beats and cut to the cold with menacing lyrics. So how does a band of such extremes go even further out there?
“We went back to our roots basically,” says Taylor, whose on stage masked persona is one of a burns victim whose head is sparsely gardened with wicked green deadlocks. “Thrash metal, black metal – bands like Black Sabbath, the old school, you know?
We went back to our roots and created something that is going to piss a lot of people off!” he warns, echoing the collective statements of the nine-piece line-up. After the blistering success of the self-titled debut album, DJ Sid Wilson (0), drummer Joey Jordison (1), bassist Paul Gray (2), percussionist Chris Fehn (3), guitarist Jim Root (4), sampler Craig Jones (5), percussionist Shawn Crahan ‘The Clown’ (6), guitarist Mick Thompson (7) and vocalist Corey Taylor (8) were in an enviable position when they sat down to begin working on the follow-up release. With a frenetic fan base that absolutely worship the band’s every move, and an unswaying commitment from all nine band members to unearth the best representation of themselves in their music, the new album is one of the most anxiously anticipated metal release in years.
The new album, due in August, is to be titled Iowa – a reference to their home state, USA. A mid-western agriculture province that cops a lot of flak for seemingly maintaining small town ideals and propagating the ‘redneck’ culture. But it was exactly this small town isolation, associated social interactions and sarcastic labeling by the outside world, which melted the nine members into the nu-metal force they are today. “we had the idea of naming the album before we even started on the music” reveals Taylor. “As we progressed we started to see all these things were coming out – a lot of personal issues – basically a lot of reflections of where we come from. So it made sense to name the album that. Also it was to give people a different perspective of a state that is just seen as place with lots of cows and farmers. We are here to say it’s not all about that!” he says snapping his fingers and smashing his fist into his hand.
It is perhaps a testament to their hometown that despite their success, they haven’t sort mansions in California. They all still live where they grew up and it is where they still like to create the music. Although Taylor admits he could perhaps leave the comfortable confines of his native Des Moines, Iowa for the sunny skies of down under. “I wanted to move to Australia a long time ago. I still might – I don’t know but really I’ve been wanting to live there since I was a kid. So when I first got out there (with Slipknot), I just stood there and looked up at this huge sky and went ‘Wow this is so amazing!”
“Even though it is just words and music it means a lot to us so we don’t really like to just write on the road…”
There is just one major barrier keeping the middle singer back in the landlocked Iowa and not the massive island that is Australia and that is our predators from the sea. “Personally, I am scared shitless of sharks! Absolutely – that is the one main thing that is keeping me away from Australia. Seriously! Ever since I was a kid – I remember my mum took me to see the first Jaws movie and I was only about 4-years-old for God sake’s – I was scared for life. But you know what? I am so masochistic that I buy every shark attack video that comes out and just sit there in horror going ‘Arrgghhhhhh.’ I can’t handle it – but it’s just me keeping me knowing what my fears are.”
Taylor’s bandmates like the live in psychologists they are, and to help the lad get over his fear of sharks, or is it just a sarcastic streak that wish to satisfy in themselves? “Clown has got me convinced to get in a shark cage when we get back to Australia,” admits Taylor half-heartedly. As they are launching a massive world tour in support of the new album, an Aussie appearance and that date with a shark, should be sometime before the end of this year. “There has been talk of November – the beginning of your summer basically, sometime around then,” reveals Taylor. “We will be going from Europe to Japan to Australia. So hopefully we’ll be down there very soon. It is a rule, an absolute rule that we go there.”
After completing about two full-years touring the band were intent on having a break before writing and recording but as is their hunger to keep the Slipknot steamroller rolling, it was only a matter of weeks before all members were itching to get back together and write some new material. “Even though it is just words and music it means a lot to us so we don’t really like to just write on the road,” says Taylor. “We waited until we’d finished touring and got back to the basement before we started writing and creating.”
With this album the media have been starved of any sort of promo for the album. There hasn’t been any pre-release distribution of the CD to any media, and that’s is a deliberate plan of the band, as Taylor explains. “We are trying to put the mystique back into music, you know what I’m saying? Everything today is about mass marketing or cross promotion and all that crap – we wanted to get away from that. We wanted to put something back – we wanted to put a little bit more danger back into it. We did that before but we were coming from nowhere. So this time we wanted to put our money where our mouth is and wanted to come up with something special.”
When it comes to special, Slipknot get creative with their tunes. Dark and evil and most of all new. With nine members, each of whom possess a high technical proficiency for playing and writing music, the writing process could be kind of confusing even having the potential for creating arguments. It doesn’t happen but would only feel the process anyway, not hinder it. “Overall the song-writing is mostly an equal thing, you know what I mean?” says Taylor. “As far as the music goes we all pretty much contribute. As far as the lyrics go I wrote 98% of basically everything. There is a song called “Gently” that is an old song from the old school (originally appearing on their 1996 indie release Mate, Feed, Kill, Repeat) that Shaun wrote the lyrics to and there is also a song called “The Heretic Song” that you can download from our website, that me an Joey wrote together.”
That’s about as far into the song lyrics Taylor is willing to go. “Well I don’t like to get too much into talking about the lyrics just for the fact that I’d like to leave it open for interpretation for the kids – you know what I am saying?” levels Taylor. “You can hear something and you might relate to it in a totally different way to how I meant it. I can give you some of the new songs that we are going to play today. We are playing “The Heretic Song” and one called “The New Abortion” which I’m sure the kids of today will understand and relate to because it is common in lots of small towns to grow up with no hope, new future, no nothing. There is a song on there called “Metabolic” which is kind of a ‘Deluded Part 2’ – the kids will know what I am talking about. The main thing there is a lot of things in songs that I just don’t want to talk about and that is the beautiful thing about making music. I can get those things out and not have them just going round and round in my head when I am lying in bed at night.”
“Today I went out to a store and bought an ‘I FUCK SHEEP’ t-shirt and not one kid even noticed me. It is great that we can still get out and see that side of things…”
But he doesn’t mind unleashing all his dark in the thoughts on his adoring maggot minds. As they launch into their office performance at San Bernardino, just outside of LA, the crowd break into a frenzy. The song “People=Shit” is a super-fast paced cacophony of metal colliding with beats. The maggots are going berserk and way up on the hill small fires are burning with hordes of demented fans dancing, encircling the flames in some sort of pagan offering to their metal gods. Slipknot seem almost satisfied. They want the maggots to prove themselves at the gig. But halfway the performance vocalist Corey Taylor has a little between song banter with the crowd. Maybe banter isn’t the right word it is more like an abusive spat. “What the f#ck are you people doing?” he says targeting the throng down the front who obviously aren’t getting into it enough. “Those maggots way way way up the back there are absolutely going f#cking crazy but you people down here (the front) are just f#cked – what is it huh?” he says almost spitting on them.
He has reason to be cruel. After all, the band is brandishing new uniforms, new masks and a whole bunch of new songs. The new uniforms are still the overalls but with the tribal ‘S’ for Slipknot on one sleeve, their individual numbers on the other sleeves and on the left front chest a goat symbol. The masks have had an evil work-over. Clown, in particular, has a radial change and now looks very, very scary. He’s cute colourful curls and slightly smiling face have been erased and replaced by a deathly grey montage, criss-crossed with scars and blood topped off with half his skull missing exposing part of his brain. “We all have new masks and we are all more evil,” says Taylor. “We got together with a good friend of ours named Screaming Matt George and we had actual moulds taken of our faces. We sat down with him and explained what we wanted to do and what we wanted bring out of us – it is basically like changing the expression on your face, you know? You can’t be the same guy all the time – if you try to be you’ll end up killing yourself.”
Killing, or at least an injury is something that fans half-expect when they see a Slipknot concert. The nine-piece have forged a reputation as one of the most aggressively animated and live acts you’ll ever see. Throwing beer kegs across the stage, almost being engulfed by flames, smacking each other with sticks and iron bars and hurling themselves all over the place in a frenetic frenzy of metal mayhem is just a regular portion of every show. It looks as though it is total chaos unleashed, but the band is very focused on what is going on.
When the band begin their own headline shows later this summer they promise punters even more of a live spectacular with their new stage set. Explosions, walls of flame, hydraulic drum risers that shake and rock, pentagrams, flashing 666 signs and the crème de la crème a severed goats head. It’s like Slipknot’s personal hell and they are the collectively the devil – wrestling the souls from the rabid maggot audience. “The stage design was actually the brainchild of Clown.” Taylor reveals. “He started developing it a long time ago and we finally got time to put it all together so we are testing it on this Ozzfest tour.” And even though it looks as though Bezalbub himself might be summoned to appear on-stage the band isn’t in the least bit satanic. “No not at all. We are just proving a point!” laughs Taylor. “People think if you put three numbers together you must be satanic. We could be mathematicians did you think of that you fucking idiots!” barks the diminutive frontman.
After the gig, yet another bone-jarring puke-inducing display, one of Slipknot’s guitarist, Mick Thompson, is hanging backstage and is taking plenty of time to talk with fans who have somehow managed to get past the numerous security guards and somehow recognise him without his mask. He is showing them a deep cut he has on his little finger “Yeah man I gotta superglue that back up. When I am playing, the guitar strings just seem to slip right into there (the cut). Luckily I got the mask on – I’m like in pain man! (He says making a mock pained expression).” But with the mask on no one is the audience can tell. Despite the discomfort of wearing a stiflingly hot mask on-stage, it is another useful tool that the mask gives them. It also allows a band, who are globally successful and instantly recognisable on stage, to be pretty much anonymous of stage. “It’s great,” agrees Taylor. “Like today I went out to a store and bought an ‘I FUCK SHEEP’ t-shirt and not one kid even noticed me. It is great that we can still get out and see that side of things instead of being stuck backstage all the time in some sort of protective environment. We can get out see what we want to see do what we want to do.”
At that stage Thompson bellows a big ‘Fuck That!’ “That’s my saying for the day. Just fuck ‘em.” he laughs. “I can’t wait to get back to doing our own shows – it’s going to be sick.”
“Totally sick” confirms Taylor. “We are coming to destroy maggots – it is one more step in the world domination you know what I am saying?
Yeah mate – we know what you are saying!
This story was originally featured in BLUNT #1