THE GHOST INSIDE Time Apart THE SMITH STREET BAND Spend A Month In The River

ON SE­CRETS, DOUBTS & THE WHITE ELE­PHANT TROPHY EYES AT THE GATES PI­ANOS BE­COME THE TEETH AVER­SIONS CROWN IN FLAMES YEL­LOW­CARD HAWTHORNE HEIGHTS SAGE FRAN­CIS VICES HAND OF MERCY KING PAR­ROT THE LAST IN­TER­NA­TIONALE

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Dear reader, cast your mind back to 107, in those far- away days of Fe­bru­ary 2012. Slip­knot were on the cover. They were about to play Sound­wave, per­form­ing their first Aus­tralian shows since the tragic death of found­ing bassist Paul “# 2/ Pig” Gray in May 2010 via an ac­ci­den­tal drug over­dose.

The in­ter­views were with the other two found­ing mem­bers, per­cus­sion­ist Shawn “Clown” Cra­han and drum­mer Joey “# 1/ Su­per­ball” Jordi­son. And, to put it ( ahem) bluntly, there was some ques­tion over whether or not the band would sur­vive.

Cra­han was still griev­ing the loss of his friend – “I hear all this shit all the time about how Paul wanted us to go on: well, cool. Maybe I don’t wanna go on with­out him, you know?” – while Jordi­son was al­ready look­ing to the fu­ture. “Ev­ery­one knows there was no- one more im­por­tant to the band, writ­ing-wise, and no- one was a bet­ter friend to me than Paul, but enough with the shit, OK? It’s start­ing to be­come sick­en­ing to me. Let. The. Guy. Rest.”

Two years on and things have changed. Gray’s doc­tor – the one who pre­scribed him Xanax de­spite sup­pos­edly know­ing he was us­ing opi­ates – was ac­quit­ted of in­vol­un­tary man­slaugh­ter after a long trial. The band have a new al­bum: .5: The Gray Chap­ter.. And Jordi­son is no longer in the band.

The band refuse to dis­cuss what hap­pened – although re­ports sub­se­quently sur­faced that Jordi­son was sacked via singing tele­gram – or con­firm who com­prises the band’s new rhythm sec­tion ( although fans recog­nised tat­toos sported by the new bassist in the video for “The Devil In I” as be­ing those of ex- Krokodil bassist Alessan­dro Ven­turella).

.5: The Gray Chap­ter is an un­re­lent­ing lis­ten: 14 tracks of rarely-tem­pered ag­gres­sion, punc­tu­ated by a down­right pun­ish­ing amount of dou­ble- kick. As a trib­ute to Gray, it’s a pow­er­ful one – and while some crit­ics have called it a re­turn to Iowa- era form, it’s far more for­ward­look­ing than nos­tal­gic.

“Fi­nally there’s some pos­i­tive Slip­knot news,” chuck­les a re­lieved sound­ing Corey “# 8” Tay­lor. “Not that it was all neg­a­tive, but there was def­i­nitely some doubt in the air. But lo and be­hold, here we are – so I’m ex­tremely happy.”

If you caught Slip­knot last time around, then con­grat­u­la­tions: you’re part of the rea­son they’re still here.

“It started when we started do­ing the tours – hon­estly, it was see­ing that we wanted to,” Tay­lor says. “That’s what it came down to.”

That said, it wasn’t a fore­gone con­clu­sion that there’d ever be another Slip­knot al­bum.

“Paul was such a big part of this band, not only as a ma­jor contributor and one of the quote- unquote chiefs, but he was also one of the big­gest lovers of this band. He would get stoked about the mu­sic in a way that I’ve never seen; whether it was his that he was writ­ing or mu­sic that other peo­ple were bring­ing in. He could see the po­ten­tial in ev­ery­thing – and with­out that there, ob­vi­ously it kicked the crap out of us,” Tay­lor sighs.

“There re­ally was that ques­tion of, ‘ Do we want to con­tinue?’ And start­ing with those shows, it re­ally helped us get back on our feet – and the fans were able to be there with us. That was the first stage of it. We started to see the fu­ture a lit­tle stronger: ‘ OK, we still like do­ing this, so what’s next?’”

Aside from the ab­sence of Gray and Jordi­son, the lion’s share of the song ideas came from a mem­ber who had never had a huge role in the song­writ­ing: gui­tarist Jim Root.

“In Novem­ber of last year I sat down in the garage after hav­ing a con­ver­sa­tion with Clown and just de­cided that it was time for us to start,” he ex­plains. “It was the big white ele­phant in the room that no­body wanted to talk about, that we needed to do another record. We’d been tour­ing for quite a while and there was a lit­tle bit of pres­sure on us. And I don’t know that any­one else had made any steps to make that hap­pen, so it was kinda thrown into my court to be the initiator of what we ended up with.” And hey, no pres­sure. Just save the band by writ­ing a new al­bum, that’s all. “Ex­actly!” he laughs. “Hey, no big deal: just write a fuckin’ record, dude. You can do it: go!”

“In Jan­uary a bunch of us started look­ing at what was on the hori­zon, what felt right,” Tay­lor con­tin­ues. “And it turned out that all of us had writ­ten a bunch of mu­sic – I had writ­ten some stuff, Clown had writ­ten some stuff, Jim had a ton of ma­te­rial – and we started com­par­ing notes. And all of a sud­den the idea started to form. And that’s when it clicked. Clown and Jim and the per­son who’s play­ing drums right now started bang­ing out some live demos, and I started writ­ing to it. We could hear the life com­ing back into it. That was the ger­mi­na­tion of it.”

Tay­lor is ex­tremely proud of the re­sult. “I lis­ten to it ev­ery day – that’s how much I love it. It’s almost a per­fect blend of raw and pol­ish, of the orig­i­nal angst and ag­gres­sion we started out with and yet that present day ma­tu­rity.” Root reck­ons it’s as much about sur­vival as any­thing. “When you’re in a band that’s been around as long as we’ve been around you have to chal­lenge your­self to not be­come re­dun­dant as a band. And I think we’ve done a pretty good job of that so far. I think maybe on the last record there might have been some mo­ments where we’ve fallen into our com­fort zone, but I think that as long as there’s this ques­tion­ing of what it is that we’re do­ing and why it is that we’re do­ing it, we’re al­ways try­ing to move for­ward and chal­lenge our­selves to do some­thing that we haven’t done be­fore.

“Any band with a great ca­reer has that evo­lu­tion,” Root ex­plains, cit­ing Ra­dio­head as an ex­am­ple. “Lis­ten to OK Com­puter and The Bends, and then lis­ten to In Rain­bows: they could be two dif­fer­ent bands.”

“I’ve gone on record as say­ing it’s a blend of Iowa and Vol. 3: the ag­gres­sion and the dark­ness of Iowa and the ex­per­i­men­ta­tion and that es­o­teric artist vibe that Vol. 3 had. But it’s even more than that; we’ve taken it even fur­ther. There are mo­ments that could be on a Jon Spencer Blues Ex­plo­sion al­bum!”

Jon Spencer Blues Ex­plo­sion don’t typ­i­cally rely quite so heav­ily on mad dou­ble kick drum rolls, though.

“No, not as much,” he chuck­les. “But it’s def­i­nitely that fre­netic, ‘ What in the fuck was that!’ spirit – you know, those mo­ments where you’ve just gotta

“THERE ARE MO­MENTS THAT COULD BE ON A JON SPENCER BLUES EX­PLO­SION AL­BUM.”

JIM ROOT

rewind it. Well, gotta skip back, I guess. I don’t think any­one ac­tu­ally rewinds any­thing any­more, but you know what I’m say­ing. You pull your MP3 to that point in time and go, ‘ Oh, that’s fuckin’ killer, I wanna know how they did that’. And there are a lot of those mo­ments on this al­bum, those bursts of ear candy.” He’s also adamant that the al­bum sounds like… well, Slip­knot. “It hasn’t been mas­tered out of juice. It feels like a band record­ing in a room,” he spits. “We’re not some com­mer­cial metal band with the same 12 fuck­ing sam­ples that some en­gi­neer sticks in to cover the fact that this band has no tal­ent.”

Is that a con­cern, that the line- up dra­mas and the loss of Gray mean peo­ple have for­got­ten that Slip­knot are first and fore­most a bunch of guys that play mu­sic?

“I think so, yeah. Well, I don’t know that they for­got but they maybe let that fact get away from them. And you know, it’s been six years [ since All Hope Is Gone in 2008]. That’s a long time be­tween al­bums. That’s Def Lep­pard time! And there are ob­vi­ously cir­cum­stances why that hap­pened, but at the same time just be­cause we’ve been gone for a while doesn’t mean we can’t cre­ate a record.”

“We’re all a bunch of al­phas,” Root adds. “We’re back to hav­ing nine guys in the band, but the seven guys I’ve been pay­ing dues with for the last 15 years are all very opin­ion­ated and strong- willed peo­ple, but that’s good. That’s the dy­namic we have.

“The doubts came just be­cause we were deal­ing in new ter­ri­tory,” Tay­lor clar­i­fies. “Paul was gone, we’d split ways with Joey, what was go­ing to hap­pen? I think we all re­ally stepped up and filled those shoes the best we could, and I think it came out pretty mag­nif­i­cently. There were a lot of smiles go­ing on in the stu­dio, let’s put it that way.” That’s not ex­actly a sen­ti­ment one im­me­di­ately as­so­ciates with Slip­knot. “Well, yeah. But it was that ma­ni­a­cal smile, go­ing, ‘ Holy shit, peo­ple are go­ing to lose their minds when they hear this part’. That be­dev­iled smile.” The al­bum did some­thing else too: it made the band talk to each other. “It was such an emo­tional roller­coaster ride be­ing in the stu­dio in the first place,” Tay­lor ex­plains. “But when peo­ple started to hear what I was talk­ing about, this amaz­ing thing hap­pened: we started talk­ing about what we had been through in the last four years. We re­ally hadn’t talked about that.” Se­ri­ously? Not even when the band were all out on the road to­gether? “When you’re on a Slip­knot tour there’s so much en­ergy ex­pended and so much go­ing on that you re­ally at some point just duck your head and get through it, be­cause you’re just ex­hausted.”

So there was no Me­tal­lica- style tour­ing ther­a­pist hold­ing group ses­sions be­tween shows?

“Oh no no no,” he laughs. “Not yet, any­way. But at the same time we were get­ting up on stage, we were hang­ing out, but we weren’t talk­ing. It was just pleas­antries.” The break­through, un­sur­pris­ingly, was in a song. “We were work­ing on ‘ Goodbye’, a song which I had writ­ten, and we had tracked it and the guys were re­ally lis­ten­ing to the lyrics. And it’s a heavy­duty tune. It’s about the band, sit­ting in my house on the day that Paul died, lit­er­ally two hours after we had found his body: that’s how fresh that sad­ness was. It was so thick, it was pal­pa­ble.” He pauses, re­mem­ber­ing the mo­ment. “We’re all sit­ting in this house try­ing to find a way to talk to each other, but we’re so numb and so de­stroyed that we couldn’t say any­thing – and that’s what that song was about. And when we were sit­ting in the con­trol room lis­ten­ing back to it we started talk­ing about that day. We started hav­ing the con­ver­sa­tion that we couldn’t have that day.”

The mem­bers started dis­cussing what had been go­ing on for the last four years: “The guilt that we all shared, the anger that we all shared, ev­ery­thing that was be­ing re­flected in the lyrics on the al­bum. The fact that we missed Paul so much, that we loved his spirit, and that in a weird way his spirit felt like it was in the stu­dio with us. That re­ally broke the ice for us, in a way that we hadn’t felt in a very long time. And that al­lowed us to en­joy it. Just when you thought this band was go­ing to frac­ture, we pulled to­gether in a way that no­body else could have seen com­ing.”

And for now, that’s the last word. Slip­knot are back. They have a new al­bum. They’re here for Sound­wave. And they prom­ise the shows will be bru­tal.

“There’s def­i­nitely some­thing to prove,” Root in­sists. “That’s the thing about this band: we take all th­ese things that we’re con­fronted with and we roll our sleeves up and brush the fuck­ing dust off and put some ice on our black eyes and we go, ‘ Al­right, now whad­daya got?’”

Tay­lor agrees. “We’ve been through hell. We’ve had a cou­ple of pretty huge shots across our hull, and we’re still here. So let’s see what hap­pens.”

SLIP­KNOT

.5: THE GRAY CHAP­TER IS OUT NOW ON ROAD­RUN­NER/ WARNER.

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