HELL ON EARTH
WHEN DEEPEST IOWA SPAT OUT THE NINE, NOT EVEN COREY TAYLOR AND CLOWN COULD HAVE PREDICTED HOW THEY’D CHANGE THE WORLD, THEY TELL PAUL TRAVERS…
s the last century drew to a close, metal was spasming through the throes of a major transformation. Korn had already introduced the low-strung, genre-blending concept of nu-metal and Linkin Park were set to take it to polished new heights. Somewhere in Iowa, however, something different – something ugly – was lurking and gnawing on its knuckles as it worked out how it could infect the world. And when Slipknot exploded with their self-titled debut album, the world had seen and heard nothing like it. There was the image, of course, but there was also the aural chaos that had somehow been captured and contained on a single game-changing album. Slipknot was not an easy album to listen to. It was – as we will hear from Corey Taylor and Clown over the page – vicious and noisy and beautifully fucked-up, and it laid the foundations for the 21st century’s most iconic metal band to take over the world…
IT’S 1998 AND YOU’RE ON YOUR WAY TO PRODUCER ROSS ROBINSON’S STUDIO IN MALIBU, CALIFORNIA. WHAT’S THE MOOD WITHIN THE BAND?
ÒI think that chasing the dream set the mood, so the mood was nothing but adventure. Stuff was actually happening, and that can be quite fascinating when youõre searching and youõre on a trail. There were tears and fi ghts and normal human anxiety and love and hate and all that stuff, but it was all coloured by this adventure, which was our dream.ó COREY TAYLOR (VOCALS): ÒIT was very positive, even though it took us forever to get there. We had three of our own vehicles and we hooked a trailer up to [percussionist] Chris Fehnõs truck. For the longest time we told him he was only in the band because he had a truck. It took us forever to get out there because the truck could only go to 55mph before the trailer would start to fi shtail, because there was so much stuff in it.ó
DID YOU TALK ABOUT WHETHER IT WOULD BE SUCCESSFUL IN A COMMERCIAL SENSE?
COREY: Òour biggest goal was to be the type of band that could maybe sell 200,000 albums and then we could tour our asses off. We didnõt think anybody would get us. We were convinced we were going to be one of those cult bands that can go out and tour and live off that and be okay. And even that was kind of lofty thinking for us.ó
IS IT TRUE, THOUGH, THAT WHEN YOU FIRST MET ’KNOT MANAGER CORY BRENNAN WHILE HE WAS STILL AT ROADRUNNER, CLOWN SHOOK HIS HAND AND SAID, ‘HOW DOES IT FEEL TO MEET YOUR FIRST PLATINUM ARTIST?’?
CLOWN: Òwell, Iõve always been known for being a little cocky. I donõt believe in failure. And when you walk into some label dudes, they all think they know Ð they want to deter me away from my dream because they have built-in formulas for how itõs going to go. Not us. We had a vision, we had a dream. The world wanted us and we wanted the world, so here we are.ó
WHY DO YOU THINK PEOPLE DID WANT WHAT SLIPKNOT WERE OFFERING?
COREY: ÒI think itõs a lot of things. Itõs the fact that we came out of nowhere, that we had something very primal and antagonistic, musically. We had something that was loaded with attitude, but creative and interesting enough that it crossed a lot of different boundaries.ó CLOWN: Òweõve always been really truthful, so maybe people trusted us right from the bat. It wasnõt a show or an act; itõs our art, itõs what we do. We were nine brothers from Iowa with this vision and music and attitude. When you see us onstage, itõs not a joke, itõs not all-star wrestling or Halloweõen. Itõs fucking Slipknot and itõs special.ó
Producer Ross Robinson, who had already helped shape seminal albums by the likes of Korn and Sepultura, was the single biggest infl uence on Slipknot Ð the band and the album Ð outside of the nine members themselves. He was their fi rst industry supporter, he was instrumental in getting them signed, and he was tasked with the seemingly impossible task of channelling all that energy into a cohesive albumé
DID YOU NEED AN OUTSIDER LIKE ROSS TO HARNESS THE CHAOS OF SLIPKNOT?
COREY: ÒI think so. We all had an idea of what we wanted the band to sound like, but none of us could narrow it down. None of us could convey it or say it. And Ross was the fi rst person who understood the overall view of what we could do and capture in the studio.ó CLOWN: Òbut he would tell you [himself], we were very aware of our own right to be what we are, and we were very stern on that. He collected it up, harvested it, gave it timeframes for people. He organised it so we could get it to the world. He helped us do that and he believed in us, which allowed us to be comfortable and secretly laugh about how we were going to destroy the world.ó
WAS THE RECORDING PROCESS PHYSICALLY AND MENTALLY DRAINING?
COREY: ÒIT was and it wasnõt. We were young and excited, so we had boundless energy. We were bouncing off the walls. Plus, we were on top of a mountain and you could walk to this little precipice and you could see the bay; you could see the islands in the distance. It was gorgeous, and thereõs something about that that revitalises
you. By the time we were done making it, we were a bit drained, but in the moment we were so thrilled that we were getting this opportunity that I don’t think anything could have knocked the shit out of us.” CLOWN: “I used to enjoy watching Corey sing. He’d be out of body, he’d be gone. Ross would stir him up and they’d have conversations. There’d be tears. There’d be arguments. Corey just disappeared and that always meant a lot to me, because that’s what went into this. That’s what people don’t see on the outside, and I was fortunate enough to witness some of that. I used to sit and watch Pauly [Gray, bass] practice riffs until his fi ngers were swollen. He’d go, ‘Man, I’ve got to tighten shit up. This is for real, this record’s forever.’”
HOW DID YOU COPE WITH HAVING NO MONEY OR FOOD, AND SLEEPING WHERE YOU FELL?
COREY: “It’s par for the course. I was homeless for a while, so I was used to it. Paul was the same way. We were all just squatters, so it was nothing new for us. The cool thing that Ross did, because we went into the studio before Roadrunner Records had really given us a budget, was give us money out of his own pocket so we could eat. Every Thursday we’d get a load of 29-cent tacos, which are the worst thing on the planet.” CLOWN: “It could be its own book, bro. We get there and Ross says, ‘You’ve got to be careful, there’s a momma skunk going around with her babies, so she’s probably gonna be a little aggressive.’ Weeks later, she sprays the bathroom, which is right next to the control room. The things that happened to us, it was like magic. It was like a movie. It was like this is all meant to be that we’re here. We don’t know why and we’re experiencing it for the fi rst time, but it was unbelievable.”
WAS THERE A POINT WHERE YOU REALISED YOU WERE SITTING ON SOMETHING SPECIAL?
COREY: “We knew we had something that we loved. But we weren’t sure what the rest of the world was gonna think. I remember sitting in my old apartment when we were getting the mixes back. We were all there and were losing our minds. We were so excited, we were like, ‘Holy shit, this came out so much better than we thought it would.’ If you’re happy with the recording, who cares if the rest of the world likes it?”
As it turned out, of course, the world loved it. Well, a signifi cant proportion did, anyway. As is often the case when a truly unique, game-changing band emerges, Slipknot divided opinions, drawing as much hate as love, but that didn’t stop the album from going doubleplatinum, establishing the band as a genuine force.
HOW MUCH DID THAT ALBUM CHANGE YOUR LIFE?
COREY: “The funny thing is I didn’t even realise how much that album changed my life until after we were done touring on it. It wasn’t until we got home and we had about three months before going in to record Iowa, where we could actually catch our breaths and go, ‘Okay, what just happened?’ I bought a car. For once I could pay my bills and not worry about it. But other than that, it wasn’t a big deal because we weren’t the kind of band to sit on our laurels. For us, that whole album was just setting up the second album.”
DO YOU SEE THE ALBUM’S INFLUENCE ON THE METAL SCENE TODAY?
“I don’t have very many friends. It’s my own fault, but I just don’t. No-one points these things out, but once in a while I’ll catch something with one of my friends and I’ll be like, ‘You hear that? That’s very similar to what we do’, and they’ll go, ‘Well, duh.’” COREY: “I’ve talked to everyone from Ed Sheeran to 5 Seconds Of Summer. It’s pretty fucking crazy, the extent that this band has reached out there. And then you see the people wearing the T-shirts – everyone from Lady Gaga to [Avengers actor] Tom Hiddleston. Or you hear Tom Hardy describing the new Mad Max movie as a cross between Cirque Du Soleil and Slipknot. We’re kind of in the zeitgeist now in a bigger way than I could have imagined. That, to me, is the biggest headfuck. I’ve had the guys from Of Mice & Men come up and tell me we were a big infl uence, the guys in Bring Me The Horizon, Asking Alexandria… It’s allencompassing where our reach has gone. I don’t have words to describe just how gratifying that is.”
HOW DO YOU FEEL LOOKING BACK AT YOUR DEBUT TODAY?
COREY: “I think it stands up really well, and it set the tone for everything we wanted to do. And the great thing is, to this day we still play so much from that album. There’s probably seven songs that rotate through our set list from that album alone, and [when we play them] the fans lose their minds. When you see that reaction, that’s some legacy shit!” CLOWN: “It’s so noisy and in-your-face. It’ll rip your skin off. There is so much fucking human emotion being thrown around the instruments. It’s a war. The energy that went into it was brutal and I think it was all meant to be. It’s an absolute piece of art and it’s there forever, for everyone.”
It is still there and, almost 17 years on, it sounds as furious, vital and confrontational as ever. Slipknot are one of the most important metal bands of any generation, and it all started right here!
“THE ALBUM WILL RIP YOUR SKIN OFF. IT’S A WAR”