‘Seems Like Stone Sour Can’t Even Write a New Record. They Lost a Good Writer’

'Seems Like Stone Sour Can't Even Write a New Record. They Lost a Good Writer' Техника

'Seems Like Stone Sour Can't Even Write a New Record. They Lost a Good Writer'

Tomorrow sees the release of the 10th anniversary edition of Slipknot’s Iowa, a record that has undoubtedly stood the test of time better than many of the other albums that came out that year, albums by bands that now seem all but nostalgia acts, even after just a decade.

But make no mistake, Slipknot and the music on Iowa are every bit as fresh and relevant as they were 10 years ago. Ask yourself, in a time when we see billionaires getting caught trying to scam people out of even more money just to be that much richer, does the message behind «People = Shit» really ring any less true?

Iowa marked a clear transition from Slipknot being the biggest buzz on Ozzfest to becoming one of the pillars of the modern rock and metal world, a position they still hold, even as their future is dotted with question marks after the untimely passing of bassist and songwriter Paul Gray in May of last year.

I recently got the chance to catch up with guitarists Jim Root and Mick Thomson to talk about the past, present and future of Slipknot.

GUITAR WORLD: What do you remember about the songwriting process for Iowa? It happened pretty soon after the tour, right?

JIM ROOT: We had been on the road for two years, and after about a day I got a call to come over to Clown’s house to start working on the new record. I really thought I was going to have more time off, but we got right to work, and that kind of set the tone for how we would always end up doing records.

MICK THOMSON: It was a little early. We were initially going to take a bunch of time off, because back then our touring was just ridiculous. We would do 17 or 18 shows in a row without a night off. Any date we weren’t on Ozzfest or opening for someone else, we had our own shows lined up in an attempt to pick up gas money.

It didn’t take too long; it was like two months of writing and we were done. It was weird. It was still early enough in those days that we did a bunch of the writing in a warehouse. A friend of ours, his dad owns an electrical company so we ended up there. And we did some of it in Clown’s basement or Paul’s basement. It was definitely like the old days. Now we’re a little more organized with tbe business.

MICK: Oh my God, or Limp Bizkit — any of that shit!

Guitar-wise, the big thing that set you apart from all those bands was the fact that you were down-tuning at a time when seven-strings were flying off the shelves.

It definitely seems like you guys had more of a thrash thing going on, which was especially apparent on Iowa. For instance, I hear a lot of Exodus, Overkill, Slayer, etc. Were those bands feeding into the sound of Iowa?

JIM: Definitely, all those guys you just named. And Anthrax, early Metallica.

You guys certainly proved a harder act to copy than some of the other bands around that time.

MICK: What’s cool is meeting all sorts of bands who will come up to you and say, «Yeah man, back in high school I used to play your first record over and over again,» and they don’t sound anything like us. But for them to say it was inspiring and makes them want to make their own music, I know exactly how that feels. I wouldn’t want to play music that sounds just like Testament; I love ’em, but I’ll listen to my Testament album and then pick up my guitar and write my own shit. It’s just inspiring.

A lot of people seem to confused «sounds like» and «influenced by.»

MICK: Yeah, people are always coming up to me and asking, «Well, who are you influenced by?» And I’m like, «Hendrix?» And they’ll say, «But you don’t sound anything like him!» No, but I’m influenced to play music because of him. The whole reason I wanted to pick up a guitar was my dad’s Hendrix record collection.

That’s kind of the greatest satisfaction as a musician, when someone who isn’t ripping you off cites you as being an influence or an inspiration. That to me is more rewarding than another platinum plaque on the wall. Those are cool, but it’s really cool to know that when you’re dead and gone, at least you left something behind.

Around the time of Iowa was when you guys first got a real taste of success. How do you think the band handled it in retrospect?

Which brings us up to the present time. I’m curious to get a band’s perspective on this, especially one that broke when the album format was still vital. Do you see the album as a still-viable format or are there different ways of releasing music you would be interested in pursuing?

In my opinion, I would still like to go into a studio — because I love the environment of being in a studio — and record a great album beginning to end, but then maybe not release it as an album. Maybe put singles out there, put songs out there — either give some away or release some the traditional way. It’s kind of like the Wild West out there. I don’t really know what it is, exactly.

So you think the album is still an important format for releasing new music?

The thing that scares me about the way the music industry has changed so much is that I’m afraid that the record, the album, will disappear, and it’ll go back to the way it was in the ’50s where everything is single-based. There’s not going to be any funding, labels won’t be able to put any money into bands that might have a really great artistic vision for their band and the only way they can do it is to buy some old recording equipment and build a studio in their basement or in their garage and put out full-length LPs.

And you don’t find that unless you dig really, really deep through the Internet. And that’s exciting in some ways and scary in others because there could be an artist out there that might not know what to do with all these amazing, creative ideas, and he just needs that one person that can help him get that shit out of his head and into the world. But he’ll never get to do that because there isn’t a record label that will be like, «Hey, don’t worry about it. You just be creative and we’ll put you with this guy and we’ll pay the $1,500 a day for the studio so that you can be creative.» That’s going to be a thing of the past.

Which leads us right to the million dollar question: Will there be new material from Slipknot?

MICK: Nothing is official, but I would say there’s a 95 percent chance we get something else out there.

JIM: I’m pretty sure we will. There are certain guys in the band that are always writing; I know I’m always writing. I’ve got an over-active brain when it comes to recording sessions. I use Pro Tools version 9 LE at home and I take that on the road with me. A lot the times I won’t even finish a thought, but I’ll at least put an idea on it, so we’re constantly working.

I think Slipknot’s going through some growing pains. We’re trying to learn how to be Slipknot without Paul around. We’ve learned that we can tour still, and Donny’s been working out great playing bass. But when it comes to being in the studio, Paul was an integral part of putting the music together. He had an amazing talent for musical arrangement and taking an idea that someone might have and really being able to let that idea blossom.

We might be a bit timid about putting our feet in that water at this point, but you never say never. Me, personally, without speaking for anyone else in the band, it’s too soon for me to start thinking about doing a Slipknot record without Paul.

Jim, do you think another Stone Sour record might happen between now and a new Slipknot album as kind of a stepping stone for you and Corey?

I’m taking a little bit of a break right now, but we’re throwing stuff back and forth. When you do the type of stuff that we do for a living you’re compelled to keep doing it. Even if all the bands break up and there isn’t a record label on earth that will touch me, I’ll still be recording music on my Pro Tools rig, putting it out there and finding some local guys to jam it with and play it at clubs. It’s just in you.

The 10th anniversary edition of Slipknot’s sophomore album, Iowa, is due out tomorrow, November 1 via Roadrunner Records. Revolver’s Slipknot special collector’s issue is also now available in our online store here.

(Image credit: Charvel)

We now know him as the towering lead guitarist of Slipknot, one of the most widely revered metal bands on the planet. But once upon a time, long before he donned the jester mask that would transform him into the Iowa juggernaut’s #4, a young Jim Root soaked up the vibrant scene of ’80s hair metal.

It was an era defined by loud outfits and even louder electric guitars, with Root citing the likes of Mötley Crüe, Dokken, Twisted Sister as some of his early influences. And inspired principally by the six-string arsenal of Ratt’s Warren DeMartini, Root quickly developed an affinity for Charvel guitars.

“By the time I learned about the whole Charvel thing, it was the MTV generation,” he says “I remember seeing Warren DeMartini’s guitars – I was mesmerized by them.”

Without the money for a Charvel at the time, Root dreamed of one day being able to own one. And when he received a Model One for Christmas one year, that dream became a reality.

“I freaked out. It was a Charvel Model One with the fulcrum tremolo,” he recalls. “One humbucker and a hockey stick headstock. It was like a goal to reach, you know? I would always think to myself: one day I will have one of those Charvel guitars. And then there it was.”

So Root’s all-new Pro-Mod Style 1 HH FR signature model – his first-ever with Charvel – is the culmination of a full-circle journey decades in the making.

Arriving alongside his existing lineup of Fender signatures, the guitar has the DNA of an ’80s shred machine, with a series of modern appointments designed to align closer with Root’s penchant for minimalism.

Available in either white with an ebony fingerboard or black with a maple ‘board, spec highlights include Root’s signature EMG Daemonum humbuckers, a contoured mahogany body and, for the first time on a Jim Root signature model, a Floyd Rose double-locking tremolo system.

And Root is already putting the guitar through its paces. As he tells Guitar World, it can be heard on Slipknot’s forthcoming album The End, So Far – as well as seen in the music video for its crushing second single, The Dying Song (Time to Sing) – and has earned a spot in his current touring rig.

How does the sound of the Charvel differ from your existing Fender models? Your Jazzmaster V4, for example, also features your signature EMG Daemonum humbuckers, as well as a mahogany body and maple neck.

Charvels sound more like a traditional ‘80s metal guitar should sound

“I think they’re pretty similar. Charvels kind of have their own thing, though, no matter what. And I think because the Jazzmaster is such a huge slab of wood it sounds more dense. And then you add the Floyd Rose to it and you’re essentially putting a tone chamber in the guitar.

Your current lineup of Fender signature models all have fixed bridges. What made you opt for a Floyd Rose on the new Charvel?

'Seems Like Stone Sour Can't Even Write a New Record. They Lost a Good Writer'

You’ve been with EMG for years. What made you decide to fit your new Charvel with your signature Daemonum humbuckers?

Every amp I’ve played the Charvel through has been fucking awesome, even in the practice room

“When you’re using a valve amp, if you’re used to the forgiveness that something like Neural can give you, it doesn’t give you the same forgiveness, but it’s more natural. I think it’s a little more pleasing to the ear.”

'Seems Like Stone Sour Can't Even Write a New Record. They Lost a Good Writer'

What amps and pedals have you found pair well with the guitar?

But every amp I’ve played the Charvel through has been fucking awesome, even in the practice room. Everything I plug it in through it’s just like, ‘Ooh, yeah.’”

Did you use the guitar in the studio while tracking The End, So Far?

I’ve got so many signature models out there. I feel like it’s information overload. I’d kind of like to wane them down to one or two

“But I think for the most part, I used one of my Jazzmasters and those three Charvels for the majority of what we did.”

Did you use a whammy bar on any of the leads?

How does the new Charvel fit into your current live rig?

“I have four of them now. I have the first two prototypes that I used in the studio and for the touring in the states, and then I got two new prototypes right before we went on tour in Europe. So I have a black and a white one on each rig. I try to use them as much as I can in the set.

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“I’m using them for Dead Memories, Before I Forget – I’d have to look at our setlist to remember: there’s quite a few songs I’m playing them on.

“I still don’t know which one I prefer. I don’t know if I like the maple fretboard one better or the ebony fretboard one better. Eventually I’ll do neck swaps on them, and take the ebony fretboard off the white one and put it on the black one.”

My signature guitars are so minimalist, but you can do so much with them. I wanted to keep them simple, that’s by design. I feel like the less you have to think about the better

Do you have plans for any more Charvel signature models in the near-future?

“There are no plans for one. They wanted me to do a DK24. Some of the people that I talked to via my social media are a little bit afraid of the Floyd Rose, and they’re like, ‘If this didn’t have a Floyd on it, I’d be all about it.’

“But I’ve got so many signature models out there. I feel like it’s information overload. I’d kind of like to wane them down to one or two.”

'Seems Like Stone Sour Can't Even Write a New Record. They Lost a Good Writer'

Your existing signature models have stripped-back aesthetics and spec sheets, so it’s not surprising you have the same ethos toward the number of signature models you have.

“Less is more – they’re so minimalist, but you can do so much with them. I wanted to keep them simple. That’s by design.

“I feel like the less you have to think about the better. I’m not a blues guitarist, so I don’t need a tone pot. I flip through my pickups quite a bit. I tend to play a lot of my leads and cleans on the neck position, so I’m constantly flipping to that. But I wanted to keep the controls nice and minimalist.

“That way you can thrash around and move around a lot more without having to worry about hitting a knob or bumping the selector to a different position while you’re in the middle of a song, which I still do, but whatever.”

Hearing Metallica’s Ride the Lightning changed my life. It opened my eyes to this whole other world of being a guitar player

Charvel is one of the classic ‘80s shred guitar brands. You were inspired watching Warren DeMartini on MTV’s Headbangers Ball as a teenager. Who were some of your shred heroes growing up?

“And from that I found Slayer, Voivod, Flotsam and Jetsam, Megadeth, Overkill and all these other guitar-centric bands. And that appealed to me in a different way than guys like Warren DeMartini, you know. They were playing metal, but it was a different kind of metal. This was in your face, very extreme and very intense.

“So those guys – Dave Mustaine, Alex Skolnick, Warren DeMartini, Scott Ian, James Hetfield, Kirk Hammett – that’s where I woodshedded and learned how to play mainly rhythm guitar that way.

Prog for the sake of prog, to me, can be a little bit up its own ass sometimes

A lot of people will resonate with the idea of pushing yourself as an aspiring guitar player and trying to play the fastest stuff you can.

'Seems Like Stone Sour Can't Even Write a New Record. They Lost a Good Writer'

(Image credit: Michael Campanella/Redferns)

Your bandmate Mick Thomson’s into the ‘80s shred era, too – he has his own signature Jackson Soloist. Has he had a go on your new Charvel signature?

I would never do a Custom Shop signature model, because I don’t think too many of our fans could go out and spend $10,000 on a guitar

We saw you play a one-of-a-kind Black Paisley Fender Jazzmaster onstage last year, as well as a custom Meteora – will either of these guitars receive an official release one day?

“I would love to do another Strat with Fender. But since we just did the Charvel, I don’t know if that would make a whole lot of sense. If I were to do another Fender signature model, the feedback I’m getting is a lot of people like those sandblasted Jazzmasters that I have.

“That’s a pretty metal-looking guitar – the problem is doing that with mahogany is too difficult; I’d have to change the wood and use swamp ash or something like that, which could be cool, but sort of out of the wheelhouse of what I normally use.

“I think it would make sense to do a Meteora in a sandblasted sort of way. I think that would cover a lot of what people are asking for as far as the Fender side of things.”

My Charvel signature model is made in Mexico because it cuts costs a little bit. And I don’t think you’re sacrificing any craftsmanship at all in that way

Is it a big consideration for you, to try to make your signature models as affordable as possible?

“That’s part of the reason they’re made in Mexico because it cuts costs a little bit and keeps it at a better price point. And I don’t think you’re sacrificing any craftsmanship at all in that way.

“Squiers are really good fucking quality. My Squier Teles are fucking great. I have one here that I need to take on the road with me because I told everybody I would.”

'Seems Like Stone Sour Can't Even Write a New Record. They Lost a Good Writer'

That would be great to see.

“Yeah, I just keep forgetting to bring it with me. Otherwise I would. I mean, it’s really fucking good.

“But, you know, to be able to make my signature models and have them come in at like $600 or $700 would be fucking awesome. Maybe that’s the next thing I talk to Fender about.

“Even your top-notch professional guitar players would still be able to find a use for those guitars. The prototype Squier that I have, I pulled it out of the box and tuned it up to A440 because it was close to that anyway, and at the time Death Magnetic had just come out. So I was learning riffs off that record, and was like, ‘This guitar feels really fucking good. And the pickups sound really fucking good, too.’

Slipknot guitar covers are all over YouTube and TikTok. Do you ever watch any, and are there any mistakes you commonly see people making?

It’s fucking cool to see everybody learning our music by ear. That’s how I learned how to play guitar

“I see quite a few of them, and I see all kinds of mistakes. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t sound like the song; it’s just that there’s so much nuance in Mick and I’s playing that, with the tuning we use, and with all the other instruments that are around everything that we do, it’s so hard to pick out that nuance.

“Unless you’re sitting there watching the person who wrote the song play the song, you’re probably never going to be able to pick it out 100 percent exactly how it was recorded.

“Even Mick and I on the same record playing the same part, sometimes we’re not playing exactly the same thing. Sometimes whoever’s editing the takes might edit together what, to them, sounds like the best take, but maybe Mick hit an extra note in there that I didn’t hit, or vice-versa.

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Sam was Staff Writer at GuitarWorld.com from 2019 to 2023, and also created content for Total Guitar, Guitarist and Guitar Player. He has well over 15 years of guitar playing under his belt, as well as a degree in Music Technology (Mixing and Mastering). He’s a metalhead through and through, but has a thorough appreciation for all genres of music. In his spare time, Sam creates point-of-view guitar lesson videos on YouTube under the name Sightline Guitar.

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(Image credit: Fender)

GUITAR SHOWCASE 2022: Jim Root joins us from his garage-cum-writing space over Zoom and is taking the opportunity to chain smoke and talk shop, the first order of business being his new signature guitar collaboration with Charvel on a San Dimas Style 1.

He says he probably shouldn’t smoke, but explains why this is the only room in the house he allows himself to do so. This, he says, is where the writing happens, and smoking it just so happens is part of his process.

Except, the writing hasn’t come easy in the past couple of years. Root is always fascinating conversation, principally because he takes honesty as a first resort. So, if the songwriting hasn’t come easy of late, he’ll tell you. But, maybe, as he suggests, there’s a natural rhythm to these things – besides, if the songs were so easy to come by and arrived every day, would they have any value? Sometimes struggle is part of the process, too.

Root introduced himself to the world behind a mask, as one half of Slipknot’s guitar duo, who, alongside Mick Thomson, has created some of the most radio-unfriendly unit-shifting records of recent times.

The Iowa metal institution’s latest, The End, So Far, is out 30 September through Roadrunner, was tracked with producer Joe Barresi (Tool, QOTSA), and bears a sound that is unmistakably theirs. There will be downtuned audio violence, there will be chaos, and there will be the suggestion that just over the horizon, there’s a more experimental side to them that has to be forestalled for Slipknot to retain a sense of themselves.

Root acknowledges this conundrum. Maybe this is what has him returning to the garage to write, the chance to square the circle between the band’s pit-friendly and bankable metal – the sound that made them – and those more incongruous influences that could be brought to bear on their sound, like Radiohead, the Beatles, and all the other prog and classic rock influences that inform Root’s sensibility.

“You listen to OK Computer or The Bends, and it is not the same record as Kid A, or In Rainbows, or any of the later stuff,” he says. “Look at bands like Mars Volta. How do you evolve without turning yourself into something that is so far from what you began as?”

That’s the question. But first, there’s a new Charvel guitar to talk about. That is essentially a go-faster Fender Stratocaster – the most-classic of electric guitar silhouettes – tells us everything about where Root is coming from.

Congratulations on the new guitar. It says Charvel on the headstock, but it begs the question, how many degrees of difference are there between this and a Fender Strat? We’re not that far away with this.

“It’s a weird thing, because a Charvel is essentially a Superstrat and me, being a purist, I don’t think that you can really think you can reinvent the wheel, so to me the most iconic rock guitars, metal guitars and guitars for pop – and all that stuff – have been, like, Fenders and Gibsons.

We can’t just go put a dubstep record out; we’re f**king Slipknot, there’s a wheelhouse, there’s something to work from. But how do we take that and let that evolve?

'Seems Like Stone Sour Can't Even Write a New Record. They Lost a Good Writer'

My heart is with Fender, and it always has been and always will be

It fits your musical philosophy, too. Because you love the classics. You take your cues from the Beatles et al and yet reinterpret it into something a little more ugly, extreme. The same songwriting principles are there.

“I am still learning how to write songs. I don’t know that I have perfected a method because every time I do it it is different. You tend to start the same way, and you have your methods and the things that you do, but, for me, I feel like that is one of those things. During the pandemic, I got really depressed, and I was really bummed out on music, and I wasn’t being creative at all, and I wasn’t really writing.

“I was throwing ideas on tape, on Pro-Tools, but I wasn’t putting arrangements together as I had done previously for the The Gray Chapter or for We Are Not Your Kind. It was a little bit disjointed, and now I am out here in my garage, where I wrote a lot of those songs, and I haven’t been out here working in probably two years or so. I just bought a new desk, set up, and really trying to put myself back in the mode of writing, whether it is for Slipknot or whether it is for something I do on my own in the future, I wanna write.

“I got offered to do an intro for a show called Graveyard Carz, and they wanted me to write an intro bit for them, so I am going to start with that. And I feel like, once I do that, that will get me to into that creative mode where I can hopefully just fall in love with the writing process again.”

'Seems Like Stone Sour Can't Even Write a New Record. They Lost a Good Writer'

Inspiration comes and goes.

“I have always been like that, with guitar playing, with songwriting, with all that stuff. I go through phases with it. I either can’t be bothered or I become obsessed by it, and it has been a while since I have been obsessed by it. I need to get back to that.”

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You never want to force anything – because that can be contrived, and I think people can pick up on that

We are talking because you have a new signature guitar but it strikes us that you need something more than a new guitar to get motivated to write.

'Seems Like Stone Sour Can't Even Write a New Record. They Lost a Good Writer'

“This is where I write. This is my comfort zone. I don’t allow myself to smoke in the house and I probably shouldn’t be smoking at all anyways, but I allow myself to smoke out here and it is part of my process.

It is not about the guitar that is in your hand. It is about the mindset, the room I am in, and, I dunno, whether Mars is in retrograde and all that shit!

Ha! Yeah, but it all matters. You’ve been doing this for a while, what do you need from your producer? Is there much left to be written by the time you get to the studio? What can someone like Joe Barresi do for you?

“Hmm, it depends on the process. Joe Barresi is an amazing producer. He has got an amazing track record, and I feel that we weren’t prepared for Joe Barresi, and I feel like we were not able to use Joe Barresi to his fullest extent, y’know what I mean? We did not do pre-production. We essentially built this record in the studio, and a lot of that was due to Covid, and us being separated, and the circumstances led us to do the record the way it was done.

“With my mindset being the way it was, I didn’t have a ton of creative input. I felt kinda rushed trying to come up with ideas for this or that arrangement. We weren’t rehearsed as a band. We did not come in knowing the songs top to bottom, and that affected the record. That put us behind schedule. It had us, not really arguing and fighting with each other, but trying to figure it out, like, ‘What is the best way to approach this knowing that we are doing what we are doing?’

Movie directors will say constantly that they never finish a movie, they just abandon them! I feel like, more than anything with this record, we had to abandon it and move on

“You can make a plan, and you can plan as much as you want, but the big clock above your head and the budget from the label, and all this stuff, the studio we were at and the scheduling of that, there are so many factors that were against us making this record that I am surprised we were able to finish it.

“And then it is taking us so long to get it out compared to how long it took us to track it! It’s like, well, if it has taken this long to get it out then we could have taken our fucking time with pre-production, and, in my mind, put out a better product. And that’s not to say that we’re disappointed with what we are putting out; it’s where we are at. It’s what we were able to do, given the circumstances, and the things that we had to work with.

'Seems Like Stone Sour Can't Even Write a New Record. They Lost a Good Writer'

But on the other side of the speaker, we the audience have a totally different perspective. We don’t see that behind the curtain, so it doesn’t really matter. And that could be the same for you once you actually perform the material; those new experiences will change your perspective.

“Right. And we are still trying to evolve as a band. I mean, we have to evolve. There is no way around it. We are not the same band that put out the Iowa record. We are not the same band that put out The Subliminal Verses. We are just not those people anymore.

“That is why I say that I am still trying to learn how to write, ‘cos you want to evolve. If you look at certain bands, like Radiohead or even the Beatles, look at the way they evolved over time.

“Like, I do not want to get away from this, from the Iowa record, the self-titled record; those are a huge part of our career and we still play those songs to this day, and it is a huge part of what we are. So, how do you maintain that and then also get to express yourself and evolve musically?

“It is a weird teeter. It’s a weird balance. I could get on this keyboard here and use a bass synthesizer and not even touch a guitar to write some arrangements and then, all of a sudden, you’ve got some kind of weird The Voidz stuff coming out or something, and a Slipknot fan might hear that and think, ‘What the fuck is this trash?’

“And I could be listening to it going, ‘I’ve never done anything like this before. I am so proud of this!’ We can’t just go put a dubstep record out; we’re fucking Slipknot, there’s a wheelhouse. There’s something to work from. But how do we take that and let that evolve? And what does that sound like? Who knows?”

These are things that maybe only you all can answer together in the studio, by accident or not, or by way of a late night creative epiphany when it suddenly makes sense and that, yes, Slipknot can write metal’s Sgt Pepper’s or Pet Sounds.

“Yeah, and I would love to do that because I don’t think there are any limits to what Slipknot can do; Slipknot has many different faces. There are the songs that we play live, the experimental songs like Danger – Keep Away, stuff like that.

“There are the really dark moody songs like Gently, Prosthetics, Killpop, so we get to play, we get to evolve, we get to really experiment and get into that Brian Wilson/Pet Sounds world – we just don’t focus on that being an entire record full of those sort of things.”

It’s being able to have that freedom within your sensibility. Artistic freedom can be hard to come by, no matter how you chase it. Did you play around much with gear on this to find a sound?

“Joe is a purist too, so we kind of went backwards. The most experimenting I did was I used different amps that I wouldn’t normally use for different guitar tracks. We used a lot of the same pedals. I tried to pull my gain back.

'Seems Like Stone Sour Can't Even Write a New Record. They Lost a Good Writer'

“I kind of got away from the Marshall/Orange EL34 British-type guitar tones that I have used before, that are really oversaturated. For guitar tones, we went back to the past and listened to old Dio, with Vivian Campbell on guitar, and Ratt, and all these old guitar tones where these are really great tones and there is really not a lot of oversaturated distortion on them.

“It’s the opposite of all this Quad Cortex Neural DSP that you are hearing from a lot of the modern bands now, a lot of DSP things that they are using, really heavy and really defined. It is that purist thing again. Sometimes I forget my age; the world is changing but at the same time I have used Axe-Fx before.

“I have used all these digital preamps, and I use them for demoing. They are great tools for demoing. But when I am onstage I want to hear the sag of the tubes. I want to feel the response of an amplifier, and speakers pushing. There is never going to be a substitute for that. I don’t care how good this digital stuff gets.”

Talking about those old-school metal guitar tones from Vivian Campbell and players like that. There’s something about the clarity in the midrange. Sometimes it feels like if you can work out the mids, everything is hunky dory. But it’s not so easy.

“And it needs to find a place to fit in a mix, and guitar are meant to fit in a certain midrange frequency. Now you start dropping the tuning and you start adding bass to your guitar amps and then you start sitting not just in bass drum territory but bass guitar territory, so it’s tricky.

There is just something about an A=440 tuned guitar, with the amplifier, in that range, and the way and sits and mixes with the bass guitar, and everything sits in place

We should finish on a Slipknot note. This album, with The Chapeltown Rag, and it’s got this sort of multiple perspectives, Rashomon narrative. Is there any theme tying this material together? We live in a weird cultural moment, which must be doubly weird seeing the world through a Slipknot lens.

“I thought rock ’n’ roll, and punk and metal, and all that stuff was meant to be anti-establishment and against the man, and now it seems more and more like, ‘Obey!’ and do as you’re told sorta shit, and that seems backwards to me. I don’t know if I am the only one that feels that way. I haven’t really talked to anyone in the band about it, ‘cos we’re just trying to get through these tours, through the protocol and the Covid shit, and all that.

“We haven’t really checked in with one another to see how we’re doing, how we’re feeling about the state of the world and all that, but when I hear a band that’s saying ‘Fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me’ telling me to do what the government tells me to do, that seems backwards to me.”

It is difficult to work out which end is up. It sounds like you need an official band meeting to work this thing through.

“Yeah! I think people are just so fucking sick and tired of sociopolitical content because you are just hammered with it, no matter if it’s a news cycle, a feed on social media, or any of that shit. What I get, when we go out and play shows, is people just don’t fucking care about that anymore. People have their issues, and people have their things they are concerned about. Yes, of course, and they always will. But for the most part people just wanna shut off, come out and forget about the world for a while, and they wanna have fun.”

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Jonathan Horsley has been writing about guitars and guitar culture since 2005, playing them since 1990, and regularly contributes to MusicRadar, Total Guitar and Guitar World. He uses Jazz III nylon picks, 10s during the week, 9s at the weekend, and shamefully still struggles with rhythm figure one of Van Halen’s Panama.

(Image credit: Alexandria Crahan Conway)

It’s not too often that Slipknot release a new album — it’s been half a decade since the band’s last full-length, 2014’s .5: The Gray Chapter — but when they do, one thing you can be sure of is that it’ll be a unique experience in every way, from the music to the visuals to the outfits (new masks, anyone?) that go along with it.

“You can either evolve with us and get with it, or maybe you’re just not there yet, and maybe we’re not your band,” says guitarist Jim Root. “But we’re always going to do what we’re going to do.”

That ideology is clearly evident on the band’s newest and sixth full-length album, We Are Not Your Kind. The record finds Slipknot — which, in addition to Root, includes the core Des Moines, Iowa-bred unit of guitarist Mick Thomson, singer Corey Taylor, percussionist Shawn ‘Clown’ Crahan, keyboardist, and sampler Craig Jones and turntablist Sid Wilson, as well as newer additions drummer Jay Weinberg and bassist Alessandro Venturella (co-percussionist and original member Chris Fehn exited the band under acrimonious circumstances in March of this year, with his position filled by a so-far anonymous stand-in) — playing it as hard and fierce as ever.

For evidence, witness the positively crushing Birth Of The Cruel and the rampaging closer, Solway Firth), while the band also continue to push out on their sonic boundaries, as evidenced by tracks like the choir-assisted first single Unsainted, the eerie Spiders and Not Long For This World, and the hooky, major-key thrash anthem Nero Forte.

It’s a varied and intense ride, to be sure, and one that is all but guaranteed to please those Slipknot fans who, as Root said earlier, continue to evolve with the band. As for the others?

“It’ll be loved, it’ll be hated, but whatever,” Thomson says bluntly. “We’re certainly not for everybody. And if you don’t like it, I mean, who cares? We’re not interested in being all things to all people. We’re just trying to remain honest to ourselves.”

Prior to the release of We Are Not Your Kind, and just days before the kickoff of the band’s European tour — their first shows in almost three years — Root and Thomson sat down with Guitar World in Helsinki, Finland, to offer an exclusive look inside the making of the record. They also discussed new gear and new masks, and took a detailed trip back 20 years to their first-ever tour, as a second-stage act on the 1999 Ozzfest.

As far as they’ve clearly come since those formative and, judging by their Ozzfest stories, rather foul days, the two guitarists also made it clear that Slipknot still have plenty left to accomplish.

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“There’s a lot for us to achieve and a lot more music to explore,” Root says. “I’m not saying we want to start doing experimental prog or something, where it turns into elevator music after a few records, but I don’t think we’ve even scratched the surface.”

'Seems Like Stone Sour Can't Even Write a New Record. They Lost a Good Writer'

How did We Are Not Your Kind come together from a writing and recording perspective?

Jim Root: «This one was a little bit different for us. The whole process for this record took probably two and a half, maybe three years. I started putting riffs and ideas together when we were on the last album cycle, just in dressing rooms or whatever, on our Pro Tools rig. And then during the downtime when I was home I was working on arrangements.

«Clown and I were also talking about how this time we could really take the time to dive into the arrangements a little bit deeper and also come up with new things. So it was a little bit of a learning curve. I’m not sure we really approached it the right way, but I think we’re on a better path from the last record for sure.»

«But this time we were going into studios and working on these songs at different points, and then other new things were coming up to go along with what was already on tape. We had a longer time to live with everything and to decide how much we liked or didn’t like something.»

Root: «Then when it was time to sit down and track the record we actually played as a band, which we didn’t really do on The Gray Chapter. That album was a little bit more ‘built’.

«Because of the time constraints we had with that one, we kind of built everything off of the demos — we had Jay play to the demos and then we overdubbed over what he did. But this record, we would do 10 or so takes with clicks on at different tempos, and then we got to a point where we shut the click off entirely and just went for it, and did 10 or 15 more takes with no click. And that was hugely important: it made us sound more like a band on record.»

'Seems Like Stone Sour Can't Even Write a New Record. They Lost a Good Writer'

Back in October of last year, you released a standalone single, All Out Life. That song didn’t make it onto the new record; instead a line from the lyrics was lifted for the album title. What does the phrase «we are not your kind» signify to you?

Thomson: «Well, Corey writes all the lyrics, and they’re usually very specific to him. But as soon as I heard that line I was like, “There you go — there’s your fucking record title!” Because we’re not for all people, and we don’t really care.

People are always telling us, ‘You guys need to do another Iowa record.’ And I just kinda sink a little bit when I hear that

Root: «For me, it’s kind of a tip back to something like the lyrics to Surfacing — ‘Fuck it all, fuck this world, fuck everything that you stand for.’ We do things the way we do them and we do them unashamedly. It’s our art. If you don’t like it, that’s fine. You don’t have to. You don’t have to come along for the ride.»

Root: «That’s so hard to say. But I really hate comparing anything we do to anything we’ve done previously, because we’re not the same band we were when the first record came out — I wasn’t even in the band until the end of recording that record. I only did, like, three songs for the album.

«And Iowa, whether it’s on social media or whether it’s a fan that I talk to in the street, people are always telling us, ‘You guys need to do another Iowa record.’ And I just kinda sink a little bit when I hear that, because I’m like, you know, we were different people then, and it was a different band. We had a different set of values. We had a different hunger.»

'Seems Like Stone Sour Can't Even Write a New Record. They Lost a Good Writer'

Jim Root with his signature Fender Jazzmaster (Image credit: Alexandria Crahan Conway)

That said, do you feel those Slipknot and Iowa moments are present in the new album?

Thomson: «In some spots, but I wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s any kind of throwback to those two. This album is its own totally unique thing. But there are elements that would be reminiscent of the first couple of records, for sure — stuff that’s more aggressive and higher energy. But we also have a lot of songs that are — I wouldn’t necessarily say somber — but darker and slower.

«So it’s all things. Because we don’t try to conceive a record that’s going to fill a need. We just write what we write. And if it sounds good and we like it, we roll with it.»

As far as the material on the new record, there’s definitely a wide range of styles. To pick just two tracks, you have a song like Nero Forte, which is arguably one of Slipknot’s catchiest, and then something like Spiders, which is extremely dark and impressionistic.

Spiders, man, I love that one. It’s like some weird, mid-’80s Bowie thing, and I got to do a cool Adrian Belew kind of outside-the-box guitar solo on it

«And Spiders, man, I love that one. It’s like some weird, mid-’80s Bowie thing, and I got to do a cool Adrian Belew kind of outside-the-box guitar solo on it. I love doing stuff like that, that we haven’t done before.»

Thomson: «As far as Spiders, we have sort of an experimental lab, which is kind of like a secondary studio setup. I usually refer to it as Clown World, but that’s an oversimplification. But it’s a studio with different percussion things and some guitars and basses, and a place where Craig and Sid have the ability to do anything they want to do. And Clown has lots of different synth modules and all this crazy noisemaking shit in there.

«There’s always some weird shit being recorded there, but in the past that ‘weirder world’ stuff might just turn into an intro for our set or something, as opposed to becoming a song that makes it onto the record. Whereas Spiders is something that is a little more of an evolved version of that weirder-world stuff. It’s fun to do stuff like that, where you go, ‘Let me grab whatever random shit is in the room and see what kinds of sounds I can make with it.’ That’s cool. But I don’t know that a Slipknot fan wants to hear an entire record of experimental weirdness.»

'Seems Like Stone Sour Can't Even Write a New Record. They Lost a Good Writer'

Mick Thomson with one of his signature Jackson Soloist models (Image credit: Alexandria Crahan Conway)

Could you talk a bit about the guitars and amps each of you used in the studio this time?

Thomson: «I’m playing new amps this time around — they’re made by a company called Omega. They’re currently kind of a small shop but hopefully they get the recognition they deserve and blow up into a fucking big shop. For the record and also for All Out Life, I used two Omega amps — a 100-watt Obsidian and a 100-watt Iridium prototype.

In one case it was the P90s going through a fuzz pedal into a Fender ’65 Super Reverb reissue. So there’s an amp you probably wouldn’t think you’d be hearing on a Slipknot album

«Then for guitars I used my signature Jackson Soloist models, and in some cases I switched out the pickups for Seymour Duncan P90s, just for a totally different kind of sound. In one case it was the P90s going through a fuzz pedal into a Fender ’65 Super Reverb reissue. So there’s an amp you probably wouldn’t think you’d be hearing on a Slipknot album.»

Root: «I mainly used my signature Fender Jazzmaster — one straight off the rack that Fender sent me, no different to what anybody can pick up at a store, but I loaded it with my new signature set of EMGs that I have coming out.

Let’s move on to another type of gear that’s pretty central to the Slipknot experience: your masks. The fans always look forward to you guys unveiling new designs at the start of each album cycle, but it’s stating the obvious to point out that the two of you, relative to some of your bandmates, tend to keep things pretty similar on the mask front from album to album.

Thomson: «I am who I am, you know what I mean? But my newest one is trying to get back to what my Vol. 3 one, the silver one, was. I kept that mask all the way up until the last record and it was just falling apart — the latex is all fucked up and shrinking and it’s just kind of shot. I only ever had two of them made, and I gave one away to a kid once. And so I just have the one.

«So I got with an artist this time and tried to recreate that mask. And it’s pretty close, but it’s not really going to change too much because I haven’t changed. I couldn’t imagine having anything else on and being out there onstage.»

Root: «You know, I didn’t even start working on my mask until we were tracking the record. I was way more interested in the songwriting process and in putting these arrangements together. And because of that, that side of my part in the band kind of lacks a little bit.

'Seems Like Stone Sour Can't Even Write a New Record. They Lost a Good Writer'

Speaking of being onstage, this year marks the 20th anniversary of your first-ever tour, which was as a second-stage act on the 1999 iteration of Ozzfest. What do you remember about that trek?

Thomson: «First of all, we had a 40-foot bus, not a 45-foot bus, which is standard. So we lost five feet of movement, which, with that many motherfuckers on one bus, is humongous. So it was a nightmare. I mean, people sleeping on couches in the front, in the rear, everywhere.

«I had to lay flat in my bunk because if I rolled over, my shoulder would hit the bottom of the bunk above me. It was kind of like that Seinfeld episode where Kramer was renting out drawers in his fucking dresser for people to sleep in. That shit sucked!»

How about the actual shows?

They came up onstage with a dB meter and we were like, 128dB, and I think they had a 90dB sound limit or something! And the sound guys were asking, ‘Can you be quieter?’

«They came up onstage with a dB meter and we were like, 128dB, and I think they had a 90dB sound limit or something! And the sound guys were asking, ‘Can you be quieter?’ And it’s like, ‘I don’t know — there’s three dudes hitting really loud drums right next to my fucking head!’

«Other than that, I remember it being really hot, and I remember throwing up a lot because, you know, we didn’t have any money, so we had to eat whenever we got a chance. And what we would eat was festival catering.

«So if your one chance to eat festival catering happened to be an hour before your set, well, guess what? Now it’s 90 degrees with 70 percent humidity in Texas and you just ate a bunch of food and you’re jumping around onstage like a moron. You’re gonna throw up! So it was a hell of a time. The only way you could do it is if you were hungry and wanted to take over the world!»

'Seems Like Stone Sour Can't Even Write a New Record. They Lost a Good Writer'

(Image credit: Alexandria Grahan Conway)

And now here you are 20 years later and you have your own festival, Knotfest, as well as the current scaled-down touring version of it, the Knotfest Roadshow.

Thomson: «I could never have predicted that we could get to do what we do, and also be successful. From the outset I thought that if we got our first record out, then maybe we’d be able to do a second one, but we probably weren’t going to appeal to a lot of people outside of that. But, you know, I guess I was wrong.»

Root: «It’s weird and it’s awesome. But for me, at least, I can’t look at any of it objectively and I don’t really understand what it’s become. It’s too hard for me to wrap my brain around it.

«It’s like if you’re gonna grow your hair out long, you don’t really realize how long it’s getting because you see yourself every day. But then somebody that hasn’t seen you for a year or so comes up and they’re like, ‘Holy shit! Your hair’s gotten really long!’ — ‘Oh fuck, yeah, I guess it has. I didn’t realize!’ That’s kinda how I am with our career. To me, I feel like we’re still working toward a goal. There’s still a lot more to come.»

We Are Not Your Kind is out now via Roadrunner Records.

Rich is the co-author of the best-selling Nöthin’ But a Good Time: The Uncensored History of the ’80s Hard Rock Explosion. He is also a recording and performing musician, and a former editor of Guitar World magazine and executive editor of Guitar Aficionado magazine. He has authored several additional books, among them Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck, the companion to the documentary of the same name.

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