Unmasking the mystery behind Slipknot
By Naughty Mickie
Images Courtesy: http://www.slipknot1.com/
Controversial; cool, hard-core; happening, insane; intelligent, all these words can accurately describe one band with ease-- Slipknot. The band, consisting of vocalist Corey #8 (Taylor), guitarists Mick #7 (Thompson) and James #4 (Root), bassist Paul #2 (Gray), drummer Joey #1 (Jordison), custom percussionists Shawn #6 ("Clown" Crahan) and Chris #3 (Fehn), Sid #0 (Wilson) on turntables and Craig #5 (Jones) on samples/media, has been touring with OzzFest in support of "Vol. 3: (The Subliminal Verses)" on Roadrunner Records. Just prior to their appearance in Southern California, I had the opportunity to speak with Root and try to find out some of the story behind their persona.
Root was born in Las Vegas and now lives in Des Moines, Iowa, Slipknot's home base. He was the last member to join the group in 1995 after several personnel shifts.
"I've known a lot of them," Root says of Slipknot's members. "We were all in bands around Des Moines. If you're in a band in Des Moines, you pretty much know everyone. It's not a very big town, so I pretty much know most of the musicians any ways.
"Various members of Slipknot were in various bands. Slipknot was like the cult band. They formed this thing that was unlike anything that anybody else was doing in Des Moines. It was very intense," Root continues. "Basically how I cam to be a member of the band was Josh, the guy who I replaced, he was over it, he's actually still in a band in Des Moines, but he left for whatever reasons he had and they called me because they knew that I was hungry and they knew I could do it.
"I said no at first," Root laughs. "I didn't want it handed to me because they had already had a record deal; they had already been out to Indigo Ranch (Studios, Los Angeles) to record. I'd been been trying to get to that place in music since I was 15 years old and at the time they called me I was 27 and, to me, it kind of felt like cheating, like not getting there the right way. It took me probably up until this year to realize that I'm a part of this band."
Music has always been a part of Root's life.
"My parents were, I wouldn't really say hippies, but they were very into music themselves." Root recalls, "My dad had 15 orange crates full of vinyl. I remember when I was little my parents would throw parties and I would be holding the vacuum cleaner or the 'Star Wars' light saber pretending I was 'Wings Over America,' singing along with the Wings' record.
"I had a really really great upbringing, but it was a little bit different I guess for a conservative mid-west type of upbringing. Ever since I could remember I was a big fan of the Beatles and the Rolling
Stones and the Doors and Black Sabbath. It was what I was weaned on. It's funny, my mom has a picture of me when I'm four or five years old standing on picnic table with a stick pretending it's a guitar." Root goes on, "I bugged my parents to get me a guitar from the time I was 11. I got my first one when I was 14. My first was a Memphis Gibson copy, it was like a copy of a Les Paul Junior."
Root didn't attend college.
"I had a weird spell in school," Root explains. "I didn't really have enough credits to graduate; I needed three more credits to graduate. I was failing either government or basic econ, I don't remember, and I didn't want to retake them. In the schedule it would have been the next semester of the following year and they wouldn't let me walk with my class, so I was really pissed off about that. I was doing the band thing and I was way more interested in music than I was in school anyway so I decided I'd just go to the local community college and I got a high school equivalency.
"At the time, the band I was in, we were getting ready to do a five state tour of clubs in our van." Root continues, "I was like, I definitely want to spend more time doing this than I do school. I'm not a very good student. At that time, I had too many distractions, I wasn't doing really well in school anyway so college would have been a jump at that time."
Root adds that looking back he realizes that there are things he would have enjoyed studying, such as photography and recording, which happen to be his current hobbies.
"It started out, juggling two bands you don't have a lot of time to do everything, so I got a BR1180 Workstation and it's really easy. I've been manipulating it to get really good sounding recordings," Root said.
He has been learning how to get more out of it by experimenting with different things on the system.
Root also has a Cool Pix 5700 camera that he's learning how to use. And has a custom chopper with a Matt Hotch frame, which was specially made as James is 6'6". It took a year and a half to put it together. "I finally got to ride it when we were home," Root says. The bike has a RevTech 100 engine with Primo primary, 5-speed transmission, 6-inch stretch in the back and 6-inch stretch up, plus a 42 degree rake, prison bars and a 16 over-front end stretched way out. Root owns a 1970 Barracuda and some sport bikes as well.
Root has paid his 9-to-5 dues.
"When I was 14, I worked as a dishwasher and I was in bands at that time, it was around the time I joined Atomic Opera." Root tells me, "I was the dishwasher in a restaurant called Elmo's and I walked off of that job. It was Friday in the summertime and my buddies got off an hour before I did and I had a pile of dishes still in front of me and I was like 'You know, I'm over it.' I worked for a place called BMS for a while, Building Maintenance Service, I was basically a janitor at the
Pioneer Hybrid Company. We had a crew and we'd go dump the garbage and mop the floors and vacuum and all that. I did that for a while and I have a funny story.
"There was a group of guys who would always grab money out of this desk," Root chuckles. "Not like 20 or 30 bucks, it had loose change in it. If we didn't have any loose change, we'd take some loose change out of that because pop was 35 cents. So we'd take 35 cents out and on payday we'd put it back in. Well, at least I would, I don't know about the other guys. But they caught on to it, whose ever desk it was caught on to it, and one day me and two other guys grabbed some change to get a soda, but our hands, there was weird stuff on our hands. I was like, 'What the hell is this?' So we tried to rinse it off and as soon as it started to lather, boom! It was red. Red, red, red, they caught us red-handed. So I lost that job.
"I had it coming," Root avers. "Even though it was 35 cents, you don't borrow money from someone when they're not there for you to ask for it from them. At that time, I didn't really understand, 'Fuck, it was 35 cents. Payday I'm going to put it back in. Big deal. I'll put 50 cents in and they'll make money off us.' But apparently that wasn't the right mentality to have."
Root was also an electrician shop boy and apprentice, learning basic electrical work.
"My main gig I had for a long time, the coolest gig and I made the most money and had insurance, I was a screen printer. And that's what I was doing when I joined Slipknot," Root concludes.
So what's with the masks?
"It started out as an anti-image thing." Root explains, "We wanted to be anti-everything because most of the bands in Des Moines were like, 'Tip your waitresses, have a good night and drink, party' type of thing and we were totally against and opposed to the way they were. Before I joined that band, I was on that fence, the singer in my band was the 'tip your waitress' type of guy and it's kind of cheesy. For me, it started as an anti-image sort of thing and that evolved into the way we wear coveralls and things like that. Kind of anti all these endorsements people give you for clothing. It was trying to take away from what we wear and what we look like to the music and it completely backfired in our faces. Now it's obviously it's a big deal that we wear masks and every time we get photographed it's just a couple of shots. In one way it turned out cool, in another it kind of sucks."
OK, but why numbers with your names?
"It was to make everything uniform," Root says. "Shawn's into numerology and numbers have meaning. There's nine of us and nine's a very powerful number. We couldn't have a number nine, that's why Sid's zero, because he's filth anyway. When Sid joined the band, we were like, 'Shit, what are we going to give you? We can't give you number nine.' Shawn said, 'Zero.' And it made sense."
"Did you get to pick your numbers?" I ask.
"I didn't get to pick mine because I replaced number four. I come to find that in Japan that means death and bad luck," Root laughs.
"A number of different ways," Root responds when I query him as to how Slipknot writes. "Either Joey or Paul will write complete songs or me or Corey will write complete songs or it can be somebody will come up with a riff. It just depends. A complete of songs were written off of drum beats. Some songs fall together and some sit on the back burner for a year or two before they actually come together."
I prod Root for his take on the music scene.
"Honestly, I'm kind of a musical recluse," Root begins. "I'm kind of still stuck in the older stuff. There's a lot of really great bands, their lyrics, I guess I really haven't opened my mind to them yet because it's been kind of shitty. I look at MTV and some of the bands that are on there are such crap. And that drive-through punk kind of thing makes me sick to my stomach. It's pretty sad.
"The saddest thing about it is not necessarily the musicians or the music that they're playing, but the way it's marketing and put out there." Root goes on, "If something is put out, here's a perfect example, there's albums out that are complete crap, but they sell millions of records and the bands go out and tour, but they don't sell any tickets, no one goes to see them live. I don't know what it is. Then somebody else will put out an album that's completely brilliant, it won't sell anything and it doesn't get any exposure. When the albums don't do well, they throw them away. It's pretty sad. I guess I'm stuck in my own little world."
Root listens to Radiohead, Massive Attack, Apex Twin. "I like everything from old school rock with the Beatles to crazy weird," he says, citing bands like Peter Gabriel and Traffic. "I just love music, I love everything about it. I think that to listen only to one kind of music and completely 'oh that sucks' that's such a close-minded approach to life. Everybody needs to be a little more open minded when it comes to music and not 'oh metal or nothing.' Maybe it is mostly metal fans, but maybe it isn't The music industry has been changing in the past five or six years. I think it's going to change a lot more in the coming year."
Dare I ask Root about the Internet? You bet.
"I'm into iTunes," Root says. "I got sucked into the message board thing for six months, but I quickly go over that when I started reading things that were completely untrue. What are you going to do? Sit there and argue with somebody who you don't even know? About something that's completely irrelevant anyway?"
Root mostly checks his e-mail, shops and peruses gear, "It's easier. I don't like leaving my house any ways."
He also states that he can find better prices on the Net.
The future includes touring with Metallica in Europe, OzzFest and then maybe back to Europe or headlining or jumping back on tour with Metallica in the states... it all gets sorta fuzzy.
Root admits, "I'm against reading my itinerary."
"So is there anything we haven't discussed that you'd like to talk about?" I ask.
"I don't really talking," Root replies laughing.
"But you did. A lot," I say.
"I know, I know." Root chuckles again, "That's why I have a zipper on the mouth of my mask, I should probably shut up half the time."
Find out where Slipknot is now and get their latest news at www.slipknot1.com and www.roadrunnerrecords.com
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