With their macabre, fright show masks and industrial strength, nihilistic brand of metal, Slipknot does not seem like the most sentimental of rock bands.
But this year’s 10th anniversary of the Iowa headbangers’ first album is cause for a bit of reflection from the nine musicians.
“It’s funny because I’ve seen so many next-big-things come and go in the last 10 years, and I look around and go, ‘Wow, we’re still here,’ ” notes frontman Corey Taylor. “Every time we’ve put an album out, people would write us off, but ... we just kept getting bigger and bigger and bigger.
“It not only proves so many people were wrong, but that we were right. My dream wasn’t just to make it, but it was to stay here and be able to do whatever we want to do, which is just how it’s worked out.”
That defiant streak resulted in U.S. sales of more than 5.6 million albums during the last decade. Slipknot’s first three albums are platinum or better, as are its three DVDs — and last year’s “All Hope is Gone,” which debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart in August, is on its way. The group has been nominated for seven Grammy Awards, winning in 2006 for “Before I Forget.” And this year, “Psychosocial” from “All Hope is Gone” is up for Best Metal Performance at the Feb. 8 ceremony. “We have created this test called Slipknot, and we have set our own standards,” explains percussionist Shawn “Clown” Crahan. “We’re still all original members. We haven’t broken yet.” But Taylor, 35, has no interest in trying to figure out what keeps Slipknot working. “I think it’s one of those things that if you really try hard to figure it out, it just gives you a headache,” he says. “I have no idea why we’ve stayed and some bands have gone. If you stop trying to figure it out, you enjoy it more, so I just stopped.”
Listening back to the first Slipknot album, Taylor says, “I can definitely tell how young I am when I hear it. I can just remember nothing else mattered but that album. And then nothing else mattered but the tour. And then nothing else mattered but the next tour.”
Despite the “blur” of those times, however, he has very clear memories of the recording session — particularly the smell of the vocal booth at Indigo Ranch in Malibu, Calif.
“Oh, dude, it was so gross in there,” Taylor recalls with a laugh. “It had every conceivable bad smell in there. I was throwing up ‘cause I was singing so hard. And there was a dead rat that got stuck in the wall that was just reeking it up, and we couldn’t find it until we finally took some of the panels off.
“So it smelled like vomit, blood and dead rat, and the smell never really went away. And, of course, it was hot. It was just cooking in there.”
Beyond that, Taylor says, there was concern about whether the world, even the extreme hard rock world, was ready for nine masked guys in jumpsuits playing an abrasive and even physically punishing kind of music. “We were really taking a huge chance, and the record label as well,” Taylor remembers. “Nobody knew how people were gonna take this, and it just exploded. The rest is history.”
Crahan, 39, says that Slipknot has “learned so much” since the group went down in a storm since its second-stage booking on the 1999 Ozzfest tour. “Now, 10 years later we’re headlining these things,” he notes, and Slipknot was indeed a headliner on last year’s inaugural Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival.
“There’s real power going on, brother. I don’t have to go out and force people to act; I can instruct them to act now. There’s a respect level. It’s a real good thing that’s going on now.”
One of the things that Slipknot has learned is to put a few years between album releases in order for its members to do other things. Drummer Joey Jordison, for instance, led his own side group, Murderdolls, and toured with Korn. Crahan also works with the groups My Surprise and Dirty Little Rabbits and has his own record label, Big Orange Clown. Taylor and guitarist Jim Root formed the Grammy-nominated band Stone Sour, and the singer, who’s also done some acting, plans to record a solo album later this year.
“I think it’s helped all of us be able to accomplish a lot of things and really not get stuck in a position where we have to make a certain kind of music only,” Taylor says. “I know that happens to a lot of artists and they regret it, but I’ve never let myself get painted into a corner, and neither have the rest of the guys.”
The risk, of course, is that one day Slipknot might not come back from one of these hiatuses. But Crahan isn’t worried.
“Y’know, we’re nine guys,” he says. “There’s a lot of opinions. Tempers flare. Violence stars. Some days you’re convinced, ‘This is over.’ Some days you’re convinced, ‘Wow, why did I ever worry?’ That’s Slipknot.”
Slipknot, Coheed & Cambria and Trivium perform at 7 p.m. Saturday (Jan. 31) at The Palace of Auburn Hills, Lapeer Road at I-75, Auburn Hills. Tickets are $45 general admission fl oor and $37.50 reserved. Call (248) 377-0100 or visit www.palacenet.com.
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