What began as a side project for a bunch of headbangers has mutated into a nine-member metal monstrosity. And in case you're wondering, the outlandish, mask-wearing tactics that Des Moines, Iowa-based Slipknot employ on stage (which you may have seen them wearing at OZZfest this summer) date back to the band's more innocent early days. Guitarist Mick (no last names please) recalls the group's New Year's Eve show in 1995, the year they tied the Knot: "I went on stage with a Little Bo Peep costume that I rented."
But the masks Slipknot now sport in concert, and on the cover of their pummeling yet intricately woven self-titled new album, certainly aren't cute. Take, for example, the court jester mask covering the face of guitarist James, who joined the group in January. "I've puked through it a few times," he admits. "It's got boogers stuck in it and my roommates are pissed at me because it stinks up the whole house."
Even though Slipknot's producer was Ross Robinson (Korn's first two albums), Mick (who now performs in a leather bondage mask) and James claim their band has nothing in common with the ever-growing, hip-hop-flavored new-school of metal. "Pffff! Please," says Mick, who handles bestial, death metal-inspired riffage as well as eerie effects (as in "Surfacing" and "Spit It Out"). "I grew up listening to fuckin' Morbid Angel and Deicide, okay? I come from stuff like that, not Korn."
So as you might expect, Mick and James wouldn't be caught dead playing seven-string guitars, which Korn's Munky and Head and all their little disciples champion so vehemently. "Seven-string guitars are gay," says Mick, who used a custom Jackson on Slipknot. "You have this humongous neck that's considerably harder to navigateand I have big fuckin' hands." But like many Korn songs, Slipknot tunes like "Scissors" and "Prosthetics" deal with disturbing subject matter. Even so, Mick chooses not to reveal any exact themes. "I'd rather not talk about them," he shrugs. "I usually leave it up to [the listeners] to work it out for themselves."
While listening to the alternately harsh and melodic "Wait and Bleed" or the twisted and roaring "Eyeless," you might wonder how a band with nine members can achieve such a surgically precise roar. Indeed, things could have gotten mighty messy. As it turns out, not every member (the band also includes singer Corey, bassist Paul, drummer Joey, percussionists Chris and Shawn, turntable-ist Sid, and sampler Craig) plays on every song. "Things never get cluttered," Mick says. "We only use shit that fits. If there's a song in which Shawn and Chris' percussion has no place, then it's not in there."
During the band's bombastic stage shows, however, each member always has a key role. "If some don't have [musical] parts, they run around and fuck with everybody else in the band," says James, who played an ESP LTD Horizon on the album. "Sid and Shawn tend to get into fights, and sometimes that spills over to the other guys. And sometimes it spills out into the crowd."