Slipknot — the Goblins of Doom — Turns 10

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Posted March 5, 2009 in Music

As their 10th anniversary tour rolls into Ontario’s Citizens Bank Arena on Tuesday, Iowa mega-metallers Slipknot aren’t the least bit surprised that their arena-filling success has lasted this long. Far from it.

 

 

“I did [expect the longevity],” percussionist Chris Fehn (aka “#3) deadpans. “I knew we had the work ethic and the music to keep it going this long.”

 

And amazingly, for a nine-piece band (completed by turntablist Sid Wilson, drummer Joey Jordison, guitarists Mick Thomson and James Root, bassist Paul Gray, samplist Craig “133” Jones, percussionist Shawn “Clown” Crahan, and vocalist Corey Taylor), they’ve kept their line-up stable ever since their eponymous debut disc back in 1999.

 

“I think it’s just the love for the band that we all still have,” Fehn explains, speaking from yet another hotel room on yet another tour-stop. “We take good breaks and let other people [in the band] do side projects that they need to get done and I think it just makes us come back stronger every time.”

 

Those side-projects include Taylor and Root’s Stone Sour, itself a Grammy-nominated, Gold-certified band.

 

“The side-projects bring a fresh outlook on Slipknot,” says Fehn. “It’s kind of a brutal band to be in, and everything we do is extra work, so I think it’s great those guys going out and just being to create a different kind of music and then coming back to what made it happen.”

 

Slipknot’s decade-and-counting career hasn’t been hurt by their distinctive image, consisting of coveralls and grotesque masks. See, like the heavily made-up Kiss, Slipknot—on stage at least—will never age. But that wasn’t the thinking behind their look, Fehn claims.

 

“It was more of a statement back home to where it wasn’t about, like, us. Screw that part about who’s up there in those small bars that we got to play in Iowa and let’s focus on the music . . . and then it just turned into a monster!”

 

Indeed, having repeatedly defied the odds against a Midwestern, mask-wearing metal band enjoying mainstream success, Slipknot has enjoyed four hit albums and the sold-out tours to match. Last year’s All Hope Is Gone (Roadrunner Records) debuted at number one on the Billboard Top 200. It’s a schizophrenic record, chock-full of Slipknot’s signature thrash-metal riffing, dexterous double-kick drumming and Taylor’s vocal bile, but also warmed with melodic, introspective alternative rock—sometimes within the same song.

 

“We each have a lot of diversity in our heads,” says Fehn. “It is schizophrenic—it’s nine heads bashing together in the middle of one thing and that’s what leaks out.  Everybody’s pretty passionate about what they do so obviously sometimes it gets heated, but it always works out in the end . . . we’re just like brothers that way.”

 

And the mellower moments in Slipknot’s music are certainly not just sweeteners to keep the record label happy and the money rolling in.

 

“No. We keep a real tight grip on everything about the band—the music, the image—and anything that has to do with us we do because we want to,” Fehn insists. “It pissed the record label off at first, big time!”

 

For All Hope Is Gone, Slipknot made two major changes to their successful recording formula: first, they recorded the album in their native Iowa rather than in Los Angeles, where the previous three had been created; and secondly they used metal maestro producer Dave Fortman (Evanescence, Mudvayne etc.) for the first time.

 

“Because we’re on the road doing other things, [some of my bandmates] basically needed time with their families and stuff,” says Fehn of the decision to record closer to home. “So they got to stay at home and do that catch-up time while making the record. That was a big factor in it, but also we just wanted to try it—to be away from the hustle of L.A. and all the external things that are out there that we didn’t want to deal with.”

 

“[Fortman] made it sound amazing. Before this record was even mixed it sounded amazing! As for me personally, he’s a really good drummer, so while I was doing my parts it was nice to talk to somebody who could explain things in a ‘drummer way’—it just made my process even smoother.”

 

But while All Hope Is Gone certainly features more percussion and—wait for it—acoustic guitars than previous ‘Knot albums, don’t expect “Slipknot Unplugged” anytime soon.

 

“Not yet, not yet,” Fehn laughs. “We’d have to do some serious figuring-out of how that would go down, y’know!”

 

Slipknot’s live show is an over-the-top culmination of all things metal—pyrotechnics, frenetic performances and even in the past an elevating, tumbling drum-riser—but also features some fresh-to-the-genre elements like the outlandish custom percussion creations flanking the stage, which Fehn and Crahan punish and pummel like meth-fueled goblins. Slipknot’s hardcore fans—who worryingly dub themselves “maggots”—are a famously devoted bunch who lend the band’s shows the cult-like aura of extremist political rallies.

 

And yet, after 10 years of this deliberate, elaborate insanity, Slipknot still somehow tops themselves on every tour.

 

“I don’t know how we do it,” mulls Fehn. “On this tour it’s just some extra songs—we haven’t done any kinda 10th anniversary thing . . . but it’s a killer show.”

 

Opening in Ontario will be unlikely prog-rock heroes Coheed and Cambria and Floridian thrash metal traditionalists Trivium.

 

“We have a lot of say in our opening acts,” says Fehn. “You get a list of bands that’re available and then you just try to figure out who’s going to maybe bring in some new fans and who’s just a good solid band that’s not going to ditch halfway out on the tour. Because it’s a business too, and they’ve got to show up like we do.”

 

Fehn himself, however, has little opinion on up-and-coming outfits. “I’m pretty much old-school metal. I’m Slayer, Megadeth, Metallica, Testament,” he explains. “I really don’t pay attention too much these days.”

 

Yet his outlook on his own band’s music and career is decidedly forward-looking. Asked where he thinks Slipknot will be in another 10 years time, Fehn doesn’t hesitate.

 

“Hopefully talking to you.”

 

 

Slipknot, Coheed and Cambria, Trivium at Citizens Bank Arena, 4000 E. Ontario Center Parkway, Ontario; Tues., March 10, doors at 6PM. Tickets $25.50-$45.50, available at www.ticketmaster.com

 


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