Slipknot's Jim Root thinks out loud about surviving in the metal industry, finding magnificence in chaos
What is it like to be in the metal game for two decades? Slipknot's Jim Root says work gets easier, but not writing
Having been in the metal scene for over two decades with Slipknot, Jim Roots says work gets easier, but not writing
You just chip away at all the chaos until there is nothing left but magnificence, says the guitarist about the process the band follows
When you use music as a vehicle, you connect to millions who feel the same way. You become the answer to the question that’s been haunting them.
Imagine seeing masked clowns and personas on stage, creating something that resonates with you. The masks, as many decipher, could be various personas, but what if you found yourself in them? Slipknot became that for many. “I must have been 14 when a friend of mine showed me a video of people in masks on a tiny stage, live at The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien. I kept wondering what the f**k was going on. The next time I was at his place, I wanted to watch the exact same video and find out more about Slipknot. They were also my gateway into heavy music. People in masks, being all high on energy is what technically got me hooked on to heavy music. That stuff felt real in combination with incredibly thoughtful lyrics. Corey Taylor is an amazing vocalist who made me realise that there is more than just screaming; his clean vocals are out of this world. I would keep listening to Iowa on repeat and jumping around my room. This was the best tool to vent,” says hip-hop artist Lubomir Jabbanda, who is 31 now.
The mix of metal, rap, turntables, the shock value, the numbered monikers for band members — they were all reasons why the spotlight shone on the band. Formed in 1995, the Iowa (USA) based band pieced together the puzzle that is their team over the years, slowly albeit steadily, courtesy the lineup changes. In 1999, the band was part of the famed Ozzfest (a heavy metal festival) that propelled it to newer heights. Their self-titled debut studio album released in the same year and earned them a Grammy nomination ('Wait and Bleed' - Best Metal Performance at the 2001 Grammy Awards) and was certified Platinum as well. From that point on, there was no turning back. A juggernaut, the band was nominated consecutively for Grammys in 2002-03 and 2005-06. They finally won the award for their track ‘Before I Forget’ from their third studio album Vol 3: (The Subliminal Verses). The band scored four more Grammy nominations in the years to come.
They have six studio albums to their name, with the most recent one being We Are Not Your Kind (August 2019). “Slipknot are a great live act. They combine visceral brutality with almost pop-like hooks, which helps them maintain a great balance between the extreme end of the metal spectrum and the mainstream. Their imagery goes hand in hand with their music, since it makes everything they do larger-than-life and also adds that extra bit of 'theater' or 'drama' to their live shows,” says Salman Syed, founder of Bangalore Open Air, India's only dedicated heavy metal open air music festival.
When asked how he would explain Slipknot’s music to a varied audience, guitarist James Donald Root aka Jim Root, also known as #4 in the band, says, “To a five-year-old, we’re monsters with musical instruments. Eat your vegetables. To a scientist, we’re monsters with musical instruments. Eat your vegetables. Or C = π*d = 2*π*r. To a music lover, everything you love and hate about music. And more. And to a metal head, brutal bruh.” Root has been part of the band since 1999; how has he managed to stay afloat all these years in a brutal industry? “It’s getting better. Easier to work. Not easier to write. But collaborating with the rest of the band and the actual tracking is easier,” he says.
Their masks were recently upgraded, if we could call it that, but nevertheless inimitable as always. “It was a bit rushed because of our schedule this time. For me, it’s just deciding what to do. How to let it evolve without changing it too much,” says Root. I ask who wears the biggest mask of them all. He says — Shiva. "To keep the secret of the vimana that we’ve built thousands of years ago.”
How have they managed to remain different over the years? Root has a more personal explanation to offer. “I’ve never really fit in anywhere. And when I try, it’s apparent and embarrassing. So I’ve found just being myself is okay. And it’s also unique to me.” Is it the same with their musical experiments? “Hard to explain. They just start. Could be from a guitar riff, a musical piece clown (Shawn Crahan) started, or a jam with a drummer. Could be with a bass or my own synth,” says Root.
We Are Not Your Kind was #1 on the Billboard Top 100 artists Chart. It's an album characterised by metaphors, and it explores themes like aggression, dealing with people/society, depression, being judged and religion. If one had to pick the top three tracks of this brilliant album (apart from 'Unsainted'), they'd be 'Solway Firth', 'Critical Darling' and 'Nero Forte'. The two interludes add to the aural experience; ‘Death Because of Death’ is very Eastern sounding and features actress Kat Primeau on the vocals, whereas ‘What's Next’ reminds one of the soundtrack from the classic video game No One Lives Forever and the ice-cream truck music. The real surprise was ‘My Pain’, a track you can meditate to.
We discuss how to maintain real relationships in the age of augmented reality. "I think there’s a learning curve for that. And as humans, we eventually persevere. I hope we can make it to that point, sooner than later.”
The band truly has found magnificence in chaos. How though? “You just chip away at all the chaos until there’s nothing left but magnificence. And then you can’t acknowledge it as such,” says Root before signing off.
They definitely are a different kind, aren’t they?
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