Interview: Slipknot Look Back on the Making of ‘Iowa’
As Slipknot prepare to unleash their highly anticipated new album, ‘.5: The Gray Chapter’ (check out the new tracks “The Negative One” and “The Devil in I”), Revolver is looking back on the making of each of the masked maniacs’ previous records.
MORE SLIPKNOT: Read about the making of their 1999 self-titled album.
Here, band members who played on 2001′s ‘Iowa’–including deceased bassist Paul Gray and ex-drummer Joey Jordison–look back on the now-classic record, which includes songs like “People = Shit,” “Disasterpiece,” and “Left Behind.” The piece originally ran in our 2011 ‘Book of Slipknot’ special issue.
By Jon Wiederhorn
After a two-year tour in support of their Roadrunner debut, Slipknot headed right back into the studio with producer Ross Robinson to record their eagerly anticipated follow-up record. Immediately, tempers flared. Fortunately, the band members were able to channel their animosity into their music, creating their most extreme album yet. Songs like “Disasterpiece,” “People = Shit,” and “The Heretic Anthem” draw far more from death metal’s scathing currency than nu-metal’s trendy angst. Closing track “Iowa,” meanwhile, attacks from another direction: A dark, psychedelic number filled with serial-killer dialogue, droning beats, unnerving gasps, screams, and things that go bump in the night, it puts the creepy meter into the red.
MONTE CONNER, THEN-ROADRUNNER A&R Everyone thought they were gonna make the wimp-out record and become mainstream. And they turned around and made a record that was substantially heavier. When I first heard it, I loved it, but as a label guy I thought, What are we gonna do with this?
JIM ROOT It was an angry time and the songs reflected that. People expected us to come out with an album of “Wait and Bleed”s or “Spit It Out”s, and we wanted to go against that. That would have been the safe thing to do, and I don’t think we’ve ever done anything to be safe. It just made more sense to come out with all this aggravation and brutal shit.
JOEY JORDISON We discovered that doing a Slipknot record is fucking prison. You’re trapped until it’s done. You’re fucked. I’m in a band with the best musicians in the fucking world. I’m so blessed. But at the same time, when we get together—even though we have so much love for each other—we fuckin’ want to kill each other. And that’s where some things got out of control. When we did ‘Iowa,’ it was a very dark time for the band. Some of our strongest and most meaningful songs are on that record, but we were all on drugs and drunk and it sucked. It’s a time I don’t like to talk about much because I don’t like to condone any drug use, whatsoever.
CHRIS FEHN We had all worked really hard before, but now we’re partying harder and we got a little bit of pocket change and we can afford certain drugs that we couldn’t before. It got weird and I didn’t think we were going to be able to hold it together.
COREY TAYLOR I didn’t meet my dad until the tour cycle for [Slipknot’s 2004 album] ‘Vol. 3: (The Subliminal Verses).’ I didn’t know his name or his face. I had no idea that my mom had kept him out of my life for a very long time. When you grow up like that, you automatically assume there’s something wrong with you. I thought my father didn’t want to be there and didn’t even contact me. It’s gotta be my fault. It was something that I struggled with and still do. It affects my confidence every day. I get by on bravado and talent half the time, and a little luck. But at the time, man, there was no dealing with me. I was a fucking mess. I was drinking a lot. I was in a relationship that wasn’t good for me and I didn’t want to realize it at the time. We went out to L.A. and that’s where I really started to get into booze and philandering. I was doing anything I could to feel good because everything else felt really bad. I was eating a lot, gaining weight. I wasn’t feeling anything but misery. But I knew that we had a responsibility, and that’s why ‘Iowa’ is so dark.
PAUL GRAY It’s funny, man, ’cause I wasn’t in that bad of a headspace. I just felt like we needed to get the record done while there was still some momentum going. But Shawn ["Clown" Crahan] has a family and some of the guys felt burnt-out and everyone was partying a bit more than they should have. Going into the record, I started doing lines of coke all the time and writing music doing lines. But I thought everything was cool. We moved into [Sound City] studio and did ‘Iowa,’ which I love. But I think we could have spent more time at home relaxing and putting it together more as a band.
ROSS ROBINSON I broke my back in a bike accident, which was really perfect for the album because Slipknot were experiencing huge success and going out every night and not showing up in the studio on time. And as soon as I broke my back motocrossing, I took one day off and showed up the next day and I was in so much pain. I just went, “Look, motherfuckers, I’m showing up. Let’s get it the fuck on.” That seemed to work.
SID WILSON Ross got hurt and he’d still come back to work hurt. That guy and me got a lot in common. He was in a wheelchair all fucked up and in pain, and you could hear him screaming in pain while he was producing the album.
TAYLOR I just remember a lot of darkness, a lot of anger. I was cutting myself while recording songs in the studio. I was bleeding everywhere. I just wanted something, I didn’t care what it was. I was rolling in pissed, rolling out pissed, and I wasn’t letting anything go. When I was doing the [self-titled] album I was letting so much go and it felt good. Doing ‘Iowa,’ I wasn’t letting anything go. It was just rage for the sake of rage. It was just gnarly and I was so fuckin’ unhappy. Luckily, we got a dark, brutal, amazing album out of it.
SHAWN “CLOWN” CRAHAN It was a disaster because the world got in. Drugs, women, just listening to, “You guys are gonna be huge.” Everybody wants our money. So I hate the album, but it is brutality at its finest. People are like, “Do another Iowa.” And I’m like [extends middle finger], “Sit on this! You know why? We almost all died.” It was bad. There were chemicals. I was probably the worst, man. My wife was very ill during those times. I felt really isolated because I couldn’t be with her. So out of the sadness of not being together, there’s that frustration and anger, too, that she’s taking care of three kids and we’re being lied to about money and we’re still broke. I was just anti-everyone in the band, coming for everyone in the band. There’s a reason why half my brain is cut out of my mask. I have two horns, a pentagram, blood. Just bring it on. “Hey, mom. You wanna call me a Satanist? Cool. I’m gonna do all this not because I’m a Satanist but because I’m pissed off at you for judging me. So guess what? I’m gonna punish you for the next how many years your kid is a fan of ours.”
TAYLOR One night we were having “Patio Furniture Olympics,” throwing shit through the patio doors into the L.A. River. We threw chairs, all my dishes, we tried to get the bed over there at one point. It all culminated with a threesome in somebody’s hotel room. I regret how it made my girl at the time feel.
ROOT There were always random women hanging around and following us around. At the time, I was pretty naïve and I would think, Oh, this chick really likes me. But no, she doesn’t really like me. She likes the idea of me.
MICK THOMSON No one knows who they are until they’re in a different situation. People think, Oh, I’m really grounded. I’m faithful. I would never cheat on my girlfriend or my wife. Oh, really? Ever had extremely hot pussy dangling in front of your face every fucking night, willing to give it up? No? But at some point when that is offered to you, how do you respond? Everything’s changing. Finances, fucking relationships. You can never really know who your friends are. How do you trust anybody that you’ve met once you’re fucking famous? Everybody “loves” you now.
ROOT I’m pretty secretive and I was good at hiding my drug addictions. But when we were recording ‘Iowa,’ I was up for a few days partying and then I had a breakdown. I didn’t go into the studio for a few days, and one of the guys from our management company had to put me on a crystal table to try to mellow me out. I’m laying on this crystal table going, What the fuck am I doing? Is this table gonna do anything for me, other than maybe straighten my back out? So I started to build a wall around myself. I separated myself from the band. I’d go into the studio as early as I could so I could get my tracking done and leave before anyone else showed up. I just tried to stay away from everybody.
THOMSON I was disgusted by those of us that got sucked into that world of sex and drugs. I wasn’t hanging out in the dressing room and chasing skirt every night. Sorry. Not my thing. I just avoided people. On days off, you’d never see me out of my hotel room. I’d go, OK, fuck. Now I got about 16 hours where I don’t have to hear anyone else’s fuckin’ voice. It doesn’t say ‘Hate’ in Japanese on my fuckin’ forearm for no reason. I’d rather be alone than be around a bunch of people that I don’t care about, don’t care about me or are fuckin’ full of shit. I can sit home and play Xbox, play my guitar, beat off, sleep. What else do you need?
CRAHAN Best time for me was when Sid was a little out of control, wouldn’t get his shit down. He’s like, “I gotta go. My grandfather’s dying. I gotta get there. Shit’s going on.” Grandpa dies. He didn’t get there. Sid shows up. But we see he’s hurting. He gets in [the recording booth]. They start the song. He starts singing. Next thing you know the song’s done, he has a breakdown and that’s “(515)” [the intro of Iowa]. That’s all Sid. Just gone. I come in the next day, Ross is weeping. Puts his arms around me. “I’ve been waiting for you, Clown. You’re one of the few people that’s gonna understand this. This is my favorite part of the record. It’s the realest part of the record.” It was Sid having a breakdown from all the pain in this thing called Slipknot.
GRAY Our record kept getting pushed back. We toured for months before the record even came out. Finally the record comes out. We went to start the Pledge of Allegiance tour with System of a Down, and the date we were gonna start, that is when 9-11 happened.
CRAHAN We get banned immediately. We’d been singing “People = Shit” for three months. Then suddenly everyone wanted to put it on the ’Knot, man. That was our smallest tour cycle. We did seven or eight months, then no more.
TAYLOR We had to pass on a lot of tours because of fear. It wasn’t a good time for the country, but it wasn’t a good time for us, either. We got banned at a lot of radio stations and MTV wouldn’t touch us. So here we were with our finest work to date and nobody would give us the time of day. We were working our asses off and we weren’t getting paid shit. We were killing ourselves and going, “Where’s the fucking money? Where’s the fucking money?” And nobody could give us a fucking answer. Nobody could tell us what the fuck was going on. We were all burned out and we were looking for a little sunshine. The sunshine from the first album was totally gone and it was a total eclipse for a very fucking long time.
JORDISON Our manager at the time, Steve Richards, did a lot of good things, God bless his soul. He’s dead. But it was the old scenario you hear about with Ted Nugent or whoever: We ended up being ripped off and not told the truth. But I don’t think about that stuff anymore. I hope he’s resting well and that he’s in a better place. I hold no grudges against Steve.
THOMSON I should dig Steve Richards up and beat his fucking corpse. Every once in a while I think there may be a God that put a cyst on his brainstem and caused him to be a fuckin’ zombie. The dude just stepped into our lives and tried to cause rifts between band members because, as long as you’ve got them occupied, you can be raping them and stealing from them and they’re not noticing because they’re too caught up in stupid shit to see a bigger picture.
TAYLOR There was a lot of screaming and a lot of animosity, and that’s one of the big reasons we went and [restarted] Stone Sour. We had to get the fuck away. And I realized I had been giving up too much power, too much control. So when we did Stone Sour, I did a lot of the production and arranging, which was good for my head, but it didn’t fix the problem.
ROOT Corey started doing Stone Sour again, and they asked me to be a part of that. There were just all these question marks everywhere about the future of Slipknot because we were really having fun doing the Stone Sour stuff.
GRAY I was pissed. I thought, Fuck, we should be working on Slipknot. But now that I think about it, it was perfect because it gave Slipknot some time apart. We were sick of fuckin’ looking at each other. It was a long, hard time for me, but it was definitely for the better for the band. During the downtime I played with [stoner-rock band] Unida and just jammed with friends. I didn’t do much of anything—a lot of drinking, some drugs. Heavy, heavy, heavy drugs. Heroin. I was shooting speedballs every day and then pills. I was on everything, man. The  ‘Disasterpieces’ DVD was all that was happening with the ’Knot. In the beginning, I had my shit under control, but after a while, no. I became an addict.
FEHN No one was talking, and Corey was doing Stone Sour. I didn’t know if we were ever gonna get back together. I would wait for a call from Slipknot every day and it never came, and that drove me deeper into a depression. I’d drive home up the mountain and I would hear Corey on the radio with Stone Sour and it was a really good song. I’d be bummed out and happy for him. So what did I do? I got fucked up and tried to make it through the night. I was going through mental torture. I did a lot of drugs, and there were a couple nights where I’d wake up on the bathroom floor and not know if I was gonna see tomorrow morning.