When you’re one of the world’s biggest bands, with legions of followers eagerly anticipating your latest release, there’s already plenty of pressure. But when you’re about to embark on your first album cycle without two of your key members, that pressure increases tenfold. This is now the case for Slipknot.
But despite the twin pressures of bringing two newcomers into a machine that’s been rolling for almost two decades, while also honouring a beloved fallen member, Slipknot guitarist Jim Root recalls the making of .5: The Gray Chapter as an experience that was not only wholly positive, but cathartic and therapeutic.
We recently caught up with Jim, who spoke to us over the phone from his home in Florida, in the midst of rehearsal sessions with the band’s new bassist. As well as taking us behind the scenes of the new album, Jim opened up on the band’s anticipation for the upcoming Soundwave 2015 and the future of Slipknot.
Music Feeds: New album, new tours, new members. How’s life in the Slipknot camp at the moment?
Jim Root: Life in the Slipknot camp is pretty damn good right now. I used to be really hesitant and reluctant and resistant to say such things [laughs] Actually, everything’s pretty cool. But I don’t want to jinx it and I don’t want to…. usually when I feel like everything’s going good that’s when something really fucked up happens. So, I’m gonna say it’s all shitty, everything sucks, blah! [laughs]
MF: Corey mentioned how you and Shawn got the ball rolling on the songwriting process. Are you able to elaborate on that and take us behind the scenes a bit?
JR: Sure. We’d been talking about doing a new record for quite some time, we just didn’t really know when. I mean, to give you sort of a whole synopsis, the whole us touring started to see if we could see do it without Paul, continue the healing process and then see what we could do after that, see if that could lead us into doing a record.
And so time went by and we were touring for a while and got to the point where we knew it was time to do a record and we wanted to do a record. So we pushed forward and started thinking about that and talking about that and we kind of had to wait for other bands’ tour cycles to wrap up and all that stuff.
It kept getting pushed back and pushed back and people in the band kept getting a little more antsy and a little more frustrated and a little more like, ‘What the fuck’s going on?’ And then finally I had enough, I was like, ‘This is stupid. We’ve been putting this off for over two years now. It’s time to get back to it and do what it is we’re put on this earth to do.’
And in conversations with Clown and with management and with the record label, it was definitely time. So, in November I sat down and kind of went to work. And then I’d finish arrangements and bounce them down and send them to Clown and that was it, that’s where the ball started rolling. That’s when everything else started to unfold, but basically in November 2013 is when I started demoing and inviting people into my garage.
MF: Was there a particular song or perhaps a moment during the writing process where it felt like you’d regained or picked up momentum?
JR: No, not really. It’s kind of weird, I mean, I was feeling pretty good about everything that was coming out even in the raw demo phase when it was just me sitting in my garage. I could really hear it and I had a good vision for everything and everything seemed to make sense. So if everything makes so much sense to me right now, it can only get better.
About the time that the rest of the band showed up to the studio and we really started hammering through things is when everything really, even given the circumstances, started feeling very normal.
MF: Did you guys go into the studio specifically wanting to make a tribute to Paul or did it happen organically?
JR: I think that was always in the back of our mind. I don’t think we necessarily planned on making it that way. I mean, Paul was a huge part of our lives and a huge part of the band, so he’s always gonna be a part of everything we do. I guess the way I look at it is every record we do from here on out is pretty much gonna be a tribute to Paul.
MF: What was the mood like during this album process considering what this album meant and it also happening in the wake of Joey’s departure and your departure from Stone Sour?
JR: It was definitely an interesting vibe at the studio. It created a lot of different layers and dynamics. There was a lot of emotions going on. It was a lot of shit that normally happens to Slipknot, which is a very abnormal band anyway, so anything that’s abnormal is normal for us.
It was really good though. I think it was really positive given the circumstances of everything that we go through and everything that we put ourselves through, which is two different things. I think it just tends to bring us together more as a band. We end up communicating more and working together a little closer. I think it’s all positive and therapeutic in sort of a dysfunctional way.
MF: Considering the fact that Slipknot have made great albums under emotional duress before, was there something you learned during previous sessions that aided you this time around?
JR: No, not really. My biggest fear is that because of all the emotional roller coasters that we get put through and we put ourselves through, I’m just worries that in some ways I’m becoming pretty emotionally vacant [laughs] Learning how to cut off different parts of my psyche or my mind or my feelings, which is kind of scary in some ways. Whatever, hopefully I won’t turn into Dexter Morgan. I do live in Florida.
MF: Are you able to comment on Joey’s departure at all?
JR: Not really and only because I haven’t spoken to him and I don’t really think it’s fair to him to really talk about until I’ve at least spoken to him. I love the guy to death and we’re just going through some shit. I haven’t spoken to him since October of last year, so I’d rather not say anything until there comes a time where I see him and talk to him or whatever.
MF: And your egress from Stone Sour, you’ve said that it maybe happened for the best?
JR: I mean, I’ve said that to friends and everything but I still haven’t talked to certain guys in that band either, so I really don’t know what they were thinking or a hundred percent of the reason why they made the decision that they made. I mean, it was basically put to me over a phone call and I thought that was pretty lame. Whatever, it is what it is. Onward and upward. I think I have a little bit of a different opinion on how music should be done anyway. Maybe it is for the better.