Do you ever encounter a younger generation of fans who don't know it's also you behind the Slipknot mask?
Yeah — and it's pretty interesting. And honestly, I don't have to do that legwork anymore, the fans do. Like they talk about it — "Wait a minute, that's the same guy?" "Yeah, check this out." And they fill them in on the history and shit. It's kind of funny. There are people coming up now who have no idea that I'm one and the same, but then I get this whole new generation of fans getting into both bands. It's a good problem to have.
With you being a father, has your perspective changed at all over the years?
It's funny, because just in the last few years I've started to take a look at how I was and am as a dad. I wanted my son to be very self-sufficient the way I was. But it didn't occur to me that the reason I had to be so self-sufficient was because I didn't have a dad. He had a dad who was expecting him to show him all this shit but wasn't showing him how to do any of it. So a lot of my frustration with my son was because of that and I didn't realize it until a few years ago that it was my fault. How am I supposed to expect my son to do something when I didn't show him how to do it in the first place?
So it was almost like a catch 22 and it made me retrace my steps and look at the way I was raising my kids. I have a son but I also have a two-year-old daughter who's going to be three in September. I really rethought everything and have to start from scratch and lead with that standpoint of forget what I thought I was doing, like what are you doing? That has changed my perspective and my relationship with my son for the better. He's getting up there and now we're probably tighter than we ever were because we're talking, doing stuff together and I'm showing him that it's OK to ask for help. It's OK to ask for help because sometimes you don't know the answer and sitting there silently when you don't have the answer is actually dumber than just asking and getting it done right away. So my approach has softened a little bit because I started understanding that my setbacks weren't the right way to do it, passing it on to my kids.
You've also always been open with your fans about your struggles. Recently on Viceland's The Therapist, you discussed how you were sexually assaulted as a kid. It must be uncomfortable to share that. Why did you do it?
Maybe because of that very reason. There's an unwritten responsibility that comes with this gig, that people, they look to you for inspiration and guidance whether you like it or not. And I know a lot of people that don't like that responsibility. I take it very, very seriously. So in a lot of ways, I try to lead by example. And yeah, it's uncomfortable to open up like that, but at the same time, if you can't talk about an issue, how are you going to fix it? And that's one of the things that people don't understand. If you just don't say anything, that's not going to fix the problem. You fix a problem by working on it, you know?
I also know there's a giant stigma that comes with therapy and dealing with issues, with demons. A lot of people don't want to talk about it or look down at it or tend to make fun of other people for having it or engaging in it. I'm trying to break that down by showing people that, yes, I go to therapy as well and I'm still trying to work out my demons and the things I went through in my life. Will I ever get it all figured out? Probably not. But that's why it's a process. So if me bearing my shit and laying it all out helps people start to work on theirs as well, then where's the negative part of that? I can take criticism, I can take all that shit. But if I'm leading by example, why not? And if me doing that helps people get help and help themselves in their life and make better decisions and do better things for other people, that spreads like wildfire. I would be a fucking asshole not to try to do that.
With Soundgarden's Chris Cornell recently passing, it seems the discussion about mental health is happening more than ever in the music community. You talked about the stigma associated with it. Not that it gets "easy," but is it getting easier to have that conversation?
I'd like to think so. But you can also be very myopic and only see your end of the cultural swimming pool whereas the world, the country, is still a big place. There's still big pockets even in places here in America where that's still looked down upon because of some stoic bullshit where it's like, "Oh, you just sit on your problems, you shouldn't talk about it. Just suck it up, grow up." Nah, that doesn't work for me, fuck you. Growing up and sucking it up is not the same thing. Growing up means owning your shit and if owning your shit means talking to someone, what's the problem? I think it's that tough-guy bullshit that people have bullshitted themselves into, which actually makes you weaker. It makes you more susceptible to negative things in life. Nobody wants to talk about that.
It's one of the reasons why we have so many soldiers coming back with PTSD who are not getting the help they want because people around them for too long have told them to suck it up or get over it. That's not how you fix a problem. You don't fix a problem by getting over it, you fix a problem by talking about it and leaning on people who have been through it before. By talking to people, maybe you can get the answers that will help you with your problems. I have talked to so many soldiers who deal with PTSD and are so thankful that there's a network of veterans who have been through it before and have helped them get back on their feet. But people don't want to talk about that. I think maybe this is the time to talk about it. And I think maybe the juxtaposition is starting to break down and that conversation is starting to happen in places where maybe that conversation didn't want to happen. But it's a cultural thing as well. It's not just the stigma of getting help but letting go of dogmatic bullshit that has been breaking us down for too fucking long of making the appearance of strength actually seem weak.
Your fourth book, America 51: A Probe Into the Realities That Are Hiding Inside the Greatest Country in the World, is coming out this summer. From what I understand, you changed the direction of it entirely from what it originally was about. What happened?
[Laughs] Well, originally it was supposed to be a much lighter book, it was supposed to be a lot more fun — more of a cultural thing like a love letter that was regional-centric, the stuff I've seen over the years on the road touring through America. It was supposed to be that. And then Trump got nominated. And then Trump started winning. And then Trump won. And I basically had to start from fucking scratch. [Laughs] It was a fucking nightmare and I'm still reeling from it, like you have to be fucking kidding me. So it very much became a book about standing in the middle and trying to get both sides in the middle and talk to each other when there so desperately screaming from the extremes. Whereas, if they came toward the middle, which we all are naturally, and started talking about it, we would realize we have more in common than we think, that we all can agree on a lot more than this rhetoric or politicians are allowing us to agree on. We're whipped into a frenzy. This is bullshit and I've seen what can happen when you come together. Ignore that shit and come to the middle. So, it's changed a lot. [Laughs] But you know, people like when I open my mouth and talk shit.