The making of Slipknot's self-titled debut album was no walk in the park — unless you set shit on fire, eat your own vomit and pee on your buddies on the course of your average walk in the park — but when it came time to record its follow-up, the band was in a dark place even by their own fucked-up standards. Corey Taylor, Shawn "Clown" Crahan, Joey Jordison, Paul Gray and Co. were shocked by their sudden stardom and ill-equipped to handle it. From groupies to drugs, the band members spiraled into unhinged debauchery and crash-landed in deep depression. They channeled it all into the album, 2001's Iowa, which is universally regarded as the band's heaviest and most brutal offering. Songs like "People = Shit" and "The Heretic Anthem" flirt with full-on death metal in their extremity, both sonic and thematic, as the group embraced misanthropy and misery with open arms. Below are just six examples of the mayhem and madness that surrounded the record.
1. Producer Ross Robinson broke his back during the Iowa sessions and produced much of the album from a wheelchair
Robinson, who had pulled epicly harrowing performances out of Slipknot during the recording of their debut, went through his own trials and trauma around the making of its follow-up. The noted nu-metal producer broke his back in a motocross accident, a turn of events that he leveraged when trying to motivate the band members, many of whom were showing late to the studio due their excessive partying. "I took one day off and showed up the next day and I was in so much pain," he told us in 2011. "I just went, 'Look, motherfuckers, I'm showing up. Let's get it the fuck on.'"
His tenacity definitely made an impact. "He was in a wheelchair all fucked up and in pain," Slipknot DJ Sid Wilson recalled, "and you could hear him screaming in pain while he was producing the album."
2. Corey Taylor cut himself in the studio while recording vocals
By his own admission, Taylor was "a fucking mess" during the making of Iowa. "I was drinking a lot," he said. "I was in a relationship that wasn't good for me and I didn't want to realize it at the time." The singer channeled all his personal darkness into the album, and even took the extreme measure of cutting himself with broken glass while recording. "I was bleeding everywhere," he recalled in 2011. "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."
3. Jim Root had a major breakdown and Slipknot's managers put him on a crystal table to try to "mellow" him out
Many of Slipknot's members were deep into substance abuse by time the Iowa sessions rolled around, and guitarist Jim Root was no exception. "I'm pretty secretive and I was good at hiding my drug addictions," he admitted in 2011. "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?"
4. Iowa's intro track "(515)" features the sound of Sid Wilson having his own breakdown
Wilson's grandfather died during the Iowa sessions, and though the Slipknot DJ tried to make it back home to see him before he passed, he ended up being too late. When Wilson showed up to the studio shortly thereafter, the band, of course, found a way to direct his suffering into the album. "We see he's hurting," the band's percussionist and conceptualist Shawn "Crahan" Clown recalled. "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).' 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."
5. Roadrunner Records weren't sure what to do with Iowa once they hear how heavy it is
Following the success of Slipknot's debut album, it wasn't unreasonable for folks at their record label to hope that the band would go a little poppier and more radio-friendly with their follow-up, in an effort to court real breakout success. Of course, Slipknot being Slipknot, they did exactly the opposite. "Everyone thought they were gonna make the wimp-out record and become mainstream," Monte Conner, Roadrunner's VP of A&R at the time, recalled in 2011. "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?"
6. 9/11 derailed the band's touring and promotional plans in support of the album
Iowa was released on August 28th, 2001, just weeks before the 9/11 terrorist attack. After that event, the band found themselves "banned immediately," according to Crahan. "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."
"We had to pass on a lot of tours because of fear," Taylor added. "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."