When Slipknot pulled together, forged ahead and released a new album, the triumphant .5: The Gray Chapter, after the tragic death of founding bassist Paul Gray and their surprise split with longtime drummer Joey Jordison, we met up with the band for an in-depth cover story on the harrowing events and the group's creative response. For the cover story, Senior Writer Dan Epstein interviewed Slipknot's singer Corey Taylor, percussionist Shawn "Clown" Crahan and guitarist Jim Root — but print pages being limited, the full contents of their extensive conversations did not make it into the final piece. Here, fresh off the cutting room floor, are exclusive, extended outtakes from Epstein's interview with Taylor.
THE FIRST TIME SLIPKNOT WAS FEATURED ON THE COVER OF REVOLVER WAS BACK IN 2001, WHEN IOWA WAS RELEASED. IS IT WEIRD TO THINK ABOUT HOW YOUR YOUNG FANS FROM THOSE DAYS ARE IN THEIR 30S NOW?
COREY TAYLOR Yeah, it's weird. We're looking at another generation of fans. And the crazy thing is, with everything that's happened between All Hope Is Gone and now, it's been six years since we've released any new music. So there's almost like a whole new group of people who have come of age without any new Slipknot music — all they've heard is the legend, all they know is the old stuff. It's almost like we're going back to basics and starting from street-level up. And it's cool! One of the reasons we're so excited about the album is because, to us, it feels like starting over in a lot of ways, for better or worse. And I think we're doing it the right way.
WELL, MAKING A RECORD WITHOUT PAUL AND JOEY IS KIND OF LIKE STARTING OVER, ISN'T IT? THOSE GUYS MADE A MAJOR CONTRIBUTION TO SLIPKNOT'S MUSIC.
Yeah. We knew it was going to be hard, and that's one of the reasons why we took our time coming back to it. Obviously without Paul, and with us splitting ways with Joey, it made it a little harder. But with this band, it's never been an issue of, "We can't do it" — it's always been an issue of "How can we do it? How do we do this?" So when something like that happened, we just kind of filled in the blanks for ourselves. We made sure that everything we did made sense, and that we were doing it for the right reasons. And we went for the music just from the standpoint of, if you want to do it, you've got to find a way to do it. The thing that we realized right away was, "It's not going to be the same — so let's not try and make it the same. Let's just go for what our heart feels." And once we figured that out, man, the music came really quickly; within two months, we had the basic template of what the album would be, and all that was left was to hammer out the details, which is always the best part, anyway. So yeah, it was a really good experience, man.
MY INITIAL IMPRESSION OF THE ALBUM WAS THAT IT MIXES THE ATTACK OF IOWA WITH THE CREEPY ATMOSPHERICS OF ALL HOPE IS GONE. WERE YOU INTENTIONALLY HEADING IN THAT DIRECTION FROM THE GET-GO?
It was one of those things where we didn't want to make the decision [regarding musical direction] until we heard what the music was going to feel like. And once we heard what it felt like, I thought it had the ferocity of Iowa, but to me, it's got the esoteric, melodic side of Vol. 3, which was a lot more artistic — the bite was still there, but we were starting to spread out artistically a little more. So I think with this, we took that darkness and creativity, and we made something that was just a great amalgam of those two albums. We had a lot of emotion, we had a lot to say, and we knew we didn't want to just go in and make a completely angry album.
JIM AND STONE SOUR PARTED WAYS ON LESS THAN FRIENDLY TERMS RIGHT BEFORE WORK BEGAN ON THIS ALBUM. DID THAT SITUATION IMPACT YOUR ABILITY TO WORK TOGETHER IN SLIPKNOT?
It was difficult, at first. It put a strain between he and I for a little bit. It was one of those things where the timing just sucked. But at the same time, we knew that, on both sides, we've gotta do what we've gotta do. But at the same time, we had this amazing project that we were working on [with Slipknot], so we were able to kind of channel that and put it into what we were making, which I think in a lot of ways helped the overall aggression and emotion really get there. Because this album bites. The riffs on this album really dig and really bite, and I think a lot of that [Stone Sour situation] fueled Jim's writing. Not to get too much into that side of things, but obviously it wasn't the way that we wanted the news to get out… Out of respect to Jim, I have to say that we talked about that, and we buried the hatchet there. But in a lot of ways, it is what it is. When you plan for stuff, there's always a chance that your plans will get ruined. I've been saying from Day One that the best way to get God to laugh is to announce your plans out loud. Because it's true, and that didn't even come from a religious standpoint — if you think it's going to go one way, it's totally going to go another. We dealt with it, and we just did the best we could with the situation.
WELL, THIS CERTAINLY ISN'T THE FIRST TIME A SLIPKNOT RECORD HAS BEEN FORGED AMID PERSONAL TENSIONS AND ISSUES.
Yeah! But you know what? I can say this with absolute honesty: I had so much more fun making this album than I did making All Hope Is Gone. It was just easier. There was so much tension during All Hope Is Gone, for whatever reason. It was just a fight to make it. This one felt much more like a concerted effort. I think we all realized how important it was. We knew that we wanted to make something special. We knew that we had huge shoes to fill. We all realized that we'd taken a lot of shit for granted; and when you realize that, you start to look at people differently, you start to treat people differently. And I think because of that, we were able to come together as a band and as a team again, and really do something cool — not just for ourselves, but for our fans, because the fans have been gagging for this for a long time. And even though I'm happy that we waited this long, I think it was exactly what we needed to do.
DID THAT SENSE OF PERSPECTIVE COME FROM PAUL'S PASSING?
Well, yeah. That hit us like a ton of bricks, you know? That was probably one of the hardest days that I ever had, if not the hardest day. A lot changed that day for us, you know? Some people went one way, others went another, as far as their lives, their approach towards life, and everything. We kind of looked at each other and went, "None of us is getting younger. We're the only people that know our history, that know what we did together." And in a lot of ways, it seemed like we were kind of taking each other for granted. So one of the positive things that came out of that, if you can find a positive thing, is that it made us realize that we're all we've got, and we needed to get a little closer. And I think we did on this.
CAN YOU COMMENT AT ALL ON WHY THE BAND PARTED WAYS WITH JOEY?
Not really. The only thing I can really say is that, in life, you're gonna have instances where the path that you're on leads to a T-section, and you're either gonna go one way or another. Sometimes one person's going one way and you're going the other way, and as much as you can try to go in the same direction, it doesn't always work that way. It was hard, but we did what we felt we had to do. And that's all I can say.
BECAUSE OF LEGAL ISSUES SURROUNDING THE SPLIT?
Because of everything—from legal issues to just being respectful towards him, and everyone else.
AFTER PAUL PASSED, WAS THERE EVER A POINT WHERE YOU THOUGHT, "THAT'S IT, SLIPKNOT'S DONE, WE'RE NEVER GOING TO MAKE ANOTHER RECORD"?
Um, it was definitely on my mind. There was definitely a point where I was like, "What do we do now? What does it mean?" And there were some dark days at that point, just trying to figure out what the hell was going on. But I don't think there was ever a point where we all felt like, "This is it" — if anything, it made us feel like, "What do we do now?" And I think going out on those Sonisphere shows helped. Those first Sonisphere shows showed us that it's just as important for us to continue as it is for the fans, for whatever reason. Everybody's got a different reason for being here, for being in this band and for continuing it. I think once we did that, we realized, "We still have our legs underneath us, we still love doing it, and we still want to do it." After that, it was like, "Let's give it a little time, and let the time for us to come back and make a record come to us naturally."
HOW DO YOU THINK SLIPKNOT FANS WILL RECEIVE YOUR NEW DRUMMER AND BASSIST?
I don't know, to be honest. All we can do is what we do. You start going down that path, and it's just another way to drive yourself crazy — trying to anticipate what a million people are going to say, especially in this day and age where everyone's got an opinion, and you don't really need to know what that opinion is. [Laughs] It's the curse and the blessing of the freakin' Internet. It is what it is. All we can do is take the same approach we've always taken, where we just do what we feel is right — and either the fans are with us, or they're not. This is us moving on, you know? You spend too much time in the shadows, and you forget what warmth feels like. You forget what real sunlight and joy feels like. This is us stepping out of the shadows and getting back on the path.