In 2003, to help them expand beyond the hatred, disgust, and total metal overload they had captured with producer Ross Robinson over their first two albums, Slipknot recruited studio guru Rick Rubin, who had previously worked with everyone from Slayer to Johnny Cash. The result, the following year's Vol. 3: (The Subliminal Verses), is undeniably vicious and creepy, but also features enough mid-paced hooks and vocal harmonies to bring the band closer to the mainstream. It's still far from conventional or comfortable, however: Even unrepentantly radio-friendly numbers like "Vermilion Pt. 2" and "Duality" are filled with experimental touches and undeniable darkness. Below, the band members look back at the personal chaos and creative conflict that surrounded the making of the album.
JOEY JORDISON Me and Paul demoed a bunch of songs. I flew down to Los Angeles and arrived expecting to practice. I walk in and Corey says, "No, I'm going to the Rainbow [Bar & Grill, the famous L.A. rock-and-roll hangout]." And Shawn says, "No, I'm working on something else." I'm like, "What the fuck?! We're not fuckin' jamming?" So I go get a bottle of Jack Daniel's and drink myself into oblivion. Then I wake up at 3 o'clock the next day and say, "Right, let's jam," and no one wants to. It took us three fuckin' months before everyone came together.
COREY TAYLOR For the most part, I pushed everybody away. I would drink all day and then go to the bar at night. I was the quintessential lead singer. You were gonna cater to my ego and tell me everything was great. And that's so not who I am. Honestly. I never wanted to be like that. I would keep a bottle of Jack next to my fucking bed every day. Instead of figuring out why I was upset, I just drowned in it. I was cheating on my girl at the time—didn't give a shit. I just wanted to feel something other than terrible.
SID WILSON Like some of the other guys, I went through some relationship problems and started drinking and smoking reefer really heavily, nonstop all day to deal with the depression. I'd stay up for three days straight. Then I'd pass out for a day and continue the cycle until I realized a year later that there's a lot worse things than being on the pity pot. I started playing piano and that was a good release for me—getting rid of the depression through the keys.
PAUL GRAY I wrote a bunch of stuff—like I do every record—but I would spend half the time in the bathroom doing drugs. I'd try to play and I'd fall out of my chair a couple times and fall asleep in the middle of tracking a fucking song. It was pretty bad. I was severely depressed because, after Iowa, we were sick of each other and there was so much hate going around. I didn't feel that way. I wasn't mad at anybody, but everyone else was. And I kind of felt like, Oh, fuck, my family is moving away from each other. I thought the band might break up. I was like, What would I do? This has been the best thing that ever happened to me. I've never wanted to leave this. I'd hear someone say, "Fuck it, I'm quitting. I'm out," and that would fuckin' freak me out. I'd be like, Fuck, what are we gonna do now? Those problems always worked themselves out, but I'd dig myself in deeper holes. And then finally, all that had to stop or I knew I was gonna die. But once you get to a certain point, it's fuckin' so hard going through withdrawal. It's so bad. It's not that you don't want to quit. You just can't.
TAYLOR I was out of control for a while. One night, I was throwing shot glasses at people all night at the Rainbow. They were on the verge of banning me, and I had no idea I was so fucking out of it. We left and I was running down the street with my friend. We get to the corner of Sunset and Larrabee, right across the street from the Viper Room. And we see a big beeper-shop window, and my friend goes, "Man, I bet you could put your foot right through that." So I said, "Yeah?" Crash! Kicked it wide open. It was like slo-mo. I turned around and a cop was sitting at the stoplight. And I just wandered over and put my hands on the fucking hood. I've got black makeup running down my face. I'm barely dressed. I am fucking 200 pounds and I don't give a shit about anything. So they cuff me and sit me in front of the Viper Room and all these Hollywood people are coming up and laughing at me. I started spitting at them. The cop's laughing but trying to keep me from doing it. They took me to the station and all I wanted to do was piss. So I kept making them take me to the bathroom, which was delaying my fingerprinting process. In that time, my buddy managed to work out a deal with the owners of the beeper shop that if I paid for the window right away, they wouldn't press charges. So I'm just about to be processed, I'm on the verge of L.A. County fucking Jail and they get the call, help me put my clothes back on—because I was getting in the orange suit. I stumble across Sunset with a fistful of gnarly money and I drunkenly slur an apology. I go back home and pass out and I wake up and go, Oh my God, what the fuck just happened?
JIM ROOT I was in a horrible state of mind. I would lock myself in my bedroom because I couldn't handle talking to anybody. I had panic attacks so bad my entire body would shut down and I had to isolate myself. We had just come off tour with Stone Sour. All of a sudden we gotta do Subliminal Verses and I gotta be around these people I haven't talked to for a nearly two years. I had stopped doing drugs, I had stopped drinking, but my head was so fucked up that I saw a psychiatrist to help me cope. I would pick up on things that weren't even real and turn them into something that it wasn't. I was so inwardly focused I thought everything was about me. If Joey and Clown were talking, all of a sudden, in my head, they'd be talking shit about me.
SHAWN "CLOWN" CRAHAN Vol. 3: (The Subliminal Verses) was all about healing. Rick Rubin sat us down and we talked things out. I heard stuff from the other members I don't care to repeat. I gained a couple friends. I might have created a couple enemies. I knew where I stood with everybody. And since we were rebuilding friendships, it was real easy to rebuild the innovation of our music. We took some chances, but it wasn't like someone was guiding us. These are things we'd been wanting to do. Listen to that fucking record. It's spiritual. I love it even though I still didn't get what I felt I needed as an artist. I was like, "I need to create." They said, "You ain't creating." I went to Rick and he said, "Why don't you have a Pro Tools rig down there?" Next thing I know, dude's in my room with the gear, and we wrote the song "Danger—Keep Away" and it got cut in half. The whole song is on the digipack [special edition] with my vocals and the music I was trying to do. The best way to describe it is salvation and rejoicing in working again. It's like being an alcoholic and saying, "I need to get help." We knew we were gonna rebuild and we did.
MICK THOMSON Rick helped open a dialogue. People don't just walk up and spill their guts and then say, "I'm sorry." Rick was good at getting us all talking. He recognized he needed to take charge of the situation and it was like, "Good, now that that's behind us, let's write some fuckin' music and get back to being friends."
TAYLOR I wouldn't know what it's like to work with Rick Rubin. I only saw him about four times. Rick Rubin is a nice man. He's done a lot of good for a lot of people. He didn't do anything for me. I'm not happy with the vocals on that record. I didn't get a lot of say in anything. There were a lot of takes that I thought were much better than the ones they used. It sounds amazing, the songs are great. My performances could have been so much fucking better. And part of is my fault. I was coming out of a booze-induced coma. But I wasn't asked about a lot of shit. My melodic vocals sound very cool, my heavy vocals don't sound that great. And I regret that Rubin just wasn't there. He had eight different projects going on at the time. We were being charged horrendous amounts of money. And for me, if you're going to produce something, you're fucking there. I don't give a shit who you are.
ROOT As dark as that [time was for me], it was really amazing how attentive Rick Rubin was to us as a band. He knew I was going through a hard time. I never told him, but I got a knock on my bedroom door, and his assistant came up and he had this herbal calming drop that you put on your tongue to mellow out. A lot of the guys in the band say Rick was unavailable. And, yeah, he takes on a lot of projects at one time, but he also does things that are beneficial. He was listening and having us retrack things that needed work. He's kind of like Big Brother up on the hill. Even though he wasn't there physically every day, he was. And that's my favorite record we've done. We tried some things that were different and took some chances and they came out great. I was hoping we'd be able to evolve from that. I'm not sure that we have.
THOMSON People always say, "Oh, that record was so different. Did you want to do something more experimental or more melodic?" No, shit just happens, and at that point that's what came out. There's no rules. Our musical scope is very vast. Do you think the only thing the fucking nine of us can do is what you hear when we're together as Slipknot? We're all musicians. We can pretty much play everything. Can we play Texas blues? Of course we can. Am I gonna put that on the record? Fuck no, it doesn't fit. I don't understand people who go, "Oh, I love Metallica so I'll only listen to them." Metallica would tell you that's the stupidest thing you could ever fucking do. The shit Metallica listen to doesn't sound anything like Metallica. But shit, I can hear a cello piece and be inspired and then write something ridiculously brutal. It's just something that moves me to want to create something else.
TAYLOR We were in the studio three months and I hadn't laid down a stitch of vocals that I could call good. I was just so frustrated I was about quit the band. I was on the phone buying a plane ticket. It took Clown to talk me down. He said, "Look, we're gonna figure this out." Clown has always been kind of a father figure for me in a weird way even though we're only four years apart. I was going through a constant cycle of abuse and it culminated with me at the Hyatt on Sunset almost jumping out of an eighth-story window. If my buddy Tommy and my wife hadn't been there [to talk me down], I'd be dead. The next day I quit drinking for three years until me and my wife split up. I had such clarity in those three years because I had nothing to hide behind, and it took that sobriety to realize that my relationship was not for me. We had done too much damage to each other, and as much as we cared about each other, we were such gnarly personalities. I listen to Vol. 3 now and it's harder to listen to for me than Iowa because of what I went through.
GRAY I ended up going to rehab halfway through Vol. 3. It was down the street from where we were doing the record. The band had an intervention on me. Going through rehab kept me good for a little while and then we got back out on the road and I just knew too many people and I started using a lot again. I had some near-death experiences—nothing I'm gonna go into any detail about. And I had a few more stints of rehab here and there. I got left in rehab at the end of the arena tour with Shadows Fall and Lamb of God. It was the same place Lindsay Lohan went. I missed the last six shows of the tour. All of our techs can play guitar and bass and they all learned the songs and filled in for me. And that's when I really started going, Fuck, I need to figure my shit out.
CRAHAN My favorite part of touring [for Vol. 3] was the arena tour, and that got cut short for me because of my wife's Crohn's disease. I had to take her places, and then get my own bus. It came right out of my fucking pocket. I almost lost her a couple times. And in the end, I lost my old man and that shaped me into who I am today. I'm a Jedi that is on a new path that is in the dark forest. I finally got my wings and now they're putting me on a path that I've never seen and it's the final phase.
ROOT There were times I wanted to pull my credit card out and book myself a flight home. When we were in Europe, I called up the airline and priced out a one-way flight from Paris to Des Moines. All I had to do was give them my credit card number. And I just couldn't do it. I had to see it through. And then the next day I took one of my custom Fenders and started writing all over it with a Sharpie. I wrote down the airfare from France to Des Moines. And I wrote "The Go-Homeacaster" on it and "Fuck this," "Fuck this band," and "Fuck all these assholes." But I finally realized that all the guys in the band were there for me, I just didn't see it. So over the next couple years, I started to clean my act up slowly but surely, and it took me until Ozzfest 2004 to figure it out.
TAYLOR At Christmas 2004, I had $2,000 in the bank. It's hard for me to talk about. Dude, we got fucked by our old management so bad. We were young, we were really stupid, and we were duped. We thought that people were looking out for us and they weren't. But by the time we got to Vol. 3, we had found our current manager, Cory Brennan. He had worked at Roadrunner and been around since the beginning. The guy is so savvy and so together and, because we all knew him, we believed in him. He helped us get focused again and find that passion. He helped us realize, "Fuck, dude, we're in Slipknot! We're the biggest fucking band on the goddamn planet." And that gave us confidence and maybe helped us rally for one another on Vol. 3. It showed me that everybody in the band wasn't against me. We were there for each other. But really, we were rebuilding bridges for the whole first year of the Vol. 3 tour cycle. And it took us a long fucking time to get to that point where we healed a lot of wounds.