Hang on to Yourself

The problem is the enslavement of a whole nation to the rather small and insignificant goals of the few that own (or control) almost everything.

--Walter Mosley

Fuck it all. Fuck this world. Fuck everything that you stand for.


I‘ve been cruising town the last week listening to three CDs. I’ve got two discs from the Miles Davis Bitches Brew box set surrounding Slipknot, released about a year ago. Drive around with this musical Lucky Pierre blasting from your stereo, and believe me, your mind will be expanded in ways Tim Leary never dreamed of.

The reason these albums go together so well is that they all deal with themes of oppression, both artistic and real-life, and they‘re stretching the limits of music and art in ways that haven’t been done before.

And I know what you‘re thinking right about now: Slipknot? Aren’t they the guys from Bumfuck, Iowa, who wear masks and shit? Aren‘t they a metal band? How dare you mention them in the same breath as Miles?

Because Slipknot are the real shit, that’s why. They‘re one of those rare bands that come from out of nowhere to really shake things up, a band that actually give a damn about what they’re doing and have the talent to back it up.

I recently spoke with Corey Taylor, Slipknot‘s lead singer, about the band’s music and lyrics, and about the state of the world as we know it.

I keep my scars from prying eyes

Regarding the masks: Each is used to express the inner self of that particular band member. The masks are intended to show that fucked-up part of each person that is generally hidden from the public. Slipknot founder Shawn started out as a welder who made furniture and sculpture. He‘s the only one who wears a store-bought mask. The rest of them are handmade, and it shows. This is real outsider art, baby.

As Taylor puts it, ”When you come from a place like Des Moines, there’s a lot of repression as far as emotions go. There‘s no real way to express yourself. When I write, I kinda go back to that place where -- everybody knows this place -- where you’re sitting in your room and you‘re enraged and there’s nothing you can do about it and you‘re enraged. And when this band got together, it just kind of exploded.“

Liberate my madness

The sound is heavy, but it’s also tribal and arty. (The nine-piece band features three drummers, a DJ, a samples player, bass and guitar.) Make no mistake, Slipknot are metal, and they play it with a vengeance. But as much as the kids love them, you could easily see them doing an art opening, and you know what? They‘d get the same reaction from that crowd as they do from the kids.

”I consider us a metal band,“ Taylor says. ”We grew up on metal -- the aggressive shit. But I don’t think we‘re entrenched in it. We have the ability to go outside of it and pull pieces from our other influences and make it ours. I think that’s what sets us apart.“

Gimme any reason why I‘d need you, boy

Slipknot’s record label is Roadrunner, out of New York City. Unless you‘re a metal fan or you work at a record store, you’ve probably never heard of Roadrunner. While it‘s recently begun to expand its roster to include non-metal acts, the label is best known for such hardcore metal acts as Coal Chamber, Biohazard and the reformed Misfits.

The band had plenty of offers from major labels, but turned them down. Says Taylor, ”We saw so many bands that we believed in when we were younger just go to shit after they got a little cash in their pocket. I’m not saying all [major label] bands do that, but a lot of the bands that we looked up to did. And it hurt our heart. That‘s why we decided to go for it ourselves. We don’t give a shit about the money -- we don‘t give a shit about the fame. All we care about is the music.“

I’m a victim -- Manchurian Candidate

The band‘s marketing arm is even more independent and grassroots than its label. Instead of getting hooked up with some payola-based independent radio promoter, Slipknot use a promotional company called Streetwise, the brainchild of Dave Benveniste, who manages another new-metal stalwart, System of a Down. Streetwise is an Internet-based marketing system that involves fans who go out to record stores and concerts to promote their favorite bands.

In a recent article in Alternative Press, Benveniste said, ”The key to the company is: Empower the kids. I want to create an army. I want to create a movement. In three years I want to have this up to 150,000 to 200,000 kids, where we can go to the political arena and say, ’Well, hey, we want this,‘ and be heard.“

When I ask Corey Taylor how he feels about that, he says, ”The only power that anyone has over you is the power you give them. We’re constantly putting people in a position to watch out for us that really don‘t give a fuck about us. It’s like we‘re too stagnant to realize that they aren’t making decisions for us, they‘re making decisions that affect us the wrong way.“

I am the push that makes you move

”Have you ever seen thousands of kids at a show sitting on the floor?“ I’m talking to Matt, a Slipknot fan from Chatsworth. ”Last time I saw them, Corey had everyone sitting on the ground and then getting up. For a band to control thousands of kids like that, that‘s pretty amazing.“

Taylor chuckles. ”Yeah, I did that. But it’s not to fuck with the crowd. We just want to see how far they‘ll go with us. It’s all about reaction, cause and effect. Without the crowd, there is no show. Without us, there is no crowd. It‘s symbiotic. We’re more of a come-with-us band, rather than let‘s-see-what-the-fuck-you-can-do.“

I am my father’s son, ‘cuz he’s a phantom, a mystery, and that leaves me nothing

”I don‘t really talk about it,“ Taylor says. ”I didn’t have a great childhood, but I didn‘t have a shitty one, either. I had one that really affected me. I never knew my dad; he disappeared before I was born. That was me saying to anybody that’s ever felt that way, it doesn‘t really matter who your dad is. It matters who you are. Once you realize that, you can move on.“

The lyrics are written out on the liner sleeve, but to really understand them you have to hear them in context. Lyrical poetry butts up against outbursts of rage and despair, some of the lines delivered in a growling monotone, others very clearly sung.

”It’s writing from a point of view of ‘This is where I was at when I was at my lowest.’ The next album is going to have more of that, but also the freedom and the fearlessness to say exactly what the fuck we want.“

Forget about the battle, it‘s the war we gotta win

I read an online review to Taylor. The author of the review is a girl named Christy, who describes herself as a total pop fan. She had downloaded a Slipknot song because her friend told her about the band. Christy is now a total Slipknot fan.

Taylor is genuinely moved when I read him Christy’s review. ”That says we touch a lot more people than the genre we‘re in. And any time our music touches somebody, it’s really cool. I think we have the ability to pull all the tribes together. And that‘s not something you find a lot.“

You can’t see California without Marlon Brando‘s eyes

Slipknot perform as part of the Tattoo the Earth Tour at the Orange Pavilion in San Bernardino on Saturday, August 12. See Concert Pick of the Week.

Sponsor Content


All-access pass to top stories, events and offers around town.

Sign Up >

No Thanks!

Remind Me Later >