Selling more than 2 million albums and co-headlining huge festivals can have a soothing effect on most any band, but not masked metal mavericks Slipknot.
Every concert they sell out, each album they peddle, every poster they sign leaves them hungering desperately for more. Not because they crave fame or cash or scantily clad babes their mission is to spread the word of nonconformity and rebellion far across the heartland, which is one of the reasons their new album, Iowa, due in August, is so brutal and chaotic.
"It's all about staying true to yourself," vocalist Corey Taylor, a.k.a. 8, said on Monday. "Our new album is the darkest, heaviest thing we've ever done, just because I'm so tired of seeing bands with a lot of potential go to sh-- because they taste a little success and then they choose to suck the money co--. We would rather go out and rage and be ourselves than sell ourselves out and not feel good about what we were doing."
In November, Slipknot started writing Iowa, and in January, after they had 11 new songs, they headed into Studio City for two-and-a-half months with producer Ross Robinson (Korn, Limp Bizkit). As sick and furious as songs like "Wait and Bleed" and "Spit It Out" from Slipknot's 1999 self-titled debut were, Taylor said the new material is even more brutal, combining elements of thrash metal, black metal and grindcore with the band's tribal tornado of noise.
"When we came out of the box we had a lot of rage, but it was really chaotic and it went in all kinds of different directions," Taylor explained. "Now we have more focus. And focused anger is a lot more dangerous than unbridled anger 'cause it has more direction. ... Basically, we want to put danger back into music again and show kids whose only exposure to heavy music is Linkin Park that there's some seriously f---in' brutal sh-- out there, and hopefully they dig it."
Slipknot named the album after their home state, which they describe as a conservative, unenlightened, working-class wasteland that they've always struggled to escape. And since their formation in 1995, the region's infected underbelly has served as a teeming breeding ground for their virulent music.
"You say 'Iowa,' and it's a f---ing punch line for a joke," Taylor said. "People automatically think of farms and cornfields. But some of the sickest people I've ever met live here. I'm talking about people who get boozed up and jump out of second-story windows for kicks. That's the kind of person I used to be. It's cool to come home and find out that some other dude I know did something f---ed up like setting some guy's house on fire or something."
Lyrically, Iowa is more personal and pain-stricken than Slipknot's first record. Taylor writes unflinchingly about his dysfunctional upbringing, his experience being homeless and the suicidal despair that he felt when he was younger.
"I've always written about stuff that's close to my heart," he said. "But for this one I really had to dig down deep and talk about a lot of sh-- I don't really like to talk about things that have happened to me that I've had trouble dealing with. But that's the beauty of music you can deal with these things in a positive way and wake up every day and feel good about it."
Fans can get a sneak preview of Iowa by downloading the song "Heretic" from the Roadrunner Records Web site.
"That song is pretty self-explanatory," Taylor said. "A heretic is somebody that goes against the standard, whether it's religion or politics or business or whatever. It's basically us throwing the glove down and saying, 'You know what? We're above the things you're trying to pull, and we're not gonna let you get away with it anymore.' It's based on the last two years of trying be in this band in a world that just doesn't get it."
Another song, "New Abortion," more directly addresses Taylor's childhood in Iowa. "It's about being born with no life, so you're dead from the start," he said. "I totally know what that's like, and I've talked to a lot of kids that feel that way. Hopefully this band can give them some kind of hope that they don't have to settle for that. They don't have to stay in that place."
For Taylor, escaping involved building Slipknot to the point where they could tour nationally. And the band started developing at a pivotal time in his unstable life.
"It gave me a place that I felt was home and healthy instead of unhealthy," he said. "It allowed me to do something besides sit in my basement and carve up my arm. One song on Iowa is about the last time I tried to commit suicide. Basically that was the last day of that life and the first day of this one. It was a brutal time in my life, and that brutality is what Slipknot is all about."
Taylor paused, cleared his throat, then continued. "People are gonna listen to this album, and they're either gonna hate it or they're gonna break down because they can totally relate to it. It's just about being in that spot where everyone's vulnerable. No one is f---ing bulletproof. I'm a living testament to that."
Slipknot are among the bands playing this year's Ozzfest tour, which kicks off Friday in Chicago (see "Ozzfest: Complete Itinerary Announced").