Nearly three years elapsed between Slipknot's second album, 2001's Iowa, and Vol. 3: The Subliminal Verses, and during that time there were countless rumors that the Iowa nine-piece metal band had imploded. It didn't help that nobody went out of their way to dispel the myths or that various members embarked on time-consuming side projects during the hiatus.
So just in case anyone gets similar ideas during the forthcoming downtime — which, yes, will include new material from controversial side project Stone Sour — the 'Knot are reasserting their tightness with a brutal and punishing double live album, 9.0: Live, which comes out November 1.
The package features 24 songs culled from the band's three official albums, including "Pulse of the Maggots," "Vermilion,"
"People=Sh--," "The Blister Exists," "Left Behind," "The Heretic Anthem" and "The Nameless." Unlike live albums that perfectly recreate a band's album performances, 9.0 Live is raw, scarred and filled with chaos and improvisation.
"Studio albums are cool because they span the tables of time and you can work on the music until you're ready to put it out — but when you play those songs live, they take on a whole different life," percussionist Shawn "Clown" Crahan said. "Suddenly, it's of the moment and there's this raging human pulse that's full of anger, love, hate and pain, and you spit that out to people and they taste that album differently."
In Slipknot's case, it's the taste of gasping desperation. As urgent and turbulent as Slipknot sound on CD, the nine bandmembers create a whole different realm of cacophony onstage. Members collide, fans clamber up and knock over equipment, masks suffocate and choke the musicians. It's a state of anarchy that few bands can create, let alone harness into concrete, discernable songs.
"While we're playing, we're dying under our masks and exploding with the adrenaline of achieving our goal, which is to be as completely uncomfortable as humanly possible for our art," Crahan said. "We're slamming our heads and screaming at each other. There's real pain there. For me, it's the pain of mortality and the pain of being away from my wife and her being ill [Crahan's wife suffers from Crohn's Disease, an intestinal ailment]. And when the show ends, we look at each other's eyes, and we know we've pushed ourselves as far as we can at that point on that day in this life of ours."
To make sure the songs on 9.0: Live were as tight as possible, Slipknot recorded dozens of shows over the past year from their tours for The Subliminal Verses. Then, they listened back to the hundreds of hours of tape to locate the best performances, which were strung together with very few overdubs. While recording so many shows made it easier to find performances that were up to the band's standards, having every riff and beat recorded gave the musicians extra incentive not to screw up. It's a lesson they learned back in 2002 when they were recording shows for their DVD "Disasterpieces."
"When we got the audio back from 'Disasterpieces,' we realized we all gave a really, really good performance in part because we knew we were being taped," Crahan said. "And we knew then that there was a lot of potential for a live album, so we decided to tape lots of shows and make sure we were on point the whole time. We are very anal-retentive when it comes to playing anyways, so we are very hard on ourselves and no one comes up half-assed or they get beaten down. But when you've got a microphone hanging onto your every note, you tend to give maybe 115 percent instead of 110 percent."
The visceral quality of the recordings Slipknot sifted through brought back many painful memories: bassist Paul Grey collapsing from exhaustion, percussionist Chris Fehn jumping the wrong way and tearing a ligament in his knee, and Crahan grappling with DJ Sid Wilson 10 feet off the ground and taking a dive headfirst into the concrete.
"I had no time to think or react," Crahan recalled. "I just remember hitting and seeing a white light, and then thinking it was like I was in a car wreck and I'm going, 'Am I gonna make it?' I felt it hard and was very sore for about two weeks afterwards. We laughed about it because it emphasized the extent of my reality. If I didn't have music, I'd be no good here [on this planet], so I'll gladly fall like a bag of flesh to the ground."
Back in the safety of his home in Des Moines, Iowa, Crahan is currently working on a video for the 9.0: Live recording of "The Nameless," which he will direct, using a combination of live shots and backstage footage. Around the same time the clip is distributed to video outlets, the version of the song that's on Vol. 3: The Subliminal Verses will be sent to metal radio as the group's next single.
Although they stopped taping shows months ago, Slipknot will start their final U.S. leg of the Subliminal Verses tour on October 14 in Cincinnati. Dates run through November 15. As I Lay Dying will open the entire tour; Dillinger Escape Plan will play the first five shows and Unearth will replace them for the remaining 16 dates.
After the tour is over, singer Corey Taylor and guitarist Jim Root will return to the studio to work on their second Stone Sour album. The band has written and demoed over 30 songs and plan to enter the studio on January 25 with producer Dave Fortman, who has worked with Mudvayne, Evanescence and Motörhead. In a post on the band's official Web site, Taylor said the album will be coming out "very soon" and added "I promise we will not disappoint." A full Stone Sour tour is tentatively scheduled for next April.
Around the same time as Stone Sour start making their rounds, Crahan will return with the second album by his side project To My Surprise. Many songs for the record are already written and the drummer is in the process of searching for a producer for the disc, which will be released on his own label, Big Orange Clown, which put out the debut album by Gizmachi, The Imbuing, earlier this year. For Crahan, playing in To My Surprise is like a trip to fantasy camp. He gets to be the drummer for a band that doesn't feature any surplus percussion, he gets to be the main writer and co-producer and he gets to play music that's not pummeling metal.
"Dude, I'd have to put a gun in my mouth if it was metal," he said. "I'm already in the best metal band in the world, so I don't need to step on that doorstep. So, instead, I want to make an album that excites me and is full of surprise. That's what it's all about. 'To My Surprise: the album's disco. To My Surprise: Shawn is playing drums. To My Surprise: there are lots of psychedelic parts on here.' But one thing is for sure. It is a real band and I'm gonna work with them and tour with them the entire time Slipknot are away."
For a full-length feature on the making of Vol. 3: The Subliminal Verses, check out "Slipknot: The Ties That Bind."