Slipknot heads home 'on top of its game'
The first time Jim Root was invited to join Slipknot, the guitarist said no. He was already in a group, the Des Moines metal band Deadfront. Slipknot was in California recording its 1999 self-titled debut, and guitarist Josh Brainard had just left the group.
"They called a couple times," Root said during a phone interview. "Sometimes I can be a little bit … I don't know, stubborn or something. Maybe to a fault. I wanted to do something on my own; I didn't want to step into something established."
The calls kept coming, and Root kept declining. After a Deadfront show in Cedar Rapids, Root sat down with a friend who had traveled from Des Moines to talk about Slipknot's offer.
"I told him my story and he said, 'What, are you stupid?' " Root recalled. " 'Jim, very few times in life do you get an opportunity to take a huge step forward. You've just been given a huge opportunity. Even if it doesn't work out, you could always come back to doing what you do now.' "
Root made the call and ended up joining what would become one of the biggest bands in metal. On May 10 Root is returning to the city where he decided to join.
Slipknot has since put out four platinum albums; their latest album, ".5: The Gray Chapter," went gold. The band has won a Grammy, toured the world and put on its own festival, Knotfest.
The band has also had its low points, most notably the death of founding member and bassist Paul Gray in 2010 of a drug overdose. Founding drummer Joey Jordison left/was fired (depending on whom you ask) in 2013. Alessandro Venturella and Jay Weinberg are filling in on bass and drums, respectively, while touring, but Slipknot hasn't officially named either a member.
Root was also a longtime member of Iowa's second-most famous band, Stone Sour, but was fired in 2014. Corey Taylor handles vocals for both bands.
Root said the firing made things uncomfortable for a while.
"When you're sort of blindsided by something like that, it kind of makes you wonder what the motivations or intentions are, or why it has to be like that, when really all that needs to happen is a Slipknot record, then we could go back to business as usual later," Root said.
"For whatever reason, it happened and it sort of lit a fire under my ass to realize that it doesn't really matter who you are or what your role is in any particular thing that you do. You always have to be on top of your game, because you never know what is going to happen. It definitely made me want to put my nose to the grindstone and hone my skills a little more. When something like that happens, it's like getting dumped."
Because he's not dividing his time between two bands, Slipknot is now getting all of Root's attention. He said he's never thought too far ahead about the band's future, but that members of Slipknot are already talking about another record. More than six years passed between the release of "All Hope Is Gone" and the new album. Root doesn't want to wait that long again.
"We haven't been able to do two albums back to back since our first one and 'Iowa,' " Root said. "We're at a point in our career where the band is on top of its game. If we take two years or however long away, who knows if we could come back? Someone might decide they want to direct or write or other bands' projects might take priority. I plan for the best and expect the worst. I started writing again today. Hopefully the songs will be on a new Slipknot record. If not, I'll find something else to do with them."
This month will mark five years since the passing of Gray. He obviously still looms large over the band, with ".5: The Gray Chapter" taking its name from the bassist. Root said Gray will always be a part of Slipknot, saying "Paul was Slipknot. His heart and soul was this band."
Root still owns a house in Iowa, but he spends most of his time living in Florida. Slipknot doesn't practice or record here (other than 2008's "All Hope Is Gone), so Root doesn't get many opportunities to visit his home state.
When he's back, it's a cram session for all the Iowa things that he misses:
"There are three or four huge things. Tasty Tacos. A&E eggnog, there's nothing like it anywhere on Earth. It's the best liquid ever made. Casey's Pizza and Chuck's (in Highland Park). I love Chuck's."
When: 8 p.m. May 10.
Where: U.S. Cellular Center, 3701 First Ave. E, Cedar Rapids.