Slipknot is no stranger to pain. Indeed, the world's most brutal metal band has become legendary by tapping into the pain of youth, and giving it a soundtrack.
Their ferocious self-titled debut in 1998 remains one of those records that freaks you out the first time you listen to it, and never lets up. Within 60 seconds you hear a sample of Carlito Brigante screaming, “HERE COME THE PAIN!” and BAMMMMM! They explode with such an intense force, you instantly want to either run and hide, or jump around in hyperactive excitement.
When their follow-up Iowa was released in 2001, the band of masked wackos had taken on the stigma of being one of the most terrifying essences in modern music. Focus on the Family called Iowa “Diseased stuff...Clearly motivated by an unholy alliance.” Naturally, the album was a great success, peaking at number three on the Billboard album charts and at number one on the UK album chart. Songs like “Heretic Anthem,” “Disasterpiece” and “Everything Ends” solidified their role as the premier force in angst-driven metal.
You know that feeling you get when you demolish an office, swinging a sledgehammer wildly into desks and walls, computers and glass flying all over the place, ripping out the drop ceiling so the everything can crash down upon you? Iowa is like that, only louder and more violent. Music like this has become a sort of therapy for emotional confusion and pain, one that is way more effective than an entire cabinet full of pills.
Their live shows grew more and more intense, with members setting each other on fire, trashing the stage, jumping all around and even into the crowd. Of course, this in itself brings on its own form of pain, as seen from all the injuries sustained by Slipknot DJ Sid Wilson, well-known as the guy in the gas mask who will jump off balconies into the crowd, or set a band member on fire to make the concert that much more exciting.
“I've done severe damage to my entire body, from head to toe,” Wilson laughs. “Concussions, head lacerations, breaking my heels, broken ribs, burns, you name it.”
As Roadrunner Records prepares to re-issue Iowa, Wilson looks back on the decade between then and now, with a fond yet somewhat mature gaze. “I did get hurt quite a bit on the last tour, and I'd have to go to the doctor and get cortisone shots and other types of therapy to recover. It was very hard on my body; I'm not the age I used to be, obviously.”
It was never just Sid getting wild, though. “We've set other members of the band on fire before, without them knowing. Corey's up there singing, we'll come up and squirt him with fluid, and then one of us would light him up. So I wasn't always alone in stuff like this. Clown would always kind of egg it on quite a bit, and Chris would get in there with us in the mischief.”
This is all part of the Slipknot experience, Wilson explains. “I'm just going out and trying to have fun, and interact with the crowd, make them feel like they're part of the band, just as much as we're a part of them. It's a family...and it's a culture now. The fans need to know that they're just as much a part of the culture as we are. So, by me going out in the crowd - the antics and behaving crazy, wrestling around with Clown on stage, lighting each other on fire, whatever - shows that nobody's really exempt. Even the band is at the mercy of this culture. No one is safe, not even the band. We're all a part of it together; anybody can be taken out at any time.”
After a decade of abusing his body for the sake of entertainment, Wilson says he started calming down, just a tad. “I kind of stopped going into the crowd, and started getting more crazy on the stage. So now, instead of jumping off 15, 20 foot objects into the crowd, I'm just jumping off 15, 20 feet objects and landing on my feet on the stage.”
Then he chuckles, “But then recently, I broke both of my heels doing this. That's a pretty severe injury; it's the worst injury I've sustained on tour.”
Wilson says that he does occasionally use cannabis to deal with his pain. “As I was beating myself up in the band, smoking weed started being a medical thing, as a pain reliever. I'm always in quite a bit of pain, actually, from my head to my toes, so there was quite a large amount of it being smoked to relieve this pain. I'd have pain from the moment I woke up and got out of bed, until I went and laid back down again.
“I have found other forms of treatment, since my pain level is so large, that the amount I'm having to smoke would at times leave me lethargic. So, more recently, I've been looking for other ways of pain relief, that seems to be more effective for the amount of pain I'm going through.”
For Wilson, this means simply living a healthier lifestyle. “I try to do things that don't require a medication, so I've been doing certain types of therapy and exercises, changing my diet, trying to eat very healthy. Anything and everything I can do as far as health-conscious in terms of what I put into my body. And getting into a better daily routine of stretching and exercising.”
Even so, he points out that cannabis has done wonders. “People have called it a 'miracle drug,' because there's all kinds of things it can be used for, to help people. But the medical industry and the people making the medications - the pills - they're looking at losing a ton of money if it was made legal, because it can be substituted for all kinds of medication, that make you way more lethargic, and are a lot more harmful to your body because of the other things that they add to it, all the chemicals in it.”
He's optimistic in cannabis becoming available nationally, even as our interview was conducted on the same day that the Department of Justice publicly reneged on the administration’s promise to not prosecute the medical marijuana industry. “We're slowly moving in that direction, and more and more states are accepting it,” Wilson points out. “Once you get the majority of states, federal will essentially fall in line. Once they've milked all the money they think they can make from it being illegal, then they'll finally give in.
In the meantime, Wilson continues to make music as an extension to his soul. In addition to Slipknot, Wilson has made a strong name for himself as DJ Starscream, and more recently, he debuted a solo album, titled simply Sid.
“I wasn't really trying to think of what fans want to hear,” Wilson says of his new record, “I was just trying to give a true expression of myself and my opinions and views of everything. If I'm gonna express myself, I'm gonna do it truthfully, honestly, and I'm not gonna hold back. I'm going to open up my chest completely, and let you see everything inside.
“There's absolutely no metal in it at all; it's kind of weird to people. There's also not a lot of DJing stuff in it. There's hip hop stuff, but not scratching or anything like that.”
The result is a hauntingly tranquil journey into a new range of soul music that feels more like a marriage of Saul Williams and Tricky than anything related to metal. Indeed, just as Williams' Niggy Tardust album redefined the relationship between Rock, Hip Hop and Soul, Sid stands tall on its own, as a testament to boundless exploration of the sonic caverns within Wilson's soul.
Rich with pianos and Wilson's raw yet unique vocals, Sid delivers dark poetry with hypnotic and subtle tracks. “Punk Rock Noise” includes Sid playing an acoustic guitar and crooning about existentialism spawned from seeing a dead bird; “I Can't Save Ya” delivers thumping bass and raps about “now our country's disappearing/I want justice/I want freedom.” There are certainly more lively tracks, such as “Nervous Central” and “Go The Distance,” but it's all a strange departure from what fans of Slipknot have come to love.
And in that, Sid is a triumph, as one of the most impressive albums of 2011.
Sid is now available, and the Tenth Anniversary Edition of Iowa - a double DC/DVD set, complete with new artwork, live recordings, band interviews, music interviews and more - drops from Roadrunner Records on November 1.