From living on the streets of Iowa to the death of Paul Gray, the Slipknot/Stone Sour vocalist recounts his most troubled times and how he pulled himself through…
ON BEING HOMELESS…
“Growing up was a life of displacement. We moved around a lot. My mom didn’t really know what she wanted to do with her life. It was me, her and my sister. We moved so much that for a long time I didn’t know where I was from. Then we came back to Des Moines for a while and that was a really good time. I think I was in second grade. Around fourth grade my mom hooked up with this guy and we ended up moving to Florida out of nowhere. I was yanked up again and this time I didn’t want to go. We went through some crazy shit down there, we ended up homeless on the beach in Fort Lauderdale for a while. I lost everything I had – all my clothes, all my toys and everything.
“We ended up moving back to Iowa, but to Waterloo, which is where I learned that life truly fucking sucks. Eventually I moved back to Des Moines when I was 15. I’d just quit drugs and moved in with my grandmother.
“I wasn’t the easiest person to get along with. I was fucked up from day one. Me and my grandma went through a lot of shit together. She’s old school, she was like, ‘If you don’t like it, get the fuck out.’ That’s where the homeless period came in and I spent a lot of time on the street. I was even more fucked up then than I was on drugs. I didn’t know who I was or what I wanted to do.”
ON RECORDING SLIPKNOT’S DEBUT ALBUM IN LOS ANGELES
“Walking to the rehearsal space every day in LA, we were passing crack addicts, junkies, dudes that looked like they’d cut you up for your shoe laces. But we all rolled together. There was all nine of us walking down the street, these weird looking Iowan kids and all those people stayed away from us because we looked fucked up too. We were outsiders in Des Moines, we were never going to fit in in fucking Hollywood.
“I came out of the recording session [with producer Ross Robinson] a completely different person. I’d never had anybody want me to go further and climb inside of myself in the past. We must have broke down and cried so many times. The vocal booth I was recording in was so nasty. There was a dead mouse in there, there was blood all over the place because the last guy to use it, Amen’s Casey Chaos, cut himself when he was singing. Then I would sing and vomit all over the place. So there was death, blood and puke there and no-one would come near that booth. There was also this dog at the studio that had been sprayed by a skunk, and it slept in the vocal booth one night. You could feel that on the song Scissors, that was the height of the nastiness; the smell of death in there was really getting to me and you can feel all that disgust and frenetic craziness on that track.”
ON SURVIVING THE IOWA TOUR
“When we went in to do Iowa we had no real idea of what it was going to be, we just wanted to make it the sickest, bleakest, angriest, saddest album ever and fuck did we do it. We thought making the record was hard, but it was nothing compared to touring it. We almost died. That was when a lot of the drinking and drugs started happening. I was drinking like a fucking fish. It was bad, it was a scary fucking time to be in Slipknot because we did not give a fuck and not in a good way. We didn’t give a fuck if people hated us or loved us. We were tired and hated each other. Nobody was happy, everybody was pointing fingers at each other. Some people were starting to become a little egomaniacal and it was really scary. I thought it was done. I thought Iowa was going to be the last album. To be honest, we’d talked about doing that anyway. We had talked about making one album and telling everyone to fuck off because that would have been so pure.
“I was having nightmares and I was starting to hate the people and things I loved. That’s never a good thing. The thought of singing made me sick, the thought of doing the same shit over and over made me sick.”
ON DRINKING LIKE A FISH
“I was pretty much drunk from the beginning of the Iowa recordings until about three months into the recording of [third album] Volume 3. I was pretty much drunk the whole time, except for a three month period when my son was born.
“It was bad, man. It hurt my voice, it ruined my health, I gained a shit load of weight, I looked like hell and my wife stayed with me and told me I had a problem. I missed a whole year of my son’s life from being drunk. It was tough.
“[Slipknot percussionist] Clown and I didn’t talk for a good year and half. I saw [drummer] Joey Jordison on the Murderdolls shows but, other than that, I really didn’t talk to anybody else in Slipknot while I was drunk. I was drinking from noon ‘til midnight and it was making me think, ‘I don’t need these fucking people’. I was skipping practices, making up excuses, and going drinking.”
ON THOUGHTS OF SUICIDE
“I had a nightmare night in LA while we were making Volume 3. I came very close to throwing myself off an eight-storey balcony at the Hyatt on Sunset. It was one of those things where you wake up and realise that something’s not working. My ex-wife was with me and she told me I needed to change something. I readily agreed. I’d turned into a person who I didn’t like and who I didn’t respect. There was very little of the person I wanted to be in the person I was.
“It started from that day – I decided not to drink anymore. I decided no more lies, no more crap. If I was going to be the person I wanted to be, it had to start with honesty. It starts with knowing yourself before you can start saying anything about anyone else.
“Luckily, it was during the recording process, so I got to vent a lot of that on that album, which was really good. You can kind of see it in some of the lyrics I wrote – especially on Danger Keep Away. Probably the most cathartic part of that whole recording process was just doing that song.”
ON THE DEATH OF BASSIST PAUL GRAY
“There’s a part of me that misses my friend so much; then there’s part of me that gets mad. But I know he fought [drug addiction]. He fought his whole life but he was so ensconced in it. He was clean off and on. He was one of those guys who fought it as long as he could. But unfortunately he lost. He had demons he fought for a long time. His body just couldn’t handle it anymore. I hope that people learn a lesson from this. None of us are indestructible, none of us are immortal. All it takes is one accident. When someone dies like that, it’s just shocking. It hurts. And it fucks your head up.
“You have to try to look to the positive. You have to try and learn something. If you dwell on the negative, you’re fucked. It was weird to play in Slipknot without him. It was definitely weird. There hasn’t been one show since that I wasn’t thinking about him. All the way through, you can feel he’s not there. I used to go to Paul for the backup vocals on Spit It Out and I went to do it on the first show we played after he died because it was instinct. When I turned around and he wasn’t there, it knocked me on my ass. It was heavy, man.
“The song Snuff means a lot to me because of him. He was so stoked with that song, and so proud of us doing it. I was so nervous when I brought it in and he was one of the first to see the potential in it. He really fought for it. I’m glad we got to play it live before he died. That was a special moment for me. When I listen to it, it makes me smile to think of him…”