There's no end to weird and intense Slipknot stories, but none of them offer as much insight into the group's darkest hours as those that come from recording the punishing 2001 album, Iowa. This metal shred-fest has some of the best Slipknot songs, ranked as such because of their volatility. By the time the group hit the studio with producer Ross Robinson, money, substances, and each Slipknot members' barbaric attitude had nearly ended them.
Drawing on the bleak setting of their home state, Slipknot pushed through a life-threatening experience, new additions, and an utter contempt for one another to record one of their most beloved and best-selling albums. The stories behind Iowa give fans a peek at how Slipknot came back from the brink of self-destruction.
As the singer of Slipknot, Corey Taylor was having a blast living in Los Angeles and working on the follow up to the band's hit debut album, but he was far from happy. Recording Iowa gave Taylor an outlet for his deep-seated emotional hurt stemming from his dark childhood, but instead of exorcising his demons, the album exacerbated many of his personal problems.
While laying down vocals for the album's 15-minute closing track, Taylor put himself through hardship. Since he was in the recording studio by himself, he took his clothes off and used a broken candle to harm himself. He told Metal Hammer, "The biggest memory for me was recording "Iowa" [without clothes], cutting myself up with a broken candle. That was probably the one memory that comes out."
Taylor later explained in another interview what he was going through when he took such action. At the time he was trying to rationalize the situation by projecting the persona of a brooding rock star, but he later realized he was holding onto a lot of anger. He told Revolver:
I just wanted something, I didn't care what it was. I was rolling in [angry], rolling out [angry], and I wasn't letting anything go. When I was doing the [self-titled] album I was letting so much go and it felt good. Doing Iowa... it was just rage for the sake of rage.
While recording Iowa, everyone in the band pushed their personal lives aside and put everything they had into the album. They were away from their families, they missed birthdays and anniversaries, and the group's DJ, Sid Wilson, lost his grandfather and wasn't able to attend his funeral.
The emotional hardships are clear in Wilson's vocal performance in the opening song, "(515)," which features a legitimate emotional breakdown from Wilson mixed with ambient noise. Percussionist Shawn Crahan told Revolver:
[Sids] like, 'I gotta go. My grandfather's [health is failing]. I gotta get there. Sh*t's going on.' Grandpa [passes]. Didn't get there. Sid shows up. But we see he's hurting. He gets in [the recording booth]. They start the song. He starts singing. Next thing you know the song's done, he has a breakdown and that's "(515)."
That's all Sid. Just gone.
I come in the next day, Ross is weeping. Puts his arms around me. 'I've been waiting for you, Clown. You're one of the few people that's gonna understand this. This is my favorite part of the record. It's the realest part of the record.' It was Sid having a breakdown from all the pain in this thing called Slipknot.
The intensity of Iowa doesn't just come from the inner turmoil the group was facing at the time; Slipknot was going through physical pain, as well. According to Sid Wilson, drummer Joey Jordison was playing so hard that he had to bandage his hands at the end of every session.
Jordison is one of the heaviest drummers out there, and his playing is incredibly technical, which means he must have put himself through a lot while recording Iowa. Wilson told NME:
It was brutal. Joey’s hands would be bleeding at the end of the day. Every day, his hands would be bandaged up from how hard he was pushing and trying to open the envelope even bigger.
Ross Robinson is arguably the godfather of late '90s and early 2000s metal. Whether he was working with nu-metal bands like Korn or with Slipknot, his production style allowed the artists to push themselves beyond their perceived capabilities and reach something heavier.
Prior to producing Iowa, Robinson broke his back while riding a dirt bike. Instead of letting that hinder the recording, he used his energy to bring more focus into the studio. Robinson told Revolver:
I broke my back in a bike accident, which was really perfect for the album because Slipknot were experiencing huge success and going out every night and not showing up in the studio on time. And as soon as I broke my back motorcrossing, I took one day off and showed up the next day and I was in so much pain. I just went, 'Look, motherf*ckers, I'm showing up. Let's get it the f*ck on.' That seemed to work.
DJ Sid Wilson agreed, saying that Robinson's desire to push through the pain led to members of the group bringing their A-game: "Ross got hurt and he'd still come back to work hurt. That guy and me got a lot in common. He was in a wheelchair all f*cked up and in pain and you could hear him screaming in pain while he was producing the album."