Nu-metal had existed long before Slipknot’s 1999 self-titled debut full-length album, but the band’s much heavier (especially in the percussion department) take on the genre bordered on something even darker and more sinister. Combined with the band’s iconic masks and ability to bring together fans of disparate demographics, their fanbase continued to explode with each new record – making Slipknot one of a handful of bands that feels like a cultural event with each new album release. It’s really quite impressive.
Success wasn’t always so assured for Slipknot, though. The band toiled for years with shifting lineups and a developing sound, finally gaining the attention of producer extraordinaire Ross Robinson. who would be inextricably linked with the band (and the nu-metal genre) forever. While until recently, Robinson seemed to dislike a lot of where the genre headed after its mainstream recognition (and was critical of it until recently), there’s no doubt that Robinson has left his mark in the music industry in ways that are still felt today.
Robinson recently appeared on The Peer Pleasure Podcast, where he had a lengthy discussion about Slipknot’s self-titled album – and how it changed both him and Slipknot forever. Special thanks to ThePRP.com for helpfully transcribing the conversation:
“…The first Slipknot record; the intention wasn’t to ever think about the release. Like somehow it wasn’t going to be [released], and we were just there together. The feeling was like ‘this is only happening here and we’re the only ones that know.’ And it was to create something so hungry and so hype to make the mountain glow. Like to give back to breath, to air, to love.
That’s what it feels like to me thinking about it. Fuck man, if that thing didn’t go platinum right off the bat, they wouldn’t be a band. So I knew that if can blast the mind shut, like blank, and the heart just goes [makes exploding sound] and the tears come down, for me, as a listener [makes deep breath sounds], ya know, [I’m] just fed.
Then one person that might hear it may not kill themself. Or [they may] feel listened to. Or feel loved with all our hearts, everything. No toughness, no ego, no… all that bullshit. It’s just ‘hard is lame’ and it’s the fucking heaviest thing probably I’ve ever done—that first album.
It was a time where Korn was doing ‘Got The Life‘ and Limp Bizkit was doing the ‘Nookie‘ and they totally abandoned me—not abandoned me—but they went off to do their own things. Different situations, we’ll always be connected. But I felt like being ‘Ross from Korn‘ was just over. I didn’t know who the fuck I was, because I was that identity for so long and [I] believed it.
And that to me was like double bass [drums]—which nobody was doing double bass at the time, like nobody—I think Slayer even quit doing double bass at that time. It’s crazy. It was considered like old ’80s kind of lame or something in music at that moment. And there it is like ‘Let’s fucking go double bass. Let’s get it on, Let’s go super metal. Eat it alive, bring it back and show the power of it.’
I was so into it and everything about it was just food. And I was so hungry and so ready to start something new. And that album was me, Ross, being reborn, starting all over again. And the fury inside my heart to capture and push, it was beyond words. The inspiration inside was just exploding, just ‘raaahhhh’. And it made the foundation, it’s like the core foundation of their whole career.
Anybody can just live off that first record and watch them play that first record today and be happy. It’s that powerful. So, the intention wasn’t that ‘oh, this is gonna be platinum’. It was just us, on an island. I had a label deal with Roadrunner and signed them, so they were my babies as well, as far label goes.
And Roadrunner was really just not helping the situation at the time. I fronted all the studio time. I put a deposit on the studio myself. I sent Mick [Thomson, Slipknot guitarist] to the dentist and paid for it all [laughs.] Like whatever it was, rehearsals, the rehearsal place, whatever it was, I fronted everything until almost till we started mixing. We were in the process that long after pre-production.
It didn’t feel like we were supported or cared about. It’s like we were completely alone on our own island and that’s what it sounded like: furious.”
Capturing the chaos and insanity that was this landmark album was certainly a process. Eventually, the band and Roadrunner Records were proven right – despite all odds, the album has sold millions of copies worldwide. Pretty impressive for a band with such a chaotic, abrasive sound.