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The Lowdown: Jim Root of Stone Sour/Slipknot

The Lowdown: Jim Root of Stone Sour/Slipknot

"I'd rather get up in front of ten thousand people and play a show than be in a room with ten people. But then again I'm kinda weird that way&

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Last Edited by: Chris MUG5 Maguire November 13th, 2010.

He’s a man who’s toured the world time and time again, racked up countless record sales and pounded out some of the meanest and most poisonously melodic riffs of the twenty-first century - and he’s done it with not one, but two Gold and Platinum certified metal bands. Jim Root is a man to be admired.

Bone-crunchingly heavy, blisteringly raw, alluringly abstract and elegantly hypnotic, since 1995 Stone Sour have encompassed the power of human emotion and enveloped it in chorus, distortion, delay and overdrive to produce a sound simply unique to them. With thought-provoking spoken word tracks and stimulating, pensive lyrical themes, the solid, bitter quintet have always chased their primary objective of standing out, and truly making the listener feel.

In September 2010, with two globally successful albums and an already rich and gloriously amassed fanbase under their belt, Stone Sour released their hotly anticipated third record, Audio Secrecy. Immediately, critical reception reaped proclamations of musical maturity, eclectic genius and dark, enticingly moody themes throughout. In support of the release, Stone Sour embarked on a co-headline tour with Californian metalheads Avenged Sevenfold, bringing the Iowan thunder to the miserable UK. We caught up with Jim Root before his Birmingham show, in a considerably nippy Stone Sour dressing room…

AltSounds: Hey man! How’ve you been doing?
Jim Root: I’ve been pretty mellow, I slept in today. I got out of bed at like 2:30 today… [laughs]

AltSounds: Haha, that sounds awesome man! You can’t beat a lie-in…
Jim Root: No way!

AltSounds: So how’s the UK been treating you so far?
Jim Root: It’s been awesome, I was a little bit nervous coming into this. In some ways, I don’t really know if this bill makes a lot of sense, because Avenged Sevenfold are quite a different band to us, and I was a bit nervous about that. But it’s been going really well and we’ve had a chance to tour with them for like eight weeks in the States, and I got tp know the guys – and they’re all really cool dudes, I’ve been hanging with Brian [Synyster Gates] a lot recently. It’s been cool.

Music is like wine, it ages beautifully – and if you spend enough time you can just sit there and listen to it entirely differently.


AltSounds: Has this setup grown on you now that you’ve toured for a while?

Jim Root: Yeah, I’ve come to like it! We’ve never been a band to have a big production, so it’s kinda weird playing with a band that do. Like, with Slipknot there’s always a big production and then there’s Stone Sour, where we’ve always stripped everything down so it’s just us and our backdrop – a proper punk, rock’n’roll show. Then there’s A7X and they’ve got fire and this big stage set, and we start to think “Wow, should we have done something like that?” But I think we made the right decision, sticking to what we do – the raw, powerful and simple us. We’ve always been punk rock, so what you see is what you get on stage. But yeah, sometimes I watch their flames go up in the air and I’m like “Fuck! We should’ve brought flames!”

AltSounds: It’s tricky following those big flames! [laughs]
Jim Root: Hahaha, too right man! [laughs]

AltSounds: Now, you guys released your latest album Audio Secrecy in September. How’s the response been as of yet?
Jim Root: I think it’s been good, and obviously it’s a very eclectic record – but I think that’s what you get when you have 5 guys who write music and you don’t have a lot of time. It’s a little bit weird… I’m on the fence with it. I can never look at anything I do subjectively – whether it’s a Stone Sour record or a Slipknot record, I can never really have my own opinion of it, ‘cos in my opinion it’s all crap [laughs] We never really have enough time to finish. I’ve heard Corey saying this, and I keep saying this in interviews, so I’m sorry if it becomes redundant. Corey is very into the movies, he studies editors and directors, things like that, and most directors say that they abandon films rather than finish them. That’s how I feel about our records. Everything we do, we’ve got schedules to line up with and deadlines to meet, and it’s even harder for Corey and I because we’ve got to juggle two bands. I don’t ever feel like I’ve had the time that I’ve wanted to actually finish a Stone Sour record – it feels in some ways that they’ve been abandoned (like the director metaphor).

AltSounds: So does that mean that you feel you could add to the albums you’ve released? Is there stuff in your head you’d want to include?
Jim Root: Exactly man, when we go out and play songs from the record, I’m hearing other guitar melodies and lines that could be layered underneath. I’m like “fuck, why didn’t that hit me when we were in the studio?” Music is like wine, it ages beautifully – and if you spend enough time you can just sit there and listen to it entirely differently. I’ll never be able to listen to anything we’ve done like someone who’s just picked it up for the first time.

AltSounds: So did you guys enter the studio with the intention of sounding different?
Jim Root: Nah man, we didn’t have enough time! [laughs] We pooled together what each one of us had written individually. Josh [Rand, Stone Sour’s rhythm guitarist] came over to my house in Florida and we were listening to some of the demos and we kind of started writing a little bit. Then, by the time we got to the studio we were sort of familiar with everyone else’s songs – we all brought about five or ten in and by the end of it we had around forty songs. The thing that took most of the time was figuring out which songs to put on the record. In some ways, I wish we had fewer songs to sift through so we could’ve spent more time in the studio, working on those songs. It was weird… what was the question? [laughs]



AltSounds: [laughs] Dude, I have no clue either! [laughs]
Jim Root: Haha, oh shit!

AltSounds: [laughs] Let’s just move swiftly on now… Haha! Whilst you were in the studio, you reunited with producer Nick Raskulinecz, who worked on Come What(ever) May. Did that make the recording process easier, having that familiar face?
Jim Root: It did in some ways, yeah. There was a lot of time between Come What(ever) May and when we started recording Audio Secrecy, and you tend to remember all the good moments, you kind of forget about the bickering and the arguing. I remember starting to do pre-production and all of a sudden all the shit that happened on Come What(ever) May came back and I was like, “Oh yeah! I remember fucking going at your throat”. But it was cool, ‘cos we chose Nick for a reason, there’s a certain comfort level that we have with him. And given the time constraints that we had, we didn’t wanna have to put the time into learning a new guy, cos you’ve gotta learn about how a guy works, how he wants to push you and how he’s going to alter the direction of the material. But I don’t think we’ll do another record with Nick.

AltSounds: Fair enough man! I noticed that Audio Secrecy is the only one of your albums not to feature a “Parental Advisory” sticker on the front of it…
Jim Root: Ohh yeah, it is! [laughs] Corey must’ve tightened up his dirty mouth [laughs]

AltSounds: Haha! Does that indicate a change in the direction of your writing?
Jim Root: Oh, nah man. If you look at Vol 3: The Subliminal Verses [2004 Slipknot album], there shouldn’t be one on there either. Corey made a mental note not to swear ‘cos he got so much shit. But let’s face it, he says ‘fuck’… a lot. [Laughs] I’ve had live shows sent from him, and I’ve counted the amount of times he’s said fuck and sometimes it’s like 180 times. That’s ridiculous for an hour and half Slipknot show, and he got so much shit for being such a gutter mouth. So he made it a point to do The Subliminal Verses record without one profane word. He was successful in doing it – there shouldn’t be anything on there. Unlike the Iowa record… there’s some pretty gnarly shit on there [laughs]. But y’know, I feel like we’re growing up now. Corey’s in a better headspace right now, he’s in a good relationship – newly married – and I think that has an effect on you artistically. If he was in a situation right now where he was getting fucked over, he had a really bad girlfriend or whatever, then I’m sure there’d be more ‘fuck’s [laughs].

Prepare for a lot of work. This shit is not easy.


AltSounds: [laughs] So if you could sum up the new album in just one word - sorry man, bitch of a question - which would you choose?

Jim Root: [laughs] Hmm… that's hard. I’m gonna have to say diverse. You’ve got songs like “Mission Statement” and then you’ve got songs like “Dying.” Then there’s “Say You’ll Haunt Me,” in comparison to “Threadbare.” It’s really all over the map, and that’s what you’re gonna get from us. Until we get the time to write an album as a band, that’s exactly what you’ll get. And to be honest, I’m not so sure it’s anything we should fuck with, y’know? That might just be the way this band works. If we were to sit down and have an entire year to write a record as a band, I don’t know how it would turn out. We do have a few tracks we’ve written completely together, ‘Come What(ever) May,’ and ‘Digital.’ So it could work out well.

AltSounds: You guys also played Download this year, how did you find that?
Jim Root: Oh yeah man that was awesome. I kinda of wish we were playing it this year [the 2011 festival season] instead of last year, because when we played Download we hadn’t really toured yet, we hadn’t got together and played any of the old songs, y’know? Being away from a band for almost three years means you need time to gel again, and becoming comfortable again. I think our forte is being a live band – that’s where we really excel. But by the time we were playing Download, we only had one or two weeks worth of shows underneath our belt since 2008. It was a little bit unsure in some ways, but we’re definitely gelled as a band now, and the confidence level is way up. Given the circumstances, I’d rather be playing it this year than the previous year.

AltSounds: So 2011 is going to be the year for kickass Stone Sour shows?
Jim Root: Hopefully, yeah! After the nine or ten weeks of touring we’ve had now, we’re at that stage where we’re like “okay, it’s all cool, I know how these songs go” [laughs] I know what Corey’s gonna do before he even does it, and I’m at that stage where I don’t need to think about the playing any more.

AltSounds: Do you still get nervous before you head out on stage?
Jim Root: Every day! [laughs]

AltSounds: [laughs] Is that something you think you’ll ever get over, or is it just something that comes with being a live player?
Jim Root: Probably not… but having said that, I would much rather get up in front of ten thousand people and play a show than be in a room with ten people. I can handle that a lot better than I can handle smaller social situations. But then again I’m kinda weird that way [laughs].

AltSounds: [laughs] Does the Jim Root we see on stage differ greatly from the Jim Root off stage?
Jim Root: I definitely have a higher confidence level on stage than I do in real life, suddenly all my inhibitions are out the window. So, take that confidence and ignore all of my inhibitions and it’s… dangerous [laughs].

AltSounds: If you were to talk to the Jim Root from 1995 who just joined Stone Sour, what do you think he would be surprised to see in you today?
Jim Root: Wow, that was a completely different guy. I think he’d be really surprised at a lot of things – I don’t drink or do drugs or anything like that any more, and back in ’95 I was a lush. It’s weird, ‘cos it’s hard to say how much the music industry has affected me, how much touring has affected me and how much just growing up has affected me. If you take the music industry and touring out of the equation, and you’ve got a person who matures in “normal life,” they’re gonna mature a little bit differently than someone who lives like this. I think in a lot of ways some people regress when they get to a certain level. You always try to challenge yourself mentally and always try to do better and learn new things, but sometimes I see people who have actually forgotten just how to lift a suitcase. They leave something somewhere and expect someone else to get it for them. There’s definitely a regression that happens, and I catch myself doing it every once in a while. I’ll go to my guitar tech Mark, and I’ll be like “where the fuck are my earplugs?” and he’s like “they’re probably where you left them, dumbass.” [Laughs] But you’ve gotta work through it and realise who you are. Maybe someday I’ll remember that guy from ’95 and take all of his best traits and combine them with the best traits of this guy who’s talking to you now.

So I guess the interesting thing to know about me is that I’m a miserable fucking bastard.
AltSounds: What advice would you offer to that guy, now, fifteen years later?
Jim Root: Prepare for a lot of work. This shit is not easy. Especially when you’re juggling two bands, I’d tell him basically to forget any kind of normal life you can hope to have. When they say you sell your soul, the guy from ’95 would’ve thought to the devil, then you get all this excess and you go to hell at the end of it. But this guy now knows that selling your soul means you miss your family, you’re doing things you don’t wanna do, but that’s really just life. As soon as you grow up and gain some responsibility you suddenly realise it’s not always about you. But it really is hard, especially touring 8-10 months a year; relationships suffer, family life suffers and it doesn’t matter how much money you make because you don’t get to enjoy any of it. All the stuff you have is a few thousand miles away collecting dust whilst you’re in a room like this [a chilly Stone Sour dressing room]. I’d definitely say get ready for a lot of work, and don’t buy a house – buy a storage unit! [laughs]

AltSounds: [laughs] Sound advice dude! Haha. What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever had happen on stage?
Jim Root: Hmm, craziest thing? Man, that’s tough to say. I hate these kinda questions ‘cos as soon as it's asked, I can’t think of anything or give you a really lame answer. It’ll hit me in an hour and I’ll be like “Shit! That was the fucking craziest thing ever!” [laughs] Well, there was a show we did somewhere in the States, but everyone had decided to take the covers off the seats. And so the pads came out, and there were literally thousands of seat pads just flying around the venue. It was literally one of the most insane things I’ve ever seen. Everyone was doing it – you know just when the whole room catches the vibe? It wasn’t just a couple of hundred people doing it, it was the entire fucking arena [laughs]. I’m looking at the stewards behind the barricades and they’re like “fuck! We’ve gotta clear this up!” [laughs].

AltSounds: [laughs] Oh wow, it sucks to be them! Poor guys. On a different note now, as a guitarist, how do you go about writing your solos? Or if you don’t, do you just feel around for what sounds good over the rhythm?
Jim Root: Oh, I don’t write solos no. I sit down and I let the section of the song just play, and I come up with basically whatever pops off the top of my head. Then I start putting that together and I construct the solo from the best bits of whatever I’ve played. To me, that’s the most organic way to do a solo, and that’ll end up fitting the song the best. If you sit down and try to write something out, you’re always trying to chase the first thing that you did. For instance, the solo in ‘Mission Statement.’ I had that first little bit worked out – the A Harmonic Minor run that goes up and back down – and then I didn’t know how I wanted to finish the solo up. Nick was just rolling the tape and I went into this fingerpicking string… thing, it’s almost like a banjo climb that goes up and runs a scale down. Then we just both looked at each other like “what was that!?” [laughs] In a million years I would never have written or thought of that, it just happened naturally. We listened to it back and the more we listened to it, the more we were like “wow, that’s cool.” So we left it like that. I had to go back and listen to it over and over again to try and remember what I did, ‘cos I’m not thinking about what I’m doing when I’m playing stuff like that. I had to figure out what I actually did [laughs]! That’s how I like to approach doing solos.



AltSounds: Do you consider yourself as a rhythm player or a lead player? You’ve always fused elements of both…
Jim Root: Yeah, I definitely consider myself both. In both bands, I fulfill both roles. In Slipknot, Mick [Thomson] has some solos, and in Stone Sour, Josh [Rand] has some solos. I’ve always been a really good rhythm player, I’ve got a really good right hand. It’s weird because I’m left handed, but I play guitar right handed. My alternate picking is pretty good, and my riffage is pretty good too [laughs]. Not to sound cocky or anything! I think it’s important to try to be the best at all of it as you can be. When I’m practicing scales and working on leads, my rhythm tends to suffer a little bit, and vice-versa. But that’s part of the reason I started to listen to bands like Blur and stuff like that, appreciating the way that Graham Coxon approaches guitar. The way he approaches the guitar is completely different to how a metal guy would, and instead of it being very linear and power chord based, he’s got lots of different chord phrasings and things like that. And that’s very interesting to a guy that plays fifth power chords a lot; it’s a whole new way to play. If you could be well rounded enough to work that style of guitar playing in with really tight rhythm playing, along with fluid and melodic leads, then I think you have the best of all worlds. Some of my favourite guitar players aren’t necessarily great lead players, but you can still tell who they are by what they play. Pete Townshend or David Gilmour, who is probably my all time absolute favourite guitar player, ‘cos he just sings with the guitar. Hear him play a guitar solo and it’ll make you weep [laughs]. Just brilliant.

AltSounds: Agreed man, the solos in ‘Comfortably Numb’? They blow my mind.
Jim Root: The man’s a genius! [laughs]

AltSounds: Indeed! Haha. Finally, could you tell us something interesting about yourself that our readers might be surprised to know about you?
Jim Root: [laughs] Haven’t I told you enough? Hahah! I just told everyone I like Blur, that’s enough! [laughs] Nah man, that’s hard… ummm… I’m not very interesting myself, I’m no brooding, deep soul. I just like to play guitar, I love doing what I do and I just try to have as much fun doing it as I possibly can. I’m always trying to do more, which is difficult when you’re in the situation I’m in. When I’ve got an ideal set, I’ve got to work that it in and around the way four or eight other people think. It’s an interesting way to look at what you have to do, and your ideas don’t always come through because we do everything so democratically and diplomatically. So I guess the interesting thing to know about me I guess is that I’m a miserable fucking bastard [laughs]. That goes back to the music, I just can’t look at anything I do positively. Umm, I live by the ocean! How about that [laughs]?

AltSounds: Haha, that’s interesting enough! It’s been a pleasure talking to you man, thank you very much for your time.
Jim Root: No problem dude, I appreciate you coming down today!

AltSounds: Take care man, and have a great show tonight! It’s gonna be awesome.
Jim Root: And you dude, see you there! Bye!

AltSounds: Bye!


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