Interview with Slipknot bassist Paul Gray

- Apr 27, 2009 at 11:16AM
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Who is the biggest metal band in the world right now? If you said Metallica then you better go back to the 1980s. Over the last five years, Slipknot has become one of the biggest and most popular rock bands in the entire world. The guys rose to international prominence upon the release of 2004’s Vol. 3 (The Subliminal Verses) and have managed to keep it up with their fourth studio album All Hope Is Gone released last summer. Currently the band is getting set for some Canadian tour dates before some dates in the U.S. and then a run through Europe. Recently, we were fortunate enough to catch up with Slipknot bassist Paul Gray, otherwise known as #2, to talk about what the band’s up to and the latest album. Paul is without a doubt one of the coolest and nicest musicians I’ve had the pleasure of speaking with; here's how it went.

You recently wrapped up the All Hope Is Gone World Tour that lasted an entire year. What are your reflections on the tour looking back?
Paul: I mean it’s actually been an awesome tour man, looking back now it’s kind of amazing that we did so well, I mean we have the best fans in the world. With the way things are going now with the economy and everything like that, I mean to come out and spend money to see a band is kind of hard to justify all the time, you know what I mean? We did well everywhere we played man, we actually played the biggest shows we’ve ever done on this tour so it’s pretty amazing. We’re kind of in awe you know, we’re totally just, what’s the word I’m looking for... thankful and grateful to our fans for sticking by us. And, you know, just for being there for us, we’re just grateful and thankful.

What is the funniest touring memory you have of the last year? Does any one experience stand out in your mind?
Paul: [laughs] The funniest touring memory? Hmm, let’s see... I mean there was a lot of weird memories on this tour, I guess some drunken tour memories, just ridiculous stuff. I mean the funniest one I think, I mean I don’t know, this tour we were pretty serious about it, we had a good time but I guess some of the drunken after show parties were pretty hilarious, people stumbling around and passing out.... You know if someone passes out, we’ll light them on fire. [laughs] We had a lot of crap on tape, you don’t want to go down, if you’re drinking with the band you better stay awake.

I read that for All Hope Is Gone, you wanted to make it Slipknot’s heaviest album to date. Looking back do you think you accomplished this goal?
Paul: Actually you know I think it is our heaviest album you know, it’s definitely got some balls to it. I don’t think we necessarily decided to try to make it our heaviest album or whatever, I mean it kind of turned out that way. The album before, The Subliminal Verses, you know we kind of were experimenting with a lot of stuff. We did the same kind of thing in the studio this time, we went in there with a set group of songs that we had already worked on, I mean we had like three studios going out there at the same time. We had the main tracking studio, but we had other rooms, if people had guitar riffs or whatever or drum parts, we had other places we could go and record. We just ended up with all this material you know so we just kind of tried to pick the best stuff that we had done. And we still have, there’s probably a good ten songs that we haven’t even touched that no one has even heard. But as far as the album being heavy, I definitely think it’s probably our heaviest album by far. Production wise, I think it sounds better than all the other albums and it was just a good time man. You know it’s weird too, some of the riffs are riffs from old, old stuff, stuff that we had done like fifteen years ago and we’re there kind of revamping it and it came out heavy. Definitely I don’t think we set out to make it our heaviest record but I think it turned out to be.

After the huge success of Vol. 3 The Subliminal Verses, you went on a bit of a hiatus before starting on All Hope Is Gone. What did you personally do during the downtime in between albums and tours?
Paul: You know, I did a couple of things, I went on tour with a friend of mine’s band, Reggie and the Full Effects, it’s totally nothing like Slipknot, but it was definitely a lot of fun. They had a new album so they asked me if I would play bass on that and like, tour on that which we did, it was like a van tour, like a four month van tour which I hadn’t done in you know, since Slipknot first started. It was pretty awesome actually, it was a really good time, you know we were playing these cool small clubs. I also wrote some stuff, you know TV and movie stuff you know with a couple of other people. I have no idea if that stuff ever actually came out or got used or what, I guess you do it and then you sit and wait so hopefully some of that stuff will come out. And that’s about it, I did a lot of hanging out with my wife, I got married recently so I spent a lot of time with her and you know, just kind of chilled out man. You know, keep busy at home and definitely did some writing and that’s about it.

I’ve always been curious about the writing and recording process with Slipknot since there are so many members in the band. Do you write individually or do you all get together and somehow mesh your ideas together?
Paul: A little bit of both you know. I mean how it’s kind of worked in the past and how it usually works, everybody will get done with an album or tour or whatever, people will just kind of write on their own at home and stuff like that. The last few albums, Joey and I have gotten together a little bit earlier than everybody and put some ideas together. Nothing’s ever set though, people bring their ideas in and we kind of go from there. And then also there are times when we just sit there and jam all together, someone will come up with an idea and we’ll just like work off that. I mean there’s no real set way of doing it, it’s really a little bit of everything, we don’t have any kind of structured way of just writing stuff. But no songs are completely until everybody gets their input and their say, you know what I mean, even if they weren’t there when that song was being written. Until it kind of gets scrutinized by everybody, it doesn’t become a finished song. That’s pretty much it, there’s no real set way of doing it.

Do you have a favourite track on All Hope Is Gone?
Paul: My favourite tracks are actually... I have a few that I really love man, I love the song “All Hope Is Gone,” I love the opening song “Gematria” those songs are two of my favourites. And actually “Snuff,” it’s actually the most mellow song on the album but that song really came out different, didn’t turn out the way we originally started. So I would say those are probably my favourite songs on the album, but I really like all the songs, I really think every song on the album is pretty strong. It’s weird man, usually when we’re doing an album, I don’t ever really listen to them, but this one I’ve kind of kept in my car to listen to and I’ve been stoked about it. So yeah I would those two songs I love the most, but I think all of them are pretty damn good.

I read some comments from Jim Root saying he was slightly disappointed in the production of All Hope Is Gone and that producer Dave Fortman “wasn’t able to get nine people together on the same page.” How do you personally feel about the production value and experience of the album?
Paul: You know, Jim, and I know his feelings on it and I know why he has those feelings, there were certain things, the way we were recording, that he didn’t like. Some people like Dave Fortman, some people don’t, I personally thought he was fine. We’ve been doing this for such a long time; I don’t think we even really need a producer at this point, we kind of pre-produce our own stuff anyways so that’s why I think Jim said those things. We’re paying all this money to somebody, I mean when basically we can kind of do our own thing and end up with pretty much the same result you know what I mean? I thought Dave was cool, I thought working with Dave was cool, he had some different ideas, but you know I don’t think it’d happen again (working with Dave). But yeah I do understand what Jim was talking about because we had a lot of songs and I think some of the songs that we brought forth to record like fully for the album, like demo wise, didn’t get paid attention to too much and I think that’s what Jim meant by that (statement). But I definitely back the album and I know Jim backs the album too you know, but there was some stuff that got left behind. But we still do have that material and we can still work on it. I think we all agreed that we definitely will take a look back on some of the stuff that we left of that and see how it works next time around.

With four studio albums spanning almost ten years now, you certainly have a lot of material to choose from on tour. Do you focus more on the last two albums or is there a cross-section of new and old Slipknot?
Paul: There’s definitely new and old, you know what I mean, we play something off of every album. Yeah, I mean there are so many songs to choose from, in the beginning of the tour cycle we were only playing I think one song off the new album and the rest were songs off the first three records, but after we kind of got into it when the album came out, we started playing more songs off of All Hope Is Gone. We pretty much kind of evenly do it; we pick an even amount of songs off of each album. I think it’s definitely starting to get a little more challenging to pick a set list when you have so many songs now you know what I mean and you only have a certain amount of time that you’re allowed to play. So we try to figure out what songs people would want to hear more and you know what songs we also want to play too, ones that we have fun playing ourselves. There are some songs that fans you know, might not necessarily care about hearing but we have playing them so we play them. We just kind of throw in our votes and kind of go for it, everybody is usually pretty stoked with what we’re playing. But yeah, we definitely try to do an even amount of everything.

You of course are one of the founding members of Slipknot going back to the mid-1990s. How does it feel to still be doing this almost fifteen years later? Do you see this continuing for many years to come?
Paul: You know what; I know it’s going to go for a while longer. I don’t see us being like the freaking Rolling Stones or some shit [laughs], but I could definitely see us playing for a while longer, definitely. As long as people are having fun and the thing about it is, we kind of have learned, as we’ve matured as band, we’ve kind of learned how to give each other their space and time. We’ll take time now in between records, like the first couple of records we were like so, tour, then record, then tour and it was just like constant and it was a lot of pressure and it kind of made us sick of each other, that’s why we did a break before Subliminal. And then after Subliminal we did a break and we’ll probably take a break after this one, let everyone do their own thing and it definitely makes it fun to come back.

Yeah it definitely keeps it fresh...
Paul: Yeah it definitely does. And everyone comes back kind of fresh with new ideas. As long we’re just open with each other about our feelings, about how things are going and everyone gives each other their space and their breaks I think yeah, we’ll be doing this for a while.

You have a lot of touring planned for this summer. Could you just briefly take us through the band’s plans for the rest of 2009 and in to 2010?
Paul: Um yeah, let’s see here, we have Canada coming up, a Canadian run then a little bit of US. Then we’re going over to do another European tour, we’re doing a lot of festivals in Europe and some of our select shows. We’ve also been trying to book shows in other places that we haven’t been to in a while, we’re going back down to South America after Europe and yeah, we’ve talked about South Africa, we’re trying to get in to China, it’s kind of hard to get into there. They don’t let a lot of bands play over there, but then I think Bjork or somebody insulted somebody and they’ve been down on rock bands for a while. But we’re still trying man; I know we’re working hard to get over there.

And then we’ll come back and do another Canada, US run and that’ll probably be about it. I think we’ll run until probably about 2010 and then we’ll probably kind of wrap up our touring then. I don’t see us going on after 2010, I couldn’t tell you if there’s going to be touring or anything. I don’t know what we have left to do at that point, it’s probably going to be that we’re going to take a break, do some other things. Then probably end of 2011 we’ll probably get back into it. I can’t really say for sure, nothing’s concrete. I know we have, like I said, the tours in Canada, the US, Europe, parts of Asia and then of course South America. So it should be fun man, we get emails and letters from fans and they’re everywhere in the world man. Some of the places man, some of the places are hard to actually play in, there are a lot of political things. Some of the fans might not understand, they’re like “we want you to come to our country” but some countries, they don’t want us there, you know what I mean? We’re definitely trying to get everywhere we can, from the Middle East to... we have a lot of fans in the Middle East believe it or not, but there are just some places you can’t go. And you know, it’s not because we don’t want to, it’s because we can’t go, you know, political stuff. We’re just definitely trying to get everywhere and play for as many people as we can, that’s the plan I think until the cycle ends.
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