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The fetal stages of the band Slipknot began way back in 1993 in the basement of Paul Gray under the name Painface (A name written in the cassette tapes by Shawn Crahan, and a name that Anders Colsefni later re-used). Although the band did not assemble under the title Slipknot, the group had the aggressive feel you’d expect from Anders Colsefni, Shawn Crahan, Paul Gray and Patrick Neuwirth. During this early period the songs “Slipknot”, ”Gently”,”Idiot”, ”What’s Wrong” and “Wise Up” were recorded, later to be known as “The Basement Sessions”. Unfortunately Shawn got too busy with his parents’ rental work, Anders and Paul lost interest and formed other bands and Patrick decided to focus on his welding job, it was just some little jam session that did not last.

(Shawn Crahan and Patrick Neuwirth circa 1992)

In 1995, Anders and Shawn decided to put a band together again. The two hung-out all the time and would play the RPG game Werewolf: The Apocalypse. Most of the lyrics for MFKR were based on that game. Anders was helping Shawn with some welding in his garage one winter, and they got talking about putting together a brand new band. At the time they were both drummers (Anders had been singing for awhile and Shawn played drums for some other bands) Their idea was to put together a band with extra stand-up percussion. Anders called Paul Gray, who was in L.A at the time, and persuaded him to return to Des Moines and give it a try.

With the three core members: Anders, Shawn and Paul they enlisted the help of guitarists Donnie Steele (ex-Body Pit) and Kun Nong (ex-Heads on the Wall). The band retreated to Anders’ basement to figure out their sound and how to improve musically. They began practicing under the name of “The Pale Ones”, following the first six practices Kun Nong left due to his following of a more alternative/punk style. Feeling something was missing, Paul was determined to get Joey Jordison involved with his new project, despite failing to receive his interest in earlier projects such as Body Pit. Paul met up with Joey at Sinclair’s where Joey worked nights, there he tempted Joey to watch rehearsals within Anders’ basement. Joey reluctantly agreed and despite missing two rehearsals due to work priorities, eventually made it down to the basement to view a practice session. This basement was “largely, open spaced”, not only was the area so small and cramped but for soundproofing the members used carpet samples and scraps from a nearby pet grooming center, this made the whole basement smell of Cat piss. The first song that Joey heard them play was a song known as “Slipknot”, followed by “Gently” and “Fur”. Joey soon realized that he had to be in this band and soon began to play the drums, pushing Shawn onto percussion.

Within the cramped basement, new songs were being turned out by the minute, including titles such as “Killers Are Quiet”, “Do Nothing/Bitchslap”, “Confessions”, “Some Feel”, “Part of Me” and “Tattered and Torn”. Paul, Shawn and Joey also began to meet up at Sinclair’s to discuss ideas and plans for the future. Shawn and Joey also decided that the band would require three drummers to provide a hardcore audio assault. Shawn wanted a drummer to the left and right with one at the back controlling it all, creating a wall of power, a first layer… Joey plays the main set and as a result is the main drummer who holds the band together. Shawn is the “Total Power Drummer” and is all aggression, finally the third element of percussion was performed by Anders adding a tribal feel. Within Sinclair’s, Shawn and Joey also realized that the band would need another guitarist due to the vacant position left by Kun. Josh Brainard, formerly of Modifidious and Inveigh Catharsis, was called and he soon added himself to the band. Now there were six. Josh was seen as the “icing on the cake” so to speak, adding a touch of melody to the batch of songs already written.

The people of Des Moines knew that a new band was forming and they knew who was in it, however no one had heard or seen them. Soon a small performance was given, Slipknot’s first show was actually under a different name, Meld. It was at a club that was called “The Love Shack” at that time. They did it without masks, however Anders wore his fur skin loincloth, and Shawn had his clown mask on top of his drums as a decoration. This show happened about a month or two after Josh got into the band, December 05th, 1995. That was the only show they’d ever done with Donnie.

Soon Shawn contacted Mike Lawyer, due to an interest in recording some studio work. Mike got an engineer/producer of his called Sean McMahon to meet up with them during a practice session. Sean McMahon: “I was contacted by former members of a band called Body Pit to check out their new band at their rehearsal space”. Sean McMahon: ”The band floored me the first time that I heard them play in Anders’ basement. This was way before the masks and coveralls evolved. The band was solid and incredibly tight. The music had some melodic parts at that time. They played Slipknot, Gently, Do Nothing/Bitchslap, Killers Are Quiet, Vizqueen, and Fur for me. Anders himself was wearing a wolf fur loincloth – and nothing else. I did not pretend to fully understand what the band was about, as we were just getting to know each other, but it was very plain to me that Slipknot (Meld or Pale Ones at that time) was extremely good at what they did, and had the requisite drive to take it all the way.”

The band went through the names Meld to Pyg System, before agreeing on the simpler name of “Slipknot”, the title of their first song. Slipknot began to take notice of their stage show and thus eventually the idea of “Slipknot” spawned.

The band soon started work on their first project. “Mate. Feed. Kill. Repeat”. The band grabbed every available moment to practice, perform and record within the SR Audio Studios. SR Audio was customized for the MFKR sessions by the band itself. They filled it with pornographic posters, films, toys, lights and many other objects all to make the band feel right at home. The recording phase for MFKR was one odd occurrence after another, Sean explains: “We cut basic tracks live – all of them, including all 3 drummers, all playing together in the same room! The band advocates the use of extreme violence as a conflict resolution tool, and recording was no exception. The wall next to Clown’s percussion rig acquired a few holes from his fist and drum sticks. Then there were the anatomically correct chalk line body outlines in the parking lot. Also, Joey played drums naked on one track, which he nailed”.

One day in January 1996, Shawn showed up to a rehearsal wearing a clown mask that he used to decorate his drums with, the whole band thought it was funny but it was a concept they could adopt later, so the band started thinking about the possibility of wearing individual masks for each member.

One month later(during the post production stage of MFKR) a great change occurred within Donnie Steele; he found God. After spending a lot of time talking to McMahon (who was christian) He realized that he could not be within such a band as Slipknot with the beliefs he held and as a result withdrew himself from the group. At this crucial point in the band’s history, a new member was called up; a former member of Joey’s old band Modifidious, his name was Craig Jones, he had come highly recommended by Jordison. During his arrival, the MFKR album was already in its mixing stages. The mixing of MFKR was anything but smooth, each song being remixed many times. Strain was added by different views that each member held and things often got intense. Not only were there problems with the mixing but the band was also unhappy with the mastering that was done on the CD, hence they insisted that Sean should do it.

Slipknot’s first major show in which they would unveil themselves to the people of Des Moines was booked for 04th April 1996, at the music venue “The Safari Club”. On the day’s arrival the room was packed with 200 people. The band arrived in Joey’s mom’s car, only Shawn and Anders wore something, Shawn with his classic clown mask and Anders with electrical tape covering his face. Before the band began to play, Joey began to incessantly shout: “I need a little Christmas in my drink” repeatedly with each new phrase increasing in volume, energy and power. The band also covered the song “Hybrid Moments” by the punk band “Misfits” at this show. According to Josh: “We did it slow and heavy with low vocals. Joey played guitar on it and I did percussion.”

By Slipknot’s second performance at the club, the band realized that everyone should have individual masks for each. Choosing masks was not difficult, each one knew more or less what to wear. Joey then started wearing his kabuki mask, Josh decided to wear an executioner hood with some holes in it, Paul found a pig mask, and Craig chose to wear pantyhose on his head. They played a total of five shows at the club in one month alone.

(Slipknot performing at People’s Bar and Grill, Ames IA. 06/27/1996)

(Slipknot at Anders’ basement, circa 1996. Photo credit: The Des Moines Register)

The band’s shows were a success and everyone was happy with them, however, Joey still felt that the band was incomplete. He wanted more; a different sound and a greater variety, the band started writing songs that contained samples and they would also like to perform that in a very interesting way. Craig, who worked a lot with computers and things like that, was promptly shifted onto samples, leaving an empty vacancy. The band recruited Mick Thomson (ex-Body Pit) to fill the spot.

Slipknot continued on playing their shows which were much more insane and weird than we see these days (taming of the media etc…) There were shows that they used to change their positions at a certain moment, and use a completely different mask. Shawn would rent a nun outfit or a Barney outfit, and Mick once wore a Little Bo Peep outfit.

(Mick Thomson wearing a Little Bo Peep outfit. New Year’s Eve show at Hotel Fort Des Moines, 12/31/1996)

The shows were really dark, underground and scary, however they still carried an element of humor. The shows would start with strobe lights flashing and a circus music played by the band, Craig would sometimes kick off the show with very weird and creepy intros such as music box lullabies along with baby sounds and female orgasms. Shawn would drop a power saw to create a series of sparks to fly over the crowd.

“Mate. Feed. Kill. Repeat” was released on Halloween, October 31th, 1996. The party had begun and 400 people turned up in masks to celebrate the occasion. The album was sent out to many people and got in the hands of a person named Sophia John, who worked at a local radio station called “KKDM 107.5 The Dot” she managed to hear it and liked it. This led to the arrangement of Slipknot’s appearance in the local KKDM Battle of the Band’s contest.

The tournament was held every Wednesday at the Safari Club in Des Moines, and spanned across several weeks beginning with the individual heats. Slipknot faced the band; Stone Sour – and won. Slipknot also defeated “Maelstrom” and “Black Caesar” who came second. Slipknot conquered all. This was one of the band’s highlights that fuelled them to their current stardom, the band also got a spot at the “DotFest” festival organized by KKDM and scheduled to take place the following year. The money from the win helped fund the band’s new projects and demos. Sophia John became their first manager due to her contacts and love for this new band.

(The Safari Club entrance, 1997)

Things behind the scenes continued to spiral downward. In early 1997, Shawn bought the Safari Club, which despite being a good investment, took time away from the band. This added to the already tenuous relationship Joey and Shawn had with each other, Slipknot could no longer play in Anders’ basement as things were falling apart.

The band started to get hungry for wanting to be signed by some record label, they were audacious and wanted much more, Sophia John began sending many of the band’s demos to various labels, but most of them did not approve Anders’ vocals as they wanted more melodic vocals.

(Slipknot’s second demo album, known online as “Crowz”, The Gold Disc)

Around March to May of 1997, they started recording a slightly different album, with new songs and with some MFKR songs being reworked in a more updated version, it was just to focus on how things were in the band at the time, and add the new elements in the songs. This album is well known as “Crowz” or the “Gold Disc” and it was supposed to be released, but due to the changes that the band was having at the time, the album was forgotten and scrapped.

(Dan Schlissel, owner of ismist Recordings)

One day at the Safari in May 1997, Shawn met Dan Schlissel, who owned a small label from Nebraska called “ismist Recordings” he gave him a copy of MFKR, and later he called Shawn and said he really liked it, they then arranged a meeting at Dan’s apartment with the band’s manager Sophia John, and it was decided that ismist would distribute the remaining copies of MFKR, around 1000 copies were distributed, one of them sent to Roadrunner Records who continued to refuse the band because of the lack of melodic vocals.

Even with all of the problems, the band managed to make it onto the bill for the local festival “Dotfest” in June of 1997. There they played to the largest crowd in their history up to that point, a crowd of 12,000, containing many industry people. Not only was the sound dodgy and kept going out but the crowd began to throw chicken bones on stage. At the show Slipknot came out throwing Tampons into the crowd and had some friends of the band dressed as gimps. This was the first and last time for the gimps. The gimps were Paul’s old friend Frank Plumley with a gas mask, Lanny MacCleary with tribal markings in liquid latex, Greg Welts covered with liquid latex and a ball gag in his mouth, and Greg’s friend Slick Rick in a latex hood.

(Greg Welts as a gimp at DotFest 97, 06/07/1997)

Slipknot had the original idea of having a professional stuntman, Rick, come out dressed as Shawn, and then Shawn would come out and set him on fire. They had all the things to do, which for a long time had been stored in the cooler at The Safari Club, but the city would not issue the permits to perform it so the event had to be abandoned. The set ended with them being cut off and an almost riot breaking out, Anders cutted his arms with a razor blade, and everyone at the festival was super scared by the situation. Joey quit the band, but he reconsidered and came back. Their performance left a mark, they made new fans and most importantly they discovered Sid Wilson, even though they did not speak to him.

(Corey Taylor performing with Stone Sour, July 1997. Photo credits: Magazine)

One day when Anders was out of the town, Shawn and Joey began discussing with McMahon about the possibility of trying to bring in the lead singer Corey Taylor of the rival band Stone Sour, as his vocals were much more melodic. Mick, Joey and Shawn one day went to visit Corey at his job at the porn shop “Adult Emporium” and confronted him saying: “Join the band or we’ll kick your ass”. Corey says this is complete bullshit, and that they walked into the store very shy to ask him.

Corey agreed to join the band and begun practicing, the first lyrics he wrote were to be used in the song “Me Inside”, the band re-recorded the entire album “Crowz” with Corey, sometimes Corey had to re-record some vocals takes of a song several times, the band was very optimistic about the new singer and ready to test everything possible. It was a very experimental move and everyone was wondering how it would turn out. Anders, who had returned from vacation, was quite surprised by what had happened, but decided to see how it went. This change resulted in Anders being pushed back to percussion and back-up vocals.

(Corey wearing latex makeup at his first show, August 1997)

Soon this new breed of the Knot performed a show on August 24th, 1997, it was a charity event for a local hospital. The Safari was packed to the brim. Corey came out wearing a large amount of makeup that gave a dark appearance, this was added to by two latex crosses marked over his eyes. It was summer, and the club was so hot that Corey’s makeup melted on his face, it was this show that resulted in Joey’s nickname, “Superball”.

(Slipknot before the show, Corey’s second show and Anders’ last. September 1997)

Their next show was on 12th September, again at the Safari. This show was a great improvement, Corey was wearing a Crash Test dummy mask, with his dreads going through holes in the mask, and Joey had found a BCD gas mask, since he had given his Cesar mask to a fan at the previous show. However an announcement was to be made at that show. Just before Slipknot were about to storm into their final song, “Heartache and a Pair of Scissors”. Anders made an announcement: “This will be my last show.” he stated. This stunned both band members and the audience. Anders was not happy with his position and had felt betrayed by his bandmates, this resulted in Anders shaving his eyebrows in protest, quite similar to what he did at Dotfest.

To fill Anders’ place, Greg Welts(one of the Dotfest gimps and local tattoo artist) joined the band, Greg was the drummer of a punk band called “The Have Nots” that had both Joey and Paul on it. Shawn and Greg took a roadtrip to find him a mask, they found a Babyface mask, hence the band affectionately nicknamed him “Cuddles”. It was around this time that the band started wearing jumpsuits and individual numbers for each member, it was also the time that some labels started to keep their eyes on them.

(Slipknot performing at The Safari Club with Cuddles, on Halloween 1997. ZzKaNgOzZ from the ZzSleepyClanzZ is in the front row pointing.)

With new members in the band, Slipknot began recording new songs with Corey, the first song they wrote with Corey was “Spit it Out”, which they recorded on SR Audio and this version later having ended up on self titled album. It was around this time that the following songs were written: “Liberate”, “Wait and Bleed”, and “Snap”. Many were happy for them, others not so much, and that’s what Spit it Out was about, the other people’s envy about how the band was evolving.

(Slipknot at Super Toad, December 1997)

(Slipknot at Safari Club, February 1998)

Due to so much work with the band, Shawn decided to sell Safari to have his full focus on the band, Slipknot however continued to rehearse there. In 1998, Sophia with some of her contacts managed to get producer Ross Robinson to attend a show of the band in February at the Safari, this was very surprising and everyone was happy. During a show in March 1998, while the band was playing the song “Tattered & Torn” Shawn found the DJ Sid Wilson in the audience, and the two began to fight with each other, this resulted in Sid joining the band, which happened a few days later.

(Slipknot at their rehearsal space, 1998 Photo credits: OzzyChick)

With a DJ in the band and with Ross Robinson keeping an eye on the band, Slipknot began playing more shows outside of Iowa, gaining the attention of a new base of fans and important people. At one of these shows, Monte Conner (A&R of Roadrunner) attended one of them and after much insistence from his wife, he decided to give the band a chance.

Greg Welts at the time was dating Joey’s sister Kate. This caused some conflict between them, and Joey one day decided to intervene in this and said: “Or you choose my sister, or the band.” Greg was then fired.

(Slipknot getting signed in front of the Axiom Body & Piercing in Des Moines, Photo credits: The Des Moines Register)

A few hours later in front of the tattoo shop “Axiom Body & Piercing” in Des Moines, the band finally got the long-awaited signing with a major label, Roadrunner Records. However, the band’s sound at the time was still full MFKR style, with jazz and funky stuff in it, the transition phase from MFKR to S/T was weird and unexpected, some of the MFKR stuff ended up in S/T, others were reworked. Ross Robinson agreed to produce the band, and in September, the band traveled to Malibu, California to record their debut album.