More than two years after the drug-related death of bassist Paul Gray, Iowa’s masked metal marauders are slowly but surely regrouping.
“It’s starting to get back there,” agrees frontman Corey Taylor. “But I don’t know if it’s ever going to not be weird without Paul there.
“He was one of the founding members of this band and contributed so much. He was a very powerful musical force. So even though we’ve all come together to do our thing, you can just feel that a little bit of the glue is not there. So we’re taking steps to try to figure out where we go from here and how to get there.”
The two latest steps on the brutal octet’s rocky road to recovery: The just-released two-CD anthology Antennas to Hell and their current Memorial World Tour (which includes stops at Heavy festivals in Toronto and Montreal). The day after a show in Seattle, a still-sore Taylor talked about returning to duty, their indestructible guitarist Jim Root and why all hope is not gone.
You played a few shows last year, but it seems you’re really getting back up on the horse this summer.
The thing we’ve been trying to do is hit all the territories we can and let everybody … not pay their respects, but just celebrate everything we all built with Paul. It’s about letting everybody let go of that breath they’ve been holding. We’re just trying to give the fans everything we can so we can put the period at the end of the sentence, as it were.
How did it feel being onstage again without him? It must have been weird and bittersweet — but given your music, it could also be cathartic.
Definitely. And the audience definitely helped. I can’t say enough for our fans. When we’re hurting, they’re hurting. It’s really a symbiotic vibe.
Was it difficult to get everyone together? You all must have had different thoughts and views and emotional responses.
It was just a matter of us all getting on the same page. I think if the offer hadn’t come in to do shows last year, we would have put it off as long as possible. At first we said, ‘Hell, no!’ It was almost insulting. But the more we talked, the more we realized that if we were going to continue, it was going to have to start with us getting on a stage. Because that’s our bonding process and how we heal: By playing that music. That first show was really hard. But about halfway through it, the audience let us know it was OK. There was just this huge outpouring of emotion.
Is part of this tour about closure?
In a way. There’s never going to come a time when we even entertain the thought of replacing Paul. There will never be another mask. There will never be another #2. But to us, it’s … I don’t want to say we’re looking backwards, but it’s us showing the respect to Paul that we felt was necessary, and trying to figure out what the future holds for this band. Going into the studio without Paul is very, very daunting. But we’re doing it right, you know. We’re in no hurry to run right in and make an album. We’re writing music here and there, putting some stuff together in the event that we all decide to do it. But there’s no rush. It’s a matter of doing it right. That’s what this band is all about; doing it right and doing it with respect.
What do you want the future to be?
What makes sense to me is to take the next couple of years and really put the right music together, not just run in with riffs and songs that may not represent where this band is at. We need to allow ourselves the time to get used to the fact that Paul is not there. Everyone needs to be able to say something on this album and really feel it. This is going to be how we reconnect. And it needs to start now with communication and sharing ideas and opening up and being able to embrace that. And it’s going to take time.
How does it feel listening to the music on Antennas to Hell?
Honestly, in a weird way, it’s very gratifying. You can tell where we came from, and where we got to with All Hope is Gone. But the beautiful thing is that the essence is still there. We never forgot why we loved making music. We never forgot that frenetic energy that we invariably put into everything we do, and that sense of urgency that never left us. I truly hope it never does.
Is it true that (hulking guitarist Jim) Root was walking around for two weeks with a burst appendix? How bad-ass is this guy?
Dude, he’s out of his mind. We were actually finishing the guitars on the new Stone Sour album when it happened. He was complaining about a pain in his side. When he got back home, he had a 102° temperature, went to the clinic and found out his appendix burst two and a half weeks ago. The fact that he was still walking and talking is crazy. I mean, you have got to be kidding me.