He’s a man who spent alot of his performing career behind a jester-style mask on stages throughout the globe, and headlining some of the world’s biggest musical festivals with both of his bands. With that sort of success you wouldn’t expect the quiet, calm and laid back guy that has come to sit down for chat with us backstage at London’s Hammersmith Apollo – but that’s definitely who we got.
Of course the man in question is the one and only Jim Root, best known as one of the guitarist from the bands Slipknot and Stone Sour. As one ninth of Slipknot he’s seen success that some bands can only dream of, countless Grammy nominations and winning the Grammy for Best Metal Performance in 2006 for Before I Forget. Today he’s here in London on tour with Stone Sour as they co-headline a tour with Avenged Sevenfold in the UK, some may call it a ‘side project’ of the guitarist and frontman Corey Taylor – but it’s anything but that to the five piece band.
If you’ve not listened to Stone Sour and are expecting them the heavy hard heart pounding sounds of Slipknot then you’ll be sorely mistaken. The band’s latest release Audio Secrecy which came out this past September debuted in the top 10 in countries throughout the world, reaching number 6 in both the UK and the US (taking a number 1 position in the Rock charts).
When discussing Stone Sour’s outstanding performance at this summer’s Download Festival Jim proudly tells that ”we’re (Stone Sour) a live band, that’s what we do best, we’re stripped down, punk rock and we play and that’s what we do.” Once you see them perform there’s no denying that, with the combination of skilled musicians and one of the most charismatic front-men in the industry the band definitely are destined to keep up Jim’s goals to get Stone Sour to at least the level Slipknot is at in terms of success. “In my mind I’ve always wanted to get Stone Sour at least to the level Slipknots at and its alot of hard work, because we’re just not a lifestyle band, we’re not a cultural movement like Slipknot is.”
“The highlight of this tour is probably the Birmingham NIA gig it was kind of exciting for me to go into a venue that we’d played with Slipknot before,” he tells us happily, iIn the past few months Stone Sour have toured alot with Avenged Sevenfold (previously throughout the US with the Rockstar Uproar Festival tour and have just been confirmed to be touring with the band after Christmas on ‘The Nightmare After Christmas’ tour in the US), since being touring together for a while he and A7X lead guitarist Synyster Gates have been picking each other’s brains on their techniques which are very different. “Brian (Synyster Gates) from Avenged Sevenfold, he’s an amazing player. He’s got very melodic tasty riffs, he flows through his mutes, since we’ve been able to tour with them I’ve been able to sit down with him and pick his brain a little bit, and he’s been kinda picking my brain on how we play, and we have two totally different styles. He uses this Gambale Economy Picking, I go alternate picking which is very simple,” he says demonstrating the differences before adding, “I think he’s a great guitar player, and his song writing is pretty amazing, very melodic, melody is hugely important to me. Melody and having that kinda groove.”
When Jim first picked up a guitar it was an old nylon acoustic guitar that he’d found laying around the house which only had a few strings on it, when he was between the ages of 11-13 years old, it wasn’t until he was 13-14 years old he got his first guitar, “It was like a Memphis Les Paul copy, like the Harmony & Memphis and all the cheaper Sears guitars, y’know one of those in Tobacco Sunburst.” But he insists his first real guitar he was a Charvel Model 1 when he was 15 and that was when he started to really play and really listen to music. “Being that I wanted to play guitar, I listened to very guitar orientated music,” He says as he talks influences, “…a friend of mine introduced me to Ride the Lightning by Metallica – that blew my mind.”
When we put him on the spot about his favourite song from ‘Audio Secrecy’ it was obvious it was something he found tough before deciding that that when it comes to playing the tracks from the new album ‘Digital’ and ‘Mission Statement’ were high on his list. “It’s (‘Digital’) got a really cool groove to it, and a really cool guitar breakdown in the middle of it that which we don’t really get to do alot of in this band.” He explains before continuing “Mission Statement alot it’s a pretty straight forward metal tune, metalish tune, Rock-Metal, Retal? Mock? (we decided that Retal sounded cool – new Genre!). That songs fun to play, its one you feel can really move around alot with but because the notes are moving around if you move around a little too much then you’re hitting half tone or a note kind of half off you’ve gotta kind of focus…so that’s kinda cool.”
When it comes to a song from the record he’d listen to he tells us about his love for Pink Floyd and Dave Gilmour “Threadbare is kinda cerebral and Floydy, I’ve got a very huge soft spot in my heart for Dave Gilmour and Pink Floyd, so I kind of dig that one as far as kicking back and listening.”
When it comes to performing live, Jim likes to be able to adlib and improvise and change things up a little bit especially when it comes to ‘Your God’ (from the 2006 ‘Come Whatever May’ album).”Right before my solo, there’s a middle 8 to the middle 8, a breakdown for the breakdown, and while Corey’s doing a little vocal thing in there I’ll call and answer him with the guitar notes and then I’ll run up into my solo, and its alot of fun to do.”
When he writes songs it he often takes a different approach, “When I write songs, I’ll start with a drum machine or a mini drum programme and then I’ll layout a bunch of different loops and then I’ll try to come up with riffs around them or I’ll pick up a bass guitar or a different type of instrument like a keyboard or something and come up with melody lines and then layer parts off of that. If I pick up a bass guitar and approach it, it feels so different from what I’m used to that it makes me do different things than I’d normally do.”
We asked Jim, before he had to run off to soundcheck, for his tips for budding guitarists he told us from his own experience, “The biggest thing that helped me out with my guitar playing was joining a band and playing with other people, that helped me more than sitting down and listening to people. And picking the brains of other guitar players, trading licks, it’ll help you approach things in a different way.”
Slipknot will be headlining Sonisphere Knebworth this summer, get your tickets now here.
NOTE: This interview was originally linked to in November, but as a great memory for us from 2010 we wanted to share the full piece Cheryl wrote with our DevilBears out there.