In the years before Slipknot formed, a state of shifting band membership existed throughout the heavy metal scene in Des Moines, Iowa. In 1991, the biggest heavy metal band in Des Moines was Atomic Opera, with Jim Root on guitar. Drummer Joey Jordison founded a thrash metal band called Modifidious, playing at a club called Runway. Modifidious opened for Atomic Opera on December 1, 1991, at the Runway, after which their guitarist left for the more successful Atomic Opera. Jordison replaced him with local guitarist Craig Jones. Drummer Shawn Crahan formed another Des Moines band called Heads on the Wall, playing funk metalcover songs at clubs and releasing a demo tape in July 1992. A fourth Des Moines band called Vexx played death metal with Anders Colsefni on drums, Paul Gray on bass, and Josh Brainard on guitar and vocals. Colsefni later took over vocal duties, but Vexx never recorded. During this time, Crahan often went to the Runway on Sundays when the club opened to all ages, where he met other young musicians with whom he could jam. By March 1993, Crahan was jamming with vocalist Colsefni, bassist Gray and guitarist Pat Neuwirth, writing and playing songs in Gray's basement, discussing possible band names such as Pull My Finger, but never making a final decision. One of the songs they recorded was titled "Slipknot"; another was titled "Painface", which Colsefni later used to name his band Painface.
In 1993, a new band called Inveigh Catharsis formed in Des Moines, with Gray on bass, Brainard on guitar and Colsefni on drums. Jordison jammed occasionally with this group. Brainard eventually left to join Jordison and Jones in Modifidious, participating in demo recordings at the end of '93 and early in '94. During 1994, Modifidious sometimes played the same shows as Crahan's Heads on the Wall band. Gray formed a death metal band called Body Pit, soon becoming popular in the local scene. Modifidious stopped playing in the wake of death metal's increasing pull. Gray failed to get Jordison to join Body Pit, but soon after he recruited local guitar teacher Mick Thomson, the band broke up.
In September 1995, Crahan and Gray started a band named the Pale Ones. The lineup was made up of friends who met through the local music scene, including vocalist Colsefni and guitarist Donnie Steele. Not long after their inception, Gray invited Jordison to a rehearsal because the band was interested in experimenting with additional drum elements. Jordison subsequently joined the band as their main drummer, moving Crahan to percussion. Furthermore, Colsefni also took up percussion while remaining the band's vocalist. The band then decided to invite Brainard as their second guitarist, bringing their lineup to six members. On December 4, the band made their live debut; playing a benefit show using the name Meld.
Demo recording and beginnings (1995–1998)
Much of the band's early development was retrospectively attributed to late-night planning sessions between Gray, Crahan and Jordison at a Sinclair gas station where Jordison worked nights. It was there, in late 1995, that Jordison suggested changing the band name to Slipknot after their song of the same name. In December, Slipknot began recording material at SR Audio, a studio in the band's hometown. As they didn't have a recording contract, the band self-financed the project, the costs of which came to an estimated $40,000. In February 1996, guitarist Donnie Steele, a Christian, left Slipknot after discussions regarding the band's lyrics with the producer, Sean McMahon. Jordison said of Steele's departure: "(he) was having these God talks, when we were supposed to be working....We were prepared to keep him on, but he didn't want to stay." Steele himself has said: "I left for a few reasons...I had a lot on my mind spiritually." During the mixing stages of their project at SR Audio, Craig Jones was recruited as Steele's replacement on guitar. However, throughout their time in the studio, the band were adding samples to their recordings but could not produce these sounds live. Subsequently, Jones became the band's sampler and Mick Thomson was brought in as the replacement guitarist. After a complicated time with mixing and mastering, the band self-released Mate. Feed. Kill. Repeat. on Halloween, October 31, 1996.
Distribution for the demo was initially left to the band and their producer Sean McMahon, before it was handed over to the distribution company Ismist in early 1997. Slipknot received a small amount of airplay on local radio stations off the back of the demo. However, it did not lead to any kind of interest from record labels, so the band returned to the studio to develop new material. It was at this time that the band sought more melodic vocals for their music. As a result, Corey Taylor was recruited from fellow Des Moines band Stone Sour; this moved Colsefni to backing vocals and percussion. While working in the studio, Slipknot continued to do local shows, during one of which in September 1997, Colsefni announced on stage that he was leaving the band. The gap on percussion was filled by Greg Welts, who was affectionately known as "Cuddles." In early 1998, Slipknot produced a second demo featuring five tracks exclusively for record labels. The band began to receive a lot of attention from record labels, and in February 1998, producer Ross Robinson offered to produce their debut album after attending rehearsals in Des Moines. Soon after, DJ Sid Wilson was recruited as the band's ninth member after showing great interest and impressing band members. In late June, Slipknot received a $500,000, seven-album deal, from Roadrunner Records; the band signed the deal publicly on July 8, 1998. Two days prior to this, Welts was fired from the band, something which Slipknot refuse to comment on. Welts was replaced by Brandon Darner, who departed from the band shortly after joining.
Chris Fehn was brought in to replace Darner on percussion before Slipknot traveled to Malibu, California, to work on their debut album in September 1998. Partway through the recording process of the album, Slipknot returned to Des Moines for the Christmas period. During that period, guitarist Brainard decided to leave the band. Brainard said, "some decisions were made that I wasn't particularly happy with". Slipknot later recruited Jim Root to complete their lineup and the band returned to Malibu to continue work on the album. Work on the album concluded in early 1999, allowing the band to go on their first tour as part of the Ozzfest lineup in 1999. Ozzfest greatly increased Slipknot's audience, furthering the band's success with their self-titled album that was released on June 29, 1999. Slipknot released its first home video Welcome to Our Neighborhood, which was directed by Thomas Mignone, and the singles "Wait and Bleed" and "Spit It Out", which were also directed by Mignone. The singles received some airplay, but Slipknot quickly developed a large following, mainly from touring and word of mouth. The band toured several countries throughout 1999 and 2000 in support of the album. In early 2000, Slipknot was certified platinum; a first for an album released by Roadrunner Records.
Iowa and hiatus (2001–2003)
Anticipation for Slipknot's second album was intense. In early 2001, the band began recording the second album at Sound City and Sound Image studios in Los Angeles. Around this time, conflicts arose between band members due to extensive touring and recording schedules. Recording of their second album ended in February 2001 and the band embarked on their Iowa World Tour. Entitled Iowa, Slipknot's second album – released on August 28, 2001 – peaked at number three on the Billboard charts and at number one in the UK. The album produced three singles; "The Heretic Anthem" (promotional single), "Left Behind", and "My Plague", which appeared on the soundtrack for the film Resident Evil. In 2002, Slipknot appeared in Rollerball (2002), performing "I Am Hated". The release and intense promotion of the album resulted in sold-out shows in large arenas in several countries.
In mid-2002, Slipknot went on hiatus because of internal conflicts, and band members focused on side projects. Vocalist Taylor and guitarist Root revived their band Stone Sour, drummer Jordison created Murderdolls with vocalist Wednesday 13, percussionist Crahan founded To My Surprise and DJ Wilson went solo as DJ Starscream. For a while, the future of Slipknot was uncertain and there was much speculation about whether there would be a third album, or if the split would become permanent. "I don't have a problem with anyone in Slipknot," Jordison protested. "I've seen comments from Corey saying there are things to be resolved, but I have no fucking idea what he's talking about."
Nonetheless, on November 22, 2002, Slipknot released their second DVD, Disasterpieces.
Vol. 3: (The Subliminal Verses) and second hiatus (2003–2007)
It was the rebirth of Slipknot, [...] it was like us coming back together, pushing out the vibe that had gotten in there and kinda started pulling people away. But we figured out that you know, we do have to get space you know, we do need to let people be sometimes.
All Hope Is Gone, third hiatus and Gray's death (2008–2010)
Preparation for Slipknot's fourth album began towards the end of 2007; work began at Sound Farm Studio in Jamaica, Iowa, with producer Dave Fortman in February 2008. The album was finished in June, and the band went on the All Hope Is Gone World Tour on July 9, 2008. Slipknot's fourth album, All Hope Is Gone, was released on August 20, 2008, debuting at number one on the Billboard albums chart. The album produced five singles; "All Hope Is Gone", "Psychosocial", "Dead Memories", "Sulfur" and "Snuff". 2009 marked the 10th anniversary of Slipknot's debut album; to commemorate the event, the band released a special edition version of Slipknot on September 9, 2009. The band toured in support of the album throughout 2008 and continued until October 31, 2009, resulting in Slipknot's third hiatus.
He was everything that was wonderful about this band and about this group of people. The only way I can sum up Paul Gray is 'love'.
During the hiatus, several band members focused on respective side projects; Taylor founded Junk Beer Kidnap Band and returned to Stone Sour with guitarist Root; Crahan continued working with his band Dirty Little Rabbits; and drummer Jordison returned with his band Murderdolls and became the new permanent drummer of Rob Zombie. Percussionist Fehn is now a full-time bassist with metalcore band Will Haven and Sid Wilson founded the eponymous band Sid.
In 2010, Gray was planning to tour with the supergroup, Hail!, but on May 24, 2010, he was found dead in an Urbandale, Iowa hotel room. Circumstances surrounding his death at the time were not immediately known; an autopsy suspected his death was not intentional but did not reveal the cause. The day after his death, the remaining eight members of the band held a live, unmasked, press conference alongside Gray's widow and brother. This press conference was also the first time Jones was unmasked. On June 21, the cause of death was confirmed as an accidental overdose of morphine and synthetic morphine substitute fentanyl.
The band was hesitant to comment on the future of Slipknot. The members made conflicting statements in interviews; drummer Jordison told The Pulse of Radio "there is another Slipknot record already kinda in the making". Vocalist Taylor told FMQB Productions' he was "very conflicted about whether or not [he wants] to do anything with Slipknot". The band released their fourth video album (sic)nesses on September 28, 2010; it debuted at number one on the Billboard Top Music Video Charts. The DVD features Slipknot's entire live performance at the 2009 Download Festival and a 45-minute film documenting their tour in support of All Hope Is Gone, and served as a tribute to Paul Gray.
Return to the stage, Antennas to Hell and Knotfest (2010–2012)
If this tour doesn't work, this band might be over—straight up. And I'm not gonna lie; I'm not the guy that's going to lie to the fans.
—Vocalist Corey Taylor on the future of Slipknot
Regarding the continuation of Slipknot, Taylor told NME Gray would want them to continue and he felt they should but he was ambivalent about returning to the band. Slipknot returned to touring in 2011, performing a small number of shows in Europe. They headlined the Sonisphere Festival and Rock in Rio alongside Iron Maiden and Metallica, and performed at Belgium's Graspop Metal Meeting. Donnie Steele substituted for Gray in the concerts; he was positioned behind Jordison and obscured from the audience's view.
Slipknot also said the band would complete and release the band's fifth studio album, and that there were no plans to replace Gray. Jordison said the writing process for the album had already begun and that he had written 17 songs.
Slipknot performed at the Mayhem Festival tour of 2012.
On May 29, 2012, Roadrunner Records posted a teaser video titled Antennas to Hell on its website. Later that day, on Twitter, Corey Taylor said Slipknot will release a greatest hits album on June 17, 2012. He also said the band was not yet recording new material but was putting together demos for a new album.
Slipknot's first annual music festival, called Knotfest, was held on August 17, 2012, at Mid-America Motorplex near Pacific Junction, Iowa, and on August 18, 2012, in Somerset, Wisconsin. Deftones, Lamb of God, and Serj Tankian also performed at the festival. The festival shows also debuted a Slipknot museum. On 14, June 2013, Slipknot headlined the Download Festival for a second time. The band performed to roughly 90,000 people and was twice forced to stop the set—once in the middle of a song—to allow the front barricade, which had split open under crowd pressure, to be repaired.
Jordison's departure, .5: The Gray Chapter, and new members (2013–2016)
Production of the band's fifth album began in late 2013. Taylor described the album as "very dark" and a cross between Iowa and Vol. 3 (The Subliminal Verses). Guitarist Jim Root did not participate in Stone Sour's January tour so he could write material for Slipknot.
I want to make it very clear that I DID NOT QUIT SLIPKNOT. This band has been my life for the last 18 years, and I would never abandon it, or my fans.
On December 12, 2013, the band announced through its official website that Joey Jordison had left the band after 18 years, citing personal reasons. On his official Facebook page, Jordison later said he "did not quit Slipknot" and that he was "shocked" and "blindsided" by the news. Both Jordison and Slipknot independently promised to release further details about the split. Taylor said Jordison would not be appearing on the new album because he did not participate in any songwriting sessions before his departure.
In July 2014, Slipknot began releasing teasers for the new album on the band's website and social media using cryptic messages and gory imagery. "The Negative One", the band's first song in six years, was released on August 1; it was accompanied by a music video directed by Crahan that was released four days later. The video did not feature any band members. On August 24, Slipknot released an official radio single titled "The Devil In I", and the name of the upcoming album was announced as .5: The Gray Chapter on iTunes, with an expected release date of October 28. The release was later preponed to October 17 for the Netherlands and Australia, October 20 for the UK and October 21 worldwide.
Slipknot began touring North America in support of the album on October 25 at the second iteration of Knotfest. The tour dubbed the "Prepare for Hell" was co-headlined by Korn with King 810 as support. The band also performed at 2015's Soundwave festival in Australia. A bassist and drummer were brought in to replace Gray and Jordison respectively; Crahan designing a mask that would differentiate them from the band. The official video for "The Devil In I", featuring musicians wearing modified versions of the band's old masks—with the exception of Taylor, Wilson and Crahan who all wore new masks — was released on September 12. Fans speculated upon the identities of the drummer and bassist shown in the video but the band did not officially name them.
Taylor later said he was upset at the leak of the identity of the bassist, alleged to be Alessandro Venturella because of a unique tattoo on his hand. Root told Guitar World the drummer's identity would not be released, and that the bassist and the drummer were not permanent members of the band. On December 3, a former Slipknot road crew member posted a photograph of a touring band personnel list that confirmed bassist Alessandro Venturella and drummer Jay Weinberg were members of the tour. The new musicians had been viewed unfavorably by some of the band members; Shawn Crahan told Kerrang! magazine, "This is Slipknot, fuck both of those guys ... [t]hey'll never be in the band. Never." Taylor also said the two "got a crack at designing their own masks and they failed miserably", and they were wearing masks given to them by the band.
On March 11, 2015, while the band was not touring, guitarist Mick Thomson was hospitalized after a drunken knife fight with his brother at Thomson's home in Iowa. The pair sustained serious, but non life-threatening, injuries. On August 2, 2015, during a concert in Hartford, Connecticut, the band was forced to stop performing after Venturella was suddenly rushed to hospital, after undergoing a medical emergency. After 20 minutes, singer Taylor told the audience the band would continue the concert, performing without Venturella. It was later discovered that Venturella had collapsed because of extreme dehydration. During the band's following three concerts, Venturella played bass from backstage, returning to the stage on August 8.
On September 25, 2016, the band performed at their annual festival Knotfest, which was altered to include Ozzfest this year. They performed the Iowa album in its entirety. In the meanwhile, Crahan made his directorial debut with the feature film Officer Downe, based on a graphic novel of the same name and starring actor Kim Coates. In November 2016, Slipknot percussionist Shawn "Clown" Crahan revealed during an interview with Rolling Stone that he and fellow guitarist Jim Root would be teaming up in February 2017 to begin writing new material for a new Slipknot album because "we want to write."
Fourth hiatus and sixth album (2017–present)
Slipknot singer Corey Taylor regrouped with his other band Stone Sour in 2017, and they released their album Hydrograd on June 30. Talking about his first work in cinema and the other Slipknot members' plans, in an interview with WRIF's Meltdown, Crahan revealed that "we're beginning to write some music for Slipknot for the new record. We have songs that we’ve written that are amazing." In December 2017, Shawn Crahan gave a radio interview with Hatebreed's Jamey Jasta on 'The Jasta Show', saying that the new Slipknot album could be his last with the band.
Corey Taylor revealed in October 2018 that the band will enter the studio in early 2019, with a targeted release date for their sixth album being summer 2019, followed by a world tour.
On October 31, they released the single "All Out Life" as well as an accompanying music video.