Taylor Swift and Tool came up swiftly behind it, but Slipknot is still well pleased that its new album, We Are Not Your Kind, gave the masked Iowa headbangers their third consecutive No. 1 debut on the Billboard 200 last month.

"That feels pretty awesome," guitarist Jim Root tells Billboard. "It's sort of like a validation; You work really hard and you hope it pays off, and (No. 1) is like feet on the ground. That's the people speaking. So it's a good feeling."

For Root, meanwhile, it's even more reassuring because, he acknowledges, there were phases during the making of We Are Not Your Kind, Slipknot's first studio set in five years, when he was skeptical, at best, about what was transpiring.

"I remember early on my opinion was 'This all sucks. Maybe there's one arrangement worth being on the record. We need to scrap it all or work on these or I need to write more material'," Root recalls with a laugh. The guitarist credits Shawn "Clown" Crahan with leveling him during the process.

"He'd just shake his head and be like, 'Brother, let me tell you what we got here. It's amazing. Just keep doing what you're doing and it's gonna be great.' And he was right; I had a lot of doubts in the beginning, but it turns out of all the songs I was on the fence about or had issues with or was worried about, all of them but one made it on the record. I think that (doubting) is just in my nature."

Root says We Are Not Your Kind also benefited from drummer Jay Weinberg and bassist Alessandro Venturella, who were both new members during the making of 2014's .5: The Gray Chapter. This time out they were instrumental in helping put the songs and arrangements together. "If it wasn't for (Weinberg) coming into the studio and us just jamming together, we wouldn't have a hell of a lot of the arrangements we have," Root reports. "When we did The Gray Chapter we were building off a lot of demos and it was very rushed and Jay was new and Alex was brand new and we didn't have a lot of time to think. With the exception of maybe four or five of the tunes on that record we didn't really track as a band, so they weren't able to explore the room, so to speak.

"But this time they were able to really dive into the parts and dissect them and in some cases overplay and then in other cases underplay and everything in between and find what was best for the part in the song. That helped them shine a little more than on the previous record."

Slipknot does, of course, have another new member — a percussionist fans have dubbed Tortilla Man who has yet to be identified. There's been plenty of guessing; The group has denied guesses that it's Michael Pfaff, who plays in Crahan's band Dirty Little Rabbits, while Gilbert Gottfried's recent posting that it's him was, of course, a joke. Don't expect Root to give it up, either. "We just don't think about it. It's not important," he says. "(Guesses) may be right and they may be wrong on who this guy is. We're focusing on the shows and eventually we'll get into writing a new record and stuff like that. And if people really want to know who the new guy is they'll dig, and maybe some day they'll find out."

Playing in front of the maggots is, in fact, Slipknot's priority now. The group has dates in North and South America, Australia, New Zealand and Europe booked into late February, including Knotfest events Nov. 30 in Mexico City, and Dec. 6 in Colombia. But some new music, or new old music, may be on the way; The group has revealed that it has 11 tracks from sessions for 2008's All Hope Is Gone that it's planning to put out at some point. Root says the We Are Not Your Kind track "My Pain" was written around the same time and has been in development since, but the other songs represent more of a finished body of work.

"We've been talking about that since we recorded it," Root says. "I'm not really 100 percent sure what's going to happen with that material. I'm not sure if we're going to try to release it separately or maybe in the future some of that stuff will wind up on upcoming Slipknot records. That's something we haven't spoken a great deal about, so your guess is as good as mine on that. We'll see what happens."


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