Formed in the fly-over state of Iowa in 1995, Slipknot had plenty of gripes to shout about. Donning grotesque masks, the nu metal nine-piece brought a completely new take to a stagnating metal genre. Their mysterious members, crushing chaos and relatable lyrics gripped metalheads in a way no band had done since Metallica almost a decade before.
Slipknot became synonymous with the ‘emo’ scene. The majority being teenagers who struggled to express their feelings of individuality but found solace in heavy music. At the time, a lot of metal was heading in a questionable mainstream direction. This was one reason for the isolation of so many early millennials. The likes of Metallica, Limp Bizkit, Korn, Linkin Park and Staind all flirted with the popular charts, pumping out big catchy songs that simply didn’t speak to a lot of angsty teens.
The arrival of Slipknot and their first self-titled album set the record straight. It was a monster of epic proportions. Layers upon layers of tracks, walls of metallic-sounding guitars, industrial drumming thumps mixed the with the technicality of main drummer Joey Jordison’s chops. It isn’t a surprise that five albums later they’ve achieved legendary status.
Guitarists Jim Root and Mick Thompson are all about sludgy drop-tuned riffs, the occasional solo and a splash of melody here and there. Sometimes they almost have a percussive feel because of the way they sync up with the three drummers. Have a listen to the playlist below to get an idea.
It might be surprising to find out that Jim Root has three signature Fender guitars; a Jazzmaster, Telecaster and Strat, all built to similar specs. However, they are arguably Fender’s biggest departures from their traditional builds.
All are equipped with active EMG pickups, usually an 81 in the bridge and 60 in the neck for the aggressive tones Slipknot utilise. Hardware choices and looks-wise they’re the most modern you can get from the Californian guitar builders. All feature solid black or white finishes, ebony fretboards, modern ‘C’ necks, hardtail bridges and a lone volume knob.
Second guitarist Mick Thomson is endorsed by Fender-owned Jackson guitars. He used to play an Ibanez, but now uses a signature super-strat Soloist designed from the ground up to be a metal machine. Thomson helped design the guitar’s extremely high-output signature Seymour Duncan Blackout pickups. Like Jim Root, he keeps it simple with one volume knob and a three-way switch. However, he has an intriguingly-designed fixed Floyd Rose bridge based on the classic floating trem design.
Matt and Rabea both decided to find guitars with EMG pickups while avoiding the Jim Root signature, which they felt was slightly cheating. Matt picked an ESP LTD Eclipse with plenty of weight behind the tone. Rabea favoured an Ibanez RG more similar to the design of Thomson’s guitar. Both come in between £400-£500, which is a great price for the inclusion of top quality humbuckers.
If you’re feeling inspired check out our modern shape guitars.
A good amp is key to producing Slipknot’s thick distortion. Jim Root swears by the big and bold Orange amps. He has a signature Dark Terror but doesn’t always use it in live setups. He opts for the larger Rockerverb 100 going into a Celestion Vintage 30-loaded Orange 4×12. It’s super fat and bassy tones pair well with his bandmate’s rig.
Thomson sticks with his signature Rivera KR7. It’s a beast of an amp at 120 Watts. It’s voicing tightens the bottom-end and boosts the mids to punch through the many layers of Slipknot’s music. The matching cab has a high headroom to keep the sound as pristine as possible.
To recreate Jim Root’s side of things, the boys went with the signature Dark Terror. It’s not difficult to achieve his tone with such a cheap setup for a pro musician. And the amp isn’t complex either. It consists of a single channel EQ and effects loop.
As Rivera is out the price range of an amateur player, Rabea went for the British Marshall DSL15 head. Like the Rivera, it keeps the low-end in check and even has an ultra-gain channel, perfect for Slipknot. The EL34 tubes in the DSL are known for pushing mids and highs so keep everything tight.
Find tube heads at Andertons here.
Both guitarists have relatively simple pedalboards and rackmount setups. They have no use for ambient effects when most of their songs are so heavy. On the rare occasion they need a clean tone, Jim Root has two MXR Carbon Copy delays differing in delay time controlled by his engineer backstage. He has another one onstage for any crazy oscillations and a Cry Baby Wah he uses during solos.
Other effects such as the Boss Noise Suppressor stay on the rack because he keeps it on throughout a gig. Clean effects like the Holy Grail Reverb, EH Micro POG and Maxon Phaser and Auto Filter are used more sparingly.
His counterpart is even more utilitarian. Mick Thomson keeps all his effects rack-mounted. He also uses a Carbon Copy delay, a Death By Audio Fuzz War and a custom octave fuzz made by his tech Kevin Allen.
Because Matt and Rabea had spent so much on getting a great overdrive sound, they didn’t even bother with effects! Slipknot aren’t known for their cleans. So naturally, getting a good likeness to the band relied on matching the gain.
If you’re interested in finding out how to achieve the tones of your favourite artists, check out more of our Sound Like articles.
Rabea: All right, guys. I'm Rabea.
Matt: I'm Matt.
Rabea: This is Sounds Like with Andertons TV.
Rabea: Matt, who are we sounding like today?
Matt: In this episode, we will sound like Slipknot, hopefully.
Rabea: Big, angry, scary band.
Matt: Two-guitar band, Mick Thomson and Jim Root.
Rabea: Jim Root, I suppose he's got…
Matt: Yes, he has a lot of…, as does Mick Thompson.
Rabea: Yes, they both, because they're huge artists. Jim Root's got the signature Orange Terror, doesn't he? Dark Terror.
Matt: That's right.
Rabea: As Rob would call it, terreur du noir. He's also got a Tele, doesn't he? With EMG's in it.
Matt: Yes, he does. A Fender Telecaster.
Rabea: Then Mick Thompson's got what?
Matt: A signature Ibanez, I believe. I'm not sure about amps.
Rabea: No, but he plays Rivera, doesn't he?
Matt: He does play it. He does have a signature Rivera, actually.
Matt: We could go with all of that if we wanted. That'd be way too easy, we're going to try and do your budget equivalent, so you could sound like Slipknot.
Rabea: Generally, it's about trying to find an achievable rig that you can gig with and practice with, that isn't going to burn a hole straight through your wallet. It's going to be satisfying and get those tones that we all know and love.
Matt: Not all of us.
Rabea: No. [laughs]
Matt: My mom doesn't like Slipknot, for instance.
Rabea: No, my mom doesn't like Slipknot.
Matt: But I do.
Rabea: We should also mention that what we're trying to do in this series is choose some of our favorite songs of each of these artists we're trying to sound like, just so that we can pinpoint a specific tone rather than be in the ballpark.
Matt: That'll be fun.
Rabea: Let's give it a go. What's first? Guitars?
Matt: Yes. [laughs]
Rabea: Yes? Guitars. [laughs]
Matt: Guitars for us. Let's do Jim Root first.
Rabea: Yes, Jim Root.
Matt: What's that? EMG loaded for about 500, 600 quid.
Rabea: Okay. What's likely to be EMG loaded?
Matt: An Ibanez.
Rabea: EMGs. It's a nice quilt top, but to be honest, it's not really a Matt guitar, but it is 589 quid.
Matt: That's not bad.
Rabea: You could just do an ESP. Single Cut LTD Deluxe. To be fair, they're all pretty good, and they're made with love and care.
Matt: Love and care, attention.
Rabea: Yes, and it's got EMGs in it.
Matt: It does.
Rabea: 800 quid.
Rabea: You've got 600 quid for an amp then.
Matt: Let's do it.
Rabea: I'm Rabea Thompson right now.
Matt: Yes, makes me sad.
Rabea: [laughs] Yes. Mick Thompson's guitar is an Ibanez, and his has EMGs as well. We're lucky that we can pinpoint the pickups. That gets quite a bit of that bold tone.
Rabea: This looks pretty good to me. All right, it's a baritone.
Matt: [laughs] I still think it's a little bit long. How about that?
Matt: Yes. It's a pretty beautiful guitar.
Rabea: It's 439 quid.
Rabea: Which is pretty good. It's really light. It's got EMGs in it. It's a hard-tail. To be honest--
Rabea: It's got a walnut top on it as well. You know what? Yes, I'm going to get one of these. Matt.
Matt: Amps. It's not my amps.
Rabea: We're in the world of Orange now.
Matt: We are. Orange world. This is a Jim Root signature Orange Dark Terror.
Rabea: Dark Terror. Terreur du noir.
Rabea: To be fair, how much is it?
Matt: 439. We haven't bought the Jim Root guitar as well. I consider that probably cheating.
Matt: I think, just to make sure, we know Slipknot. Let's do that for this with the EMG loaded LTD. Should sound pretty, pretty, pretty good.
Rabea: Because amateurs don't actually start with Rivera, I'm thinking either Marshall or Blackstar for this one.
Matt: We're standing in Blackstar.
Rabea: That's a 5 watts amp though.
Matt: I think we need just a little bit more beef.
Rabea: Yes, 5 watts isn't going to cut it against-- Okay, Blackstar, we can't get a hold of the right size amplifier that we need, because if the Jim Root's Orange is 15 watts, and I'm running 5 watts, it's not going to really work. I think Marshall. If you think about it, I wanted that British tone, Marshall.
Matt: What's more British than that?
Rabea: Also, it's 15 watts. That's going to sit perfectly with Jim Root head, because that's 15 watts as well. 499. Because we're playing riffs, we don't actually need any kind of stomp boxes, any kind of delays, or anything like that, because that's not what Slipknot is about.
Rabea: Genuinely, I think that's it, but the difficulty is getting the tone. Let's see how it sounds at the video room.
Rabea: All right, we're here, we're in the video room.
Matt: We made it, we made it again.
Rabea: We're sounding like Slipknot today, or we're going to attempt to sound like Slipknot.
Matt: We're trying to sound like Slipknot on a budget.
Matt: I wouldn't say we've necessarily cheated as such, but we've got the Jim Root Dark Terror by Orange Amps, which is what Matt's playing through. Fair enough, you get a guitar with the EMGs and you play through that, you're going to get somewhere pretty close to the Jim Root sound, aren't you?
Matt: Exactly, yes. For the price and for the Slipknot sound, we haven't gone with the Jim Root signature guitar.
Rabea: That's the LTD Eclipse, isn't it?
Matt: Fitted with EMGs.
Rabea: It's a lovely guitar. If anyone's ever played one of these, they're well made, they've got locking tuners, the EMG's, nice solid hard-tail guitar, they're good. How does it sound?
Rabea: Fair enough. [laughs]
Matt: It's a little more hard-gain than the acoustic stuff I play normally. I think we've achieved pretty fat sounds between the two of us.
Rabea: Yes, absolutely. I'm using the Ibanez with its lovely memorable name of RGIR20BFE WNF.
Matt: Ain't that catchy?
Rabea: It's a walnut top, EMG fitted hard-tail. It's a nice hard-tail, super strapped with EMG. I'm running the Marshall DSL 15 head. Matt's going into a Victory 412, and I'm going into a Marshall 412. The only reason is because we've had the mic up throughout the whole series that we've been doing and just seemed to make sense, because you can get an Orange to accompany the Jim Root head. You can also get the combo version of the DSL 15, but this is my turn, so this is straight up ultra gain channel. The gain is actually quite low, but I really like it.
Rabea: The idea, the concept, was to sound like Slipknot, and we decided it would be more achievable to choose songs by Slipknot, or by any artist we're trying to sound like.
Matt: I think the songs we were headed for were from Vol. 3: (The Subliminal Verses). We had Duality, as that's like over 10 years old now.
Rabea: It's pretty old. I can't believe it actually. Well long time ago.
Matt: Yes, it's a long time. I was remembering the video for Duality.
Rabea: Such a good tune and a great video.
Matt: That's a great tone.
Rabea: It does. A little bit messy, a bit aggressive.
Matt: My mom might be annoyed.
Rabea: If I'd be falling through the roof, I'd be annoyed.
Matt: I'd be annoyed, yes. The other newest one, The Devil In I.
Rabea: I have not actually heard much of the new Slipknot album. I know they got a new drummer, obviously Paul Gray died, rest in peace. Matt showed me one of the new tunes, it's got a wicked little riff in it.
Matt: It's a bit more lightweight, but we're still going to hit them all at full volume and see what happens.
Rabea: One thing we did notice, actually, is Mick Thomson, because he uses Rivera, I think it is, isn't it?
Rabea: It's more of a barky tone. It's more of that British over-driven sound. Whereas Jim Root is much more-- It's Orange, isn't it?
Matt: It's big and fat.
Rabea: Yes, it's big and fat. The two together is a nice complement in tone, but the EMG's with the Marshall does achieve a very similar Mick Thompson-y sound.
Matt: Yes, we both went EMGs, which I guess is-
Rabea: Is what they do, yes.
Matt: -pretty Slipknot.
Rabea: I liked playing the riff, I think it sounded quite Slipknot-y.
Matt: Yes. It's a riff by Slipknot, similar as Slipknot.
Matt: I think we came close.
Rabea: You'd hope, wouldn't you?
Matt: You would.
Rabea: I might be going like just going out to win it, but I think we did a pretty job of sounding like Slipknot.
Matt: I think that sounds good definitely.
Rabea: Yes. Both rigs, individually, you can easily get for definitely in about 1500 quid.
Rabea: At the end of the day, as long as you can get a nice solid guitar with the EMG's and a reasonably high gain amplifier, you're either going to go for more full fat Orange-y tone or a more British masterly tone. You can definitely achieve the Slipknot sound.
Matt: Both the rigs in the room sound awesome.
Rabea: Yes. If you want to find out anything else about this basic kit, you can definitely go to the description box below where we've put some links.
Matt: Yes, we've put links to the music and the gear reviews so you can check both out and you can do a little comparison if you like, see how close we got and leave your comments below.
Rabea: Yes, leave your comments to let us know how we did, but yes, that sounds like slipknot with Andertons TV.
Matt: Yes, I've been Matt.
Rabea: I've been Rabea.
Matt: See you later.
[00:11:04] [END OF AUDIO]