Now only recognised by the most devoted fans, discover the lesser-known origins of Slipknot and find out the backstory behind the band’s very first release.
Ranked alongside artists including Metallica, Iron Maiden and Black Sabbath, Slipknot have become regarded as one of the biggest metal acts of all time, influencing a generation of musicians and formulating a sound exclusive to them. Yet, whilst recognised for their heavy metal sound, with tracks ‘Psychosocial’ and ‘Duality’ being essential to any metal playlist, few fans have taken the time to appreciate the band’s initial debut: Mate. Feed. Kill. Repeat.
Now regarded as merely a demo album by the members themselves, this primary release was vital in first putting Slipknot on the map, helping them create and solidify what has now come to be known as their distinctive, angsty sound.
From overcoming extensive financial obstacles to pushing the boundaries of the metal genre, see how Mate. Feed. Kill. Repeat., through its lack of refinement, laid the foundation for the band and is not one to be overlooked.
Originally formed by Anders Colsefni (vocals), Shawn ‘Clown’ Crahan (custom percussion) and Paul Gray (bass) in 1995, few know that Slipknot’s work dates back to as early as 1993, with the members writing many of their most famous tracks years in advance of their official debut.
Evolving gradually throughout the early 1990s, the band was initially a mere side project for the founding members, with them all working full-time jobs and Clown already preoccupied with raising a family. Still in its embryonic stage, lacking a name and only having a select few demo ideas, the members sought to gather momentum for the project in 1995, completing the lineup with musicians from the local scene.
The three founders scouted out the best musicians available in Iowa at the time and brought them together under the temporary name ‘The Pale Ones’. It was here that local drummer, Joey Jordison was enlisted, aged just 21 and working at a gas station at the time. Alongside Jordison, guitarists Donnie Steele and Josh Brainard were also scouted to become part of the band and, thus, the recording of the album initiated.
Only just beginning to evolve further than its fundamental roots, the one thing that was concrete about the upcoming band at this time was their vision of creating a genre-bending hybrid of Death and Nu Metal. Not yet clad with their signature masks nor their household name, the members threw themselves headfirst into creating music without any official structure- placing their emphasis solely on embracing the unorthodox.
Drawing inspiration from Jazz, Funk, Disco and Tribal music, the members toyed with the initial name of ‘Meld’ for the band. This was because the experimental approach pushed boundaries in a way that any other artist would shy away from, expanding the metal scene and creating a sound that was unmistakably ‘them’.
A distant cry from their now most famous hits, ‘Before I Forget’ and ‘The Devil In I’, the majority of Mate. Feed. Kill. Repeat. remains, despite its lack of refinement, some of the bands most intriguing and nuanced work to date. ‘Confessions’ and ‘Do Nothing/Bitch Slap’ exemplified this experimental approach best. From using three drummers to mimic an ominous, tribal aura to playing with sound by erecting walls to experiment with feedback, the mirage of influences behind the album immediately set the band apart from anyone else currently on the scene.
Despite still being in its rudimentary phase and, to most, almost unrecognisable to the sound the band are now famed upon, many of these initial tracks share common ground with Slipknot’s most commercially successful releases: they were all written by the most highly praised members of the band- Clown, Joey Jordison and Paul Gray.
A far stretch from fully solidifying the image that catapulted them into mainstream success, that isn’t to suggest that Mate. Feed. Kill. Repeat. was unable to introduce techniques that Slipknot retained throughout their career.
Already incorporating the emotion-ridden angst and melodic, ascending intros into this debut release, it was aspects such as these that were maintained in the band’s later discography and helped form their signature sound.
For instance, the unsettlingly personal and emotionally-fuelled tracks ‘Gently’, ‘Tattered and Torn’ and ‘Killers Are Quiet’ unmistakably paved the way for Slipknot’s later sound, with some hardcore fans still even preferring this version of ‘Gently’ to its more polished counterpart on the 2001 album, Iowa.
Whilst later eradicating the majority of their experimental aspects by the time of their next, self-titled release, few realise that the metal sound which underpinned Mate. Feed. Kill. Repeat. was a result of lesser-known guitarist, Josh Brainard.
Pushing for a predominantly Metal sound and seeking to divert Slipknot into Death Metal and Grindcore territory during the writing of the album, it was Brainard’s clean-cut, simple approach that was one of the few aspects the band retained throughout their later releases.
When revisiting the debut release, Brainard’s influence on the band is prominent from the start. ‘Slipknot’, ‘Only One’ and ‘Some Feel’ remain closest to the band’s current sound, with a Heavy Metal influence standing out, especially throughout the guitars. With its more-traditional structure, memorable riffs and vocal lines, ‘Slipknot’, was guaranteed to be a fan favourite amid its eccentric, tribal-inspired counterparts on the album. In fact, it was here that the band decided to rename themselves after the track and rerelease the single as the 1999 song, ‘(sic)’.
Responsible for pushing the boundaries of the Metal genre and finding the sound that the band would later become famed upon, it comes as a shame that the members would soon grow to resent Mate. Feed. Kill. Repeat., demoting it from their debut album to merely a demo track that was never an official release. With devoted fans insistent that the release is not one to remain under the radar, the difficulty the members faced when it came to releasing the album alone is a testament to the success of the band today.
Whilst it comes as no surprise that Slipknot were unsigned at the time of the release, few realise that this debut by the band was entirely self-funded, with Clown spending approximately $40,000 of his own money to make the album.
Through a mix of savings, credit cards and borrowing cash from his parents, Clown was solely responsible for covering the cost of the album- even going as far as buying a local venue in the area to ensure Slipknot always had a platform to perform live. Renaming the local blues bar as ‘The Safari Club’, the investment allowed the band to headline shows, play alongside other upcoming acts in the area and gradually gain exposure– despite their unorthodox sound and aggressive performance style.
With the other members working in the venue to help pay off the debt, including vocalist Anders Colsefni helping with the construction and controlling the venue’s finances, the band were finally ready to release the debut album. Only able to afford 1000 copies and having to distribute each one personally, tensions began to infiltrate the band and the lineup began to alter before they were able to gather momentum.
Departing from the band due to religious reasons, original guitarist, Donnie Steele, departed from the band and was replaced by local guitarist, Craig Jones. What’s more, upon completion of the album, further tension rose amongst the members as a result of the extensive use of samples used in the recording… something the band would be unable to replicate when playing in a live setting.
To solve this problem, Craig Jones abandoned his current position as the guitarist and was reassigned the role of sampler. It was here when the band introduced the now-still-current-member, Mick Thompson into the band as the replacement of both Steele and Thompson. Despite playing no part in the writing or recording of Mate. Feed. Kill. Repeat., both Mick Thompson and Craig Jones were still credited on the record.
Having overcome finance issues and personal tensions to release the album, Slipknot were finally set with five members that would remain in the band throughout their most commercially successful years, Clown, Jordison, Gray, Thompson and Jones. However, by this stage, the band had evolved and were already growing to resent their initial, non-conformist sound.
Almost immediately after the album’s release, the member craved a more radio-friendly approach that would allow them to cultivate a wider audience. Following the minimal success of the debut, the band began to harbour a disdain towards Mate. Feed. Kill. Repeat. and the overly-niche sound it represented- soon demoting it to a mere ‘unofficial demo album’ and refusing to make further copies.
Once again, tensions rose further as the members decided that Anders Colsefni’s vocal style was too heavy to gather mainstream listeners and, thus, kicked the frontman from the band. Looking for his replacement, the band looked towards a local band beginning to make waves in the Iowa scene- Stone Sour. Having previously gone head to head in a recent Battle of the Bands, the remaining members enlisted Stone Sour vocalist, Corey Taylor, as their new frontman, later convincing Stone Sour guitarist, Jim Root, to also join the band- creating what would soon become the most famous lineup of Slipknot for years to come.
Starting afresh and viewing Mate. Feed. Kill. Repeat. as nothing more than a learning curve for the band, the members cast the initial release aside, reviving it only to salvage scraps that would later be re-released at a later date. ‘Gently’ was rerecorded in 1992 and released nearly a decade later on the album, Iowa. Similarly, tracks ‘Only One’, ‘Tattered and Torn’ and ‘Slipknot’ faced later salvation, being ‘officially’ released on the band’s next release in 1999, with the latter track renamed as ‘(sic.)’.
Although never be able to live up to the reputation of the albums that followed it, that is not to imply that the debut is one to be overlooked by Slipknot fans. Undeniably overshadowed by the band’s subsequent releases and often disregarded as nothing more than a demo album, Mate. Feed. Kill. Repeat. was vital in creating the sound that first put the band on the map.
Incorporating a myriad of different genres and introducing their cerebral, angst-driven approach, the sound captured across the release is unmistakably still prominent within Slipknot’s current work and, therefore, not to be disregarded.
From the Grindcore-inspired growls of Anders Colsefni to the fast-paced, down-tuned guitar tones throughout, the tracks on Mate. Feed. Kill. Repeat., whilst only listed as demos, act as a testament for the band’s later success, generating the same lineup and drawing unmissable parallels to the band’s following four albums: Slipknot, Iowa, Vol. 3 and All Hope Is Gone.
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