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What a difference a decade can make.
Back in 2011 and heading into 2012, members of Slipknot were grieving the death in 2010 of Paul Gray, bassist and a key songwriter in the popular masked metal band, and above all, a close friend. Slipknot, formed in 1995 in Des Moines, stayed together, doing some touring as band members tried to find their way through an uncertain future.
It was against this backdrop that Jay Weinberg became part of Slipknot’s comeback story. In what was something of a blind date in 2014, the drummer arrived for an audition to replace the departed Joey Jordison. Weinberg hadn’t been told what band had requested the audition, and didn’t learn it was Slipknot until 20 minutes before the band arrived. This approach was meant to test Weinberg to see if he could rise to the occasion.
Looking back now, it makes perfect sense that Slipknot saw Weinberg as a potential replacement for Jordison. The group had a history with the drummer that stretched back more than a decade.
When Weinberg was 10, his father, Max Weinberg (yes, the longtime drummer in Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band), was doing a stint as bandleader on “The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien.” That year, Slipknot had rocketed to stardom behind its double-platinum self-titled debut album and got booked to perform on the late-night show. Knowing his son had started to take to heavy music, Max Weinberg wanted to introduce Jay to this emerging metal powerhouse.
“He saw Slipknot come out and play a song off of the first record and was like ‘Oh my God, these guys are crazy. My kid’s going to love this,’” Jay Weinberg said, recounting the story in an early March phone interview. “I believe he went and introduced himself to the guys (in Slipknot) and they were like ‘Hey, yeah, thanks for having us on the show. If you ever want to come out to a show, bring your whole family. We’d love to have you guys.’ And to his credit, he took them up on it.”
Over the ensuing years, the Weinberg family attended multiple Slipknot concerts, visiting with the band each time. Jay Weinberg became friends with the band members, to the point where they stayed in touch between Slipknot tours.
So when in 2014 Slipknot needed a new drummer, Weinberg feels he became an option because he not only was a big fan of the band and had the necessary drumming skills, he had been around Slipknot enough to understand the loss the band was still experiencing and the intensity, dedication and work ethic that goes into being in Slipknot.
“There was this whole extreme element of (making) the band’s first music without Paul Gray. Just playing Slipknot songs was such a small percentage of what the task was,” Weinberg said. “It was so much more about finding that right combination, because bands are all chemistry. … So the fact that they knew I would capture the ethos and the spirit of what was going on, especially with the intense emotion of moving on from a very difficult period of the band’s history and trying to elevate what we’re doing into a new era of the band, was very important and it goes so far beyond music.”
Weinberg clicked with Slipknot during the audition, so much so that the following day, he and the other members of the band — vocalist Corey Taylor, guitarist Jim Root, percussionist M. Shawn Crahan, guitarist Mick Thomson, DJ Sid Wilson, bassist Alessandro Venturella and sampler Craig Jones — went to work on what became the 2014 album, “. 5: The Gray Chapter.”
The band’s fifth album, “. 5: The Gray Chapter” topped Billboard magazine’s album chart and earned three Grammy nominations. Another chart-topping effort, “We are Not Your Kind,” followed in 2019 and was hailed as one of Slipknot’s best albums.
Even the pandemic didn’t stop the band, as Slipknot kept the momentum going by making a new studio album that is planned for release later this year. Weinberg is excited about the band’s work and said it will be a dark, intense and emotionally driven album that pushes the band forward musically.
Weinberg said he hopes the band will debut some of the new songs on this summer’s Knotfest Roadshow tour, stopping Sunday night at the TaxSlayer Center in Moline, Ill.
There has been talk of performing a few older tracks that haven’t been played live in many years. Whatever the set list, the goal will be to deliver shows that are fresh and exciting for the band to play and for fans to experience.
“We’re always trying to push the boundaries,” Weinberg said. “We’ve got new music on the way. So that always, when you’re up to this new creative stuff, you hope that kind of starts to show its face in all different ways, whether that’s the visuals of our show taking new shape, guys in the band having new masks. I’m one of those guys. So there’s all these different facets.
“What we hope from this tour is just a sharper version of Slipknot than ever before.”