‘‘For this album I wanted to push us in a bit of a different direction than we had been going,” explains Stone Sour guitarist Jim Root. “We spent so much time trying to do the opposite of Slipknot, we started losing sight of what we are as a band.” Root, and Stone Sour singer Corey Taylor are also members of masked metallers Slipknot, whose punishing brand of sonic mayhem presents a clear contrast to Stone Sour’s radio-friendly, post-grunge sound. “Sure, we always want to go to the next level and not repeat what we’ve done,” continues Root, “but we shouldn’t be afraid of a riff that could be on a Slipknot record.” On Stone Sour’s most recent album, Audio Secrecy [Sony], Root and co-guitarist Josh Rand straddle the fence between polished hooks and bludgeoning heaviosity.
How does Audio Secrecy reveal growth in terms of how you approach making records?
Rand: We’ve opened things up by not just concentrating on riffs and panning distorted guitars playing the same riff left and right. The music is still riff-y, but there’s more texture and layering, both harmonically and sonically. For example, we often thicken up rhythm guitar parts and countermelodies with thirds and fifths. The track “Hesitate” is a good example of how we beef things up with overdubs. There are a ton of guitars on it. I recorded four tracks—a distorted rhythm guitar, a clean 12-string electric, a clean 6-string electric, and an acoustic—Jim has a few tracks, and Corey also played guitar.
Root: The tune “Digital” is another good example. Josh and I are playing fifth and third harmonies, and then I put some octave guitars underneath to keep it heavy. A lot of times I’ll also harmonize with the vocal melody. For example, the chorus to “Mission Statement” was very linear, with descending power chords, so I added a melody above it that’s tucked tightly in the mix, giving the section as a whole more dimension. Little things like that really add a lot, especially on softer tunes. I also do three-note arpeggios for countermelodies underneath certain parts to give them a lift. One of my favorite things to use in situations like that is a Gretsch with a Bigsby through a Vox AC30, playing slow ambient parts with wavy vibrato.
Left to right—Rand, drummer Roy Mayorga, Root, vocalist Corey Taylor, and bassist Shawn Economaki. .
How do you balance the melodic side with the metal side?
Root: I’m not opposed to pop music. I love Oasis and Blur and a lot of ambient music, and I wouldn’t mind seeing Stone Sour explore territory like Blur’s “Bugman” or “M.O.R.,” rather than the Alice in Chains or Jar of Flies direction we tend to go in. But that’s what makes our band what it is. As a guitarist, I accept the challenge of adding interesting things to a tune that is basically three chords earnestly strummed.
Do you know what you’re going to play when you go into the studio?
Rand: I know exactly what I’m going to play. I write everything out and I do my homework before I track anything. We did so much pre-production for this album, we literally walked into the studio and pressed record knowing where every note was going to be. We worked every day for three months writing and pre-producing at about a song a day. Believe me, this album was fine-tuned and honed. Nick Raskulinecz, our producer, is big on work. He really wants to make sure everyone is putting in time—especially during the rehearsal and writing process. There were points where he would be pissed at certain individuals if he felt they didn’t know their s**t. I love the guy, but I also wanted to strangle him [laughs]! He’s very passionate and he wants the absolute best he can get from you.
Root: I absolutely fly by the seat of my pants when I go in to track solos, so I would butt heads with Nick quite often, because he’d want me to go work one out. But I can’t sit and write out a solo. I’d rather just see what happens. To me, the first idea is usually the best and everything after is chasing that initial idea. Unless it’s a hook or a major part of a song, I try and change up my solos every night on stage, too. It’s more interesting that way.
Do you guys tailor your tones to each other?
Root: No. We’re more concerned with sounding like ourselves. We could play through each other’s rigs and still sound like ourselves. I went through a phase where I was switching amp brands every album, but I’ve settled on Orange Rockerverb heads. The Orange has a sweet midrange that pokes through everything. In the studio I blend it with Diezel Herbert and Bogner Uberschall amps. The Oranges sound unique and they don’t have that fake low-end thing. We tune down low enough. If you get too many low frequencies, the guitars’ relationship to the bass changes and things sound weird. We don’t need amps that get underneath the lowtuned guitars. We mostly use three tunings: standard C# , dropped C# , and Eb.
Rand: We both like the biting, honky, metal tone. A tight, clean distortion—more like a hot-rodded Marshall tone as opposed to the scooped-mid, deep low end of a Mesa/Boogie Dual Rectifier. Live, I use a PRS Custom 24 loaded with an EMG 81 in the bridge and an EMG 60 in the neck into Hughes & Kettner TriAmp MK II heads. I have a lot of effects on my board, but they’re only there so I can play any tune in our catalog. Currently, the only effects I use are an MXR Stereo Chorus on my clean tones and a Dunlop Kirk Hammett wah that I’ll use during solos. Sometimes I’ll also kick on an MXR Custom Audio Electronics Boost to jack up a solo’s volume. At the end of the day, however, I feel your tone starts with your hands. You can play through James Hetfield’s rig, and you’re not going to sound like him. It’s important to figure out what works for you.
Root: I’m still using my signature model Fender Teles and Strats with the same EMG pickup configuration as Josh. I’ve also been playing a couple of Gibson Flying Vs.
What are you guys using for speaker cabinets?
Root: Onstage I have two Orange 4x12 cabs and Josh has a couple Hughes & Kettner 4x12s, but those are for stage volume. Offstage, we each have an isolation cab that is miked for the front-of-house. We used to use the Randall ISO12C isolation cab, but we’ve switched to putting a 4x12 in a road case. Josh has been using one of my Orange cabs, but he’s getting a Hughes & Kettner soon. It’s funny, but I realized that the thick, wicker grille cloth on the Orange cabs colors the tone and was part of the sound that I dig.
Josh, I read you were taking some Berklee online courses.
Rand: Yeah, I took Scales 101, Chords 101, and the classic rock course. I think you can hear what I learned on the solos for “Home Again,” a bonus track, and “Perfect.” It’s more of a classic approach to soloing as opposed to the Paul Gilbert, Yngwie Malmsteen style that I typically go for. You hear that I had been studying Clapton and Gilmour. Also, I learned different ways to approach chord voicings, and that really helped with the layering on the album. Certain inversions can add a lift to a chorus or bridge.
What inspired you to get academic on your playing?
Rand: If I didn’t learn new stuff, I would hit a wall. You don’t know everything, and if you think you do, you’re an idiot. Neil Peart is a perfect example. He went back and learned traditional grip, and that spoke volumes to me. Here’s a guy who is arguably the greatest rock drummer ever, and at 50- something years old he’s working on how to hold his sticks. Be yourself and constantly learn and you can’t go wrong.
Root: I’m in a rut now, but my discipline to practice is horrible. Plus, I find that the more I think, the more I f**k up! I actually started practicing last tour, learning new stuff, and I’d try to incorporate it live and I’d get lost. I do need to expand the little theory I do know, however. I need to learn to move scale shapes into different keys. I have ADD and I get bored easily. I’m not going to sit with a metronome. By the time I get through a couple of scales, I’m ready to go into my living room turn on my Xbox!