Sid Wilson Talks "Sid", Edgar Allan Poe, Writing, and More
Mon, 07 Nov 2011 09:39:00
If you want to get to know Sid Wilson, just take his solo album, Sid, for a spin.
Sid illuminates every facet of the Slipknot DJ's intensely creative psyche. Incorporating a myriad of influences and feelings, he wrote, recorded, produced, and engineered the album himself. "I'd literally be in the studio, hit record, and run into the vocal booth," he says with a smile.
Every piano melody and vocal line opens a rabbit hole down a deeper path and, once the ride starts, it's impossible to turn away. Over the course of the album's 13 songs, Wilson traverses harrowing and hypnotic soundscapes with Portishead-style elegance. Mastering musical alchemy, he segues from ethereal trip-hop dreams into punked-out street grooves. He fearlessly delves into some truly dark territory while maintaining a sense of beauty. As a result, Sid is one of the most intriguing, invasive, and infectious records of 2011. It's a masterpiece and a true work of art.
Meet modern music's maddest scientist. Meet Sid.
In this exclusive interview with ARTISTdirect.com editor in chief and Dolor author Rick Florino, Sid Wilson discusses his new solo album, why he loves Edgar Allan Poe, songwriting and so much more. Discover some of the mysteries below…
When you started working on the album, did you have one vision for Sid as a whole?
I did in a way. It was about making the music that I needed to get out of my body. I've always had this different style and sound. It's like I get a transmission from another planet and something inside of me needs to put it out there in a way that other people can understand and feel it emotionally. Then, they can put themselves in my shoes or other people's shoes and know exactly how it would feel. Everything I do kind of comes to me like a satellite signal from above somewhere. I'm just doing what I do I'm supposed to do. It's a true expression of how I feel and what I'm going through at different times of my life. I'm expressing it in the best way I know how—through music. Being a DJ is about mixing various styles of music together, and that's the part of the process that comes naturally to me.
What's the story behind "Flat Lace"?
I wrote that song for Paul about five years before he died. I recovered from a lot of bad usage when I was younger. I was able to leave all of that behind. I came from the perspectives of being a friend of his and someone in the band who knows what it's like to go through those kinds of pains. To see someone in my family who was going through the same things I'd been through was a really difficult situation for all of us. There had been so many times that the problem had been addressed and we'd all come together as a family to try and help Paul. I felt like I was running out of options on how to bring it to light. I knew that the only thing I could do was let him know that I knew how difficult it was, what he was going through, and what the outcome was going to be. I was actually able to share that song with him and play it for him. I did everything I could as a friend to try and help him out.
How were songs typically born for this record?
The majority of my music will start on a piano. The Beatles are my favorite group of all-time. Of course, my taste will span clear across the board from country, punk, rock 'n' roll, and folk to hip hop, metal, digital DJ music—anything [Laughs]. I usually start with the piano. The Beatles used to have four pianos against the wall, and they would write a lot of music like that. Also, I'll do a lot of beat-making and production on the hip hop side of things. Usually, I'll start with the piano or the drums. Everything else falls in line from there. Once I lay something down—a melody, a drumbeat, or anything—I instinctively hear the next part whether it's in the same key or not. I don't know how to read music so it's about harnessing whatever comes to me.
Is it important for you to paint visual pictures lyrically? Do you tend to draw from literature?
I try to let people know what I'm feeling or thinking whether it's a personal thing or an opinion of something that's happening in the world. It's all directly how I would speak on the topics. I've always been into writing and poetry. I read a lot of choose-your-adventure sci-fi books as a kid [Laughs]. I came across Edgar Allan Poe through a teacher in junior high, and I was hooked. She had an original copy of The Raven and she let me borrow it and take it home. I kept it for months and read it over and over again. The fact that it was an original copy with the original binding—I was trying to suck all of the energy out of it I could [Laughs]. That was the peak. I went out and got everything that he ever put out, and I read it all. I read a lot of poetry from other poets and musicians, but Poe seemed to stand out the most. I don't know if that played into my dark approach to a lot of things. There was something about the way he put his words together. There was such a flow and energy. There were riddles inside some of his work that could only be solved through mathematical equations and numbers inside of it. I really feel frequencies and words are the key to the universe somehow. When I create music and something seemingly comes out of thin air, it increases my belief that there's a key to life inside all of it. The more you practice that and push towards that, you can better help other people to understand what you're seeing and feeling. I was really infatuated with Edgar Allan Poe's work because he was going that deep into it and involving mathematics and equations with numbers and letters. It's not that I go in and try to figure out the equations on how I'm making music, but I definitely believe everything has a frequency and a resonance.
As a race, humanity can be most honest while creating. The veil is gone. Any inhibitions are gone. You're able to go into the vocal booth and let it out.
On Iowa, there's the "515" intro. My grandfather had gotten really sick at the end of the recording cycle, and I had to lay my finishing parts down. There were two or three days left. I figured I'd hang out, get that stuff done, and then fly out to see my grandfather in the hospital. He passed away before I could do that. So, I went into the vocal booth and let it rip. I was like, "Turn it on". There was no music or anything, just pure release of how I truthfully felt at that time. That's how I've always done everything.
Do you have any favorite Edgar Allan Poe pieces?
I was so infatuated with all of it [Laughs]. He's my favorite author of all-time. He dealt with everything through his art, which is one of the truest and best forms to express anything you're feeling negatively. Rather than acting negatively in the physical world, you're able to get that release through a spiritual way. It's the same way Slipknot fans release everything they're dealing with by coming to a concert and listening to the album. Rather than acting on it, they're able to get that release in a more positive way. As far as favorite goes, I'd have to say Lenore and Valentine. I was always seeking into Lenore for deep meaning and trying to find out the true person he was talking about. I'd research his personal life and see if it matched. Poe was talking about finding his perfect love to sit next to him in heaven. He was constantly on this search for a significant other, and Lenore seemed to be the one. A Valentine has a riddle in it.
What would be the cinematic equivalent of Sid?
I actually have a movie in my head that follows the album. It involves my great grandfather Sid the first. He was a champion boxer in the English army during WWI. It follows through to my dad, Sid the second, who was in the SAS 22nd Regiment Special Forces. He did professional moto-scrambles in England when he was like 16, doing road race bikes and dirt bikes. Then it follows up to me Sid the third. That's all I'll say right now [Laughs].
Musically, you incorporate so many different sounds. What encourages that?
I'm a huge Portishead fan and I guess that's where a lot of the different sounds come from. My family is from England. I'm the first-generation American. I went over there all the time as a kid. So I grew up on a lot of reggae, DJ music, jungle, drum 'n' bass, and punk rock. I listened to all of these vastly different styles that my family was buying and sending to me. I spent almost half of my time in England and I got this cross meld of different things. The exposure was amazing. It kept me so open-minded to everything. When I was a kid, one of my favorite cassette tapes had Run-D.M.C.'s Tougher Than Leather on one side and then Scorpions on the other [Laughs]. All of my tapes were like that with two completely different styles of music on each side.
Where were you coming from on "Punk Rock Noise"?
The album has all of these different themes on it. There's stuff from my personal life. There are my views and opinions on things in the world today. It's like I'm a hidden voice. Now, I'm just starting to come out and vocalize it for everyone and speak for the people who are on the same page as I am. You're doing what you can to fight the system. There's this whole punk rock attitude towards everything. Punk rockers are really into anarchy, but the true form of anarchy is doing what you do best, helping everyone you can in exchange for them helping you, and living harmoniously together as a race by watching each other's backs. There are a couple of songs along those lines. "I Can't Save Ya" touches on some of that stuff too. "Punk Rock Noise" is like using the music as our weapon. Instead of coming out and doing things that are violent, we're a lot more powerful by doing stuff that's going to be timeless. After I'm gone and anybody else is gone who's helped with the music, that music will live on. It's like an infinite weapon.
Where are you headed next?
I've got a Sid EP that's close to finished called The Miami Vice Soundcrack. It's more like "Punk Rock Noise". It's more of the digital, hip hop, punk rock, space crunch thing. With the self-titled album, I wanted people to get every aspect of me that I could possibly give. They already know the Slipknot side of Sid—the crazy lunatic who will do anything for his fans at a live performance. On Sid, I wanted to open up all of the other areas of my life and the music that I'm into and I like to create. The EP is going to be more based around the edgier street sound. There's also a DJ Starscream EP called The King of the Jungle that's going to be released for free within the next month.
Have you heard Sid yet?
For more with Sid, see our exclusive interview about Iowa here!
Visit Sid's official site here! Become a fan on Facebook here! Buy Sid on iTunes here!
Photo Credit: Ryan Berrier, official site here!