Masterclass: Sid Wilson (Slipknot)
BIMM Birmingham recently hosted its very first masterclass with none-other than Sid Wilson (aka DJ Starscream) of Slipknot fame. The Iowa-bred DJ is one of the founding members of the iconic nine-piece metal band who are known throughout America and Europe as one of the most energetic and controversial live acts in existence today. Having been nominated for ten grammy awards since the release of their eponymous debut album in 1999, Sid and his bandmates have mastered their niche and become a force to be reckoned with.
Wilson, who famously wears a mask when performing live with his band-mates, began the inaugural masterclass with a candid story of how he first came to fall in love with music – with a surprising amount of influence from the UK music scene!
“My parents are both from England, so I’d spend months at a time in the UK as a child. The exposure to new music that I’d experience whenever I was over here was crazy. I’d just flick on BBC radio and there was such a wide array of music in comparison to what I was getting in Iowa. There wasn’t anything electronic on the radio over there, other than maybe some hip hop. But, as I got older, I got more into punk rock. I’d come over to the UK and see all the punk rockers and they looked great! I loved the colours in their hair and the fact they made their own clothes and that they took the time to do everything themselves. It wasn’t so much about having to follow anybody. You could be a part of that scene and just be your own person.”
Sid attributes this early exposure to punk with the inception of Slipknot;
“We’ve never cared what anyone thinks about us. We’re a heavy metal band. But deep down, we’ve got that punk mindset. The attitude is very much there. It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks about you. If you feel ok inside, that everything you’re doing in life is for the right purpose and you’re improving yourself, then why the fuck would I care if this guy doesn’t like my haircut. I don’t have time to worry about people passing judgment on me, when I know I’m doing the right thing with my life. That’s the whole punk philosophy, really.”
It’s instantly apparent when listening to Slipknot that the aggression level is high, but Sid’s outlook on their music has a much more positive angle.
“With all the bad stuff that’s going on around the world, music’s like a therapy. We have a lot of damaged people who listen to Slipknot for a release. And by listening to us they know they’re not alone. There’s something they can relate to. And they know there’s somebody out there who can relate to them. That in itself is worth more than anything.”
After his humbling sentiments on the cathartic nature of Slipknot’s music on the listener, Sid had one last piece of advice for students on the subject of creative control.
“I’m doing a lot of solo music too. Throughout the years I’ve sent records to different labels and have been promised different things by different people or whatever – but when that happens, it’s never what you wanted, 100%. There’s always some kind of ‘meet in the middle-ground’ deal, or things they want of yours that technically they shouldn’t have any right to. You should keep 100% of your merch’ profits. You should have 100% creativity. You should never let a label take a percentage of that, because they don’t understand what it’s like for people who had to fight in order to create it.”
Sid continues to reflect on all he’s learned from his years in the industry;
“You get these people that wanna cash in on you because of some statistic, or because another artist is doing something that’s popular – I don’t agree with that. Especially if it’s from someone who has barely hung out with you and has no idea of what the stuff you’re creating actually is. They’re just considering whether it’s marketable or not. Put your heart into it. Have attention to detail. Don’t be impatient about stuff. Y’know, David Bowie had his hands in everything throughout his career. Production, artwork, everything. Be like that!”
This advice certainly struck a chord with BIMM student Josh Whittaker, who’s currently studying a BA Hons in Professional Musicianship – Guitar.
“It was good hearing what he had to say about knowing different people and who to trust and who not to trust and having the independence to do a lot of stuff yourself. Although Slipknot are a heavy metal band, it was really interesting to hear that Sid was into a lot of other stuff like techno. That makes me want to listen to more music. So, I’ll probably go home today to listen to loads more stuff to see what inspires me.”
We’re so pleased that Sid took the time to come and speak to our students about his experiences, after which they were even treated to an intimate demonstration of his scratching skills on his very own mobile turntable.