By Strings Direct – 29 August, 2023
"No-one expects somebody to play music like Slipknot's on a Telecaster"
Quote from Guitar.com
As we drift into Autumn, the evenings begin to close in, and the days become colder and darker we turn our spotlight to a modern metal titan. As we’ll discover below, a monolithic player who has traditional guitar playing values, who plans to pull no punches and take no prisoners. He is a gentle giant whose iconic stage presence always raises the adrenaline levels and causes a monumental stir, pushing all boundaries and limitations.
Let’s get our head into the alternative world of nu-metal, neo-shock-rock that encapsulates the influential Being that is Mr. Jim Root 🤟
THE LAST VEGAS STRING SLINGER
The journey of this six string assault master begins in the desert, in the land of illuminations and jackpots 🃏. On 2nd October 1971, Las Vegas, Nevada James Donald Root was born into a generation of incoming MTV euphoria.
Like many young people of this generation it was his parents record collection that laid the foundations of musical interest, but interestingly his magnetism towards the guitar as an entity started very early:
“When I was 10 or 12 years old, before I even started playing, MTV became a thing,” he says. “I’d see Deep Purple videos with Ritchie Blackmore playing a Strat – and it freaked me out. Something about that just grabbed me. In my parents’ record collection, there were so many album covers with people holding either a Tele or a Strat. I was just drawn to it and it was all downhill from there.”
Jim Root for Guitar.com
Interestingly the guitar fascination was present much earlier than that in a really peculiar way via Star Wars mania…
“I knew from a very young age that I would take tennis rackets and use them as guitars – and lightsaber,” says Root. “My mum has a picture of me on a picnic table with this wooden lightsaber that my grandpa had made me, but instead of playing Star Wars and trying to have sword fights with the neighbourhood kids, I was using the lightsaber as a guitar.”
Jim Root for Guitar.com
As we look into Root’s relationship with guitar we find out there is a pattern in a way that he seems to have a bit of a tug-of-war relationship with both music and especially the guitar he seems to want to come away from it daily but he’s drawn to it undeniably. It’s almost like a pure love/hate relationship. Something very relatable in all honesty as a guitar player myself and I believe I speak for many others when I say it’s an up-and-down whirlwind situation maintaining a long-term bond with a guitar lifestyle.
"I think about quitting the band every day"
Jim Root for i-D.vice.com
“When I was 14, my parents got me a Memphis guitar, which was like a Les Paul II knock-off with two single coils in it. The first thing I did was break a string on it,” he remembers. “I mainly taught myself by ear until I was about 15. Then this guy came into town that had learnt all the Paul Gilbert stuff out in LA. He was originally from Des Moines and he’d been out there on the Sunset Strip scene with a band but came back to Iowa because it didn’t work out. He brought back three-note-per-string scales, modes and all that stuff.”
Before long, the modal evangelist was putting a band together. Impressed with what he’d seen from Root while teaching him the “Paul Gilbert stuff”, he asked him to join his thrash act 'Atomic Opera'.
Jim Root for Guitar.com
As Jim progressed through the musical scene a different type of opportunity began to arise, as much as Atomic Opera was cool as hell the opera was about to get very very dark indeed and the phantom began to carve his way into Jim’s personality…
SOUR > SLIPKNOT > SOUR
As Atomic Opera dissolved and had run its course Jim went on to join a band formed in Des Moines by Corey Taylor; ‘Stone Sour’ were a roots American decadent rock band. Very fitting for the times with well-crafted, poetic songs interpreted by a group of great players.
Some might say that Stone Sour almost evolved into this next project through cause-and-effect but what happened next was truly fascinating for this generation; a band that totally changed the face of music.
“Slipknot were founded in Iowa in 1995. Soon enough, the iconic nine-strong metal band were a favourite of every misunderstood teen outsider. The Grammy award-winning group had not just provided an outlet but created a whole culture, uniting a community of like-minded people the world over. With a focus on acceptance, inclusivity and standing up for yourself, the appeal of Slipknot endures to this day.
For the uninitiated (not sure how you missed this tbh) Slipknot are the stuff of nightmares, performing in an ever-evolving array of masks that have included burnt faces, post-operative clowns, phallic-nosed gimps, jesters, Japanese kabuki, nail-filled crash helmets and skull-shaped gas masks.“
Excerpt - i-D.vice.com
"Jim Root lends his fast, technical fretwork to Slipknot’s unique onslaught of downtuned riffs, demented melodies, and blast-beat-driven grooves. He considers a wide range of Dunlop products to be crucial components of his sound"
Excerpt - jimdunlopusa.com
Throughout his career he’s picked up no less than four signature Fender models an astounding achievement! It’s amazing just to get one signature model as an artist! Here's the latest incarnation:
The guitar is a minimalistic and unsurprisingly aggressive take on the Jazzmaster idea, with two Jim Root signature EMG active humbuckers. Unlike many active humbuckers, such as those found in Jim Root’s signature Stratocaster or Telecaster, these are open-coil, with a zebra design. The pickups are governed by a simple arrangement of a single black volume knob and a 3-way blade selector switch.
The guitar’s mahogany body comes in satin white, contrasted against the black hardtail string-through bridge, pickup surrounds and locking tuners. The C-shaped maple neck boasts an ebony fretboard and jumbo frets, with large, pearloid block inlays and Luminlay fluorescent side dots. The fretboard also features a flat 12” radius, allowing for bigger bends without choking out.
Overview and spec via - Guitar.com
What I find particularly fascinating about Jim Root as a guitarist is the fact that he has an extremely diverse approach to music, so what you see is not just what you get. He is so much more and his depth of character and musical integrity is incredible. You can see evidence of this below where he describes his constantly developing and evolving views on guitar playing as a mature musician now:
“During that rebellious “my parents are old, they suck” period, I was a metalhead so I was influenced by Anthrax, Megadeth, Racer X and anything that was guitar-led. When you’re young and you’re that full of anger, you just want this fast, aggressive, intricate guitar playing. Then I realised that David Gilmour and John Frusciante were saying more with one note than a lot of these guys are with 16 notes. I’m a Libra so I’m horribly lazy, and it’s like, I could sit down and practise getting to that level of guitar playing, but what’s the point? To me, it’s more about melody and striking an emotion.”
Jim Root for i-D.vice.com
JIM ROOT SIGNATURE GEAR: THE STRING LAB
We’ve learned that Jim Root has a real diverse musical character and a real push-pull attitude to guitar, so when it comes to string choice the sets that define him really reflect his needs.
Jim Dunlop has been a go-to Mecca for Mr. Root and he has firmly planted his boots and set up camp. He considers Dunlop to be a crucial part of his sound with both plectrum and string choice.
The following transcript from the Jim Dunlop website conveys this perfectly and helps us understand why he has laid his mask with the iconic Jim Dunlop USA 🤟🤡
“From the writing process, to the studio, all the way to live shows, there is an arsenal of Dunlop gear that I bring,” he says. “Strings, picks, the Way Huge® line, MXR® - they’re all very important to my creative process.”
Pick choice is crucial for any player, and Jim digs in with his Custom Nylon Pick. “It’s essentially a Tortex® TIII made from the same nylon as a Jazz III,” he says. “It helps cut through when the double-kick starts going, and it glides over the strings no matter what the tension and tuning are for the guitar that I’m using. And then it has the perfect offset grip for the thumb and forefinger so that I don’t drop it on stage.”
When stringing up, he relies on his custom set of Signature Strings. As we can tell from above, through years of shows with Slipknot and Stone Sour he’s completely mastered the art of the heavy, low-tuned riff and tone. Which also means he’s experimented with tonnes of strings and gauges to get the perfect set to meet his needs. To put your name to a set you have to be certain and for Jim to do this is HUGE!
In conjunction with Jim Dunlop two signature sets have been released in Jim Root’s most used tunings: Drop-B and Drop-A. These sets have been tailored to Jim Root with proprietary core:wrap ratios to maintain tension and clarity at such low tuning.
“These strings give me what I need to get my sound, and they’re comfortable to play no matter what I throw at them,” Jim says. “They keep their high-end clarity for a long time, and they’re really consistent from one pack to the next - they never break on me.”