Sidney George Wilson was born in 1977 to two expats from England. Raised in Des Moines, Iowa - not the most culturally diverse, or artistically vibrant city in the 70s. His parents would bring Sid back across the pond each year to visit family, and this is where his musical journey would begin. Iowa had a strong country music presence, but the Punk visuals influenced his taste as he started paying attention to that music. Later, Wilson moved to Colorado Springs where he discovered hip-hop and started seeing people from different scenes intermixed, and hanging out together.
After meeting at a local bar/club [Friends] in Des Moines where Sid would hangout, Paul Grey, founding member of Slipknot, recruited Sid to join. Joining the band in 1998, he chose the number zero because of its connection to filth and being everything and nothing, all at once. Slipknot is a heavy metal band known for wearing masks and jumpsuits. The uniformity in outfit and hiding identity with masks helped shift focus towards the music. In his early career, Wilson was the faceless gas-masked character. Now, his masks feature animatronics and multiple tear-away pieces showing the complexities of his characters journey. Sid’s infectious energy is what makes a slipknot show entertaining. From jumping off stage from scary heights, to head banging with the percussion side, and running around stage – Sid’s presence is one of the highlights. There’s no telling how far #0 is willing to go to entertain. Famously, he jumped off a stage riser in England and broke both his heels with more than 45 minutes left in the performance. While in agony, he stood behind the DJ decks and continued the show without the crowd knowing.
During a 2022 interview with BIMM Institute (The British and Irish Modern Music Institute) he talked about the importance of understanding interconnected roles in music production. Whether it’s to save time from a workflow standpoint, a better way to articulate ideas, or to save money on production costs.
“If you're a singer, consider taking a production class. It'll help when you're in the studio with a producer, trying to explain your ideas. Having some production knowledge, even on a basic level, makes communication smoother.”
[condensed for clarity]
The idea of cross-disciplinary knowledge, especially in music, is vital. It’s the exact concept I’m practicing right now! Having the ability to better communicate with the people you’re working with has a tremendous impact on workflow. You’re not searching for the right words, or lacking the technical knowledge of how to get something done. While you might not have the skills yourself, the broader knowledge context allows you to communicate ideas effectively, or develop brand new ways of creating in the studio. With the abundance of learning tools at our disposal, Sid encourages all of us to leverage the access of information. Being passionate helps, but even if you’re remotely interested in something - learning about that subject fully, with the intent for use is the best methodology for acquiring skills and knowledge. This is one of his most influential pieces of advice. Learn about: the history, influences, the why, what goes into making this, certain styles, the greats – try and find your own place within that scene/movement. Think about what makes you great, and how you can stand-out in a crowd.
Regardless of whatever profession, or creative field you’re pursuing - think this is fantastic advice. Wilson also talks about stacking skills to create a stronger foundation, or building a communication bridge. The interview is linked here for your reference.
Sid brings an immense physicality to Slipknots performances. Whether it's the aforementioned broken heels, raucous head banging throughout sets, or dance antics. People want to be removed from their everyday environment, and Slipknot provides a gateway to a world unlike any other. There’s an immense power, and responsibility as a performer to help viewers transcend into an imaginative world. Setting a standard, extreme or not, and creating an illusive feeling keep audience members engaged, and walk away from a show feeling transported to another dimension. This is definitely one of Sid’s strengths as a performer.
Slipknot’s ethos stems very much from the punk DIY scene. Lots of the early costumes, masks, and stage setups were cobbled together by band members to make the live show more interesting. By his own admission, Sid was influenced by British punk scene. From the aesthetic, through to styling and hair. Later when creating the #0 character, Sid would have the chance to build something completely new and foundational for Slipknot’s visual aspect. Even in 2023, as the production gets bigger the core punk influence remains the same, where attitude and energy is everything.
When it comes to work ethic, there’s no replacement for hard work. Sid relays DJ QBert’s message of: practice four hours, per day to become the best in your field.
Once you’re able to turn a passion to your “job” it’s like cooking with gasoline. The struggle becomes keeping that momentum, and avoiding procrastination. So prioritization becomes a necessary evil – and that priority is YOU. Doing whatever is required, to keep your creativity red-hot and constantly in a state of production and flow.
A self confessed gearhead, Wilson is constantly utilizing the latest technology and hardware to further his artistic expression. From drum machines, turntables, apps or recording equipment - the brand doesn’t even matter, as long as it helps create music. Even before interviews, you can see Sid scratching on his Numark PT01 or Reloop SPIN deck. It’s this insatiable need for the new, looking for ways to evolve artistically that has kept Wilson at the forefront of Slipknot lore since their first, self-titled release in 1999. Sid’s artistic expression is show through his various mediums. Whether it’s for Slipknot, Swollen Teeth, SidThe3rd or DJ StarScream – he’s constantly writing, recording and performing. Zeroing in on his craft, and perfecting every step while looking for the next wave of evolution in the industry, aided by new tools and software.
In an interview with Loudwire, Wilson even said he was using "samples from different moons around different planets" and was working on the record while the band was on tour. While I’m not entirely sure what that means – we can look into past Slipknot records to find great inspiration, and see the evolution of Sid’s (and Craig!) textural elements which have been sprinkled across all seven albums. YouTuber EightMinutesUpsideDown does a great job at breaking down samples used on their ’99 self-titled album.
The most fascinating, and definitely most “Sid” sample on this album comes from The Winstons, Amen Brother. This is arguable the most sampled beat in history, and has become known throughout music as the Amen Break. A funk-inspired, four bar drum groove that’s been sampled on songs like Straight Outta Compton by NWA, and Slipknot’s track, Eyeless! It’s innovative parts like taking the most sampled hip-hop beat, and reimagined it into a powerful, heavy metal beat that makes Sid’s working style so unique. His ability to transcend genres, and re-contextualize sounds creates a vast sonic landscape which Slipknot can build from.
Sid references David Bowie as a creative influence and his ability to reinvent himself every album cycle. It keeps the fans engaged, it’s a creative challenge to keep things fresh, and helps bring wonderment to Slipknot’s live performance. Ian my opinion, this is Sid’s strongest asset as a live performer. It takes a tremendous amount of mental energy to evolve characters, and #0 has gone from gas-mask freak, to robotic alien and beyond.
In closing, I believe Sid Wilson to be the most important member of Slipknot. Whether you love him for his stage antics, ability to scratch DJ with the heaviest metal band, deep and introspective thoughts on creative process – whatever! Sid has cemented himself atop my favourite favourite musicians list. Although singular interviews of him are sparse online, I hope this article sheds introspective light on the masked #0. It was a great research project for myself, and I learned so much about his musical influence, stage show, and vast wealth of musical knowledge.