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Jim Root: "My apologies to all the Tele purists, but I don’t play in a country band, so it’s not like I can use single coils"

Jim Root
(Image credit: Future)

What made you gravitate towards Telecasters

“Growing up in the 80s I was really enamored by the imagery of Fender style guitars. On the cover of Long After Dark, Tom Petty is holding a Tele, and it’s just such an iconic image to me. In the early days of Slipknot, everything was like ‘molten metal god’ and big pointy guitars – BC Rich Warlocks and Ironbirds. I wanted to do the absolute opposite. 

“Maybe it’s a bit of an indignant punk-rock attitude, like, ‘Screw you and your metal guitars – I’m going to play this Tele!’ If you stick with the classics they’re never going to go out of style. You can make them your own and they’re always going to have a level of validity, whether it’s a pair of Ray-Bans or a Tele.“  

Best Telecaster: Fender Jim Root Telecaster

Fender Jim Root Telecaster  (Image credit: Fender)

Tell us about your signature Telecaster. 

“The reason I chose mahogany was when we were recording, the mahogany guitars were sitting in the mixes a lot better than the alder ones. The alder ones seemed brighter and snappier. You’d think that would cut through all the instruments on a Slipknot record, but for some reason the mahogany guitars just sat better. My apologies to all the Tele purists, but I don’t play in a country band so it’s not like I can use single coil pickups and have it cut through.“

Some people think EMG pickups sound the same regardless of the guitar. What do you say to that? 

“I’ve been in a studio with 20 of my guitars all loaded with EMGs and they all sound drastically different. Shooting out my signature pickups in the studio, I could actually look at the waveform from the pickups in whatever guitar. Not only did they sound drastically different in each guitar but you could also see the thickness of the wave file, how much output and what frequencies they were hitting.“

Do you ever use a traditional single-coil Telecaster? 

“I have a couple. They’re great for clean tones and layering. There’s not a lot of clean tones in Slipknot but we do a lot of layering. I’ve been writing more experimental, cleaner stuff at home and those guitars come in very handy for that.“

Your Teles must have survived some battles, too.

“We were shooting a video for Disasterpiece, and for some reason I was mad at [drummer] Joey Jordison and heaved my Tele at him like a spear. I threw it probably twenty feet. I thought for sure that I broke the hell out of it, but the only thing wrong was an imprint of his drum riser at the very end of the headstock. My tech just retuned it and I finished the show with the same guitar.“