For the onlooker, Alessandro Venturella – known as ‘V-Man’ – is still the “new” bassist of Slipknot
But with a decade in the fold of the nine now under his belt, the staunch, tattooed Englishman has gone from mysterious live session member to an essential part of the band’s creative formula, with crucial additions to Slipknot and their celebrated 2019 release We Are Not Your Kind and new LP The End, So Far.
“When you become part of something that’s been a solid unit for such a long time, it can be pretty intimidating,” he says, speaking from his home in London where he was enjoying some merciful downtime before the beginning of another album cycle.
“Only a couple of the guys knew me at first, it was a whole different dynamic to playing in a band with your friends. However, after a couple years (that’s how long it took) of people seeing my work ethic and how I practised the parts, the guys realised that I wasn’t just here to rest on my laurels.”
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V-Man’s induction to Slipknot is a modern parable on the importance of networking and being at the right place at the right time, while being prepared for any opportunity that may present itself.
There were no audition adverts, no casting directors involved, and he wasn’t already playing with another act of note.
Rather, he was working as a guitar tech for Atlanta prog-metallers Mastodon – a job that enabled him to build relationships within the metal community, eventually bringing him to the attention of Slipknot axe-man Jim Root.
With the band looking to reboot their touring lineup following the tragic death of original bassist Paul Gray and departure of the late Joey Jordison, Root asked Venturella if he knew of any bass players interested in a “project”.
Seizing the opportunity with both hands, he offered himself as tribute, despite his background as a guitarist as opposed to a bassist.
“I came back from a tour with Mastodon and got a call from Jim, and I thought, ‘Thank fuck I’ve still been practising and haven’t just sacked (guitar) off’,” he says.
“I had quite a diverse musical background, I studied classical guitar and got a degree, I spent so much time of my life doing that. The music had stopped though at that point, and I had decided I really wanted to hone my craft as a tech.
“When you become part of something that’s been a solid unit for such a long time, it can be pretty intimidating”
“I had started learning how to solder, how to fix amps, I didn’t want to just be a tech that changed strings and sent broken gear back to Fender, I wanted to move into a place where I could troubleshoot and fix things on the fly.
“However when that opportunity came up, there was no way I was going to turn down the chance to give it a shot.”
Having “spent hours learning how to use different muscle groups” to perfect the songs, V-Man passed his audition with flying colours, and has since become a staple member of the Slipknot fold, looming imposingly over bandmates while providing an anchor among the chaos of their live show.
“When I work at home I want to present the product to the guys as a piece, not a riff”
Unlike other new additions to legacy acts however, Venturella has since made his mark sonically across the band’s recent discography – more so than ever on their new experimental opus The End, So Far.
Having worked on the melodies and harmonies on We Are Not Your Kind, Venturella brought full songs into the sessions for the new record, resulting in some of the band’s most unique work to date – heard especially on the Beatles-esque piano-led opener ‘Adderall’.
“(That song) got turned on its head from something completely different, it came out of nowhere,” he says.
“I was thinking about older music, other styles I’m into and was keen to see how far I could take it sonically.
“Having Mike (Mike Pfaff aka Tortilla Man) in the band too, he’s an insane pianist so we’ve been able to suggest a whole heap of ideas to him, and he’s able to turn it around almost right away, which has been really valuable for us.”
Having been entrusted with the keys for the band’s future sound, Venturella saw it as his duty to not just write riffs, but present complete bodies of work to his bandmates.
“Everything I do at home has programmed drums, bass, and guitar, but I need to make a full structure before I share it with the guys, if I just share the one riff that doesn’t really scream ‘inspiring’ at all,” he states.
“Things like ‘Neo Forte’ from the last record – that’s an example of an idea I had that I then turned into a song. When I work at home I want to present the product to the guys as a piece, not a riff.”
Now relishing in his role as performer and composer in metal’s modern tour-de-force, Venturella said he enjoyed seeing a culture of excellence seep back into the music industry.
“With the internet now, you have so much access to artists when they’re at home, how they record, what they’re doing,” he says. That dedication to music is coming back again, and people are really woodshedding and trying to be the best they can, which is great.
“It’s more in your interest to have someone that’s fully dedicated to being better, it’s like having a new tool, and you want to be able to use it to your advantage.
“Whenever I see new members coming into bands it’s never, ‘Oh, he looks cool’ – being the cool guy can only last so long, especially in a business setting like this.”
Despite his mature outlook, Venturella still has a few scores to settle with certain compatriot bassists.
“In the studio I was thinking, ‘I’ve gotta beat Tool for tone’,” he laughs, adding that the prog titans’ bassist Justin Chancellor would drop in on the recording sessions for The End, So Far to lend gear.