Published Aug 09, 2012It's been a tough few years for Slipknot, the nine-member outfit infamous for their grotesque masks and controversial lyrical content. The Des Moines, Iowa metallers tragically lost their bass player, Paul Gray, in May of 2010, resulting in the band taking some much-needed time off. Having risen as leaders of the nu-metal sub-genre in 1999, following the release of their self-titled debut, Slipknot found themselves performing to thousands in arenas across the world and releasing three more full-lengths before Gray's untimely death. As percussionist and founding member Shawn Crahan (aka Clown) explains, Slipknot are ready to share their grief with their fans on tour, which will bring them north of the border to Heavy T.O. and Heavy MTL on August 11 and 12. He discusses Slipknot's recently released compilation, Antennas to Hell, as well as their plans to record another album and move on as a band, despite the loss of their friend and band member, noting that Gray will never be forgotten. Crahan also gives his opinion on the current predicament of Randy Blythe, the frontman of Lamb of God, who have been forced to cancel their performances at the Heavy festivals.
Do you prefer to be called Shawn or Clown?
I kind of have a weird thing about it. My real name is Michael Shawn Crahan, but my dad's name was Michael so my mom called me Shawn. And everybody likes a nickname and I've always been the Clown. So I leave it up to people, how they were brought up, to call me what they want, but both are kind of fictitious to this world. I prefer Clown because I feel like that's who I am, but I also respect my parents so it's either-or, however you feel comfortable, it doesn't offend me at all.
It's interesting that Clown isn't just your Slipknot persona, you've had that nickname for a long time.
I have pictures of me running around my house with a butcher knife and a clown mask on at 14 years of age, so I've always lived in my imagination. I'm an only child and there's been several occasions in my life where my mom has had to pinch me on the arm several times to get me to pay attention because I was off in Never Neverland. That's one thing that is so interesting about the masks that I guess people often refer to us as wearing; I don't wear a mask but I am the Clown. I don't know if that makes any sense, but you know, it's a horrifying feeling to have someone wear a mask and stand in front of you motionless with no expression and watch someone. Like you as an example, if I was standing in front of you, you would start with the normal behaviour of knowing me and just stating normal facts, like "Oh that's scary, I don't like it, blah blah blah," you know? But then this innate thing in you, this fearful innate thing, would come about and your expressions and your language and your body language would begin to change. And the further I would take it, the further this inability to change what you're unable to change would take over and it would be apparent. But for me, I don't wear a mask because I live in my own imagination. I don't even know I'm wearing it, I don't wear a mask, I'm the Clown. With or without the mask, I'm that thing. It's kind of an interesting concept because people wear masks all day long. People wear masks, but they're unaware of it, they say they wear masks but they're unable to look you in the eye and bring out that internal fear of something that is unrecognizable to you because you can't see through it. I have the ability to do that with or without this so-called mask because I don't wear one on stage or off stage, I just don't. What you see is what you're dealing with.
Slipknot haven't been back to Canada in a while. Are you looking forward to the Heavy T.O. and Heavy MTL shows?
I love playing Canada, our fans have always been great. I'm not a very big fan of your border control people, it's too excessive, it's too much bureaucratic bullshit and there's no point for it. We come in peace and we come to offer something that all people need, and that's a release from reality and to let out pain and frustration and sadness. We haven't played there in a while but we've been sporadically playing, since Paul [Gray, bassist] died, for the last couple years, starting with Sonisphere last year. We played all of Europe, took time off. We played one show in South America, direct support for Metallica, about 150,000 people, Rock in Rio in Brazil. Then took a little time off, went down to Australia played five Soundwave Festival shows with like 90 bands, it was one of the best festivals we've ever been on, it was incredible. Then we did two of our own proper shows, one in Sydney and one in Melbourne, that were just off dates that we did in small venues, that was great, so seven shows total. Took a little time, now we're ending in America on Mayhem Fest, it's a festival that we started as a headliner so many years ago and we're back to headlining again. We feel very comfortable here, we have a great time doing it, it's a lot of fun. I believe after that we do maybe one or two shows on our way up to Canada, and then we'll get through, hopefully, and go ahead and do these festivals which will be great because we will get to share the mindset that we're in right now, which is celebrating my brother's life, his love for his music, his love for his band, his love for his fans, his love for life. And I think most importantly, since he is gone, for the rest of us, the eight of us sharing in the grief and the loss not by ourselves, but sharing it with our fans. We don't see him on stage, you don't see him on stage, we get through it together and we move on. We don't forget, we're not ending an era and beginning a new era, we're just acknowledging the time and trying our best to accept it so we can move on. But there will always be nine [members], no matter what, we don't need to think about a new bass player because there will always be nine, there will always be Paul Gray as number "2" in nine members. And we want to thank everybody for their prayers, their thoughts and their posts. The energy they've given us, the support, we're honoured to be the band that they love, we're honoured that they're our fans. In this time, I can speak on behalf of the band and say that we love each and every one of them and can't wait to come to Canada and have some fun.
Without Paul, do you feel like something will always be missing from the band?
Something is greatly missed, I started the band with him. I did a book signing last night for my photo book, The Apocalyptic Nightmare Journey, and I'm sitting there and a kid comes up to me and pulls out a piece of paper and says, "I wrote this for Paul Gray, I'm giving it to you, I know you started the band with him, and so I'm giving it to you." And so I got back to my hotel room and I read it and you know, it was deep. There was some poetry, but there were a couple lines that really spoke to me, one that I thought was very profound was that this kid, who I think plays bass, was stating that he would listen to the strings being played by Paul and trying to understand them. He wasn't trying to say "I'm trying to learn what you're playing or how you play them," he was saying "I'm trying to understand them," meaning that what he is playing and how he is playing is making him feel something. And then towards the end he said "If all hope is gone, we can only wait and see who survives." I've always hated that title [of the 2010 Slipknot album, All Hope Is Gone] and it's a long story of how that title got to be. But it seemed so natural, it seemed so Slipknot to take on that title. No one came up with it, it was spray painted on an area where I had taken a photo shoot of my mask and some of these big heads, and when Joey [Jordison, drummer] and Corey [Taylor, vocalist] saw it, I think simultaneously they thought that was a great album name and we should go with it, it just approached us. I thought "Yeah, it feels like Slipknot, but I don't like it." I've got to be honest, as much as I'm against the imprint of life ― stop signs, curbs, white lines that divide passing lanes, laundry baskets, bills, all this shit ― I want to believe that there's always hope. I don't want to believe that there's never hope, I just don't. I believe hope is a good thing, but at the end of the cycle when Paul died, I understood what it meant. It meant exactly what it meant and I knew why I didn't like it. It was so profound to me that we could be so in touch with our own reality without even knowing it. It scared the shit out of me because I don't know what's next [laughs], I don't want something I don't like again and knowing there's a meaning behind it without us even knowing there's a meaning behind it.
Are there any plans to record another Slipknot album?
Well basically, we're going to skip up to Canada, come back, pick up a bunch of stuff to take to Knotfest, which is a dream that we've had forever. We're going to end it with two shows, one in Council Bluffs, Iowa and the second one in Somerset, Wisconsin. It's just something we've wanted to do forever because of our touring in Europe, you know, festivals over there start on Thursday and end on Sunday, one night's pop, next night's rock, next night's metal, next night's hip-hop, whatever, and everybody just has a great time. It's like one big refugee camp and everything and anything that you could think happens, happens and everybody experiences all these new things and it's just fantastic. So we're going to end with a couple shows of Knotfest, less is more. You're going to be exposed to what we feel a festival should be like because a handful of festivals in the world that are taking place are doing very well and they spread their mindset on it and it's awesome because it's what America needs. We're just doing the same with our mindset, it's very ritualistic I would say. And we're going to end with a little fun, and then take a little time off and Corey's going to do his thing with Stone Sour. I think we're going to take less time than people really think and then we're going to get together and we're going to write a record, we're going to record a record, we're going to pre-pro a tour, we're going to go out on tour, we're going to drop a record, and we're going to continuing touring supporting that album. I mean, at this time, if Paul wouldn't have passed, we'd probably almost be done with our fifth album record cycle. But things change and things happen and this is where we are and we're not going to force ourselves to go make a piece of shit. We've never done that, we've been together 12 years professionally; we always consider that day that the first album dropped as being the first day of our career and it's been 12 years. We've got four albums out of 12 years and we believe in and back all of them. We don't have seven albums where three of them are absolute crap, which a lot of bands do and I could name a lot, but I won't [laughs]. So I think the next one is going to be great, just like the four before it.
Was the latest compilation release, Antennas to Hell, a way to tide fans over until Slipknot are ready to record another album?
Well, I don't like the term "best of," I hate the term "greatest hits" and then there's "compilation." I hate it because: a) it means a band are in trouble and possibly going to break up; b) a band are getting off their label, trying to fulfill a record deal because they think that they're going to make more money doing it themselves; or c) there's some bad infomercial at two in the morning with a bunch of washed up rock stars getting paid shit-all to make a label as much money as milking each song is possible, you know, for $19.99. I hate those ideas and I don't believe we've been together long enough to justify this so-called "greatest hits" crap.
So Antennas to Hell wasn't your idea then?
Was not my idea and did not support it, but with our label being close to us and other reasons, there were many factors that went into it and everybody agreed on it. So you have all of these facts, the first fact is you have four records spanned over 12 years, so you have an order of songs that have been put on it, 19 songs, that have been put in order by us. This creates a very unique listening experience by yourself or with your friends, you get to connect dots like you haven't been able to connect dots before. Not even a machine could pick that, so that's cool, that's different, that's art. Number two, we give you a random, 2009 Download Festival CD, it's in our top ten best shows ever played, we're giving it to you. Number three, the third disc, I did ten montages, ten videos ― one for each member of the band and one of the band. And underneath the montages, I did ten remixes, taking two songs off of the record and combining them using elements that are well-known of those songs. Not recreating the songs in a way to change them up and make them so-called better or different or whatever, they're just using elements. You take the songs "(Sic)" and "Eyeless" and you mix them together and you use some of the stronger elements of both and right when you want more, it's taken away from you. So the montages don't go with the remixes and the remixes don't go with the montages, but when they connect when you're watching them or listening to them, some profound things happen. And if you're listening to them, you know they're so difficult to listen to because they're so whatever, it's something that the more you listen to them, the more familiar you get and the more it'll be its own piece of art that stands on its own. And then on top of it, for me, being the art guy, I spend a lot of time trying to make some iconic art. Now art is in the eye of the beholder, you either like it or you don't, I really don't care, it's not because I'm an ass, it's just because I know how art is. But I try to do my best to make something iconic, that you could hang on your wall and sit there and stare at and get a million different views of it, have a friend walk in and point out something you never saw and have you think something different of it. So the label was able to give me a booklet, and the booklet is rather big. So, you know, you get this different listening experience, you get art that you can smell, touch and taste, you get three discs and you can buy it in any combination because of the economy. With all those things said, I think we made a piece of art, even though it's a compilation and it's even got a couple live songs on it, I believe you're getting a whole mindset of Slipknot taking something that is usually kind of standard in one band's career and taking it to the furthest level to change it from what it has been known to be, which is pretty much absolute bullshit to me. And what people need note, this is not the end of an era and the beginning of a new era. This is simply something, not to tide you over because we wouldn't do that, this is just something to give you to enjoy, another piece of art. Here's another collectable thing for you to enjoy, taste, touch, feel, experience, contemplate, devour and not hold you over, it's just another piece of art. I mean, we've released a couple live records, we have an application [out July 24]. We could have easily said "Screw Antennas to Hell" and just give you the application. We could've said "Screw Knotfest" and just done Mayhem [Festival], we could've said "Screw touring all together." We do what we do for our fans because we're one and the same and we just do the best we can. And when someone brought up "greatest hits," I said "Shove it up your ass, we don't have ten albums, why would you even, what?" It's the dumbest thing I've ever heard, but it was never anyone's intention to tide anybody over, and it was never just trying to make some income and it was no intention of ending a chapter of Slipknot's life and letting people know that there's going to be a new chapter. It was just a way of celebrating what we've done and giving people something different and we've done that. Everyone cooperated with the knowledge of "Let's make something special and let's go against what everyone has ever done and really go all out and spend some money to make something that isn't like anything else." For me, being able to do some remixes and some video work, and then having a booklet, I mean, that shit costs money. And I spent months making the album cover and the booklet, it's very thought-out. It's some of the best work I've ever done and there's a lot of fucking meaning to it [laughs]. So, it's good.
Lamb of God were also scheduled to play the Heavy T.O. and MTL festivals. What are your thoughts on what's been happening with Randy Blythe's manslaughter charge in the Czech Republic?
My thoughts are, number one, I don't know everything that's going on because you hear so many different things and I'm not going to buy into ten sites saying different things. I've seen the video and I don't understand the circumstances because the video doesn't show me anything to what I'm hearing happened. I've watched the video, Randy's looking straight forward, it appears to me like he feels someone is brushing up against him and he just slowly takes his arm and is kind of like helping that person who has got on stage, you know, get off stage. He's not facing that person, he's not punching that person, he's not hurting that person. He's singing, the mic's in his hand the whole time, he's looking straight. To me, it just appears like he feels this entity next to him and he has this intuition that it's somebody that's getting ready to dive off the stage and he just kind of wisps his arm very gently and kind of helps. And then you see this security guard come up from behind him to push him off the stage and from the video I saw, I don't even really see the guy touching the guy. I feel like the guy has already jumped off the stage before the security guard has even touched him, so I'm very confused. I've heard that he's made bail but they're holding him, that seems like a fucking crock of shit and knowing us, we're not going to stand for that crap. I'm sure Randy's got everybody who's anybody helping with the situation. Unfortunately, in this business, people do die. I don't know how this person died, I know that I heard he died a week later, I heard that he had been kicked out before, it's just, what do you believe? Until I sit down with Randy and Lamb of God, and if he's willing to talk about it and not traumatized, you know, how are you ever going to get the real facts? Because everyone's talking, everyone's speculating and I don't know what the truth is. All I've seen is the video and all I see is my friend looking straight, never putting down the microphone and never even turning to see this person jumping off stage.
It seems like deaths at shows are a common thing, unfortunately.
Oh yeah, I mean, we've had people die at our shows, never during while we're playing, but we've had, unfortunately, overweight people who are dehydrated from drinking alcohol and going too hard die during opening bands at our shows. And I mean when you come to a rock show, there's all kinds of things you have to pay attention to. In my opinion only, from what I've seen, I don't even know if what I've seen is what it is, regarding the Randy situation. So I don't know, if that's the real video of what happened that caused that kid to die, what the fuck was he doing on stage? He's not allowed on stage, you know, I don't hear any audio of anybody being invited on stage, but I don't know. All I know is I feel in my heart that things are going to work out, I just feel that innately. Randy's a great guy. We risk shit all the time, there's a reason why there's security on stage, you know? I don't really want to bring it up but let's think about Dimebag Darrell, I mean what are we talking about here? What are you supposed to do when someone jumps on stage? Assume that they're going to jump off into the crowd? Or shoot you? It's a scary business and with a name like Lamb of God you have to take precautions. I'm hoping for the best, I pray for him, he's in my thoughts everyday and I am not worried at all. I feel that he is most definitely going to be coming back to where he belongs and I hope he sticks his middle finger up and never goes back there again. And to be honest, if someone had died I feel sorry for them too, but I'm going to tell you, it wasn't intentional on anybody's part. No one gets on stage with the intention of killing somebody, it's not what we do in rock'n'roll, accidents happen. I've almost killed myself a thousand times [laughs], by my own hand accidentally. Randy's not that person.
What are your thoughts on the recent Batman movie theatre shooting in Colorado?
You know, surprisingly enough, this person had not killed himself, which is pretty different because usually these things end up with this person pretty much wanting to create mass death and then take his own life. I can't help but to think, you know, I don't know what to think because there's a lot worse going on in the world than a movie. It's hard for me to believe that the movie moved him to do this, it feels in my heart like it's religious-based, if it was the movie, like somebody feels like there's a bad message in it and misconstrues his own ideas and tries to make a point, I don't know. I don't know if he got kicked out of the theatre the week before, I don't know if there's someone in the theatre he got in a fight with, I don't know. I just know fuckin' people that do this kind of shit, they should be dropped out of airplanes without a parachute.