“Death does that to you,” Clown said sullenly. “It makes you sit down and take a deep breath and really look at your life…”
As Slipknot’s particular brand of metal is difficult to neatly package in one genre, so is their contribution to the music industry undeniable.
Rising from obscurity in Des Moines, Iowa in 1995, Slipknot faced an uphill battle to build their dynasty from the early stages of their career with the music world as a whole initially reluctant to embrace the 18 legged monster.
“I can remember playing in the basement, writing music, being in a hard rock/metal band, playing but not quite being satisfied with the layers,” recalled Shawn Crahan a.k.a Clown of the band’s formative years.
“We weren’t quite achieving the sound we were looking for then the next person would join and pretty soon there was three drummers, two guitar players, there was a bass player, a singer, then a D.J, then a sampler and that’s where we stopped. That was about the time we thought okay, this is insane! Nine guys. Nine performers. Nine musicians. That means nine plane tickets. That means nine bunks. That means nine catering tickets. But you know what? None of that mattered when it came to the sound in our heads and when the nine came together, and all those colours came together; that temperature came together, we were satisfied with the tone that we wanted to give to the world, and it felt great, but it was very hard to sell. It was very hard to convince anyone to allow nine, and it seems very moronic and idiotic, and it can show you the greed of the corporate world; the greed in the labels when they try to cut artists away from bands which they tried to do with us. Many people in many different situations made suggestions about losing people, and I find it moronic and idiotic because there are symphonies, and there are orchestras that travel. Orchestras in towns get on planes and travel to different cities. I know it’s a different money game, I know it’s a different game altogether however I always found it interesting that the rock world looked down on the cost of such a large band so we just worked very hard and paved our way WITH our label, WITH our agents, WITH our people to get above water and once we were above water the fans spoke, and everything was cool, and the layers of sound were loud.”
When Slipknot’s self-titled, debut album was unleashed on an unsuspecting world in 1999 it is fair to say that no-one had heard anything like it so therefore there was nothing to compare the band too.
In effect they invented a new genre of music, a feat not only remarkable in this day and age, but also fraught with danger.
“Oh man, it was the biggest risk ever,” Clown agreed about putting Slipknot’s music out for public scrutiny. “I mean, I would do anything to show everybody all of the negativity. For me, personally, I’m considered to be a pretty big asshole for statements like I’m gonna say here, and my statement is this. Everybody, so many people did not like us. They said no. We had so many managers say no to us. We had so many people from sound guys and lighting guys: people that just didn’t like us and it was all because of jealousy. Because the minute we got big bro, the minute we got a bit of attention, all those people wanted to work for us. They saw the money coming in and they changed their tune from I don’t like you to I love you because I want your money so it was a huge risk and my brothers and I and the two dozen other people from our managers to people at the label they really really stuck with us and helped us break a hole through the sky. It was a giant risk, but we knew what we were doing. We weren’t scared. This is our life, what are we gonna do? Not take risks? It was just hard to convince the world to spend money. The world at that moment cared more about money than Slipknot.”
The rest, as they say, is history. Slipknot went on to become the world’s biggest metal band and after a shaky start in the industry cemented themselves as not only pioneers but leaders of a musical revolution of which they started themselves.
Through four albums and countless world tours, the Slipknot army grew, and it seemed as though the once fragile band was invincible. Even side projects from members of the band from vocalist Cory Taylor and guitarist Jim Root (Stone Sour), Clown (To My Surprise), drummer Joey Jordison (Murderdolls) and a solo stint from Sid Wilson (D.J Starscream) could seemingly do no wrong but tragedy struck in 2010 when bass player and founding member alongside Clown, Paul Gray, was found dead in a hotel room.
The once solid family was showing signs of decay and dissent, and it seemed for a while that the loss of one of their members would be the thing that finally broke Slipknot. To the world, it was a huge musical loss but to the remaining members of Slipknot, it was a loss almost too unbearable to enable them to continue.
“Death does that to you,” Clown said sullenly. “It makes you sit down and take a deep breath and really look at your life and for me – I can’t really speak for anyone else – but for me… everyone would say ‘Paul would want you to go on’ and I would say to people ‘what makes you think I would wanna go on without Paul?’ So that took a minute. It took a minute to really look at my life and realise that Slipknot is my life with or without my partner. Yes, he would want me to go on. I would want him to go on but you’ve gotta work through all these feelings, and we did. We went through everything we had to go through, and I think we did a really good job of it, and here we are. We’re just playing the life game like everybody else. It’s difficult, but you do as much as you can do with what you’ve got and you hope that you make truthful decisions, and you go from there.”
The resulting album, .5: The Gray Chapter was not only proof to the band, but also the world that although they had been splintered, Slipknot was far from being shattered. It was an album made through adversity, as well as two new members with Jordison also leaving the band in the interim.
“It’s a great piece of work by us I think,” Clown enthused of the album. “There was a lot of learning and sacrifice with it. A lot of giving instead of taking. We had a lot of weird things happen to us – we always do. We’re a big band; there’s a lot of people, a lot of cogs going round to do things and a lot of different heads working together and a lot of things happen. Because there’re so many people, you take on all their problems. Everybody’s gotta take on everybody’s problems. For instance, my wife has been sick before where she’s been hospitalised, and my brothers stood up and supported me. Sometimes I haven’t been able to go on tour because I have to be with my family and my other family supports me. It’s a difficult thing to be in Slipknot, but I wouldn’t want anything else. It’s a real challenge and a real piece of art, and all the guys care. We love our new album, and we worked really hard on it, and we really went to a special place, and things happened for us for the right reasons. The whole world was like, what the hell’s gonna happen? Paul passed away, and Joey’s walking the Earth, and everyone gave up on the seven other guys. They were like how’s this gonna work and it was a little heartbreaking to hear some of the worlds question whether the seven remaining guys could do it. That hurt a little bit. It makes you feel a little obsolete for a minute. But you know what? We know that’s just bullshit. We know it’s people trying to get whatever but we got in the studio, and we did what we do, and we did exactly what we did. We didn’t work any harder or any less on this album than we did on the rest but what I can tell you is we all got along on this one and I think it shows, and it’s a great album, but I think it’s equal to the rest of them. I love them all man.”
After nearly 20 years at the forefront of metal, Clown says that aside from the odd niggle here and there, Slipknot is very much a band who have found their limitations and exceeded them. They have had their ups and downs, as all bands do, but through it, all have solidified into an enduring legacy that only those within their inner sanctum can truly appreciate.
“I’m 20 years older,” he mused, “and 20 years wiser. I don’t regret anything. I would never, ever, in a million years do it over again because it’s been so wonderful. As I say we’re a lot older, we’re evolving: what I like to say is we are evolving with the human condition. The human condition is getting older, feeling your knees, feeling your back, feeling your love, feeling your life, incorporating your art to a further position. So yes, we are night and day to what we were, and I wouldn’t change that. Why would you? I cherish what we were the day we came out, and I cherish what we are now, and I don’t pretend to be anything better or worse to what I was then or now. I’m just a human living my life through reality the best way I can in a little thing called Slipknot and you either love us or hate us, I couldn’t give a shit either way.”
SLIPKNOT TOUR DATES & TICKETS
26 OCT – Vector Arena Auckland, NZ
28 OCT – Brisbane Entertainment Centre Boondall, Brisbane, QLD
29 OCT – Qudos Bank Arena (formerly Allphones Arena), Sydney Olympic Park, NSW
31 OCT Rod Laver Arena, Melbourne, VIC
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