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by Amy Harris 07.26.2012
Posted In: Interview at 02:04 PM | Permalink | Comments (5)
clown photo

Q&A with Slipknot’s Shawn Crahan

I’ve spent the last two mind-blowing days with the greats of heavy metal and their dedicated fans at Mayhem Festival in Cincinnati and Cleveland. We have experienced serious thunderstorms, crowd surfing and mega mosh pits together and all made it out the other side again this year. My experience was topped off with sitting down before the Cincinnati show with Shawn “Clown” Crahan, percussionist from Slipknot for a candid discussion about the band’s dark and uniform persona as well as the effort they give to their fans every single night on stage. 

Slipknot is the heaviest of Heavy Metal. They are strong artists because they are the epitome of a group. Their masks and costumes on stage present a uniformity that makes them who they are. They refer to themselves as “The Nine” even though they are now eight after the passing of their bassist, Paul Gray. The wildly popular band are wrapping up touring on their fifth album All Hope is Gone which has gone platinum, a great success in today’s age of music, with Mayhem Fest along with other great Metal acts like Motorhead and Anthrax.

CityBeat: You guys are crazy on stage. Have any band members ever been hurt?

Shawn Crahan: Every day.

CB: Really? Like Ibuprofen or doctor?

SC: Right now I have been sucking anywhere from 10 to 40 cc’s of blood out of my knee every five days.

CB: Have you calmed down because of it?

SC: No, I had surgery from a jackass move in a tour in Australia about five months ago. I jumped off my lift, smashed my knee pretty good, my meniscus and everything. So I had to have surgery. I had surgery just up to the exact date when the first Mayhem show was starting. I had no time to really rehabilitate. I didn’t even do physical therapy. It’s not an excuse; I just didn’t get it done. So the first day I paid the price. It’s all good because I have kept all the blood. I have it all. I have all the syringes and everything. So I make art. I’ll have a nice art piece of my pain. But everybody goes through something every day. Sid’s dealing with some sort of hernia and some sort of shoulder stuff that he has to get an MRI for right now.

CB: I see your photo on your pass with your leg brace.

SC: Actually that is the day I had surgery. I hate to admit it but I’m on a lot of morphine in that photo. I walked out to the car and took a picture. As you see I have a cigar and a GG Allin shirt on. I took him with me to the surgery. I turned around and was out. I had to get a picture. I don’t know, somebody found it and made it my pass.

CB: You guys have different uniforms every tour. What is the process to go about designing them or picking them?

SC: I am kind of the visionary, so to speak. That doesn’t mean visionary of the overall whole thing. I take a lot of responsibility in evolving everything. Right now, since our bass player passed away, we are reminiscing a life spent. We toured last summer, and we re-made our very first coveralls and brought out our first masks in remembrance to remember where we came from and celebrate his life. The current ones are a mixture of our first album and our second album. His number was number two and he had a really big part in that record as he did all records. We thought we’d give the American kids something special. Usually right now if Paul wouldn’t have passed, we would almost be getting done with our fifth record album cycle, getting ready to go home from it. This kind of stuff is all kind of inspired by him a little bit because we don’t have a new album and we just are kind of sharing in this thought process with our fans together. We don’t see him on stage; they don’t see him on stage. We go through it together. 

We are getting ready to end that thought process of sharing that loss together. It doesn’t mean there is an ending to something and a new beginning. There will never be a new beginning. There will always only be nine. But we have toured Europe, we have toured South America, Australia, and now America with this thought process of sharing this loss together. We will end that, that sporadic touring of understanding that he is no longer with us. Then we will take some time off, write a record, record a record, pre-prep tour, go out on tour, drop a record and then support that record. But there will always be nine. I don’t know if there will ever be another person on stage. There probably could be a bass player behind us. I don’t know and I don’t have to think about it because it’s a long way off.

CB: How did you get the numbers?

SC: The numbers kind of just fell into place. It’s kind of a weird thing. Back when we started we were going to wear a mask and I started wearing coveralls so we all started wearing coveralls, then there were so many of us, we put our bar code on the back. Then we wanted numbers — I wanted numbers. It was kind of ironic, because everyone fell into a number. I wasn’t going to tolerate any other number than six. Like if someone was going to fight me for it, I was going to fight to the death for it, but nobody wanted it. Joey wanted to be number one, Paul wanted to be number two, the original guitar player, and the other drummer three. Mick, he is like “I have to have seven. Fuck everyone. It’s my lucky number.” Corey was like, “I want eight, infinity.” When Sid joined the band, “I am not a number. I am zero. I am filth.” It was kind of magical, honestly. The masks were more of a representation of what you wanted to present as yourself. It was one’s finding one’s self, but the numbers were almost assigned to us subconsciously. It was really a kind of cool thing. I remember I usually try to go last, I am the oldest but an only child, so I like fight to the death for what I want. Because of that, I try to put myself last because it is healthy for me and I let people do what they have to do, and I usually get what I want by doing that. It is kind of like when we are recording a record, if we are all living together, I let everyone find their room and I take what’s left, and I that ends up being the place I belong, not because I have admitted to myself that I should be there but I end up there going, “I love this. This is where I should be.” It is kind of knowing your brothers and knowing everything, but it is healthy for me to practice that.

CB: Do you get hot in the masks on days like today?

SC: No one but the nine will understand that sort of submission. The only way I can explain it is when it is all done and you take it off and look at the mirror and you look at yourself you know that as you walked into the church of the Knot, onto the altar of the Knot, giving the sermon of the Knot to the congregation of the Knot, and when you are done and the doors are shut and you came back and you take off the attire, you look at yourself and you know that you gave 190 percent of your life lived today and there is nothing more than that. Even if I don’t have time to call my wife, even if I don’t have time to be creative on my computer, or I am lazy, or I am not getting anything done. One thing I know is I give 190 percent on stage and when I take it off and look at myself and know that I am alive and that I did it and I pulled through that, it is not even a good feeling, for me it is like salvation. I only do this because I am looking for peace. With peace comes war, and I am at war with myself. I have been since I was born. I love music, and I can’t imagine life without music. My wife is always there for me. My kids are there for me, but they are their own people. The one thing that has always been there for me is music. Before I met my wife there was music. If my wife were to pass or something there would be music to help me through that. That’s not going to happen but I am saying music has always been my life. I owe everything to it.

CB: In the beginning, you guys wanted to remain anonymous by using the masks. You have liked being anonymous through the years, but now people know who you are. Do you still feel like it is necessary?

SC: It was kind of a trick because so many people in the beginning wanted us to fail because we are so great. We have been blowing up since day one because a good idea is a good idea and a good song is a good song and a good band is a good band with a performance. So, part of the vision was everyone wanted to know who was behind the mask and that was probably the least most important thing ever. Why ask that? Why not ask how that came about or why this came about or what is behind this? Not what is behind the mask? It is music people are into and music the kids are buying. Rarely do they even get to spend a night with us. It is usually in the car or in their headphones. So why ask that question? So slowly, it wasn’t until the third record, I did a documentary called Voliminal: Inside the Nine where when I showed behind the scenes footage, I blurred out people’s faces, but when I did interviews, I would do nothing but faces. By our third record, people didn’t care what we looked like anymore. They liked us better with the mask on. I always knew that would happen. There was never a conscious decision of trying to be out of the limelight without knowing who I am. Let’s talk about the music, let’s talk about the lyrics, let’s talk about the why’s not who is behind the mask, because I don’t wear a mask. I don’t wear a mask at all.

CB: Do you guys write together?

SC: We write together. There are core writers. 

CB: There are a lot of you.

SC: That again is a special way. There are core writers. There are people that plant the seeds, and there are people that water it and we all watch it grow and we all groom it and help it become what it can be. That is something that can rise to the light of day. So we all write, I am not a percussionist so to say but more of a paganistic, ritualistic. It is more, I won’t say anger as much as it is ritual to put behind it. I want to drive what is being written and I only want to drive what needs to be driven. I don’t necessarily have to put my mark or my scent on every single little thing and be over everything. I just want to drive what needs to be driven and it works best that day. I don’t have to be involved from day one. I have always loved the music we write. There is no reason to mess with the will, the roles.

CB: Any regrets?

SC: No, no regrets. To have regret would mean to have to do it differently and if I did it differently then I wouldn’t be here today. There is no reason to think about regrets. Yesterday is lost potential. It is only a memory for tomorrow. Good or bad, it is what it is. There is no changing it. There is no touching it or molding it. There is no reason to look upon it — it is a memory. It can be a good memory, it can be a bad memory, but you shouldn’t spend too much time. You just learn and you move on. I don’t have any regrets. I wouldn’t change anything. I would do it all over again just the way we did it. You come into a venue like this and you are like, “This is what I am dealing with today.” Tomorrow you will be in a completely different situation, and that is what you are dealing with. That is half of what you learn of the greatness of what you are doing because of art. You can’t always expect to have what you want. The point is, we are in Cincinnati. We are here to play for the people. It doesn’t really matter what color the door of the bathroom is or where the showers are or what the circumstances are. We are just here to play. We’ll get on the bus and do it again.

CB: The band members have a lot of side projects going on. Is that cool with everybody in the band?

SC: Yeah. It probably was weird in the beginning because we are so focused on the Knot but I think it was accepted quickly because everybody in the band is so creative on all different levels. It could even be the level of staying home and doing nothing and allowing everybody to do what they need to do creatively to get it out allows everybody to be better for this. It took a little time to understand that, but why wouldn’t it? We are all working for this. If I explained to everybody what it took to get here, I don’t think they would really understand how much work we really put into making it happen. The work was unbelievable. I could tell stories people wouldn’t understand the things we had to implement to make this work. The side projects are good. I wouldn’t even call them side projects. I take Stone Sour very seriously. It is their own band on its own merit. It has its own fan base and they do very well. I would never call it a side project. It would be kind of insulting to Corey and Jim and the other guys in the band because they have worked so hard to make it what it is which is a band. My stuff is more of a side project because I jam because I have to. Since we have started, I have had three bands. None of which have done shit which I don’t care because I just love to play and haven’t repeated myself. I did a Pop record. I did a kind of Hard Rock record. I did a Psychosis Rap record. Ever since Paul passed, I am just kind of focusing on my art a bit, kind of burnt out on music. Side projects are elements of letting people be themselves where they can’t necessarily bring that entity into this thing called Slipknot. It’s healthy.

by Mike Breen 03.22.2012
Posted In: Music Video, Music History at 10:11 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)

This Date in Music History: March 22

Queen gets denied by MTV and Angelo Badalamenti is a soundtracking genius

On this day in 1984, Rock legends Queen started filming the music video for their song, "I Want to Break Free." Queen was a band that embraced the concept of music videos early on. The current Spectacle exhibit at the Contemporary Arts Center, about the history of music videos and where it's at today, cites the band as a vanguard act of the video age thanks to early clips for songs like "We Will Rock You"/"We Are the Champions" and, especially, "Bohemian Rhapsody."

By 1984, MTV was finding its legs and providing an outlet for new clips by artists; in the early days, the network had little to chose from to fill 24 hours a day with vids, so they played anything available, including those early Queen clips. The "I Want to Break Free" video featured the band members dressed as women in a parody of suburban life and British evening soap operas. The clip had Freddie Mercury decked out in a short skirt, tight sweater, big falsies, a wig and that trademark mustache, running the vacuum cleaner. It also featured Mercury in his more familiar uniform — leather pants, no shirt and that trademark chest hair —  and classic ’80s music video elements like choreographed dancers prancing in the haze from a smoke machine.

The clip was well received (and the single did well) in the U.K., but not so much in the U.S., thanks in part to MTV's decision to "ban" it from the network (a clear sign they were becoming less desperate for music clips to air now that everyone was starting to make them). It wouldn't run on the network until 1991.

Cross-dressing had become fairly common in Rock & Roll by that point. The Rolling Stones, New York Dolls and David Bowie had all playfully donned women's clothing for album covers, live shows, videos and photo shoots. For some weird, unclear reason, Queen weren't allowed to indulge in that bit of cheeky humor — perhaps because Mercury was a rare "out" gay man in the public eye during a time when AIDS had so many people in a panic (Mercury told NME in 1974, "I am as gay as a daffodil, my dear." I'm assuming NME said back, "No shit.")

Straight or bi guys in drag were cool with MTV, apparently, but if the cross-dresser is gay … well, God forbid anyone in the U.S. be exposed to that.

Kind of odd to think of MTV playing moral watchdog given the tripe of reality-exploitation shows about teen moms and drunken boneheads that infest the channel. And they play videos by that transvestite Lady Gaga all the time. (Note: I've been informed that Lady Gaga is not a transvestite, but actually a woman. My apologies to Ms. Gaga, her fans and her family.)

Below is a cool, hour-long documentary on Queen from the BBC called Days of Our Lives. At about the 21 minute mark, the film addresses the "Break Free" controversy. Guitarist Brian May seems to believe the banning of the video by MTV killed Queen's chances of bigger success in the states during those latter years (he doesn't mention that the song was also not very good). 

Queen remains an important band to many Rock fans and musicians, their influence more evident in some of the music of today's younger artists' music than it has been for decades (think Foxy Shazam or My Chemical Romance).

The "Break Free" clip follows to doc. Weirdly, the version posted on the official Queen YouTube page is labeled as unsuitable for certain audiences and requires users to sign in to view it. Seems people are still incredibly afraid of a man in a leather dress, fake tits and giant hot pink earrings. (It sure didn't hurt Rudy Giuliani's career.)

Click on for Born This Day featuring Shatner, Stephanie Mills and Angelo Badalamenti.

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by Hannah McCartney 08.06.2012
Posted In: News at 09:51 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Downtown Cincinnati Restaurant Week Kicks Off Today!

Explore and support the downtown dining landscape

Think of it like an upscale food festival, just sans the central gathering hub, soggy paper plates or throngs of sweaty people: today marks the beginning of the 4th annual Downtown Cincinnati Restaurant Week.

This week, 16 different restaurants across the downtown Cincinnati landscape (Over-the-Rhine is also represented) offer fixed menus for a fixed price to promote love for the local independent dining scene. Depending on which restaurant you select, you can get either an individual three-course, pre-fixe meal for a flat $35 or dinner for two for $35 (includes a split appetizer, entree and dessert). Many of the restaurants offer vegetarian selections, so be sure to peruse the menus to pick one that makes your mouth water (the most). 

Experience the flavors of a restaurant you haven't dared to try before in a way that's straightforward and affordable, or try out some specially-selected courses at an old standby.

Check out the menus for each of the 16 participants in Downtown Cincinnati Restaurant Week below: 

Boi Na Braza
Nicholson’s Tavern and Pub 

Jeff Ruby’s Steakhouse
Morton’s The Steakhouse
Local 127
Moerlein Lager House
Orchids at Palm Court
The Palace at The Cincinnatian Hotel
Trattoria Roma
Washington Platform
Istanbul Café

Links are courtesy of dodowntowncincinnati.com. Click here to make reservations.

Beverages, tax and gratuity are not included in the $35 offer.
by Anne Mitchell 07.05.2012
Posted In: News, Events at 12:23 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Market Garden in Place for World Choir Games

There are plenty of restaurants downtown, but for the World Choir Games, the city has set up a Market Garden at the corner of Fifth and Race streets to provide additional options that are fast and affordable. It’s a great “Taste of Cincinnati” opportunity — without the crowds and long lines.