by Amy Harris
Posted In: Interview
at 02:04 PM | Permalink
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
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
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
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