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Slipknot: "I've got people drinking, screwing, out of their minds..."

Slipknot were dealt a crushing blow with the tragic passing of Paul Gray, but as Clown assures Hammer, they will rise again...

Ultimately, you really had to be there. And if you weren’t there, you will doubtless know someone who was, and they will have told you that on Saturday June 13, 2009, Slipknot topped the bill at Download with a performance of mind-scrambling intensity and power.

Never content with doing what is expected, the nine-strong wrecking machine have delivered countless astonishing shows over the last 12 years, but this was plainly a new peak. Slipknot were growing, becoming an even bigger and more destructive monster right before our eyes, and the image of the band kicking off like never before will live with everyone who witnessed it forever. All in all, a special moment for Slipknot fans and, of course, for the band themselves.

Just over a year later, that legendary gig is being released as the centre piece of Slipknot’s new DVD package, (sic)nesses. Even on the small screen, the power of the band that night takes the breath away and the typically generous smattering of additional footage and promo clips that comes with the Download film makes this another essential purchase for fans. But, of course, the shadow of recent events looms large over this release. In light of the tragic death of bassist and founder member Paul Gray, 2010 has been a very tough year for Slipknot, and so for all its bravado and eye-blistering allure, the new DVD now exists primarily as a tribute to a fallen comrade, as overseen by Shawn ‘Clown’ Crahan, official curator of the Slipknot visual archive since the band’s earliest days as aspiring troublemakers in Des Moines, Iowa, as he proudly explains to Hammer

“I used to hire people to document everything, man,” chuckles the bat-wielding percussionist. “I’d have people in the band yell at me because we’d have people on a salary documenting all that shit, but now everybody kisses my ass because I have it all! Ha ha! You want the early stuff? Fuck you! The others are like, ‘Why is this guy out on the road with us? We can’t afford this!’ All I can say is, ‘Fuck all of you!’ I have thousands and thousands of hours of footage from Iowa from 1998, from being at Indigo Ranch with Ross Robinson when we made the first record. I’ve got footage from when we were unsigned, from when I was 26 years old… so, you know, fuck you! Fuck everyone! I’ve always been the documenter, always. I’ve got it all, bro! Ha ha ha!”

So does your penchant for shoving cameras up the noses of your bandmates ever lead to any conflict between you?

“Oh, no! Because everybody trusts me,” Shawn insists. “I’ve got people fucking, I’ve got people drinking, I’ve got people being out of their minds… No, everyone trusts me. You’re not gonna see people fucking! I’m the curator because people respect and trust me, and I also know what the vision is, so I’m not gonna let anything out that’s spiteful or that isn’t Slipknot.”

For all the apparent chaos that seems to emanate from Slipknot in their live incarnation, it has always been abundantly clear that this band is driven by a commitment to discipline. You can’t generate that much craziness without knowing exactly what you want to achieve and how you want to be perceived, and Shawn has long been the man with that particular plan etched onto his subconscious, casually directing the madness from centre stage and ensuring that Slipknot always remain true to their principles, whether in terms of the music they make or the band’s brilliantly crafted visual world. The Download show is further evidence of Shawn’s mastery of his own domain. Even watching it from the comfort of your sofa, you can hardly avoid being sucked into the eye of the Slipknot storm; the carefully orchestrated result of a massive amount of care and attention to detail.

“It’s kind of a funny story,” recalls Shawn. “I was approached by this film director who wanted to film it. They wanted to film it like every other band, so I gave them advice and they didn’t take any of it. The people who did it, they did a horrible job. They edited it and they don’t know the band’s music so they’ve got Corey talking to the crowd while there’s a guitar solo going on or some shit. So we put over 3,000 edits into it, with the right musical cues, and now it’s fucking amazing, dude. It’s amazing and one of the best shows we’ve ever done in our career. We really won when we got it done!”

Having agreed to film the entire show, did Shawn have any expectations prior to hitting the stage that day? From the crowd it seemed as if Slipknot were hitting a new level of rage and insanity right before our overjoyed eyes, so was that something that he sensed was going to happen?

“I had no expectations,” he states, firmly. “Half a bottle of Jack Daniel’s, half a bottle of Absinthe. Let’s go kick ass. I don’t put any pressure on any show. There’s guys in the band that might, but I walk out and go, ‘Hey, there’s a lot of people here! Let’s fucking rock!’ Clown doesn’t give a shit about any of that crap. I have no expectations; Clown has no expectations. There could’ve been 10,000 people or 85,000 people. I just know there was a boatload! I just remember by the fourth song, Clown was having fun, and I remember he was having fun the whole show, and that’s important, man. It was definitely a milestone. The UK is what made Slipknot. The UK understands, dude.”

A band who, at times, have seemed to be built entirely of the purest and most powerful emotion, Slipknot have never tried to sugar-coat their music or their message, but even by their usually raw and unforgiving standards, the Audible Visions Of (sic)nesses documentary on the new DVD is, at times, incredibly difficult to watch and unbearably poignant, largely because of the presence of Paul Gray, who appears buzzing with life and dedication to the Slipknot cause. His death has left a huge hole in this band’s collective heart that can never be filled, and it’s a testament to Shawn’s work ethic and determination that this visual tribute has been completed on schedule.

“My intentions were to show everything else that happened during the All Hope Is Gone tour,” he says. “But unfortunately I was four days into it when Paul passed away, so I had a real hard time getting myself back in, so it’s a very minor piece, in terms of feeling. If I could’ve put it off and done it next year, I would have done, but we were already into it. I had to finish it and it was probably the hardest thing I’ve had to do in Slipknot’s career. I was dealing with the mourning of one of my best friends, man. I’d be in there editing and all of a sudden there’d be some video footage of Paul and I’d be thinking, ‘I can’t do this right now!’ But I got tough and I did it and I got through it, and the whole thing’s dedicated to him. It was all done for Paul."

There are numerous reasons why Slipknot have defied logic and the tides of fashion to become one of the biggest metal bands on the planet – and, indeed, of all time – and their refusal to become another bunch of swaggering, idiotic rock stars is one of the greatest. When Shawn expresses his surprise at how effusive the fans’ response to Paul’s passing has been over the last few months, his quiet dignity and gratitude is heart-warming. He also takes this opportunity to send a humble message of thanks to Slipknot’s worldwide friends:

“I haven’t publicly spoken about Paul, except for the conference meeting, but I wanted to let you all know that I want to personally thank everyone who stood up for us and helped us,” he says. “I want to personally thank each and every person out there who said beautiful things about Paul. We really have a fanbase and a culture and it’s real important to us, so thank you.”

And as for the future of Slipknot, Shawn is more than happy to confirm that the destructive wheels will definitely begin to turn again some time soon…

“We’re in a mourning period right now, dude,” he explains. “We’re in a place that we never thought we’d be in, so it’s a little hard to explain, but we have a brotherhood that will never be replaced so there’s no worries there. It’s gonna take some time, but get ready! I’m going to make Slipknot the biggest band ever. And if your band is the biggest band, prepare to be second!”


This article originally appeared in Metal Hammer #210.

Slipknot are on the cover of the latest issue of Metal Hammer magazine.

For the definitive genealogy of every Slipknot mask, then click the link below.

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