Why Slipknot thrive on dysfunction
In the 20 chaotic years they’ve existed, Slipknot have thrived on dysfunction. As they prepare to bring hell back to the UK, we find them united in passion, but divided by what comes next...
The Clown exhales slowly as the question is put to him.
“I know what you’re asking, man,” he says, his voice calm but laced with menace. “You want to ask me if I’m older, fatter and uglier now? That’s what you’re asking, right? Listen to me: I’ll still flip [a coin] with you for a punch in the face right now. I can still revert back to the animal I was. I’m actually more dangerous now than I ever was. And so is this band. Because now we can do anything.”
Hammer isn’t trying to pick a fight with Slipknot’s redoubtable leader. We were merely wondering aloud about the ways in which his band has changed in the 20 years since Slipknot walked into SR Audio recording studios in Des Moines, Iowa, to track what would become their first demo, Mate. Feed. Kill. Repeat. For, of the six musicians who formulated the original Slipknot sound on that record, three (vocalist Anders Colsefni and guitarists Josh Brainard and Donnie Steele) quit the band before their first national tour, bassist Paul Gray passed away tragically in 2010, and drummer Joey Jordison left in December 2013, leaving Shawn Crahan as the last man standing.
Today, Shawn is at home in Des Moines, licking his wounds ahead of Slipknot’s final engagement of 2015, a first staging of the bespoke Knotfest festival in Mexico, where the group will top a bill featuring Lamb Of God, HIM, Megadeth, The Dillinger Escape Plan and more. As his kids play with their dog, and his wife Chantel heads out to get him cigarettes and coffee, the 46-year-old percussionist is less interested in reminiscing about the past than plotting the path ahead for his band, because, as he sees it, Slipknot are about to enter a phase of their career in which they will not merely consolidate their legendary status within the metal community but create a legacy which will transcend genre boundaries and elevate the band to the pantheon of all-time greats.
Clown’s co-conspirators Corey Taylor and Jim Root are equally enthused about the road ahead. Speaking to Hammer from Florida and Los Angeles respectively though, the pair voice different opinions as to how each envisages the future, and it’s not hard to detect a little tension in their contrasting views. Mention this to Shawn, and he emits a dry, mirthless laugh, suggesting that he’s more than familiar with the niggles and frustrations that always bubble beneath the surface of this combustible unit.
“It’s interesting for me to hear what my guys say through you, and what you say through my guys, and what the fans will say about it all,” he says. “It wouldn’t be Slipknot if there wasn’t this giant banquet of drama and gossip. Tell me what they said and then let the Almighty Clown tell you what the fuck is actually going to go down…”
By common consent, Slipknot are on fire right now. While the lengthy hiatus between 2008’s All Hope Is Gone and 2014’s .5: The Gray Chapter was enforced by circumstances more than choice, the past 15 months have been one of the most successful and settled periods in the nonet’s career. Though _The Gray Chapter _was denied a Number One UK chart debut by singer-songwriter Ben Howard, the group’s fifth album scored chart-topping placings in the US, Australia, Japan, Canada, Russia and Switzerland, and the smooth integration of new bassist Alessandro ‘V Man’ Venturella and drummer Jay Weinberg allowed the new-look band to rack up in excess of 100 live shows supporting the release. There are already 19 European shows on the docket for 2016 – including February appearances in Cardiff, London, Birmingham, Leeds and Belfast – with pending offers set to keep the ’Knot on the road until September. What happens next is still the subject of some debate.