Formed in 1994 by late bassist Paul Gray and M. Shawn Crahan (aka Clown, aka #6), Slipknot (due this Sunday, July 8 at Comfort Dental Amphitheatre for the Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival) stormed onto the scene with its self-titled debut, a release that eventually went double platinum. The band, whose most recent studio release, All Hope is Gone, topped the charts in seven countries, including this one, is known for its over the top live shows, attention grabbing uniforms and distinctive identities, and its high energy music, all of which has earned the undying devotion of a nation of "maggots," as the act's fans are affectionately known.
Hours before Crahan kicked off a tour of his own in Chicago in support of his first photography book, Apocalyptic Nightmare Journey, a project that has been eleven years in the making, we spoke with the Slipknot percussionist about a number of things, including the time he watched a couple of hippies screwing during the Dillinger Escape Plan's set, his new book, what we can expect from Knotfest and the death of bassist and Slipknot co-founder Paul Gray.
Westword: What was the most bizarre gift that you received from a fan?
M. Shawn "Clown" Crahan: Probably a cow heart that was smashed on my face.
What was your "Holy shit, I can't believe I'm watching this from the stage right now!" moment?
Two people fucking on the stage in Norway at a festival. The Dillinger Escape Plan played after them, and we just sat on the stage watching a couple of hippies screw. Watching two people try and keep up with the band's tempo was a little bit too much for me.
What is the one moment you think of when looking back on Slipknot's career?
That I'm alive.
What's something Slipknot fans would be surprised to know about you?
That I have cats.
How do you maintain your anger after so much success?
I probably wasn't meant to be born, but, because I was, you're never going to take the anger away from my blood.
Has Slipknot begun the writing process for the new album, and will Slipknot fans hear new music in 2013?
I don't know what year you will hear it in, but the writing process has begun. It's in different stages with different members, and everyone is just doing what they're doing. Everyone will bring what they have done to the table. Some of it will get used, some of it will not get used, but it won't be Slipknot until all of the gentlemen have put their love onto it. Everybody is writing every day, putting down the pain, the love, and preparing for the future.
Tell us about Knotfest. What is the idea behind it, and will this be an annual event?
It's a dream we have always had. It's a festival idea that we have, trying to bring a little more of the European vibe, have a lot of fun and share our thought process with our culture. There has been talk about it going on if we're not out playing. That's not a priority right now. There is also talk about when the next record comes out, and maybe we'll start it with Knotfest, but, right now, less is more. The first show is in Iowa. The second show is in Somerset, Wisconsin. We are taking a couple of us and seeing how it goes. Whether it goes good or bad, it's another dream that we had and another notch on the board. It's something that we always wanted to accomplish, and we're doing it.
This sounds like it will be the circus from hell.
A circus has elephants, tightropes, nets, a leader in a three ring, and clown cars with thirty clowns coming out of it. I would say it's more like a carnival, not a circus. There is no circus on earth without an elephant -- you'd need to see a fucking elephant.
This is Slipknot's second headlining appearance at Mayhem. How will you guys outdo yourselves from '08, and will you be wearing the original uniform and masks? Will Slipknot have the same over-the-top production that you did earlier this year in Australia?
I cannot tell you what we're wearing. I cannot tell you about the production. We give 190 percent. As far as topping ourselves, it doesn't even occur in our brains, because we kill ourselves with every show. Every show could be our last show. I've prepared my children that if they ever wanted anything for me, it would be to die onstage, because [on-stage] that's my church, that's my altar. It's where we give our sermons. It's where we talk to the congregation. It's a culture between our fans and us. We don't have to top ourselves. We are ourselves, and we give nothing but 190 percent every fucking show!
While on stage, is that therapeutic for you?
No, my therapy is that I have walked on stage. It's up to me to give everything I have within me to kill myself, to gain some salvation, so one day in my life I have peace. That energy, that thought process, that love, that hate, transcends into and over to our fans. They heal me. I don't do it for them. I do it for me. They return because I do it for me.
It's being done for them, and they are able to get out what they need. We are one in the same. I have to get out what I need to show them that when I walk off stage and take my mask off, that I gave 190 percent. I'm still alive. I did allow myself my true potential, and I gave our culture everything I could possibly could give them, so they could get through a world that can't be trusted.
After Paul died, was the future of Slipknot ever in question, and will you seek a full time bass player?
I don't need to talk about a new bass player, because there will only be nine. Paul was number two of nine. He will always be there. He will always be at the round table with a glass of wine, our drink of choice, with a plate of food. He will always be involved with every record for the rest of our career. He will always be onstage. He will always be a part of the thought process.
As far as a new bass player is concerned, I don't have to think about that. The time that I have to think about that will come soon enough. Whatever is meant to be will be meant to be. I really don't even care to think about it, because there is no reason to think about it. I can't predict the future, nor will I. I'm not a fortuneteller.
When Slipknot made its first live appearance since Paul's death, did you feel that Paul was with you?
Absolutely. He is with me right now.
You have a photography book that was released on June 19. Why do I get the feeling this will not contain photographs of sunsets on the beach and puppy dogs?
Well, I do have one picture of a dog. It's manipulated, medium format Polaroid. It's not digital. It's not 35mm. It's a medium format camera that's meant to shoot 120mm film. You put a Polaroid back on it, pull it, and a couple of rollers release the chemicals. Then the process begins. I decided to get a master's degree and write a master's thesis.
At the end of eleven years, what I learned was expecting perfection is creating something original -- that becomes perfection to me. You cannot re-create what I created. When I pull it from a piece of paper and you look at it, it's one of a kind. It's like you going to take a piss right now and looking at yourself in the mirror. You will see a face that's nowhere else on this planet. That is special; that's what my book is about.
You're on a book tour as we speak, but fans can stop by the Mayhem Festival and get their copies signed, correct?
Yes, I'll sign the book to you. If you wanna bring some CDs, I'll sign them and take pictures with everybody. My fans are my people, and I'm not here to sign a book and push anyone aside; it's not about that. It's about connecting with people, connecting with art. I would not be able to do what I'm doing without the fans -- and Paul Gray, he believed in my art, and I believed in his music. Together we decided to change the world, and that's what we did. He's gone, but I'm still here doing my art, and I would be honored to sign CDs that he was a part of, that I'm a part of, that the rest of my brothers are a part of. I'm certainly interested in taking a photo with anyone who took time out of their busy schedule in life to say hello.
Anything you would like to add?
Actually, there is something I want to say, and I say it all the time. Thank you to all of our loyal fans, our maggots, our culture, and our people. Thank you for all the work, the letters, the Facebook posts, the energy to the air, the ground, the vibrato, whatever the hell you wanna call it. We are honored to be a band that you love.
We are blessed that we have you, and it has helped in our time of need, mentally, more than anyone will ever know. I never speak on behalf of anyone but myself, but I can say this for the whole entire band, we love each and every one of our fans. We can't thank everybody enough. You mean the world to us. It's on, so get ready for the future, because it's a heavy one.