Clown of Slipknot Relives "Iowa", Talks "Gently", A Favorite Paul Gray Memory, and More
Thu, 27 Oct 2011 09:38:44
"I tried to make the new package feel as dangerous as it did back then," Slipknot mastermind M. Shawn "Clown" Crahan says of the Iowa "10th Anniversary Edition", due out November 1, 2011 via Roadrunner Records.
Clown certainly accomplished that mission, but he emphasizes an even deeper significance to the record's special edition. He goes on," Now, there's a different spin so people know Iowa is still alive and Paul Gray is still very alive. "
After one listen to the reissue, it's clear that Slipknot is as alive as ever. The band's uncontainable and unstoppable life force pulsates invigoratingly throughout every note on Iowa and every minute of the riveting Clown-directed documentary, Goat. Gray's spirit shines on the technical mastery and immortal groove of tracks like "Gently", "Metabolic", and "Disasterpiece", matching the intensity of his eight brothers and strengthening the collective exorcism. That's one of many reasons Iowa is a classic. Slipknot went against everything and won…
However, it wasn't easy, and you can see it in Goat and hear it on the audio from Disasterpieces included in the package. "I know how fucking deep that record is," reveals Clown. "I know how painful it is and how painful it was to make. I know when people listen to it and they love it, it's because they need it and it helps them. That's what we're here to do. We're here to help ourselves and, in return, help everyone else."
This is the album that solidified the band's army of maggots and their status as the ultimate 21st century metal band. That's why it deserves celebration and repeated listens for years to come.
In this exclusive interview, Clown of Slipknot spoke to ARTISTdirect.com editor in chief and Dolor author Rick Florino about Iowa, the story behind "Gently", a favorite Paul Gray memory, Apocalypse Now, and so much more…
"Gently" feels like a centerpiece on Iowa. Can you delve into that song? Does it possess a special significance for you? In many ways, it shows the essence and every side of Slipknot?
I would say "Gently" is a weird anomaly. In the old days, before we were signed, we would always play "(sic)" into "Gently". Back in those days, "(sic)" was called "Slipknot". As we got further along and we were making our first album with Ross Robinson, we decided to change "Slipknot" into "(sic)". When we were in pre-production for the the first album at Cole Rehearsal in Los Angeles with Ross, we went through all of the songs we had. I don't really remember whose idea it was, but it was a good idea. We agreed that there were only going to be 15 songs on the record, but we actually had way more songs in pre-production. We had to stay focused though. So we each wrote down our top 15 songs on a piece of paper. "Gently" didn't make the cut. Back then, I was pretty upset for a couple of reasons. Number one , I'm responsible for the beat of "(sic)" and the beat of "Gently". I played the beat for "(sic)" on drums standing up for Paul. Then, he took it from there. Later when Joey got in the band, they took it even further, but I came up with the beat, the core, the root of the song. I came up with the beat for "Gently" too. That was another thing that Paul and I were doing many years before we got the whole train going. I was upset that "Gently" got cut. The other thing that's special about "Gently" for me is I wrote all of the words to it. It's the only song out of all four records that I've written all of the words. Corey might've added a word or two to help the flow into something, but I wrote the song lyrically. I wrote "Tattered and Torn" as well, but not all of it. "Gently" is a mindset, and it was offered early on because I felt it was sort of the essence what we were as a band and what we were going to become. Myself, being one of the co-founders with Paul, I felt it described us. Paul was always my direct opposite brother.
I was an only child. I went to private schools. I was spoiled. He was on the streets of Venice, California. He had brothers and a hard life, but we both went through pain. I just felt "Gently" explained my heartbeat. I think the root of "(sic)" explains my anger, where I'm willing to go, and how far I'll go to the death. "Gently" shows the opposite—the love and the gentle heartbeat that wants to survive and make it and knows that every day is a new day. When you say there's an essence there, there really is because it was offered early on as it encompassed everything we were trying to become. I thought it identified Paul and my situation. He could identify with those words. For the most part, all of the band could. When we offered it up finally on Iowa, we pulled it out of a hat. There's a reason why it didn't get picked for the first record because it needed to be there for the second. You don't know that when you're making the first, but when it came about for the second, it made so much sense to me. I'm so glad that we held it back because it fits so perfectly on Iowa.
Because of how intense the whole time was?
Iowa was the darkest time of our career and our lives making music. I felt, because of that time we were in, "Gently" fit perfectly. As I was in a dark world, I had to remind myself where I needed to go sometimes. That's basically what that song talks about. It's a reminder of where you've got to keep yourself. It was awesome. When Corey read through it, I think there was a moment where people might've thought lyrics would be changed. Corey is a great writer. I think he was able to look at it, look at me, and say, "You know what, man? This says it all. I don't need to change anything. He loved the song". When I'm on stage and we'd play it, hearing him sing my words I'd be next to tears because it's such a personal thing for me. The root beat and the lyrics are so personal, and it does encompass everything that I believe—in my opinion—that we are. It's not personal just to me. I always thought it was about us. It's appropriate for Iowa. I was really pissed off and hurt that it wasn't on the first album, but I also can remember it being a bit of an oddball. We got in deep with Ross and I remember "Gently" being a little bit minor for what we were doing. If you think about that first record, it's like shoving a fucking beer can in your face—a car wreck. "Gently" is more of a state of mind, and I'm so glad we saved it for the second record. It helps you disappear into that mode of that record, and it signifies a time. It also signifies who we are anytime we do anything. It's an overview of what we are always.
What do you think the cinematic equivalent of Iowa would be? If you were to compare it to a movie, what would it be?
Well, a lot of times back in that tour cycle, we'd make it snow when we played live. There was snow falling on stage. I would say, not necessarily The Shining, but if you can imagine that child running through the maze at night with the snow falling and back-stepping his footprints to trick his father. It's not so much the movie itself. However, think about this kid running through a maze. I guess the metaphor would be life and having forces out of control, which would be the weather. It's deep snow coming down. It's freezing. You've got to fight all of this. He's running. Sometimes, he has to back-step and use trickery to move forward and be able to survive. That scene would depict "Gently" pretty well. The song is about being in your head but almost being threatened by life and knowing you have to go to places in yourself to make it. That child back-tracking his steps and waiting for his father to go by so he can move forward and survive is kind of what it was. I wouldn't say The Shining as a story at all or even Jack Nicholson in it. I think you understand. Also, I'd say Apocalypse Now going down the river not to fear but to face yourself.
That's the perfect analogy.
That's why Colonel Kurtz was at the end of river and Captain Willard [Martin Sheen] was on his way down the river to basically confront himself. Colonel Kurtz needed to be killed like a solder in order to complete his circle of life, but Willard had to go confront what he could become. He had to make a decision. He could've easily stood by Kurtz's side like those other gentlemen had and even done more damage. Good and evil is going on in one's head. The whole time down the river, you're wondering what's going to happen. Is he going to turn to the dark side? Or, is he going to stay human and face life? That would be another good example. Apocalypse Now is movie to more clearly explain that. You're going down that river, knowing that at the end of it you're going to be looking at yourself and what you could become. You have to decide whether it's right or wrong.
During the tour for Iowa didn't Corey write something very important on your drums?
On the Iowa cycle, I used a company that made drums out of carbon fiber because they would stay round so I could throw them and shit. My idea was to put pictures on the shells because they urethane them and polish them. The pictures could be seen through that. I took all of these old anatomy and biology books. One drum was all vintage bones, and another was all muscles and stuff like that. Another was all of these photos that I took. They're all squares so it's one drum of all my photography. Corey wrote a story on the last drum. He started at the top and worked his way all the way down to the bottom. I'm going to be completely honest with you, I've never read it because I knew there would be a time when I needed to and that time hasn't come. That was there. It was the essence of all of our performances at the time. I had this story and this deep thing that Corey had written specifically for me. It's one-of-a-kind, and I know it's got to be a lot of the feeling of where we are. You've got to remember this is after the record was made. I had the drums made for touring. We'd already gone through all of this shit. That story comes from a dark place. Everybody likes to write on my drum heads [Laughs]. They're always taunting notes to The Clown. They summon The Clown. They write things that make The Clown do things [Laughs]. There are always messages up there. My tech will put on brand new heads, and there will be all of these referrals, hidden messages, arrows pointing to people, and things in quotations said earlier or needed to be reminded. Those are all little things that start taking place in the psychosis of Clown's performance, and I guess the anger of it.
What is your fondest memory of Paul from the Iowa days?
You know, that's a really good question. It's a really hard one to answer and think about. It's hard to answer because you're taking me back to a beginning time and an end time of that cycle. It began immediately when we got home from the first cycle. Paul, Joey, and Jim were in Paul's little brother's house in the basement beginning. A lot of people don't understand. A lot of shit went on during the first cycle. You have your whole life to make your first record and you do it. You're so excited. You get added to OZZfest, and you're like, "Holy shit, we're playing with Black Sabbath, System of a Down, and all of these bands. Fear Factory were headlining the second stage and we got to play with them. We're on Roadrunner!" Then, you go out and the band is taken away from you. Your baby is taken away. We were blowing up right from the beginning. Once we started blowing up, it got taken from us. I'd say the second record is not necessarily us trying to get it back, but us letting the outside world—everybody but the nine—know they have no understanding what our ability is, what it is we're doing, what we're going to do, why we do what we do. Basically, you can't have it, you will never have it, you will never own it, you will never understand it, you will never get what you want out of it because we will do what we want, when we want, how much of it we want, and however we want. I think my fondest memory is watching my friend just dig so deep and write this phenomenal fucking record. He didn't write it alone, but he's a serious, serious part of that record. That's his record.
You can feel him completely on it.
I'll tell you a little story. When we did our first record at Cole Rehearsal, we were in one room. When we were there Kiss was there practicing for their world tour with all of the original members. I think it was the Psycho Circus tour where they were all back in makeup. They were in pre-production at Cole Rehearsal during the same time we were in pre-production for our first record and we couldn't fucking believe it. We're just these Iowa boys. Here we are in L.A. and Kiss is down the hall. When Ross was like, "Let's take a break", we'd sneak down. I'd run down to this door and I'd listen to Kiss play "Cold Gin" on small, little amps with no big PA or sound guy. They were just fucking practicing. When we went to do Iowa, we got that room. We did pre-production for Iowa in what we called, "The Kiss Room". It just meant that we were that much bigger. It was our way of going, "We are the shit". When I think of Paul, I think of how deep that dude went in to get all of those feelings and bring all of that out. I didn't get to spend a lot of time with him. He lived with Joey because those guys dug, burned, wrote, and spoke of music. Everybody was against everybody so there really was no sharing too much during album cycle or record making. When Joey would get done with his parts, I'd get in a car and leave. They'd work until 2, and I'd be like, "Later, goodbye!" When it came time for me to track my parts, I was like, "I don't want anybody here. I don't want those guys around. If they want to get rid of the shit later, what-the-fuck-ever, but I'm going to do my thing." That's just where we all were.
You created something timeless as a result.
Watching Paul play it live as well…you know how hard it is to create something in your head and bring it out into this reality and make it tangible. Paul put all of that in there and he got it out. He got all of that out of his head and put it in your hands. You could listen to it and put it in your brain. I got to watch him perform it. That was quite an honor. My favorite memory is to know he went inside of himself to the darkest place and helped write one of the fucking, if not the, heaviest metal record in our opinion ever and then get to go play it. On the cover of Rolling Stone, he's sitting right next to me, man. If you look at that cover, Paul, Joey, and I are right there on the bottom where we want to be. We want to be on the bottom. If you look at me on that cover, my eyes are closed, my arms are up, and I'm like, "I don't give a fuck about this, you, or anybody!" Joey is fucking threatening looking off one way. Paul is just in-your-fucking-face man like you're going to eat this shit. I'm really proud of him for that record. He loved all music, jazz and everything. If you want to see his essence, upbringing, and ability. Just put on that record, think about him, and you'll feel him. For me, the album celebrates his life a little bit. It's everybody's record, but in a strange way, I feel like it's a memorial to him. What better time to have something like this come out? I have someone like you asking me direct questions about him because of it and that's how someone lives forever. Just say his name…
Will you be getting Iowa on November 1, 2011?
See our exclusive review of Iowa here!
See our memorial of Paul Gray here!
See our exclusive dual interview between Corey Taylor of Slipknot and Stone Sour and Aaron Lewis of Staind here! Lewis talks about Slipknot changing heavy metal…