Clown Talks The Black Dots Of Death, "Ever Since We Were Children," Slipknot, and "Taxi Driver"
Mon, 04 Apr 2011 05:27:26
"I'm like the old wizard that lives up on the hill," says Shawn "Clown" Crahan with a palpable honesty pulsating through the phone line from Iowa all the way to Beverly Hills.
His words reverberate like a shotgun blast through the night. The musical sorcerer at the heart of Slipknot has conjured another unsettling and unforgettable masterpiece with The Black Dots Of Death in terms of both sonics and visuals. Their debut album, Ever Since We Were Children, infiltrates pop culture in a beautiful, brutal way. Songs such as "I Am Lost" and "Been Gone So Long" allow listeners to embrace inner darkness and anger positively via tribal percussion, eerie atmospherics, and intriguing choruses. It'll make you think and feel…
As Clown hears this description, he lets out a smile. "That's really refreshing news. It's always nice to be an artist and hear that people are digging what you're trying to complete. It's nice to start an interview like that."
For the next two hours, Clown spoke to ARTISTdirect.com editor and Dolor author Rick Florino about Ever Since We Were Children, growing up, his favorite filmmakers, and so much more in this exclusive interview.
Get Ever Since We Were Children now here!
The Black Dots Of Death sounds very organic and real. However, at the same time, it's extremely dangerous and emotional in places.
Yes, it's all of those things. You just tell me which one you want to start with because you just nailed it on the head basically to a "T."
Let's start with those emotions because you're covering a myriad of them on this record.
Well, as far as the emotion goes, it starts way back. Obviously, I'm in a really big band. That band started when I was 26, and it's been going ever since. We were even doing it before we formally started. I've been doing that for a long time, and that was a mindset of who I was growing up to be. Then, I finally realized what I was and what my gift was, and it was based off of anger. I was trying to find salvation through anger via my dream of being a musician. I can't believe where it went and how it's worked out. Every day I wake up, and I'm like, "Wow, who would've ever known?" I've done a couple projects since this band, and they were other extensions of feelings. I grew up in the '70s listening to The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, and The Doors. I'm 41-years-old so that's what mom and dad were playing all the time. My other bands were extensions of exploring other feelings within me to show the kids out there that you can pay honor to one thing, but if you hate, you should be able to love. That's more or less what I'm saying.
Life is built on that duality.
There's a left, and there's a right. There's an up, and there's a down. There are two sides to all stories. You shouldn't be embarrassed to let all of your feelings out, and it's pretty cathartic to be able to trust your inner instincts to do another feeling that people wouldn't expect. This is the most serious feeling of all for a lot of reasons. I really mean what I'm going to say. When I started getting close to 40, I had already lost my dad. I lost my mom pretty much right before I turned 40. I'm an only child and that really affected me. My mom died kind of young, and she had Alzheimer's. My dad struggled with demons, and he had a hard life. It was really hard on me. This idea of loss was really overdriving my brain, and I started going into a place. I did an art show for my 40th birthday with all of my paintings and photography. It's some pretty serious stuff. There were all of these people there from families that are friends of the band to lawyers to kids looking at this serious art. You don't censor art. I was never embarrassed for some little kid to be looking at what I was exploring in my art piece because art needs to be felt. A year ago, the lead singer and I started this project with one of the guitar players. We started storing this anger that was coming out in me. The singer is just like me so he'd already had some things going on, but I was starting to come back around after a ten year career. In that band, the pieces are only as good as the whole. The whole is what it is. I'm looking for more of an individual piece. The piece is me. When Paul Gray died, he was my partner that I started the band with, life changed. Because it changed, I changed, and I started recognizing where I was. I was at a new beginning, and it was a place I had been before. The reason why is he was my first best friend to die. I have several best friends, and he was the first to pass. That really took me back, and it still does to this day. I've had friends die, and I've gone to funerals. This was a serious person in my life who helped me start something that is my life. He actually believed in me and my art, and he pushed me to be who I am today. It greatly affects me. When he passed, all of the pieces of the puzzle started coming together. I realized, "I've lost my mom. I've lost my dad. Now, I've lost my first best friend." These thoughts started bringing me back to how I felt ten years ago. I thought, "That's it. I'm a lot smarter now. I'm a lot more intelligent. I'm a lot more evolved." Whereas in the early days, in the other band, there was a lot of physical violence and pain involved. That's where I was. I was more bound to hurt myself to get a point across than anything else.
Well, that evolution is present in your new music.
In my mind, I've evolved into a perfect idea of what I'm trying to do and say. Anger has always been a part of my life. Anger is really something that has affected me in a positive way. Anger can be a release. Anger is both positive and negative. It depends on how you want to do it. I use music for my salvation. I'm able to get out my life's angst through performance, music, and verse and heal myself. The Black Dots Of Death is my piece. This is who I am. This is like a direct window into me individually. That's why it's taken me 12 years to do something heavy. It's not heavy in the sense of what Slipknot is. It's taken me that time to understand and take a good look at one's life. I started getting angry and that feeling back of what I am. My partner, the lead singer, has always reminded me what I am. He's like, "Bro, you've got to remember you're this. Whether you like it or not, this is who you are. I'm around you all the time. This is your gift." We started honing it in.
What's the creative process like?
We're starting at the beginning so I can be the most intense I've ever been in my entire life. There is a precise way we write the music. It's a group effort. The music starts with me and I have a feeling. I explain my feeling and how I am. I name the songs after the feeling and idea of what the hell it is I'm doing and where I'm at. It dictates what that feeling is when you're listening to it. We don't second guess what we're doing together. They're all feelings, and they become stories. It becomes this perfect science project, and it's like everybody adds the same feeling to this one feeling. That's not because that's the way it needs to be; it's because that's the way it is. It works best that way. It's the most perfect way of creating. It's so effortless to create what we're creating. It's so fun. It's so surreal, and it's so pissed [Laughs]. It's everything I've ever wanted.
Tell me about handling everything so hands-on.
We want to get more personal with this idea of why we still need music. I preach something that's very important. The music industry might be failing. Music stores might be closing. People might not know what's going on in the industry, and they're trying to figure it out. However, the need for music hasn't changed at all. In fact, it's more with the way the world is going. The need for that healing process through music is more. That's just the way it is, man. Who cares if the industry falls? That doesn't mean I'm going to want to quit listening to my favorite fucking bands. I'm going to do whatever I have to do to get those songs still, whether it moves from vinyl to tape, from tape to CD, from CD to DVD. Now, it's digital music and we're putting it on little zip drives. It's crazy. The bottom line is people are still getting it like drugs, food, or air. Music is still a necessity. We just want to make it personal.
What filmmakers do you come back to?
I'm a visual guy. I'm of the greats because I grew up in the '70s. I love Francis Ford Coppola and Stanley Kubrick of course. A Clockwork Orange is probably one of the best movies ever made. It explains my life perfectly [Laughs]. Apocalypse Now is one of my favorite movies. Then there's David Lynch and Martin Scorsese. I think of Taxi Driver. At times of my life, I could be Travis Bickle [Robert De Niro] for real. I've gone through that state of mind several times. I've been so ignorant that I've done such naïve things accidentally like he did. Travis didn't know any better and he took Cybill Shepherd to the porno. I've done stupid things like that where I didn't know better. I've also shaved my head in rebellion to take on the fucking world and be like, "That's it. I've had enough." I'm giving you metaphors here of course [Laughs]. Travis wanted to save Iris [Jodie Foster]. It's like how I have kids. I'm a father, but I'm also The Clown. Those are my favorites. Star Wars is probably the greatest movie ever. I was seven or eight when it came out, and it was all actors. It wasn't CG. To be eight –years-old and go to different planets, see monsters, aliens, ships that fly, and lasers, I was like, "Wow, why can't life be like this? Why can't a Walrus man be at the bar? Why can't I see this shit?" [Laughs] That opened my mind to everything. To me, that's one of the greatest movies of all time. It's funny because my youngest kid is all about Darth Maul and all that shit [Laughs]. I was like, "You need to get with The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi!" He watches it and he likes it, but he's from the generation of CG so it's got to move faster for him. The bottom line is Quentin Tarantino is probably my favorite because if I were to make movies, I would make them more like he does. He was the first guy I ever watched who filmed the movie in a certain way and mixed it up. He was the first artist who I caught onto it. They've been doing it forever. When I watch his movies, I feel them. I've watched Kill Bill 1 & 2 at least one-hundred times each. It never gets old. It's about the way it feels. It's dark. It feels like I feel in my mind and my music. I'm obsessed with Pulp Fiction, Kill Bill, and Death Proof. Tarantino helped with this movie called Hell Ride. The guy who owns the bar in Kill Bill who's talking to Michael Madsen. He's sitting at the desk and he's telling him he's not coming into work. That guy directed Hell Ride, but Tarantino helped him. It's the way I feel. It's the way the room looks. It's the color. It's the whole bit that drives me nuts. I love the movies, and that goes into a lot of the stories. When we're on the road, we try to stay away from the bad things, and we watch movies. Movies are a couple hours long and the best way to stay away from the bad things is to know where your hands are and your feet are. If you keep the mind and hands from being idle, you can stay out of trouble [Laughs]. Movies inspire our subject matter and that's why we're storytellers in The Black Dots Of Death.
Have you heard The Black Dots of Death yet?
For more Slipknot awesomeness, check out our "Rogue On Rogue" feature where frontman Corey Taylor [Stone Sour] meets legendary director Wes Craven [My Soul To Take, Scream, A Nightmare On Elm Street] here!