Interview: Slipknot (#6, Clown)
Fri, 08 Aug 2008 11:45:01
For Slipknot, All Hope Is Gone isn't a negative statement. Rather, it signals a rebirth for the groundbreaking multi-platinum, nine-headed hydra. In a career marked by one revolution after another, Slipknot remain as fierce as ever, and their fourth offering serves as a wakeup call to the world. Shawn "Clown" Crahan stares out the band's bus window as it travels down a windy Massachusetts highway towards the Tweeter Center, where Slipknot's headlining the Rockstar Mayhem festival. Clown's as pensive as ever. He's always had a plan and a design for Slipknot, so the title of the band's latest album definitely provokes some interesting questions. After hearing Clown talk about the positive effects of Slipknot on their fans, it's easy to decipher the seemingly grim phrase.
Even though the world's unquestionably sliding down to Hell, we still have the power to do something about it. But first, it requires accepting that, well, "People=shit." Clown concurs, "That's exactly what the statement, 'All Hope Is Gone,' means. I love it when people interview me, and they ask, 'Clown, what do you mean by that?' Ah, it's working already. You're starting to think. It means go home and hug your mom. Have you called your dad today? Did you check on your brothers and sisters? Is everybody cool? Do you care? You want to write a book. Have you written a sentence today? All hope is gone. Prove me wrong. I want you to."
Clown delved into why there's no hope and what we can do about it in this exclusive interview with ARTISTdirect.
It seems like All Hope Is Gone is another big step in Slipknot's evolution. Would you say that's the case?
It was a pretty strange record cycle for me, and there are multi-layered reasons why. Now that it's all done, I feel like I can digest what went on while making it and where our collective mind was going. I really do believe that this is another step. I thought that Vol 3: The Subliminal Verses was the beginning of a time period that we'd been preparing for. I feel like this record is a bridge over to some uncharted territory, which is very exciting. We've been waiting for a long time to have an experience with all nine guys. All nine guys have been on everything all the time, but it's different now that we've been doing this for so long. We can express who we are and what we are through the music. We also can really start to shine out.
Vol 3 began and ended with the theme of communication. The first lyric on "Prelude 3.0" is about holding back, while the last lyric on "Danger, Keep Away" is about finally opening up. That theme was prevalent throughout the entire record. Is there a unifying theme to All Hope Is Gone?
Basically, there was a lot of craziness that went on for All Hope Is Gone. For example, we had almost three years off. Just being off, a lot of people didn't see each other. That's not because we didn't want to. It's because everyone was just doing his own thing with families and other bands. Dudes were taking time off too—whatever the case was. It was a weird situation with how things felt, and we have a different thought process now because of where we were during that break. All Hope Is Gone feels good. Life is getting a little embarrassing though. You can't prevent what you see in front of you, so "All Hope Is Gone," you know?
It feels like your most visceral album to date. That's going to resonate with a lot of kids because a lot of people do feel like all hope is gone.
Yeah, we just do what we do. It's hard to explain because at anytime a song can take a strange turn in a different direction. Core writers can present everyone with a song, but the minute someone else gets his hands on it, it's wide open. For instance, I can only speak for myself, but when I go to do my drum parts, I don't want anyone around. I don't want Joey around. I don't want Corey around. I don't want Paul around. I don't want Mick around. I don't want anyone around. Chris is usually in the other room because we try to do our percussion on the same day. Take a song like "Snuff" though. It sounded one way, but by the time I put my drums on it, it was a completely different song. So that's where we're at these days. There's a real maturity and almost a violent nature to the songwriting process. I like it a lot better because I'm not going to be told what to do or what to think. I'm just going to do whatever the fuck I want at all times in true Slipknot fashion. It's getting easier and easier to do that because I'm over interviews, I'm over videos, I'm over playing the same venues, and I'm over buses. I'm more excited to challenge myself to do more difficult things.
It seems like you personally always had a clear vision of where Slipknot would go since before the first record even. Do you feel like things have been in line with that plan?
I definitely had a pretty cohesive plan of how I wanted Slipknot to be from the beginning. At the end of the second record, I let it go. I just continuously did what I do. I would put in some sort of artistic direction, but things got a bit out of control. I think everything is getting back to being real cohesive. We got away from the plan for a while, but it was because we wanted to. I'm an experimentalist so I like to throw the reasons out there and set them wild. I like to see the conclusions separate from everybody else. I know that life's random. I know that our fans are random and the industry's random, so why not come up with a vision and throw it out there forever? It's almost like a disease. Later I can come up with a hypothesis about what it did. I'm still doing that. I do believe it's coming back around though. I'm actually having a really good time, which is a pretty big surprise for me because I've had a really rough five years. There have been a lot of growing pains, a lot of different stuff happening and things I've had to take care of—just personal things. I got out of it all thinking that this would be my last run because I have too many other things that I have to take care of. However, I've been having a really good time because I feel like the art is really being taken seriously. I share it with so many other people, and it even feels better to do it like that. So, I'm having a good time.
The maggots seem to be responding more than ever. In a lot of ways, kids need a band like Slipknot.
Yeah, it's absolutely true. When you go through high school, you try to find your social class and you have no idea who you are. You may have the same friends since Kindergarten, but they're changing. You go through puberty, and you start becoming an adult. Things are crazy. You're discovering things. There are things that are out of your reach until you're a certain age. Slipknot's kind of that way. It's something crazy, life changing and mind-opening. I can't even put it into words, man. It seems like, with every record, we get farther away, but we get closer. It gives the kids something to stick with for life. I've seen these kids at 13, 14 and 15 years of age go to school and not be accepted. Then they go to a Slipknot show, buy a t-shirt and they wear it every single day in class. Then all the other kids are like, "Holy shit, you're one of those kids." Well, what does that mean, "One of those kids?" It just means that the thought process is heavy. In "Surfacing," we said, "Fuck it all. Fuck this world. Fuck everything that you stand for. Don't belong. Don't exist. Don't ever judge me." I don't think we're religious or political, but if we were ever preaching anything, I would adopt that line, "Don't ever judge me." This is a fight for yourself. This is a fight to gain awareness on life, and it's a fight to achieve something with your own imagination before you die. I'm very honored and blessed that I've achieved a dream that I set out after. Every day I wake up and I can't believe that I set out to do this and I'm actually doing it. That's what I try to get across. I think that's what kids get from us. Yes, I do believe kids need us because, when we leave, they try to adhere themselves to us like barnacles on a clam or an oyster [Laughs]. It just doesn't work. We go, and then they're bored. Then we come out, and there's a sense of freedom because we're nine painters painting different shapes, almost against each other. That's almost the concoction that kids need to make it through school, church or a job. Kids need to know those kinds of things. We just so happen to understand that. Lately, I've been saying we're an experiment in psychology. We're nine guys that are brothers, but we're more like a platoon than a brotherhood. We live more by our will to tolerate this art than by blood. It's interesting that we're still doing it and we can always still tell you about it. I think the kids feel the same thing. Our kids go from 14 to 26. Some of them begin as kids that cut themselves, feel bad and have a hard time. After 10 years, I see now they've settled down with kids of their own and spouses. A lot of them thank Slipknot for helping them through their hard times. I'll tell you, when people say we've helped them through a dark time, it's hard stuff to hear. You know what? I'm going through a hard time right now, and Slipknot helps me get through it. I understand, and I think that's what you were asking. Kids do need us, and we're making a difference. It's only going to get better, and we're going to get better.
It's crazy because on the Mayhem Tour you're headlining places you opened the OZZfest second stage at in 1999.
Yeah, well that's how it's been this whole tour for us, my friend. We've toured OZZfest three times. In 1999 we played the second stage. In 2001, we were on the main stage, and in 2004 we headlined the second stage. All three times, Black Sabbath was the headliner. It was quite a show. Now we're on tour hitting all of these sheds, and they're all places that we've played with OZZfest. We're doing the numbers that they were doing. We're headlining, and we're pulling in those same numbers. If you would've asked me ten years ago when I was playing out in the dirt alternating between Static-X and (hed)p.e. for a chance to open up right before Fear Factory, I wouldn't have believed it. Here we are ten years later, and we're headlining this crap. A lot has changed. In those days, we had to be prepared to play at 11:30am. Or we'd play at 2:30pm in the worst time for the heat in a place like Dallas, TX. That was different. That's a different mentality. Now, we're the headliner. The sun goes down, and ten to fifteen degrees is wiped right off. When I walk off stage now, I feel I've earned everything that I've received. I'm having a blast. I worked as hard as I did to have as much fun as I'm having now. It's just getting better, and that's all I can say. That Iowa record killed me, I'm going to tell you. It took all the love for music, the industry, people, musicians, drugs and women, and it took it right out of me. Vol. 3 was about communication, like you said. We got it back. This record was simple. Even though there were a lot of crazy things going on with it, it was simple. So we'll see what happens.
“Kids do need us, and we're making a difference. It's only going to get better, and we're going to get better.”
Your vision is so different and otherworldly. Would you ever want to make a movie?
This isn't any B.S. or whatever. With art, I can't bullshit myself. I know when I'm achieving pureness. I've been writing a couple scripts. To be perfectly honest, it's not something I know how to do. I love originality. I'm trying to go ahead and write my scripts the way I think scripts need to be written. They're very colorful, and a lot of people tell me they're written like Dr. Seuss would write something. They're very multi-layered, metaphoric things. I definitely want to direct, man. I think it's my calling. I think Slipknot is something that I'm not going to be able to do forever. Quite honestly, I don't want to do it forever because I want to be able to go out on a good note. It's best to make everything you need and then retire so you don't have to come back and look bad. I don't want to have us come back with hairpieces, makeup on dripping skin and fuckin' clothes that don't fit because we're old. I'd rather just kill myself right now, do everything to the best of my ability, have as much fun as I can, make what I need so I can put my kids through college and do what I've got to do for my wife and I to retire. However, I do want to direct, because I get euphoric when I look in that monitor and I see playbacks of what we're doing. I think I have a gift for it. I don't feel just because I'm Shawn Crahan "The Clown" and I have a pretty good vision that I should just be thrown into the mix though. I really want to own it. I've got a couple things coming that I think will be in Slipknot fashion. People will see. I've been working on our videos from the beginning, since Welcome to Our Neighborhood through Voliminal. I'm doing some filming today of some crazy shit. Basically, I'm just working my balls off.