Despite a breakup scare a few years back, and the band allegedly entering into group therapy to mend old wounds, Slipknot regrouped and recorded Vol. 3: The Subliminal Verses, which was released last summer, just prior to a brief headlining run at Ozzfest.
Of all nine members of Slipknot, percussionist Shawn “Clown” Crahan has maintained his silence throughout the group’s career, rarely giving interviews and being enigmatic in the ones he did grant. Now, with a national tour to plug, he’s reluctantly putting himself in the spotlight for a few media interviews.
We spoke with Crahan via telephone from his Des Moines home.
NUVO: You’ve played big shows in the past, but this is your first headlining tour in arenas. What can fans expect to hear?
Crahan: It’s really exciting, because we’ve brought back the hydraulics and video and some other conceptual ideas. But it’s not going to be the Iowa tour, you know, with a lot of pyro and mayhem, it’s going to be more about what the album is about.
NUVO: What’s a typical day on the road for you guys like? I know you’re a married man with kids, but is it still as crazy as it was in the old days?
Crahan: It’s funny. It’s what you make of it. I laugh sometimes, because I think there could be a lot more of that going on for the people who’d want that. But I choose a quiet life. I’m married, I have four children, I live it straight and down the line. I don’t need an award for that; that’s just how I roll. But I do see craziness go on. But I laugh because I think it could be crazier; but then, some things creep up on you that you wish you had never witnessed. But art is a very expressive thing. So things usually end up very colorful and out of control anyway. But for me, I like to be on the early bus and take in some sights. But we let loose every now and then.
NUVO: You may lead a quiet life off stage, but you’ve also rocked so hard on stage that you’ve injured yourself. What’s the worst thing that’s happened?
Crahan: In Ozzfest ’98, I cut my left eye open and I thought I was going to die because I’d smashed in my head. There have been a lot of cuts to the head and it’s all because of metal drums and not paying attention and letting adrenaline take control of you. I don’t really perform that way anymore, for several reasons. No. 1, I don’t want to die. Two, my body doesn’t let me anymore. I’m kind of evolving into whatever, because I just can’t perform as physically as I used to. All of us. We should all have our necks X-rayed; it’s serious stuff.
NUVO: What was the process involved in recording Vol. 3, as opposed to your 1999 album, which Ross Robinson produced?
Crahan: The first record is so surreal now. You wait for your dream and all of a sudden you get a chance to literally achieve your dream, so you don’t spend too much time realizing what you’re even doing. I can’t even tell you too much about that [first] record, because it was bonkers. Just bonkers. And the second record, to me it was more corporate. And this third one was reuniting and giving in to inner feelings and giving back. We’ve had just about every experience you’d ever want out of recording. That’s what’s important about records anyway. You shouldn’t repeat any one feeling; you should download all the feelings that would ever come out of trying to make a record. And the next one, I hope, is a whole new experience.
NUVO: That brings up one of the most pressing questions about Slipknot. Will there, in fact, be another album?
Crahan: I can’t say … Let me say this. Yes, absolutely. But, you know, there’s all kinds of things that can happen in life. We’re not even close to being done touring yet. We have a lot of touring still to do. We’re scheduled to tour through late November. So we have to take some time off after that, because people in the band are going to go do some other things, and the people who don’t do other things are going to take a well-needed break. I’d like to do another album with Rick [Rubin]. He’s great.
NUVO: You sound very nice and even-tempered on the phone, but you see Slipknot in concert and it’s pure frenzy, like, “What the hell are those guys thinking?”
Crahan: A lot of it is the instinct that I feel. For me, survival is part of the daily diet. It’s usually what’s in my head the most. I’m a big guy, you know, and we go for it not because we have to, it’s who we are. It’s what makes my pulse beat. It’s what makes me dance. And that’s what rock and roll is. So I’m always thinking, I have to get through this. I gotta give more. It’s a constant battle to survive and to be able to perform what my instinct is, and it isn’t to sit around. It’s difficult.
The other half of the time, I try to connect to the kids in the audience. I love looking at them. I love looking at their faces, I love seeing who they’ve chosen to be. What’s on their wrists. What T-shirt they decided to wear. Who they came with. How they did their hair. What songs are they singing and what ones are they fumbling up. How are they acting towards the music. Did they wear a mask? Will he keep it on throughout the show or will he show me his face? I try to connect that way, because that’s how I learn. That’s the everyday Ph.D. that I’m going for. Every day that I can connect is another day that I’ve gotten my homework done.
NUVO: You haven’t done a lot of press over the years; is there any special reason for not doing it then, and why you’re doing it now?
Crahan: I’m over it. See, you’re polite, “yes,” “thank you,” good questions, but 99.9 percent of all the other crap is facilitating what they think and how the industry should be run. How kids should receive information. How it should be presented. I’m over that. It’s like prejudice to me. The fact is, I do like to talk to people but I like to talk to people who have their shit together. Why? You could sit here and creatively attack me all day but all you’re doing is irritating me and not achieving anything. In case you didn’t know, the music industry is hurting right now. And it’s because we’re getting away from what it’s about. And what it’s about is dancing. And feeling good. And getting away for the night or let the music make you cry or laugh. You can remember being at a concert and feeling shy and looking over at one of your friends who’s going for it and dancing. Then you start getting into it. That’s what I’m getting back to, that’s what I want to be a part of, I don’t feel like fighting people on tape or on the phone. I’m over it. That’s my answer.