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Interview:
Slipknot keeps the faith, looks to the future
 

By GARY GRAFF
for Journal Register Newspapers

» See more SOUND CHECK

Slipknot is closing each stop of this year's Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival tour with heavy music.

And heavy hearts.

The trek is the masked Iowa troupe's first North American roadshow since the May 24, 2010 of bassist Paul Gray and is, according to percussionist M. Shawn "Clown" Crahan, part of "a philosophy of sharing in the grieving with our fans." It will culminate in a pair of special Knotfest shows during August in Iowa and Wisconsin, after which Slipknot plans to move on to its fifth album -- but not without Gray top of mind.

"It's very important for people to know that, yes, it is the end of a thought process of sharing a loss together and getting on with the future," explains Crahan, 42, who says he still visits Gray's grave in Des Moines "every other day. "We're moving forward, but he's leading the pack. It's not the end of a period and a beginning of a new period; there are only nine members, and there will only be nine members (of Slipknot).

"Paul Gray will always be part of that nine. We'll always be representing. He will be there 'til the end of time."

Crahan says that the new album will feature some songs Gray had a hand in writing, while frontman Corey Taylor predicts that "everything we do on that album is going to be about Paul. It's going to be very melancholy. It's going to be a more saddened form of rage when it does happen, and it'll be a whole path that we've never gone down before."

And that's saying something for Slipknot, which, since its double-platinum debut album in 2001, has combined a brutal, industrial-strength brand of heavy metal with masks, jumpsuits and onstage theatrics that have changed over the course of the group's four Grammy Award-nominated studio albums. (A compilation, "Antennas To Hell," comes out July 24.) As Crahan says, "we're not anything anyone can understand. There's never been anything, ever, in this world that's been created like Slipknot, and there'll be nothing ever compared to what we are."

But the group's path has been a hard one since Gray's death. The group members went their own ways into various side projects -- including Taylor and guitarist Jim Root's Stone Sour, drummer Joey Joridson's Murderdolls and Sid Wilson's DJ work -- and there was speculation about whether Slipknot would even go on. Some of that was fueled by the band member's own comments, but Crahan now contends that was something of a ruse.

"We like to twist and turn people's minds," he says. "We do that on purpose. We like to sit in our little dressing rooms and laugh about how we have one on everybody, y'know? Everybody can say what they want, but at the end of the day we'll be back and we'll be kicking the s*** out of everyone like we have since day one."

Still, Slipknot slowly and deliberately worked its way into fighting form, starting on stage with shows in Europe during 2011 and now the Mayhem run. "It just makes more sense for us to reconnect as a band the way we always have," Taylor, 38, says, "to go out and tour and just try to find that common ground again. I think we need to do a little more of that before we start thinking about making a new album."

Gray remains a presence in Slipknot's stage show via a banner, while Donnie Steele, a guitarist in an early version of Slipknot during the mid-90s, plays bass out of sight of the crowds during the live shows. But the idea of adding another bass player is a sensitive one for Crahan, who says he visits Gray's grave "every other day" when he's at home in Des Moines.

"I don't have to think about a new bass player right now because it's not even remotely time to even think about that," Crahan says. "My brother's been gone for two years, and it isn't any easier than it as the first day it happened."

Meanwhile, guitarist Root missed early Mayhem dates due to a burst appendix but returned on July 13. "I'm happy that he decided to stay home for a little bit, because if it would have happened out here, I don't know what would have happened," Crahan says. "If it would have burst in the middle of the set, he might have fallen over and died right there. I don't know, you know, I don't want to think about it 'cause it didn't happen that way."

With Root back in the fold, Crahan promises Slipknot's performances at Mayhem -- where he also signs copies of his new photography art book "The Apocalyptic Nightmare Journey -- have not been compromised. "Every day my knees are full of blood, my head is full of thoughts -- kill, kill, kill, 100 percent Slipknot," he says. The plan after the Knotfest shows are to "take some time off -- less time than people think" before starting work on the new album.

"Y'know, we're just doing the best we can right now," Crahan says. "Do I want to make a new record? Yes. Do I want the band to stay together? Yes. Do I hope we get there? Yes...We really do appreciate all the texts and the posts and the prayers and the blessings we've received. There's a lot of love in the air. It's helped us decide our fate, and we won't let anybody down."

The Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival takes place at 1:30 p.m. Sunday, July 22, at the DTE Energy Music Theatre, Sashabaw Road east of I-75, Independence Township. Acts include Slipknot, Slayer, Motorhead, Anthrax, AS I Lay Dying and others. Tickets are $42-$99 pavilion, $28-$32 lawn with a $92 lawn four-pack. Call 248-377-0100 or visit www.palacenet.com.

Web Site: www.palacenet.com

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