F..k It All!
Andrián Pertout speaks to Slipknot’s A.K.A. number 6, percussionist Shawn Crahan from Des Moines, Iowa, about the truth and lies of hard rock.
“Have you ever thought about what a messed-up hard-core metal band from ‘the middle of nowhere’ would sound like?” asks their press release, “Nine freaks from Des Moines, draped in industrial coveralls, surrealistic self-made masks, and an attack that combines violently regurgitated ‘LA neo-metal,’ death metal, hip-hop and down-tuned screeching horror are about to leap upon the unsuspecting world like a musical of Clockwork Orange.” This is the official introduction of ‘Slipknot’, the band from Des Moines, Iowa that presents its nine members numerically, as 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8, or alternatively as DJ Sid Wilson, drummer Joey Jordison, bassist Paul Gray, percussionist Chris Fehn, guitarist Jim Root, sampler Craig Jones, percussionist Shawn Crahan, guitarist Mick Thomson and vocalist Corey Taylor. Their latest ‘self-titled’ release comes courtesy of Roadrunner’s imprint label ‘I AM Records’, and was produced under the direction of Ross Robinson at the ex-Moody Blues studio of ‘Indigo Ranch’ in Malibu, California.
How did Slipknot get its initial break?
SC: ”Basically, being where we’re from, where there’s really no outlet for entertainment, arts, music, creativity so to speak, we were at a time in our lives and our career with Slipknot where we might have just given up, but we got a new singer, a good friend of ours and wrote a song called ‘Spit It Out’ about the whole situation. And that’s the song that re-sparked our career so to speak, because that’s the song that we shopped to the labels and the song that sparked the interest with Ross Robinson and Roadrunner. And I think at that time we were ready to get signed, and we were ready to take it to the next level, so we came together as a brotherhood to do that. But we had been working with Roadrunner for quite a while prior to ‘Spit It Out’, so it was a looksy kind of thing, as we improved and got all of our bases covered for Slipknot. And that’s kind of what happened.”
So you were showing Roadrunner things as you went along?
SC: ”Yeah, we’re constantly striving to be better, and Roadrunner is actually the very first label that we gave anything to. And it wasn’t a case of ‘let’s get signed’ type deal, it was like, ‘Here we are, our name’s Slipknot! We’re in your world, and we’re gonna be barking down your door for a long time.’ So that’s what we were doing, and the story goes that we were shopping Roadrunner, and the vice president, Monty Connor’s like, ‘Hey, I wanna see where they’re gonna be in a year.’ Well, a year to the day I sent them ‘Spit It Out’, certified, he had to sign for it, and I said, ‘How are you doing? Here we are, one year later. What do you need?’ And it sparked interest you know, and I don’t wanna say that we were never ready to get signed, ‘cause I believe that every band’s always getting better, unless they’re shooting heroin, getting drunk, or whatever. So we were constantly developing our theories in music and becoming a better band together. I think that’s usually what happens, musicians get more comfortable with each other, and they rely on feeling a little more. ‘Cause you know, it can be scary being in a band, opening up, and that’s what we did, we opened up to each other and made a great band. And I think we made a great album.”
What is the concept behind the masks, the A.K.A. numbers, and the bar coding of the band members?
SC: ”Well, I’ll give you the theory really quick, but I will not tell you what the bar codes mean, maybe somebody else will, but I won’t. And whenever it’s gotta anything to do with the clown, I’m not gonna tell you anything unfortunately (chuckles). You know, the clown is me, and there are some things that I’m going to leave a mystery. But as far as the numbers go, they were just significant for each member, kind of their lucky numbers. Like Corey always says that number eight is a very close number to him, a personal number. And Corey always explains his mask as everything that he’s always hated in his life. And the boiler suites, they’re a unified, military aspect of us. But there’s like not one guy up there wearing today’s fashions. There’s nothing that disgusts me more than watching a bunch of complete geeks, ‘cause that’s what I think they are. When bands get up there and sport shit, it is disgusting. I mean, what are they trying to do, are they trying to be models, or are they gonna be musicians? I just spit on them man, I can’t stand it, I’m tired of it. And don’t get me wrong, I don’t wanna be a complete hypocrite here, we wear clothes that can be considered trendy, but I don’t wear them on stage for status, I wear what I wear because I like it. But I don’t believe that the stage is a place for that, because if you take a photograph, put it in a metal magazine, and put a kid in front of it, some of the kids are gonna be like, ‘Hey, check this out, he’s wearing this!’ What the hell! Why isn’t that kid going, ‘Look at his finger position on the fretboard.’ But they’re more prone to go, ‘Look at his hair, look at that tattoo, look at those crazy jeans.’ Bullshit! That shit’s all gotta go, all gotta go, it’s gotta be what’s most important, it’s gotta get to the foundation of why that dickhead’s even in the magazine, and that’s ‘cause he’s in a band and plays music.
“That’s the most important thing, and that’s why the masks are there. Because where we are from everybody knows everybody, and we were all in different bands prior to Slipknot, OK, and it wasn’t about like, ‘Oh look, Slipknot’s got this drummer from this band,’ and ‘Look, Shawn died his hair, he’s getting to be more of a freak.’ Come on man, ‘Remember? There’s something called music!’ And it’s not a bunch of cover bands that come in for the whole week and rock out fucking Skid Row covers. ‘Cause that’s all that was going on here, there was these cover bands who got paid to play the whole week, and the only day we could play in our other bands was on a Sunday. And we didn’t have to pay to play, but we had to take ads out at the radio stations, and hand out flyers. And you know man, it just sucked, ‘cause people wanted to hear covers, and we were trying to be original. So these Sundays, that’s what we did, we played all originals, with maybe one or two covers. And that’s why we wanted to wear masks, because it’s like, ‘Come on, look, we’re musicians. You know, come to terms with what I’m wearing and pay attention.’
“I mean, take a look at some of the biggest people right now, and the shit they do! It just makes me sick! I hate it man! And I’m being dead serious, some of the metal that’s out today makes me violent. I mean, there are so many people I wanna meet and play with. I wanna crush them, I wanna crush them so hard musically, and I just want them to look back at Slipknot and go, ‘Fuck! Why didn’t we do this.’ And I wanna look at them and go, ‘You sour piece of crap!’ It’s so frustrating man, I meet so many bands that are so full of shit, and that are so worried about image. You know, they’re just like,’ I’m a rockstar, I don’t have any time for my fans.’ They all make me sick! Dude, I’m twenty-nine years old, I’m not gonna be in any other band, I’ve been married for six years, I’ve been faithful to my wife my whole life, she’s my soul mate and my best friend, I’ve got three children, I’m not going out on tour to get laid, I‘m not going out on tour to die on heroin, and I’m not on tour to get so drunk that I can’t play the next day. I’m here to kick your ass, and show you that it can be done. Slipknot will never, ever, ever, ever as long as you live be duplicated, it will only be copied, and that’s what we’re here to do, show you that if you’re true to yourself, and you believe in yourself, no matter where you’re from and no matter how absurd your dream, you can do it. ‘Cause Slipknot is an absurd dream, we wear masks, we wear boiler suits, we fucking come from the middle of nowhere, there’s nine of us, we’re heavy as fuck, we’re violent as fuck, we’re not supposed to work, we’re not supposed to sell albums, and we’re not supposed to last. Well, guess what, we’re selling albums, we are working, we are coming to your town, and we are gonna kill you, period, end of story.”
How would you describe your approach to drumming in this style of music?
SC: ”I started the band, and I started the band with a theory that we would answer to no one and that we would have three drummers. I was a traditional drummer, but I am so crazy when I play a drum kit that I break everything. I initially started playing drums as a young kid because I was violent, and I don’t mean violent like I’m just gonna go and beat someone up, I mean that I am very, very aggressive. So when I play drums, I wanna beat the shit out of them. So something was calling me to walk further than a drum set, and I wanted to play drums standing up, but didn’t wanna be a Latin percussionist, I didn’t wanna have finesse, I wanted to have power. You know, like pagan drumming. Have you ever been to a football game where the drums in the marching band come in at half time? You can be so bored eating a hot dog, waiting for something to happen. But you know what, half time comes, and those drums come out and you’re like, ‘What the hell’s going on?’ That was my approach, ‘cause I wanted power, and that’s what we did, we got two drummers on the left and right. And we just stick to simple beats man, we don’t try to get all stupid with it, we leave that for Joey, the main drummer. Let him be the glory hound and the technical person, I’m here to like establish power. Some bands put guitars tracks on tape to fatten it up, not Slipknot man, we’ve got drums, we have the most innate primitive instrument ever created. Think about it, drums are in thunder and lightning man, they’re in the ocean, they’re in volcanoes erupting, drums are everywhere. In everything you see around you there’s a rhythm. And let the main drummer be the technical one, I wanted brutality, I wanted aggression, I wanted primal instinct, I wanted the thing that keeps you alive, and that’s your heart. And what does it do? It makes a beat! You know what I’m saying? And that was my approach, the simplest of things that would immediately draw you to it, it’s like a bug in a light, ‘Zzz’, zap, that’s what I wanted.”
Tell me about your drum set.
SC: ”Well, when I moved up to playing the drums standing up, I used to break everything. I’d get so mad when I’m playing, and I’d get so caught up in what I’m doing that I’d put my head through my bass drum head, or I’d throw my drum out to the crowd and let them break it. Or I’d go out in the crowd and I’d break it, whatever. And I’m a welder, so I built this scissor lift which takes my drums up in the air. It’s all made out of steel, and I use an air compressor to take me up in the air. Well, I still had wood drums, and I wasn’t happy, ‘cause it was cheesy and I’m like, ‘Fuck this wood stuff!’ This is just cheese, leave the wood for the traditional drummer. I want something that’s brutal, I want something that will hurt me if I try to fuck with it. And at the same time, the wood drums were not complimenting the main drummer, ‘cause they had the same tonal qualities. So I was striving for something new, and I found this guy named Ron Dunnett. He has a business called Dunnett Classic Drums, and is the world’s first titanium snare builder. I emailed him, and told him what I wanted, and he thought I was fucking crazy, ‘cause titanium’s very expensive. He’s just like, ‘You’re nuts, you’re full of shit!’ I emailed him back and I’m like, ‘OK, now that you’ve told me all the crap that you tell normal people, understand that you’re dealing with the clown from Slipknot, and I’m not pulling your leg. Check this out! How much? When are we getting together? Let’s do this!’ So he calls me up, and we made my drums man. And now I have some new shit that I’m making with him that’s gonna blow everybody away.
“And you know, the titanium drums and my scissor lift, everything is of metal, it’s very brutal, and that’s why I cut my head open, ‘cause they’re non-forgiving. Like if you’re gonna give your flesh to the audience by getting into it, man you’re gonna get hurt if you fuck with us. And that’s what I like, that’s what keeps me on my feet. You know, twice on this Ozzfest Tour I cut my head open, and the second time, seventeen stitches to my face. And I walk away dude, I don’t care, I sign autographs after I do it. I’m one hundred percent into what I do, and you can’t take that away from me. And I’ve got four titanium drums, two that are very deep, like one’s 24 by 18 inch, one’s 18 by 18, one’s 8 by 8, and one’s 10 by 10. And I also play with a 16 gallon beer keg, and the other drummer plays with a keg as well, but his keg is an old stout beer one, like a Guinness keg, and it’s got a wooden cork in it that we’ve taken out, which gives us a little more tonal quality. And we also have other stuff, we have 15 gallon barrels, chop saws, air tools, and all kinds of shit.“
What kinds of sounds did the band experiment with in the studio under the direction of producer Ross Robinson?
SC: ”Ross is a guitar player, and I believe that he is like a guru of sound, he’s beautiful with sound. He’s really into guitar pedals, and just reaching in there and grabbing that sound for the day, so there was a lot of experimenting with sound. And the studio that Ross works out of is called Indigo Ranch, and I would say that Richard Kaplan is kind of like a pack rack for musical equipment. He’s got like every freaking amp ever made in there, and he’s got every guitar pedal. I mean dude, hundreds and hundreds of guitar pedals. And amps, if you want that old blues sound man, you can get like a 1950s Fender Stratocaster head, he’s got it all. So if you’re like really looking for something that is not even necessarily gonna last very long, you can find it there.
“And Slipknot of course is always experimenting with sound, because you’ve got the three drummers like I said, we’ve got kegs and metal stuff, and then we’ve got the DJ. And you know, traditionally we don’t like DJs, because we think it’s very trendy. All these fucking new metal bands out there wanna have a DJ. Well, we chose our DJ because he makes notes man, he makes instruments out of his scratching. He takes it to a whole new level, and he’s insane, so we’re always experimenting, we add guitar pedals to his DJing, like a whammy pedal, and all kind of crazy shit, even distortion. And then we have a sampler in the band, who puts noises over stuff, and he creates those, he’s got all the programs. We make sound bites and add words to words, and get sick with it. And there’s a lot of stuff going on guitar wise. As far as the vocals, Corey does some really unusual stuff, but we like the vocals for the main singer just to be kind of straightforward. We use a thing called a Leslie a lot, and the Leslie just rips, we used it a couple of times. I do most of the backup singing, and my philosophy is that I always just want really distorted crazy ass stuff. You know, I’m not a singer, I’m not gonna sing a fucking melody for you, I’m gonna scream at you. I’m like the car coming to a stall, so that’s what I go for. I’ve got an Ed Wood mike, an old radio mike, and add like sick ass distortion, phase and all this crap, so that it just sounds like you’re sticking your head through a pane of glass. And I really love Ross for that, because he’s not afraid to do that, he’s not afraid to experiment.”
How did modern technology come into play in the recordings?
SC: ”Indigo is a very, very old studio that was bought by the Moody Blues and Richard Kaplan, and there’s only two boards in the whole world like the one that they have. So the board at Indigo is one of a kind really, and put it this way, we don’t feel like Indigo is a starship, a starship is the latest and greatest fucking stuff. Indigo isn’t that, it’s all about the vibe, it’s all about the heart, it’s all about the soul.”
Did you do very much editing?
SC: ”Oh no dude, we’re straight forward man. We’ll do a song three or four times, and we’ll get the best of whatever. Like Corey will lay down three tracks, and we’ll take the best. We are very, very against making anything that we cannot duplicate, and we would turn down a lot of things in the studio because we had no way of doing them live. We’re like, ‘Fuck that! Screw that!’ So we’re very big stickers on that. There’s a lot of bands out there, they fucking do all this shit on the album, and then you go and see them live and you’re like, ‘What the hell! What’s missing?’ And people can’t figure it out, but if you’re a musician you usually figure it out. But if you’re just a fan you’re like, ‘Fuck, they just weren’t as good as their album.’ With Slipknot, what you hear is what you’re gonna get. The best thing you can tell us is, ‘Fuck, you guys were tight, and you guys sound like your music.’ Who cares about the mask, who cares about all that shit, we’re playing music. If you’re like, ‘Hey, you guys were tight as hell,’ thank you, ‘cause that’s what we’re doing. Then you can go, ‘Hey, I love the clown mask,’ and ‘Hey, I love how you throw shit.’ Fine, but it’s the music.”
What lies up ahead for Slipknot?
SC: ”Everything man, you name it. Massive amounts of touring, we’re on the Amen, Machine Head and Coal Chamber tour. We’re committed to September 20th and then I think we’re going to Canada, and then to Europe. Then I think we’re taking Christmas off, and we’d like to get to Australia after that. You know, touring, touring, touring, that’s the key. The kids, bring it to the fucking kids. That’s what we wanna do, and we’ll make a new album when it’s time to make a new album. And we will take time off to make that album.”
Slipknot “self-titled” out on Roadrunner Records. For further information visit the Slipknot Web Pages: Slipknot1 & Slipknot2, the Roadrunner Records Web Site, or the Dunnett Classic Drums Web Site
'Mixdown' Monthly ~ Issue #66, October 6, 1999
BEAT MAGAZINE PTY LTD
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