"I not into describing anything because I don't care," says M. Shawn Crahan (aka Clown) of the studio album that Slipknot will begin recording sometime in 2013. "I care that my brother Joey [Jordison] is doing it, 'cause he needs to. I care that Corey [Taylor] is writing, I care that I'm working on art. I have to concentrate on today. I'm just happy that everybody is going along with the healing process the way they need to."
It's been a tumultuous couple of years for the Slipknot family. Following the tragic 2010 death of bassist and co-founder Paul Gray, the band took an extended hiatus to grieve. For a time, the group's future was uncertain. Then, in 2011, they returned to the stage for a series of festival shows with onetime member, founding guitarist Donnie Steele, playing bass from behind the stage.
Currently, the group are co-headlining the Rockstar Energy Mayhem Festival with Slayer, and in August will stage their very own Knotfest (although it looks as though guitarist Jim Root will be missing from many of the dates due to a burst appendix). In recent weeks, Slipknot dropped the 19-song compilation, Antennas To Hell, and Crahan released his first-ever art book collection of photography called The Apocalyptic Nightmare Journey (see a selection of images from the set in the gallery right here).
Crahan sat down with MusicRadar to discuss Root's condition, the state of the band, plans for recording, his book and his intense interest in art.
How's Jim doing? Is he going to be OK?
"Jim's doing good. You know, there's a lot of talk that he might come back. I don't know all of the specifics. It's pretty dangerous what happened – an appendix erupted – but it's a godsend that it happened at home and not on tour. He could've done a big jump and who knows?
"But he's doing good, and his spirits are good. He extends his love to everyone and wishes he could be out here. The 'Knot is his thing. He's missing being out with his immediate family, the 'Knot, and his extended immediate family, the fans."
Who's filling in temporarily while Jim is convalescing at home?
"We've got a couple of guys, but I'll just leave it up to you to figure out. We just try to give Jim the respect – it's not like we don't want to give those guys respect – but it's more about Jim right now. That's all it is. No disrespect to anybody. The guys are working their asses off, and we're much appreciative. But it's best to keep what's real and what's going on now, and work on what it is later."
Well, we certainly hope Jim is going to be all right. We wish him all the best.
Recently, you gave an interview where you offered some rather colorful thoughts regarding bands doing "greatest hits" collections. That said, how do you view Antennas To Hell?
"The best I'll give you is 'compilation,' because I hate all that shit. And the reason I hate it is because it's a made-up, corporate fucking thing. And if it's going to be so corporate, how come it doesn't count off my record deal? So they can stick it up their ass."
Clown on stage with Slipknot in Las Vegas, Nevada, 2009. © Scott Harrison/Retna Ltd./Corbis
"Basically, to me, I try to make things as artistic as possible, and there's many, many solutions here. The first solution is, you're buying a CD that spans 12 years and four records, put in an order by us, creating a different listening experience for yourself or with your friends. Not even a machine could pick this order.
"Number two: I'm a stickler for art. I'm not going to put a single sleeve in the cover and have the corporate world put the largest amount of money in their pocket. I try to go out and make iconic art. I want it to be something you can wear, that you can put on your T-shirt and have your parents ask you about. So I've got a rather large booklet in it, with a lot of serious art and a lot of serious thought. You get the listening experience and you get art.
"Third of all, randomly, you get a 2009 CD of the Download festival. Instead of selling something later, let's include it with this. And then finally, I took two songs and I remixed them, using elements of each song, and they're all three minutes and 20 seconds. I know there's some label stuff at the end, some bullshit they added. But I only took elements; I don't want to re-create Slipknot songs because those songs are God to people.
"On top of those songs, I did a montage of each member. Ten total, one for each member and one for the band. Ten remixes, 10 montages, making 10 videos – on the third disc you get that. We're calling those the 'Broadcast From Hell.'
"Because of the economy and the way things are, we're going the extra step. I know some people will think, 'Well, shit, you're offering one disc, two discs or three discs' – but it's because we want to give you that respect. It's your choice, we're not forcing anything down.
"This literally is me going against the grain, because I'm not going to be some guy, hired for 10 grand that I gotta pay taxes on, next to some woman going, 'And in the 2000s, there were these hits; let's go back to that great one, blah blah blah.' Those people should be on stage playing their fucking music. I hate that shit."
The current situation with Jim notwithstanding, how are the shows going?
"They're great. You cannot kill what you did not create, and we created this. Yes, we have a fallen soldier, but he's not gone. He's just had something that's happened to him, and he'll be back. The shows have been great – business as usual. We've got no complaints."
Going out and playing shows without Paul Gray – has it been any easier lately? Are the wounds still open?
"Well… the wound is a wound. It's something that's always going to be there. I can't speak for everybody, but it's always going to be there for me. My relationship with Paul is no different from your relationship with Paul, whether you met him or not, whether he touched you with his songwriting – whatever. I miss him. There's not a day that goes by where I don't think about him. I need him. The grieving process… man, I find myself just grieving every other day."
So now it's official that Slipknot will record a new studio album, but for a while that was very much up in the air. Corey, especially, wasn't so sure…
"It's really kind of a joke on all the press. We play around with people. We know what we're doing, but we just wonder if everybody else knows what they're doing. Editors have their questions that they pressure their interviewers to ask, and then the way they portray is the want they want to and start shit. So we start shit. We could start more shit than most people could ever stir up, and it could be pretty rotten for any magazine, any paper, any interviewer and especially any fucking editor.
"I can get to anybody. I can get to anybody's boss. I can ask about their dead dad, so don't ask me about what my future is because I'm not a fortune teller. I can say, 'Hey, you're going to get hit by a car tonight. Do you want to talk about that? No, you do not.' If Corey wants to say that he's not ready to do a record right now and he doesn't know the future, that just means 'Hey man, can you predict the future?'
"I mean, come on. Can you imagine the world without Slipknot? Give a brother a break. It's been over two years now. Things are getting better. Joey's got 30 fucking songs, Corey's got lyrics and song titles, I've got my art – everybody's doing their thing, man. You can't stop us. We're not going to stop for anybody but ourselves, and we haven't talked about stopping for ourselves."
Let's talk about your art book, The Apocalyptic Nightmare Journey. The photos are quite striking. How did you start working with Polaroids?
"When the band was first getting shot back in the day, they would take Polaroids of us to make sure the lighting and everything was cool. I got obsessed with the instant gratification of the here and the now. Basically, it's been in the making for 11 years and it's been done for three years.
"After I started Slipknot, I was very honored because I got in touch with the masses. But I was very down on myself because I dropped out of college, which meant I dropped out on myself. I felt like I didn't give myself the chance to prove that I could learn, especially since I would've gone in the art world.
"The whole book is based on this: The world thinks it's perfect. So what I would do is, I'd take a Polaroid… and I would destroy, de-manufacture and deconstruct the Polaroid by bending it. You've got three to seven seconds to manipulate the colors. I did anything and everything you could think of, from urinating on them, throwing them in a microwave, leave 'em outside overnight, whatever, destroying this idea of 'perfectness.'
"I treated this like I was going to school, so in 11 years I've got my bachelor's, my master's and pretty much my PhD. I'm very big into the action plus the reaction equals the result. The action is destruction, destroying, de-manufacturing, and the result is originality. I'm destroying something that becomes something that becomes original unto itself."
Even though you dropped out of college, did you study art on your own?
"Yeah, man. I'm on what you call the Rock 'n' Roll Scholarship.' I've been fortunate to have been in Paris a dozen times, where I've gone to the Louvre. I'm very big on Impressionistic paintings. I've seen all of these things first-hand. One of the things I love about touring Europe is, I can go outside and walk and see something that was built in the 11th Century – not like America where they tear everything down and put up a fucking Wal-Mart."
See, what's interesting is, because of your travels, you've had a more comprehensive art education than if you had stayed in school.
"Absolutely. I mean, what I've applied to my process is surreal. I've been inside the Anne Frank house. You've only read about Anne Frank in grade school. I've been in it. I've seen the diary. Things that teachers couldn't teach you.
"I've been to Dachau. I've stuck my head in an oven. You walk through the door and it says 'People died here.' You can't help but start crying… Getting back to what you said about my education, no school is going to fly you to Dachau. You're going to read about it, but you can't see it, touch it, smell it, taste it, feel it. For me, the minute you walk in, there's a bunch of pictures of yesteryear… You're connecting dots. You don't learn that in school.
"I'd like to say one last thing: I just want to say thank you to all of our fans out there for the posts, the texts, the letters, the prayers, the blessings – over the airwaves, below the ground – the energy, however you distribute it through whatever channels. Much needed, much needed. We're honored to represent a culture, and we're blessed to have our fans in this time of need. We could've never asked for a better family to have, and I think this is the only time I can speak on behalf of my band that we love each and every one of our fans, so thank you."