Slipknot’s Clown to D.M.: 'We’re going to bring a hell of a show'
Slipknot percussionist M. Shawn “Clown” Crahan wanted to play the band’s first hometown show in eight years at the long-standing Veterans Memorial Auditorium in downtown Des Moines.
He said he and his bandmates — most of whom hail from Iowa’s capital city — grew up catching shows in the building (now named Community Choice Credit Union Convention Center). It’s a bit of a boyhood dream of his, he said, to mark playing the auditorium off his list of accomplishments.
While it didn’t work out to bring the band’s brand of conducive, melodic and energy-filled metal to the generations-old downtown auditorium, Slipknot is set to bring its North American tour — which features fellow alternative metal staple Marilyn Manson and heavy hitting outfit Of Mice and Men — next door to Wells Fargo Arena on Friday at 7 p.m. It’s not Vets, but it’s the biggest indoor venue in the state.
“This show is going to be off the chain,” Crahan, a 46-year-old Johnston resident, said. “Des Moines’ happenin’ … it’s real beautiful thing to see. I’m happy (that) the younger generation has things to do.”
“We’re going to bring a hell of a show,” he later said. “We want to share our love and our art and our dream with where it started. A lot of those songs you’re going to hear that night were written in basement spread all across Des Moines, Iowa. Pretty cool, right?”
Closing the chapter
The show marks the band’s first in Des Moines in nearly eight years and its second at Wells Fargo Arena since the venue opened its doors 11 years ago. It was planned for the Des Moines show to be the last in the band’s album cycle while supporting its fifth studio LP, “.5: The Gray Chapter,” but frontman Corey Taylor faced emergency neck surgery, causing the re-scheduling of a handful of dates after the Des Moines show.
Earlier this summer, Taylor shared via Twitter that the emergency surgery came after it was noted — during a physical — that the singer had “basically broke his neck” without realizing it, causing for two discs to be replaced in his neck. He’s performing the tour in a neck brace and refrains from headbanging or jumping while on stage.
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“In true Slipknot fashion, nothing we plan works out the way we want it,” Crahan said. “The good news is my brother’s neck is doing great. He had a serious thing that went out and he attacked it. He was in (for the physical) and next thing I know he’s got surgery. I’m not going to say what other bands would do because I don’t know and that’s not fair but we could’ve easily canceled the whole tour. We’ve played America five times; everybody would’ve left us off the hook. But that’s not our style.
“It would’ve been lovely to end it in Des Moines,” he continued. “It would’ve been nice to close to the chapter but the chapter’s not done until the chapter’s done.”
“.5: The Gray Chapter” — which dropped in October 2014 — proves to be one of the band’s highest achievements. It debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 album sales charts, received multiple Grammy Award nominations and overtly shows Slipknot’s ability to continually push the boundaries meshing heavy music that’s equal parts artistic, melodic and outright aggressive.
Friday marks the band’s first time taking the stage in its hometown since the sudden death of bassist Paul Gray in May 2010. While Crahan said scheduling and market size played a factor in the band’s absence of a Des Moines stage, he noted Gray’s death played a role in the decision.
According to an article published by Rolling Stone in 2014, the members of Slipknot spent four years apart after the shock of their bassist’s death before beginning work on “.5: The Gray Chapter.” The article says both Crahan and Taylor said creating the album was part of the healing process.
“The last time we played there, Paul was alive,” Crahan said. “Some of that — believe it or not — plays into it because we decided to share our grief with our fans, the proper way. For many, many years after he passed … instead of us sitting around, we celebrated his life and our life and our fans' lives … together.”
'Iowa' and beyond
Aug. 28 marks 15 years since Slipknot’s prolific and heavily acclaimed sophomore LP released into the world for human consumption. The heavy and dark effort features cornerstone tracks for the band such as “The Heretic’s Anthem” and “Disasterpiece.”
Words like “bloodied” and “startling” were used by critics when the album was initially released. But, more notable than any decade-and-a-half-old review, the record holds up among metal faithful as one of the most influential of its kind.
As recent as last month, long-standing metal publication Metal Hammer called the record the “greatest” of the century. Crahan said it’s still a favorite among "nine out of 10" fans. He refers to this period in the band’s history as painful but shares his gratitude toward those who have remained faithful to the release for so long.
“It’s painful because I always said this,” Crahan said. “We were out on the road three months, if not a little longer until we dropped (“Iowa”) and then (9/11) happened and we got banned. Our songs got banned. We had to cancel a tour. We toured a total of seven months that year because the environment of the world. I felt we were perfectly in tune and had expressed it. If you read those lyrics, you can feel the frustration of the world. I feel we were right on it.
“We’re very honored and thank you to the world,” he continued, regarding the award.
As for what happens next in the world of Slipknot, Crahan said he can’t speak for the other band members, only himself.
“I would never, ever change the formula of what we would do, but what I want to do is go down somewhere really conceptual,” Crahan said. “Really artistic. Really theme-oriented. But I don’t want to push anything.”
This could mean bringing in a person to document the recording process or it could mean having someone paint a picture while the band’s working in the studio, Crahan said.
“I want to bring art into everything,” he added. “It doesn’t mean we’re changing the formula, I just want to blow our brains out with content.”
Lastly, will fans of the band see Slipknot’s annual music festival, Knotfest, return to Iowa in the future? The band teamed up with Sharon and Ozzy Osbourne to bring “Ozzfest meets Knotfest” to California later this month. Acts performing include (obviously) Slipknot and Black Sabbath, as well as Slayer, Megadeth and more. Knotfest originally debuted in Council Bluffs in 2012.
“(Iowa’s) a designated spot so I’d love to bring a small version of Knotfest to Iowa,” Crahan said. "It’d be a healthy festival for the kids and everyone. Especially in a town that’s growing, like Des Moines.”
If you go
When: Friday, Aug. 5
Where: Wells Fargo Arena, 233 Center Street
More info: iowaeventscenter.com.
Matthew Leimkuehler reports on music for The Des Moines Register, Datebook and Juice. He's a self-proclaimed maggot who first heard "Iowa" in middle school. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org, via Twitter @mattleimkuehler or by phone at 515-284-8358.