The Slipknots. Their fans are known as Maggots.Photo by Alexandria Crahan-Conway
Slipknot, the mask-wearing heavy metal band from Iowa, has faithful fans around the world. But – as percussionist and founding member Shawn “Clown” Crahan notes – their audience in the Lone Star State is particularly faithful. And weather-tolerant.
“Texas has some of the most hardcore, dedicated fans. I mean, people forget about that, they’ve been out there since four o'clock in the fucking heat and then they give it all they got, I mean it’s amazing,” says Crahan “In 1998, 1999, we were here on the Coal Chamber’s tour, after Ozzfest. We toured Texas for what seemed like two weeks, it felt like it was a small little Europe, it didn't seem like we were ever getting out of Texas and it was awesome!”
After a short hiatus the band has been touring again, including an upcoming stop at Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion on September 8 – their first visit to Houston in three years. It’s the final stop on their Knotfest Roadshow tour bringing along fusion metal act Volbeat, extreme metal band Gojira, and death metal icons Behemoth, as openers. Their previous performance in The Woodlands was with Marilyn Manson in 2016 and Crahan couldn’t be more ready for a return.
“We’re back in the fire, finished up Europe, back in lovely America, we’re having a blast. It’s been a positive experience all the way around. We’re having a good time, everything’s just positive potential right now and were very blessed to be back and thankful.”
The nine piece ensemble consists of singer Corey Taylor, drummer Jay Weinberg, guitarists Jim Root and Mick Thompson, bass player Alessandro Venturella, keyboardist Craig Jones, DJ Sid Wilson, percussionist Shawn “Clown” Crahan and an unknown member fans have dubbed “Tortilla Man.” Percussionist Chris Fehn was replaced earlier this year by the mysterious Tortilla Man after a financial dispute between Fehn and the founding members resulted in his departure.
Crahan calls Slipknot’s new album, We Are Not Your Kind “a masterpiece. I’m not going out on a limb, it’s just the truth, it goes many places. It’s going to take you on a trip that you didn't think you were ready for but it’s a good trip.” Slipknot’s fans, or Maggots as they’re often referred to, have given the album a great deal of positive recognition upon its release, mostly due to the fast pace and raw vocals of the new material, reminding the fans of an earlier Slipknot. The band’s 2001 release Iowa is often regarded as their best work, but We Are Not Your Kind is on a path to be a new frontrunner in the band’s discography. “[People] always say they love Iowa the most, but they forget to acknowledge how fucked up the world was,” Crahan says. “And when the world’s fucked up, you turn to music, and when you turn to Slipknot, the album was Iowa. Well the world’s fucked up right now so I think people are going to turn to this album, because it’s the music that is of the world right now. The world plays a lot into art, you know what I’m saying.”
Twenty years after the release of their first album, 1999’s self-titled Slipknot, and following up their 2014 album .5: The Gray Chapter, the band continues to raise the ferocity of their writing. Monstrous, low-tuned songs such as "Nero Forte" and "Solway Firth" keep the intense mood of the album while tracks like "Unsainted" and "Critical Darling" are able to showcase the harmonizing vocal ability Taylor possesses. Taylor, when not fronting the masked group, sings lead for Grammy-nominated hard rock act Stone Sour. Somber ballads and instrumental tracks are trickled throughout the album providing a fresh approach to an otherwise one-sided collection of tunes.
Crahan directs the band’s visuals and music videos, including the newest video Birth of the Cruel. “I wanted to try and do something different in the world of what I really love, which is glitch, and utilize the sort of technology that’s around me, like with cell phones. Most people spend most of their time on cell phones, so why not use cell phones to create some glitched art, you know? Just something simple. Basically, I chose a sequence of everybody with their little song and dance and it’s just supposed to be a fun little video that’s just a little different, it’s not supposed to be too grandiose, it.s supposed to be something fun you can pass around real quick so you can enjoy the music.”
Clown also hinted at the possibility of a new documentary style visual that may be in the works. “We’ve been filming unique styles, [filming] all of Europe, we’re playing Iowa State Fair, I’m going to document that. But right now we’re just concentrating on shows, prep, the album coming out, but I do believe, there may be a documentary that comes out this album’s cycle about the band.”
Maggots are a family and culture, Crahan says. “I need to rely on them and they need to rely on me and it's the perfect family. I always tell people these days, we’re not a band anymore, we’re a culture, and it just goes without saying we need each other.”
Crahan says he still loves performing. “At the end of the show I take the mask off and look myself in the mirror and I tell myself, I absolutely did something tonight for the better. I lived my life, very hard, it pushed me, I love it. I’ve thought I was going to die a couple of times, but when the mask comes off I know I gave my best in this world. It has nothing to do with ticket sales, radio sales, corporate world, it’s got to do with me pushing my whole life force for the better good of all of us. People need an out, I need an out, together we get it out, and maybe we make it a better day and it’s not just a fucked-up place.”
And he sent this message out for all his followers:
"I just want to tell all the Maggots around the world, is how much we love them, thank you for sticking with us, were back, we’re gonna see each other on the road very soon, enjoy the new album We Are Not Your Kind. Just thanks and love you all, stay safe in this fucked up world, and lets keep each other in mind and we can make a difference.”
September 8, Woodlands Pavilion, 2005 Lake Robbins Drive, The Woodlands, Doors open at 4 p.m., For information, call 281-364-3010 or visit woodlandscenter.org. $25+
KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE...
Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Houston Press contributor Cameron Martinez uses his extensive knowledge of headbanging and bumping into people to give readers an inside look at the city’s music scene. He often tag-teams shows with his camera-savvy wife Jennifer Lake.