Slipknot Tease 'Dangerous' Summer Tour: 'It's Scary'

Percussionist Shawn "Clown" Crahan on the "big, giant goat head" the group is hauling around this year and his thoughts on potential new band members

Slipknot's Shawn "Clown" Crahan performs at Download Festival 2013 in the U.K. His band will join Lamb of God on the upcoming Summer's Last Stand U.S. tour. Credit: Gary Wolstenholme/Redferns

"I just like looking at the faces," Slipknot percussionist Shawn "Clown" Crahan says. "After all these years, the most intense fan is still intense."

For nearly two decades, the group's nine masked headbangers have been challenging fans with performance-art experiments disguised as concerts, as they slither about the stage and literally set it ablaze. Last year, they put out .5: The Gray Chapter, their first record in six years and first without founding bassist and songwriter Paul Gray, who died in 2010.

Beginning in July, Slipknot will embark on their second North American tour in support of the album. Like-minded metal screamers Lamb of God will join them on the trek, which they've dubbed Summer's Last Stand. "It's always cool to jam with your friends and . . . it's great to tour with bands that kids like," Crahan says. "It just makes it more of a great day for a 'maggot,'" he adds using the name the band has affectionately reserved for Slipknot faithful.

Before the group set off to thrill maggots in Europe, Rolling Stone caught up with Crahan to find out just what U.S. fans should expect from one of metal's most unpredictable bands this summer.

How did it feel to get back on the road last year with a new album?
This business is pretty boring without us. You can look for something that's equivalent to Slipknot and you're going to fail miserably. It's emotional for us because we are still something that people require and still something that people love. When you reconnect with your fans, it helps you recall the first mission, and that is to conquer the fucking world with our disease and our art and leave everything behind.

Slipknot singer Corey Taylor has said that you will be blowing stuff up on the tour. Is that literal or metaphoric?
We blow a lot of stuff up. I wouldn't know where to begin. We're reinventing ourselves a little bit. The world of rock & roll is real safe. You watch all these bands at these festivals and the decadence and the bullshit that goes on, the belief that you're superhuman, and we're just not that way. We're just a force. We're just bored with the way things have been and how safe the industry has gotten. We've been trying to get a little bit more dangerous lately and bring some of our stuff out from the past a little more.

What do you mean by getting "more dangerous"?
The danger stems from the everyday, monotonous fucking bullshit in this industry. You pull up to these sheds and it's "left-brainer" business as usual. I want all the left-brainers to know that I exist and that my right brain will eat their left brain.

Everybody wants to make money off of Slipknot, including your magazine. So I think our danger is to remind you while you're trying to get paid that there's someone like me standing to your right or left who wants to systematically destroy you to the core and have you be a believer. I understand you can't have left without right, up without down, so on and so forth. However, even the left-brainers – I call them "fancy shoes," "smart shoes," because you can always tell a corporate fucking tool by his shoes – you're just a fucking target. So our danger arrives from being bigger, better, becoming huge. We like to keep everybody on their toes. A little fire, a little danger. That's just what we are.

Why should a fan that saw you last fall see you again this summer?
We have three different set lists now. So if you see us on a Friday night, the Saturday night set is definitely going to be different. Not better or worse, just different songs. I'm really proud that we have a shit-ton of new songs off the new record in the set. And it's mainly because people are asking for them. So instead of getting into some mindset and giving the kids what they need, we turn it up a little bit.

What about the spectacle?
Our stage show's different. We've changed our lifts from electric to hydraulic, so now they move very dangerously, very quick, more machine-like. They're very dangerous, very Slipknot. We had these electric lifts for a while and they were pretty slow. They're beautiful, fine pieces of art, but they're a different mindset. Now it's basically on crack. So the stage show, our outfits, our set change and just our attitude. We try to bring something different for every tour. So it will definitely be a new mindset.

"That's total Slipknot mandatory thinking: to create something I'm scared of."

How are these new percussion lifts dangerous?
They go 15 feet up in the air, and they can spin around forever, because the cables are down the middle. They jerk left and right. They slam up and down. And I designed these things because I'm scared of heights. That's total Slipknot mandatory thinking: to create something I'm scared of, because it will bring something out of me. So I just get up there and fucking cross my fingers and go to a happy place and it's scary. You've got to hold on to your life sometimes. You get dizzy. Your sweat collects by your feet and you can slip. It's something you have to respect because it will shit-can you in a moment.

So it's freaky every night.
Oh, yeah. My legs are completely bruised. My wrists hurt. It's dangerous. And Chris Fehn – "Number Three," our stage-right percussionist – he's got one, too. He used to have an aircraft simulator that just stayed down on the ground that would go in a spherical movement, 360 in all directions. By now we both have the same lifts. He goes up 15 feet high as well. We spin. So he's got his own little show going up on how he wants to spin and go up and what songs and what to do, and I have my own thing. 

What else is different?
We've got a big, giant goat head, and a portal that plays these weird, wormhole video, psychological videos that I put in there that you can't see even in a million years. I'm just psychologically pounding you with material to make you feel. I'm all about psychosis, audio, temperature and smells.

Are you crafting any new smells for the tour this time, like your nixed camel-shit experiment at Knotfest?
Think about where the world is at, and all the crazy shit in the world. Then I say I want to light camel shit on fire, it's like, boohoo, the whole world gets their panties up in their ass. Everybody just goes and cries and all the authority figures freak out.

I'm always trying to reinvent smells. Who doesn't like smells? From pussy to fresh cut grass. What do you want from me, man? I'm a fucking human. I like it all. The world can suck it.

You recorded .5: The Gray Chapter with a new bassist and drummer. How are they fitting in on the road?
They're great, man. They're great guys. Obviously they wouldn't be associated with us otherwise. Everything's going great. Leaders of the new way. Righteous people.

"I'm in the greatest band in the world, period. End of story."

You said recently that you could see Slipknot going forward with a whole new lineup. When do you plan on replacing everyone?
What I've been saying is that only my mind – this is all from me, this isn't from anybody else – I look at it as I'm not going to be able to do this forever. I'm 45 years old. Hopefully I can do it until I can't walk. Sometimes I think to myself, because I have new guys and they're so young, the drummer, I could be his dad. He's 24 years old and my daughter is 24 years old. So I look at him and think, "Fuck, man, I could pound him into shape for the next 20 years and he'd still be fucking young." And if I wanted to continue to do other things, I could step aside. And what better way to have the young'uns come in and learn the way? And what if Slipknot could be this recycled thought process that is completely on point and just keeps going for life? That would have to be up to all of us, of course, but if people had to step aside and could bust in someone new and it was all there, that would be this band. This band could be something that's never been in this life before.

I watch some of these fucked-up big bands that have so much decadent diva problems with each other and I laugh. Like, "You're a grown man and you can't figure out how to work your fucking art out with another person because of money or fucking ego? I hope you fail." So wouldn't it be cool if this shit I'm involved in could just continue through life, like an actual culture, like an emperor, like a president or a king or a queen. The lineage keeps going on and on. And the thought process is intact and it's fabulous. I'm not gonna authorize anything that's fake or full of shit. I'm talking about real stuff. That's just a dream.

Well, for now, you seem happy to be in Slipknot.
We're still well beyond everybody else. Because I know every other band and fuck them all, man. I'm in the greatest band in the world, period. End of story. We're the best.