The enduring legacy of Knotfest: a chat with Slipknot’s Clown

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The enduring legacy of Knotfest: a chat with Slipknot’s Clown

Knotfest Slipknot
Words by Alasdair Belling

The time is winding down on my chat with Shawn Crahan, AKA “Clown”, the founder and artistic director of Iowan metal juggernaut Slipknot.

For nearly half an hour we’ve chatted Knotfest, Rick Rubin stories, and how great French metallers Gojira are. But with the clock ticking down there’s one more important thing to ask.

“Any updates on who the new drummer is?”


Is this the end of the interview? Has Clown decided he’s had enough of pandering to the music press? Then come two words. 

“Fucking brutal.”

Knotfest Australia is coming. It’ll land on March 21 in Melbourne, March 23 in Sydney and March 24 in Brisbane. For tickets, lineup, info and more, head to Knotfest here.

There’s an urgency in his response, a sense of vitality that – as far as many fans feel – has always been there but not quite in the same quantity for at least the last decade of the band.

At the turn of 2023, things were looking decidedly bleak for “the nine”.

Knotfest Australia

Firstly, sampler and classic line-up member Craig Jones (the one with the spikes in his head) was quietly ousted from the band in June.

Nothing is known about the new sampler, who’s taken up Craig’s place on stage.

Then, on November 5 last year, the band took to their social media to announce that drummer Jay Weinberg was being moved on from the band after a decade behind the kit – a move that Jay later clarified had “blindsided” him.

Read all the latest features, columns and more here.

Having replaced legendary drummer Joey Jordison in 2013, Jay’s departure, for many, signalled the end of the band.

Reddit forums were awash with speculation, with many decrying the “corporate” nature of the decision.

And then came the announcement in December – four weeks after Jay’s departure – of a 25th-anniversary arena tour around Europe.

Video footage of the band playing club shows in their old black jumpsuits. Vintage masks galore. Suddenly it seems possible – if not inevitable – that after a year mired in controversy, 2024 could be the start of a new era of Slipknot at its most hostile. 

Clown’s retort to questions about the tour certainly sounds like someone with the fire re-ignited.

“We’re off a label! We’re free – it’s like Kung-Fu,” he says.

“You go back to zero and chase your own tail. It’s infinity. We go out the way we go in. There’s still five O.G.’s in the band – so I don’t wanna hear from the world about “blah blah blah” – you’ve got Corey, Mick and Jim – a Clown and A Sid – get out of my face!

“Then you have these wonderful friends in the band – plus two new masks, and they’re people who love what we do. Of course, we’re thinking about playing the first album – it’s just where, who, why, when? That’s the fun!

“It’s all about the fuckin’ songs, the fuckin’ fans – I’m done with all the bullshit, and I just want to do what we want like we always have.”

It’s a startling admission from the Slipknot mastermind that, over the past few years, things potentially weren’t dandy behind the scenes.

Then comes another admission –  in the guise of a passing comment – that things were potentially always meant to break this way.

“We don’t do anything unless we already have the answer,” he says.

“We didn’t have a drummer but the shows were immediately put up – people were asking me about it, but we don’t do ANYTHING unless we know.”

He promises that the upcoming tour will be “overdone and in your face”, and the band plans to camp out on the milestone. There’s no need to “rush to do a new album”. 

“We completed 25 years, seven albums – that’s our life, that’s our legacy, and now we’re starting phase 3 if you will,” he says.

 2024 won’t just mark the 25th anniversary of the band’s seminal debut – it also marks two decades since the release of Vol 3: (The Subliminal Verses).

Spawning hits “Vermillion”, “Duality”, and “Before I Forget”the latter of which collected a Grammy in 2006 for “Best Metal Performance”, the album saw Slipknot transcend the metal sub-genre and cross over into mainstream consciousness – kegg cans, blast beats and all. 

It created “culture” a culture around the band that in many ways has been genre-defying;

Slipknot is one of the most instantly recognisable bands – nay brands – in the music world today.

Their merchandise empire rivals that of Kiss. 

They’ve also become the quintessential heavy metal band your parents are scared of – and so much of this visibility can be traced back to the record recorded most at The Mansion, with Rick Rubin in 2003. 

Clown notes that – unlike some of his bandmates – he loved working alongside Rubin (frontman Corey Taylor famously had the opposite experience).

“I have memories of watching (late bassist) Paul Grey sitting on his bed with (Jim Root, guitar) writing “Vermillion” … I would be downstairs making dinner, and I’d walk up and see that, while next door one of the members is taking a crap!

“It was during that record that I found out that my wife was pregnant – she came out to see me and she told me she was pregnant with our son Simon (drummer of metal act Vended) – there was so much happening at the time in my life.”

While the band’s self-titled debut and sophomore Iowa were characterised by passage of Nu-Metal and Death Metal, Vol 3 saw the band open up their sound pallet considerably. 

The brutality was still there – just listen to the full-metal attack of “Three. Nil.” – but so was a desire to push the sonic boundaries.

“Before I Forget” and “Duality” contain some of the biggest pop-metal hooks of the century, while the likes of “Virus of Life” and “Vermillion” saw the band casting out into more experimental waters.  

“Circle is the song for me,” Clown says, referencing the hauntingly melodic ballad about Corey Taylor’s father.

“Musically we had explored something that hadn’t come out. That whole album is an exploration of ourselves and grabbing other abilities of ourselves.

“Circle was written in a dressing room during the Iowa cycle … Jim wrote that song and Corey wrote the lyrics about dozens of things … Jim would always say ‘I don’t know if this is a Slipknot song’ – but I just broke him down and said ‘bro, get that fuckin’ song in here’.

“It was Jim’s choice, he could have chosen not to – but it was a beautiful thing for us for Jim to go ‘yes, I’m going to ordain this into Slipknot, and we’re going to make it work’ – and we did!

“We were pushing ourselves, and that’s what Rick is really good at doing … it’s my favourite (Slipknot) record.”

The milestones of not one but two seminal albums open up exciting possibilities for Slipknot’s legendary live shows.

However, Aussie fans will have to do without seeing the masked riffers at their namesake music festival this year.

After a hugely successful inaugural tour in 2023 – headlined by the band themselves – Knotfest is returning in 2024, with a stacked bill headlined by Pantera, Disturbed, and Lamb of God.


Slipknot not being on the bill will obviously affect the pulling power of the festival – but for Clown, the numbers through the gate – while a necessary evil – are still secondary in importance.

“I never look at it like a business … I’m not into that scene, I’m here to save the human condition. You need art to go to work, to get through that relationship, to get from A to B,” he says.

“For me, I never look at it as going good or bad – I don’t care about ticket sales – I just know that there’s a lot of people coming through that door that need help just like me.”

The festival also presents a huge opportunity for up-and-coming bands to break into new markets, as well as for local bands to get up in front of far bigger audiences.

This year will see locals King Parrot, Windwaker and Speed grace the Knotfest stage, while more established artists like Halestorm, The Hu and Skindred will also make the long trip down under.

Whether it’s helping break new bands in, or expose international acts to new territories – Gojira opened a side stage of the first Knotfest in Iowa back in 2012 – Clown sees the festival as a chance to champion important art.

“I remember Randy (Blythe, Lamb of God frontman), we did a Knotfest a few years ago, Randy had just been released from his ordeal (he was imprisoned on a manslaughter charge in the Czech Republic) and his first show back was Knotfest.

“I love we got to share that with him, but it could have been anywhere. I’m just happy to we can share those shows with a friend – it doesn’t matter if we had anything to do with it or not.

“Metallica did the same for us, Ozzfest did the same for us, Download helped us – all these things. It’s all part of it.”

Knotfest touches down in late March, and while he’s making no promises, Clown said he will hopefully be at the festival. 

“If I make it I want to be there to hang out with people and share in it with them”, he says.

“Even if I chat to someone for just five minutes, a lot of good can come from that.”

Knotfest Australia is coming. It’ll land on March 21 in Melbourne, March 23 in Sydney and March 24 in Brisbane. For tickets, lineup, info and more, head to Knotfest here.