Slipknot’s Shawn “Clown” Crahan on We Are Not Your Kind, Mastering One’s Craft, and Finding One’s Self

"I work really hard at making sure we don't repeat ourselves, that we’re evolving"

slipknot shawn clown crahan interview
Slipknot’s Shawn ‘Clown’ Crahan at Shoreline Amphitheatre, photo by Raymond Ahner

    With a 20-plus year career, Slipknot have become one of the world’s biggest acts. Playing to massive crowds, they’ve built their legacy on a mountain of ferocious, emotionally driven music. From the seething rage of their 1999 self-titled album to the sonic evolution displayed on their brand-new full-length, We Are Not Your Kind, Slipknot continue to capture the ears and hearts of fans.

    We Are Not Your Kind is a beast of an offering, exuding the rage and feeling we’ve come to know from the band, while offering a maturity that reflects the band’s growth as musicians and songwriters over the past two decades.

    While currently on the “Knotfest Roadshow” tour, Slipknot founder/percussionist Shawn “Clown” Crahan took some time to chat with us about the new album, Slipknot’s creative process, and his own artistic upbringing, among other topics.


    On the album title We Are Not Your Kind

    When you’re making art, and certain things show themselves, you have to levitate to them … I can remember when Corey [Taylor] first came in to do the first round of vocals for half the album. When I [heard him say, “We Are Not Your Kind”], I instantly wrote it down. We all took note of it; anybody who was there, that line stuck out [to them]. I wanted to release that name when we [put out] the “All Out Life” video. I wanted to let the world know that not only are we here, here’s a new song, the album will be coming out. I wanted to give them the title of the album. And I couldn’t get anybody to be down with that; I thought it would be good to just get it out because I believed in it so much. But everything has its right place, and I’m glad we did wait; that was a good call. Because this title is just who we are.

    If you want to live in this world today — I mean, comedians can barely be comedians anymore because of the tolerance of the human race. You are supposed to be able to go as far as you want as a comedian, but now, people get told they’re going too far. That’s where a title like We Are Not Your Kind [may allude to]. I can’t tell you what the [title] exactly means, but I can give you a little bit of what it means to me. What it means is, “Hey, I don’t need to hear that you don’t prefer it, just get away, we are not your kind.” But it also applies to everything going on in the world. So there is not one definition to it, we all make it our own. And it really did apply to me, and it applies to Corey differently. It just goes as well with us as our numbers or logos do.

    On his and the band’s writing and recording process

    Every brush you choose to paint with, you hopefully become a master of towards the end of your life. So you never forget to use certain brushes — they are always going to show up. I work really hard at making sure we don’t repeat ourselves, that we’re evolving … because evolving is taking chances, it’s digging. You can’t rely on those old brushes, but you can rely on those brushes to get things started. So there’s always going to be a familiarity [in our work] from the 1999 debut [album]. Then when you think about the producer that we work with, Greg Fidelman — you know, I try to tell people this, but people will ironically say, “Oh this album, I like it like this album.” Then I’ll be like, “Well have you ever paid attention? It’s because of that producer.”


    The first two albums are done by one producer, the third album is done by Greg Fidelman, the fifth and sixth album done by Greg Fidelman. I bring this up because when we work with Greg, we make sure we bring everything we’ve done and everything we’ve learned to the table to begin with, and then we make sure we add new brushes. We just do it. Like when I do percussions, we have a rig I’ve been doing for two previous albums with him, so there is a set amount of percussion rigs that need to come in. This time we added stuff, we added things to the palette.

    Improvising is good, but improvising usually comes when the arrangements are done. Someone may have an idea and get in there and try to work that idea; but actually, it gets them to feel a different way right then and there, and that’s when the magic happens. So improvising is there, but it usually comes in when there is more of a guideline.

    On what song he is really proud of off We Are Not Your Kind

    I’m really proud of the song “My Pain”. I’ve had it for a while, and what Corey Taylor brought to it … that’s like out of the Wizard of Oz or something. It’s so beautiful to be in a band that can explore those entities, to explore those processes in the brain; not to be different to be different, but to really allow yourself to go there and have something to show for later. That’s a really big thing that song, it’s going to be really big for everyone.


    On what inspires him and the band to pursue a song as unique as “Spiders”

    Well art is subjective, right? So everything we do comes from the heart. So “Spiders” for example, you’re absolutely right, there’s never been a tune by us that is even close to that song. Ironically enough, though, that song is in sevens [regarding time signature]. So people are going to hear it and they are gonna go, “Oh this is like a rock song, it’s so different for Slipknot.” The song is in sevens, that’s out of here; it’s already twisted and turned on its back. It’s not 4/4, it’s not [AC/DC’s] “TNT”. There’s a famous quote we always say — it’s easy to make something sound crazy, but it’s so hard and almost impossible to make something crazy sound easy. When you listen to “Spiders”, you initially may begin it [and are] on it, but then try and figure it out. See if you can figure out when it starts and stops, comes and goes [in different] places.

    If we write [a song] and we love it, we continue it. You got to remember there were like 22 songs and 26 art pieces written for this album, so all kinds of songs went away … “Spiders” could have easily gone to the wayside with the other how many ever songs, but it didn’t, it kept going.

    I’ve always believed our fans love us so much because we make ourselves happy first; I don’t give a f**k what anyone thinks in this world, never have and never will, I live my life. That’s why you have a song like “Spiders”. I believe our fans will embrace it because they really expect us to stand tall in what we believe; in a world that is wishy washy, in a world of music that people go for fame or ego or whatever.


    I’m not worried about people going “Are they still a metal band?”, that’s all stupid talk. It’s all shit we get caught up into, it’s all brainwashed formulas. I’m here to be me. We’ve prided ourselves in the fact of how many genres we fall into; we got weird, thrash, elements of black and death metal, we got this and that. It’s interesting as you get older to try different things. We don’t go out to do these things. I guess all [I’m trying to say] is that we don’t say, “Hey lets deliberately make something different.” We just don’t do that. We wait for what inspires and then we get it.

    On his artistic upbringing and the themes that fascinate him

    I have a very hardcore upbringing with art, but not one like you think; [there was no] school, but [I was supported in my pursuit of the arts]. My parents saw something in me, and they really surrounded me with my own imagination; I live in my own imagination, I always have since I was a little kid. My mom recognized that and she fed me things I gravitated towards. One of the things I gravitated towards when I was 10 — my mom put a bunch of masters’ books in front of me: Rembrandt, Van Gogh, Pablo Picasso, Warhol, whatever. I normally didn’t read any of this, I just downloaded the imagery.

    I also went to private school, Catholic-religion based. I’m not religious I’m spiritual, but I spent 12 years of my life in pretty strict environments. I’ve always loved the Heaven and Hell, I’ve always loved the beginning. It doesn’t mean I’m trying to push anything, but I’m always forcing people to look at themselves; to look at their own free will, to acknowledge the darker sides, the things you question and have to be responsible for. Like I do have a direct point behind the art I make, but it’s usually pretty vague because I have to make it for everyone. I can’t make it precise [regarding] my vision, that wouldn’t be right, I share a band with eight other guys. We go out and give this thing called Slipknot to the world, so I gotta make it for everyone.


    On what he is most proud of accomplishing in regard to We Are Not Your Kind

    What I’m most proud of is that I learned a lot about myself. I’ve done a lot of behavioral health recovery. I’ve been in an outpatient program for depression. I’ve done my time and things to help my brain and I believe in that; I believe that everybody needs to ask for help if they do. I’ve needed that sometimes, [whether in regards to my] parents, Paul Gray, [my] wife being in the hospital, all things coming down at once. So I’m most proud that I’ve done a lot of work on myself. I’ve done a lot of work to realize the kinds of things that I did that may have interfered with the ability to have a relationship with other human beings. So I’ve chosen to want to have a relationship with other human beings, so I’ve taken a really good look at me. [In order] to change yourself in my opinion, you have got to be able to recognize you’re doing something while you’re doing it; to actually go, “Okay this the thing everybody says I do and I recognize it.” And it’s even harder to recognize it and stop it right then and there.

    What I got [out of this new album is] my new self; and I think those closest to me, while making the album, would tell you that. I’m a different person all the way around. I’m not discrediting who I was, I wouldn’t change it, I’m not sorry, I’m just like everybody [and] learning. I want to be the best man I can be. I tried to bring the most selfless human being to the process of writing this new album that I could be; no I or me, just trying to make art and doing my due diligence to make sure I involve everyone and everything, so it can be “we” instead of “me.” I’m only speaking for me, I can’t speak for everybody else. But I’m most proud of being able to bring that new self I worked on to [the album]; I feel it, see it, hear it, and I know others will … I finally have the loudest voice I’ve ever had because I got rid of my voice.

    On his feelings about where he and the band are now in their career

    Right now I’m just enjoying being in the band, the new set, the new masks, the [new] album, and being back in America [after touring in] Europe. I’m proud to be here and still be in a band [that’s] bigger than ever. This new album is a masterpiece; I mean it is literally a masterpiece. I’m just blessed and happy to be here. The band is doing great and things are awesome at the moment.


    I want to thank all the Maggots for sticking with us, being there. We’re really excited about the new album. Can’t wait for everyone to hear it. Think about you guys all the time. Peace, and everyone be safe.

    Our thanks to Shawn “Clown” Crahan for taking the time to speak with us. Pick up Slipknot’s We Are Not Your Kind album at this location, and see remaining dates on their “Knotfest Roadshow” North American summer tour.