EDITORIAL: Slipknot – A Mask Without a Face?

Slipknot

In a recent interview with CityBeat, Slipknot’s founder, percussionist and self-proclaimed visionary, Shawn Crahan, better known simply as “Clown,” sang his (and the band’s) own praises, doing away with a modest approach and giving the impression that “The Knot” may have somewhat of a superiority complex.

“…so many people in the beginning wanted us to fail because we are so great. We have been blowing up since day one because a good idea is a good idea and a good song is a good song and a good band is a good band with a performance.”

While I most certainly do respect Crahan’s love for his band mates and life’s work (because everyone should be proud of what they put their heart into), I must say that much like the Blue Man Group or Insane Clown Posse, Slipknot is a spectacle first and musical act second. I absolutely recognize the fact that Slipknot have won a Grammy, gone double-platinum, have 12 million plus fans on Facebook and a massive and dedicated following, but I don’t necessarily feel that their music and or musicianship is what propelled their career to it’s current degree.

I recently, after many years of curiosity, witnessed Slipknot live at the Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival and I have to say that in comparison to the hype and what I had expected, I was completely underwhelmed. Sure, as far as their music goes, with Jordison’s drumming prowess being the only true highlight, they sounded good, but I wasn’t as blown away with their stage presence as I was led to believe I would be. Their performance was amusing at best between the pyrotechnics, Clown beating beer kegs with an aluminum baseball bat and the overall presence of masked men in bright orange jumpsuits. I’ve heard Slipknot’s albums played by friends and when lazily listening without much enthusiasm, it wasn’t completely clear as to why it would take nine people to create the simplistic sounds I was hearing. Once I had seen Slipknot in a live setting and actually paid attention to what was happening, it solidified my thoughts that in reality only four to five members are relevant to the sound.

I can understand the fresh, unique appeal to the band, as I have admittedly been intrigued in the past, and I get that millions of people thoroughly enjoy their music, but would Slipknot be in the same ranks today had they not debuted with the masks, jumpsuits, and a crowded nine man stage show? It’s hard to say, but when making the claim that you are “so great,” it’s not only ballsy, but it could be misleading to anyone unfamiliar with the band when coming to the realization that Slipknot is a nine member outfit (now eight with the unfortunate and untimely loss of bassist Paul Gray) in which only up to 55% of said members are musically applicable.

Sure, John Lennon was bold enough to state that The Beatles had become “more popular than Jesus,” but will Slipknot still be as celebrated and relevant fifty years after their inception? I doubt it.

Conceptualized and written by: Brian Lion

Brian Leak

Editor-In-Chief. King of forgetting drinks in the freezer. Pop culture pack rat. X-Phile. LOST apologist.
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  • I have to say that I pretty strongly disagree with you on this one. While they won’t likely be remembered in another 30 or 40 years, they don’t have the advantage that the Beatles did in becoming a frontrunner during a world-changing era of the music world. Seems like an unfair comparison to me. I think that each of Slipknot’s albums were well above par for the course, and they’re one of only a couple bands to transcend and outlive the nu metal fad. Their live show, even if you found it to be underwhelming, is a spectacle. In my opinion you’re experiencing them in a way that would naturally lead to a bias against them–following all the hype, after they’ve lost one of their most integral members, and as they’re nearing the end of their career as a band (whether they’d like to admit it or not).

  • I’m with you on this one Brian, it’s a show, not a concert. The music isn’t extremely interesting or complex, but the spectacle (as you call it) is the draw. If people dig it, cool. It’s just not my cup of tea.

    Now we wait for the onslaught of capitalized lettered and incoherent comments from beer guzzling fans without a point… (I’m not outing all Slipknot fans there. Jordan Munson here is a fine example of a literate fan)

  • You may be reaching into his words just a little bit on this one. A successful musical act is just a string or series of good ideas/good decisions/good music with good timing. For all intents and purposes, there isn’t a whole lot of marketability behind 9 dudes in terrifying masks. The genre doesn’t lend itself toward the radio crowd, yet that is where they found success. Perhaps gimmicky, but there isn’t much that can’t be considered a gimmick in music. Nirvana’s gimmick was “fuck you we’re punk rock” and Skrillex’s gimmick is a crazy ass light show in a motion capture suit. Most pop artists tend to sell themselves or their lifestyle, not their music (ala J Biebs or Eminem). It isn’t focused artwork on the album cover, it’s them.

    Regardless, it’s all part of the art and deserves adequate respect. Cheers haha

  • by the way, i love these discussions :]

  • I changed my mind, I’m with Tyler on this one. Great point.

  • I’ve watched Disasterpiece or whatever it’s called and various other videos and in comparison, the show I saw was lame to say the least. Yes their was no Paul Gray but is that the deciding factor?

  • I think people are missing my point on this one. This all crossed my mind of course. Deadmau5 came to mind and many, many others but my main focus is the fact (whether I’m reaching or not) that he gives the impression that they believe they’re superior when they really aren’t “great” musicians. I’m also not saying that they’re the only band that isn’t either. I could’ve went on with boring comparisons to other bands that just play a bunch of open chords and jump around but I figured I’d get to the point. They had a good idea, sure, masks and jumpsuits and a scary image, but I believe (as Jacob said and retracted) the spectacle is the draw.

  • And it’s not The Beatles’ fault that Slipknot isn’t inventive enough to take the reigns in this generation and spearhead a new direction musically lol.

  • I thought, like you, that I was looking at things from a biased perspective but I never really had a problem with their music after my first experience. I just never was a huge fan. I was actually excited to see them live. I didn’t go into expecting to not like it. It wasn’t bad per se, just not as good as I had hoped for finally seeing them.

  • But my point with The Beatles comparison was kind of in respect to the fact that Slipknot are in fact ahead of the game in their respective genre as were The Beatles, not that I’m saying SK is nearly as big as The Beatles but kind of the same premise on a lesser scale.

  • Being a “great” musician is also a totally subjective idea, hence why this argument can go on forever. Sure some people are/will be remembered for their musical prowess (Jimi Hendrix, probably even John Mayer) and others will be remembered for their abilities to craft a song. The Beatles, as you’ve pointed out, are a great example — they’re not “great” musicians. Loads of kids in basements everywhere learn to fingerpick “Blackbird” as their first song.

    The point here is that musical prowess makes you a better musician, yeah, but not a better song writer. The real art of the craft isn’t your level of skill, it’s taking what skill you have and creating something honest, something that becomes bigger than the individual. Essentially, something that lives on. Sometimes it’s “Now I long for yesterday” and sometimes it’s “Like baby, baby, baby, ohhh.”

    This is the same issue I used to hold with rap music. The truth is, all this music has a time and a place. It all belongs somewhere. I don’t think they were claiming themselves to be superior musicians, just that they persevered against the odds. There’s certainly no built in success for anybody, let alone a guy in a mask with nails sticking out of his face haha.

  • Excellent points. I agree wholeheartedly with a lot of this. I guess the fact is that it’s just the way I took Crahan’s comment on top of previously hearing that the band was rather arrogant. I also agree that they have persevered in an unlikely setting but my question remains; would they still be as popular or even have a career still had they not began with the masks and only with the music? The same would go for DeadMau5, ICP, or any other acts with gimmicks. Slipknot just happens to be my example haha. KISS’ career faltered when they decided to continue on as just themselves… Different era, different situation, yes. And once again this is all circumstantial but I think it’s relevant.

  • Very valid point! I don’t think anyone of us can know the answer, but I would venture to say the masks had a large part to do with it. I guess there’s nothing wrong with that, but yeah, it was their identifier haha.

  • Like you said, this could go on forever but my point was again, “spectacle first, musical act second” and I agree that there’s nothing wrong with that. Several bands have made it due to their appearance and it works obviously so good for them.

  • Slipknot420

    I’m a huge Knot fan. j/s