Inaugural Knotfest brings metal to Somerset

Let's Knot and say we did
courtesy of the artists

"We want you to feel the fear of what the apocalypse could be like," Slipknot percussionist Shawn "Clown" Crahan says of the metal group's upcoming festival, Knotfest, in Somerset. "When we're onstage, it's nothing but chaos. We want to bring that chaos outside of our set."

Scary stuff aside, Knotfest is no ordinary music festival. The Somerset date is the second of two Knotfest engagements (the other is in the band's home state of Iowa), and it features a bevy of some of the heaviest names in rock right now, like alt-metallers Deftones, groove-metal group Machine Head, System of a Down frontman Serj Tankian, death-metal stalwarts Cannibal Corpse, and more. It also features one of the first shows by thrash metallers Lamb of God since their frontman, Randy Blythe, returned home from the Czech Republic where he was held for over a month on charges of manslaughter. The idea was for Slipknot to present their own take on the sorts of festivals that happen in Europe, with camping and non-musical attractions like the carnival ride the Ring of Fire. It's also meant to celebrate the life of the group's founding bassist Paul Gray, who died in 2010 of a drug overdose.

City Pages recently caught up with Clown to get the skinny on how to prepare for something like Knotfest. Right from the get-go, one thing is for sure: It's distinctly theirs. "We've been talking about it forever," he says. "We just want to put our scratch on it."

City Pages: What makes Knotfest stand out as a Slipknot festival as opposed to, say, Bonnaroo?

Shawn Crahan: Well the first thing is, you're going to walk in through the door and get squirted with a scent.

CP: A Slipknot scent?

SC: Yeah. And we have a mud luge, where people are gonna go down and just be covered in mud. At the bottom of it, people with masks and burnt mop handles are going to have white paint. They're just going to douse you in white paint, like you're a Cambodian soldier working for Colonel Kurtz [in Apocalypse Now]. And it will be very pagan and ritualistic.

We have the museum. We're just going to bring all of our junk. There's a lot of it that goes into this life of ours. Our A-rig will be on stage, but we got a B-rig you'll be able to look at. There's going to be all sorts of things, like the birthing chair that I have that was used on the first album cover that Corey [Taylor, Slipknot frontman] is sitting in. Just little things to look at.

CP: One thing that makes the Somerset date stand out is a ride called the Ring of Fire. Where did that come from?

SC: Ever since I've been a little kid, going to the Iowa State Fair, this ride was there. It's basically a circle. When I look at it, I visualize the nine-point star within it [one of Slipknot's symbols]. Even though it's not there, that's what I visualize. So we wanna have that there because it's symbolic to growing up in Des Moines, Iowa. It's a porthole to this ritual. So we're pretty excited about it.

CP: What bands are you most excited to watch at Knotfest?

SC: I love all the bands. I grew up listening to the 'Tones, since Slipknot was doing its thing to get signed. I watched the 'Tones open up for Ozzy with Korn. I watched the 'Tones and Limp Bizkit open up for them in Omaha. I've just been a huge fan of the Deftones for a long time. They were kind of our upbringing. They were kind of like what we were listening to and watching when we were developing our stuff.

It's great that Randy [Blythe]'s home. We stuck behind having Lamb of God on the bill. We just always felt like it was going to happen, but instead of worrying and trying to change things, we just kept it strong. Because we really believed in our hearts that he was going to be there. So it's fantastic that they get to be here, and it's going to be exciting to see him and give him a hug and just say, "Hey man," because it's a bunch of bullshit that went on.

CP: After this, what's next for Slipknot?

SC: This and the Council Bluffs show are going to be the two last shows of this thought process. We've been celebrating our bass player's life, his love for music, his love for the fans, and his love for the band, and ourselves and our fans sharing in the grief together. It's going to be a great night, and it's going to be a great way of ending this whole thing that's been going on for the last couple of years, which is my bass player passing and us sporadically touring since last summer.

We're going to go away and handle things the way we need to. And then eventually, we will write and record a record, go out on tour. And hopefully it will always be on Knotfest. It's something that we would like to take internationally. But less is more right now. We want to have a little fun, end it with a bang, and it's cool.

CP: Let's backtrack for a second: You mentioned a scent. Can you describe the smell of Knotfest?

SC: It starts with camel shit.

CP: Ugh.

SC: I'm just going to let you know, it starts with camel shit....

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