"I’d waited my whole life to come to Europe." Shawn 'Clown' Crahan on the five shows that built Slipknot

Clown live on stage
(Image credit: Anna Webber/WireImage via Getty Images)

As furious and propulsive as Slipknot's early material is, it was always on a stage that Des Moines greatest export made their most emphatic statements as they steadily grew into one of the biggest metal bands on planet earth. In 2010, Metal Hammer's Dom Lawson sat down with Slipknot leader, percussionist and artistic director Shawn 'Clown' Crahan to discuss the band's state of play following the shocking death of Paul Gray earlier that year.

During their conversation, Crahan revealed his five favourite Slipknot gigs of all time, and they ranged from a wild club show that took place in the band's earliest days to an iconic festival headline set that confirmed The Nine as the most important metal band of their generation. Here were his five picks:

Safar Club, Des Moines, 1998

“The show that we got signed at, after Ross Robinson came to the Safari Club to watch us play, that was a milestone. I’ve never had expectations and I still don’t. I just do what I do, and that’s kill. Ross came and he got killed and we’re here now because of it.” 

The Astoria, London, 1999

“I’d waited my whole life to come to Europe and rock’n’roll brought me over. I remember that gig going off. You go over to Europe and everybody is in it to win it! They really pay attention to the art. What do you want from me? It’s a little bit ahead of America! Ha ha!” 

Reading Festival 2000

“We played Reading and Leeds and Rage Against The Machine were on before us. They didn’t know who we were but they watched us play on the first night in Leeds and then they all came up onstage and watched us at Reading and it was one of my favourite bands of all time giving me total props and loving it.”

Air Canada Centre, Toronto, 2005

“One of the biggest milestones in my life was when we played and my dad passed away. I always knew I was gonna be a workaholic and that I’d lose my family while I was on the road. But living through that, playing a show and being told that he’d passed away after it, that really put some perspective on how much music has become God in my life.” 

Download Festival 2009

 “Download was a big one, for sure. But we’re not even a rock’n’roll band anymore, man. We’re not a metal band. We’re not there to facilitate your European festivals. We’re fucking Slipknot. We’re on the cover of National Geographic. We are art incarnated into a living, breathing pulse!”

Speaking further on the Download show, which has widely become regarded as one of the greatest Download sets ever, Clown noted that he wasn't anticipating such a huge crowd to greet the band. "I had no expectations,” he stated. “Half a bottle of Jack Daniel’s, half a bottle of Absinthe. Let’s go kick ass. I don’t put any pressure on any show. There’s guys in the band that might, but I walk out and go, ‘Hey, there’s a lot of people here! Let’s fucking rock!’ Clown doesn’t give a shit about any of that crap. I have no expectations; Clown has no expectations. 

"There could’ve been 10,000 people or 85,000 people," he continues. "I just know there was a boatload! I just remember by the fourth song, Clown was having fun, and I remember he was having fun the whole show, and that’s important, man. It was definitely a milestone. The UK is what made Slipknot. The UK understands, dude.”

This year marks two huge milestones for Slipknot, with their iconic 1999 debut album turning 25 and beloved 2004 album Vol 3: (The Subliminal Verses) turning 20. The band currently have three US shows planned for this Spring, including a headline set at Sick New World, before they tour Europe this winter.

Merlin Alderslade
Executive Editor, Louder

Merlin moved into his role as Executive Editor of Louder in early 2022, following over ten years working at Metal Hammer. While there, he served as Online Editor and Deputy Editor, before being promoted to Editor in 2016. Before joining Metal Hammer, Merlin worked as Associate Editor at Terrorizer Magazine and has previously written for the likes of Classic Rock, Rock Sound, eFestivals and others. Across his career he has interviewed legends including Ozzy Osbourne, Lemmy, Metallica, Iron Maiden (including getting a trip on Ed Force One courtesy of Bruce Dickinson), Guns N' Roses, KISS, Slipknot, System Of A Down and Meat Loaf. He has also presented and produced the Metal Hammer Podcast, presented the Metal Hammer Radio Show and is probably responsible for 90% of all nu metal-related content making it onto the site.