Why Slipknot's Clown made his new movie Officer Downe

Clown from Slipknot
Clown (Image credit: Getty)

Clown is known for being the creative force behind Slipknot, but there are more strings to his twisted bow than music. As well as giving fans the chance to work with him on a new creative project, his directorial debut Officer Downe premiered at the LA Film Festival earlier this month. It’s the comic-inspired tale of a cop who simply can’t die, but, in typical Clown style, it’s an R-Rated bloodbath borne from the psyche of a man whose day job is beating kegs for the most insane band on the planet.

Here, we talk to Clown to find out why he’s taken a leap into Hollywood and what we can expect from Officer Downe.

Why have you chosen to make a movie now?

“I’ve been working for my band for about 20 years now, and I’ve been allowed to do other things than just make music – behind the scenes short films, videos, album covers, art direction… you name it, I’ve done it. It’s all been working towards what I really want to do, to give myself something artistically challenging. Officer Downe is the hardest artistic work I’ve ever done in my life, because when you’re the director, you’re the boss. Everybody, at all moments, wants to know everything – from the pencils they use, to the chairs they’re going to sit in.”

What is it that you get out of directing a movie that you don’t get out of Slipknot?

“If you look at Slipknot, I’m one of nine. Yes, I am the Clown, yes, the world knows what I do and what I bring. However, I am one ninth. I enjoy that – I like being in my band Slipknot with my brothers, I love getting on stage and listening to Corey Taylor’s words – however, with the movie making, right or wrong, you’re the boss if you’re the director.

“Movies, for me – when I’ve got everything worked out, whether it’s actors, blood, you name it – when I’ve done all this stuff, the minute it gets on the screen, and it’s recorded, and I know we have it, it’s like sex. It’s very important to me when that happens. I just sit there – everyone around me’s talking and freaking out about everything – and I’m just sitting there going, ‘Shut the fuck up, did you see what we just got?’ I’m very good at putting all the pieces together.

“I love that and it’s awesome for me, but it’s also very limited. It’s like, I get to work and I have like five, six, seven or eight of those a day, and literally it’s like sex, just so euphoric and it makes me shudder, it makes me take deep breaths. It’s amazing, and that’s what I love – seeing it in your head, and then seeing what you want to accomplish on the set. It’s such a wonderful thing.”

How does movie industry bullshit differ from music industry bullshit?

“Movies are a lot more cut throat. I was taught that with a movie, it could be three years from beginning to completion. That’s proving about right for Officer Downe. In Slipknot, the label goes, ‘Here’s the money, make your album, go blow your brains out for as many years as you want for this album cycle.’ You get into the movie thing and it’s high pressure – everyone’s stressed the fuck out. Man, those producers – ‘Come on, we’ve got to go, we’re burning dollars.’ I’m just like, ‘I don’t fucking care.’ I could get a director’s cut, it could be my greatest piece of art, but the money people will have the last say. I appreciate that – it’s their money, they’re paying for the art. But they take it away from you and make certain changes, because it’s theirs.”

Is Officer Downe as twisted as people might expect it to be?

“I went all out. I had a lot of rules: ‘Look, if Officer Downe shoots, people fucking die, that’s it – there’s no bullshit, no ‘I got away’. It’s very violent, very dark, very over the top. But it’s a comic book, so it’s very fun. My producer sent me a review the other day, and it said it was such a twisted, sick, horrendously dumb movie that it seemed like a 12-year-old delinquent directed it, and that the reviewer was ‘seriously concerned about anyone who had anything to do with this movie, or anyone who likes it.’”

Did you do the music as well?

“My partner, Kyle Sherrod, and I scored the movie. As you can imagine, there was a very big budget for music, but because it was my first movie and you gotta do what you gotta do, anything that felt like it was right got put in. But I don’t put things in just to put things in – I got to use some bands that I’ve worked with, and everything just came [together] – it was pretty awesome because of that.

“In the future it would be wonderful to put my friends in the movies – you know, Iron Maiden, Nine Inch Nails, Black Flag, Big Black or whatever it is I want and I will – one thing at a time, one movie at a time.”

What sort of movies did you go to for influence?

“I tend to think a lot that’s out there is pretty watered down for the kiddies – and that’s cool, whatever you wanna do – I just use my inspiration from life and art. I learn from the masters, from Dali and surrealism to high fashion – Alexander McQueen, Dolce Gabbana, all that stuff – it’s all art. Go look at some Alexander McQueen outfits and you’re like, ‘What the fuck? This guy’s insane’. His crew will make the most unbelievable dresses or outfits, and you’re like, ‘I can’t even believe what I’m seeing’.

“I’m also very lucky because I’ve grown up in the seventies. I grew up listening to my parents speak of movies – we would sit around at dinner and my dad was fine with having the TV on as long as we were sitting as a family together, so we would watch movies like One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest or Apocalypse Now or The Godfather series, and then my dad would watch Monty Python or whatever.

“I was ten years old when Alien came out – I looked at my dad and said, ‘What the fuck are aliens? Do they exist?’ and he was like, ‘We don’t know’. He said, ‘This is a movie portraying what we don’t know,’ and I’m like, ‘You’re fucked up, this is fucked up, I can’t go to sleep, this is the scariest thing I’ve ever seen in my life.’”

The cast list is made up of quite cool cult names, but was there anyone super-famous you wanted to use?

“When the movie first started we went through about a million different ideas of what to do for Officer Downe. Everybody with a great moustache was brought out – we looked at a lot of crazy things, at a lot of crazy big actors – but budget, budget, budget. You go through all ideas, and when Kim Coates was brought up – Officer Downe’s a great big guy – so when Kim was brought up I was like, alright, Clown is happy. We’ve got a cult guy, with a cult face, and it was fucking awesome. He was the real deal, and I’m like, ‘That’s what I want, I want my hands on something like that’. Kim liked what I had to say and he chose to do it, you know what I mean. So we had a good time, he’s a great man and he’s definitely Officer Downe, period.”

Do you ask any of Slipknot to be in it?

“Yeah, Sid’s in the movie, Chris is in the movie, Corey is in the movie. They all had to apply like everyone else. Those guys all want to act and they all have a knack for it, so I’m going to take them with me for sure.”

Have they given you any feedback on the film?

“Corey hasn’t seen it yet, which is fine because he’s got bigger things to take care of right now. Sid is passing a kidney stone, so he’s in a lot of pain, but he came to the premier. He was like, ‘Bro, the movie’s off the hook, I loved it, I just couldn’t stay, I still haven’t passed this stone.’ Chris came to my hotel room after the premier and we just spent days tripping out about it. It’s important to me that they trust me, because if you trust me, I will walk the ends of the Earth for you.”

How well are you expecting it to do? Are you clearing your diary for the Oscars next year?

“Fifty per cent of the world’s going to love it, fifty per cent of the world’s going to hate it. I don’t know what’s going to happen. Movies go straight to DVD all the time, and sometimes things that come out of nowhere go straight to the Moon. I can’t get caught up in it. It’s out of my hands now. I did my job and I’m going to continue doing the press and the viral stuff, I’ll do appearances, I’ll go to Comic Con, I’ll do anything I have to do to promote the movie. But as far as I’m concerned, the movie’s done to me, and whatever happens is up to the great people of the world. It really is all up to the people that watch the art. Business people can do a lot of things – put a product where it needs to be, pay money for advertising and marketing, all this kind of stuff – but in the end, as you know, the people deem it popular or not. They make it stay or go away.”

Can you ever see your film career taking priority over your music career? Or is it a tandem thing?

“Well, that just really depends, doesn’t it? Since the beginning of my career I’ve been asked to step aside while others do other artistic things and I’m an advocate of that. I support that. The reason I support that is because I have a family – I like to spend off-time with my family, and I like to spend a couple of years sitting around, connecting artistic walls of dots, before I get into the next project. I need to take a break from an album in order to make another album. So, if something came my way and it was a once in a lifetime thing, yes, I would ask people to step aside for a moment. However, we all try to make it work together. So, I’m not trying to go out and just make this my biggest project, I’m only going to do what’s real, I’m only going to do movies I should, and I’m only going to do them when I should. So, I want everybody to win, but at the same time this is my life and I’ve gotta go, but we work our hardest to make sure it all works together.”

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Luke Morton joined Metal Hammer as Online Editor in 2014, having previously worked as News Editor at popular (but now sadly defunct) alternative lifestyle magazine, Front. As well as helming the Metal Hammer website for the four years that followed, Luke also helped relaunch the Metal Hammer podcast in early 2018, producing, scripting and presenting the relaunched show during its early days. He also wrote regular features for the magazine, including a 2018 cover feature for his very favourite band in the world, Slipknot, discussing their turbulent 2008 album, All Hope Is Gone.