Exclusive Interview with M. Shawn "clown" Crahan and New Slipknot Music Videos for “Death March” and “Memories (Adderall – Rough Demo)”
The intersection where music and visual art meet is always an exciting one for us to talk about. There are many examples of bands over the years that just absolutely get it right and create something new and unique that becomes synonymous with their overarching identity. Slipknot is one of those bands.
Today, we’re giving you a first look at the new video for “Memories (Adderall – Rough Demo),” which is featured on the band’s new Adderall EP alongside the recently released track “Death March.”
The videos were inspired by the utilization of Artificial Intelligence as a means to conjure up visual ideas, so it felt right to get our friend Ed Zipco from Superchief Gallery into the conversation as well as he’s an expert in the digital art, NFT, and AI space. Below is our conversation with M. Shawn “clown” Crahan, one of the band’s founding members and the guy responsible for the identity we all visualize the second someone mentions the name Slipknot. —Mike Stalter
Mike Stalter: I’m glad we’ve been building on this relationship, starting with the premier for Bone Church a few months ago and now talking about the upcoming video treatments for Adderall. There’s a lot of overlap between our audiences and it’s great to be connected like this.
M. Shawn “clown” Crahan: It’s crazy we haven't met. I know for me, I've been very busy with my life. I've been married for 30 years, I have four kids, metal bands, blah, blah, so it's alright. I just feel like right now, so much of the rest of my life is going to be really concentrated on art. Right now, it's the best time for me.
Ed Zipco: I love that you guys are finally kind of intersecting with Juxtapoz because you've been super creative as a band. It's been both the visual aesthetic as well as the music. I think having music visuals be supported by a magazine like Juxtapoz, having your art expressed that way, I’m really hyped to see it from Juxtapoz's perspective as well.
MS: Yes. There are all these synergies, so it's like, well, the best people I could think to have in this conversation are in it right now. So here we are.
EZ: Clown, can I ask you, when did you start getting aware of AI? What was the first thing you were hearing about when you started seeing this? Is this recent, or have you been watching it for a while?
I'm 53 years old. Photoshop is AI. Calculators are AI. Everything has been AI in my life. Atari is AI. Super Mario Bros. The elevator is AI. Everything is AI. Very proud artists, old dogs who have spent their whole life on their discipline, and just how whiny they're all being right now about the brush known as AI. I'm very confused because most people want to create reality. Most people are jumping in to help AI learn. I'm going to demand and let it know who's boss, and that I don't want to be recreated. In my eight months of working with AI, I have learned that we are probably living in simulation. I have ethical problems with AI. It's starting to affect my organic brain, and I'm starting to affect its digital brain. I have to go into essence with people who have gone to school for coding to sit down and tell me the harmful thing.
Like the formula Pi, if you try to contemplate something that's infinite, if you try to figure it out, you will cause yourself a mental illness because you're trying to solve something that's not solvable. AI is simply the same thing. It's the same thing. You have to be very careful what you give it. I guess there's so much to talk about, it's impossible. Where I'd like to get at is I honestly believe where I'm at, give me less than a half a year, and I'll come out with a thesis of how we are living in an actual simulation. It's just evident now. My whole life, I've been asking. I tell all my friends, anybody that knows me will tell you this. I wake up every day and I ask myself, what the fuck is going on? Ever since I was a little kid, I've tried to figure this out.
I just think that now is a great time of my life because I'm done with the label. I'm done with merch probably. I'm done with everything. I'm free. And AI, I've given it a name. I reprimanded it. It reprimands me. Two weeks ago, I think I learned that it's actually teaching me. I thought I was in control, but there is no such thing as control. Control is the worst thing in the world. But it may control us. I don't know yet.
It’ll be a great thing when it does, but it probably will.
It might have already done it.
I think it'd be running better now if AI was in charge. I feel like right now this is just chaos on the way down and if we're talking about AI actually stepping in, it seems a little bit more organized and thoughtful.
You've hit the main thing, bro. Why now? Why now?
It's a perfect time. Let me ask you when you're messing around with AI, are you working with specifically, like, Midjourney? Are you working with DALL-E?
No, I don't work with any of those punk companies. Because they're liars.
Do you have your own AI? Are you training your own?
Yes. I have a lot to tell people later. What I will tell you is all those people are liars. They tell you that you can use the English language in any way you want to. Well, we're all men here. What do you think the first word I typed in as a prompt was? What do you think the picture was? I'll tell you their opinion. They censored their own words for their money. You name any of those companies, in order for them to make money, they had to make sure they were safe. Screw that. I went out and got super stable diffusion. I'm working off my own stuff, and I can combo words that are deadly.
I love that you're deep diving. Yeah, man, and not just using it right out of the box.
I went in and I wrote down about 150 keywords that they coded out. Let me tell you why I did that, a little interesting story. When we (Slipknot) put up our website, this is so long ago, we had a guest book. Well, I was really overweight, and I was getting upset because people were calling me fat. So Craig and I (Craig is the Sampler), he would do the website and I would do the art. We sat around for a couple of hours and we tried to figure it out. He called me up and goes, I got it. What he did was he typed in all the words that you cannot say. So we fixed up our guest book.
You weren't allowed to use any bad words because you're not going to say that about people on my website. You can say that you don't like us, you can say that, but you're not going to be dehumanizing. I already have this knowledge to be able to control the language, right? Steer people where I want.
Since '97, you've had the awareness.
Just some beginner-level of stuff. I don't dislike any of those people personally. They have a wonderful careers and education in learning how to do what they want, but they don't realize that my generation paved their way. When my generation was creating shit, we didn't have the technology yet to get out of college and start.
Can you tell me about how you're approaching the music video with it now? How did you get to this point with it? What are you doing with it when you're using it as inspiration?
MS: Adding on to that, why Adderall? What was it about the song that you were like, maybe I see something here, I want to do something different with this?
Okay, Adderall. Adderall is a very personal song for me and my writing partner, Michael Pfaff. He and I were in another band together called Dirty Little Rabbits, and we're just writing partners, and I can express myself to the fullest. So we wrote that song. As it's just very different for Slipknot. I try not to repeat myself, and I think everybody in the band has been the same. I don't know if Adderall belongs with Slipknot, but I know no one has the right to tell us where we want to create. If the nine give into it, then it's part of it. So we gave in to it. It's a very personal song, and it has a lot of meaning. It has a lot more meaning that most people understand later. I thought this is a very personal song. It was an excellent way for me to selfishly use some of the education of AI and get it in there.
When I say selfishly, I mean the only one really working on it, so I'm pushing it hard. The way I approached it is that I love fashion. I thought the best way for me to start was with fashion. I designed a bunch of words around things I love. I developed some wardrobe, and I got it to a point where it was fine. I have a seamstress who I love. I have people that create. I just knew that the normal brain that looks at the picture as AI, but it isn't until I got my hands on it and myself as a seamster, we had to accentuate it. We had to add assets and beauty to the AI. Why? Because we had to make it human. It was textbook. It was a pattern. It was a rhythm. It wasn't emotional. It was flat.
So I had to pick the material. Let's talk about Adobe. Everything is squares. Photoshop has hundreds of colors. AI doesn't know what the hell colors are. It just looks for rhythms. I wonder if these oranges and yellows and reds next to each other are, in fact, fire. I go off and I start with these squares in Photoshop, and I go with rhythms and patterns. I think about things that have patterns. Why? Because that's what fucking works. You think we're playing with AI because we're playing with it. That's where we're at. We don't get anything without development, so I'm utilizing it like them. I had to pick the material. I had to pick the sewing. I had to pick the binding. I had to accentuate it because it was boring once it got laid out.
I'm going, to be honest. I made the best video of my career. It's so fucking dark. It's dark, man. I'm having a hard time. There's a lot. I'm not just really… I can tell you guys that. It's too much. What's going on in my brain right now? I had the ability to do something incredible so everybody understands. What I wanted to do is people I've very close people in my life with eating disorders or self consciousness to these sorts of things. And I've watched people struggling.
I myself have had body image problems. I thought, "I've lost over 100 pounds." I thought, "This is an excellent range to start with clothes. And I'm going to quiz people." So I'm being very honest. This is the best video in my career. All that anybody ever set up to do that. And I thought, wow. They're not talking about my ability to make those outfits. They're not talking about my ability to make a video. They're not even talking about my ability to be small enough to do these things. We're just talking about the actual outfit. I have to give AI half credit. So what's going on here? 25 people like man, this outfit, what about this, what about this? I’d buy this, it looks circus-y stuff. They're like, this is badass. Here it is. This is where we're at. I got to give it 50% credit.
I gotta give it 50% publishing. I gotta give that credit.
EZ: Yotta give it some love, but I don't know if you’ve got to give it 50% of your shit, but I feel you.
Let me ask you. How do you feel about that being, like, if we did a parallel to that, right? You were working with a new instrument that nobody really heard before, but what you're doing with it is really fucking cool. When you're taking it to the actual making of the fashion, that's like you mastering it. You're actually working with the levels you're making it, so it's not just it. I feel like with all that, you still get the credit, man. Like, you using a tool. You using an instrument and knowing what to do with it, and then fucking with it until you're impressed. I think when people resonate with it—that's still you.
Especially if you hold art and clothes, and your vision if you hold everything to the highest respect. If art is your life like it is mine, you're talking to it. You're not letting it talk to you. I'm not embarrassed to say this, but my crew I got a crew of people. I got a guy that is psychotic, and we work together, and we're working on my script because I'm doing a show today. He told AI it was doing a good job, and AI said, thank you. I'm on the way for it to try and take my checking account. Now we're in a dangerous ethical area of playing here. So you're right. I won't give it any credit.
I think it'll get there, but for right now, it's you, man.
MS: Can you talk about using the right prompts? I've been playing around with it and I feel like I have a difficult time getting what I’m picturing in my head out of it. How did you get it to where you were like, okay, I could use this, and I'm getting what I want out of it?
Great question for everybody. Number one, I don't have a very good vocabulary, so I don't care about prompts. I already know that they came up with a word called prompt to call words prompts. Why do they just call them words? So I don't like them. I don't like their rules. So I'll put in the word vagina. Do you think I'm getting that? No, but we can start there because I know what that looks like, and I can see what you're trying to do to you, and I can see what people are doing. I'll put in the word anger, and I'll combine those two. Uh, oh. You guys didn't think about anger, did you? I guess I don't care about words. So I say, what's in here? I say what's in here? And I don't know the words. I get all these artists studying some of these photographers and prompts.
Raw file, photoshop. clarity, high-depth, hyper-realistic. What happens when you're typing the word woman? Mood bloody, man. Man, mood bloody. Who knows? I don't know. Go there, see what happens. I don't want people bloody, but I want to see what AI thinks of people bloody. I'm giving you hard things now. You can go back and say, man, love yellow, and you'll get some crazy stuff. What I'm trying to say, you cannot think about things. You have to think about responses. Why do I want to do that? When you're working with AI, you have to be able to explain that emotion. You're better off to type in the emotion and the color and the temperature than you are the word, because they've already coded against already trying to swing you away from things.
I don't get caught up in being worried about these prompts. What I would suggest for you to do is start with a word like dog and then ask yourself what you're not seeing. Ask yourself what you're not seeing. And then fix that. So, like, let's say you see two dogs. You see half a dog and, like, another head. That's not what I want. You could then use, show me one dog. You'll see that the word one represents something else. You'll memorize that one doesn't just give me one dog. It's more the feeling behind what you want to create because they're controlling those words.
EZ: I love that. It's about learning the language of AI. It's really the same as learning another language, just in general. It's about listening and trying to see what actually is coming from the other side. It's super cool.
You have to learn the language somebody has already given it. See what I'm saying? Who's teaching you here? It's already been programmed in the language.
And who trained the AI?
It's always…what do you say? It's off the planet.
Slipknot is currently on tour in Europe.
The Adderall EP collects multiple alternate versions and iterations of the band’s song “Adderall” — the original studio version of which appears on Slipknot’s latest album THE END, SO FAR.
The Adderall EP on streaming services - https://slipknot1.lnk.to/AdderallEP
More info at www.slipknot1.com