Joup Confessions… Slipknot

MrBungle_CD_Cover

Note: The “Confessions” aspect of this piece pertains to Slipknot, not Mr. Bungle. I’m still a little iffy about talking about how much I like the first Slipknot record. I shout my Bungle-ness from the highest mountains!

…………………………..

After actively dismissing them for several years following Slipknot’s 1999 eponymous debut was released I eventually finally gave in to the fact that I could not deny that there is a certain power to the record. This recognition in the face of all my cons – real or imagined – began with an inability – no matter how hard I tried – to dismiss the track Eyeless, forever erroneously known to me by the bastardized name Marlon Brando’s Eyes. 

Before I go any further I suppose I should explain why I rallied so hard against Slipknot from the moment I first laid eyes on them. I mean, yes, visually the band seems like something easy to embrace for those of us into metal, comics, horror movies and that twisted, evil circus aesthetic cultivated by the likes of Tobe Hooper (Funhouse), Poltergeist (that clown doll!) and of course, Tod Browning’s Freaks. Said aesthetic has been played with and added to classically over the years; from HBO’s Carnival to Will Elliot‘s criminally under-known novel The Pilo Family Circus, to Rob Zombie’s Grease-Paint-and-Monkey-Brains pastiche to my personal vote for the cream of the crop, Mr. Bungle’s 1991 eponymous debut.

Oh, wait. See what I did there? Now we have arrived at the origin of my beef. Because, yes, I know that of all the members’ of Slipknot’s costumes only one is clown-themed, however, what you might not know about Mr. Bungle is that leading up to and including shows supporting that first album – this is circa late 1980’s/very early 1990’s – the band took the stage in what? Generic mechanic-type coveralls and a wide-array of masks: everything from a five-O’Clock shadowed Hobo Clown you’d imagine jumping freight cars, an old man mask, the big nose clown mask (see below), a Freddy Kruger mask, Jason Vorhees’ infamous hockey mask, various other horror-themed ideas and of course, Patton often donned the “gimp”, zipper-mouthed bondage mask. Not exactly the same as Slipknot, but come on. Obviously we know where Corey and the guys got the idea. And for good or ill, that bothered me for a loooong time about Slipknot, especially as I once read a Q&A with one of the members where a kid mentioned wearing masks in his own band – obviously a youngin’ very much influenced at the time by his heroes in the ‘Knot – and said member basically told him he should come up with his own ideas and not use theirs.*

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Mike Patton on stage w/ Bungle circa 1991

Really?

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The cover of Slipknot’s 1999 debut album

At any rate, for a long time it felt like fighting the good fight to hold this grudge. I mean, I came across that Q&A because as Eyeless began to gain favor with me, resistant as I was at first, I would read any article I could find with the band to see if just once they would mention Bungle as an influence. Nope. Not that I ever saw they didn’t. And that would have made it all okay with me. Well, maybe not all okay, because although they did transcend that late 90’s/early 00’s rap-rock thing, they also stood with one foot in it. Looking back I can kind of liken Slipknot’s first record to Guns n Roses’ Appetite For DestructionAppetite very clearly came from the LA hair rock glam scene, I mean, the members all very much displayed that aesthetic in their get-ups, but somehow the music on the record transcended it while still keeping a toe in that pond. It elevated hair rock, took anything good from it and bolstered it, injected the right combination of bullshit bravado and tender druggie heartache and in the end it just worked. Lightning in a fucking bottle. What I eventually came to see about Slipknot was the same thing – all the dropped tuning, rapping, diary, poor me bullshit that came out of the throats of bands like Corns and the like hit the wall of Slipknot’s studio; little bits dripped down on some very seriously dark teenage fantasy shit and was finally inject with the twisted mask gimmick and wha-laa! Like it or not, that first record is a strong first effort. As I alluded to at the outset of this piece, I’m not often in the mood to listen to this record, but when that mood does strike me, nothing else will do.

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Bungle on stage, late 80’s/early 90’s: era of the mask

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Slipknot promo photo, circa 1999

In conclusion, I found some ability to reconcile the Bungle-feud thing in my head by way of continuing to follow them, one of my all-time favorite bands and one I saw live as often as possible, and realize that they ditched the mask-and-coveralls thing immediately after that first record and its era because although that’s where they started – and it was a great place to start – they only got better and better, and they did so by not having the hang-up to need to do the mask thing anymore. And in that way Slipknot really transcended the comparison by making it their own thing. So many variations, themes and iterations of the mask thing and it seems less like a rip-off and more like the finishing of a sentence. Granted, maybe one that didn’t need finishing, but it turned out pretty good in the end. I can’t say that I’ve ever really cared about any of the band’s other albums but then I’ve not given them very much of a try. Didn’t feel I needed to. But I often hover over some of the images of Slipknot that I find online.

For good or ill, Slipknot is the mask-thing. It’s what they are. Mr. Bungle was only ever that for a little while, tangentially. And then they became so much more.

Tag Chester! Confess confess confess!!!

 

Shawn C Baker

Shawn C Baker

Shawn lives in Los Angeles where he co-hosts Drinking w/ Comics, writes screenplays and fiction and has been known to drink quite a bit of beer. Good beer.

2 Responses to Joup Confessions… Slipknot
  1. The Notorious K.I.M. Reply

    Interesting

  2. Thomas H Williams

    Thomas H Williams Reply

    That took courage.

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