A band of many masks, a man of many talents, including cannabis cultivation
He's not the most visible member of the nine-piece multi-platinum metal band, Slipknot. Vocalist Corey Taylor and the band's two guitarists Mick Thomson and Jim Root have a greater presence in concert. And, Shawn "Clown" Crahan isn't even the main drummer. That would be Jay Weinberg, son of Bruce Springsteen's long-time drummer Max Weinberg. On paper, Crahan is one of several songwriters and one of two maniacal percussionists that intensify Slipknot's highly percussive assault.
Yet, when it comes to shot-calling, Crahan is no less important than any of his bandmates. Behind the scenes, he's Slipknot's creative director, a major voice for the group's crazed look and out-of-the-box presentations. For the past 23 years, Crahan has been a key contributor to Slipknot's art designs, photos, and videos, 12 of which he has directed or co-directed. And he's the sole surviving original co-founder (bassist Paul Gray died in 2010 and drummer Joey Jordison passed in 2021).
Since at least the early aughts, Crahan has smoked cannabis to lower his inhibitions and enhance his creative focus. While his band can always be counted on the bring the noise, the plant has helped him shut some out some of the excess stimuli. A little flower, and the all-consuming thoughts that swarm his head like bees around honeycomb slow down a bit, enabling Clown to grasp a concept out of thin air and follow it through to completion. The way the tangents branch and the ideas fork resemble a multi-line subway guide instead of the kind of huge, foldable state highway map you used to be able to buy at local gas stations.
"In my position, I have so many voices, I have artistic schizophrenia," says Clown over a Zoom conference from his home in Palm Springs, California. "I'm constantly developing shapes. As I'm talking to you on Zoom, I’m looking at a reflection on my monitor of palm trees and a mountain through a window. I’m taking it all in, man, multitasking, putting things together. It gave me an idea of doing a Polaroid in reverse here."
That's all well and good. Inspiration and aspiration can yield great art. But sometimes, the creative voice screams too loud. "It's not even the music that's always the problem," he says. "I need my brain silenced from taxes and bills, and I got to have the fucking toilet pumped out or the dryer's broke or the plane leaves at 2 p.m. Or, 'Hey, did you call so and so?' No way, I’m out, man. In order to do what I do, I have to shut the world off and pay attention the way that works for me. And I think that's what everybody requires of me because if I change who I am you're not going to get what I can offer, and I think we're still offering something that is needed, which is a blessing for us in Slipknot, but it’s good for everyone."
So transformed and inspired has Crahan been by cannabis -- musically, mentally, and spiritually -- that he was compelled to enter the marijuana market ten years ago, long before weed was legalized. While he conducted research during this time, he held back from taking any concrete steps since he didn't want to jeopardize the band by becoming a marijuana maverick. But now that weed is almost as legal -- at least in California -- as a good Merlot, Crahan has entered the marketplace with Clown Cannabis, a box of pre-rolls that signal his first toe-dip into a glowing pool he hopes will enlighten and edify fans of the Knot and the flower, alike.
"There's just so many avenues for me to develop and grow, and one of those is to speak and be involved in this whole re-education about the plant," he says. "I'm very interested in that because I talk to a lot of people. I figure it's something I'm supposed to do. It's righteous enough in the human race here, that, if I have the ability and can do it correctly, maybe I can sick my weird brain on helping people understand something a little bit differently."
Crahan readily admits that, even when cannabafied, he thinks faster than he speaks. When he tries to catch up, words tumble from his mouth like coins from a slot machine. Sometimes they're insightful, other times they're cryptic or weird. It's all part of his process. By spouting forth without analyzing what he's saying, his thoughts are pure and undiluted. To Crahan, that's preferable to sounding slick and premeditated. Because, as with his experimental photography, as with Slipknot, the world is more interesting and illuminating when it comes from a stream of consciousness flow driven by impulse and emotion.
"I'm really excited about all the possibilities of flower," he says. "And I know when I get excited I can go in 100 different directions at the same time. And a lot of people don't understand that about me, but that's okay. The number one thing for me is that I believe in this plant. I believe in it in philosophy. I believe in it in roots and soil and chemical and birds and bugs. And it just goes on and on and on."
During a long-needed break from Slipknot rehearsal, Crahan waxes rhapsodic about his excitement for the current cannabis landscape and his enthusiasm for the public's growing openness to a plant that was once widely believed to be addictive, dangerous, and the cause of trauma and madness. And he's encouraged that governments around the world are grasping the medicinal and spiritual value of weed.
Crahan has never been pegged as an optimist, yet he's convinced that as more territories legalize recreational marijuana, taxation and regulation will be adapted to the reasonable demands of the people.
"I think we’re all pointing our fingers at all these different people and blaming them for stuff and we're doing it for the wrong reasons," he says. "Because I think the real thing that's going on is we're all looking for the answer for the good medicine and it's coming."
Clown gets deep down in the weeds to talk about his favorite plant
After living in Des Moines, Iowa for decades, you made the move to Palm Springs, California. Was that a better place to launch a cannabis enterprise?
It was time for a change, man, and I really believe in plants. They're my favorite pastime -- all kinds of plants -- because they're so interesting. I went to Home Depot the other day, which is rare for me. I don't leave my house very often because I feel comfortable in my space and I have everything I need there. But I needed some stuff so I went to Home Depot and I'm like, "Man, the plants in Home Depot are much different than the plants in Iowa. There are cactuses and all kinds of things. It's so much fun."
But why Palm Springs. There are Home Depots with cactuses all across the West Coast?
Basically, I got off tour last year and had the bus drop me off there. And, honestly, my mental health and spirit became elevated almost right away. I love the weather. My wife and I couldn't tolerate winters in Iowa anymore. We’ve done it and we don't need to prove anything to anybody. This is just the perfect place. It's so beautiful. Every day there are clear skies and I think, “Wow, I’m blessed.” And it's a good place to be for cannabis. So it's good in every way.
To some people, Los Angeles has always been a serpent den of depravity. Does turning LA and West Hollywood into a capital of cannabis culture further feed that stereotype?
The real challenge is to rewire the human brain and it takes a long time to do that. For most people, it's just not going to happen. But there are still tons of people out there who don’t feel like LA is evil or who realize everything they grew up hearing about cannabis isn’t true. So, it’s important that humans that have been fed all these stereotypes until really recently are being handed the ability to help reprogram themselves. And for me, it’s a great honor to be able to provide facts and sometimes advice and opinion about things that they’ve been taught to fear.
Many individuals in the conservative mainstream are so set in their ways that they don't even want to learn about the many benefits of cannabis. If people from that world decide to take a leap, they often do so without education or information. If they’re nervous and want something to relax but they don’t know how much to use and they aren't aware that there's a difference between -- say -- Indica and Sativa, they might have a really horrible experience taking a strain that makes them jumpy and paranoid.
This is an interesting battle and something that I'm onto very heavily these days in my life. I agree with you 100 percent. But if you think about the plant, the flower itself, there are so many benefits, probably more than we know about. From the stems to the bark to the leaves to the chemicals, the genetics of the plant are remarkable. So there’s a lot to learn, but at the same time, we’ve come really far and there's still a real interest in discovering more.
There's so much money to be made in the weed industry that all kinds of businesses are hopping on board. And as soon as a state legalizes weed, the government steps in and taxes it heavily, causing financial hardship to growers and killing the underground network.
I know some people might get turned off by this, but I think we're a little bit too hard on the government. A bigger concern is what’s going to happen when all the pharmaceutical companies get their hands on cannabis. I'm trying to make the point that large corporate brands that everyone knows are going to come get some once to government says. “Okay, everybody. We know everything we want to know about this,” which means they know everything about the plant and they have for years. But they haven't known how to get every dollar, probably, and how to tax it. There's their big problem, right? And then the pharmaceuticals are like, “Great, we're set up for all this. And we got supply and trucks and doctors making these things, trying to stay above the curve. So, you’ve got this natural plant that has become tangled with all these different business interests."
It’s yet another case of capitalism sucking out all the lifeblood from whatever it attaches its teeth to.
Well, I think these things always start slow. I lived in Colorado for a moment. My sister-in-law lives there and we were just hanging out. And I remember the government came in and seized a bunch of product from all the dispensaries and closed some businesses down. But, most importantly, they took all the strands and everything and then they tested it all and gave the information to the general public. They were basically looking out for [people’s] health and the facts they discovered were scary. There was some bad stuff there.
There's the argument to be made that the gray or underground market is the wild, wild, west and there are some disadvantages to that. When you buy on the street, you don't always know what you’re getting and what impurities might be in the cannabis?
Right. You just think you're getting flower, but who knows, man? It’s like, “Okay, great. We can just go in here and get some weed.” Well, come on, man. Everyone's got a real responsibility in this new venture of openness of this medicine that's going to really revolutionize humans because it's not just the normal person that’s involved. In the past, it was always the doctors and scientists who said, “Oh, no. Don't do it.” Give me a break. They're just perpetuating the stereotypes and misconceptions. I love the whole thing you’re doing with HiBnb because it takes the taboo out of the process. You’re not dealing with the people who don’t understand and aren’t open-minded enough to get it. You're going straight to the source. So, basically, no one is getting mad about what's been going on from the beginning of the process. And, God, that’s great because that kind of thing happens all day, every day, everywhere. And it’s just unnecessary. So, anything that cuts out that part of the process is really beneficial.
Crahan explains the importance of flowers and bees to Clown Cannabis
Where does Clown Cannabis fit into the whole continuum of legalization and celebrities creating their own brands?
Well, that's a very broad question, a great question, and a very big question. Not easily answered, but it begins with the will to be honored. To have the privilege, basically. I'm just honored to be able to have a platform. Obviously, I didn’t create it all on my own so I'm part of a culture now and I've been given a platform to speak. And I believe that's because I have trust and because I have that trust I have the ability to bring awareness.
So, your involvement with Clown Cannabis isn’t primarily a business venture?
It goes hand in hand with bees, right? We could go right there. We could just go right to bees.
That's an elliptical comment, but let's roll with it. Bees are essential to the survival of the ecosystem. Experts say that bee pollination provides one-third of the food people consume. Yet, like apex predators and other aspects of nature that need to remain in balance, there are fewer bees now than there used to be and their endangerment is throwing the natural order out of whack. Is that what you're getting at?
I was talking to a really good friend of mine who's a botanist, one of the most brilliant botanists that I know who grows [cannabis]. He was getting plants to go to seed because he wanted the genetics. And he was telling me that he had a plant once that he didn't get to. He just left it out and three days later he noticed what had taken place in his absence. He was like, “Bro, you wouldn’t believe the things in the world that came from that plant. Every second, things were coming and taking from it.” And I just thought, "Wow, that's beautiful.”
What happened to the bees? Were they pollinating the cannabis plant? And why did you think it was beautiful?
Because it made me think about the human race. I just thought how it's still just one blood, still that one thing. And we all need love. And right now, humanity is being given this chance for this plant. It makes you wonder, why now? If it’s really all about money, then they had to figure out every part, from every gas station to every mall to every dispensary. Whatever it was, they had to figure it out, like everything else in this world. Or maybe this is much bigger and it was kept from us for a reason. Maybe we knew what it could do, we just weren’t ready and they didn't want us to destroy it. So here we are and I think humanity's getting the wonderful ability to be able to enjoy some real holistic, beautiful earth.
Other celebrities like Willie Nelson, Jim Belushi, Mike Tyson, and Shavo Odadjian have started brands and companies. How is Clown Cannabis better for your demographic?
One of Clown's many experimental photos
I don't believe in better, I believe in different. Everyone is going to bring their passion, whether it's monetary, spiritual, mental, or whatever. It could be because of behavioral health or recovery. There’s all kinds of avenues different people are taking. So I think we're all bringing it. Anything anybody is doing is for a cause. If you don’t have a cause then who cares? If you’re doing it directly for money, okay, whatever, at least you have a cause even though I don’t really have an opinion about that. But this means a lot to me and I’ve been trying to get into this process for over a decade.
Were you waiting for mass legalization?
The time had to be right. I have tens and tens and tens and tens and tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees. And I did a lot of testing and dipping my toe in the water. I had a small booth where I just made some quick merch and a poster board and just threw my face out there. When a buddy was going to a giant cannabis show, I had him bring a poster with a quote just to get my face out there. I had no product, but I printed t-shirts just to let people know what was coming. And the reason I waited was I'm not going to be involved in anything that the higher-ups are going to say I can't do. And that goes for everyone from the government to my own people, which would be management and lawyers and my team. And it was never the right time. Obviously, being out on the road, I know so many people that have been in the Wild, Wild West for so long and they're still in, and they're huge. Now, they took the risk but it was never about risk for me. It was never about jumping in and being in the Wild, Wild West.
Crahan brings on the insight about the power of flower
Then, what was it about?
This gets closer to the real heart of the story. My father had alcoholism and he used to go to a locally owned proprietorship. He was the president of the house for this rehabilitation program. Basically, I grew up there. When my dad was in a state of panic, he’d take me there before school. I’d have hamburgers for breakfast. I never knew what was going on. I just knew there were a bunch of people that looked like politicians because they sat up straight in these big-ass, old chairs, and they all smoked cigarettes and stared at each other from across the room. I always wondered what the hell was going on? Why is my dad being walked right into the middle of all these people? Now, I know they were having a support meeting in that area of the house, but no one was explaining that to the seven-year-old me. So, one day, I was on some “medication” and I came down to meet my dad at the house. And I said, “Hey, I don't feel like coming in today. I just had an epiphany.” And he said, “What’s up?”And I told him, “Well, I’m on some medicine and I just realized there are so many people there trying to get off medicine of any type. I don’t feel like I should go in there and see all this pain and suffering. And he said, “Oh, man, it’s all good.” We had a good talk and then he looked at me and said, “I wonder what my life would have been like if I could have smoked reefer – he called it reefer – instead of drinking.”
Do you think if he had used weed instead of alcohol, he would have had a different kind of life and you would have had a different upbringing instead of being the product of a dysfunctional family?
I think so. I can’t say for sure, but when he told me that he wondered if he would be different if he smoked flower instead of drinking, it stopped me dead in my tracks. I must’ve turned white. I went down this wormhole and, man, I shed a tear because of all the suffering I saw my father go through. I was in so much in pain for him because I knew that if he had cannabis he probably would have been able to celebrate the artist inside himself instead of becoming an alcoholic.
You have called your dad the smartest man you ever met.
He was incredible. He fought in Korea, right. That’s something I can't even comprehend. My dad had been shot at so many different times. He was in real estate. He wrote a book. It’s not finished, but he wrote down all these philosophy parts and before he died he always told me he wanted to write a book called "Old Men Go To Church." And that brings me to the one thing I can’t avoid and I’ve never been able to avoid.
What is that?
That’s a whole different interview about other things, but it goes hand in hand with that book because it’s like he was saying, “What if I could have been on flower and I went to church more often and tried to live more of a wholesome life.” Since that moment, I was like, “I’m going to do something about this.”
There’s a huge political divide when it comes to society. Do you find that cannabis influencers have more ideologies in common?
Unmasked, Shawn Crahan peers out from behind a huge digital screen.
I just want to be a part of the cannabis culture, man. I don't understand politics, so I have no business in politics. It’s dangerous and it's real and it can really hurt humans. I’d rather be someone who is recognizable culturally and I’m getting ready to step up and be a voice if it makes sense. And I think the area I can help the most is in the rewiring because I have this ability to help this world with a little more ease than some other people. The packaging that the government requires scares the shit out of people 10 years older than me.
How can you help the cannabis community understand government-mandated packaging?
When a lot of people see those percentages [for fees and taxes], it becomes this complex science or mathematical equation to them. They think they're making Betty Crocker cakes. They see the percentages and signs and small writing and they’re out. They panic about how the government will be involved and how we’re trying to keep this away from kids to stop lawsuits and deaths and fucking hassles. And they’re like, “What do we do, Clown?”
What do you tell them?
I go, “I’ll tell you what to do. You make things like Dr. Seuss because this is Dr. Seuss thinking. This is not Benzos. Listen to that name, Benzo, Who can even fucking say that? I remember when Xanax came out, I was perplexed. I was like, “I hate words to start with ‘X.’ This shit's all rotten.” But you do the homework and you learn. And then you go get your pills and maybe they help. I’ve been on the same minor antidepressant for ten years. Having gone up or down once or twice works perfect for me. Right, but I'm dialed in. I have good people. I take the time. I do the exercise. I do the research. I get two or three physicals a year and blood tests and whatever I need. I just recognize that I’ve been given the ability to speak sometimes on behalf of a culture because of a trust that I’ve built with them. So, I'm going to take my time when I can righteously offer whatever knowledge I can, and help the transition from what it is to what it's going to be. No matter what it's going to be now, you and I both know it's going to be like a bunch of grocery stores.
And they’re all competing for the same market space. They can charge different prices or carry different products to earn customers. And the only things they're guided by are the regulations of the industry, which will likely change dramatically over time from region to region.
Right, so all the arguments and all the fighting and all the wondering, it's all just hearsay. A lot of good people, humans, have a lot of work to do to get it right so people don't die. People are saying, “Oh, it's a wonderful world for people on Indica taking a break.” They go walk their dog. They chill out. But what's going to happen when everybody is walking their dog at the same time? We got a lot of things to think about here.
You seem to be looking at the cannabis business and culture from a different vantage point than many others, which is probably good. The more perspectives there are on an issue, the more options there are to choose from. When was the first time that you smoked the wacky tobbacky?
Clown takes the dog for a walk at twilight in Palm Springs.
My dad was an awesome human being, but his way of dealing with his problems was just to take off. When I was a young kid I got shuffled between relatives and that scarred me. And one of the things that scarred me was the constant fear of being left, leaving the family, and going somewhere to work out this shit by myself. I grew up in a neighborhood where all my friends had older brothers. But when I was five or six years old, I was really scared to drink because I thought that when you drank it meant you'd go away and disappear and have to work out some shit, like my dad
Clown's first Cannabis epiphany: "I felt like someone had opened a faucet in my brain and just let everything pour out."
Did you avoid alcohol because of your dad?
When I was seven and a half or eight years old, some kids got me drunk on Jack Daniels. And that was scary ‘cause my head was spinning and I thought about my dad. So, basically, someone’s older brother got me high because I was too scared to drink again. These are different times, man -- way different. Yeah, there was shit going on that shouldn’t have happened, but it was almost safer than it is now. I can't explain it. I love the way I grew up. I had all kinds of adults and people just outside the door paying attention to me, making sure things were okay. It's crazy. I don't know what the hell we were doing, but it was all safe.
Did weed become your inebriant of choice?
This is what I can tell you, man. I laughed so hard. I cried and most people thought I was crying because I was laughing, but I was crying because I felt like someone had opened a faucet in my brain and just let everything pour out. And then I started downloading whatever was happening in my world. I was only eight, but I started watching and listening and really coming aware. We're watching "Star Wars" and I was, like, in a galaxy far, far away, brother. So that's the way it was for me and I felt all this relief from it at such a young age. I remember just laughing and remembering how great it was not to be so tight-knit and bound up and just not scared. But I was aware and on edge. I didn’t know what the ramifications were of smoking flower. I didn’t know about legalities. But I can remember having it and doing it and getting in trouble. There were lots of lighters and just dumb shit. That’s how it all started for me. And thankfully it did because those older guys, just saw it in me, man. They saw I was wound up. I was like an explosion or atomic bomb waiting to explode. I was in a lot of pain from watching my dad suffer. You understand that what we're talking about here is medicine, and it's all about my dad's suffering. God, I’d have done anything in the world to not suffer and have a normal life. I don't know if there is such a thing. But if a marijuana flower can help anybody, truthfully, righteously, with the right packaging, without fear, and the right people explaining it in a way that they comprehend… Oh God, it drives me nuts, man.
Do you keep up with the medicinal properties of cannabis beyond anxiety and depression reduction?
That stuff is all incredible and people just don’t know the total value of the plant. There are medical benefits for the human race and animals, too. I have botanist friends – and they’re all hippies in one way or another, which is great – but they’re so informed. They told me that dogs get tumors and when their owners get scripts for CBD and other things, the tumors go away. No one can explain it. There’s so much benefit all the way around.
To connect the dots a little, you've always been an extremely creative person, whether it's in music, painting, or conceiving the artistic direction for Slipknot. Has cannabis been a conduit for you to connect with your creativity?
Another inflammatory Clown photograph.
Obviously, the answer is 190 percent affirmative. Now, I won't speak long on it. Let me just get into what I believe is sort of a heavy concept. What you're asking me is so deep. You have to start with who you're asking and what they’re involved in to bring it back around to what someone might use in order to be in that creative space. So now we're in a pretty serious world because now you can start talking about instruments, sounds, arrangements, and songs. Now, where I’m at with what you asked, I believe, is so down the rabbit hole of how I think. I can show you exercises that would amaze people, but that’s what I’ve learned works for me. It’s different for everybody. Some people need tea at a certain time of the day. Some people like to jog. You see those guys kayaking -- those crazy fuckers out there in the lake, going against the wind, boats just flying by them. And they just, rip, rip, rip. They ain't got time for a joint... or maybe they do. And we all know about meditating. One way or another, it's built into us and there's all kinds of ways to do it besides the brainwashed way. And that's what I'm getting at. Sure, there are plenty of ways for people to get into the zone, so to speak. For me and a lot of other people, flower is one of them, and it's a very powerful one.
Let's get more specific about Clown Cannabis. Your promotional material explains that you’ve got Blue Skittles and Paradise Citrus Bubble Hash wrapped into one. What does that mean?
Basically, I have a pre-roll of top buds made into resin. The resin is brought back and infused with the bud and put into the pre-roll. So it's heavy-duty, man, and that's all I’ve got for now – six pre-rolls. It’s a fun little introduction and it’s my way of saying hello. And it's doing very well.
How have you marketed it?
We did what we could during COVID. I'm an in-person kind of guy. And when we first dropped it, we had a lot of plans for in-person meetings but I don’t want to get anybody sick and I don’t want anybody to get me sick. No one wanted to get sick. So we just did our deal. But now I'm going to go elsewhere and everywhere. Like I said, I've been trying to do it for 10 years, so I'm not in a hurry. And as we go forward, I’m gonna have more. Right now, I'm really interested in liquid and very interested in the plant, itself. I don't really like what I see people doing for growing, I always wanted to grow, man. I want to wear a hat and I want to grow. I want to walk up and down, talk to plants, play them music. Play Mozart, play jazz; Miles Davis. Just go from Miles Davis to Ariana Grande and just have fun. I wanna play pop to jazz to classical to seventies rock, and then straight Zeppelin for a whole day and see how that inspires them.
It would be interesting to see if different plants reacted to different forms of music?
What the plant deserves is the best of everything. But I see the way the world’s got everything hooked up now. They have it to where the plant gets the right light, the right hours, the right sleep, the right water. Sometimes it's scary to me because they're almost robots or prisoners. It's really like "The Matrix." I want them to be a little more free. But basically, they are getting everything they need to be the best and they always know that their genetics are forever. I have friends that cry when they have to kill the crop because it's so spiritual to them. They shed a tear and they explain to the plants what they’re doing. They tell them that their genetics are gonna live forever.
That's beautiful. What avenues do you see Clown Cannabis taking in the future?
I think I want to bring it a little bit more home. And that could mean having an actual plant in a jar where I can say, “Look, this is something I parented from the seed up." I’m not saying it’s better than something else. But if you want to know what's good for Shawn Crahan, here it is. I finally took the time, found the female, found the male, did all the work for years, grew the stuff out, and did all the work with the right people. Here we are, it's a hybrid. It's a 70/30 or whatever it is. But does that make sense? I don't know. And that's why it moved slow, bro. There's a lot to think about and I'm not moving just to move. I'm not letting money motivate me because that's never been my thing artistically. I got a heavy responsibility for a younger generation, a Gen Z generation, just under me -- my generation -- and an older generation. And if I can help them all, that's what I want to do.
About the Writer
HiBnb "Read Hi" editor Jon Wiederhorn is a veteran author and journalist who specializes in the fields of music, entertainment, and recreational pharmaceuticals. His book credits include "Louder Than Hell: The Definitive Oral History of Metal," "Ministry: The Lost Gospels According to Al Jourgensen," "I'm the Man: The Story of That Guy From Anthrax" and "My Riot: Agnostic Front, Grit, Guts & Glory" Jon's work has been published in Rolling Stone, Entertainment Weekly, TV Guide, Guitar World, Revolver, and other publications. He also wrote and hosted the exclusive podcast Backstaged: The Devil in Metal.