Paul Gray, one of the founding members of Slipknot, died yesterday. The bassist, also known by his nickname of ‘Pig’ and his band-number #2, was found dead in an Iowa hotel on the morning of May 24, 2010. At present, no information has been released, nor any rumours confirmed or denied regarding the circumstances of the musician’s passing.
Gray might not have been one of the more prominent members of Slipknot – he didn’t participate in high-profile side-projects during Slipknot’s downtime (and no, Hail! doesn’t count), and promotional duties for the band usually fell on the shoulders of Corey Taylor, Joey Jordison and Shawn Crahan. In a band of larger than life characters, Gray was often unfairly seen as a background player. The sad truth is that it’s for these reasons that it’s only now, in the wake of his tragically early death at the age of 38, that so many of the band’s fans are seeing Gray’s real face for the first time.
It would be easy – and trite – to gloss over Gray’s death in the wake of Pete Steele and Ronnie James Dio. People will shrug and mouth ill-educated garbage such as “he was just the bass player”, when the truth of the matter is that a musician’s role in internal band dynamics will always remain a secret to all but the band themselves. Slipknot were – indeed still are – one of the most important metal bands to emerge in the last decade. Love them or hate them, they were a game-changer. Not only did Slipknot’s rise to prominence mark the first death knell of nu-metal (a genre that to many the band would be considered a poster-child of), but they acted as a bridge between nu-metal and the heavier, more underground metal that many of their fans would emigrate to. As one of the three remaining founder members of Slipknot, Gray was arguably a lynchpin in one of the defining metal acts of recent times.
Watch an interview with Paul Grey from 2004
During the promo run for Slipknot’s debut album, back before the millennium when they were young and – believe it or not – their success had not yet been assured, Slipknot used to joke that because of their masks, they would easily be able to replace band members should it be required, and no-one would ever be any the wiser. In the light of the death of one of their members who was perhaps the least well-known among fans casts those old quips in a bleak new light. The Slipknot of 1999 is not the Slipknot of 2010, and whether the band will want to – or indeed will even be capable of – carrying on in the wake of this tragedy remains to be seen.
Almost all of us here at Thrash Hits came of age alongside Slipknot’s ascendancy. From that first chaotic London show at the Astoria in 1999, or that time in Portsmouth on their first ever UK tour where the fans were so hyped they pulled all the seats off the balcony and threw them into the crowd, to that first time they made us jump the fuck up at Reading Festival, and all the dozens of other shows we’ve all seen them at right up to last year’s triumphant headlining spot at Download Festival, Slipknot have been a constant in the adult lives of us all. After yesterday, Slipknot will never be the same again – and as far as we know right now, we might never see them play live again – so let’s make sure we continue to treasure those memories.
Paul Gray, we’ll miss you. Rest In Peace – Thrash Hits