In a city known for its vast cornfields and as The Hartford of the West, came nine men who with a vivid dream of making their musical aspirations a reality. Known to many as Des Moines Iowa, the nine members of Slipknot referred to their hometown as “Des Fucking Moines Iowa.” In the beginning Slipknot went though many changes in the line-up. Holding true to the bands roots though was one of the founding members of the band. A young rocker named Paul Dedrick Gray. He would lead the band to a future they never really imagined. In the early years of Slipknot every member would tell you that they never imagined becoming the huge rock icons they have become today. Each member in their own representing the band in their own unique way. Paul enjoyed taking the stage and speaking with his fans…their fans! This post is dedicated to the memory of Slipknot’s one and only bassist, (#2) Paul Dedrick Gray.
Paul was born in Los Angeles California on April 8 1972. He died May 24 2010 in Urbandale Iowa in a hotel room. In his 38 years old life he had been though just about everything you can imagine. No need to go into these things but in his mid-20s Paul and Slipknot began their trek across the world looking for just a piece of music history. Paul would recall the times they played local venues like Hairy Mary’s and there would be only a few people in attendance but they played anyways for the people that did show up. When they began touring with Ozzfest their chance to be noticed had finally come. They hit the Ozzfest with such force that they became one of the driving forces of the tour. On that stage in the beginning to the end was Paul.
We know him by many names. Pig mask, #2..etc are just a few. Slipknot at this time was chaotic and energetic but most of all, a mystery. No one knew the identity of these nine men. After each performance the members of the band would reach out to their fans. The suspense of not know who was who was exciting to the fans. Many times they stood next to a member and never knew it. Although members like Corey, Joey and Shawn were always out to greet fans, Paul would make his presence known. Speaking with fans and fulfilling their wishes. Signing autographs and taking pics with them covering his face. At this time Slipknot wanted to keep their identities hidden. Paul was easily noticed by his Tribal S tattoo. He became a fan favorite not only because of his friendly demeanor around fans but because he truly enjoyed speaking with them. Getting their input on their music was most important!
Paul enjoyed performing for his fans and for the love of his music. He loved his brothers passionately. He loved his fans with every beat of his heart. In Slipknot Paul hid behind a mask. A mask that personified who he was on the concert stage. In the public he would wear the mask when representing Slipknot but when he was out with his family and just being to himself he was just Paul. I can’t say there was never a time when he denied a fan an autograph or a photo op because there were those times. Among the madness of being a rockstar and getting the “job” done on time he had to follow along the itinerary. At times this meant cutting short meet and greets with fans. When Paul put on his mask he was a different person. He was #2 the pig mask. He was a bassist that went out every night on that stage and gave it everything he had. There was times he performed sick or even hurt but he still walked out on that stage because he had his pride and he knew the fans wanted their fill. It was this devotion that Paul felt not only to himself but to his fans. The Maggots!
Behind those masks was epic. Paul would tell you just how crazy it was. The blood, sweat, tears and the stench that came from those masks. It was horrid but day in and day out they still suited and masked up for another go with the craziest fuckers on the planet. Paul would tell you how the stench would send them into this state of euphoria. Along with the heat from wearing the coveralls and the constricting breathing from the mask, the band would find it hard to perform. No one knew what it was like to be in Slipknot but the nine themselves. Even though who toured with them could not comprehend the insanity they endured among each other. They would blast each song with so much intensity that they often found themselves fighting one another on stage and throwing shit at each other. The aggression of being in an insane band the stress of living together on one bus. It all came out on stage. This combined with their SiC demented minds at work. Each Slipknot show with the unique minds of each member brought a show worth seeing every time.
As each of us followed Slipknot from their early days to their mega ranks among the rock gods we followed their evolution from being totally hidden behing their masks to becoming a face known among the crowds. As the masks came off we began to learn more about the people that some of us looked at as our heros. Be it you are a vocalist, DJ, guitarist, bassist….or whatever, we saw the nine for who they are as human beings rather than some alive crash test dummy that demolished the stage. As Paul unmasked he became one of the more common known members of the band. As many look up to the frontman or the guitarists and drummers of a band, Paul as a bassist was different. He was a founding member. He was that guy that you could walk up to and just have a conversation with about anything and he enjoyed the company. As many would approach him and say just how much they loved the band and his bass work, others would approach him differently. More times than he could count he had been approached by fans that had so many problems at home and with life in general. Many of those fans looking to end their lives because of their problems. Overcome with emotions and from the joy of meeting someone that changed their lives they would tell Paul just how much their music had helped them recover and kept them from doing anything tragic to themselves. If you have never had anyone tell you that you saved their lives because of the art that you created then you can’t understand how Paul felt everytime he heard this. It was the most powerful thing he had ever done for anyone. It made him stop and think and realize that even with so many people that hated their music and what they stood for, there was those that benefited from the art he loved creating and performing. To save a life is a powerful feeling. It cant be described.
Many times fans would be disappointed because they wanted to meet Paul with the mask on. Other fans didnt really care if they ever met the band and knew their personalities or not. Behind Paul’s mask was everything that he lived. As much as we all loved him for the human being he was and the musician he became to be, he had his own demons. The mask was his own personal isolation. Although Paul could spend hours on the stage totally destroying the fans with his presence he still had things that haunted him. Most common that we know of was his drug use. Fans know of his incident where he was arrested for possession of paraphernalia. He ended up being sentenced to one year probation. As humans we all make mistakes in our lives. Paul no doubt made his own.
In the end he paid the ultimate price with his drug use. That does not take away from the legacy he leaves behind. As we all do things we later may regret we have to pay the consequences no matter what they may be. For Paul, it cost him his life and his daughter. Paul died at 38 years old. He never got to see his daughter October Dedrick Gray. As tragic as that is he did get to enjoy the love and passion of knowing that he was bringing a beautiful child into this world. October may not have her father in physical presence but he has become her guardian angel that will care for her and look after her for the rest of her life. Paul loved his daughter without ever seeing her. He was so happy to become a father. He had so much to live for. He had his music career, his fans, his brothers, his family and most of all his wife and daughter.
Many today call Paul Gray one of the greatest bassist to ever live. A common thing said about a person after they have passed on. Paul was indeed a great bassist but he would tell you he wasn’t the greatest. He just loved what he did and he loved spicing up his playing. His live performances were a bit different than his recorded performances. During the recording of an album everything must come together perfect. Everything must fit together like a puzzle. On stage there was more room for play where the band could improvise their parts to their mood and tastes for that day. Thats what makes each musician their own. Thats what made Paul a unique bassist. Apart from his improvised parts he also used a left-handed bass. Something not done by many. He would play with or without a pick and utilized the finger-picking style often. His bass sound was heavy with a very low end.
When Paul died the world of heavy metal was silenced. As Slipknot was on their break from touring and writing because of other members commitments to other projects, Paul continued to work. His mind never fell short of ideas. He never gave up a moment to pick up his bass and work on something that came to mind. The day he died his fans felt something they never ever imagined feeling. Slipknot seemed to be a band that would never die as with their members. News broke out quickly of Paul’s death. We all can remember that moment we heard and what we had been doing at that very moment. We begin to remember all those great times we had listening to the music, meeting the band and for those of us lucky to be blessed with his presence we remembered the good times.
Masked as #2 Paul still went on to perform. Even with things that bothered him and the isolation he felt having to deal with his problems he still put everything he had into his performances and the fans gave that energy right back to them. He fed off that energy and it fueled his desire to be the best bassist he could be. One can only imagine what Paul was feeling in that hotel room # 431. Was he happy? Was he sad? Was he confused? I spoke to Paul days before and he was happy. I told him about my other job interest with another band and he couldn’t have been more happy for me. On the phone I sensed something wrong with him. Something seemed like it wasnt right. As much as he loved to perform and meet his fans he was falling back into his own Masked Isolation. His inner demons began to haunt him and overcome him. We can be angry at him for doing the drugs again but we have to forgive him for his faults and love him for what he left us. Paul was not just some guy that played bass. He was legendary in his own way. Maybe the music socialites wont ever notice what he meant to us all but those of us that loved him and followed him along his road to success, we know what he meant to us all and to the music industry.
Friends of many bands dedicated their shows to Paul. Their own way of being able to pay their respects to him. They shared the love for music that he had. Not one of us know what Paul was feeling in that hotel room. As much as we want answers we will never get them. Paul isolated himself from life. He knew what he had but something was bothering him. Something was on his mind. Was it the stress from becoming a new father? Was it his life at home with his wife? Those questions dont need to be answered. They are not our business.
In many ways I could relate to Paul and that feeling of isolation. As a rockstar Paul was noticed in many places. He couldn’t live a normal life anymore without being noticed along the way somewhere. Restaurants, hotels, bars, airports, even on the streets. That alone can be enough to make someone feel isolated. Like their life and privacy has been compromised. He dealt with that the best he could. For me, it was being noticed by people. Im not a rockstar. The stress of work, being away from home and not having a social life was hard for me. Still is. That alone is isolation. It makes you feel like your options are limited. Could Paul have felt like his options were limited? Maybe he felt as if though he had no where to turn. In life the people we love the most we dont always confide in for help. We begin to think that we will bother someone with our problems when they probably have their own. We dont want that burden.
I wish I could have known what Paul felt in that hotel room. I would have taken it all up for him. I would have given my life for that guy. I loved him like a brother. Maybe I never knew him well enough but we shared a passion for something that touched our hearts the same. That alone makes two people have a bond. I wish I could have known his pain, sorrow or whatever he felt. When Paul died I felt like shit. I felt like part of me died. I wanted to eat up that pain and if I could have told God to take me instead I would have. He had so much to live for. He had Slipknot, his brothers, his friends, his family and his wife and daughter. At the time he died I felt like I had nothing. I felt like shit. I felt as though I didnt deserve to be alive while someone so beautiful was taken from us. Paul made a difference in the world. He touched the lives of so many people/Maggots. People loved Paul. I stand corrected, as people still love Paul and will never forget the music he touched our lives with. As an older man at 34, many bands have touched my life like Metallica, Rush, Van Halen…Slipknot and Paul have reached that plateau with me. Their music has become part of the soundtrack to my life.
As we mourn the loss of our friend, family member and hero we remember the times that mattered to us. Maybe it was that look Paul gave you at a show or the handshake and hug you got from him at a meet and greet. Maybe it was that quick moment he spent signing something for you and taking a pic with you that you would always remember. For me, I had numerous pics with Paul. I cherished those pics as I have all others ive taken with rockstars. Sadly, when a hard drive totally died I lost everything including those pics. I was devastated when Paul died that I lost those pics. As much as I wand to share those frozen moments in time with you all I can’t. I can remember those times vividly and I cherish them with everything I have. I can share the great times with you all. Those are meaningless to others but for me they mean the world. Im sure all of you that were touched by Paul have your own memories of him. Remember them. Cherish them. Those memories will never die. They will live on through us for the rest of our lives. We will take those memories with us to our own graves and to eternity. Paul is gone but not forgotten by us all.
As time has gone on many fans have felt huge disappointment with Paul’s death. Many are just cold-hearted fuckers that dont realize that a decision to move on in any capacity is hard to make. Paul can never be replaced. There was only one Paul Gray. #2 lives on though every Maggot. When Paul died many fans became upset because nothing seemed to have been done in his honor. In defense of the family and the bands privacy to mourn on their own I respect that. For the fans though, they feel a void has been left in their hearts. A man they have cherished for over ten years is suddenly taken from us and nothing seems to have been done for his memory. Fans have posted on many blogs including my own on their feelings towards the band and the family that nothing formally has been done to honor the life and music of Paul Gray. As I stated earlier I can respect the privacy of the family and the remaining eight members but from a fans perspective they feel as though he has been forgotten. Nothing has been done to remember him. Many fans wanted a memorial service in which they would be able to honor his life together as a whole. Nothing. Instead fans around the world were left to mourn in their own way. When Dimebag Darrell was murdered a memorial was made for the public to attend where not only fans but other rockstars could remember their friend and pay their respects. Same was done with Michael Jackson. Many fans have felt that something of this magnitude should have been done for them.
In Paul’s death there is a silence. There is that very same isolation he felt. His family kept his memorial services private. That is expected. The family has also chosen to keep his final resting place location a secret. Although, its publicly known where Paul is buried, many fans feel as though they should be allowed to know where he is buried so they can pay their own respects one day. I can totally understand that. At the same time I have mixed emotions about it as well. Where there are fans that merely want to pay their respects to him there are those that dont give a shit. Many would destroy it and others that have managed to find him have even stolen from his grave. This my friends is why the family wants to keep his location a secret. If you think going to a man’s grave and stealing from it is ok and that you are taking a piece of him with you then you are fucking wrong. If I caught any of you doing this i’d fuck you up. It’s disrespectful and just wrong to steal from him and his family. Going back to that isolation, his family now feels this. Now his family and his friends feel that they must isolate him from the world that although loves him also seems to think that its ok to dishonor his memory. Its a shame that a few people can fuck up something for so many other people.
I wish that one day the band and the family will find it in their hearts to do something for Paul where fans around the world can learn more about the man behind the mask. Let that isolation from within that mask go and show the world who Paul Gray was. We just got a taste of his life and his love but those that knew him got so much more. In a way I find it selfish that they would want to keep his memory so private. When Paul inked his name on that Roadrunner Records contract he was signing his life away to the world. His life was not his own anymore. He was a public figure that would one day become and iconic figure. Paul was loved by millions of people that adored him and his presence on the concert stage. We as friends and fans don’t ask the family and the band for his entire life but just for a look into what he loved about music. Its been heard in interviews what he has done and how he has felt about his career and his fans but I think its time that his brothers in Slipknot and his family let that isolation go and let his fans know about who he was in their eyes. We know what Paul meant to us all. We know what Paul felt about his music and his fans and although we heard the press conference in which a few people spoke of what he meant to them, many believe that those willing to tell their stories and share their love of Paul with the world tell his story through their own words.
In recent months, Slipknot released a new DVD highlighting one of the final shows Paul did with the band. This DVD compilation was dedicated to the memory of their brother Paul. A beautiful way to immortalize their brother. As i write this I believe that the band and family are definitely due their privacy and their feelings to forever be theirs, but I think fans are seeking something that will help them come to terms with the loss of him. Maybe we never will hear what his family and his brothers passionately feel about him but thats ok. Its their right to lock those memories forever and to only share with one another. I think many fans just want to remember Paul by seeing how others feel about him. I think many fans would like to one day in the future see a DVD about the life of Paul Gray and what he has meant to other musicians. Surely Paul Gray inspired many people including other signed artists.
Maybe one day something will be done to honor a man who truly loved his work and his fans. For now fans may feel his memory has been masked behind isolation that no one wants others to know about. Paul would want Slipknot to go on. He could never be replaced. He will be there in spirit every time they take the stage. If the band decides to just do shows or if they decide to make another album, it is their decision to do so. We can agree with that or not but its their decision to make not ours. We can support them or not. Slipknot has agreed to do some shows in 2011. If you are attending those shows I ask you to do something. Close your eyes for a brief moment and think about Paul. He will be there. He will feel your love and he will be up there jammin with the guys. You will be able to feel his life, his spirit, his music resonating through those speakers and into your hearts. You feel a shiver. That shiver is a little piece of Paul Gray entering you and forever will be with you. Open your eyes and what do you see, you see the beautiful creation that Paul Gray helped create, maintain and breath life even after his death!
** My thoughts**
I miss you Paul. With every ounce of life I have left inside me you are never forgotten. Man I remember the first time I met you. I remember the laughs. For years my favorite song has always been Surfacing but when you died nothing hit me more than Snuff. Not for the lyrics but for the music. The key, the mood and the feelings that it gives me. It allows me to remember everything about you that was great. I wish to fucking god that I could wish you back into this world and ask him to take me instead but thats not possible. I wish you could see your daughter and hold her but in your own ways in spirit you already have. To the Gray family and the remaining eight of Slipknot, Paul will never be forgotten. His memory lives on. That will never die. As you feel your own sorrow for his loss please understand the loss the world is feeling. You lost a loved one and the Maggots/fans have lost a hero, an idol a person that they looked up to. For his own faults in life that are looked upon by the press and others as negative, his spirit and his will to please his fans has touched so many. What Paul has done to help others lives and to save others from meeting their own demise by far over powers the negative things he did in his life. Paul Gray lives on for the legacy he left behind for his family, friends and the future musicians with whom the lives he has touched.
With much love and respect to the Gray Family, Slipknot and the legion of Maggots out there around the world…..