Remembering Paul Gray: One Year Later
I can remember nearly a year ago today as I write this and one year to date when I publish this that our Slipknot brother Paul Dedrick Gray was found dead in Urbandale Iowa. As we go about our day full of work, errands and various odd things to do, we sometimes forget the small things in life. Just about everywhere we go we listen to music in some capacity. Be it on the radio, a CD, watching your favorite bands DVD or even just humming the song in your head while you perform your daily tasks. For me it was Rush. Ive stated over the years that many different bands including Slipknot have been part of a huge soundtrack to my life. Even though Rush was playing in my vehicle that day, there is always the reminders of Slipknot in my mind. The All Access laminates, seeing a Maggot with a t-shirt on, a Tribal S tattoo. During this period my musical tastes once again had changed as it does normally. Its my way of studying and learning different techniques of those greats. For me though, Slipknot is with me daily. My Tribal S tattoo, the 9-ball signifying the official number nine and my Japanese Kanji one bearing the name of the band. Still to this day sporting these inked wonders for the public to see. So with that said, I come to the real reason I am writing this. If you have any interest in Paul Gray and my thoughts on him and the band then I ask you to please read on. If not, thank your for even reading this far! …….
In the beginning of Slipknot I never really spent much time talking to Paul. Maybe it was because I never considered myself a bass player. Maybe it was because I felt outside of my circle. Here was this tall shaved headed guy as nice as you could imagine and I gave him the cold shoulder. Even a few times when we locked eyes and I made it appear as I wanted to talk to him but felt too shy……. I didn’t. Then one day on the Viva La Loco Tour with Coal Chamber I was smoking a joint with Dez Fafara, singer for Coal Chamber, my friend Recio and Paul came over asking for a drag. No one knew him. The fans were clueless that their favorite bands bassist was merely a few feet away standing on the side of the stage in plain view. Most of the venues we played back then were small quite old buildings. Run down pieces of shit that could have allowed anyone to do something has horrible as happened to Dimebag Darrell. Although, I had by this time spoken to Paul and shared some laughs, this weed smoking “puff puff give” moment was a defining moment for me. After that, things changed. I was no longer afraid to talk to him. So you ask why was it so much different to talk to him than Joey, Corey or James? Well, being that Paul was the head honcho! The co-founding member of this band that had caught my attention. He to me was larger than life. For me, meeting Paul was quite similar in effect to how I felt the first time I met Ozzy Osbourne. Yeah yeah, people say Paul and Slipknot are a shit band with no talent. They in many ways created a new theme to shock rock. It was about a circus show. Masks, suits, heavy gear, kegs, steel pipes and fire on stage. In many ways I feel ashamed that I felt this way.
Paul was always one of the guys after shows and even before hanging around the crowds when given the opportunity. He felt one of the most important factors to his success as a musician was not about how many chicks he could fuck or how many autographs he could sign; it was about making that connection with the fans. It was something that almost everyone in the band came to enjoy. Back at this time it was easier to interact with fans. Fame was not such a huge factor. It was about rising as far as they could with what they had to work with. Paul daily was out there making music, performing what he loved and meeting with the people that made it all possible. As the years went by, record after record and break after break it was harder to make contact with the band. This was a defining moment for them. Yet Paul still made his rounds. Meeting with fans, taking those pics and signing autographs and even pausing for a few moments to hear a life changing story from someone he hardly knew. Many of these fans were commenting on their love for the music or his bass playing. He would nod and smile back with a handshake or a hug and thank the fans. Then there were the fans that would break out in tears. Not for meeting someone they admired but because they wanted to share their story of life, survival and healing. “You saved my life. I wanted to kill myself until I heard this song. My brother died and loved you guys. Ive been depressed for so long and your music just gave me the power to change my life…..” So many to mention. All life changing in their own ways. Every time I heard these and looked at Paul he would chuckle and shed some tears. Its an emotional feeling you just can’t describe. Unless you save lives for a living its hard to really grasp the idea of that. Paul at first thought, how could me playing a bass really change someone’s life? Yet it did and he quickly began to understand how that could happen. He looked back to his favorite bands and how a particular song was his solace from life.
Paul was the spirit of the band. Technically he still is just not physically. With nine people on a bus it was hard to manage living with people so much different than each other. He joined in on the partying, the smoking, the drinking, the women and everything else that come with being a star. He was even caught dead in the middle of arguments he had nothing to do with at all. Yet he found ways to get everyone back in a good mood. Paul was in many ways like myself. Caring, funny, shy at times and talented. In his career he did let his fame get to his head. The money was coming in so fast he didn’t know what to do with it. In the bands down time he turned back to drugs as his release from everything. As many who do drugs will always do without any proper help. He became the subject of talk when he got in an accident with a lady and her child. He was arrested for possession of drug paraphernalia. It happens. Of course this is in no way a good thing nor do I condone his use of drugs or anyone’s. Although he made it through this terrible time and back to the stage, the drugs continued to haunt him. Similarly as with my own situation where I allowed a past relationship to haunt me. We both did things and tried hard to overcome those demons but just never could. Always seeking the right advice. The smallest thing that could just magically change our lives forever. Just when he thought he found it, he allowed himself to fall back into the hands of the devil. Slipknot was his accomplishment. It was that band that he helped keep together for a ten year anniversary. When everyone doubted Slipknot would last two album cycles they lasted ten years. When other bands became just one hit wonders they survived. That just sweetened the pot. Already he was part of this machine that was nominated for many Grammys and eventually won one. In America, winning a Grammy is the best accomplishment industry wise one can achieve. Many artists today have survived years without ever winning one.
For Paul, Slipknot was his life. Everyone associated with them was his extended family. This included the fans. I can remember the days they had just a handful of people following them up to the days where they graduated to stadiums and arenas. One can be huge in America but never anywhere else but Slipknot was worldwide. It was a monster. Slipknot spread like a plague across the world. Paul could always remember playing in these smaller intimate clubs but on their first trip to Europe it was chaos.
The sickness grew so fast it was an epidemic. Going from an attendance of 1,000 to 50,000 plus was mind blowing for Paul. Once again one of those defining moments where you just stop and take it all in and realize this is really happening. Paul would state he never imagined Slipknot blowing up as huge as they did. He figured they would be that band that came out with a few hit songs and later ended up back home in Des Moines trying to figure out what happened to them. Instead they achieved fame. With the help of his eight brothers they turned something they loved into a source of income.
In the fall of 2009, Slipknot toured one last leg of festivals in Europe. Gods of Metal, Rock IM, Rock AM Ring, Download…etc. Sharing the stage with some of the guys even they admired as they grew up. Iron Maiden, Metallica, KISS…etc…Once again, another defining moment in their career and another one for the books. The basis for Slipknot’s latest DVD release is a performance at the yearly UK Download Festival. One of Paul’s final performances with the band. Paul seemed to have his life in order. He married and later found out he would be a proud father. After this tour ended with shows in Europe and the USA, Slipknot went on to take their usual break as Corey and James would be preparing for their Stone Sour project. Paul spent time at home with his wife and working on various projects with other musicians. His mind was always at work. Constantly writing and coming up with ideas. By May of 2010 Paul didn’t have work to worry about. It was the bands time off. His only real concern was becoming a father. Yet he never stopped ticking and once again the habits that haunted him for years took over. On May 24, 2010 Paul Gray was found dead in his hotel room by a housekeeper for the hotel. He was found with drugs, paraphernalia, his bags and his bass. His autopsy declared the drugs had killed him. Always looking back and thinking that nothing will ever happen to them because they have done it so many times before. His death shocked his fans. His bandmates in disbelief. I was notified of his death by text. Same way I was notified about Dimebag Darrell’s death. Wanting to believe that this was just another hoax concocted by some fucked up hater, it was true. Can’t say I shed any tears at that moment. Was too shocked. I turned to alcohol as my healer. I mentioned earlier that we both had our own demons we had to fight. Although I had many as he did as well, I managed to fight off the depression I had for that past relationship. New hobbies and new friends made that possible. Not to mention new love. Paul never did find that healing. Although he was loved by so many, he felt helpless. So helpless he turned to drugs. His wife was not much help. She more than likely had to know he was on drugs. She could have done something…said something….Maybe she did and maybe she didn’t. Either way, Paul felt too comfortable with those drugs. Once again feeling invincible as if nothing would ever happen to him. Status, fame, wealth has no bearing on our lives. No matter how much we have or how little our lives can turn to shit and we can die in the blink of an eye. I imagined Paul sitting in that room writing on his bass. He got stoked about some new material he really dug and while already under the influence of that drug, he happily took more. It was like a reward. I might be wrong but that’s just what I had dreamed the night after. Its like I was looking at a camera of him sitting there.
Paul died before he reached his 40s. He married the woman he loved and he brought a beautiful daughter into this world. Her name is October Dedrick Gray. Sadly he will never get to see the most beautiful creation he ever made on this Earth. He wont be able to see her grow up and help her through life as a father should always do with their daughters. During Paul’s life he experienced so much. So much that he lived the dream. He toured the world and won over the hearts of millions worldwide. He changed lives, saved lives and brought one into this world. He leaves behind memories of his career and his personal life. He leaves behind the fans with whom each has their own unique memories of him. Paul Gray did things to himself that we don’t all agree with as do many other stars but he also did so many positive things. He made his mark in this world to forever hold his tiny place in music history. He helped pave the way for his fellow brothers and their own musical careers so that even when Slipknot officially retires their masks forever they can move on and remember those days and accomplishments. For me, music, awards, fans…its all shit compared to the daughter he leaves behind but with the career he held she will always know that her daddy was loved by so many people young and old. She will be able to look back at his photos as Paul Gray the man he was off the stage and see his face, his smile and hear his voice. She will be able to see him in action as #2 of Slipknot. Even if she never comes to like his music she can still love her father for what he became…….a legendary musician who helped pave the way for a new era of metal music. She will hear and read of those who were inspired to follow in their own dreams because of him.
Its been one year now since his death and can’t say that it is any easier to handle. Every moment that I can think of pops in my head. That joke, that first handshake, that time he put the pig mask on my face and told me to tease the crowd in S.A. I saw a taste of that fame through his eyes. Standing next to him and even wearing that mask as dirty and stinky as it was and seeing 3,000 people throw their fucking middle fingers in the fucking air was an honor indeed. I cherish those moments and will continue to do so. Paul allowed me to get that glimpse of what it was like to feel loved by so many. A feeling I would never feel for myself. Im not rockstar and never will be but for those moments in time I can think back as if it was yesterday and imagine how awesome it was. I never could get over my shyness of playing in front of people let alone stars and huge crowds. For Paul, he did and he made every moment worth everything he could. No matter how close anyone was to him, it was just his time to go. He made his mark on the world and the good man upstairs called upon him. It’s the cycle of life we all live and must face. Yet that doesn’t give us the right to fuck our lives up by killing ourselves and poisoning our minds and bodies with trash like drugs.
Im not one to preach to anyone about things although I do do it sometimes but in honor of Paul Gray’s memory I want to take this time to reach out to you all about drugs. I have tried drugs before. I smoked weed in my 20s. I tried cocaine but I never shot up anything. At 35 years old I do not use any drugs nor have I recently stopped doing any. Besides the occasional cigar or beer, I am drug free. If you are abusing any illegal narcotics and/or alcohol or know someone that is, please get them help. They will tell you shit. They will cuss at you and call you names and tell you to fuck off but fuck man you have to be tough. You have to get raw with them. You have to explain to them that they are ruining their lives. Sure those drugs might make one feel great but if they are constantly abusing them to the point that they go through with drawl and are wasting their money then that’s a sure sign they need help and fast. Don’t wait forever hoping that someone else will do it because that day you decide to finally do something might be too late. Its one thing to bury someone when they die of natural causes but to bury someone that allows themselves and others to slowly poison themselves its unacceptable. We as humans are always giving our advice to others. I know I do but we never seem to take our own advice. Paul was an example. He would give you advice or that pick me up you needed yet he never allowed himself to find solace in his own life and love himself. Those around him that knew of his habits that never said anything im sure look back and think…..”what if…” It’s a powerful statement. “What if I had helped him? What if I had kicked their ass and made them get help?” We as humans always think of our emotional state and that of others. We never want to disappoint or hurt others so we keep our feelings locked up inside. Then one day it’s too late and we let all that out. Rather than be that “what if” be that “I did.” Help those that need it. Reach out to the ones you love that need help. Sure I am annoying, I hate Apple and ive had bad experiences with women but when I really want to say something that makes sense I do it. If anyone thinks what I have said in this post is full of shit then I think you should really re-think your morals. Everything I have said here comes from the heart. Nothing here is meant to be funny or stupid. This is a serious post for me and an emotional one. This post is about Paul’s death one year later but is also about looking at the events that lead to his death and helping those that need it. Be the voice of reason. Don’t let someone you love end up losing their life as Paul did over drugs. Drugs are shit and I refuse to poison my body with them. As a tribute to Paul if you are a fan, help someone or just get the good word out there about the horrible effects on drugs and how they kill. Paul’s memory lives on in each of you that is a fan. You all made his life worth living and although some of you may feel betrayed by his drug abuse, remember that he also accomplished so much. Remember the music that still resonates through your speakers and in your hearts. No one can take that from you ever. Paul Dedrick Gray lives on even after death and his millions of fans are why…..
Thanx to you all & Special Thanx to you Maggots/Fans…..