While some Slipknot members were busy with side projects Stone Sour and the Murderdolls, Shawn Crahan wasn't exactly clowning around.
The mask has come off of the Slipknot percussionist to reveal To My Surprise, a trio he formed with some friends that projects a side of the man most have only seen as a frightening figure that wreaks havoc onstage.
"Basically, I've been keeping in touch with the music side of myself," Crahan said. "The time off made me find my voice ... and I've been hurting for a long time for a musical voice for myself."
What that voice sounds like, however, Crahan is keeping under wraps. His obsession over the last year is worlds away from Slipknot drummer Joey Jordison's Murderdolls and singer Corey Taylor and guitarist Jim Root's Stone Sour.
"It's a movement towards understanding myself and who I am," he said. "I'm in a serious place in my life, and things have changed. I've changed."
Crahan, singer Brandon Darner and guitarist/bassist Steven Robinson began working on To My Surprise's as-yet-untitled album last June. Two roughly recorded songs Crahan and Darner wrote were sent to Rick Rubin more for the producer's blessing than to solicit his services. Rubin liked what he heard and invited the trio to record in Los Angeles' Cello studios. The 11-track result is slated for an October release.
To My Surprise will likely drop a single and launch a tour to coincide with the album's release, but whatever industry trappings they encounter will be met on their own terms.
"We're going down the route, but I'm not going through the usual gauntlet," Crahan said. "I'm not interested in the normal industry standards. I'm not going into this project with that sort of mentality. You're not going to see us on the road for 18 months just because that's what you're supposed to do. It doesn't interest me anymore."
Although he didn't make any pronouncements about the future of Slipknot, which will never release another album if rumors are to believed, it doesn't look too bright from everything Crahan has said about needing a change and being in a different place.
"Personally, I haven't seen anybody in a long time," he said of the eight others who comprise Slipknot. He claims to have kept in touch with the guys, but if that's true, it doesn't appear that they're too anxious to follow up 2001's Iowa.
"They're my brothers; I love each and every one of them," he said. "I don't know what else to say. I just know what's going on on this side. I'm working every day and refining my art."