Chad Calek likes Slipknot’s music — honest, he does.
But you might not know it from watching his latest film, “A Clown Short of Destiny.” Calek’s documentary follows the controversial rise of Slipknot from the cornfields of Des Moines, Iowa, to the horn-throwin’ crowds of Ozzfest. But it also chronicles the ’Knot’s strange attempts to disgrace their hometown hard-rock scene and the effect that had on dozens of local bands.
“The story isn’t about Slipknot’s music,” Calek explained. “I love it. I think they’re one of the greatest metal-rock bands that ever lived. I own all of their records. And when Slipknot exploded, they didn’t owe anybody anything. … But there’s a difference between not supporting [a music scene] and trying to destroy [one]. That’s the line you see them cross in this film.”
According to Calek, that’s not his opinion but rather the attitude of the community interviewed in the documentary, who’ve been crying foul over Slipknot’s blatant disassociation with Des Moines ever since the masked metallers signed with New York’s Roadrunner Records.
“A Clown Short of Destiny” wasn’t conceived as a Slipknot movie, Calek said. When the band formed 10 years ago, Calek was in his own Des Moines group, 35 Inch Mudder. Both acts came up at around the same time, becoming the city’s two biggest draws. They were also friends. The director, who has shot music videos for bands like Bleeding Through and manages acts like Index Case, started shooting the film so he could document his own band’s evolution.
“We were like a heavy, screamo, rap-metal thing,” Calek said. “We thought it would be funny to document a band like this in the middle of nowhere. We were literally just filming live shows and other bands in the scene. Slipknot was one of them.”
At around the same time, the music industry started looking for the next Seattle — and many believed Des Moines, with some 50 emerging hard-rock bands, might be the next money-making metropolis. Calek recalls American Records executive George Drakoulias as having once said the only thing “stopping Des Moines from becoming the next Seattle is direct flights.”
Calek claims Des Moines’ promise — and several other factors detailed in the film — bred fierce competition between Mudder and Slipknot, as both bands were showcasing for A&R dudes who “came crawling over the cornfields,” looking to snatch up fresh acts. Slipknot, of course, were eventually signed; 35 Inch Mudder came close, “but in the end, we really f—ing blew it. It was right in front of us, ours for the taking, and we screwed it up” Calek said.
According to Calek, before Slipknot signed to Roadrunner, Shawn Crahan — better known to legions of maggots as Clown — lauded the city’s music scene, “proclaiming it was so hot, it would put everybody on the map.” But after ’Knot signed, “his first comment’s, ’There’s no bands there, there’s no scene — just us.’ They were just bashing [other bands] to death.”
In “A Clown Short of Destiny,” Calek provides transcripts from interviews to back up the suggestion that Slipknot turned their backs on Des Moines and worked to cripple the city’s metal scene. He even points to lyrics from a song that appeared on an import version of the band’s 1999 self-titled album, in which frontman Corey Taylor repeatedly screams, “Local bands, suck my di–.”
“You get to see the evolution of this scene,” Calek explained. “Every person I talked to was so hurt. And you ask, ’What’s a dream?’ Well, in the middle of nowhere, that’s all you have, your dreams and your band. … When Slipknot made it, it gave a lot of people hope. No one ever thought they’d do what they did.”
While Slipknot are a key component to the film, Calek said its true focus is former Mudder singer Cory “C-Bone” Brown. “He was a good-looking kid, an incredible entertainer,” he said. “By the end of [the film], we cut to this guy who’s bitter about Slipknot, the record industry, and he takes 20 pills a day to survive ’cause of a liver condition. His eyes are sunken to the back of his head. He’s gained 40 pounds. He’s drinking. He doesn’t look like same person. And he says, ’If you’re going to get into this game, you’re not going to make it — you’ve got to know that.’ And that’s the real story.
“This film shows people what it means to dump your heart, your life and your soul into music, and that … fairness is a myth. It’s not as much a bash on Slipknot as it’s a celebration of the talent of Des Moines and what occurred there. The scene has never recovered.”
Calek says he’s tried contacting Slipknot about “A Clown Short of Destiny” but hasn’t heard back. (A Roadrunner Records spokesperson told MTV News the label had no comment on the film.) He says he’s sure the band will oppose the film but added that he has “the right to tell the truth,” even if that means getting sued.
“A Clown Short of Destiny,” which runs close to two hours long, is making the film-festival rounds. In mid-January it was honored as one of the best music documentaries at the Park City Film Music Festival. The film screens next in Los Angeles at the New York International Independent Film and Video Festival on March 11, and Calek is also bringing it to South by Southwest and hopefully to next year’s Sundance Festival. Calek also said several companies have expressed interest in releasing the film theatrically, with others vying for the DVD rights.
“I don’t want Slipknot fans to not like Slipknot,” Calek said. “They’re a great band. I hope people realize and get to see that this whole ’F— everyone around me’ attitude is great for game shows and Hollywood adventure movies, but lives were destroyed by this attitude. I don’t want this near-miracle to be forgotten, and to never be a moment in time. In the middle of nowhere, in the most unlikely of places, something great happened, and the world should know about it.”
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