Do you remember that really badass guy in high school? The one with the muscle car and the first tattoo you ever saw in the flesh? And when your dad said, "Hey, cool. I used to have a '66 Dodge HEMI Coronet just like that," do you remember how much less badass that guy seemed? Such is the dilemma faced by Slipknot, DMX, Marilyn Manson, and a host of other artists who, despite their best efforts to remain dangerous, have been embraced by Grammy voters. So what happens when those artists who pride themselves on living on the fringe find themselves honored by a group usually associated with the middle of the road? Probably not what you'd think.
"We're extremely honored, man," said Slipknot percussionist Shawn Crahan, whose band is up for Best Metal Performance an honor that went to Jethro Tull in 1988 in a misstep that Club Grammy has yet to live down, despite handing the award to Tool, Rage Against the Machine, Soundgarden, Nine Inch Nails, and Metallica (four times) since then.
Slipknot are just one (well, technically nine) of the unlikely nominees tapped by Grammy voters this year. Those who named LeAnn Rimes Best New Artist in 1996 are this year considering Papa Roach for that award; DMX finds himself vying for the same hip-hop honors usually bestowed on primetime-ready popsters such as Will Smith. Such un-buttoned-down types as Snoop Dogg, Redman, Limp Bizkit, Mystikal and Kid Rock have also been invited to the party, whose guest list is usually reserved for the Celines of the world.
While some might worry about what the Grammy seal of approval will mean for their rep, Slipknot are worrying about what their presence in the Grammy pool will mean for the music industry.
"I hope they're prepared for what they've done, and I think they are," Crahan said, "Of course it's an honor, because we're people like everybody else. But it's an honor that people are paying attention, and that makes me feel positive about the record industry, about MTV, about the radio, about everyone who has a say about who's hot and who's not." Crahan is optimistic that his band's first-ever nomination could inject new life into not just the Grammy Awards, but into the entire music industry.
"There's a chance here that we can get our s--- together ... that the industry and MTV and radio and the bands and all of us ... we can get it together and be the real deal again, because that's what Slipknot has always been, and that's what we're trying to shove down everybody's throat," Crahan said. "To get the time of day is an honor. At the same time, everybody should be very, very careful, because now I know for sure that people are paying attention, and I want them to pay attention. I have a responsibility, and I want you to hear about it, and I want the world to hear about it." But while Slipknot are trying to taint the Grammy pool, Pantera seem somewhat unenthusiastically surprised to find themselves splashing around in it once again. Grammy vet Vinnie Paul, who along with his Pantera bandmates will compete with Slipknot for Best Heavy Metal Performance, views his band's nomination with a healthy dose of realism.
"The bottom line is the fans, and this is not an award that's given to you by them," said Paul, who along with Pantera has scored three previous nominations (and so far no wins). "Platinum records, gold records, those are given to you by the fans because they're the ones who bought it and made it what it is. The deal with the Grammys ... it's definitely an industry award, so to me being in a metal band and being the kind of band that we are, it's not as important as those other things. But like I said, it's definitely a very nice acknowledgement, so to speak, if you do win one." However, Paul and Pantera also head into Wednesday night's ceremony with at least a bit of optimism about where the Grammy Awards are headed. "It does seem like this year it's a little more geared toward people really knowing what's going on with some of the categories, like metal," Paul said.
While Crahan and Slipknot are hoping that their nomination is a sign of even better things to come in the future, Paul and Pantera don't view their nod in the same earth-shaking light. Instead, Vinnie is taking precisely the kind of attitude you'd expect from a hard-rock drummer who owns his own strip club.
"The first time I ever got a call about it, I flew through the roof, but by the fourth time now, it's kind of like 'Oh, that's cool,' " Paul said. "I didn't even know it was going on. I woke up early by accident, and I was laying there watching TV, and I saw the nominees on E! Entertainment [Television]. I was just flipping through channels, and I was wondering 'Hmmm, I wonder if we got nominated this year.' And five minutes later I get a call from our management, and she said, 'I want you to know you got nominated for your fourth Grammy,' and I was like, 'You know, I was kind of wondering about that.' " While Paul is taking a been-there-done-that view of the proceedings, he is making at least some plans for the event. "I got a spot on my wall for it," Paul admitted. "I got all my gold records and platinum records nicely organized, and there's one place where I have an air conditioning vent on the wall that kind of f---s everything up. I've got a little shelf there, and that's where I put all the little medals they give you as a consolation prize when you don't win. It'd be nice to be able to hang those over to the side and put that up there and say, 'There it is.' " Meanwhile, Crahan is warning others to make plans of their own should Slipknot join the ranks of Whitney Houston, Bette Midler and Eric Clapton in the pantheon of Grammy winners. "I'm frightened for people," Crahan said. "I'm fine with myself ... I hope all of you are good." You can see just how frightening things get when the Grammy Awards air on Wednesday at 8 p.m. (live ET, delayed PT) on CBS.
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For a new, full-length Slipknot interview, check out the feature "Slipknot: Unmasked."
For more Grammy news, check out the MTV News Grammy Archive.