Slipknot's Shawn "Clown" Crahan was once brutally maced by security before a show during the notorious Tattoo the Earth tour. In a new excerpt of Scott Alderman's book, Caravan of Pain: The True Story of the Tattoo the Earth Tour, Alderman, who created the short-lived mobile festival that ran from 2000 to 2002, recalls one stop of the chaotic tour in which Slipknot's percussionist was knocked off a golf cart and pepper sprayed to the point where he needed to be put on oxygen.
Throughout Caravan of Pain, Alderman gives an inside look into the making of Tattoo the Earth, an ambitious traveling carnival that was part Ozzfest-style metal festival and part tattooing convention. The book provides interesting, hilarious and often harrowing insight into an era when tattooing was still largely an underground subculture and metal was feared by many.
During their time on the run, Slipknot were still a fledgling band who were known for violent shows and wild antics on and off the stage, and the below passage — shared exclusively with Loudwire — recounts the run-in Clown, photographer Fran Strine and Snot guitarist Sonny Mayo (who was then playing in Amen) had with security. The section is taken from chapter eight of the book, titled "Wisconsin Death Trip."
The whole enterprise seemed like it was getting darker and more dangerous as we headed west and then south. The vibe was foreboding the moment we set foot at our next stop, Float-Rite Park in Somerset, Wisconsin. Our show was part of the 93X Clambake, the local rock radio station's annual festival, but the mood was anything but festive. During the day at most shows, Clown liked to take a golf cart into the festival village to check out the crowd and listen to some of the bands. He was anonymous without his mask, and enjoyed the freedom of driving around and seeing what he had wrought.
In Somerset, Clown took out a golf cart with Fran, Sonny Mayo from Amen, and a few others (golf carts were definitely one of the best parts of the tour). I'd made the right call about Fran. The bands trusted him, and they all gave him complete access onstage and off. Fran said Kerri King from Slayer approached him in Lawrence (Kerri is an intimidating character, and Fran first thought he'd done something to piss Kerri off), but Kerri told him to come up on stage and shoot away. Fran was a talented photographer, reliable, and a good hang.
Clown, Fran, and Sonny were cruising around Float-Rite Park, when out of nowhere, Clown got clotheslined by a security guard, and the cart flipped on its side. Then the security guard Maced them at close distance while they were still on the ground. Within seconds they were all rolling on the ground, gasping for breath. Fran said it was the closest he ever felt to dying. They got Clown close up, right in the face, and he was vomiting, snot pouring from his nose. He was having serious trouble breathing, so paramedics put him on oxygen and got him back to his bus. We weren't sure if he would be able to play that night, or whether he should. The head of the venue's security had Maced the leader of the headline band a few hours before the show, and we weren't sure if it would be safe for them to play.
"I'm not in this fucking thing to cancel," Zukoski [the tour's finance manager back in New Jersey] bellowed over the phone when we filled him in on the situation. "We're going to get paid tonight, so work it out."
We met with the promoter, and the security team, and our tour manager Ronnie told me not to engage with the head of security.
"I know you want to rip into that guy, but we need to just keep our mouths shut, play, get paid, and get out of here," Ronnie said seriously. "These motherfuckers are crazy. You don't want to mess with these people." He shook his head. "Wisconsin, man."
The head of security had a strange, smug look when we met to get assurances that the band would not be bothered again. They said Clown was driving recklessly, ignoring instructions, and made obscene gestures, which I knew was bullshit. Who did what didn't matter at this point, and Ronnie tried to keep everyone focused. The promoter asked that the band not mention the incident from the stage. We agreed, and asked that the head of security be nowhere near the band for the rest of the night. So they played — Clown didn't want to cancel, either — but we had our people positioned around the band during their set in case shit broke loose. I saw the head of security lurking around, but decided not to confront him.
The show was brutal. It was the only show where event staff pushed the fans back into the moshpit. Typically, they pull them into a space in front of the stage, and let them walk around back into the crowd (or to EMS if they got beat up). But at this event staff were pushing them all back in, and it was causing a weird dynamic, like water crashing against a dam. It was tense, and I wouldn't have any sense of relief until we were all out of there and on the highway.
… I found out later that Clown's Macing was retribution for an incident that had occurred when Slipknot played the venue with Ozzfest the previous year. The band had been unhappy with how they were treated, and one of them took a shit on the dressing room floor. The Macing was payback; Tattoo the Earth got sandwiched between the shit and the Mace.
Caravan of Pain: The True Story of the Tattoo the Earth Tour is available now.