Friday, May 28, 2010

Paul Gray of Slipknot Passes On

Paul Gray, founding member and bassist of the heavy metal band Slipknot, passed on Monday, May 24 at the age of 38. He was found dead in a room at the Town Place Suites in Urbandale, Iowa. Reportedly his body was found near a bottle of pills and a hypodermic syringe. Authorities have said that the autopsy indicated no signs of foul play, although toxicology results will not be returned for another four to six weeks.

Paul Gray was born in Los Angeles, California on April 8, 1972. His family moved to Des Moines, Iowa when he in his youth. It was in 1992 that vocalist Anders Colsefini, percussionist Shawn Crahan, and bassist Gray formed Painface. The band recorded a demo entitled The Basement Sessions, which included an early version of the song "Slipknot" which would eventually be recorded by the band of the same name. Painface broke up later in the year. It was in September 1995 that Colsefini, Crahan, and Gray regrouped to form the band The Pale Ones. The band added members along the way and it was in late 1995 or early 1996 that drummer Joey Jordison suggested they rename the band "Slipknot" after the song. It was during this period that they initially wore makeup and then switched to masks, which they thought would draw attention away from themselves and towards their music.The band members would eventually be known by numbers from 0 to 8, as well as their names (Paul Gray was Number 2).

It was on Halloween 1996 that Slipknot released the independently produced Mate. Feed. Kill. Repeat. Only around 1000 copies were produced. The album mixed genres from heavy metal to jazz to funk. It was in 1998 that Slipknot recorded a demo which was sent to various record labels. It was in July 1998 that Slipknot was signed to Roadrunner Records. Their self titled debut album with Roadrunner featured the hits "Wait and Bleed," which went to #34 on the Billboard Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks chart and "Spit It Out," which went to #28 on the UK singles chart.  The album itself went to #51 on the Billboard albums chart.

It was in 2001 that Slipknot released their second album Iowa. Iowa did better than the prior album, hitting #3 on the Billboard album chart. The song "My Plague" from the album was nominated for the Grammy for Best Heavy Metal Performance. The song "Left Behind" hit #30 on the Billboard Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks chart. It was also nominated for the Grammy for Best Heavy Metal Performance.

During 2003 Paul Gray as Unida's bassist on their tour. The following year Slipknot released Vol. 3 (The Subliminal Verses). The album performed better than any of their previous albums, going to #2 on the Billboard album chart. The album contained the hit song "Before I Forget." It went to #32 on the Billboard Modern Rock Chart, #11 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock Chart, and #35 on the UK Singles chart. It also won the Grammy for Best Heavy Metal Performance. In 2005 Paul Gray was a part of the Roadrunner United project, an album celebrating the label's 25th anniversary and featuring artists from the label's history.

In 2007 Gray was a guest on Drop Dead, Gorgeous' second album, Worse Than Fairy Tale. In 2008 Slipknot released All Hope is Gone. The album went to #1 on both the Billboard Hot 200 and the UK albums chart. The album included the songs "Psychosocial," which went to #7 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock chart, "Dead Memories," which went to #3 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock chart, and "Snuff," which went to #2 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock chart. It was also in 2008 that Paul Gray appeared on the Reggie and the Full Effect album Last Stop: Crappy Town.

While I cannot say I am a huge fan of Slipknot, I have liked a good deal of their work. And I have always admired Paul Gray as a bassist. In fact, he was one of the most versatile bassists of the late Nineties and Naughts. On Slipknot's earlier releases he used the slapping style characteristic of funk and soul. He would still use it at times on later releases. He also used the fingerstyle technique, plucking the bass strings directly with his finger. On most of the group's more recent releases he used a pick. He was a very good songwriter, contributing a number of songs over the years to Slipknot. Indeed, such a loss is Paul Gray that I have to wonder if the band will even survive.

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