Why Paul Gray Was Slipknot’s Secret Weapon

Paul Gray, bassist with Slipknot, died last week (May 24).

Ross Robinson produced the band’s early albums. Here, he explains why Gray will be missed

When I heard that Paul had died, I hoped it was a rumour. I didn’t want to believe it – I’d talked to him not long before, and he seemed so excited about the prospect of having a baby. He also had plans to start a new project with Mick (Thomson, Slipknot guitarist), which he wanted me to work on.


Paul and I, we had the best experience anyone in music could ever have. We had a lot in common, partly because we grew up in the same part of the country, where it’s all welfare; basically the lowest level of human existence. On top of that, Paul lost his father at a young age – an experience that I always thought came through in his music.

Obviously people will focus on the circumstances of his death, and the drugs – but Paul’s heart was absolutely pure. When everybody is showering you with love, you need a mechanism to deal with it, and I guess he just felt unworthy of it. He never lost that sense of abandonment. The five-year-old inside him could never get over the fact he’d been left alone.

I don’t think he deliberately took himself out [took an overdose]. The last time I saw him, he told me how good he was doing. Admittedly he never let me into the dark – but Paul knew that recovery was available. He knew he had somewhere to go.

My standout memory of Paul? Finishing the ‘Iowa’ album, and standing with him and Joey [Jordison, Slipknot drummer] in my living room, just sobbing. That was such a powerful moment, one I will always have deep in my heart. God, that guy wrote the most unbelievable riffs. He was the weapon of that band, and nobody knew it.

As a musician, he brought absolute integrity. When he pulled on a guitar, a transformation kicked in. His eyebrows would go down, his brain would switch off, and the music sang through him. He played bass and guitar left-handed, and there was something about his muting, a weird sort of backwards quality. It’s so easy to be generic or cheesy in metal, and Paul never was. There was just something huge coming through him.


At his funeral I saw the band together for the last time, his bandmates acting as pall-bearers. I can’t imagine anything more beautiful than that. It took me to my knees. Take the human story of brutality away, and you’re left with love. That’s what Slipknot stood for.

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