Tearful members of Grammy-winning metal band Slipknot shocked fans by appearing in public without masks for the first time in their career to pay tribute to their deceased bass player.
A brief news conference on Tuesday evening (May 25), carried live on the Internet, took place a day after 38-year-old Paul Gray was found dead at a hotel near the group's hometown of Des Moines, Iowa.
An autopsy was held earlier in the day, but the cause of death is not yet known pending the results of toxicology tests that could take up to six weeks.
Gray was found dead on Monday at a hotel near the group's home town of Des Moines, Iowa, by a hotel employee. Local police said there was no evidence of foul play.
One big problem for fans watching the news conference: Who was who among the eight surviving members? A simultaneous live feed of Twitter and other messages indicated much uncertainty about the identity of most of the members speaking.
One of the speakers about whom there was no doubt was Gray's wife, Brenna, who is pregnant with their first child. She was seated next to Gray's brother, Tony.
Most of Gray's ashen bandmates struggled to hold back tears. Guitarists Mick Thompson and James Root and sampler Craig Jones were too saddened to say anything.
"It's very important that everybody on the outside of us understands that Paul Gray was the essence of the band Slipknot, and Paul was there from the very, very, very beginning," said percussionist M. Shawn Crahan, who played with Gray in an early version of Slipknot during the early 1990s.
"None of us would be on the path that we're on right now in life, or have the sorts of lives that we have, without him," Crahan added.
No one discussed whether Slipknot would continue. One of the biggest bands in the metal genre, Slipknot topped the charts in the United States, Australia and Europe with its most recent album, 2008's "All Hope Is Gone." The band won a Grammy in 2004 for its song "Before I Forget."
Slipknot became notorious for its performances. Its members often broke each other's bones, set each other on fire, and injured their fans after diving into the crowd.
Inspired by their heroes KISS, each member wears a grotesque mask in public along with coveralls, and is identified by a number. Gray was No. 2.