Fans mourn Slipknot bassist Paul Gray

Fans of heavy metal band Slipknot were mourning bassist Paul Gray, who was found dead in a hotel room.

A hotel employee found 38-year-old Gray in a room at the Town Plaza Hotel in Urbandale, a suburb of Des Moines, Iowa, yesterday, police said.

Most of the band's members grew up in the Des Moines area.

Police said foul play was not suspected and a post-mortem examination will be carried out today.

A person who answered the phone at the band's record company, Roadrunner Records, declined to comment.

Slipknot's self-titled debut in 1999 sold more than a million copies.

Known for its grotesque masks, the band won a Grammy in 2006 for best metal performance for the song Before I Forget.

Concert industry trade publication Pollstar ranked Slipknot 18th in its Top 20 Concert Tours list last year.

Andy Hall, music director of Des Moines rock station Lazer 103.3, said he had known Gray for 10 years. He described him as a talented bass player who was also one of the friendliest, most caring people he knew.

"This is a big blow, not only to the community of Des Moines but fans of metal at large, worldwide," he said.

"It's a devastating loss. Paul was a wonderful human being."

"Paul Gray was an awesome person on and off stage. He will be missed by many including myself," Jacoby Shaddix, lead singer of metal band Papa Roach, said today.

"His spirit will live on through the killer music he wrote."

Gray had been staying at the hotel for "a couple of days," Sgt Dave Disney of Urbandale police said.

Gray lived in the nearby suburb of Johnston.

Slipknot emerged in the mid-1990s with an aggressive mix of heavy metal and a vocal style that included growling, rapping and singing. The band has been known for extreme behaviour during live performances, including urinating and vomiting on stage, according to biographies.

In 2003, Gray admitted that he was on drugs when his Porsche collided with another car that year in Des Moines. No-one was seriously injured. Under a plea agreement, prosecutors dropped charges of possession of marijuana, cocaine and syringes.

Media reports at the time noted that court records included a handwritten note from Dr Joe Takamine that described discussions with Gray that were "very frank and open about his sporadic use of various drugs and of the long periods of abstinence in between".

Slipknot remains one of the most popular metal bands and can still fill arenas, said David Gehlke, editor in chief of blistering.com, a heavy-metal and rock website.

The band is on a year-long break and Gray planned to play with Hail, an all-star metal band that includes the former lead singer of Judas Priest and covers songs by that band, Motorhead and Iron Maiden, Mr Gehlke said.

"This is going to be quite the blow to Slipknot and their fan base," he said.

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