The Slade Interviews
“When my final chapter is written, it will be half a story about half a man who lived half a life and died twice.”
~ Slade Bennington
The following is a collection of my interviews with Slade Bennington over the course of several months, along with snippets from other sources, such as his books, news articles, and additional interviews with those who knew him best. There are some discrepancies between different people’s recollections, as there always will be. Slade was the best at telling his own story, often without ever revealing anything solid enough to grasp, like trying to grab a handful of fog.
Due to an unusual request – demand, really – I freely admit that my memory may have introduced errors into these transcripts. Slade insisted that I not bring any recording devices and that I not take any notes as we talked, often for hours.
“Stretch your brain,” he said. “Exercise your memory. Soak it all in, then go home and start typing what you remember. Replay our conversations in your mind and take dictation then. But here, now, be in the here and now. Be with me and talk with me. That’s more important than getting every quote precise. You want the truth, not the words. The words aren’t important, man.”
While there are contradictions even among Slade’s inner circle, there was one constant refrain – from family members, close personal friends, business associates, and even from some who had only brief interactions with him.
They would smile, often with an ethereal glow, and say that Slade was the greatest man they ever knew.
A small handful of others, most of whom refused to be interviewed on the record, referred to him as a manipulative con artist, a sociopath. Svengali or Rasputin.
I started these interviews highly skeptical of the reverence and awe he inspired in what seemed a cult-like following of a highly unlikely celebrity, a cult he dismissed with a wave of his hand. He felt sorry for them and wanted nothing to do with the adulation they offered. By the time our final interview concluded, I wasn’t sure what to make of him.
Days before this manuscript was due to the publisher, I received a brief letter from Slade – an old-fashioned, handwritten note, not an email or text.
I received it the day after he died.
I draw no conclusions here about Slade Bennington, the man or the myth. Readers will have to make up their own minds.
“If you live the life you want, you will love the life you live. The more you love your life, the easier it is to accept your eventual death.”
~ Slade Bennington
Interviewer: Tell me about the accident. What do you remember from that night?
Slade: I died, man. I died in that moment nearly thirty years ago. But nothing in life is an accident.
Interviewer: You’re sitting here conversing with me now. You’re very much alive.
Slade: More alive than ever. More alive than before that night. Before, I wasn’t living the life I was meant to live. I was selfish and doing things that brought me pleasure, but with no purpose. I knew that too. I knew I wasn’t living. Something was missing, some intention to life. But I was young, you know, and I figured I’d settle down and live the way I knew I should once I’d sowed my wild oats. Sowing wild oats. That’s a cliché, isn’t it? My agent is always pointing out when I use clichés. Apparently, I like them.
When I was nineteen, I thought I could start being a responsible adult when I was twenty-one. At twenty-one, I thought twenty-five sounded like a good age to mature. Then thirty sounded like the right age to become a grown-up.
But at twenty-nine, life ended. I knew my life was ending. When something like that happens, you know you’re dead. And you see.
Interviewer: Your life flashed before your eyes?
Slade: Now that’s a cliché. Life didn’t so much flash before my eyes, but I could suddenly see it all clearly. The life I was intended to live, the life I’d avoided, procrastinated, put off until I was older. And now I would never be older. I’d missed that opportunity. We’re all given one chance at life, and we don’t think it’s going to end suddenly like that. And when it ends, you see how it was meant to be. It’s like getting to the station just as your train pulls out, and it’s the last one. You missed it. There’s nothing you can do. Nothing to be done.
And so I died.
Interviewer: Are you saying the doctors revived you in the hospital?
Slade: I’m saying the old me died. I was reborn the moment of the crash. The doctors, bless them, did the best they could with what they had to work with. I was fully aware the whole time. Fourteen days in a coma and I heard every word and saw every person who walked into my room. Hovered over the operating table and watched whenever they performed surgeries.
Once I was conscious, the doctor sat beside my bed to update me on my situation. I interrupted and recited to him everything he was going to say. I already knew. I’d heard it all before. And I smiled and patted his hand and told him everything was going to be fine. He started crying. Uncontrollable sobbing. It’s hard to witness a grown man weep like that.
The new me was conceived even before they got me to the hospital. The surgeries, the months in the hospital, and recovery were all equivalent to childbirth. The new me being born.
Interviewer: Do you ever ask why?
Slade: These things just happen. One person dies. Someone else survives. Another is reborn.
Interviewer: God’s plan or random chance?
Slade: Is there a difference?
“Brothers and sisters are extensions of yourself, your DNA, your mind, your heart and soul. They always know you best. No one ever puts up a false front with siblings. Make everyone you meet a brother or sister.”
~ Slade Bennington
Interviewer: Tell me about Matt, your brother.
Slade: Ah, what an absolute joy he is. Having an older brother is special. But he wasn’t always a joy, you know.
I’m laying in bed one day, and Matt walks in. Asks if I want to go for a ride, see some friends. I hadn’t left the house in six months other than to doctors’ offices and hospitals. Seventeen surgeries in six months. Getting out sounded great.
“Sure,” I said.
And Matt said, “Okay, let’s go. Meet you at the car.” Then he left. Just flat walked out.
I didn’t even say anything. I didn’t know what to say. I lay in bed and listened as the screen door slammed. A few minutes later, his car started. It sat there idling for a few minutes, then he drove away. I thought he was trying to be funny and he’d be back in a couple minutes. But he didn’t come back. Not until after midnight.
“Where have you been?” I think I was yelling at him. “Why did you leave me here?” He shook his head and went to his room. Didn’t say a word.
A few days later, he walks in and says the same thing. “Want to go for a ride?”
I said, “Yeah, but don’t just drive off and leave me here this time.”
“Fine, then. Get out of that bed and get your ass in the car. You got five minutes.” And he went out to start the car.
I got mad and fumed for a minute, but I really wanted out of the house. So I rolled out of bed. And it was a standard bed, you know, a couple feet off the ground. Hardwood floors. That really hurt when I landed. But I got my arms under me and dragged myself out of the bedroom, down the hall, out the front door to the porch. My mom’s house, only three steps down from the porch to the driveway where Matt sat in his car. A red Camaro Z28 that he was way too proud of.
Those three steps looked like eternity. It was a struggle, but I made it down the stairs and into the car without his help. He didn’t offer, and I wasn’t going to ask.
“Glad you decided to join me. Buckle up.”
I pulled the seat belt across. First time I’d tried to buckle up since the crash. That’s when I realized the seat belt wasn’t really going to work for me anymore.
“How can I buckle in when I don’t have a lap?”
“Use the shoulder strap then. Can’t have you messing up your pretty face on my windshield.”
The shoulder strap hit me across the throat. The lap belt lay uselessly on the seat where my legs used to be.
A few days later, Matt lifts me out of bed and moves me to the couch. He goes out to the shed and loads up some tools. Hauls them into my room. I hear him banging and sawing for nearly an hour. Then he carries me back to my room. He’d amputated the legs off the bed so it sat only a couple inches off the ground. I’d be able to crawl off the mattress to the floor without busting my ass.
That was so thoughtful of him that I didn’t have the heart to ask why he didn’t just get rid of the bed frame and put the mattress on the floor. That would’ve been a whole lot simpler.