“Goddamnit, You People Need To Know What I Think!”: A Very Scandalous Chat With Corey Taylor
Bigmouth strikes again.
Corey Taylor is tired. “So fucking tired,” he reiterates, more than once.
He’s grasping onto cheap instant coffee, presumably made in the green room of the Eatons Hill Hotel in Brisbane — a venue in which Taylor and his quote-unquote “other” band, Stone Sour, will be performing in for the next two nights.
He’ll go on to describe said coffee as “the worst thing I’ve ever fucking tasted,” yet he still manages to down the entire thing. A snare drum rings out from afar, as the stage is being set up for tonight’s performance — there’s rigging, platforms and (spoiler alert) some wacky wailing inflatable arm-flailing tube-men to get into place.
Amongst all the chaos, the man often considered to be one of the biggest loud-mouths in heavy music is surprisingly calm and restrained.
It could be the rush of the tour itself getting to him — prior to today, Stone Sour were in and out of Melbourne and Sydney with very little breathing space. It could even be the shithouse coffee.
Whatever it is, it’s clear that this scheduled interview is going to allow for another side of Corey Taylor. The man behind the rockstar persona whose double-duty bands sees him living a life Future would be proud of — mask on; fuck it, mask off — and reaping the rewards of both. The man behind the cartoon character that throws himself into every performance while ensuring that his captive audience are addressed respectfully as “motherfuckers” at least a dozen times.
A man who, away from his world tours and clickbait headlines, is a father and a music fan. Rather than poke and prod for a cheap pull-quote on an easy target, it was time to get honest with the man they call Corey Taylor.
Let’s start by talking about the personnel of Slipknot and Stone Sour. The two band have both seen some big changes in the last five years, bringing in new members and releasing new material. Both, at this point, are well-established bands with long lines of history. Do you feel that there is an inherent trust that has to be there in order to initiate newcomers alongside people that you’ve worked with for years?
I think so. I mean, there’s a little bit of everything when something like that happens.
There’s a bittersweet quality to it — it can make you think about how there are certain people that you’ll never work with again, for various reasons. There’s a part of you that misses that connection — that common bond, that approach. It balances out with the fact you get excited by working with other people. You’re gonna get a totally different take on something that you write — a new excitement; a quickening in the music.
Honestly, at this point of my life, it’s par for the course for me. There are a lot of bands that have gone through the years with a lot of line-up changes and they’ve continued to push the boundaries and get stronger. Sometimes, they’ve hit their stride after the original line-up has changed. It’s different for everyone, y’know? I get that it’s easy to romanticise it — a lot of the fans do.
You just have to keep coming back to the touchstone that made you start to make music in the first place: the fact you love music.
Do you feel having those changes for Stone Sour, in particular, was an impetus to try new things on the Hydrograd record?
In a way, I feel like it helped us streamline everything. It definitely allowed us to approach this record with a very straightforward, specific mindset. We were like, “Let’s just make a good rock & roll album.” Any type of music that people would think of when you think of rock & roll, and really hit on those cylinders.
This record was the first time that this line-up – the five of us – had written together. It inspired such excitement that it naturally happened anyway. We did very little fine-tuning on this record, and I think a lot of it came down to the fact that we were excited to make music with one another – whatever that may have ended up being.
Is writing a cyclical thing for you? Do you go simultaneously between writing for Stone Sour and Slipknot, or do you work concurrently with both projects in mind?
It’s both. Right now I haven’t heard anything from Slipknot, but I have a vague notion of what I want to do and I’ve been forming it in my head. I’ve been writing down my own ideas and lyrics — every once in a while, a full song will come out just from the one line.
That being said, you never know. You need to be able to focus on the project at hand and exhaust that creativity. You don’t ever want to feel divided. I always try to prioritise and focus on the band I’m doing at the time, but also never forgetting the ideas that I have for the other — especially the good ones.
Your son, Griffin, has started appearing with you more frequently this year. He got up on stage to sing with Stone Sour at a show a few months ago, and the two of you also made a cameo together on an episode of Nostalgia Critic. Has his interest in music and performing come as he’s gotten older, or is it something that he’s wanted to do for awhile?
It’s a bit of both, again. He’s such a big music fan. He’s actually the one that got me into Babymetal! [laughs] I’d never heard of them, and he comes running up to me and is like, “You gotta check this out.” I was so amazed – it was like “What the fuck?” [laughs] His enthusiasm is what got me into them.
He’s been a fan of music for as long as he’s been able to respond to it. His talent’s always been there, too. I can remember on his second birthday, we got him a keyboard with a little microphone attached. As soon as he realised that the microphone made noise, he started making noises into it. “UHH! UHH! UHH! UHH!” The crazy thing was that it was all rhythmically matched up exactly to the little drum machine — I knew he was onto it right away.
The cool thing is that as he’s gotten older, we’ve bonded so strongly through music. Before, it was me more focusing on laying down the law and just being a dad. I was trying to hammer in those important things — morals, manners; having those foundations and that compass. Now that he’s a little older and putting those things into practice, it’s allowed us to lift that a little bit. I’m still a dad first and foremost, but I’ve also been doing what I can to teach him what I know about music.
It’s a new level to our relationship; and I never had that with any person who tried to be my parent growing up. This is a really new thing for me, and I love it. It’s really cool.
With so much about you readily available online — not to mention how un-kid-friendly Slipknot can be — were you ever worried that he might stumble across something that might have terrified him?
[laughs] It wasn’t so much a worry, but it was definitely something that I told him about. We’ve got a pretty open dialogue now. It’s taken time, but he knows that he can ask me about anything.
Whenever Slipknot did something, it was in the moment and it was artistic. It was never done in a way that was supposed to be hateful — it was supposed to be freeing. If there was anything that was hateful of ours out there, I definitely would not want him to see that. Because we’ve been so open and honest with each other, though, there’s nothing that I have any real worry about him seeing. I know he’s gonna see some stuff and give me a bit of a side-eye over it, but hey — it’s a conversation piece. [laughs]
He’s gonna be 15 soon, and he’s already started high school, which is fucking insane. Where the fuck did the time go? He was born ten days before I went out on the very first Stone Sour. I had ten days with him and then I had to go. I’ve always been in music for his entire life — he’s never known anything else.
What was that first Stone Sour tour like? What do you remember about it?
I remember being very selfish. I remember being very egotistical. I remember being quite drunk, sadly. I was about 28 at the time — I was such a young dick. I was like, “The chains are off! I can do whatever the fuck I want now!”
I don’t know if it showed on-stage. It was still fun, but I was trying to find myself — even at that age. It’s weird… it’s a part of that whole transition of going from knowing yourself, to wondering who the fuck you are, right back to knowing yourself. It’s a really quick flash of life. I was just trying to pick through the carnage.
“I remember being very selfish. I remember being very egotistical”
Plus, at the time, I was fighting my own demons that I had really let get in. It really took a hold of me at a bad time. It’s kind of fucking surprising that any of those shows were any good, to be honest. A lot of people talk about them in glowing terms, though. It was a good learning experience.
I feel like I had forgotten how to be a frontman because of Slipknot. With Slipknot, it was a lot easier for me to just put the mask on and become a part of the collective. It was kind of the opposite of why they wanted me in Slipknot in the first place — I was a frontman. I could control a crowd; control a show. Because I was so into the idea of Slipknot, I forgot that part of me. Stone Sour helped me to find that side of me again.
You can see it from when I got clean, got sober and went into the run for Vol. 3 [The Subliminal Verses, Slipknot’s 2004 album]. That’s when I really started to use that again, and tried to make it feel like a bigger show. That first Stone Sour tour kind of changed things for me, in that respect.
No doubt you’ve seen that the Gallagher brothers have both been in the news again a lot recently. Both have put out new music and toured in their own rights lately, and yet the only thing a lot of people want out of them is to provoke them to say something quotable to get shared about through the press.
Musically you’re very different, obviously, but you’ve definitely found yourself in a very similar position in the heavy music community — if something’s happened, Corey Taylor seems to have an opinion on it. You’ve earned this reputation as a sort of edge-lord and provocateur — has that grown tiresome?
Y’know, the funny thing is that I’ve experienced a little bit of blowback on it. It’s par for the course, I guess. It is what it is. It’s the price of having an opinion. It’s the price of being yourself, really.
People forget that the only reason I give my opinion half the time is because people fucking ask me — and they’re pulling those from interviews, which is just a series of fucking questions! People think I’m holding fucking press conferences or something — [shakes fist] “GODDAMMIT, YOU PEOPLE NEED TO KNOW WHAT I THINK!!” It’s obviously so not true.
I think that’s a reflection of the times we find ourselves in. Social media has given everyone a voice, but mine’s still a little louder than everyone else. People pick my shit apart. They take the juiciest soundbites and throw them up there. People are invariably deciding that I’m being more selfish than they are. It’s stupid and it’s silly, and I hope it doesn’t affect my career. If it does, I guess I’ll go back to fucking washing RVs. [laughs]
I’m not just saying things to provoke. I speak from the heart. I’m not like certain artists who just say things to shock. The opinions I have are very much who the fuck I am. If people can’t live with that, they weren’t paying attention in the first place.
Have you found yourself trying to deflect it? Do you see where an interview is going and just immediately start shutting it down? “So I was listening to the new Nickelback record…”
[laughs] I have been fucking trying to bury that for months now! It’s out of my hands, man! We played in Sydney over the weekend, and people started a “Fuck Nickelback” chant. I’m like, “Fuck, I’m never gonna get away from this!”
It’s so fucking funny, especially when I’m seeing all of these tweets and shit from fucking Nickelback fans. I’m like, “He’s the one who fucking started it! I didn’t say a fucking word!” What are y’gonna do? You can’t control what people say, no matter how Trump feels about it. All you can do is ride the wave. Sometimes you’ll get fucking wiped out. Other times, you’ll stay on the board. It’s fine.
Through your interviews, your books, your column, your music… there’s basically everything one would ever want to know about you and your life readily available for public consumption. People can take in all of it and will inevitably make up their own minds about you. Through all of that, though, the question is this: What do you feel is the single biggest misconception about Corey Taylor?
I think the greatest misconception is that I just run my mouth constantly.
“The opinions I have are very much who the fuck I am”
I mean, I definitely have my opinions and I know that there are a lot of heavy metal fans that don’t like me specifically for that reason. For a long time, that really bothered me. The thing I had to realise was that it’s the price you pay for not being the nice guy.
The vanilla frontman, making sure I say and do all the right things… fuck that. I’d rather be myself than a fucking watered down version of myself. I’m not constantly on the look-out for something to talk shit about. There is so much stuff in the world that I enjoy, promote, talk up… but all the bullshit gets all the press. What I should say is that I’m not the one talking shit — all the clickbait websites are the ones doing it; taking me out of context and making me out to be this villain.
Other than that? Fuck it. I’m just trying to make music.
Corey Taylor (left) is a singer, writer and not the biggest arsehole in metal, despite what you may have heard. He tweets at @CoreyTaylorRock.
David James Young (right) is a writer, podcaster and is currently aspiring to be the biggest arsehole in metal. He tweets at @DJYwrites.