Corey Taylor is known best as the lead vocalist and lyricist for Slipknot. A metal band that shocked as it rocked the industry, emerging in the late 90s with an album that captured the hearts of teens and terrified parents. Slipknot has become synonymous with the strange and scary masks band members wear; transforming the genre with their awe inspiring stage presence and unique sound.
Taylor has been busy. Not just with Stone Sour and guest vocals either. He has a new solo album out and plenty to talk about.
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“You’ll learn early on that I’m just an asshole; it’s all good”, says the lead vocalist and lyricist of Slipknot and Stone Sour, at the start of our conversation. I continue on, slightly daunted by the introduction to one of the biggest rock stars in the world. We are here to talk about his love of hip- hop and his first solo venture away from the bands that solidified his place in rock. CMFT; an acronym for Corey Mother Fucking Taylor, is out now along with a virtual live show taking place at The Forum in Los Angeles: Forum or Against ‘Em.
Corey is in good spirits despite having to curtail the Slipknot World Tour due to the global pandemic. And why wouldn’t he be? A metal and rock artist with more than few bestselling records to his name- quite probably running out of shelf space for the many awards he’s received with his bands. Recently Slipknot’s 'We Are Not Your Kind' shot to number one in the UK, becoming the first heavy metal album to achieve this since 2015 when Iron Maiden’s 'The Book of Souls' held that accolade. It seems he has a lot to smile about.
“It’s interesting, man, you know, before all of this, actually about five years ago, I was going through one of the darkest times of my life. My life was in upheaval, I was getting toward the end of a really toxic marriage and was taking the steps to get out of that. My health was really bad; I’d had spinal surgery and was unable to work out and exercise like usual. I gained some weight through that and was depressed with everything. I was in a really dark spot, man, I was in a bad way. Trying to focus and stay through that was tough. But the changes and decisions that I made over the next four years really got me to where I am now.”
“I’m happier than I have ever been, I’m not satisfied - but I’m pretty content with everything. My kids are fine, my wife is amazing, my career is doing really well. I mean, this is as close to the best time of my life that I have ever been, man, It’s good to feel. Sometimes I feel suspect and I’m like ‘hmmm, what is going on here?’ It’s weird, your brain keeps doing crazy shit like that and you’ve gotta take a step back and be like ‘it’s cool, dude, just chill, not everybody is trying to get you.’”
It's not entirely strange to see Corey effortlessly transcending genres. After all, it’s something he has done before on previous albums, playing with lyricism and quick-fire delivery on songs such as 'Nero Forte' and 'Spit it Out', and whilst those weren’t exactly rap songs, his influences were clear.
“I’ve loved hip-hop since I was a kid, man. I remember the first waves of early, popular hip-hop. I didn’t grow up in Brooklyn, so I wasn’t there for the catalyst of it, but I remember hearing it in the early 80s when it was really starting to permeate. You’d start to see Run DMC and Public Enemy on MTV and stuff, that’s the stuff I really grew up on, that’s the feel of the streets, you know? Hip-hop and punk have so much in common that as a fan of punk, I really gravitated towards it because it felt so fucking raw, at least at the time. I think that’s one of the reasons why my musical style and influences are so diverse. It’s all tied together by emotion, not necessarily genre.”
CMFT features an appearance by Tech N9ne and Kid Bookie on the track; CMFT Must be Stopped. It is not the first time Corey has worked with Tech, guest starring alongside the Kansas City rapper on 2015’s 'Special Effects', and more recently as a guest vocalist on the track; 'Bitch Slap', alongside Hopsin and GreatDaeg. It’s not just coincidental that two heavyweights of contrasting styles have blended so seamlessly on several songs.
“Tech is a good friend, man, and he’s so fucking talented. Just being on a track with him just makes you have to step up your game. The way he rhymes, his bars are crazy, the way his mind works is so fuckin’ creative. He’s one of the best in the game and he’s one of the coolest dudes out there. He was one of Slipknot’s earlier fans from the Midwest. I met him through (fellow Slipknot band member) Sid Wilson. A short time later we got to work together on Wither on Tech’s Special Effects album and I was just fuckin’ blown away by how creative he is. I have been a fan ever since.”
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Corey doesn’t just bring hard rock to 'CMFT Must Be Stopped'; it is his first official rap track released on an album. It’s an interesting manoeuvre from metal into hip hop; the beginnings of a new direction for him, perhaps. Will we be hearing similar sounds in the future?
“It’s something I like to dip into. People have asked me about doing a full hip-hop album, I think it’s clear from my career that I hate to say ‘no’ [laughs]. I’m so greedy when it comes to stuff like that. I think it would be rad to get all my friends together and make a really cool hip-hop album sometime, and just have a bunch of people guest on it, work with people I haven’t had the chance to yet, see if they’d be down for it. I’d love to go all out with it.”
As a music veteran, Corey has worked with a lot of talented and established musicians. It is clear he has discerning taste. But who is on his playlist right now?
“Oh man, lately? Newer stuff, I’m really into ZillaKami and SosMula from City Morgue. Those guys come hard, they are really, really good. They just put out an electric album called 'Toxic Boogaloo', it’s almost a band album, they are so badass. Other than that? Obviously, I listen to Tech N9ne, he’s been so prodigious - I mean, the last couple of years he’s been really outdoing himself. I also just got into Black Caviar who are really good. I’m really picky when it comes to hip-hop; it’s gotta be something that really jumps out at me.”
Collaborations can produce some fantastic results and this album is testament to that. Eminem has been mentioned as somebody on Taylor’s potential wish list: “He’s one of them. Em’ is just so good, not only good; the shit that he writes is so fuckin’ poignant and right on the button, you know? He can jump in and out of a phrase or a rhythm in the same song, it’s criminal how good he is. So, yeah, he’s definitely one of them. Also, Trent Reznor from Nine Inch Nails, I would fuckin’ love to work with him. That would be so fuckin’ rad.”
Creating an album which steps away from the sound fans are so familiar with must be both daunting and challenging. We are hearing something that is independent and quite different in parts from much of the music he’s made that we know and love. But what has it been like to experience that process as an artist?
“It was so creatively pleasing, not only because of hearing the songs I’ve had for years and hadn’t used yet. There’s something to be said about listening to a demo of songs for years and then hearing it really take off because a full band is on it. Also, recording with these guys whom I have known for twenty years, guys who I have performed with in the past. That’s one of the reasons I put this band together; they love music the same way that I do. They love music because it gives us energy, they have the same appreciation for music as I do.”
“I specifically chose them because they are so goddamn talented. I had such a great time recording with them. We are all dorks, we take the piss out of each other constantly. That in itself is just putting on a show with your buddies. We recorded 13 original songs, six covers and six acoustic versions of songs on the album. We did 25 songs in two and a half weeks.”
What is the motivation behind the apparent non-stop drive Corey Taylor possesses? How does he keep producing music, maintaining the enthusiasm and passion at the same time?
“I think just the love for writing songs. I’ve never stopped loving the creative process, the excitement of thinking how an audience will respond when you play a certain song. My reasons for making music have never changed. I make music because I love making music. The money comes and goes, the fame comes and goes, the music is what’s left and that’s the whole reason I still get as excited about it as when I was a kid.”
Going back to the beginning. We have heard the fantastic vocal gymnastics he can effortlessly display - even better when heard live. Where did it all start? When did Corey Taylor realise he had something special in those vocal chords?
“I was about 10. My cousin, Lisa, was the one that forced me into it, I love throwing her under the bus with this one. We were sitting in her bedroom; she was playing the new Journey album which had 'Separate Ways' on it, and I started singing along.”
“She suddenly stopped the album and asked if I was singing. I said ‘yeah,’ so, then she dragged me to the other room where all my aunties and uncles were. She said to everybody ‘you have to listen to Corey sing!’ She shoved me in the corner of this little living room and put the album on and said ‘GO!’. I just kinda ducked my head and sang the song from beginning to the end. Obviously, I was 10, I could hit those notes, I can’t even touch them now, they are so fuckin’ high. So, when the song was done, I looked up and saw my grandmother smiling, all of my aunties and uncles were clapping like it was a big deal, you know?”
“At the time I didn’t realise I was good at anything, but it just stuck with me, and a couple of years later I began teaching myself guitar so I could write songs - and the rest is history.”
Here we have an artist who has performed countless sell out shows, won prestigious awards, and mixed with hugely famous names. He has a career that is envied by many. With so much going on over the years, what stands out as a highlight?
“Oh man, there have been a lot. Obviously, putting this album out is really high up there, but winning a Grammy with Slipknot was pretty big at the time. I don’t know about now, I don’t really know what’s happening with the Grammys, the way they shit on rock is ridiculous. Winning a Best Vocalist Award at the Golden Gods for Revolver was rad. All of the awards that we have won for Kerrang over the years too. But honestly, just the fact that I’m still here and still have a career is a big thing for me. I just wanted longevity; the chance to make music and stay at a high level for as long as I could, you know? So having a massive audience is also an accomplishment. You have other genres that still look down on us, but we are still the most alive.”
It could be said that the Grammys don’t seem to appreciate rock music given the lack of recognition recently. How does it feel to be a rock star with this undercurrent of prejudice towards the genre?
“Oh, they can’t control it. They can’t polish and shine it up. It’s still offensive in a lot of different ways, you know. I still feel the Grammy people still kowtow to the most popular pretty ass pop shit, which is so boring and insulting sometimes. The fact that it takes 27 people to write a pop song these days, then they all traipse up on stage like they just won the Olympics, it’s just fucking ridiculous. You know, maybe one of the 27 writers put the word ‘and’ in there, and they get a songwriting credit. It’s insulting to people who spend their lives trying to write music and songs, not only for themselves but for other people. It’s pathetic that these people can get a Grammy for doing so little.”
With corporate music producing songs with so many writers, and teams of people involved in perfecting a money-making track, have audiences moved too far away from appreciation of independent bands? Have we forgotten independent musicians; are they disappearing?
“No, not at all. Just because they don’t have the bullhorn right now does not mean that they’re not making noise. The thing about rock 'n' roll is the same thing about underground hip-hop and punk: it’s that every 10 years we go under the surface after taking over the spotlight on the surface, then we dive back down again, y'know. We are always going to be the music of the streets. It’s because we are so real and honest, we just refuse to be ignored basically. All this other shiny bullshit will be gone in five years. Can you name the most popular pop songs from five to 10 years ago? No. but, you can name all of the fuckin’ lifestyle shit, the rock stuff. It’s that stuff that takes a special person to listen to the music anyway, and it takes special people to make it. We will continue on, and we will continue to fuckin’ rule everything!”
Music streaming has undergone a swift change from full length tracks to short snippets on social media apps. This has catapulted many artists into popularity almost instantly, from obscurity to being the soundtrack on a million short videos. Many of these tracks lack substance and soul. What’s his take on this?
“That’s music for people who don’t know how to listen to music. That’s largely what modern pop and modern hip-hop is. They put it on when they want a reaction, you know? They put it on when they need something snackable like fuckin’ Instagram or TikTok. That’s not something that defines who you are. It’s the people that listen to music in a certain way that carry on the tradition, they pass it on. It’s weird because I know a lot of teenage kids who are ignoring all the modern stuff and are really getting back to rock, even so far as to buying it on vinyl. Some of this stuff came out 30 years before they were even born. It’s kinda cool watching this war of culture happen right now.”
Who is going to win this battle? Is there a middle ground or is this just a phase?
“What we are seeing, is a generation that has fallen in love with technology, and right now that’s the distraction, but that’s not the reality. Every 20 years, something changes, in another 20 years it will be something different. I don’t think today’s music is the next step, I think it’s just a step.”
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Corey Taylor streams live on October 2nd 22:00 UK time. Tickets available here https://watch.thecoreytaylor.com/
Words: Mike Milenko
Research Assistant: Chris Brown
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