When Slipknot came to town recently, we chatted with the act's always entertaining and articulate frontman, Corey Taylor. Although the singer was ailing from a sinus infection, he was dependably and incredibly engaging — so much so, that we opted to break up our chat into two parts to make it easier to consume.
In the first half of the interview, Taylor spoke effusively about the band's fans, shared the story from Slipknot's showcase for Sony, which inspired an A&R man to say that he'd rather not carry on if Taylor's outfit represented the future of music. Taylor also took us on a sort of tour through each of the act's first couple of releases.
Here, the conversation picks up with him candidly talking about "Iowa" and the tension that surrounded the making of that record, and then he talks about making the "Gray Chapter" in the wake of bassist Paul Gray's passing, as well as his new book, the chances of Donald Trump getting the GOP nomination, auditioning for Velvet Revolver and how "Appetite for Destruction" is one of his favorite rock albums of all time.
Las Vegas Review-Journal: Shawn said that that one is his least favorite records because you recorded in Iowa and there was really no tension that you had had with the previous recordings, and that's the one that went No. 1 on Billboard. He said something really profound, I thought, you were doing what you always did, which was using pain as a paintbrush. I thought that was one of the most profound things I ever heard.
Corey Taylor: I don't know what he's talking about that there was no tension. There was nothing but tension during that album. It was literally like … it was a tale of two cities. I mean, it was Shakespearean. It was the Montagues and the Capulets. I mean, it was insane, dude. And then there's me in the middle, trying to make it all work, like, it was …
What was the situation? I mean, I got this from your audiobiography. Maybe I misheard him. But tell me about what was going on there.
Or as much as you can share.
Yeah, there's a line that I can go up to talking about that. Because I have to respect people's privacy, and I have to respect …
Absolutely, just as much as you can share.
Yeah, I mean, it literally comes down to the band was basically split in half. On one side, certain people were trying to make one album. And on the other side, there were certain people trying to make another album. And it was very much a game of politics, trying to figure out a way for all of these elements to live together, and yet, both sides were insanely selfish, and it was basically like, 'Well, I'll just take my toys and go home then.'
Oh, yeah, dude, it was brutal.
And you were smack-dab in the middle?
I was … yeah. I mean, it was really hard for me, man, like really, really hard. And then, I was kind of the middle man on all of it. So I'm trying to get everyone to kind of get on the same page, at least try to find a place for all of this music to kind of live together. And it's just not happening, you know. So it was really hard for me. I, uh, you know … and harder than I think a lot of people really realized in the band.
I'm … to this day, there are people in this band I don't think really understand the position that they put me in trying to get it made. And it is what it is. I'm not looking for apologies. We did what we did. It was, you know, we were able to put out a good album, in my opinion.
I think there's some songs on that album that are really, really good, but it doesn't feel like an album. With a Slipknot album, it's supposed to feel like an album, and this just felt like a collection of songs, for the most part. I am proud that it was our first number one. Because the 'Gray Chapter' went number one, as well.
So for me, I was proud of that, but the ensuing tour was really, really difficult. And, uh, it's … yeah, I mean, it was just hard. It was a lot of hard work, especially being a guy who didn't drink and was really trying to get his stuff together. It was just hard for me.
Which brings us to the 'Gray Chapter,' an album that does sound like an album. You described it as a story of the last four years.
And Shawn said, 'It's a really special f------ record.' What, uh ... is that your favorite record of your entire catalog. Does it feel like the most complete?
Yeah, it's definitely the most complete, but at the same time, it's the most bittersweet. I have to go back to the first album to talk about my favorite, just because we were all on the same page. We were all ready to destroy. We were all having a really good time making it. This one, obviously, was dealing with the death of one of our brothers.
Right, a devastating death.
Yeah, I mean, and the fractious state of the band itself. This was basically a band putting the pieces back together. We had gotten to the point where it was like, OK, it's time. Let's see where we're at, musically. And it turned out, we had a lot to say. And I was really proud of the fact that we could all get together and not only put this album together but to share where we were all at.
Because, you know, a lot of this … lyrically, I took from having conversations with some of the guys and really kind of finding out where we all were — not spiritually but emotionally, definitely. Because that's how you tell a story. You can't just tell a story from one point of view. It has to be universal. It has to be omnidirectional. It's got to be just across the board, or it's just a selfish way of telling your own story.
For me, it was really about trying to represent all of the different emotions that had gone through the last four years. You know, whether it was just the deepest remorse or the darkest anger, because of some kind of twisted guilt, which is part of the process. It's part of the process of grieving. It's part of the process of acceptance. You kind of have to allow yourself to feel these things, and that's what this album was all about was allowing ourselves to feel that, so we could have the strength to kind of carry on.
Right. So in retrospect now listening to it, do you feel like it really represents the last four years, in terms of do you feel like you nailed it?
Oh yeah. Absolutely. There are some moments on here that, if I close my eyes, I can totally hear Paul (Gray) play on it. You know, it's just kind of that intense, you know. It definitely felt like his spirit was with us as much as possible, you know. And it's probably the album I'm most proud of.
Like, I love the first album, and I loved to experience that, but this is the album I'm most proud of because not only were we able to make a real Slipknot album, but we were able to kind of show the soul of what this band is, you know, and not do it in a way that felt like … that felt cheap. You know, if that makes any sense.
It was important to remind people that yeah, we are the big, crazy, scary band, but we're also human, and we took a hell of a knock, but because of the love that we have for this band and because of the fans, we were able to kind of get back on our feet.
And what does that feel like now going out and playing that music for your fans?
You know, the interesting thing about, you know, when you take these songs out of context, is that it fits so well with the newer … like the older material, that you forget that it's such an intense story. So it becomes more about just performing it for the audience and letting them enjoy it.
Because I've had so many people tell me … it's like they're so glad we play so many newer tunes in the set. That, you know, because … you know, for a lot of these fans, this is their album; this is their Slipknot album. And they've worked backwards from there. And then you have the older generation, where it's we're just glad you played off the first one or 'Iowa,' or this or that. I mean, it's just kind of crazy.
It's kind of an interesting dynamic.
You know, it really is, man, and not just the … and I hate to say singles, because it's crazy that we have as many singles as we do, but … right?
Like, who'd have f------ thought? But it's cool that the newer generation is getting into as many of the deep cuts as they are, as well. So it's kind of cool. And it feels like everything is really kind of feeding each other, and it's building something amazing. I mean, and it's, you know, it's very, very gratifying and it's very humbling, at the same time. You know?
Let's talk about your book a little bit.
Your first book was an entertaining read, to say the least.
This book, your writing has progressed, and you really have some really good turns of phrase, man. Speaking as a writer, your writing game is on point.
Well, thank you, man. I appreciate that. This third one felt the best, to be honest. It was one of those things where the first two were kind of me cutting my teeth and kind of finding my stride …
Right. Kind of finding your voice a little bit.
Yeah, totally. I mean, it wasn't … honestly, it wasn't even until I had to do the audio version that I realized … I have a tendency to write sucky sentences. Let's put it that way. That don't feel conversational; like, that's what I kind of took from my first book, because I'm sitting there and I'm reading it in the studio — which, by the way, is the most boring f------ thing you can ever do in your life: Read your own book and try not to f--- it up.
Dude, for real, I was all … I was so gung ho. I was like, 'F--- yeah! I'm going to do the audio version.' And then I got done, and I was like, 'I never want to do another audio version as long as I f------ live.' And then because it did so well, now the company is like, 'You have to do an audio version every time.' I'm like, 'Son of a f------ b----!'
And maybe that was a little more motivation for me to kind of be a little concise with my sentences. But I just … I wanted it to feel more conversational. You know, because when you're writing, everything sounds great in your head. You know, like, you can be as polysyllabic as you want. You can run into different metaphors. You can be as clever as you think. But until you're reading it back going, 'Ah, I'm coming off like such a d---.' You know. You just never know.
So with the third one, I'd really kind of learned where I wanted to go, as far as how I wanted to tell the story and how I wanted people to relate to it. And I've had … like so many people have told me that this is, by far, their favorite.
Yeah, your voice is really strong. There was a section in the book — and I just thought it was a great turn of phrase — you said, 'If you feed it nothing but empty fast food calories,' talking about your brain, 'you're going to find yourself breathing through your nose and dragging your knuckles on the concrete, as you make your way to the unemployment office.'
That cracked me up. I just love your perspective on things and the way that you're very candid. A week doesn't go by where I don't see a quote from you that just has me laughing. I think the most recent one I saw was your take on Donald Trump. That cracked me up.
Oh, boy, that f------ guy. You know, and I'm here to tell you, dude, unless they find a sex tape on him, he's going to really run for president. Like unless they find some s----- footage of him … . Did you see him rip into (Univision's Jorge) Ramos the way that he did?
It is f------ unbelievable, and the fact that people aren't calling him on his bulls---, there's still … and in Iowa, which just destroyed me. I was like, 'Come on! You f------ a-------, really?' We are not a red state. Iowa is very, very blue, and the fact that this is happening in Iowa is like … and then they pulled Ramos. They didn't pull Trump. They f------- pulled Ramos. It's was like, 'Oh, we're such d----!' What the f--- is going on?
So unless they find a video of him f------ a dog while he's punching a nun dressed as a baby, we're all f-----. We are all f-----. I'm telling you right now. And the minute I have to, by law, say President Trump and not f------- want to kill myself, I'm immigrating somewhere warm and less s-----. It's just that f------ simple.
That kind of fits in with the shirt I saw you wearing in an interview. It's said, 'Stop making stupid people …'
… stop making stupid people famous. You know, everybody looks at Tr… the whole f------ reason is because he's been on TV this long. That's the only reason people are showing up. But if people start voting for him because of that, we are screwed, dude. Like, he's a f------ maniac. He can't be our president. It terrifies me. It really, really does.
You know, you're of age to run …
Why would I take the cut in pay, dude? Why would I do that?
You've got enough fans to change the country.
Hey, I'm going gray on my own. I don't need to go prematurely white in four to eight years. Have you seen Obama? Does he look like he had a good f------ time in that gig? F--- that!
So tell me about you almost fronting Velvet Revolver? That short-circuited my brain. I couldn't even …
I was so into that. And it just didn't happen, you know. It was cool getting to jam with those guys, getting to work on music and stuff. It just seemed like it was kind of being forced on a lot of people — not that I was there, but that they were trying to make something work. You know what I'm saying? So when word came down the pike that I didn't get it, I wasn't surprised.
And honestly, I wasn't even bummed, because apparently, Slash had said something in an interview, and then realized that I was going to read the interview before he had a chance to tell me. So he immediately got a hold of me and said, 'Hey, I feel like an ass. This is going to hit the whatever. I just wanted you to know this is what's going on.' And I was like, 'Ah, dude, it's fine. It's all good.'
Did I want the gig? Sure. But, you know, at the same time, I only wanted it if it made sense. I only wanted it if people were really, really into it. There was enough going on with that band at the time, that it didn't seem like they wanted to jam with each other, let alone jam with me.
So, for me, it was just a matter of it were meant to be, it would've happened. And I'm still friends with all those guys. So, where do I lose? You know, like, Slash knows me by name. Duff knows me by name. I talk to those guys all the time. You know, like, it is what it is. I had a really good time doing it. I got to jam with some of my heroes.
That's pretty insane. The 18-year-old you would probably be crapping himself right now.
Oh, dude, 14 … 14-year-old me. I saw Guns N' Roses open for Aerosmith in '86. And it was probably one of the greatest concerts I ever saw in my life. They were the … they were my Rolling Stones. You know, they were my rock 'n' roll band. And they always will be, even as Axl tries to kill the name. Um, it is what it is, but there you go.
You heard the latest, that him and Slash have buried the hatchet?
I will believe it when I buy the ticket. Let's put it that way. I mean, because nobody gets more excited about the thought of the "Appetite" lineup coming back together.
Oh my god!
That would be … I mean, there you go. I mean, dude, I would retire from touring, because I wouldn't want to go up against that. You know what I'm saying? And then I would follow them like I was a Deadhead. Like I would just go to every show. But that's only if it's the "Appetite" lineup — or even if it's those guys with (Matt) Sorum.
Because I know that Steven (Adler) has some physical issues, but he can still play, man. I've seen him play. He can jam, dude. That dude knows how to pound.
I think that might be one of the singular greatest rock 'n' roll albums of all time.
Oh, dude, it's, top to bottom … yeah, it's one of those albums that you cannot listen to and not go, 'Holy s---!' Like you put it on, and you feel it, even if you're not into the music, you feel it. There's something so dirty and so raw and so amazing about that album. And the songs are amazing. You know, people like to talk about the production or the attitude … those f------ songs are ridiculous!
And do you remember how much of a paradigm shifter that was when it came out, because it sounded like nothing else. It literally sounded like nothing else.
I remember when I got that cassette. I think I was a sophomore in high school. It literally blew my mind.
It was the one album that all my metal friends, all my skater friends, all my punk friends, all my hard rock friends could agree on.
It was the one album that you could throw on at a party and no one complained …
… and everyone would love it. There were no complaints whatsoever.
So what do you have planned for Vegas when you come?
Not die. That's basically the plan in the heat — because you know I live there now. So I know the heat. I've tried to make friends with that heat. It doesn't want to make friends with me. At all.
I'm so with you.
It gets worse. You think you've felt it. Oh, no, no, no, you've still got another month of the heat peaking on the index. Like, it's brutal. So knowing that and knowing the fact that we're not all that smart and we wear masks and coveralls, in a parking lot, in the middle of f------ August, in Las Vegas — yeah, not die. That is the plan, my friend. Don't f------ die!
So how long have you lived in Vegas? I wasn't aware that you lived here.
I bought a house there … well, my wife, her immediate family is from Vegas. She's originally from Detroit, but they've lived in Vegas now for, like, the last 20 years. So we have a house in Vegas and a house in Iowa. So we kind of hop back and forth. We bought that about … oh, eight years ago.
Seven. Seven years ago, because we've been together for seven years.
So what's been your experience living here, other than the heat?
I love it there, man, to be honest. I mean, once you get away from the weirdness of the Strip, it's fantastic.
What are the misconceptions that you've run up against?
That everyone's wasted. That everyone who lives in Vegas is wasted and gambling, and honestly that's the tourists. You have to go visit the weirdness. You know, like, once you get off the Strip — you get, like, two exits off the Strip — it's a lot like, honestly, it's a valley (like) in California. Like, it's just got a very cool, like, Burbank like kind of … yeah, I mean, it's really, really cool. There's a lot of really, really great suburbs. Like, housing developments. It's really, really cool, and there's a lot of cool people who live there. Luckily, I have a ton of family who lives there. So we're never at a loss for doing stuff.
What kind of stuff do you do here?
Basically, just hang out with the family, you know. We hang at the house a lot, and I cook a lot. Just kind of try to enjoy my time with the family. You know, so, if … if we were going to go do stuff, um … we just kind of hit each other's houses. You know?
Do you go to East Fremont, like Container Park, or anything like that?
No, no, no. Some of my family does. They used to go to Insert Coins all the time, but sadly, that is closed. Uh, there's a handful of places that we used to go to, but we just kind of stay under the radar.
Read more from Dave Herrera at bestoflasvegas.com. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org