A Q&A with Slipknot frontman Corey Taylor

With song titles from his band that equate people to excrement and a brand-new book titled “You’re Making Me Hate You: A Cantankerous Look at the Common Misconception That Humans Have Any Common Sense Left,” Corey Taylor may seem like a misanthrope miffed with mankind — and, well, maybe he is. Even so, from the way he talks about Slipknot fans, they’re obviously excluded from his loathsome list.

“I love our fans,” he says emphatically in a Zippo Artist Encore Spotlight clip online. “The fans are the whole reason we have this. The fans are the whole reason that we get up in the morning. They’re the whole reason that we strap this stuff on every night, and they’re the whole reason we kill each other on stage every single time. They’re some of the most passionate, intelligent, crazy fans on the planet, and we’re very, very lucky to have them.”

Those fans, who are legion, are certainly in for a treat tonight when Slipknot brings its “Summer’s Last Stand” tour to MGM Resorts Village. One the biggest mainstream metal shows of the summer, the Slipknot date includes a stellar supporting cast, including Lamb of God, Bullet for My Valentine, which just issued its latest album, the much more muscular “Venom,” and Motionless in White. Metal fans will not want to miss this one.

In advance of the show, we spoke with the always outspoken frontman, and he talked about playing a major label showcase in Las Vegas that ruffled the A&R man so badly that he purportedly uttered, “If this is the future of music, I don’t want to be alive.” Taylor also discussed his love for the fans, making the band’s first two albums and more. Page down to read part one of our interview.

Las Vegas Review-Journal: I heard that you just played Red Rocks. That’s in my hometown, so I’m pretty stoked about it.

Corey Taylor: Oh, right on.

Did you have fun?

Yeah, man, absolutely. I used to live in Lakewood.

Yeah, I know. I was around at the time when you were living there — I read your first book. I’m from Denver. I’m a native. So I got a kick out of that section of the book. So what was that like playing Red Rocks, after having lived there, all these years later?

It was pretty cool, man. We had played there in 2000 on “Tattoo the Earth.” That was our first headlining festival thing. Yeah, so, it was weird. Right out of the gate, we had gone from supporting act to headlining our own festival, and it was like, “What?!” Just kind of threw us for a loop.

That would’ve been right after Ozzfest and the “Coal Chamber” tour, ’99-2000, right?

Yeah, yeah, yeah. It was summer of the next year. We’d been going about a year.

Nobody wanted you to open for them, right?

Nobody, dude! Like, for real. The only supporting tour we did was the “Coal Chamber” thing. And then nobody wanted to take us out. So we were like, “OK. I guess we’ll just do this on our own.” And then we ended up doing our own festival on our own, and it was just like, “You’ve gotta be kidding me!” So it’s like you’ve got bands like, everybody from Slayer to Sevendust underneath you, and you’re the anchor for this thing. You roll into Red Rocks and you’re like, ‘Is this real? This is insane!’

But then it was 15 years before we came back. I mean, it was pretty crazy. This time around, we got to enjoy it. It was kind of cool. The first time around, it was like, ‘You know, just make sure that you’re great. Don’t pay attention to anything. Just do your thing.’ This time around, it was like, “OK, god, we haven’t played here in a long time. Let’s really enjoy this.” You know, so. It was weird.

Tell me the story behind “Heretic Anthem.” I know that it was inspired by a showcase you did here in Vegas at GameWorks. Can you tell me the story of the A&R guy who passed on you?

Well, I don’t really know if that’s … that’s not what I was writing about when we were doing the “Heretic Anthem,” but I can tell you about that story, absolutely. We did a showcase for this thing … uh, it’s called the Edom festival. It was us and it was a band called Amen, which is a fantastic band. And it was basically a showcase of all the bands that Sony was purportedly going to sign.

So we were all there, and it was our first time in Vegas, and, like, all these kids came down because they’d heard kind of through the grapevine and everything. We did our show, and we just destroyed. I mean, at one point, there were more of us in the audience than there were on stage. I mean, it was just one of those shows. You know, I mean, crazy! And the head of A&R at Sony took one look at us and killed our deal. We were like a signature away from signing with Sony to begin with, and he killed our deal. He basically said, “If this is the future of music, I don’t want to be alive.”

And so now fast forward. We’ve made the first album. About a year after that, it goes platinum. We got our platinum plaques and we sent him a dozen dead roses and basically said, ‘We are the future of music, and we want you dead.’ And I don’t know if he appreciated it or not, but I just loved that quote — “If this is the future of music, I don’t want to be alive.”

And if you look at it, we were kind of the last band right before the Internet changed the way that the game is played. So I’m fairly certain that dude doesn’t even have a job anymore. And yet, here we are. We’re still here. It’s kind of funny. You know? I really enjoyed that, just the thought of him not only passing on us, but then being driven out of the business because he’s just too old to get it. I think it’s hilarious.

It’s kind of funny. Trust me: No one is more surprised by our success than I am. Like, on paper, this band doesn’t work. (laughs) You know, you’ve got nine dudes from Iowa, playing crazy heavy metal music, like beyond heavy metal music, at this point, wearing masks and matching outfits — yeah, that’s a band that’s built for the ages, when you really think about it. That’s a band that’s not only going to have No. 1 albums and hits; they’re going to get a Grammy — yeah, sure, yeah. I’m sure Nostradamus could’ve predicted that one.

For sure. I don’t think anybody saw you coming.

I still look around and go, “You’ve gotta be kidding me.” I keep waiting for somebody to let us know we’re on “Punk’d.” It’s that bizarre.

Honestly, it still feels like you don’t take a single second for granted. I saw a quote from you on the Zippo Artist Spotlight clip, and you said — you were talking about your fans — and you said, “I love our fans. The fans are the whole reason we have this. The fans are the whole reason we get up in the morning …” That quote.

Yeah, yeah.

And I was really struck by the fact that … you know, you’re at a level now, where you don’t have to do that. And there’s a lot of bands that don’t. But I went back and I looked, and you guys have been that way since the beginning. I saw a section of a piece in the Cleveland Scene from ’99 — and that’s before any of this happened — and it talks about … Joey Jordison’s talking, and he says … the section says, “It angers them that bands treat their fans like they’re beneath them. Slipknot took kids on the tour bus, showed them videos, gave away CDs, T-shirts and demos …”

And this is the quote that really stuck with me: ” ‘It was toward the end of the day at Ozzfest,’ says Jordison. ‘And it was raining, and I’m bolting back to the bus. These four kids huddled next to the fence all had Slipknot T-shirts on, and they called my name. They all had their money stolen and were hungry. I saw the last money they had spent on our T-shirts. I got out my wallet and gave them $20 to buy some food.’ ” I mean, that was before any of this happened.

We used to do that all the time. And we weren’t making a lot back then, but we tended to share what we had with a lot of the fans because they really … they put us on the road to this. They put us on the map. And, you know, to this day, to not acknowledge the fact that they took us from the underground and they put us over, basically … if you try to turn your back on that, I mean, what the hell’s the point? You know?

At the same time, I think our reasons for making music has never changed. And I think that’s one of the reasons why we are not only where we’re at, but we’re also still striving for quality. It’s not just about quantity for us. A lot of these bands, they hit a certain level of success, and they just completely check out. You know? They don’t care anymore. They stop trying.

And, to me, that means that they never had righteous reasons for doing it in the first place. Whereas for us — and maybe it’s because of where we grew up — we were always looking for a certain type of music to kind of keep us going. You know, that’s the kind of passion that we have for music. It’s not just in the way we make it. It’s in the way we listen to it, as well, and the way we approach it, live and everything, whether it’s the music we write or the music that we love. And that’s never changed for us, and I think that’s one of the reasons why not only have we stayed where we’re at, but we’ve gotten bigger.

And that’s one of the reasons why the fans have never left. They get it because they’re just like us. They’re fans, too. And they love the fact that we approach our own music with the ear of the fan, the heart of the fan. Like, we just want to do everything better. We want to make better music. We want to make music that you can feel. We’re not trying to sell hamburgers or car insurance. This is music for us to live by. And that resonates, not only with the generation that got us started, but this newer generation which has come around and is now kind of passing the torch on to everybody else.

It’s crazy, man. It’s like this whole new batch of fans, like this whole new fan base, that is really split down the middle when you go to one of our shows. You look at a lot of the older fans that have been coming to see us for sixteen years, and there’s … it’s almost 50/50. Whereas there’s a whole new generation that has never seen us before. And it’s insane. You know? But it’s that same passion, whether you’re 30-40 or 15-20. It’s the same look in their eyes that we had when we first started. I’m pretty proud of that, man. I’m pretty proud of the fact that we’ve not only kept our older fans, but we’ve basically kind of expanded into this whole new realm.

I always get so upset when I talk to some of these dudes in some of these bands — and I won’t mention any names — but they’re just so elitist to the point of pricky. You know? They just have this air about them where it’s like nothing matters. They’re almost ashamed of their success. And it’s like then why did you leave your basement? You know? Like why did you start playing shows live? You could’ve been a pretentious a– f— in your basement, and just made your own music, for yourself.

It’s all a con. Like these guys who try to come off better and holier than thou, it’s all a f—— con, because if that were true, they would never have played their first live show. They would have never have worked their ass off to get a record deal, or to put that song out for people to hear. It’s just a weak excuse to come off as petty and preachy. You know?

Whereas for me, I love the fact that people f—— love our music. You know? It gets me so excited that I can’t wait to get on that stage. I can’t wait to put the album out. I can’t wait for people to hear it. I can’t wait to share it. You know? Because that’s what it’s all about. You want people to be just as into your music as you are.

And that’s going to carry it around the world. It’s like an echo that reverberates every wall around the world, and it reaches ears that you would’ve never even suspected. And it’s ridiculous to say that you don’t want fans, and that you can’t be bothered to have fans. It’s like, then stop doing what you’re doing because you give people like us a bad f—— name.

I’m really curious about your albums, specifically the first one. What was it like to record with Ross Robinson? Was it really that intense? Was one of your bandmates actually bleeding?

Oh, we were all bleeding. I mean, it was … dude, it was gnarly. I mean, I threw up pretty much every day I was doing vocals — and not just because of the way I was screaming, but because of the smell that was in the vocal booth. There was a dead mouse in the wall, and one of the other bands that Ross was producing, he liked to cut himself while he was singing, and he cut a little too deep, so there was dried, dank blood all over the vocal booth. And then you combine all that with the fact that I was throwing up, and it just all kind of … it just soaked into the walls. It’s probably why that first album sounds the way it does, because it was born of fluids that just weren’t supposed to co-mingle. For real, it was so gnarly, man.

Between Ross throwing s–t at us and us throwing s–t at each other … I mean, it’s the sound of a war, basically. Like if soldiers just stopped in the middle of the field and started writing songs, like, that’s basically… It was that concussive. It was that, kind of, in your face and confrontational. And we were able to capture that. But the thing is, I have such great memories from making that album, because we were so into it. Like it didn’t even dawn on us that this might have a negative effect. We loved the Ross worked, because he was so into it, just as much as we were into it. It was like, “Yeah, dude, throw something at me. I love it!” You know, “Hit me in the face with something. Let’s do this!” You know? We had so much fun.

And not only that, but we’re recording at this place where so much great music was coming out of, Indigo Ranch, which, sadly, isn’t even there anymore. We’re up on this mountain, and you kind of come through these trees, and there’s this plateau where you can see … I think it’s Catalina Island, like clear out in the distance, and you can see the bay, and you can see the other mountains, and you’re just like, “Wow! How did we get here,” you know. And then turned around and you go back in, and you’re just making absolute chaos, in key. It was such a bizarre experience for us that all we could do was enjoy it. You know, like, you kind of work your whole life to get to that point. And you’re in this amazing experience and …

Dude, it was phenomenal. It was probably one of the most fun times I ever had making an album. And it really allowed us to make the album, instead of worrying about how people were going to take it, you know, like how well it was going to do. We didn’t give a s—t about any of that. We just wanted to make it.

So yeah, dude, it was full contact, like holy s— going on. Like, you can hear the screaming in the drum tracks. Like a lot of those drum takes were done live. We all were in the room, playing and just kind of yelling at each other — you can hear Joey screaming in the drum tracks. It was phenomenal. I mean, it was an intense, intoxicating thing to kind of go through, like it was a lot of fun.

Well and it kind of carried over into the second record at Sound City, right? The approach didn’t really change for Ross at that point, right? I heard that you threw up when you were singing the title track and cut yourself and all that sort of stuff, were standing there naked …

Yeah, I was naked. Yeah, it was … you’ve got to remember, we were kind of approaching our dark period around that time. So, sad to say, we kind of slipped into some cliches that maybe we shouldn’t have. The booze kind of got in; the drugs kind of got in. We just kind of started taking it way too far. So making that album was night and day from making the first album. Because now it was that saying: “You’ve got your whole life to make your first album and three months to make your second.”

Luckily we had written a bunch of stuff while we were on the road. So all we really had to do was stop, catch our breath for 10 seconds, and we went right into the studio. Because, I mean, we basically went right from the end of the touring cycle right in to make “Iowa.” And I think that’s why that album, as intense as it sounds, compared … I mean, it’s on par with the intensity of the first one, but it’s so much darker. It’s so much denser.

It’s almost like if you’re not a Slipknot fan, you’re not going to listen to that album, because it’s such a bleak f—— destructive album. But that’s the thing: We wanted to do that. We dedicated ourselves to making the heaviest album we possibly could, whether it was putting it up against everything else, or just trying to out-heavy ourselves. That’s what we wanted to do. We knew that the world was kind of waiting for us to churn out, like, 12 “Wait and Bleed’s” and maybe a couple of “Spit it Out’s”, for good measure. We were like, “Guess what? That’s not what you’re going to get from this band.”

The record company was asking you for that, right?

Oh, yeah, they were begging us. I mean, yeah. We had a tune called “Left Behind,” and that was going to be the one where it’s like, this will be the one that’s a little more melodic or whatever, but other than that, we’re totally swinging for the fences with everything else. And they were like, “Well, we need more.” And it’s like, “You’re not getting it.” You know? And it was almost like a war of words, especially with the way they were kind of treating us. They kind of — and I don’t have this on good authority; I’ve just heard this from people who used to work from Roadrunner and whatever — they basically took all the money that they made from us on Slipknot and they used it to sign Nickelback.

Yeah. So, not only did they not put the money back into us, they used it on a completely different band, the antithesis of everything that Slipknot is about. But that was the way that a lot of those guys retired. And like I said, I don’t know that for a fact, but I’ve had enough people at the label — which half those people don’t even work there anymore — I’ve had enough former employees tell me that that it makes a lot of sense. So we really had a gigantic chip on our shoulder. And it was just going to get worse from there, basically.

The next record you did with Rick Rubin, “Volume 3,” and that’s when you got sober, so you said that was kind of a more difficult record to do, and you took a lyrical shift. Otherwise, what was it like working with Rick versus working with Ross?

I mean, Rick and Ross are so different. And I’m pretty much on the record how I feel about it. I gotta be honest, it’s nothing against Rick. I’m sure this is the way he likes to work, but he’s so hands off. You know? That’s not how I like to work. I like somebody who’s there, that I can collaborate with, that I can throw ideas off of. And that’s one of the reasons why, years later, we worked with Greg Fidelman. Because he was our engineer on “Volume 3,” and basically, I give him more credit than Rick, to be honest, about how “Volume 3” turned out. And I mean, sun-up to sundown, way past sundown.

He was able to get a lot of good stuff out of us — surprisingly out of me, because I was in such a weird state at the time. You know when you come out of the fog which is drugs and alcohol, you’re just … it’s like being a brand new baby. You have no idea who you are. You have no idea how things work. You have to, basically, kind of, start from scratch. You just kind of figure out, not only why you were drinking in the first place, but why you’re now not drinking. And that’s a challenge.

So when I was making that album, it was so hard for me. I just couldn’t … I had a hard time getting it together. But towards the end, I was finding something. But it’s still one of those albums that I’m not really sure if I’m proud of or if I’m ashamed of. It’s weird, man. It’s my least favorite album that we’ve ever done. And I tell people that, and they’re like, “Are you nuts?!” That’s like my favorite album.” And I’m like, “Well, I don’t know how.” You know?

It’s weird. It’s not that I don’t enjoy some of the songs that are on it. I mean, some of the songs that we play live off that album, I really, really enjoy. And I love what we were trying to do, which is, with every album, we’re just trying to expand the range and really get it to … to take this band in different directions while still being ourselves. But it’s weird. I’m proud of what everybody else did, because they really got to experience it and got to do something special. But for me, it was just too new in the process for me. I mean, it is what it is, and ironically enough, I actually had more fun making “All Hope Is Gone,” until the s— hit the fan on that one.

Stop by next week to read part two of our interview with Slipknot frontman Corey Taylor, in which he discusses “All I Hope Is Gone” in more detail and talks about the band’s latest album, “Chapter 5,” his book, living in Las Vegas and Donald Trump.

Read more from Dave Herrera at bestoflasvegas.com. Contact him at dherrera@reviewjournal.com.

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