"I'm still waiting to write the ultimate song," explains Slipknot frontman Corey Taylor, a bold statement for a musician who fronts two successful bands, appeals to a wide range of music fans, and, in the age of technical shortcuts, insists on doing all his writing with just a pen, paper and pack of occasional cigarettes.
But maybe that's why Meat Loaf recently called Grammy Award-winning Slipknot a "metal Beethoven," and the band's support system consists of millions of devoted fans that form one, big, head-banging family.
In 1995, bassist Paul Gray and percussionists Joey Jordison and Shawn Crahan began some late-night music sessions at the gas station where Jordison worked. With a lineup of six members, the band self-released Mate. Feed. Kill. Repeat on Halloween in 1996. The decision to add more melodic vocals brought in Corey Taylor, who was in Stone Sour at the time.
By 1998, the band had the majority of the line-up that fans know and love today, which has since developed into chaotic combination of besieging musical style and an attention-grabbing image; yet there's also a piercing intellectual element to the science behind the masks and musical prowess. The choreographed anarchism is too multi-faceted to describe. And while they've been described as violent and hateful (perhaps due to the fact that their live shows almost inevitably end up with a band member suffering from broken heels, cracked ribs, bleeding skulls, and, at times, burns from being set on fire), all one must do is listen to the lyrics to understand that the underlying themes consist of personal strife, politics, disaffection and nihilism--there's not even any profanity on 1995's Vol. 3: (The Subliminal Verses)-- just to prove a point that the metal band doesn't rely on it as a means of expression.
Up On The Sunspoke with singer Corey Taylor to discuss new music from Slipknot and Stone Sour, the film production company headed up by him and Clown, and how the band is picking up the pieces after the death of Paul Gray.
Up On The Sun: How are you doing today, Corey?
Corey Taylor: Good! Just about to go to the studio.
Nice what're you guys working on currently?
We're actually working on a new Stone Sour album.
That's awesome. Slipknot is doing a bunch of shows this year, is that confirmation that you guys will be working on new music soon?
Not soon, but yeah, yeah. It's just part of the process, just making our way towards the future basically. The band took a pretty big hit with the loss of Paul and we're just doing what we can to carry on in his memory. And part of that is coming back together as a band. The more tours that we do the more we try to make sense of it all. We're just taking baby steps and trying to do it right. Not rush into anything, and just get to a point where we're ready to make music without Paul. Which is going to be really hard, but we need to go down that road and uh, just coming together as a family again for it to be right."
Who is stepping in to play Paul's parts on tour?
We have a friend of ours named Donnie Steele whose been playing with us since Paul passed. He was actually the original guitar player for Slipknot way, way back, before I was even in the band. It just makes sense to have someone from the family come in and pick up, help us pick up the pieces. And he's been great. But I don't see us ever replacing Paul. There's no replacing. But for now, Donnie is doing a great job and he's been helping us carry on.
There's a rapper in the called UK Professor Green who wants to do a collaboration and has launched a campaign for you and Mushroomhead to tour together. Do you think either of those things might be possibilities in the future?
I don't know. Anything's possible. I learned a long time ago never to say never. Right now, it's much more important to focus on our band than to think of anything like that. It's one of those things that it's not the usual situation, like "This could be cool, let's go out and do this." We're still trying to find ourselves again as a band. For right now, I'd say that there's nothing on the table as far as plans to do anything like that. Right now we're just trying to take care of ourselves, and that's all we need to do."
Last year you recorded a bunch of material with Velvet Revolver. Any chance people will hear the music that came of that?
I did some demos with them in late spring, messing around on some stuff together. But it didn't seem like it was the right thing at the time. Everyone in the band kinda had their own thing going on. It was cool to do and I had a lot of fun working and hanging out with those guys. But it just wasn't meant to be at the time."
Let's talk about Stone Sour. The follow-up to 2010's Audio Secrecy is slated to come out this fall right?
Yes it's coming out later this year, not sure when yet. We're actually working on a double concept album that is a monster. Trust me. Just from the demos we're doing right now, the music is really, really good. It's probably the best we've ever written. And we're really excited about that. When we started working in the studio putting everything together...we're trying to figure out right now if we're going to release the discs together or separately, one at a time. But I've written a really cool story that goes along with it, and we're going to have a bunch of cool artwork and multimedia tied in with it as possible. So it's going to be pretty epic in scale.
What's the concept behind the album?
It's really a morality play. It's about a person trying to find himself, or herself. You know, everyone in their lives finds themselves inevitably at a crossroads when it comes to personal evolution and whatnot. Trying to figure out what they want to do with the rest of their lives. You know, you can either stay where you are and relive the past and run backwards and basically buying into the romance of youth and those things that come with it, stagnating your growth. Or you can keep moving down the path and eventually cross into the next phase of your life. It's basically the story of a man trying to figure it out, and there's a lot of things that go on in a guy's head when he's trying to figure out the right thing to do.
Tell me a bit about Living Breathing Films, the production company that you and Clown started out.
Oh yeah! Me and Clown have been threatening to get into the movie industry for quite some time...
That's a great way to describe it. Threatening.
[Laughs] That's really the only way to put it. We're just really big fans of the movies and art, and movies that stir something in you. He's the budding director and I'm the guy who's the fanatic, interested in the story and where it goes and character development. So together, we decided that it was time to put our money where our mouth is, and start to put movies out there as well. It's not just sitting back and being a critic, but it's helping create something and put it out in the world to shake things up a bit and that's what we plan to do. We've actually got a script under development right now and a handful of other projects we're starting to mess with. The cool thing is we're not just sticking with movies. We just filmed the documentary about the Soundwave Festival in Australia that we were a part of, and really trying to tell the story of that festival and all the bands involved over the years. Just to show people what it's like to be on the road and show the behind-the-stage side. We're following our instincts and our passions.
I was thinking it'd be amazing to see you and Rob Zombie working on a horror film together.
Yeah, yeah. There's a lot of stuff that we wanna do. We want to do psychological thrillers, we wanna do dramas. We don't want our company to be pigeon-holed as a machine to create bad horror films. We want to do it all. We want to do it our way. It will be cool to see what happens next. Our first major thing will probably be that documentary, but it's still very early in the pre-production stage.
You guys haven't put anything out yet, right?
No, not yet. Clown's been doing a series of small short films that we just keep putting up on the website to keep peoples' attention and show people all the little things we can do. Our first major thing will most likely be the documentary, but we are working on a feature film right now, and it's still very, very early in the pre-production stage, but it should be very cool.
So, what is something during the writing process that you absolutely can't live without, in order to do it?
Ah, that's a good question. Um, for me, I need notebook sand pens. I need pens. I'm a nutbag when it comes to that stuff. I know a lot of writers who use their computer but I'm still an old-school guy. I still have piles and piles of notebooks from all the albums I've done lying around...it's probably not the safest place to have that stuff around. But that's the stuff that I need...for me, it's the crafting of it all, you know? There's just something a little impersonal trying to type your poetry into a computer. There's something just close to the heart about ripping pages out of a notebook and filling them with what's in your head. So, paper, pens and the occasional pack of cigarettes.
What are you listening to these days?
When I'm making an album I refuse to listen to the genre I'm writing in. I've been listening to a lot of Elvis lately, actually, from the late '50s/early '60s, to get my head out of that world. If you stay in the metal word too long, you might unconsciously replicate something that you hear. I always like my ideas to stay fresh and to create something hopefully nobody's ever heard before. So I do my very best to keep myself out of that genre, and just, you know, do whatever. But being a music fan I gotta have music. Luckily, I'm into so many different types I have a lot of different things to listen to.
What's your favorite Elvis song?
Oh man, "Mystery Train" is really good. "Hard Headed Woman." "Suspicious Minds" is my jam--I love that song! I'll be driving down the street, [starts singing] "We can't go on together."
Between Slipknot and Stone Sour, do you favor any songs in particular? I'm guessing it probably changes with your mood and what's currently going on in your life.
Yeah, I guess it definitely changes with my mood. The cool thing is that I've kinda had the opportunity to write so many different types of music so I have a lot to choose from. I can sift through my music and find something I'm really feeling. I'm lucky in that respect. But I'm still waiting to write the ultimate song, basically, and luckily I have two great bands I can go to to get that done."
In one of your bios, you say that you aspire to be like such figures as Trent Reznor and David Bowie. Who else do you look up to?
Oh man, writing-wise? God, that's a great question. You know, I've always been a fan of people who distinguish themselves.. The unique singer, the personable singer. I have a hard time listening to people who sound just like everybody else. So for me, I've always been a huge fan of everyone like Tom Waits, Bob Dylan, David Lee Roth...they've just been mimicked so many times it's ridiculous. But each of those people were the originals. I'm a fan of great singers and great performers. You don't necessarily have to be the best, but if you are yourself, then inevitably your personality is going to make you the best.
Slipknot is scheduled to perform Friday, July 6, at Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival at Ashley HomeStore Pavilion.