NME meets Slipknot and Stone Sour icon turned solo star Corey Taylor in the flash offices of his London record label, fresh from a radio interview with Ricky Wilson. The metal faithful among you may be surprised to hear that this often masked menace is in fact a true and hardcore Kaiser Chiefs fan.
“Especially that first album, man,” Taylor enthuses of the ‘Ooooohhhhh‘-heavy 2005 indie staple ‘Employment’. “It’s really rad and super legit. The more I got into that album, the more it inspired me to write. To this day, I listen to it and really get down with it. I’ve been threatening to do a cover of ‘Modern Way’ for a long time. I’d do a really cool acoustic version of it, which would be really rad.”
If that’s a mash-up you weren’t prepared for, then wait until you hear this dream collab sparked by one of his many faded memories of visiting the capital.
“I know it’s a shock for some people, but I have so many memories from this place that are not just professional,” he laughs. “The one that I was thinking about the other night, was the night we [my PR and I] went to watch Tenacious D at the Astoria and we proceeded to get absolutely pissed with them! To the point where we had convinced ourselves that we were going to do a Slipknot and Tenacious D tour – which to this day I’m really mad that we didn’t do because it would have been brilliant, you know.”
Then again, Taylor has always been a man full of surprises, and never more so on than on his upcoming second solo album ‘CMF2’ – a colourful Magical Mystery Tour of the rock legend’s life, career and tastes. We sat down with the man himself to talk about bettering himself, going offline, his PTSD battle, and what the latest is on the ‘Knot’s “super experimental, vibey” lost album, ‘Look Outside Your Window‘…
NME: Hello Corey. It’s been three years since you launched your first solo album ‘CMFT’. How have you found this experience of going out there and giving so much of yourself to people under your own name and banner?
Taylor: “It’s so much more gratifying than I ever really thought it would be. At this point, I’ve been able to do music carte blanche. I’ve been very spoiled to be in not one but two great bands. Doing the first solo album was like, ‘Well, what’s left?’ That’s when I hit on the fact that I had all of these songs that I’d never been able to release. How do you do it? Well, you go solo because these songs were cast-offs that neither band wanted, or it was stuff I’d written for other people that just never got recorded.
“It afforded me that chance to show the singer-songwriter side even more. Once I realised that I enjoyed the process and loved recording with my band, I realised that there was a whole other side to the fanbase that really dug that stuff. I really leaned into it for ‘CMF2’. I was bound and determined to make this album feel more complete, more focussed, and I would say more well-rounded but I just to make an even more fantastic reputation of my career.”
The last time you spoke to NME you called it ‘The best rock album of this year and next’…
“And I still mean it!’”
And a record that ‘chews up the last one and spits it out’. How do you find that process of squaring up to yourself and your past?
“When you’ve been at it for as long as I have now, the only person that you should really challenge is yourself. If you start looking for people to try and beat, there’s a danger that you’ll emulate. I’ve never wanted to be anyone but myself. I’ve so many different styles and tastes and boundaries that I want to push. If I’m constantly trying to beat myself then that’s where the creativity and the drive comes from.
“That’s one of the reasons that Slipknot have continued to stay where we’re at because we’ve never turned around and look backwards – we’re still focussed on the road in front of us. We’ve still not gotten to where we want to be yet. Because we’re always on that journey, it’s kept us feeling relevant and fairly modern even though we have this really long career. To me, that’s the best thing you can do for yourself. The second you start turning around to smell your own shit, that’s when you end up getting it all over yourself.”
There’s a really interesting lyric on the song ‘Some Day I’ll Change Your Mind’: “These are the days, the best ones of my life”. This record really does feel like a celebratory record where you’re taking stock…
“One of the great things about doing a solo record is that you can lean in to topics that maybe have been verboten before. I’ve definitely had a long creative tether with the bands that I’ve been in, but there have definitely been some times where people have approached me about certain things that I’ve written and been like, ‘Can you change this?’ It puts you off. I’d rather just take it off the album. There should be no limitations. With this, I’ve been able to be a little more saccharine when it comes to my sappy love songs and really be more imploring when it comes to stuff like that.
“The song ‘Some Day I’ll Change Your Mind’ is written for my wife and is refuting her assertion that I could never change. I was like, ‘That sounds like a challenge and the long game’. I wanted to remind her that I hadn’t forgotten that conversation and I’m always going to try and be a better man for her. Especially when you’ve got someone so amazing.
“When I first started out, that’s all I wanted to be – someone who wrote songs and played them. I didn’t necessarily want to be a frontman or a rockstar. I just wanted to be someone who was completely satisfied with the fact that he could write songs, play them, and have someone enjoy them.”
Let’s look at ‘Talk Sick’ and ‘We Are The Rest’. You’re known for your anger, but these tracks are a different spin on that.
“They let people see a little more of my background. I grew up a punk kid, so I didn’t get into ‘metal’ metal until I discovered Metallica. They themselves were a product of the hardcore punk scene. To me, that’s where my heart has always lied. Being able to show more of that on these albums have been more gratifying.”
So sticking it to the man on songs like ‘We Are The Rest’ comes more naturally to you?
“I don’t know if it’s as much sticking it to the man. The people that we hoist up and view to be extraordinary, really aren’t. It’s more about the fact that there are so many people in the masses than there are above the waves. That’s why I put it out there the way I did. When you start focussing on people who are so ordinary, we miss the real stars in our midst. I’ve always felt like an outlier and not comfortable with the position I’ve been put in. I’ve always been very quick to shine the flashlight on somebody else.
“At the same time, I also like to rant against the man and don’t like to be told what to do, think or say – whether it’s the capitalist bent or the verbal Nazis that are out there, I guess I just don’t like anybody. Don’t feel special – I hate everybody! It’s not you, it’s so me!”
On the last record you had ‘Culture Head’, which was dealing in the toxicity of social media, public discourse and the general way we treat each other. That’s only getting worse, right?
“It really is. It’s one of the reasons why I got off social media in the first place. I have someone who runs it for me and I don’t even have the passwords. When someone sends me a link to something I’m like, ‘Are you new? I haven’t been on there for five years! Why do you keep sending me Instagram links that I can’t open!
“At some point, people have to see just how bad it is. There’s nothing social about social media. It’s all very dark, depraved and awful platforms for people just trying to rip down as many temples as possible. I don’t have any interest in that.”
Do you foresee a world where we stop living between extremes and things like facts and nuance become possible again?
“I miss facts! I miss when we lived in a world where facts weren’t meant with such disdain just because they fly in the face of something you believe. Belief is not a fact. People who may or may not be as intellectually inclined as other have decided to conflate these grandiose notions of conspiracy theories and absolutely fucking batshit ideas just so they can make themselves feel special and that they’re onto something. ‘These intellectuals don’t know anything – I’ve got all the answers!’ They do that just to make themselves feel special, others like that are attracted to it and now it’s just a norm, and it’s absolutely fucking terrifying. Unless that gets nipped in the bud fast and soon, then it’s going to get worse.”
Are you scared of AI? In case in bases itself on all of our bad habits?
“I’m so over AI and all of this bullshit. Just when we think we’ve figured out the fact that social media isn’t good for you, someone’s like, ‘Hold my beer – I’ve got this whole other side of hell to unleash’. It’s ridiculous. We can’t even control ourselves, and we think we’re going to be able to control AI when we let that think out of Pandora’s Box? OK! I’m so tired of humans.”
Another highlight of the album is ‘Post Traumatic Blues’, which deals with your experience of PTSD and everything that comes with it…
“Yeah, all the trimmings. It was one of those songs that I didn’t want to just be about me and my experiences – I wanted it to be a bridge between people who are dealing with PTSD and the people who are desperately trying to understand the nuances of what people have to go through. It’s one of the reasons why it tears families apart and went so undiagnosed for so many years – we never recognised the rainbow of symptoms and issues that come with it.
“The song is a reflection of what I’ve done with The Taylor Foundation, to try raise money and awareness for these people who have told me that my music has helped them get through tours of duty or get them through night shifts with the emergency services or law enforcement.
“If I don’t try do something to help them when I see that there’s room to do so, then I don’t deserve to be in a position to call attention to anything. We’ve been able to do some really cool things and I’m really appreciative.”
You’ve got a UK and European tour coming up in November. What can we expect from that?
“God knows, man. The cool thing about this band is that we can literally change the setlist every night and it’s going to be rad. My next challenge is to get my inner Springsteen on and be able to change the set on a whim and have the fanbase with no idea what’s coming next. Setlist.FM can go fuck themselves!”
How are your Springsteen knee skids?
“They are not good. Maybe it’s the years spent in Slipknot but I can barely jump in the air, let alone do a skid. Maybe they can bring out one of those things that mechanics use to slide under the car and they can just push me across the stage. That would be amazing!”
Speaking of Slipknot, any news on the release of the long-lost experimental album ‘Look Outside Your Window’?
“It’s actually funny that you bring that up. I was talking to Clown [percussionist and band leader Shawn Crahan] about it the other day and he goes, ‘One of the reasons it hasn’t come out is because you keep putting shit out which keeps conflicting with when I want to release it!’ I was like, ‘Fuck dude, why didn’t you tell me?’ He says, ‘Fuck, Taylor – you just got too much shit!’ It’s sounding like he’s got a release date that he can finally lock in and I have promised him that I won’t release anything that will ruin that. I think it’s going to be next year – finally, man!
“I just went back and listened to all that stuff and it’s so dope and so different. People going into this thinking it sounds like ‘Slipknot’ Slipknot are so wrong. It doesn’t sound like anything Slipknot have ever done, that’s why it’s its own thing. To me, it really is the long-lost album. The music is so beautiful, it probably has some of my favourite melodies that I’ve done, and people are really going to dig it. Clown did a really good job.”
I read recently that you wanted to launch a ska band called Decibel Cooper. Are there many projects that you have in mind that may eventually see the light of day?
“I’m so greedy, dude! I don’t know why people don’t hunt me down in the streets with sticks and go, ‘Listen – just stick to six bands!’ I don’t know, man. The cool thing is that if I ever wanted to do anything Two Tone, then I could do it with the ‘CMF2’ band. Decibel Cooper is the name of my imprint and film production company, so I was able to take it and apply it to something, but when it comes to the music I can consolidate everything down to the solo band. If I want to write something that sounds like Madness or The Specials, then I can throw it down and release it with those dudes.”
And how about that Tenacious D tour? Can you make that happen too?
“Maybe! I think Jack [Black] has changed his number, but we would crush that. That would be the most ridiculous tour, and yet would make so much sense. We just played with them at HellFest and they absolutely slayed. They’re still so good and still write incredible songs. It’s the most entertaining show.”
Until the world gets Corey Taylor sliding along on his back on a skateboard…
“Exactly – you watch out, Mr Black. You’ve got some competition.”
Corey Taylor releases ‘CMF2’ on September 15 before a November UK and European tour. Visit here for tickets and more information.