The first thing Corey Taylor
says when the conversation begins is, "Hey, I'm doing alright. It's all good. I just love the irony of me doing an interview in Ultimate-Guitar, hah hah hah."
My response is that UG
covers singers, keyboard players and drummers. Corey responds by saying, "I'm a little bit of all of those, hah hah hah. I'm holding it down."
It is a telling statement from the Slipknot
and Stour Sour
singer because Taylor is not just the frontman for those two bands but a concert promoter - Knotfest
is his creation - and novelist. But he is obviously most well-known as a singer and the conversation begins with another legendary vocalist who played a big part in Taylor's life as an artist. UG: What are your memories of first meeting Ronnie James Dio?CT:
We met a couple times in passing but it wasn't anything major. The real time I really got to officially meet him and hang out with was honestly right before he passed. We were both at the Revolver Golden God
awards in LA. And we were both up for Best Vocalist
. It's probably the one time I was rooting for somebody else to win because I'd just been such a fan of Ronnie
forever. So I'm like, "Oh dude, he's gonna blow me out of the water. What? Are you crazy?"Who won?
Of course he won and I was stoked. I was doing an interview backstage and he'd just gotten the statue so he was coming down and me and Jose Mangin
looked over and there's Ronnie James Dio. I was like, "Holy sh-t."
So we kind of dragged into the interview with us like a couple of little kids and we were like, "Oh, my god. Superman's here."
We brought him in and I mean the dude was - what can I say? Ronnie was cool?
You've probably heard it a million times but I can tell you just from my experience, he was one of the most down-to-earth, gracious, amazing dudes I've ever met. He was everything you want your hero to be when you meet him. The thing that was cool about him was he was humble but at the same time he was also very honest, man. He had no problem with calling bs on people especially old school and new school alike. I really loved that about him and I always thought that was so refreshing. I've definitely taken some pointers from it. Did Ronnie know about Slipknot and the kind of music you played?
Yeah, man. He was very aware. He came into the interview and obviously I'm like a huge fan and I'm trying not to fan boy on him and I was totally fan boying on him, which I am wont to do half the time. He was like, "Likewise"
and it blew me away. To have that kind of respect reciprocated, I wasn't expecting it. Let's put it that way. He really was very magnanimous about it and he was very, very cool. He knew my work and knew what I'd done and not only liked it but appreciated it. That must have been a remarkable moment for you.
That's one of a handful of memories that I really, really cherish. What was it about Ronnie's voice that so touched you?
He could just do anything. I think the thing that really infuriated me and other singers is that he just made it look so goddamn easy. You know? I asked him what his warm-up is and he's like, "I don't have one."
And I just went, "Really? Do you just walk out like that? That sucks, dude!"
I mean it sucks for me. What is your warm-up routine?
I don't really have one either but I kinda do a couple of different things just to make sure I have a voice. He'd hit a couple notes and go, "I'm ready to go."
The thing I loved the most about him is that he really could sing it all. He could sing the softer passages with a clarity and a beauty that is really kind of lost on a lot of people and especially with his style. There was such a great blend of what I considered classical and just raw roughness. So he could really ghost in-between the cracks and really be able to do anything. A great singer should be able to sing the ballads and the rockers.
He could go from songs that were very sweet and poetic to stuff like "Stand up and Shout
" for example or "Mob Rules
" actually, which is more to the point. He could just gravel it up with anyone and I just thought it was killer. His range was ridiculous. His passion you could feel it and you could hear it and you just don't get that a lot. Especially with someone was doing it still exceptionally right up until before his death. At his age, a lot of guys from his generation start to drop the songs down a little lower, a little lower - I'm not gonna point out any names - and it just gets to the point where the songs are damn near unrecognizable. He was still giving it just as good as he got it and that's just huge, huge inspiration for me. Are there contemporary metal singers who will leave their stamp like Dio did?
I think there's a handful. It's a different age and a different generation and people get into music for different reasons now. Without me talking a bunch of sh-t on people, you can usually tell the people who are kinda punching the timecard as opposed to the people who are genuinely invested in it. It's something in your soul that needs to do this. I mean there's a handful of 'em out there. Who would you name check as singers who are bringing it?
Just off the top of my head, Lzzy Hale
is definitely one who I think people really need to keep an eye on. Because as modern rock as they are, her voice is so gnarly and they are by far one of the best live bands I've seen. They do it for real and every note of it is for real. It's just something I think has never been captured in any of their recordings. I think they're really gona nail it with this next album. I think people are really gonna go like, "Holy god."
There's a great blend between like AC/DC
with that band and I mean that. That's just from an outside standpoint. That band is gonna change a lot of attitudes about things and she's an incredible singer. The more she gets out there and the more she does, the more it becomes painfully obvious she's not just a woman singer. She is just a badass singer. I'd put her up against any of these chumps that are in the bigger bands to be honest. How did you choose "Rainbow in the Dark" for the Dio album?
"Rainbow in the Dark
" is one of my favorite songs and it has been since I was a kid. When I was younger in second or third grade, we would run home to watch the brand new network - MTV
, hah hah hah. It was destination TV and it was like, "Oh, my god, dude."
You're seeing not only all these songs and bands you've heard but all this stuff you've never heard before. That's where you first heard the Dio song?
"Rainbow in the Dark" was one of 'em. There was just something about that song and something about the video. The video was fairly simple but there was something about it that was just awesome. I can just remember that song getting stuck in my head constantly. It stayed with me over the years and it's still one of my Top 10 best rock tunes ever written - in my opinion. There was no doubt then about which Dio song you were going to choose for "This Is Your Life."
When I got the chance to do this, I knew that was the song I wanted to do and luckily it was open. So I immediately called dibs. You really captured the spirit of that song. It had Ronnie's vibe for sure but it sounded like Corey Taylor.
Thanks, man. You never want to do a carbon copy and you want to give it your own thing while at the same time respecting the original. Because if the original wasn't good you wouldn't be singing it in the first place. So yeah, we wanted to give it a modern vibe and at the same time not lose the soul of it because there's just something about the way that song is put together that makes you want to sing along. Of course I don't have Dio's pipes so we brought it down a little bit [lowered the key]
and gave it a modern and darker vibe. At the same time we just kind of went for it and I think it came together really, really well. You're being roasted at the upcoming Roast on the Range with Sebastian Bach as emcee. What are you expecting?
Well, it's a roast. If you don't know what a roast is at this point in your life then you shouldn't be involved in one to be honest. I know just from experience some people can take offense because they don't understand what the spirit of it is. I mean I was stoked me and when they said they wanted me to be the guy under the coals as it is. I was all about it. You can poke fun at yourself?
Nobody makes fun of himself more than I do to be honest. I think the death of a sense of humor is to take yourself way too seriously. I learned a long time ago, I'm the last person who should be doing that, hah hah hah. You know? So I'm ecstatic and it's people I know and people I'm friends with and people I've met in passing. I think it's gonna be great. I feel bad for Sebastian, dude, because everybody is a target at these things. If he thinks I'm gonna get the worst, I think he's crazy. Sebastian Bach may be in the gun sights?
Hah hah hah. Honestly? I couldn't have asked for a better roast master. It's like, "Which is the better of the two evils to go after?"
I think it's gonna be great. You went through some darker times when you were younger so being able to laugh at yourself now must have taken a lot of healing.
Yeah, for the most part. I've always been very extroverted. Let's put it that way. Maybe it's because I moved around a lot and I had to make friends on-the-fly. I was homeless off-and-on for a while. I had a rough childhood. Without getting into the nuts and bolts of it, there were a lot of times where my childhood sucked. So on one hand it gave me the ingredients that eventually came out in Slipknot, which was really the only way I was able to truly define and then let go of those emotions and that negativity and try to make something positive out of it. Finding music really saved your life in some fashion?
But at the same time, I grew up and I was very much like, "Sure I'll jump off the roof. Sure. Why not? I'll take this food from lunch and shove it in my pocket and offer people ravioli. Sure - why not? Of course, it's school. Who gives a crap?"
Maybe that was one of the reasons why I became the singer I am now. The thing I realized and maybe this was because I realized something in myself or I saw it in other people is that there is a very dangerous line can be drawn where you're either living or surviving. It really comes down to that. A lot of people who survive, use their past and upbringing as a crutch to get away with terrible behavior. Or to kind of hold themselves back from evolving and getting past it. Some of these people don't have the resources I've had and I've been fortunate to have in being able to express myself. Or maybe the talent and the tools to be able to try to do that. You're right. Not everybody has that creative outlet to find some sense of peace.
But at the same time it makes a lot of do really kind of linger in it and they dwell on it. They don't allow themselves to really start living. I have my bouts just like everybody else. I get locked in my own head and I curl up in my own defeatism and whatnot. That's hard to believe because you've had so much success.
I can be an absolute c-cksucker to be around. But luckily I have great people around me who pull me back. They give me the proverbial slap in the face and say, "Snap out of it guy."
I kind of trend a little more on the living side of the fence. What you gonna get dwelling in all that bullsh-t? It happened. All I can do now is try to make sure it doesn't happen to my family and doesn't happen to the people I care about. It's just simple. When you look back to the first Slipknot record, what that a cathartic time for you?
Oh dude, yeah, hah. Trust me, I'm night and day from who that guy was because that little 25-year old kid was a f--king nightmare to be around a lot of times. I was moody; I was cross. I was a drunk and it was brutal being that guy. But I think I had to be that guy to get started. I let all that sh-t build up inside of me and I just f--kin' threw it up onto the tape basically. I mean you can hear me throwing up in a lot of that sh-t. You mean figuratively threw it up?
I mean that's not a put on - that's me genuinely vomiting in that vocal booth. You wanna talk about one of the grossest moments ever? We were making our album and the band Amen
- which is one of my favorite bands of all-time - were wrapping up their album. So me and Casey Chaos
are sharing a vocal booth off and on. We're not in there at the same time but we're in there. I'm throwing up and he's cutting himself and there's this dead mouse in the boards that we couldn't find. You physically threw up in the studio?
There's snot, there's ick, and there's that rusty smell of sweat in the wood, right? I was seriously like trying to do vocals in a f--kin' dumpster behind a medical waste plant, man. It was brutal. I think it was so real we had to be that real on that first album. Trust me there are moments where I'll smell something and I'll transport right back to that vocal booth and I just start retching uncontrollably. It's f--ked up but I'm glad it happened to be honest. Where were you mentally on the "Iowa" album?
By the second album, I was pretty wrapped up in myself. It was a pretty dark time. I was pretty deep in a drinking problem and all of a sudden we were one of the biggest bands in the world and we didn't know how to handle it. It was gnarly. It was very, very close to that cliché of kind of falling off the edge. And that honestly lasted all the way up until right in the middle of recording "Vol. 3
." That period from the first to the second album was more than five years.
I mean it was a long time for me trying to get myself out of it. I was pretty much wasted during the recording and the touring of the first Stone Sour album and I was wasted the first three-and-a-half months of making "Vol. 3." It was bad. Luckily - I say that now - there was a pretty gnarly, dark night where the next day I woke up and I was like, "What the hell am I doing?" That was your bottom?
It had gotten really, really bad. And the worst thing I could ever consider in my head was becoming a cliché. To me that is the worst kind of death because it means you're just basically walking down a path that's already been walked. I hate that. Normal to me is abnormal. I hate feeling like I'm going down a road that's already been traveled. It was from that moment where I sat up and started taking stock of who I was and what I wanted. It's still a work in progress but I'm keeping it together and hopefully I'm kinda giving inspiration to other people. That is a truly honest place to be coming from.
Especially in our genre and our industry where it's almost expected for talented people to act like d-cks basically. Entitled pricks is what I like to say. I was like, "Well if that's gonna be one end of the spectrum, I'm going to represent the other end."
Where, "Yes, you can have talent. Yes, you can be really good at what you do. But you can also be a gentleman and care about what is going on with other people." The concept of giving back is really important.
That's not to say my ego doesn't get out of control sometimes but it's because I do try to rein it in that I've been able to take myself out of situations and make sure I look at other people's issues first. Before I can really do anything that's detrimental to myself or my family. Responsibility shouldn't be something you push off on an assistant. It should be something you take very, very seriously especially when you're an adult. That's just how I'm rolling. I really appreciate your honesty.
It's all good, man. You talk about drinking during the recording of the Stone Sour album. But your vocals on songs like "Bother" and "Get Inside" were pretty remarkable.
Yeah, I hadn't gotten that bad. I hadn't really hit rock bottom. I was still able to kinda get through it and for the most I really tried to stay sober while I was making that first Stone Sour album. We recorded that on our own. We recorded that in less than five weeks. That's amazing.
Yeah, and I did all the vocals in four days. Let's put it that way. That is truly unreal.
Yeah, which is unheard of these days. I mean it was insane. We recorded it in less than five weeks and then it was mixed in four days. It was probably one of the last independent albums we ever did. But it was cool and it was very wide open. It was a great blend of older songs and newer songs. It was a really good way to kick everything off. It's basically what a first album is supposed to be. It was like, "Here's all these songs we've had for years and here's all this other stuff we've written recently."
So, I was pretty proud of it. Then a couple years after the first Stone Sour album you record "Vol. 3: (The Subliminal Verses)" with Rick Rubin.
The weird thing is that there's still parts of that album that are hard for me to listen to because I know where I was at when I was tracking it. It was pretty dark and there's a lot of vocal takes that are actually on the album that I didn't like. Which is crazy because the album is great but I just knew I really only became invested in it about halfway through it. There's still stuff on there I'm on really proud of. Specifically?
" was me and a couple of different people coming up with that. "The Virus of Life
" was a song me and Paul [Gray]
put together. I mean there's great stuff on there that was pretty groundbreaking at the time not only for us but for metal in general. Just kinda being able to go, "Guess what? We have no rules so we're gonna do what the hell we want."
So I think it was a great expansion album and there's some great songs that are still in our live set. My one regret is I wish would've been more together when we were making that album. But if it hadn't been for that album, I wouldn't be together today. So, so much for holding onto regret, right? Can a metal vocalist sing a ballad like "Through Glass" and still be considered heavy? [Much laughter]
That's the thing - nobody told us what we couldn't do. I think that's one of the reasons why this band keeps reaching for what might be considered unattainable. That's why we forgo cliché or formula or anything like that is because we've always been able to do what we want and what we want just happens to work a lot of the time. It's a good freedom. It's a responsibility but it's a good freedom. Why do you say responsibility?
I say reasonability because you're kinda left going, "Now what?"
It's getting harder and harder to top ourselves. Which is a perfect segue into the album you're working on now.
I can't really say a lot about what we're doing right now. Obviously I can say we are working on a new album but that's about it. That's all you can reveal?
Yeah, we shut everything down because we want to bring back the excitement and the epic feel of what it feels like for a band to put out an album. So we've kinda gone anti-Twitter, anti-Facebook, anti-Instagram and anti-everything. You're gonna have to wait just like we're gonna have to wait. But I can tell you it's gonna be awesome. What was it like working on the "All Hope is Gone" album with producer Dave Fortnam [Mudvayne]?
I had a great time working with Dave
. He and I got along really well together. We had a blast. We were just kind of shooting ideas off each other, which is essentially what you want from a producer. I came into that Slipknot album more prepared than I'd ever been before. I'd written everything right up until the moment we went in and I was really stoked on it. I will say this about Fortnam
- he was the only who really saw the potential in "Snuff
." That was another remarkable and surprising Slipknot song.
I had written that song specifically for Slipknot but I wasn't sure how I was gonna be able to pull it off basically. 'Cause there are guys in Slipknot that are like [in low gravelly voice]
, "What the f--k is this?"
It wasn't a hard battle but at the same it was like, "Well, let's see what f--kin' happens."
And Dave really had the vision for that song. He was like, "This is f--kin' huge. This is going to be huge"
and really helped me get the guys on point and put it together. It f--king came out fantastic so I had a blast working with Dave. Obviously this new album will be the first one without Paul Gray. Does it feel entirely different without Paul there?
Yeah, yeah. I mean it's always gonna be different and nothing's ever gonna be the same. It's a better way to say it to be honest. But all we can do is what we do. The way I've had to look at it is that not every great football team stays together and not every great band can keep doing it with the same people. It's the nice way of me saying that I can't just look at him as dead, which breaks my heart. I have to look at as, "One of our most important pieces is gone - how do we make up for that?"
So it's basically us pooling our talents to fill in this vacuum that has been left. How is that going?
We're in the midst of it and we'll just have to see what happens. Jim Root told me a couple months ago that he felt he had sort of channeled Paul Gray's energy in helping him write this new album.
Let me tell you something about Jim Root
- he is one of the best writers I've ever had the privilege of working with. The stuff that he comes up with? He's insane. Tell us one thing about the album.
I will give you this on the new album - none of you are gonna see this comin'. And that's all I can say about it, hah hah hah. You have no idea. The departure of Joey Jordison has impacted the creative process?
Well that's something that's a little harder to talk about. I can't honestly legally talk about it. That's all I can really say about that. You're bringing the Knotfest to Japan again?
We did the first ever Ozzfest
there. This will be our first time doing Knotfest outside of America, which is cool. We've got a bunch of stuff we're gonna be announcing in the next handful of months. We'll see what happens. We're gonna start building this thing even bigger. You saw promoting your own festival as the next logical business step for Slipknot?
Yeah. The cool thing about doing something like Knotfest is it can be a reflection of everything we love. Honestly our approach to music will most likely be the same approach to take curating and putting together the Knotfest. Which is, "Hey, if we like it, we're gonna put it on. We don't give a sh-t."
Obviously there's gonna be a lot of metal but you never know. There could be hip hop, ska, punk, and old school hardcore. We listen to everything and that's why our music is so eclectic and in your face. We come from the heart - we don't come from the wallet. So for us we'll see. We don't have a set list of who's gonna be on it but I can tell you that it's not gonna be a one-note bill. It's going to be exciting and it's gonna be a reflection of how we approach everything. Obviously we're gonna have some of our friends on there but we're also gonna have some bands that maybe nobody's ever heard of before. I would love to put a band like Death Grips
on there and see what happens. That's where we're going with it. We're coming from the heart with this and hopefully people understand the spirit of what we're trying to do. A few words on the Teenage Time Killer project?
That was really cool, man. I've been friends with some of those guys forever and honestly it was my buddy who was working on the project with Reed Mullin
. He just called me up and was like, "Dude, you wanna be on a tune?"
and I was like, "D'uh."
That's how I roll, man. Everybody asks me how I make time or how I choose the stuff I do as far as collaborations or guest vocals. I was like, "If I'm into the idea, I'll do it."
I can't tell you how many projects I've turned down because it could easily be seen as a money grab. I'm not down for that. I want to do sh-t I'm excited about. Being on a tune with Reed? You kidding me. The man from CoC [Corrosion of Conformity]
who laid it down. Sh-t, it is f--kin' rad, man. Yeah, I had a blast. To be on a record that's that eclectic with that many people because you've got everybody from me and Randy [Blythe]
from Lamb of God
to Jello Biafra
for f--k's sake. Are you kidding me? I'm losing my mind. I can't wait to hear that album. I don't even give a sh-t about being on that album - I can't wait to hear that album. Everything else is good with you and you're happy?
Yeah, I'm definitely in progress, hah. That's really what it all comes down to is being in progress. There are days that are better than others but I think that's part of life. If you expect every day to be sunshine and puppies, you are a very jaded person. Or very stupid?
Well yeah, or way more optimistic than you really should be. People accuse me of being pessimistic sometimes but I'm like, "I'm not pessimistic. I'm pragmatic."
I try to be realistic especially in this day and age when you just never know what's gonna happen, man. I've reached the age where life is taking things away now instead of giving me things. So I really have to kind of be careful of where I'm at and where do I put my happiness and where do I put all my energy. It's a shell walk and you're hopping back and forth between the shells and praying to God you don't fall through them. I just take it day-to-day now. I'm still planning five years ahead but I'm just enjoying every day for what it is. You take care of yourself.
Yeah, man. Absolutely. You too, man. Sing all the good notes.
I am trying to hit all the ones that don't rub. Let's put it that way. Alright, man. Take it easy. Bye.Interview by Steven Rosen