As the frontman for Slipknot, Corey Taylor has sung, rapped and roared on stages across the world since 1999. Dressed in boiler suits and ghoulish masks, the band brought back a theatricality and melodiousness that metal had been somewhat lacking, and in so doing hoisted themselves into the genre’s elite, alongside the likes of Metallica and Slayer.
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The band are currently touring the UK, and last week we asked you for your questions for Taylor, for a live webchat. Technical issues at Alexandra Palace meant we were unable to host the chat live, but Taylor answered your questions nonetheless. Here are his responses.
Andrew Collingwood asks:
What are your plans for 2016? More with Slipknot or to concentrate on Stone Sour?
It’s a bit of both. Gonna tour with Slipknot up until November, and in between tours I’ll be writing demos with Stone Sour. Maybe even throw a book in, and a handful of solo acoustic shows. So same as it ever was – busy as usual.
The tentative title of the book is America 51, kind of a nod towards Area 51: basically about how wonderfully fucked and irresponsibly abnormal my country is. It’s going to deal with everything from politics to social commentary – it’s going to piss off a lot of people in my country, but everyone else will love it.
The current election cycle is a fucking mess. The only thing I can really compare it with was when the whole governor fiasco was going on in California, when Arnold Schwarzenegger won, and when everyone and his mother announced themselves as candidates. The fact that Donald Trump is still is viable candidate makes me want to eat my fucking shoes. There are too many candidates focused on dividing us, and not enough talking about bringing us together. And that’s one of the reasons why I support Bernie Sanders. And I will never support anyone who uses racism as a passive-aggressive way to win votes.
What is your response to Phil Anselmo’s Nazi salute, and how can we work to eradicate racism from metal?
I’ve been watching this all and I’ve kept mum for the most part, because I wasn’t there. So I don’t know the background on what happened, I haven’t seen the video of it – though I’ve been told by many people that it’s blatant, and there’s no way to misrepresent what was done.
I will say this. This is a bigger problem than what happened that night. Slipknot has dedicated itself to bringing people together, to fighting racism, to fighting hate in general since the day we were started. I don’t have time for people who judge other people by the colour of their skin. If that in itself offends some of my fans, then I’m sorry, you’re wrong. I don’t ever want our fans to feel like we’re judging them because of colour, religion, culture, upbringing, etc. We welcome everyone, we always have and we always will.
I know there is a problem in metal, and it all comes down to, at least in America, where you grow up and what that culture is passed on from: parents, family members, friends, adults. It’s a generational thing. I thought we were close to phasing it out, but unfortunately I was proven wrong. So I just dedicate myself to fighting it. It’s across the board in music, though – it’s not a specifically metal thing. But it has come up in the metal community. It’s risen its ugly head because of the incident we’re talking about.
But I’ve not only played a lot of metal shows, I’ve been to a lot of metal shows, and I know for a fact they are quite diverse and they always have been. We welcome the tribe of misfits – we’re the island of misfit toys, and we always have been. It will take very little to eradicate racism from metal because the majority of it isn’t racist.
What I love the most about the metal community is the sense of community that comes along with it. Unlike other genres there’s a support system and common sense of appreciation for what we are all striving to achieve. It feels like when one of us crosses over and wins we all win. We are, collectively, kind of treated like bastard stepchildren by the rest of the music world, so any time we get to fly the flag in their faces, to me that means that more people are hearing what I consider real music. You get used to being a bastard stepchild, it goes hand in hand with the attitude, and the reactionary vibe of the music itself – which makes you feel something whether you want it to or not.
The first two major label Slipknot records are my clear favourites (particularly Iowa), which is partly down to Ross Robinson’s chaotic production. Do you still like that unhinged quality, or are you more into the ‘clean and polish’ of the other records?
I guess it depends on the music we’re writing at the time. The reason those first two albums sound that way is because that’s where we were in our lives: we were young, we were crazy and we wanted to burn it all down. And as time has gone on, we’ve gotten older, we’ve looked to expand our range musically, and you never want to feel like you’re repeating yourself.
The challenge and the glory of making music is looking past the walls of what you’ve done before. So I don’t think it’s so much a matter of production as it is a reflection of men moving on with their lives. Because we’ve been able to do this music for this many years, we’ve been able to get a handle on our neuroses, various and dark as they are, and really kind of let go of some of that darkness – it doesn’t mean it’s all gone but it definitely means we’ve gotten better at honing it and using it in our music. Success has bred self-confidence.
Are the masks less hideous than your real faces?
I guess that’s a matter of opinion really!
Philip Storey asks:
Slipknot have been massively successful. As you approach your 20th anniversary, what’s left to achieve?
What isn’t left to achieve? If you’re not constantly looking for new ground creatively, then why continue to do it? As far as we’re concerned our success is only a byproduct of why we do this. Our reasons haven’t changed for doing what we do. We do this for the art, the music and the emotion. So once we feel like we’ve achieved that, maybe that’s when we’ll call it a day.
Roman Navarro asks:
I’ve always wondered why the tune Get Behind Me Satan and Push became an intro track for the tour in the early days of Slipknot. Is there a story behind that song and how it came to be a part of the show?
Get Behind Me Satan and Push sung by Billie Jo Spears.
No. We just like that song, and in a lot of ways it’s more disturbing than a lot of our music.
I’ve always been of the opinion that Slipknot were far and away the heaviest band to cross over to massive mainstream appeal. Those first two records in particular became multimillion sellers without any form of compromise. How did you guys do it when so many others failed?
To this day I’m kind of shocked by the success we’ve had. If you do the math, none of this should have happened. Think about it: nine guys in masks and coveralls from Des Moines, Iowa, playing crazy heavy metal music – there’s no way that works on paper. To this day no one is more surprised by our success than we are.
However, we’re very grateful for the support we’ve had over the years, and we’re very proud of the fact that in a way because of our success more bands of our creative ilk have been able to get across and have massive careers. There was definitely a void [in theatrical metal] when we came out, but I think it can’t be all about the masks and coveralls. We had the total package: the music was good, the live show was out of control, the artwork was visceral and in your face, and because of these thing people we attracted to us. And we’re a really good band – sometimes that’s all it takes. That’s why we’re still here.
Were you on my roof last night stealing my weathervane?
Not that you know of…
Do you agree that it’s better to enjoy a metal show in a tiny, dark, intimate club with a low ceiling than an arena?
It all depends on the band, and what that band is comfortable with. I can’t speak for any other band out there, but for Slipknot, we like both. We like the giant spectacle of playing huge festivals and arenas, and we also like the beautiful claustrophobia that comes with playing a tiny club show. You have to have one foot in each if you’re trying to achieve the kind of thing we’ve been able to in our lives. It all depends on the performance – some bands are just uncomfortable in front of large crowds and we never have been. Some bands on a huge level were never comfortable in small situations, and we were never like that either. If you can read the audience, you can adjust and entertain them in any situation – but that’s just my opinion.
Tom Rowley asks:
Will you ever write songs for people over the age of 12?
I’ll let you know on your 13th birthday.
Taylor with his Slipknot bandmates.
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The men with the iron masks: Taylor with his Slipknot bandmates. Photograph: PR
Is it as unpleasant playing a gig wearing a mask as it looks?
Not really. The hardest part is the first five minutes when you’re putting it on – you haven’t even walked on stage, you’re just allowing yourself to acclimatise to the pain. But after that, you basically forget you’re wearing it, especially during the show. It becomes part of who you are. That’s one of the main reasons why we’re always worn them, even as we’ve changed it up – it’s always about revealing that inner self rather than hiding your outer self. It’s painful for a split second, and then you kick into gear. The mask gives physicality to that person inside who was on the album, who was in the songs, who was saying things you want to say. It’s less a schizophrenic thing, and more a therapeutic thing.
What is your favourite crisp flavour?
Slipknot are one of very few “recent” metal bands that regularly headline festivals and play arena tours. Are you concerned that there doesn’t seem to be anyone else to fill the void when the likes of Metallica and Iron Maiden call it a day?
Support from the fans. It has to start with the fans – if you find a band that you can get behind, they’ll headline festivals. That’s what Kiss did, that’s what Maiden did, that’s what Metallica did. You don’t just luck into that – it takes the support of the fanbase.
There’s a handful of bands that are almost there. Bring Me the Horizon is knocking on that door. Bullet For My Valentine has that potential. Trivium are right on the cusp. It’s funny because some bands are bigger in some countries than others – we’re one of the few that can headline worldwide, and it takes a cohesive fanbase to elevate bands to that level.
Did you ever find who started that rumour about you going to Rome to speak with the pope?
[disbelieving] That was a rumour?? What the fuck? What rumour was this?
I guess I would ask him: does he shit in the woods?
Corey Taylor, sans mask.
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Corey Taylor, sans mask. Photograph: Linda Nylind for the Guardian
I’ve seen Slipknot 12 times, does it still feel as real when you step out on stage now as it did all those years ago?
Absolutely. If it didn’t, I wouldn’t do this. I still to this day get as excited to perform as I did the first time I ever performed for an audience with a band. It’s one of the most wonderful feelings on the planet. Especially when you get that special crowd that react to every song the way you hoped they’d do: they sing every part as loud as you hoped they would, and at the end of the gig they all look as exhausted as you are. It’s a very special feeling, and I’m very grateful that I have this talent and energy to do so.
The first time I ever got on stage was with a covers band in Waterloo, and there were maybe 10 people there. I was about 13, I had a very high voice back then as you can imagine, and I did a cover of Rock and Roll by Led Zeppelin. I was so nervous, but so stoked. I just remember looking out and I had a feeling that I was doing well, because everyone in the audience who had sort of been milling about had stopped what they were doing and were looking at the stage. And at the end, they all started screaming and clapping. And I’ve held on to that feeling for a very long time.
I know it was a while ago now, but I’d like to say that I admired the way that the exit of Joey was handled. It could so easily have dissolved into the kind of mudslinging that we almost take for granted in the modern era. I think it was done with dignity, so hats off to you all.
I often wonder how difficult it is to manage so many different personalities in a group, particularly one as large as Slipknot. I wonder if perhaps when things are going well that any tension within the group can be worked out creatively.
Do you find yourselves most creative when there is harmony to put disharmony?
I think maybe that was true in the beginning. But nobody stays that way, everyone has to change, everyone has to evolve, and I appreciate your feelings on how we handled that.
Respect is a big thing for us, and there was no way we were gonna handle that situation any differently than the way we did. As you change and grow as a person, you have to find new ways to create music. Because like I’ve said before, if you’re just rewriting the same songs, you’re not moving forward, you’re spinning your wheels in the mud. So I guess as far as being creative through harmony or disharmony, it depends on the band and the point in your life.
If “People = Shit” what does that say about your fans?
Slipknot” People = Shit.
Forget the fans, what does it say about us as a band? It’s a little different now. For us it was initially a kind of a way of pointing out that we’re all the same, in our Slipknot way. Get over your differences, try to figure it out. Now, it’s more about mortality, and the fact that at the end of the day, we’re all still animals, capable of anything.
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Are fans at your current concerts the same as the ones from 15 years ago, or a new, younger generation?
It’s both. We’ve got a new generation of fans. We do a poll every night: who’s seen us before and who’s seeing us for the first time. And almost unanimously, it is split down the middle. And I think that’s why our audiences have gotten bigger and bigger. It makes me very proud that we’re working on a new generation who are just as passionate about Slipknot as the original generation was. It lets me know that I’m doing something right, that we’ve been able to cross into uncharted territory as far as our career goes. I mean, to be 17 years in, professionally, and welcoming a whole new generation of fans, as well as seeing the first generation really not shrinking, that’s a damn good problem to have.
Corey signed off with the following:
Some of these have made me chuckle – some of these have poked me in the ass. And some of these have made me think. I think that’s the perfect way to handle one of these. And I look forward your atrocious comments on the boards below. Hope you’ve enjoyed this as much as I have and we’ll see you again down the road.
Slipknot play Alexandra Palace, London, tonight; Genting Arena, Birmingham, Friday; First Direct Arena, Leeds, Saturday; SSE Arena, Belfast, Monday.