Interview: Corey Taylor (Slipknot, Stone Sour)

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What do you do if you have not one, but two multiplatinum selling bands, a successful comic book series, a New York Times best-selling book, and a slew of awards including a grammy? Well, if you are Corey Taylor, you write another book detailing your experiences with the paranormal.

Taylor’s latest foray into writing, titled A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Heaven, or How I made Peace With the Paranormal and Stigmatized Zealots and Cynics in the Process may sound like a book that takes a comical approach to the supernatural, but I assure you it is not. The book chronicles in detail the various events that Taylor has encountered throughout his life that have left him seeking answers. The book has it’s very funny moments, but it is not meant to be a comedy. It is a very serious delve into the paranormal complete with a slew of ghost stories that will make your spine tingle and your hair stand on end.

Pop-Break had a chance to catch up with the Slipknot/Stone Sour frontman, and discuss his book, his bands, and his dancing prowess or lake thereof. Corey was even nice enough to field some of the off-the-wall questions that Pop-Break readers wanted answered.

Editorial Note: This is Part 1 of our interview with Corey Taylor. We’ll be publishing our follow-up next in which Corey talks at great lengths about comic books.

Photo Credit: Chapman Baehler
Photo Credit: Chapman Baehler

Pop-Break: You’re new book just came out, A Funny thing Happened on the Way to Heaven and the insanely long subtitle that comes with it, chronicling your experiences with the paranormal. So, Why a book about the paranormal?

Corey Taylor: A couple different reasons really. One, I knew it would be an interesting read. Two, I had a lot of questions and that’s the reason that I write, to try and figure things out. My mind is so nuts sometimes, that I have a hard time sifting through the weirdness to figure things out. So, when I really want to sit down and figure something out, I write it out. I try to give my thoughts a little physicality. With this book, I’ve been trying to figure out what my interpretation of these spirits and these ghosts were for years. I’ve searched for answers in enough places and I’ve never really been satisfied with the things that I’ve read and the things that I’ve seen. Writing was a way to figure it out from my stand point and find something that makes sense for me. I definitely had some cogent ideas of what these spirits could be. Aside from the stories that I tell, I really tried to come at this from a scientific standpoint and really get a grasp on it, and develop these hypotheses. What I found was that there really was a lot of evidence to support the ideas. It also allowed me to entertain again. When I’m writing, I don’t want to be boring; I don’t want to be pedantic. I want people to really get interested, but at the same time, I don’t want a book to be one-sided. Could I sit down and write a book that’s just full of one liners and crazy bullshit? Of course, but for me, it has to hit on all cylinders.

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PB: In the book, you are very candid and open about your experiences and your views on the paranormal. Did you find it difficult to be so open about a topic that is considered so taboo? There must be a million people ready to call bullshit.

CT: Let’s just say it was about as tough as coming out on stage as the singer for a band that wears masks and uniforms. (laughs) At some point you just have to stop giving a shit what people are going to say about you. I’ve been telling fans that for years, so who would I be if I didn’t back that up? I knew there would be a certain section of people that were going to read the book and be like “BuulllllShiiiiiittt. Whatever”, but if I worried about those people, then I would be writing the book for the wrong reasons. I was writing it to share my experiences, to sort it all out. I was writing it because this is what I saw. This is what I experienced, and this is what I believe these things are. If I didn’t believe what I was saying, then why the hell would I write the book? If I cared what anyone was going to say about it, then I should have just kept it to myself.

PB: Why do you think that you have embraced the paranormal? Most people would probably just be scared themselves, but you seem to have accepted it.

CT: I don’t know. I’m not going to sit here and tell you I’m the bravest dude on the planet, but I’m just not affected by stuff like that. Does it freak me out? Yeah, but do I turn around and bail? NO. It’s one thing to stand your ground against a ghost. It’s another thing entirely to run from somebody who has a gun. Over the years I’ve just gotten used to the fact that for all intents and purposes, there’s nothing to be afraid of from these things. Can they touch you in a physical way? Yes. I was obviously pushed down the stairs. Luckily nobody was really hurt. Did that change my point of view? No, because I know that if these things are drawing on energy to manifest, I know it takes more out of them to do that than it takes for me to just kind of shake it off. There’s nothing to be afraid of from my standpoint. Is it a little off putting? Hell yeah. When shit’s getting thrown around my kitchen at seven in the morning, it’s going to fuck with anyone’s head. Especially, when you haven’t even had any coffee yet. What am I going to do? Run screaming from my own house? Hell no. It’s my fucking house. They just happen to live here.

PB: That’s a better approach than most people, don’t you think?

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CT: People walk around with a priest and a bunch of sage. It’s ridiculous. I watched this show called the Haunting, which is so entertaining from so many different standpoints. It’s all about the guy who does the voiceover. Every five minutes he’s going (with a gravelly voice) “Later that night.” I just sit and wait for it. You could make a drinking game out of that guy. The reenactments they do with these people are so ridiculous. They always end up walking around with a priest shaking around some kind of burning herbs in the fucking air and it never does any goddamn good. Just get over it. You can either move, or just take your fucking house back. (laughing) Even if you move, there’s no guarantee that the fucking thing isn’t going to come with you.

PB: Well, you proved that in the book (laughing).

CT: Exactly. I’m just lucky I got the kids in that divorce. (laughs)

PB: Any chance we will be seeing any more books from Corey Taylor?

CT: You know, I’ve kind of caught the book bug. I have a few ideas for novels and I have a few ideas for non-fiction books that I’d be interested in pursuing. What I’d really like to do is, before I die, I’d really like to write a political book and release it during a campaign year. Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail [by Hunter S. Thompson] is one of my favorite books that I’ve ever read. Honestly, you could release that book right now with everything that’s going on in politics and it would be just as relevant as it was in ’72. One of these days I’ll do a political book, and I’m going to fucking turn it up louder than anyone has ever done it.

PB: So the question that is on everybody’s mind – When can we expect a new Slipknot album?

CT: Oh boy. You know, this is becoming one of those most frequently asked questions.

PB: I know you must get asked a lot.

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CT: It’s all good man. The plan right now is to play one show in October in South America. It’s a festival called Monsters of Rock that’s happening down in Brazil. Then basically we are just going to be writing and getting new material together so that we can put out an album next year. There’s no date, or timeline, or anything like that, but that’s essentially the plan right now. We are just kind of slowly, but surely, getting some demos together. Everybody has various projects going on right now, so it’s going to take a little time. We all just want to finish up those projects so we can really just focus on the music. Next year you will definitely see a new Slipknot album.

PB: We are absolutely going to hold you to that.

CT: Trust me, you can quote me on it. Take me to court if I’m wrong. I’ll be the first to admit it. “Sorry I fucked up.” I’ve written a bunch of stuff. Joey’s written a bunch of stuff. Clown’s getting stuff together. Jim and Mick always have a bunch of riffs. The great thing about this band is that everyone of us is very creative and we contribute in different ways. It’s going to be a little tough this time, because Paul was a huge part of the writing process. We are really trying to do our best to fill that void, but just give us a little time, and we will have a new album out.

PB: A lot of bands that rely on heavy makeup or costumes and props are usually covering up for something lacking in the way of lyrics or musical talent. This is really not the case with Slipknot. You guys really are more like a heavy metal orchestra. Who else has a nine piece ensemble? So, why the masks?

CT: The great thing about Slipknot, well, one of the most misunderstood things about Slipknot is that the masks and the outfits are always looked at as being gimmicky, because of the way that all of the other “theatrical bands” have come across. The thing about us is that, maybe at first, people could take it as a gimmick, but from day one the reason we wore those was to become one with the music, to become one with the art, and to become one with the message, which was – be yourself. The masks and the outfits really allowed us to give physical form to that person we wanted to let off the leash. I can’t speak for anyone else in the band, but for me, putting on the mask and wearing the uniform always made it so much easier for me to tap into that guy. It wasn’t just about shock or anything like that. If it was, it would have all worn off a long time ago. It would have been like chasing that next high, and it was never like that for us. It was always more about expression over suppression. We put the coveralls back on after Paul died as a tribute to him, and it was a way to let the fans have their moment to say goodbye to Paul. With the next album, everything will evolve, everything will change. We will be completely different creatively, musically, emotionally. It’s all part of the process for us. With every album we shed a different layer of the skin. We come out of a different cocoon and become something completely different. I think that is what has kept us relevant. I think it has kept us from being pigeonholed. We pay as much attention to the art and the imagery as we do the music and I think that’s why we’re still here.

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PB: I have a sort of technical question from one of our readers. Jaime Soltys wants to know what you do to care for your vocal range and take care of your voice.

CT: I don’t really do any warm ups or anything like that. Over the years, I’ve built up a sort of dexterity for it I guess. The best thing you can do for the health of your voice is to know where you are at that day. What I do before a show is just start singing different songs. Not even the songs that I’m playing live. Just songs that are in my head, to feel my voice is that night. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been singing a Pink Floyd song as the intro is playing and I’m ready to go out on stage. I’ve got to get a feel for where my voice is from a health standpoint. The only time I really try to take care of it is when I’m sick. There’s a natural soreness and an irritation that occurs when you are sick. You just have to find your way around it, because I’m sure as hell not going to cancel the show. There’s no way. If I’m really sick, I have this thing that I do where I drink lemon juice and honey. It’s disgusting, but it helps. If anything it makes me worse. It gets my head all fucked up and I just want to go tear shit up. It’s pretty gross. It tastes like a cartoon character’s jizz, but I’ll tell you what – it works. I taught it to Chad Gray (of Mudvayne and HellYeah) and now he does it every night. He says that it’s made the biggest difference for him.

PB: Do you guys often trade different tricks of the trade, so to speak?

CT: I try to give advice to as many people as possible when it comes to this kind of stuff. If anybody is like me, the most important thing is being able to get on that stage with the confidence that you are going to be able to give that crowd the best show they’ve ever seen. That’s how much it means to me. I’m really dedicated to this and I’m very proud of the fact that I have only had to cancel four shows in my career. If my mouth can make a noise, I’m getting on that stage.

Writer’s Note: And we are all greatly thankful for that. Whether you are a fan of Slipknot, Stone Sour, any of his many side projects, his comic books, or his writing, I’m sure you are waiting as eagerly as I to see what Corey Taylor can come up with next.

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