Corey Taylor: “My reasons for making music have never changed”
It’s hard to think of many artists who’ve waded through the trials of 2020 with greater force than Corey Taylor. After a triumphant UK and European return at the start of the year with Slipknot, the musician set about completing his debut solo album in lockdown, launching CMFT over the summer and becoming the first-ever Kerrang! Cover Story star at the same time (because who else were we going to ask to do it?!). Since then, Corey has continued to fly the flag for rock and metal, told the world to wear their damn masks, and raised a ton of money for charity, as well as putting on one hell of a rock’n’roll livestream for fans desperately missing live music. With more music likely on the way in 2021 – including a potential new ’Knot record – Corey looks back on a year of creativity, doing things his own way, and never taking music for granted…
On both a personal and professional level, how would you describe your year?
“I mean, it’s been interesting to say the least (laughs). I’ll say that it went faster than I thought it was going to – and maybe that’s because I’ve been active and kicked into some other projects early, but I also had real-life stuff going on with my family and kids. It’s weird… people have been through hell and back, and I know they’re hurting right now, and so I have to tame my side of things by saying that I absolutely understand that people are in tough spots all over the world. That being said, I’ve tried to make the best of a shit situation: I’ve spent every day with my wife, which has been rad; I rushed my solo project in; I was able to create some jobs for people to help on that end; I was able to raise some money for charity, and just try to fill in some blanks for people. It’s not quite been the 2020 that I thought it was going to be, but it’s certainly been interesting…”
You started off 2020 by hitting the UK and Europe with Slipknot and doing a huge arena tour – which feels so long ago at this point. Having not played in front of your usual crowds for almost a year now, do you look back on those shows with even more fondness than you normally would?
“It’s crazy, I was just saying this a couple of days ago: I never thought in a million years I would miss the curmudgeons in Slipknot and being on the road with those growly pricks (laughs). But, man, like you said, it seems like a million years ago that we played those shows. I can’t even remember that tour, that’s how long ago it was! I long for that, and I can’t wait to get back on the road with Slipknot and finish off that tour cycle when the time comes. Obviously we don’t really know when that is, but with the decent news that the vaccines are looking promising, we have a very good chance to turn things around next year. Even though the winter is a little darker, maybe there’s some light at the end of the tunnel – we just need to get through this time and hopefully get back to normal next year. And I’m no anti-vaxxer, trust me! As soon as it’s ready I’m taking one, and I don’t care what anybody says: I don’t wear tin foil hats, and I certainly didn’t vote for Trump, so I’m going to get a vaccine for this damn thing.”
How did you cope with the idea of the world shutting down initially, and as everything continues, do you think you are still mentally equipped for it all?
“I mean, it was weird… this is the longest I’ve been off the road for 20 years, and when it first started, I was like, ‘Okay, it’ll be six months at the most…’ But when it finally got into, ‘Okay, we’re getting into 2021 now and we’re not really sure what’s going on,’ it was daunting. The first month or two I was almost shifting down into normal life, because my brain is so hardwired to not get settled for months at a time. Normally I get home [from tour] and I have a good month, and then I’m back on the road again. It was interesting to feel that shift, and getting to that point of embracing domestic life. But, at the same time, this was all also the catalyst for doing the solo album the way I did, realising that I had an opportunity to go in [to the studio] and bang it out real quick, and make something really awesome… I didn’t think it was going to have this sort of impact, which is rad. I was just excited to make it and see what would happen. The flipside of that coin, though, is that it made me miss touring even more because I want to play these songs, and play with these guys live! It was definitely a tease, let’s put it that way. But it was still a great way to do something cool and put something out for people, and they’ve really enjoyed it.”
Did you immediately know that you wanted to be productive with all this unplanned free time, or did you initially consider the idea of, ‘You know what, I’m just going to use this time to escape everything and totally switch off’?
“Well, I think you know me better than that (laughs). I was planning on doing something, but I just wasn’t sure what it going to be. It was right around the time when I was pushing my screenplays and trying to get things going on that. I wasn’t actually sure if I was going to do music or not – I thought about writing my fifth book, too. My heart was telling me to do the solo thing, so I don’t think that I really took for granted that I was going to be off-off, but I also didn’t want to be stupid and rush things – I didn’t want to put anyone in jeopardy, and it was very important to do it smart.”
Since finishing your solo album, has your creativity and desire to keep making music – especially after having such a good time with CMFT – continued? You already said you had enough material for more albums – have you started getting any of that in shape?
“Yeah, and I’m also doing a really cool secret project that I can’t talk about yet that we were asked to do, which is gonna be rad. We’re still hammering things out and getting ready for CMFT2, and the songs that I’ve got together for this are really, really good – people are gonna shit when they hear it!”
How important to you is it that you’ve already had this massive career, and yet over two decades in you can still surprise people and do these completely new things like CMFT?
“It has to be important, you know? If you get to the point when you’re just a one-note-wonder, then you’re just playing the same song over and over. I’ve seen it a million times with countless other artists where they get comfortable with a formula, and they know that it can make money, so they just churn it out – album after album after album. It just becomes Casual Friday, and I’m not into that; I’ve never been into that. For me, the whole excitement about making music is the challenge of trying new things, and also making them catchy, fun, awesome, that make people talk, that make people wanna sing, that make people wanna lose their minds. That’s the whole goal of making music, and if you’re not in it to do that, then you shouldn’t be in it. Maybe that’s one of the things that sets me apart from other people: my reasons for making music have never changed, and for a lot of people their reasons have changed over the years.”
What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned about yourself this year?
“That I can lose and gain weight really quickly (laughs). I was able to get on a pretty good regime again and got myself into fighting shape, and then the holidays hit and the candy came out – it just became ridiculous! I am now in a battle with five pounds that I just cannot get rid of, and it’s really bumming me out. But these are shitty problems that nobody really needs to listen to (laughs).
“I also really learned that old adage: you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone. This year has really re-inspired me to dedicate myself to what I love. You never realise how much you need to play live until you can’t do it anymore. You don’t realise how much love, excitement and satisfaction you get out of making music until you’re in a situation where you can’t really make music and play it for other people anymore. If I take one good thing away from this whole terrible situation, it’s that it has re-inspired me to get back to basics, as it were, as far as making and performing music – and never taking it for granted.”
Going into 2021 – and especially after the U.S. election – are you feeling hopeful about the future?
“I am and I’m not. With the Cheeto not conceding it just smacks of such horrible selfishness, and all of these talking heads are just rallying off about ‘We’ve got to let the process ride out’ – well, they weren’t saying the same thing when Jill Stein was basically doing the same thing in Wisconsin in 2016, and Trump was like, ‘(Does Trump impression) The people have spoken and there’s no need for a recount!’ He’s such a fucking piece of shit, and he doesn’t care about the American people, and he doesn’t care about the American process, or our government; he doesn’t care about anything other than himself and his own ego. It’s embarrassing and it’s dangerous, and the sooner he’s gone the better.”
So until that point you’re not quite seeing the light at the end of the tunnel just yet?
“I mean, it’s hard to feel like we can relax, and it’s hard to let go of that breath we’ve been holding for four years, you know? Especially when there’s just no guarantee that this is going to end well – he has enough people around him to bend the law, and he has enough followers that are screaming Fake News, that it’s going to be a fight. But cooler heads are going to prevail, and everything will be okay.”
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