We’ve Got A File On You: Corey Taylor
The Slipknot leader on Henry Rollins, beefing with Nickelback, 'Sharknado,' and his new solo LP
We’ve Got A File On You features interviews in which artists share the stories behind the extracurricular activities that dot their careers: acting gigs, guest appearances, random internet ephemera, etc.
Let’s cut to the chase: Corey Taylor is one of the most delightfully genuine interview subjects I’ve ever spoken to in my life. I first talked with the Slipknot and Stone Sour frontman a few years ago as part of an EPK for Live Nation that never saw the light of day, and at the time I was taken aback at just how chill of a dude the 46-year-old metal legend was. When we hopped on the phone, he immediately dove in headfirst, sharing a kaleidoscope of stories about his love for British television, meeting Rodney Dangerfield just before the late comic’s death, and a bizarre encounter with action scion John McTiernan when Slipknot appeared in the director’s 2002 remake of the cult classic Rollerball.
On October 2, Taylor’s going to release his first-ever solo album CMFT — check out “HWY 666″ below — with a second installment (CMFT 2, naturally) already in the works. It’s the latest move in a career that, when you tally up everything this guy’s been up to since the formation of Stone Sour in 1995, is mind-boggling when it comes to sheer expanse. This guy’s voiced a monster on Doctor Who, slapped pro wrestlers in the face, acted alongside Freddy Krueger himself, and allowed himself to be electrocuted by Daniel Tosh on TV. Corey Taylor’s lived several lives in the span that it takes most of us to push through just one, and it’s clear that he cherishes every experience he’s had so far.
Slipknot In We Sold Our Souls For Rock N’ Roll (1999)
STEREOGUM: You guys appeared in this documentary for Ozzfest ’99 that basically never came out after legal issues delayed its release.
COREY TAYLOR: That was such a crazy year. Nobody knew who we were, but everyone was talking about us. I couldn’t talk at all through the entire tour because I fried my voice, so I walked around with a notebook and pen and had to write notes to talk to people. There were spots on my vocal cords, so I had to practice complete vocal rest — only 30 or 40 minutes of singing per day. I had to gargle this disgusting shit and take oral steroids.
But it was still this incredible experience. We’d walk into catering, and there’s Ozzy and the guys from Slayer. It felt like winning a contest while also achieving something that you never thought you were gonna do in a million years.
STEREOGUM: Penelope Spheeris directed this documentary. Have you seen her Decline Of Western Civilization documentaries?
TAYLOR: I’ve seen all of them. I’ve almost memorized Decline II. The soundtrack was dope, the movie itself was fucking insane. A buddy of mine had it on VHS and was like, “You’re into metal, check this out.” I remember being blown away. I had him burn me a copy, I took it home, and I watched it every day.
STEREOGUM: There’s a scene in the documentary where Slipknot are surrounded by schoolchildren in Washington, DC.
TAYLOR: That was weird — one of those things where were like, “Why did we agree to do this?” We probably should’ve known that there was gonna be tourists and schoolkids there. It’s the nation’s capital, and all that crap. We knew we were gonna be a spectacle because we were in full garb, and they had us doing weird stuff, dude. At one point, I sat down and all these kids surrounded me, so I just started spitting at people. I was tired of being stared at, so they left me alone. When we were done, we were like, “Well, that was a day off wasted, what the hell?” But when you’re that young and hungry, you’re like, “Whatever.” Then, the movie didn’t even come out, and we were like, “What the fuck was that?” [Laughs]
STEREOGUM: There’s a moment where one teenager says Slipknot sounds like Rob Zombie, and one of the band members gives her the finger. But you and Rob have praised each other a lot over the years, and you were a guest when he hosted Headbanger’s Ball in 2003.
TAYLOR: Rob was on that tour too, so we got to hang out with him. Before I actually went on the air for Headbanger’s Ball, he was on the ground playing with my son Griff, who was barely a year old. He and I hit it off over the years. I presented him with an award at the Alternative Press Awards.
Slipknot Performing “Wait And Bleed” On Late Night With Conan O’Brien (2000)
TAYLOR: This was a product of Roadrunner really having some good ins with various people in the industry. We didn’t think we were gonna get that gig, but Conan was a fan. He watched us during the rehearsal, and hung out and talked with us after. Conan helped break us, and it’s something I’ve never forgotten. I’ve always appreciated that they took a chance on a young band like us — a fuckin’ gnarly band. It was a different time, too. It was pre-9/11. A band like us could get on television and do something like that. Now, sadly, everyone’s so fuckin’ offended that newer bands can’t even do that.
STEREOGUM: What was being on TV for the first time like?
TAYLOR: I was so nervous — and I never get nervous. When we were in the backstage area, all these TV people were ignoring us, which was fine. But when we got into garb and walked on stage, they all stopped and were like, “What the fuck?” It was really funny.
We went out there and fuckin’ destroyed. There were a lot of fans in the audience, which surprised us. We were expecting to just go out and scare the hell out of the straights, but it just went off. Conan is the tallest person I’ve met in my life. He’s gotta be seven feet, and I’m 5’9″, so it was like shaking hands with my dad. He was taller than our guitar players!
Slipknot Performing “The Heretic Anthem” On Late Night With Conan O’Brien (2001)
STEREOGUM: This was the first time Conan introduced the Slipnutz, which was staff writers Jon Glazer, Brian Stack, and Andy Blitz playing a fictional group booked on the same day as you.
TAYLOR: We had no idea it was gonna happen until we got there. They were like, “We’re gonna do this bit — are you offended by it?” We were like, “Fuck no, this is amazing!” [Laughs] It was like when AbFab came back and they were wearing Slipknot and [Marilyn Manson] gear. I was like, “What the fuck is going on?” So when they came to us with the Slipnutz thing, we were all about it. We thought it was funny as shit watching them do it. And then, years later we incorporated them into one of our shows.
STEREOGUM: Oh, we’ll get to that.
“The Slipnutz Open For Slipknot,” Late Night With Conan O’Brien (2005)
TAYLOR: It was their idea again. [Laughs] Some of the guys in the band weren’t very positive about it. They were like, “We’re supposed to be a serious band.” I was like, “Are you fuckin’ kidding me? This is amazing.” Seeing the montage put together that they did, with the backstory and them rehearsing backstage, we were fuckin’ dying. It was so funny. I loved it.
Watching the audience react to the Slipnutz was probably one of the most wonderful moments of my life. Just the sheer scathing anger that came out of those people — it was so fuckin’ beautiful. [Laughs] We were standing on the side of the stage saying, “They’re gonna kill ‘em.” That’s why they got out of there so quick. They took their nuts and they ran. [Laughs] I even gave them a fuckin’ shoutout at the end of the show. “Let’s hear it for the Slipnutz!” And some of the crowd was like, “Fuck you!” It was amazing.
Slipknot’s Rollerball Appearance (2002)
TAYLOR: That was 12 hours of my life I’ll never get back. I can remember our old manager at the time coming to me and saying, “They’re remaking Rollerball — what do you think?” Being a fan of the original movie, I was like, “Fuck yeah, dude! This could be dope.” So he sent me the script — an original copy, actually, I recently threw it away. I was like, “Get this the fuck out of my life.” [Laughs] But I read the script, and I was like, “Hmm. I don’t know about this.” [Laughs]
But at that time, we were also looking for any opportunity, and then I found out John McTiernan was doing it, so I was like, “Okay. This could be legit.” [I didn’t realize] what a maniac John McTiernan was, to be honest. [Laughs] He’s a fucking character, man. McTiernan kept walking up to us and talking crazy shit. At one point, he was telling us a story about being in the woods somewhere, and he just started weeping openly before just disappearing. His assistant was like, “John does that. I’m gonna go find him.”
So we film our bit, and he’s so into it that he wants to film a video for “I Am Hated.” We spend another three hours, after spending so many hours filming for a movie that we’re in for maybe 15 seconds. Afterwards, we think, “Great, some extra footage. Maybe we can use it for something in the future.”
To this day, I’ve never seen the footage. No one knows where it is, and I’ve made peace with the fact that I’ll never see it. Someone could’ve sent it up to the International Space Station, for all I know. I remember walking out of the arena and just going, “What just happened? Did I just wipe my ass with a day of my life?” It was insane.
Rollins Band With Corey Taylor Recording “Room 13″ For Rise Above: 24 Black Flag Songs To Benefit The West Memphis Three (2002)
TAYLOR: That was rad, man. [Henry Rollins] reached out to see if I’d be a part of it. I knew about the West Memphis Three, but I didn’t know about the movement going on. When he called me, I was doing my best not to freak out on the phone. I’m such a fanboy. He was like, “I’d love you to come to LA and be a part of this,” and I was like, “Absolutely.” I took my friend [Denny Harvey] because we were both massive Rollins fans — Black Flag, Rollins Band. We went to every Rollins spoken word show he did in Iowa, he’d come through at least twice a year.
He was so cool and forthright to us. There were definitely times where he probably was like, “You guys need to settle down.” He took us out to lunch, and Denny and I were just sitting there in silence, staring at him. He goes, “Okay guys, whatever you want to ask me, ask me.” An avalanche of questions comes out of our fucking faces. It was everything I swore that I’d never do to someone I looked up to, and I just did it anyway. To this day, I apologize to Henry Rollins. He’s one of the coolest people I’ve ever met.
STEREOGUM: How do you approach political activism in your life?
TAYLOR: I go where my heart lies. I’ve never attached myself to one party or another. There’s definitely politicians who I’ve been rigorously against. Right around the time I got sober the first time, I realized that if I was going to feel good about my place in history and the culture, at least I could do something to try and help people who couldn’t help themselves.
That’s one of the reasons why I’ve always involved myself in projects like helping the homeless, or raising awareness for union rights. I’m one of the luckiest people on the planet to be able to do what I do. I’m very grateful for that, and that I’ve achieved a longevity a lot of people don’t get when it comes to my line of work. So it’s important to me to give back and help other people, because I’ve been able to achieve something in my life that other people in my life thought I never would.
Slipknot Performing “Duality” On The Tonight Show With Jay Leno (2004)
STEREOGUM: Omarosa and Rodney Dangerfield were the other guests that night. Did you cross paths with either of them?
TAYLOR: I remember talking to Rodney for a second, not so much Omarosa. She was very gracious at the end. That was Rodney’s last television appearance before he passed away, which we didn’t realize until a lot later. But he was really cool. He seemed older — like he didn’t have that same level of energy he had when I was watching him on television and seeing him in movies for years. You could tell he was reaching the end of the line. But it was a real treat to meet him.
That performance was one of the first times that I’d been asked to overtly change a lyric that I didn’t think was offensive to begin with. They were very uncomfortable with the lyric “Jesus, it never ends.” In retrospect, very quaint. Like, are you kidding me? That lyric is what you’re worried about? I didn’t agree with it. If you’re asking me to change one of the deadly seven, that’s fine. It’s still stupid, but I get it. But something like that? In the moment, it was so fuckin’ dumb.
I don’t know if people even realize this, but if you go back and listen to that footage, I changed it to “Censorship never ends.” That was my little way of playing both sides: feeling good about my choice and what I was trying to say, and also sticking it to the people who were making me say things I didn’t want to say.
Dream Theater – “Repentance” (2007)
TAYLOR: I did spoken word pieces on the first Stone Sour album, and recorded two more for the following two albums that didn’t make the cut. I like doing spoken word pieces, and that’s one of the reasons why [Dream Theater co-founder] Mike Portnoy hit me up about it, because at the time he was still in the band. He was like, “Would you be down with doing a stream-of-consciousness thing?” I don’t even remember what the hell I was talking about — that’s how long ago it was. But they were stoked on it and sent me back the track.
Junk Beer Kidnap Band (2009)
STEREOGUM: This project was only active for a year or so. Is it in the dirt permanently?
TAYLOR: That’s gone the way of the dodo. It was supposed to be another side project for a lot of my solo songs, which are on CMFT or will end up on CMFT 2. This was a way for me to play some of those songs while having fun. It was supposed to be a stoner-funk-disco-rock band, and I’d written all these songs with different kinds of vibes. There was a song called “Boobs Boobs Boobs (Boobs),” and a song called “Butta (You’re So Creamy)” — just a lot of stupid, Neanderthal, funny shit. It was my go-to band for a while when I was doing side stuff — a fun experience.
But certain people in the band started getting bigger heads about certain shit, and it stopped being fun. People let their own personal selfishness, ambition, and drama completely tear away what should’ve been a bunch of fun shit. That’s why, for 10 years, I didn’t even consider doing something like CMFT. People were trying to use me as a stairstepper to bigger things, but it was supposed to be about the joy of playing music. It was a bittersweet end to something that started out as so much fun, but eventually came to pass.
How Weed Won The West (2010)
STEREOGUM: Do you remember being in this documentary?
TAYLOR: I don’t remember that. [Laughs] I’m sure it happened, but I don’t remember it at all. Am I in-mask?
STEREOGUM: No, you’re out of mask. Looks like it was filmed at a show called SmokeFest.
TAYLOR: Huh! I don’t remember that.
STEREOGUM: It was you and Sid Wilson.
TAYLOR: Ah, okay, I remember doing something with Sid. He’s been a massive advocate for that. I think I probably just did that as a favor to him. I was never a massive weed smoker, because I’m allergic to it. But I’m sure it was one of those things where, if he’s doing it and wants me to be a part of it, I’m happy to do it.
Getting Shocked By A Taser On Tosh.0 (2010)
TAYLOR: I wasn’t even supposed to be there. My friend hit me up and said, “I know you’re a massive fan of Tosh — I have some extra tickets, Kerry King and his wife are coming. If you and your wife want to come too, you can sit in the audience, we’ll do a quick tour, do whatever.” And I was like, “Yeah man, of course!” We got a VIP tour of the offices, it was really cool. Plus, me and Kerry were pretty tight, so it was just a bunch of friends hanging out and doing whatever. I got to meet Daniel for a second, and I didn’t realize that he was a big Slipknot fan, which was crazy.
The show tapes once, take a break, and tapes again to incorporate any extemporaneous, cool, or funny stuff that they might’ve not nailed down the first time. We watch the taping the first time, and Tosh keeps asking me weird questions during the breaks. After a part about an electric fence box, he gets to a bit where he’s trying to shock as many people as possible and he says, “We should just bring that box out and have someone grab it” while looking right at me. I just go, “Goddamnit.” Just go with Kerry! He’s so much tougher than I am!
There was a joke where the box’s settings went from “cougar” to “bear.” Clearly, there are no settings on the box, but my dumb ass asked if anyone did the “bear” setting. He looked at me like, “Really?” In retrospect, I felt so stupid because I asked that question — I was so nervous. But he was smiling like a little kid, like, “You poor boob.” I’ve never forgiven myself for being that dumb in front of one of my favorite comedians.
STEREOGUM: It’s interesting that you broke out with Ozzfest, and then 12 years later you started something similar.
TAYLOR: That was an idea that dated back to Ozzfest. We were sitting around and I was like, “It would be rad some day to do our own traveling festival.” It took a few years to get to the point where we were financially stable enough — and had enough clout — to really take it seriously. A lot of it had to do with our manager, Corey Brennan, as well as the relationship we’d built with John Rhys, an incredible promoter who was responsible for Mayhem and Uproar. He’s created festivals to provide showcases for certain types of music that other people might’ve not given a chance to. Without those two gentlemen, it wouldn’t have been a reality. It was really [Slipknot percussionist and co-founder Shawn “Clown” Crahan]’s vision to incorporate the museum and the carnival-like atmosphere.
We wanted to have all kinds of acts there — almost a collision between Lollapalooza and Ozzfest, really. And it’s really taken off internationally, too, which we’re proud of. We’ve broken ground in six different countries. We never thought it was gonna happen, and yet here we are years later with the potential for it to be a global phenomenon. That’s a reflection of our work ethic. We aren’t just a creative entity, but a reliable one too.
Fear Clinic (2014)
TAYLOR: This was the most fun I’ve ever had acting. It was in Ohio in the middle of the fuckin’ winter, so it was cold as balls. I went out of my way to look as creepy as possible — I grew a really angry mustache that was so red and violent-looking that it really popped off. I wanted it to be the reflection of the character: in his early 40s, a little nefarious, a weird and creepy dude. I had a fuckin’ blast hanging out with Kevin Gage and all the other actors. We were running all over this church that was converted into a hospital. Plus, I got to hang out with Robert Englund and be in scenes with him.
My last day of shooting, I’d packed up all my stuff and given my outfit back to the costuming department, on my way back to the hotel so I could shave that fuckin’ mustache off, and I stopped because Robert was in one of the side rooms in the Mr. Black outfit — the creature he plays in the film. So he’s naked from the waist up, in dress pants, with crazy prosthetic shit on his face and black contact lenses, and he’s drinking champagne while swishing it on the side of his mouth. He goes, “Corey, come here a second!” I go in, we chatted for a second, and he goes, “I was watching your freakout scene over [director Robert Hall]’s shoulder. You’ve got a real talent. If you really decided to do this, you could.” My fuckin’ brain just went [makes exploding sound].
Robert’s an actor I’ve been watching my entire life. He wasn’t just Freddy to me. He was in V, he was in Galaxy Of The Terror. I remember seeing him in ’80s sitcoms! The Phantom Of The Opera remake he directed, too. For him to say that meant so much to me. I never forgot that. Now, when I do acting gigs, I try to take it as seriously as possible. I want to have fun, but I also want to be as prepared as I can — to really make sure that I’m professional. I let the crew know I’m there to help them get what they need, while also enjoying the experience for myself.
Hitting Baron Corbin At NXT Aftershock Festival (2015)
TAYLOR: I’m a massive wrestling fan. I’ve gotten into so many arguments with people who have questioned my love of wrestling. “Don’t you know it’s fake?” Don’t you know that most movies are fake? What the fuck are you trying to convince me of? It’s frustrating, like trying to teach trigonometry to a puppy. Trying to explain to people why you like wrestling is one of the most infuriating experiences. But I don’t want to go down that road.
I knew [Baron Corbin] already, and he hit me up and said, “Do you want to do something at Aftershock?” Before he got to the end of that sentence, I said, “Fuck yes, what do you want me to do?” It was really cool, so many fuckin’ rad people there, it was really hard for me not to geek the fuck out. He was like, “Just smack the fuck out of me. Don’t hit my ear, but if you need to, hit my neck.” When we pulled it off, Samoa Joe rolled him up for the win, and I walked off with everybody, he and I were geeking out behind the curtain so hard about what we had just pulled off. If I never step in another wrestling ring again, it’s still a massive fucking checkmark off my list.
I think that led to our relationship with WWE, too. I’m friends with a lot of wrestlers — [Chris Jericho], Corey Graves — so I know a lot of people who work for the company. Having all these people come back to us and use our stuff has been really gratifying, especially for something like NXT which is, for me, so much more exciting than the main roster in a lot of ways. I love to watch a great match and see professionals pull off something that no one else in that room can do.
Voicing The Fisher King In Doctor Who (2015)
TAYLOR: This was even more geek-tastic for me [than being part of NXT] — as close to being in a Star Wars movie. I’d been a fan of Doctor Who as a kid, watching it on Iowa public television. I’m a geek for anything British, and Doctor Who was so quirky and funny, so when they rebooted it in the mid-’90s, I was stoked. BBC reached out to us and wanted to know if I’d provide a voiceover for one of the villains, so we got to Cardiff where they were shooting, and they took us through the massive Doctor Who museum that’s there.
Then they took us to BBC Wales, and I got to walk through the shooting studios, and I got to go into the Tardis. It was the most joy I’ve felt in so long — even more rad than hearing my scream in the show. I was feeling sick as fuck, too. But there was nothing that was gonna hold me back from doing that, not even the fact that I had a show that night.
Sharknado: The 4th Awakens (2016)
TAYLOR: This one really came out of nowhere. I was on set, and they filmed here in Vegas where I live. I ran down, and I think they forgot that I was there because I sat there for four hours before they shot anything that involved me. Someone was like, “Oh, have they not shot your scenes yet?” It was five in the morning at that point.
I got to be in a scene with Tommy Davidson, who was so fuckin’ cool. I told him I was from Des Moines, and he talked about the Funny Bone there. We shot the scene after I was there for seven hours, and I was in the movie for 15 seconds. [Laughs] But it was so gratifying. I was supposed to be in a death scene where I was eaten by a shark, but they were so behind on shooting that it couldn’t happen. But I had so many people hit me up when it aired. “Holy shit, that’s you!” They even named me “#8″ — that’s what Tommy calls me. It’s really funny.
Slipknot Vs. Nickelback (2017)
TAYLOR: [Laughs] I don’t know if I rent any space in his head, but I don’t give him another fuckin’ thought. It’s really a difference of ego — the people who take themselves a little too seriously and get wrapped up in certain shit like that. I don’t know what Chad’s issue is, but I can tell you that a lot of the issues I had with people when I was younger — because I used to talk a lot of shit — I’ve let go of. At this point, I’d rather concentrate on things that are positive than worry about drama, negativity, or bullshit. So when he started running his mouth again — and this was years after the first time it happened — I went, “Really? Are we here again? What the fuck?” So I just clapped back, and rightly so.
These days, I tend not to run my mouth unless someone runs their mouth first. And that’s fine — that’s retaliation. And I got receipts, dude. I’ll lay some shit out that maybe people don’t even fuckin’ think about. But have I let it go? Absolutely. Honestly, I was done with it the second I fuckin’ said it, to be honest. He’s the one who really can’t let go of shit, and maybe that’s because he’s painted himself in a certain corner — but that’s not my issue, that’s his. Duh. Hopefully he’ll fuckin’ sort it out one day.
CMFT is out 10/2 via Roadrunner Records. Pre-order it here.