Few voices in the metal community are more recognizable—or ferocious—than the one wielded by Corey Taylor, who as frontman for horror-metal juggernaut Slipknot has rightly earned the nickname The Great Big Mouth, and whose work with Stone Sour has allowed him to naturally expand into the hard-rock mainstream. Taylor’s output covers a vast stylistic and emotional range, from rage and misery to heartbreak and longing, and thus it’s fitting that he’d continue pushing his creative boundaries by going it alone—and by venturing into sonic realms he’s yet to fully explore with either of his bestselling bands.
That’s not to say that Taylor’s maiden solo outing, CMFT (out Oct. 2), is a radical departure from the sorts of tunes that have made him a genre heavyweight. Rather, it’s that the 13-song collection leans more heavily on musical avenues he’s only sporadically hinted at in Slipknot and Stone Sour, all of them filtered through a variety of diverse influences, be it country, hip-hop or ‘90s alternative rock. Leaning toward the softer side of the Taylor spectrum—a relative description, given that just about everything is more gentle than Slipknot—CMFT finds the singer broadening his horizons and showing off his considerable versatility.
In other words, it’s an album that doesn’t pander, which also marks it as a Taylor effort through and through, since the 46-year-old vocalist has never been one to shy away from speaking his mind, including when it comes to politics—and, in particular, Donald Trump. His disdain for the commander-in-chief certainly hasn’t diminished during the pandemic, which has stymied his touring plans with both Slipknot and as a solo performer. Yet Taylor’s frustration with 2020 America extends beyond the president.
Ahead of CMFT’s debut, we spoke at length about Trump, the coronavirus and the fractured state of the union, as well as the reopening of Las Vegas (where he lives), the music that inspired his new record, and what the future holds for his genre-straddling career.
Is it strange to be promoting CMFT during the pandemic, especially since you can’t tour? I know you have the Forum or Against ‘Em livestream show coming up, but it must be a totally new experience.
It’s been a learning curve, let’s put it that way [laughs]. It’s weird. I truly felt like once we made the album, people would really dig it because it’s a great listen. It’s a good time, it’s a fun time. I feel like we need more of that these days. We need something that takes a little of the stress off, because we’re just surrounded by chaos and drama. For me, it’s like, if I can add a little bit of something to take the edge off of that, then why not? I kind of charged into it, not really even thinking about how I was going to promote this.
At this point, people know that if I put on a show, they’re going to get something special. For me, it was: How do I promote a show and really show people that this is going to be a totally different type of show? That’s been the fun side of this. Going back to livestreaming, the things that I’m doing for that show are going to be rad. It’s one of those things where, if we were going on the road, I’d be so fucking stoked about this show, because it’s almost two hours, it’s full production, full pyro, doing a whole bunch of cool musical stuff in the middle of it, and really playing a whole range of things, from stuff I wrote with Stone Sour and Slipknot, to playing the entire solo album and a bunch of covers that we love. Between the livestream and then doing a million interviews and doing stuff with WWE—we just debuted “Culture Head” on NXT—it’s been interesting. It’s been a learning process that I’m actually stoked I’m going through, because it shows me that even if touring doesn’t start up until next year, we’ll be okay, because there are so many different options now.
Given the lack of social distancing at a Slipknot or Stone Sour concert, are live metal shows a possibility without a vaccine?
I know they tried the social-distancing pod thing at that festival in England, which basically looked like going to a show and sitting in business class seats. Which I know a lot of people really fucking like. People can’t bullshit me. People love the fact that, “Wait a minute, I can go to a show and I’m not scrunched up between a bunch of sweaty people? Count me in, man!” Now having said that, I believe that was a jazz festival, so it’s obviously not the same genre we’re talking about [laughs]. I think once people feel safe enough, there’s nothing that’s going to hold them back from going to a show, whether there’s a vaccine or not, which is fine. People talk all that shit about herd immunity; that’s not the way it works. Once people start to feel like it’s safe to come out of the dark again, it’s going to be crazy. Now I don’t know how the first few pits are going to be, and I’m certainly not fucking getting in, because I haven’t been in a pit since ’99, and I’m not going back. At my age, I would get crucified. I’d catch a question-mark kick and I’d be fucked.
But I also know that whether there’s a vaccine or not, there are certain people who aren’t going to give a shit, and that’s something we have to worry about. We have to worry about, politically speaking, you either wear a mask or you don’t, and you have your reasons, and there’s no convincing people—which is fucking sad, you know? Because at some point, you have to go, it’s common sense. But if politics has taught me anything, it’s that there’s no such thing as common sense [laughs]. I don’t know. I feel like we’ll get some answers next year. Which kind of sucks. But then think about it this way: There’s only 100 days left in 2020. Where the fuck did this year go? [laughs]
Are you frustrated by how America—and President Trump in particular, who you’ve criticized in the past—has handled the crisis?
It’s so easy to blame Trump, but he’s not the end-all, be-all when it comes to this. There’s a reason our government is three branches: it’s to keep each other in check. Trump is a nightmare who loves drama and loves chaos, and yet this isn’t all his fault. I mean, he hasn’t done anything to fucking help it. But it’s not all his fault. This lies squarely at the government’s feet. And the government is a lot of fucking people. I know a lot of liberals who want to blame Trump and nobody else, but guess what? Congress is to blame, the various organizations that are under oversight are to blame. There are people who could have stepped in, and pushed the narrative to Trump, and let him know, and told him that playing this down and politicizing it is a bad fucking idea. There are people in the government who just have no balls, and will not stand up and do what’s right because it’s a political game, and politics are such fucking garbage, it’s ridiculous. That’s on both sides. They’re all fucking ridiculous, they’re all fucking morons, and they don’t understand that what they’re doing is pitting us all against each other, and we’re tearing our fucking country apart.
There’s no better example than what we’re going through right now. Las Vegas is open! We can’t have shows, but the fucking casinos are all open. And they’re all full of people who are pissed that you wear a mask. I had friends of mine get accosted at a goddamn casino, because they were staying there, and all these fucking red snowflakes came out of nowhere and just started giving them shit for wearing a mask. And it’s like, hey man, fuck you! You really want to play politics with your life? It’s ridiculous. I don’t understand it. People will give up common sense to spew Fox News and MSNBC points, just screaming into each other’s faces, when they’re going against their better judgement. They always have, but it’s never been as bad as it is right now. So of course Trump’s to blame for some of this, but it’s not all his fault. There’s a whole fucking government that is going on, on both sides, that’s to blame for this.
“So of course Trump’s to blame for some of this, but it’s not all his fault. There’s a whole fucking government that is going on, on both sides, that’s to blame for this.”
Has being politically outspoken, including against Trump, ever posed problems, be it with fans or fellow bandmates?
There are people who fucking hate me now because of it. I’ve been called “a no-good SJW,” and I’ve also been called “a knuckle-dragging moron,” by both sides! For real. It’s just so ridiculous. The culture war—and I write about it in a song called “Culture Head,” which just came out—is real as fuck, dude. As far as worrying about it, obviously in this day and age, because of how twisted social media and conspiracy theorists can make people, I have to be cautious. But I can’t worry about what people think about me. The second you start worrying about that, you start censoring yourself. And the second you start censoring yourself, you start becoming a different person. And the second you start becoming a different person, you lose everybody. So I don’t know where these people lost the plot on me. It’s not like I’ve ever come off as something that I’m not. And it’s not like I’ve never fucking spoken my mind before.
I don’t know what part of what narrative they thought they’d figured me out, but I’ve always been a little bit liberal, a little bit conservative. I grew up in Iowa, for fuck’s sake. Des Moines is a very liberal city in a lot of ways. Iowa can be both blue and red at the same time. We’re talking about a state that voted for Clinton, Bush, Obama, and Trump. So figure out what the fuck’s going on there! [laughs] It’s a state that’s never really gone one way or the other. It’s a conservative state that also fought for the Union in the Civil War; it’s one of the first states to volunteer for the Union. There’s a very strong heritage in Iowa of speaking your mind and standing by it. I’ve always been a little bit liberal and a little bit conservative, and that drives people nuts, because I’m not all the way one way, or all the way the other. I go with my gut when it comes to certain things. If I see stuff that’s bullshit, I call it out. It’s just the way I’ve always been.
CMFT reconfirms that you’re also not just one thing musically. Why embark on a solo album now?
Honestly, it was the pandemic. Everything came to a screeching halt. I was sitting at home, and I was like, maybe we should do it now. Because originally, I was going to do this in January/February of next year. I was going to wait until the touring cycle was done [for Slipknot’s 2019 album We Are Not Your Kind], and then I was going to do my solo thing. We moved it up because there was nothing going on. That’s really it.
I think the lockdown was about a month or two in, and I started making calls, going, “If we do this right, what do you think about getting this album done?” Once we put a plan into place, we went with it. Me and the guys in the band, and my producer Jay Ruston, and everyone who works at the Hideout [studio, in Las Vegas], we all social-distanced, and quarantined for two weeks—we didn’t have any contact with anyone in the outside world. We made sure that we were all good. We got temperature checks and masks, and the guys in the band and Jay drove to Vegas, which for some people was a long fucking drive. But it was worth it. We avoided the airports, everybody drove, everybody stayed with me. We did this for real. So for a month, my house was just absolute fucking carnage. Crazy shit. [laughs]
How long did it take to make the album?
It only took us two-and-a-half weeks. We killed this thing. We had 25 songs in two-and-a-half weeks, and we just had fun. The only thing we wanted to do was capture the spirit of this album. And we did it. But like I said, this was something I was going to do anyway. It just felt like it was time. I had purged a lot of shit on We Are Not Your Kind. I was in a very toxic relationship for nine years, and it came to a messy end. I was left with a lot of baggage, a lot of shit clinging to me, a lot of issues, a lot of toxicity that I had to figure out. And that album represented a purge for me. So having gotten rid of all that shit, I wanted to do something way more positive, and on a different energy wavelength. I wanted to do something that felt fun. And this was the thing to do.
“This is me really showing the world where I come from.”
There’s a real mix of genres (‘90s alt-rock, country, hip-hop, hard rock) on the record. Were there any specific inspirations?
It was way more organic. Some of these songs are almost 20 years old. I’ve written these over the years, and just stockpiled them forever. People don’t realize I’m always writing, and it gets to the point where, if something really doesn’t fit with Slipknot or Stone Sour, it just sits. I’ll demo it, I’ll listen to it, and I’ll go, “This isn’t going to work, but maybe somewhere down the road, I can give this to another band or whatever.” I realized, the whole reason I’ve been stockpiling all these tunes is that it was meant for this solo thing. Like you said, you can feel different decades, different genres, and obviously all the different influences I grew up with, whether it’s country, or regular rock ‘n’ roll, or grunge, or East Coast rap-rock from the early ‘80s, or glam rock from every fucking decade. There’s even hardcore punk on this thing. It’s got everything where I’m coming from, which I love. It’s such a blueprint for my musical taste that it’s probably the most true musical expression I’ve ever done that wasn’t just a confessional, like with Slipknot. This is me really showing the world where I come from.
Does that make it more nerve-wracking to release? You’re on your own this time.
I think that’s why I waited as long as I did. Not a lot of people realize this, and it may not come off because I’m so fucking opinionated, but respect is a big thing for me. I would never go out of my way to disrespect the dudes in my band, or my fans, in any way. It wouldn’t have made sense to me, early on, to go out and do a blatant solo album, because I’ve got two bands that I’ve been focused on for so long. It would have been a smack in the face if I’d done it earlier.
With the pandemic still going on, is there a chance you might do more solo stuff while you wait to return to the road?
It’s already written. I just want to get this album out, and let this album live, before I do that. I’ve already got the second album ready to go—well, not ready to go, but the band knows all the stuff, we’ve demoed it, and it already has a title. As soon as it’s time, we’ll go in. In a perfect world, when touring fires back up, I want to finish the tour cycle with Slipknot, so we’re good to go there—because there’s still a lot of countries that we didn’t’ get to on that cycle, and I know a lot of people were waiting on us to get there. I want to make sure we finish that off. Then, once that’s done, I want to go back into the studio and record CMFT 2, and go out and tour on two albums, and not just one.
Considering the current focus on your solo work, do you feel like you still have more metal in you?
Oh yeah! Look, this is a happy album, but I’m still an angry prick [laughs]. I’m angry about different things. I’m certainly not going to try to write for kids or anything like that. I don’t know how to write for people except for myself. And I’ve still got a lot of things that fuck with me. There’s still a lot of darkness in my heart, and that’s why Slipknot is so important to me. Plus, they’re some of the best writers in the world. This band is made up of so many creative minds. I was talking to Clown [percussionist Shawn Crahan] the other day, saying we could go in and do something complete different, and it would still be one of the darkest fucking albums ever made [laughs].
We’ve all known each other [in Slipknot] for so long that it’s hard sometimes to break out of the norms, and the safe music. But for us, we love challenges. We love trying to go places that we’ve never gone before, and to do it in a way that feels like nobody’s ever heard before, and feels exciting. For me, that’s one of the reasons I keep coming back to Slipknot, and love working with them. There may be a tension and stuff, but we’re so creative together that it’s just rad, man. It’s something I’ve very proud to be a part of.