Even when Corey Taylor is offstage, he prefers living dangerously.
The Stone Sour and Slipknot singer is driving when he calls for an interview, and just three minutes into chatting he freaks out in full Corey Taylor Voice: “ARGH! You fucking asshole! God! This fucking dickbag won’t fucking go.” Then he calms down and explains what happened. “I drive really fast, no matter where I am, and this guy is fucking unfortunately obeying the speed limit,” he says. “So I’m just kind of dealing with this guy. I’ll take the blame for it.” When Rolling Stone asks him to try not to kill himself during our conversation, he says, “I will do my very best. I make no damn promises, though.”
That sense of recklessness has guided the 43-year-old frontman through 25 years with Stone Sour and two decades behind a creepy-looking crash-test-dummy mask for Slipknot. In recent years, he’s also become a published author – his upcoming, Trump-heavy book, America 51, is due next month – and a DJ for Apple Music’s Beats 1. Despite the heavy workload, though, he has managed to maintain a steady focus.
Following a Japanese edition of Knotfest last year, Slipknot went on an indefinite hiatus that may last at least two more years, so Taylor decided to concentrate his time on Stone Sour’s recently released Hydrograd album. “We were like, ‘Fuck this – the album is a priority,'” he says. “The normal shit usually is, ‘Let’s try and fucking get this in during the time we have off from Slipknot.’ In the past, we’ve felt we’ve had to walk away from albums and put them out without finishing them. This time we decided to get it to the point where it’s so badass people can’t fucking ignore it anymore. It has the spirit of everything that we love about this band.”
As usual, Hydrograd features Taylor’s passionate vocal performances as he sings about reality-TV trash culture (“Fabuless”), modern love (“Song #3”) and his own anxiety (“Taipei Person/Allah Tea”) – all set to wiry hard-rock riffs that are little catchier and more radio-friendly than Slipknot’s clangor. But that’s not to say Taylor has gone soft. Over the course of our hour-long interview, he says “shit” 37 times and “fuck” 131 times – and he allows his ire to carry him away and raise his voice as he rants about rock bands that badly want to be “alternative” and the Kardashians. It’s Taylor in a rare moment of being at once introspective and a raw nerve. The way he tells it, though, that’s par for the course these days.
After the instrumental “YSIF,” the album kicks into full effect with “Taipei Personality/Allah Tea.” That song has so much going on lyrically, with lines like “mellow-traumatic like a Ponzi scheme.” How did you work that all together?
[Laughs] It’s a song about looking back in retrospect but also focusing on the future. It’s about always fucking charging forward. And the clues are in the title, finding a way to poetically say “type-A personality.” I’m such a fucking type-A personality that it’s not even funny. And yet, I have serious moments of trying to be tranquil and being very shy sometimes. So the song is about balance, but then letting the fucking dog off the chain as much as possible.
If you’re letting the dog off the chain, how do you wind down?
I don’t really know, to be honest, man. I have tried meditating and I don’t have the mind or calmness for it because I’m such a fucking maniac. I’m up and down, and I’m just a ball of crazy bullshit half the time anyway. I go through huge spurts of reading, so that helps sometimes, but I don’t get to do it as much anymore. I don’t really have the chance to wind down, because I have kids. They’re specifically designed to keep you on the edge of your fucking seat.
How do you separate all your work from being a family man?
[Laughs] When I come off the road, I’m just me. I’m just dad, the guy who cooks things once in a while or springs for takeout. I’m the weird dad and I embrace that. Unfortunately, it’s few and far between because I’m gone a lot. So far, my kids aren’t fucked up, so I guess that’s a knock-on-wood moment there.
My son just went on his first date last night to an eighth-grade dance. But unfortunately, the girl didn’t show up. We haven’t found out why yet, but he didn’t give a shit. He went in on his own and had a blast and didn’t tell me until he called me to pick him up. He was like, “Yeah, she didn’t show.” I said, “What?” We had a bro moment just hanging out and talking, and he was like, “Eh, whatever. I danced. I hung out with my friends.” I was like, “OK.” I just worry about him getting beat up because if he’s got the Taylor emotions, that’ll fuck with you. That shit gets pretty overwhelming sometimes.
How do you handle the Taylor emotions?
Well, it’s apparent that I haven’t. It’s taken two bands, a book deal and a fucking radio show to just get me to even out. And I still can’t fucking keep it together half the time. But I exercise. I try to stay healthy as much as possible. I’ve tried to cut out all the negative shit in my life, as far as chemicals, boozing, all that shit. I’ve tried to focus on the shit that matters, which is my career, my kids, my creativity, and just trying to stay healthy enough, because I want to be able to do them for a very long time. So I guess that’s kept the emotions at bay.
It doesn’t always work. I do have bouts of severe depression, which are very, very hard to deal with sometimes. But because I’m also an addict, I try to stay away from as much potentially addictive medication as much as possible, because I know me, and I know how I would be. So I’ve really tried to deal with it as naturally as possible, and I know that sounds very hippie-like, but when you know yourself, and you know the habits that you can slip into so easily, you have to find alternatives. … And I also still do therapy.
“I woke up in a dumpster. I think the people I’d been hanging out with thought I was dead and they left me.”
You recently went on a TV show called The Therapist and opened up about surviving a suicide attempt and being sexually assaulted when you were 10 years old. How have you gotten to the point where you can talk about that publicly?
I think a couple of different things. One, enough time has passed. And I’ve talked about this stuff before. I talked in my first book about it, and I guess there’s a difference between really hearing me talk about it and deal with it than reading about it. And, like I said, I do therapy and I talk about it in my therapy. So I’ve come to grips with it. I don’t let it define me.
Also, I know that I have a responsibility. Whether I like it or not, people listen to me. If there’s any way that I can help people who have had to deal with much worse to help themselves, then I’m going to do that. The reason I did the Therapist show was I knew that if I could open up and take away that stigma and show people that there’s absolutely fucking nothing wrong with sitting down with someone and talking about possible traumas that have happened in your life, or just talking about your problems, then you can help yourself a million times over, and you can help other people as well. It’s about showing people that it’s OK, for lack of a better term, to be fucked up. You can get help.
And you did so by talking about some topics that still seemed raw for you.
It’s difficult. Of course, it’s uncomfortable discussing it, but I can’t be embarrassed by it. I can’t be embarrassed by trying to sit down and talk about it, because otherwise you give it more power than you really should.
Similarly, some of the lyrics on Hydrograd seem personal. On “Mercy,” you sing, “I ran away when I was 15. I was dead by 17.” Now obviously you didn’t die but –
I came close. I talked about it on that show. I woke up in a dumpster. I think the people I’d been hanging out with thought I was dead and they left me. To me, that was a very big moment for me, was coming out of that. That really kind of started me on the path of really seeing that I had issues. It took me about 10 years to really get a grip on them. But that was the first real moment where I saw that that abyss inside of me that could really kind of fuck me up. So that’s a very autobiographical song. But I was trying to do it musically in a way that I’d never done it before. That song is so catchy, and yet such a great fucking rock song. It’s just so different for us.
Did you find it difficult to open up in lyrics like these?
Not really. I detest lying, and it doesn’t help that I’m really bad at it. Ask my ex-wife; I’m horrible at lying. So I just stopped putting any power into being disingenuous. The truth is so much more fucking interesting anyway.
Another song that seems personal, though in a different way, is “Song #3.” Why did you write a love song like this?
There are really only two kinds of love songs these days, which are, “Oh, I’m aching for you, please be mine,” or, “I’m gonna fuck you in a bus.” It’s horseshit that those are the only two kinds of love songs. So “Song #3” is the third option. It’s like, “I love you so much, but I also want to lightly pull on your hair and do bad things to you.” It’s a middle ground that a lot of people don’t talk about.
That actually sounds like a realistic relationship.
Exactly. Everybody talks about love like they saw it in a movie. It’s such bullshit. You’ve got to live through it before you know what it is.
It’s not a typical hard-rock song topic.
That’s because a lot of people are pussies, dude. It is what it is. And that’s whether or not people actually use the term “hard rock.” It seems like everybody would rather not be a rock band these days. And I’m like, “God, shut the fuck up, you ass-hats. Put your toys back in your fucking toy chest and get back in the game. Not everyone can be ‘alternative.'” Shit. Fucking dicks [laughs].
On the opposite end of the spectrum, topically, is “Fabuless,” where you sing, “You spread your legs for TV time/Baby … who fucks you best?” Who is that directed at?
It rhymes with “Bardashian.” They set it off, but there’s so many goddamn worthless TV shows on that it doesn’t really matter. And it’s actually more about social-media celebrities, who are even worse than the reality-TV-show celebrities, these fuckers who are just famous for having a bunch of followers. It’s like, “Yeah, but why are they famous?” “Well, it’s trendy to follow them.” “Yeah, but why do you follow them?” “Well, we don’t know.” “Well, fuck you then, man. Are you kidding me? Come on.”
Just when I thought you couldn’t get any less talented than being a “reality TV star,” here comes these fucking social-media celebrities when I’m just like, “Oh, shove that shit straight up your fucking ass, man. Christ.” Frank Sinatra’s spinning in his fucking grave.
Are you thinking of someone specific, like the Cash Me Ousside girl?
Oh, that Cash Me Ousside girl can fucking go to hell. I don’t even know her name. That’s how fucking bad she is.
She’s going on a tour now.
Oh, I’m sure she is. They’re gonna use her up and throw her away like Charlie Sheen’s dick.
Lastly, you’re obviously in Stone Sour mode now. What’s going on with Slipknot?
Nothing, really. Everyone’s kinda doing their own thing right now. Clown is looking for a movie project, which is awesome. Jim was gonna start working on some music, but he had some surgery done on his back again, so he’s just kind of taking it easy.
There’s no rush. I’m not looking to do anything Slipknot related for at least two years. That’s the reason why people get so fucking excited when we come back. You give people a chance to miss us. I think that’s a lost art. There’s so many artists that think they just need to fucking stack albums on top of each other, because they’re afraid the audience is gonna go away. Fuckin’ let ’em! And then give them a reason to come back. I’m not worried about it. And if I was, I’d be in the wrong business.