Corey Taylor has gone teenage rebel growing up in the backwaters of Iowa to frontman with one of the biggest metal bands of the 21st century. There have been massive highs and crippling lows along the way, but it's been nothing if not eventful. In this classic Metal Hammer interview, the Slipknot singer – and now solo star – looks back on his insane journey so far…
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Where and when were you born?
“I was born on December 8, 1973 in Broadlawn Hospital in Des Moines, Iowa.”
What was high school like?
“I got kicked out, basically, my junior year. I started a riot in a lunch room, because of the atrocious food. They kindly asked me to leave and I threw a chair at the Vice Principal.”
When did you start with music?
“The first live gig I ever did was actually with Stone Sour. This was ’92, I was 19 and I was so nervous, man. We would do originals and covers, and we would play three one-hour sets a night. We would do that four or five fucking days a week. It kind of taught you a work ethic, you know?”
Were you quite ambitious then?
“Absolutely. We financed a tape that did pretty good, about 1000 copies, I think. But it was basically rent money, food money, booze money… I used to go out to a place called Billie Joe’s Picture Show every weekend, to watch The Rocky Horror Picture Show. That’s where the misfits went. Me and my best friend Danny, we were kinda like the king of the dipshits, basically. If you were kinda outside the norm in Des Moines, you’d go to Billie Joe’s every weekend. So I would go out there with a pocketful of tapes, sell ‘em for next to nothing and we’d drink all night. And that was life! So it was a fun time, it was a lot of freedom, man. I didn’t have an apartment, so I just crashed on people’s floors, couches, fucking whatever I could find. It was very bohemian, but it was a great time to be where I was at.”
How long were you homeless?
“Off and on for a couple of years. I was hardcore homeless between 17 and 18. I moved in with my grandmother to get away from the drugs, get away from everything and just kinda get myself right. I became a fucking nightmare of a kid. So she threw me out! And I spent six months off and on kinda walkin’ the streets . That’s where I met my best friend Danny. I’d live under bridges. It was all very romantic, at first. But then it was like, I weighed about a hundred pounds and I was gnarly skinny. I was walkin’ around in the wintertime with a garbage bag of my shit over my shoulder. And I was like ‘I can’t do this anymore’.”
Did that change you?
“Yeah, totally. It definitely taught me not to take anything for granted, you know? I’ve lived my whole life without regret. If you spend your whole life regretting the things that you’ve done, then you haven’t made any progress.”
How did you feel when you were offered the Slipknot gig?
“I was at the very first Slipknot show. And then the next day, Slipknot and Stone Sour actually played a show together, which was crazy, you know? But I can always remember thinking to myself, ‘I want to sing for this band’. And then two years later, they came to me and asked me. Slipknot wanted the best people in the scene and at the time I was the best singer in Des Moines. I was like, ‘this is fucking huge’. Cos at the time it was still very experimental and very eclectic, and I loved that. It wasn’t until we got signed that it became very narrow, and just all about the heavy all the time. And it really kinda choked a lot of the love out of it for me.”
It must have been weird suddenly becoming the biggest frontman in metal and no one knew what you looked like. It must have been party time all the time.
“I can remember we were in England or somewhere, this was the Iowa tour. When it really amped up. When we were all just outta control. I just remember laying in a shower buck-ass naked, being filmed, with two girls peeing on me. It was nuts, but it was just so much fun at the time. It hadn’t crossed the line to dark yet. It hadn’t gotten that bad, yet. And I can just remember kinda lookin’ at the camera going, ‘what the fuck am I doing?’ It was a lotta debauchery, but it was also just having the time of your life. You know? And really fucking living for the moment. It got even more so after 9/11. When that happened, it really made us take notice of where we were at. But at the same time it took us down a lot of paths that we didn’t really want to go, paths we had prided ourselves on not going down.”
Can you pinpoint where you crossed the line, when things started getting dark?
“For me it really hit a wall recording the Volume 3 album. There were other things going on in my life that were making me abysmal, basically, as a person. I always had a bottle of Jack next to my dresser. I was the guy at last call that would order four drinks so I could drink right up until I went out the door. I’d wake up in different places, and not know how I got there. With different people. It was just really getting bad. My whole appearance was fucked, you know? I was swollen. When I would sweat I smelled like whiskey.”
It came to a head on November 14, 2003, when you tried to jump off a hotel balcony.
“I was very close to jumping off. My buddy Tommy actually grabbed me before I could jump. I woke up very, very confused. It was just the worst I had ever felt. The last real memory I had that night was leaning against the Viper Room, throwing up on the spot where River Phoenix died. And spitting it at people. I was the guy who you did not want to fucking hang out with when he got wasted. It needed to be time for me to quit drinking for a while. And when I did it felt really good, it really did. It cleared so much shit for me.”
How easy was it to avoid booze on the road?
“The first two tours where I wasn’t drinking were very hard. But I found the balance and I found out how to be myself without a fucking Jack and Coke in my hand. And I think that was the biggest thing for me, and, ‘who the hell am I without booze?’ You know, ‘who the hell am I without being that guy at the party?’ At the time I didn’t know.”
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You only met your father after Slipknot became famous. That seemed to help you sort yourself out.
“That definitely helped. Finding my dad was one of the most monumental points in my life. Now I have this relationship with my dad which is so huge. It’s a relationship I never thought I’d have. My dad is like one of the coolest guys on the planet – he is such a fucking warm, sweet human being. It helped me a lot. It helped me with my own son, who I cherish more than anything on this planet. I kinda knew who I was, but meeting my dad and realising that there’s so much of him in me, really helped me stand up a lot straighter. It helped strengthen my convictions.”
Did your dad know anything about Slipknot?
“He didn’t know but as soon as I told him, he started noticing Slipknot shirts and Stone Sour shirts everywhere! He’s just like, ‘Jesus! My God!’ So he’s very proud. He came to the Sacramento show that Stone Sour did, and I dedicated Bother to him and I could see him out in the audience. And he started crying. I started fucking bawling, man! It’s one of those things where I’m still tryin’ to figure out how to describe it, you know?”
How are you feeling about yourself now?
“I’ll tell you what, man. I’m actually at a really good point in my life. I have accomplished a lot with my life and that makes me want to do even more. I want to fucking go above and beyond and really do it all. All these new dreams are coming out for me. I want to write a book. I want to fucking work on a screenplay and a comic, you know? I want to do a spoken word thing. I want to do an acoustic album. I want to a country album! I’m probably going to end up opening a club in Des Moines. I’m still doing Great Big Mouth records. I want to be a total dick and use my notoriety to be in a movie! I want to write songs for other people that are so outside of my genre that people who know anything about me are like ‘Wha…?!’ I actually wrote a song for Robbie Williams. I just love Robbie Williams. He’s fucking amazing. He cracks me up, he’s a great entertainer, he’s an amazing singer. And, I just love the energy that he’s got. I know that I’ll probably fucking lose cool points with a few people for that, but I just fucking love him, I think he’s great.”
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A news story surfaced a years ago that announced you had died.
“Yeah, that’s happened like eight times, man! Jesus Christ! The last time was so serious, this fucking syndicated DJ goes on the radio in Chicago and starts telling people that I’m dead. My friends are calling him up going, ‘He’s not fucking dead!’ My grandmother hears this, starts crying uncontrollably, so now I’ve got to call up my whole fucking family and let them know! It got so bad that at my son’s birthday party, the local newspaper showed up thinking that they were having a wake for my funeral. And I’m in there cutting his cake! So I ran out on the fucking lawn just shouting, ‘I am not fucking dead!’
So it wasn’t a very good joke?
“No. I will never do a fucking interview with that DJ [that started the rumour] ever! He can kiss my entire fucking white ass. You can say whatever the fuck you want about me, but you make my grandmother cry? You’re dead to me. Seriously. Fuck you. Eat a bag of fucking shit you fucking soulless cunt.”
But If you were to die tomorrow, what would your epitaph be?
“‘What the fuck happened to that guy?!’”
Published in Metal Hammer #162