Stone Sour’s Corey Taylor: Ghosts, Floods and Taxes

Stone Sour circa 2010.
Corey Taylor front and center.

Singer Corey Taylor lives a double life. As masked frontman #8 for aggro headbangers Slipknot, he bellows, barks and growls through tumultous tunes that tap into unbridled rage towards the world. As his unmasked self in Stone Sour, he takes a more tuneful hard rock approach that allows him to bare his soul in more reflective ways. The two successful bands represent the yin and yang of his life.

I recently chatted with Taylor for Inked magazine about the new Stone Sour album Audio Secrecy, and we delved into a variety of topics, many of which made it into this exclusive story for A.D.D.

From what I understand you grew up with classic rock, and you ended up performing really brutal modern metal. With Stone Sour you get to do something a little different.
I kind of grew up with this musical dichotomy. My Mom listened to a lot of classic rock and, shockingly enough, disco. With enough therapy I got through that, but then my Mom’s friends turned me onto Seventies punk and new wave. Then once I started getting into my own music, that’s when I got into early hardcore punk and thrash metal. I grew up with this crazy amalgam of music, and I think that’s what set me on the path of not really giving a shit what people say about the music that I like. I like what I like, and I don’t really care if anybody cares. I’ve never had any qualms about just digging stuff, and that’s reflected in the music that I make as well. I can go from the extreme of Slipknot to the harder rock ‘n roll groove of Stone Sour. For some reason I get away with, and I’m very fortunate for that.

Fellow Slipknot member, guitarist Jim Root,
rocks out with Taylor in Stone Sour.

That’s very European of you, in a certain way.
I try to be a hep cat, if you will. But the minute you show a hint of dishonesty in your music, people can see through it. I’ve always just made music from the heart, no matter what that music is, and I think that’s why people are so attracted to it and still listen to it. I make music because I want to make music. I really couldn’t give a shit if I make a dollar off of it. If that’s the European way, I’ll take it. I certainly don’t want to come off as a typical American artist.

In America we’re finally starting to see diverse rock festivals that mirror what’s been going on in Europe for years, where you can stack the bill with artists as diverse as Slipknot and Fleetwood Mac.
Absolutely. I’ve done festivals where Slipknot is on one stage and Eurhythmics are on the main stage. That was a real show. That was Rock am Park in 2000. It was so damn cool. We got done playing and ran right over to watch Eurhythmics. I see what you’re saying. I’ve been saying that for years, that I wish that more American minds were as open as European minds because you can literally throw all kinds of bands from all kinds of genres on one bill, and people embrace it. People love it. They get into it. It’s so marginalized here and so genre specific that it gets really frustrating sometimes, but I think we are starting to see a kind of revolution, like we saw in the early to mid-Nineties, when a lot of people were embracing so many different kinds of music. We’re starting to see that in metal.

“I had a bad patch early on in my career — I was staring at the most money I’ve ever made in my life, and I went kind of crazy [with spending] and ran into some tax trouble. That’ll straighten you up real quick.'”

Were you guys watching Eurhythmics in costume?
Oh no, we got out of costume. We didn’t want to freak out the security. “Oh Christ, someone is trying to storm the stage!” We were just watching in our civvies. It’s very, very funny to go from something like, “Fuck it all/Fuck this world” to singing along to Eurhythmics. It was a very strange day, man, but it was awesome. I live for that stuff.

Can you tell us about staying in a haunted house in Nashville while recording the new Stone Sour album with floods raging by?
Oh my God, dude, there were so many weird things going on in that house. You’d walk into the kitchen, put something down on the countertop, turn around and all of a sudden you hear this crazy noise. You turn around and the fucking thing’s just flown across the room. It was gnarly, man. The room that Josh was staying in was probably the most weird. He had so many weird things going on in his room that he was eventually like, “Okay, I’ve got the population of Juarez, Mexico living in my room, and I’m really trying to figure out how to make contact.” It was very weird but a great experience. For all of us to be able to stay in one house and practice anytime we want or record great demos together — all of us really working towards a fantastic album — was awesome. Recording at Blackbird, we had unlimited access to so much gear that I couldn’t even start to tell you what the hell it was.
[continued below]

"Hey guys, why so serious?"

The floods kind of came out of nowhere. I was actually back in Des Moines hanging with the kids when the floods hit, so me and my wife were flying back to Nashville — “What the fuck are you talking about? It’s flooded?” It was incredible, man. There was water halfway up the doorway going into people’s houses. I saw people in boats trying to get into their own houses. It was insane. Luckily it kind of flooded around where we were living, so we weren’t touched at the house, and it didn’t get near the studio. We lucked out with that, but a lot of people didn’t, so I immediately started trying to get the word out that people were looking for help. An organization called National Flood Relief was doing a lot of work with the Gibson Foundation because the Gibson factories down there got decimated. The Grand Ole Opry got decimated. All of these wonderful organizations just came together to really try to help the people of Nashville. I tried to do my part to get the word out to people. It’s slowly but surely getting better.

Do you ever have floods in Iowa?
Oh yeah. Des Moines has had two incredible floods. A couple of years ago there was a major flood in Iowa, and it decimated Cedar Rapids. Des Moines was really, really bad. I was driving around and basically picking up my friends and bringing them to my house. At one point I had 10 people living in my house because their houses were just fucked. That’s what you do. There were areas where I couldn’t even get my car into their house. It was crazy. So I’ve seen what can happen with flooding and whatnot. It was in my power to be able to help, so I try to go out of my way and help.

You have many different side projects, including have a punk and hair metal cover band called Dumb Fux.
I also have JBKB — Junk Beer Kidnap Band.

"This is our GQ pose."

And haven’t you also played with Audacious P, a Tenacious D tribute band?
God, I haven’t done that in a long time. Last time we did a show was a charity benefit, and it was a lot of fun. That was five years ago. JBKB has become my new Dumb Fux project, which is a lot of fun. We do a bunch of covers and a handful of originals that I’ve written. I’m actually in Vegas right now for JBKB. I’m doing two shows at the Hard Rock — I’m doing an electric set at the poolside stage at Rehab, and I’m also doing an acoustic set the next night at Wasted Space. It’s two things I love to do — playing a bunch of weird covers that hopefully people are into and then doing an acoustic set. One of my favorite things is to play acoustically, and that’s honestly how three-fourths of the songs that I write start out. It’s just me sitting and playing an acoustic guitar and figuring out something really cool. It’s just a lot of fun, and hopefully people are really into it.

Do you have any Spinal Tap stories that you can recall?
There have been so many Spinal Tap moments that it’s hard to describe. The night we [Slipknot] got signed to Roadrunner we were playing in Chicago at a college. We were opening for a friend’s band. We were backstage thinking that Roadrunner was there and we were going to throw down. There weren’t a lot of people there because it wasn’t our show and we didn’t promote for it, but 300 people from the Des Moines drove from Chicago just to be there for the show with us. It was straight out of Spinal Tap — we got lost backstage and ended up having to walk around [the venue] and walk through the crowd and climb up on the stage because we couldn’t find the Goddamn backstage door. Shit like that happens to us all the time. It’s ridiculous.

“We got out of costume [to watch Eurhythmics]. We didn’t want to freak out the security. ‘Oh Christ, someone is trying to storm the stage!'”

Given how long you’ve been doing this, I imagine that you’ve been asked a lot of the same questions over the years?
It’s gotten to the point where I almost went into a studio and recorded a CD of stock answers. I was going to carry around a boombox with me, so when they ask a [generic] question I’d go, “Oh, that’s track 12. Hold on one second…” I try to keep it fresh, and you know you’re going to get the the same questions once in a while, but you’ve just got to do it. You’ve got to do what you’ve got to do.

The latest Stone Sour album, Audio Secrecy.

You’ve had a wild ride throughout your career. What are the greatest life lessons that you’ve learned?
I’ve learned to take care of your own because someday they’ll take care of you. Encourage your children to be good. You can’t live your children’s lives for them, so you have to be there when they make those mistakes. Take care of your money. I had a bad patch early on in my career — I was staring at the most money I’ve ever made in my life, and I went kind of crazy [with spending] and ran into some tax trouble. I tell you what, that’ll straighten you up real quick. Luckily I did. There are a lot of people who have just fucked themselves financially, and luckily I was smart enough to know that wasn’t good. I tried to learn from that as much as possible and learn how to do things smart rather than getting all weird. It’s scary, man. It’s a scary feeling, and I never want to feel like that again, especially with a family. You’ve got to do what you’ve got to do, but at the same time as I said before, you never know how long this is going to last, and if you’re living paycheck to paycheck in this day and age, it could go away really quickly.

It’s been said that a lot of lottery winners go bankrupt. People who are not used to having anything get everything and don’t know what to do with it.
Exactly, so they just go fucking crazy and don’t realize the repercussions that can happen. Yeah, it sucks they have to pay taxes, but how do you think half the fucking world is run? It is what it is, so you’ve got to do it smart. You can’t act like money is water. The shit dries up, and you’ve got to be smart.

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