It’s been a liberating year for Corey Taylor. The vocalist behind the mask of Slipknot member #8 and out front of Stone Sour has pulled back from his musically aggressive ways to release an irreverent, thought-provoking book about the Seven Deadly Sins, speak at England’s renowned Oxford University about his literary efforts and also embark on a solo book reading/acoustic concert tour that recently found him singing the SpongeBob SquarePants theme to his children onstage. But none of these extra-metal activities should sound surprising because Taylor is a man who likes to mash up his life in funny ways, and he has been reveling in his current solo tour because it truly reveals his personality.
“I'm one of those people that loves to have one foot in structure and also one foot in spontaneity,” Taylor tells The Aquarian. “I love being extemporaneous, I love breaking it up, I love changing everything. The great thing about this show is that it's different every night. I come out and talk about different things, and even with the set of music that we play, we allow ourselves to be able to get in and out of the songs differently.”
Indeed one can find YouTube clips of Taylor performing stripped-down renditions of everything from hair metal ballads to Slipknot songs to ’80s pop tunes. “Every night I pull something weird out of my ass, and it's great to just watch people’s faces,” reports Taylor. “They’re like, ‘I think I know this,’ and their expression just lights up. For some reason last night I was in a weird mood, so I started playing the J.G. Wentworth song from the commercial [imitates opera singing], and the whole audience started singing along with it. I was like, ‘Good luck. That's going to be stuck in your head for the rest of the week, and I take no responsibility for it.’”
An even more surreal YouTube find is video of Taylor preparing to speak at Oxford, then delivering his thoughts to an eclectic group of students. Evidently the Oxford Union had pursued a Taylor speaking engagement for three years because so many students had requested his presence, but touring or recording commitments kept him from visiting. Once he found an open window, he jumped through for the opportunity. The singer admits that he was cool until he got there, and then the history seeping out of the walls and the photos of past speakers and of great debate teams made him feel a tad bit daunted by the whole affair. “I did my best, and all the kids were so excited for me to be there that I couldn't help but not have a good time. It is definitely something I'm really glad I did.”
Taylor reviewed clips of past speakers and felt a lack of enthusiasm on the part of many. He wanted to go in there with passion and a sense of purpose, and he wanted to speak from the heart. So he did not write anything down other than a few liners for his introduction. “I just went off the hip from then on,” he explains. “I wanted to make eye contact, to walk the room and walk the boards. It was really cool. Everywhere you looked, I saw people nodding their heads and really listening intently to what I was saying. That definitely made me feel like I was on to something. It's funny because from the Oxford speaking engagement I got the idea to do the Q&A [portion] for this tour. I was done talking but everybody was not ready to go, so I did a whole hour of just answering questions.”
Taylor focused his Oxford talk on getting people to understand how they should pursue what they are good at rather than what they love. He feels that many people make that mistake, although the irony of those remarks is they come from an artist, and one could argue that there is a certain amount of self-delusion that comes with that role, particularly given the amount of rejection one has to deal with on a regular basis.
“Well, there's a difference between professional rejection and spiritual rejection,” counters Taylor. “There are people who will recognize talent when they see it everywhere, but if you're just hitting a dead-end everywhere you turn, that should be a lesson in futility and you should really start to reimagine things. I'm not saying that if it just hasn't happened yet you should stop. I'm saying flat out if you're just not good you shouldn’t really do it. I know it's all a matter of opinion at the end of the day, but if you're pursuing a career that you're trying to pay bills with, feed a family, clothe a family, you need to be able to earn to do these things. It's hard enough in this business being able to earn without trying to basically spin your wheels because the talent isn’t there. The heart may be, but the talent just isn’t there.”
Luckily for the Iowa native, his talent with music and writing has lead him on a wild rock odyssey, much of which is chronicled in the philosophical pages of Seven Deadly Sins, which is not an autobiography but a meditation on how these so-called sins are not what religious figures make them out to be, and how they can be beneficial to mankind when not abused. It’s definitely a fun read that will have you thinking about many of his viewpoints, regardless if you agree with them or not.
The spirited singer is certainly not being a sloth as he is already on to other big projects following this tour. He is already planning ideas for a second book. He and Slipknot bandmate Clown are starting a film production company to make “fucked up, crazy movies” that are “outside of the Hollywood caste system.” A horror fiend, Taylor despises the rehash/remake trend in Hollywood, and they want to make original fare.
“We’re not going to limit ourselves to that kind of genre, but at the same time everything we do is going to feel different, anything we do is going to be outside of the norm,” he declares. “It may seem like a movie that you're familiar with, but it's going to have that Slipknot twist to it. We're really ecstatic. This will be a great way to lead to Clown eventually directing his first full-length feature because that guy has so much talent behind the lens, it is criminal that he hasn't gotten to do it yet. He's done little things here and there, but I think once he really gets to do his first movie it is going to be insane, and I really want to be there with him when he gets to do that.”
Then there is the forthcoming Stone Sour double concept album, which he wants to make the biggest and best thing the band has ever done, featuring a “very grand story” with a potential multimedia component. “I've been thinking about this for a few years, and it's really the time to do it. The music that we’re coming up with right now is so good that I cannot wait to get into the studio and get this down. We're about halfway there as far as being prepared and haven’t even started rehearsing it, so I'm really ecstatic.”
Naturally many people are also wondering about a new Slipknot studio album, particularly in light of the death of bassist/songwriter Paul Gray last year. Taylor believes there will definitely be another Slipknot album, but it might take a couple of years. He says there are other things the band needs to do first, and while he knows some members are anxious to record, the singer feels the time is not right. He thinks the band should continue touring and playing new territories and let them and the audience go through the healing process together.
“To be honest, I'm not ready to write a Slipknot album without Paul Gray yet, I don't care what anybody says,” asserts Taylor. “There are fantastic writers in this band, and we’re not at a point right now where we're ready to write as a band, and until that happens I refuse to be a part of it.”
“We know the album is going to be about Paul,” Taylor continues. “There's no getting out of it, to be honest. Even if we really try to write around Paul, it would still be about Paul. I mean, we’re already halfway there, but until we can make that album righteously and really take ourselves out of it and really make it so much about him, I don't think we're going to be ready do that. And if I continue to be the villain who won't let the band go in, then so be it. I'm not going to let us do something wrong. It's not the right thing to do, and I'm fine with that.”
Until then, there are plenty of other endeavors to keep Taylor’s disciples happy.
Corey Taylor will perform at Highline Ballroom in NYC on Dec. 5 and World Café Live in Philly on Dec. 6. For more information, go to thecoreytaylor.com.