SLIPKNOT/STONE SOUR frontman Corey Taylor recently gave an intimate interview to Kerrang! Radio about his life. You can now listen to the chat using the audio player below.
Kerrang! Radio: Who are the people in your life who have made you who are today?
Corey Taylor: The personal people in my life who have made me who I am are a mix of family and friends really. I didn't know a lot of my family when I was growing up, I knew my mom's side but I didn't know my dad's side because I didn't grow up with my father.
I think the strongest influence I had was my grandmother actually, my grandmother Thelma, she instilled in me my work ethic, my attention to loved ones. She was really my proper mum, I love my mother but it was such an insane way to grow up, just brutally all over the place. My grandmother was my rock, she was my foundation, she was my stability, she was my safe home. That really had a lot of impact on me, especially growing up, and even today. My grandmother is so nuts, she retires from one place after working there for 25 years, takes a year off, gets bored, goes back to work at a completely different place and has now worked there almost 20 years! I'm like, "What are you doing? You can barely walk now but you're still working, are you out of your mind?" That to me, that's big.
I think a lot of the friends that I had when I hit 20, those are my core friends. My best friend Danny, a really good friend of mine, Jeff, those are the people, when I was really trying to find myself I found them and they pretty much opened my mind to everything. I was like a tiny, little nuclear bomb just waiting to go off and when I found them, I found my tribe basically. We were all into the same crazy music, we were all into the same fascination with music and culture and really just ready to be legends before we had done anything to properly be legends. It was a fantastic time in my life; it was probably the happiest moments in my life. So I think between those two... and just over the years trying to figure out myself, that's really why I am the way I am.
Kerrang! Radio: Your mother raised you and your little sister on her own, and had to move around a lot when you were young. How did this constant moving from place to place (25 states by the time he was 15) affect your childhood? Did the moving allow you to make many friends as a child?
Corey Taylor: I had an absolutely terrible time trying to make friends as I was growing up, because we did move around a lot. But because of my personality, it's the class clown syndrome, the extrovert, the, "Hey, I'll take my pants off for a quarter!" I was that guy and it worked in some places and it didn't work so much in others. I can remember a one-year period that we moved four times, I went to three different junior high schools; I was in three different schools for seventh grade. I was a dork at one, I was a legend at the middle, and then I was just invisible at the last one, it was a strange year.
I was really heavily into drugs and that was the only thing that was even there, it was the only thing that was constant. So here I was, about 14 years old, and I'd gone from low to high to nothing. I can remember going, "Is this what life is? Is this really, this is what I've got to look forward to?" Luckily I figured out no, it's not, but it's just strange like that when you're moved, almost like a chess piece, that you don't really have any time to find those roots or find that stability that I used to envy in a lot of people.
But the positive spin on that is that I would not be who I am today if it weren't for all those roads and all those crazy moments in my life where I was literally hanging on for dear life, I wouldn't be me. Growing up like that it was hard at the time but I wouldn't change it.
Kerrang! Radio: Your father left your mother before you were born. You were reunited with him after your ex-wife tracked him down using a private investigator. What was it like meeting him for the first time?
Corey Taylor: Meeting my dad for the first time was heavy duty. I damn near crumpled, let's put it that way, I almost collapsed. First of all, I was nervous. It was one of those moments that I had with my ex-wife where I was glad she was there, it was one of the few moments where she understood. We flew to San Diego and I can remember driving there and being like, "What am I going to say? What am I going to do?" Because before that we'd only talked twice on the phone and the first time I talked to my father was in Brazil and I literally started balling. We talked for 45 minutes and we were both so emotional about it. In that 45 minutes, a lot of my misconceptions or notions burned, right there. I was like, oh my god, all of these things that I thought I knew were assumptions, these weren't facts, these were assumptions. So meeting him was even better. My father has probably the biggest heart I've ever met, and his wife Anna, they're two of the most wonderful people on the planet and it's just a shame that I don't get to see them more than I do.
But it opened the door for me mentally to rethink a lot of things and it made me ready to explore what it's like to be a different person. So many people limit themselves by holding on to that baggage, they cut themselves off at the knees and for me, meeting my father and seeing how he was, and seeing that other side of where I came from, allowed me to ascend spiritually. Not to get all hippy or anything but you can't realize your potential unless you let yourself realize your own potential, and that's what I really took out of discovering my father.
Kerrang! Radio: Can you tell us about when you first performed at the party at your cousin's house, age 9?
Corey Taylor: The first song that I ever performed, and it was honestly by accident, I was at my cousin's, I think it was a birthday, and all the family were all hanging around the kitchen table. We were in her room just listening to music. She was a couple of years older than me, so she had turned me on to a lot of music. We were listening to "Separate Ways" by JOURNEY on a vinyl album. I was singing along and she was slowly but surely turning the music down and listening to me sing, and she stopped it and she goes, "You come with me right now." And I was like, "What?" She puts me in the corner in the living room, gathers the whole family and says, "You've got to hear this, this is fantastic!" She made me sing it â capella. I was like, "No. What? No. What? No!" If that doesn't break your fear, I don't know what does! You can thank Steve Perry for all the SLIPKNOT music and STONE SOUR music!
Kerrang! Radio: You moved in with your grandmother, who sparked your interest in singing through her love of Elvis Presley. How did she help you?
Corey Taylor: My grandmother in a lot of ways really helped shape my musical tastes. She had literally hundreds of Elvis 8-tracks — which people have probably never heard of — but she had boxes of these things and I can remember my first stereo was actually the only stereo that she ever had and it had a record player and an 8-track player, so I really started listening to a lot of Elvis when I was younger. When I moved in with her I inherited those so I was stoked, I was like, "Look at all these Elvis 8-tracks! Woohoo!" But she had a lot of vinyl too; I can remember listening to the STATLER BROTHERS when I was a kid. My grandmother was a big country fan, so I grew up on a lot of country, it was Iowa. I can remember listening to STATLER BROTHERS, the OAKRIDGE BOYS, I was the biggest fan of Elvira, are you kidding me? That song was fantastic!
But then my mum was a huge disco fan, and this is mid '80s, late '80s, so I had all this disco vinyl. My friends would come over and they'd be like, "Why do you have the VILLAGE PEOPLE?" and I'm like, "I don't know, it's just in with my records!"
It wasn't until I started searching music out on my own that I started realizing what my tastes were. My mom listened to a lot of Motown so I would buy compilation tapes and stuff like that, but the first albums that I ever received as a present that were new, my grandmother bought me "Somewhere in Time" by IRON MAIDEN, and "Girls, Girls, Girls" by MÖTLEY CRÜE, so those were my first two tapes and I memorized not only the liner notes and the music, but everything because you grew up with MTV, at that time you could see those bands, those were my bands. That led me to the trinity, SLAYER, METALLICA, ANTHRAX and then that leads you to MEGADETH, TESTAMENT. So I was getting out of people referring me to music and I was finding my own music, with a lot of punk thrown in from various babysitters, who were probably not the best people to leave me with!
Kerrang! Radio: STONE SOUR was the band where you made your first initial success, what are you favorite memories of that time?
Corey Taylor: My favorite memories of STONE SOUR were the first couple of years. It was all exploration, everything was new. The was the first band that I really cut my teeth writing songs with, it was the first band that I played live shows with, it was the first band that we went out and toured different cities with, I was young and out of my mind! I had long blonde hair, I probably weighed 140 pounds soaking wet and I just thought I was the hottest thing ever! It was so much fun though! But it taught me so much, it wasn't even like it was work, I lived to play music. I can remember one year just quitting and saying I'm going to live off the money we're making off STONE SOUR, which wasn't a lot — I was able to buy cigarettes and booze! That's about it! Thank god for grandmothers, because she kept me fed.
But my favorite memories were of just, everything was new, there was nothing that we couldn't do, there was nothing that I wouldn't try on stage. I can remember that it taught me that I loved it; it taught me that I loved the work. I can remember we would go out and we would play for weeks at a time doing three one-hour sets of covers, because that's just what you had to do, and we discovered that we were really good. That's another thing, it taught me that I was really good at what I do and people, they got into it, we brought something out in people. It was fantastic. I have no regrets about those first couple of years, I listen to some of that stuff back and I'm like, good lord, it's so dated! But at the time it was just such a treat to be able to write a song and then play it for people.
Kerrang! Radio: After STONE SOUR, you joined SLIPKNOT, and had the most incredible success with them. Were there any friends that guided you through that, from one band to the other?
Corey Taylor: Well I can remember when I got asked. When I left STONE SOUR to join SLIPKNOT, I was asked at four in the morning at the porn shop, they walked in and they didn't even come right up to me, they walked around the shop. I know there's this whole legend about how they threatened to kill me if I didn't join, which is such rubbish, let me tell you! They were so scared to talk to me, and that's from the heart, that's so real. They walked around the shop looking at every box that they could, and I'm sitting at the counter just watching them going, what is going on here? First of all, why are they here? I never see these guys out together, and they come up and Clown, god bless him, says, "You know, man, I'm just going to put it out there." It was adorable, I was nervous initially, my brain was screaming yes! But my mouth was like, "You know what, I'll try, I'll try out." Because you've got to realize it was such a jump, STONE SOUR at the time was very hard rock but I didn't scream at all, it was all melodic, it was all about proper hard rock. This was entering a metal band where there were no limits and obviously I wanted to do it but there was still that thing in my head that was like, let's try it out and let's see what happens.
The next night I can remember grabbing my best friend Danny — we were really keeping it on the DL, even on a local level — I grabbed him and I was like, "Dude, I just got asked to join SLIPKNOT." And he started freaking out, he was like, "You've got to do this! You've got to do this!" And the rest is history, really.
Kerrang! Radio: You were drinking a lot during this period, from noon till night, eventually leading to your suicide attempt at the Hyatt Hotel in 2003. Can you tell us what happened?
Corey Taylor: If I had a bottom, that was the bottom. After the initial success of SLIPKNOT, there were very high points, but in 2003 there was a definite low point going on. I've gotten to the point where I'm not blaming anybody, because I let myself get there as well, but I definitely had a drinking problem at the time. But alcohol wasn't the issue, it was the issues going on in my life. Obviously there was the incident at the Hyatt on Sunset, which I can remember vividly. It was right before I passed out, I can remember standing on that balcony, ready, and god bless my friend Thom Hazaert — if he hadn't been there, we would not be having this conversation today.
You let yourself go, you let yourself get to a point, like I said before, where you feel like nothing's going to change. But you get past those problems and you realize, you know what, I can change these things, I can change everything that's going on with me. And that was when I started taking those first few tentative steps away from that. I had to let the booze go for a while and really focus on myself, re-focus myself on myself and a few years later and several changes and here I am, hopefully for the better. It's a great feeling to know that you're in control of your own destiny.
Kerrang! Radio: You had your first child in 1992 and your second in 2002 — how is life away from the band?
Corey Taylor: I'm probably the biggest push over on the planet. When it comes to my kids, I love them and I try to be firm, but I just have such a great time with them, my kids are magic to me. It's such a great thing to be able to be a dad and the great thing is that I had no template, I had nothing to refer to, I couldn't be like, "Well, my dad was this way." For me it's all new and I'm not afraid to take advice from other people when it comes to my kids. I think that gives me an open mind when it comes to that, it doesn't mean that I don't get stressed out about the stuff that they do, but from a parents stand-point, I would kill for my kids. We just took them to Disneyland about a week ago and they had the best time, and it was the first time that I'd had both of my kids with me going on a vacation like that. They had such a blast that we got home and they were just exhausted, they went right to bed. I feel very lucky that I'm where I am.