Slipknot's Corey Taylor Talks Knotfest, New Album and Paranormal Experiences
M. Shawn Crahan
Despite the chaos that the Des Moines, Iowa band has gone through in the past few years, Slipknot's duality of the release of their fifth studio album .5: The Gray Chapter and eponymous three-day heavy metal festival Knotfest are noteworthy events to look forward to.
Sponsoring Knotfest and the release of their first new album in six years signifies another new chapter in the band's career, one that most would say is a positive migration after the last few years, which included the departure of drummer Joey Jordison in December 2013 and the untimely death of founding member and bassist Paul Gray in May 2010.
After both incidents, Slipknot fell silent and their future as a band was suddenly in question. However, the band channeled their blended emotions to successfully produce a traditional and deranged Slipknot compilation of music for eager and supportive fans. The full album was released on Tuesday.
We talked with Slipknot vocalist Corey Taylor about all of the above, from how the dynamic changed within the band after Gray's passing to how it feels welcoming a new member to his own family.
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OC Weekly (Rachael Mattice): So much has happened with you and with Slipknot lately. Plus, I heard you just welcomed a new baby recently. Congratulations!
Corey Tayor: Yeah, we're keeping that on the down low. We just had a baby girl so I haven't been getting a lot of sleep [laughs]. It's so awesome and feels really good. She's a little peanut. Technically, this is number three. I have an older daughter from a high school relationship, my son is from my first marriage and now my wife and I have our daughter together.
When I typed "Corey Taylor baby" into Google, a video of you kissing and autographing a baby at a book signing in Australia pops up. It was like an old Hollywood moment, being asked to hold someone's child.
It was funny because you have to imagine how surreal that is. You just come off of a 15-hour flight, you're jet lagged like crazy, you can't feel your legs, you're tired beyond all comprehension and there's a bunch of fans waiting for you and they kind of thrust their baby into your arms. I love kids and just got into the moment, not realizing I'm being filmed.
Have you been asked to hold anyone's kid since?
Oh yeah. The funny thing is when we do meet-and-greets, I'll usually just pick someone's kid up right away. I don't necessarily ask. I love kids. I was doing a signing session while I was promoting Fear Clinic, and every time a couple came up with their kids, I asked if I could hold them. I love being a dad, to be honest. Its funny relearning all of the baby parenting stuff, and it's also different with a girl.
Knotfest has expanded since its inauguration two years ago in 2012, expanding from one-day events in the Midwest to a weekend-long festival out here in Southern California. It's such a huge production with the carnival experience, attacking all of the senses right down to the smells. What did you want to change or add since the first year? Why southern California?
It was a practical decision. We knew we weren't going to do it until October. You being from the Midwest, you understand how frigid it is in late October so it made sense to bring it to the west coast where it's a little less chilly. It could also afford us a way to do two nights in one spot and expand on what we started with.
The cool thing is, now that we're kind of starting to see what we want to do with Knotfest, we're really able to elaborate on everything and build everything up to what we see. For us, we want to try and recreate the European festival vibe that you get with Download, Rock am Ring and Rock im Parkand with Graspop in Belgium. You get this huge experience at these festivals in Europe and unfortunately, not a lot of Americans get to see that. This is a way to put something together like that here. The fact that Knotfest landed around Halloween was completely coincidental. We knew we still had everything like getting the new album ready, getting the artwork ready in this time period; it made sense to give ourselves a little leeway and schedule it for that last week in October.
Do you plan to have the festival at different locations in the upcoming years or keep it designated to Southern California?
Oh no absolutely not, it will definitely move around. We want to hopefully have it in a handful of different cities depending on what time of year and whatnot. The cool thing is, even if we don't turn it into a tour, we want to turn it into a destination for people. I think the great reason it works is because we have been able to set up shop in one place, and really make it something that people want to come to. Maybe next year we do two places instead of one over different weekends. The sky is the limit right now.
How does this festival really bring together Slipknot's ideas and themes?
There are a lot of great bands playing. In a lot of ways, like you said, the festival has a lot of things that we pride ourselves on as a band. We're a very creative, visual, chaotic, talented band and have a fan base that is absolutely insane. The bands on the roster really reflect that too. It's also in the Slipknot museum where people can go and see some of the stuff we've been holding onto over the years and get a vibe for what that's like. Or it's like the carnival stuff such as the stilt walkers and the fire breathers.
My favorite thing, to be honest, is the ring of fire. It's an amusement park ride that all of us love and first rode at the Iowa State Fair. It was the one ride that we always tried to race each other to when we were kids. It was so gnarly and it's so simple; it's just a goddamn circle with a rollercoaster in the middle. We saw so many people throw up on that ride; we just have a great piece of history with it. For us to have that ride here at Knotfest is kind of like representing the Midwest in a weird way, you know?
Does Slipknot have another set drummer and bassist yet or are there going to be touring drummers for the near future and at Knotfest?
Yes, we have a set bassist and drummer for Knotfest. However, I'm not going to tell you who they are yet. We have to have a little bit of secrecy. The plan is to keep these two guys and that's part of what this band is about, keeping the unit the way it is. That's part of the reason we went with these two guys.
I know people are a little confused why they aren't just an immediate part of the band. In this band, you earn your spot and it's going to take awhile to do that. If people can't understand that, I don't really know how else to explain it. I can say that these will be the guys touring with us, and so far it's working out really well. We're really looking forward to it.
Your new singles "The Negative One" and "The Devil in I" have already been released with accompanying videos, including the reveal of your new masks. Your mask looks like it changed the most for the release of the new album. What drew you to the elaborate Black Dahlia Murder and Joker cheek slit design? Do you still work with the same special effects artist?
My mask is two pieces, with the second piece on the top that I can peel off to reveal a second mask. It was more about the theme that I wanted to play with. I wanted to play with the different layers of my personality and represent how people go through different layers in their lives.
For me, just because you see one face, doesn't mean there isn't a second, third or a fourth. It's about dealing with life and trying to find the balance. The fact that when you think you've figured out what's on the surface, there is something underneath that is actually hiding something underneath that. It was a layer of accessibility that I thought was really interesting. Yeah, we've been working with the same guy for the past six or seven years.
When it comes to the release of your new album, which you named after Paul, how did his loss really change the dynamic and future of Slipknot?
That's a great question, to be honest. When you experience something this heavy and this raw, it shakes you to your very foundation. It shakes up your life, it shakes up your personality, it shakes up the way you look at things and how you deal with things.
I think that I took away from it, I can't speak for everyone, that it made me realize that I took a lot of things for granted in my life. I took a lot of people for granted, a lot of opportunities for granted, a lot of joy for granted and it basically made me reassess how I am. It wasn't just to my friends and family, but everyone in Slipknot too. I think it changed how I communicate with them, how I relate and how we are as people together. I think it's a good thing and hopefully it's for the best.
The lyrics sound like they really revolve around a lot of issues that Paul might have been going through and what you all went through after he passed away. Do you address the issues of how he passed away somehow in the lyrical context of this album?
Only for the standpoint to address the kind of guilt that we all felt and wondering if there is something more that we could have done. Without getting too in depth about it, you can go through all of these things in your mind and you can drive yourself crazy wondering. This was at a time when we didn't know all of the facts and knowing everything medically that had happened. There's just a part of your brain that will drive you nuts and make you angry with yourself and make you angry with him.
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I didn't focus on anything negative with Paul; it was mostly about us dealing with the grieving process. We miss him and miss his energy, the good times he would gave and the music he made. It would seem like people would expect us to focus on the negative shit and I didn't want to do that. I would rather celebrate who he was in a positive sense.
From the gap in between this new album and your last six years ago and in between breaks in the past, a few of the band members and yourself continued on your side projects. Was there a period when it was extremely dark for you as you were rising to the top in two successful bands?
There's a danger when you achieve the kind of success that we've been able to and have been lucky to achieve. There's a danger to let that go to a certain place in your head and there's a responsibility. It's not to say that it's wrong; sometimes the human ego can make you act a certain way or transform you into somebody you maybe didn't want to be. There were a few times when I felt like I was in danger of that, but luckily I've always had people around me to keep me in check. I always had an idea of who I wanted to be as a person, and that didn't factor into it, especially after I quit drinking and gave the chemicals up. I was able to focus on being who I wanted to be rather than any egotism.
Slipknot defined a look that was different when you first came into the scene. It wasn't just the masks, suits or your sounds, but the amount of band members. It's hard enough to keep a band of three to five together over the span of a music career. What helped Slipknot's nine members continue as a producing machine through all of the chaos?
There is a part of us that just had the common vision for what we all wanted to do. I think that when you have that commonality, it makes it easier to continue on. I think, like you said, that stubborn Midwest work ethic really drove us too. Also, I think it's because we wanted to do something different. We wanted to do something that was special and completely unique to us. Whether we all realized that or whether we all agreed on what it would eventually become, it was the idea of it that we were all on the same page with. That's one of the reason it's preserved our longevity as well.
Have you had any notable paranormal experiences since the release of your book, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Heaven: (Or, How I Made Peace with the Paranormal and Stigmatized Zealots and Cynics in the Process)?
A handful of things have happened that have happened at my house in Iowa. The kids' spirits that stay there started stacking pillows in my bedroom. It was really strange. When you walk into a room, and literally nobody has been in there for 15 minutes before hand, and you go in there and all of the pillows are stacked in the middle of the bed, you think, 'What the hell? At this point, nothing really surprises me.
Do you feel that paranormal activity and certain spirits tend to attract to certain individuals more than others?
Maybe not the individual themselves, but at least the energy that the individual puts off. The theory of energy deals a lot with that. In science, certain types of energy are attracted to one another and there's nothing to say they can't be attracted to a person, and a living person at that. They cling to certain people or follow certain types of people because they are attracted to that particular energy.
I get asked about it a lot, but I think it's because I put different ideas about what I think it is that it goes 180 from what people like to call easy answers. I hate easy answers and have always gone for the challenging answers. If you don't put it out there and try and change it up and use a different explanation, then you are left with all the same answers that never gave you anything in the past. It's more about shaking it up and challenging the way people look at things.
Knotfest will take place Oct. 24 through Oct. 26 at the San Manuel Amphitheater in San Bernardino, 2575 Glen Helen Pkwy. To buy tickets for Knotfest this weekend, look up band schedules, attractions and sponsor information, visit http://www.knotfest.com/schedule/ and www.ticketmaster.com. Fans that purchase Knotfest tickets online will receive a digital download of Slipknot's new album .5: The Gray Chapter.
Slipknot will continue on the road after Knotfest closes for the Prepare for Hell tour featuring Korn and King 810. For upcoming tour dates, visit http://www.slipknot1.com/#/events.
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