For close to 30 years, Corey Taylor has proven to even the most casual observers of music that he is the definition of prolific. Having initially fronted an early version of Stone Sour throughout the ’90s, it was at the end of the decade when Taylor found widespread fame, fronting masked heavy metal outfit Slipknot.
Within years of his joining, the group were topping charts, moving countless units, selling out shows globally, and becoming leaders of the nu metal scene, despite the members’ distaste of the term. With his hands full with one massive musical outfit, the return of Stone Sour brought with it even greater success, earning more Grammy nominations, more record sales, more global headline shows, and above all, more work on the schedule.
Through it all though, Taylor says he was followed by demands for fans to make a solo album. Content with two successful bands to his name, and barely any time to take on more work, neither Taylor or his fans knew when such a record may ever eventuate. In July though, Taylor announced that at long last, his solo debut would soon arrive, with CMFT dropping in early October.
Emerging from lockdown with singles “Black Eyes Blue” and “CMFT Must Be Stopped”, it was apparent to everyone that this new record was less of a newly-penned collection of tracks, but rather the culmination of a varied and storied musical career,
In anticipation of the new release, Taylor spoke to Rolling Stone to discuss the record, the sounds that inspired it, and how a global pandemic managed to speed up the entire process.
When did you make the decision that it was time for a solo record, or was it something that had been on the cards for a while?
Honestly, the groundswell for it started probably two years ago. I kept getting asked about it, and I kept putting it off because I thought, “Well, how greedy can I be?” I mean, I’ve already got two fucking bands: “How much more do I want to do?” But the more I thought about it, the more I realised there was something in me that wanted to do it, that really wanted to do a solo album. And then that became a case of, “Well, what would it sound like?” Then I realised that I’ve got all of these songs sitting around that have been written over a life – some of this stuff goes back 20 years. I was like, “Well, I’ve got the material, so I guess this is what it sounds like.”
So I really started seriously pursuing it about two years ago. I started kind of putting demos together, lining up songs up, and getting my band together. Then it was just a case of, “Alright, when this Slipknot cycle is done, we’ll go in [to the studio], we’ll fucking bang it out, and we’ll do it right.” Then COVID happened, so it was like, “Well, we moved everything up.” I had every intention of making this album, just not this quickly, but I’m actually kind of stoked that we did.
“I had every intention of making this album, just not this quickly, but I’m actually kind of stoked that we did.”
If COVID hadn’t happened, would you have taken everything a bit more slowly, or was it more of a blessing in disguise that everything happened the way it has?
A little of both, I guess. We certainly were very prepared to go in. Honestly, literally about a month before the shutdown, I had the guys in the solo band come in and we did various demos and stuff, really just getting everything together. And we were incredibly prepared. We didn’t really have to rehearse much when we turned around and decided to go into the studio.
Our main thing was making sure that we all quarantined, we all social distanced, and we did it right. Everybody in the band drove into town, they all stayed with me, we had very very little contact with anyone. I mean, we tried to do it as safe and as responsible as possible. That was the biggest challenge. The music was almost secondhand. 25 songs in two-and-a-half weeks, it really felt like less than that. I mean, we killed it.
Obviously recording an album while social distancing would’ve been a strange experience, but was the process of recording a solo album far different to what you’ve experienced with Slipknot or Stone Sour?
Oh, dude, we laughed every day. I mean, it was completely different than either band. I always hate saying this, because I feel like I’m throwing people under the bus, but there’s just certain people in both bands, honestly, that are just really miserable making music. Whether it’s coming with stuff in the studio, or just the process, or whatever, I don’t know what it is – maybe it’s just their natural disposition. But I’m just a very energetic, positive, stoked dude.
Even when it comes to the stuff like Slipknot. I just love the creative process, I love making music, I love recording music. I love going somewhere, mentally, physically, emotionally, and then hearing it back. So it was a completely different case going into the studio with people just as stoked as I was. And you can hear that, you can feel the energy in it, in the recording process. You can hear it in every song, there’s an energy there and an excitement because we’re all so fucking stoked to be doing it.
“We tried to do it as safe and as responsible as possible. That was the biggest challenge. The music was almost secondhand.”
With that in mind, does that mean another solo album might be something you’d be looking to do again somewhere down the line?
Oh no, absolutely, I’ve got enough material… If I didn’t have anything to do for the rest of my life, I still have enough material for three more solo albums. That’s how many songs I’ve written that have just been sitting around. It’s crazy.
What do you feel is the defining aspect of your solo music? What is it that you hope to convey with music under the Corey Taylor name?
With this album, I just want people to listen to it and have a good time. I accidentally recorded a fucking kick-ass party album, really, I mean, when you think about it. There’s such a great vibe and such a great energy to everything on the album. Even the slower pieces, that can’t help but get caught up in it when you listen to it. To me, I guess it’s just filling in a missing piece of puzzle for anyone whose followed my career for this long.
It’s like, “Yes, Stone Sour and Slipknot are very much parts of my musical journey and musical story, but this, this is really showing the origin of Corey.” The origin of my songwriting, the origin of my approach to music, just how excited I get when I’m working on a song and fleshing it out and hearing it back. And especially doing with people like the band that I have, they’re guys I’ve been friends with for so long, you really get a sense of “this is where my heart is” sometimes when you get to the stuff that I just write for myself. Maybe that’s the best thing. This is an album full of songs that I just wrote for myself, and now I’m just sharing it with the world.
You called this album CMFT, which feels pretty self-explanatory, but is there a story behind that title?
Kind of, but honestly, as soon as I decided I was going to do this solo album, I knew that’s what I was going to call it. It’s been one of my nicknames since high school, actually. It started out as “CT“, and then it was “C-motherfuckin’-T“, then it was “CMFT, what up?” So it was just people yelling that across rooms my whole life, basically.
So that’s been my handle for the longest time, and I knew that if I was going to do something, I wanted it to have an even more personal name, and something that represented me. So when you think CMFT, you think big choruses, big songs, big dumb rock – who gives a shit, fuckin’ massive hooks, killer guitars, and just a great time. And I think that’s one of the reasons I wanted to use such a playful acronym, and something that has always been with me.
“If I didn’t have anything to do for the rest of my life, I still have enough material for three more solo albums.”
You mentioned that some of this material dates back two decades. Why did it take so long for this music to find an outlet?
It was just that nobody wanted it. It didn’t really fit with either band, and there’s a handful of songs on here that I had actually written for other bands, whether it was not Slipknot, not Stone Sour, but writing and providing material for other bands. “Samantha’s Gone” is a perfect example. I tried giving that to different bands and they weren’t interested, so I just said, “Well, fuck it, I’ll just keep it for myself.” And I’m glad I did, because it’s probably one of my favourite songs that I’ve ever written. It’s such a fun… just, journey.
It’s essentially about being the old, sober guy; it’s satirical. It’s basically being the old, sober guy going, “Okay, well I’ve worked my way through every vice, now what? Now what the hell do I know? Now I’ve got nothing to lose because Samantha’s gone.” It’s just me pointing the ridiculousness of being a high-profile rockstar at my age still trying to figure out shit to talk about. It’s ridiculous.
The record feels incredibly varied in terms of its sound and genre, and you mentioned before that CMFT is designed to be something that represents you. Were you drawing from any particular influences throughout the album’s creation?
No, I mean, honestly, the influences are just in the bands that I listen to growing up, and inspired these songs in the first place. I mean, you’ve got everything from Slade and AC/DC to ’80s Run-D.M.C. going on here. You’ve got some hardcore west coast punk… To me, “European Tour Bus Bathroom Song” has like an Anthrax, Suicidal Tendencies vibe to it. But then you’ve got stuff like “Home”, which is very much a traditional piano ballad. I mean, who’d’ve thought that I would record that by myself?
I spent two-and-a-half years teaching myself piano just so I could do that because that song means so much to me. It’s just a representation of all of the different flavours I’ve loved over the years, and that’s just getting started. I mean, just think about all the stuff I didn’t put on here that’s going to be on the next solo album. I’ve got tonnes, I’ve got so much material that, like I said, if I never wrote another song again, I’ll still have enough material for three more solo albums.
I like how you mentioned “European Tour Bus Bathroom Song” because I felt that was a really notable on the record, and a really solid way to finish it off.
That’s one of the reasons why I wanted the album to finish on that, and it really represents that fun spirit, too. That song is all based around a sign that is on every European tour bus bathroom, and the sign says, “Please do not put paper in toilet, please use the bin provided.” It is in every fucking European tour bus bathroom that I’ve ever been in, and sometimes it’s written on a piece of paper, and sometimes it’s on an embossed plaque. It’s ridiculous, like it’s carved into wood and put up there.
So you find yourself in the bathroom, at night, and maybe you don’t have the best bus driver, he’s weaving all over the goddamn road, you’re trying not to get piss all over yourself, and you’re staring at this sign and you find yourself spelling the words and writing a song to the rhythm or the spelling that you’re using. So you find yourself staring it at is going, “P-L-E, A-S-E, D-O-N-O-T, P-U-T, P-A-P, E-R-I-N-T…” And then you end up writing music around that, and all of a sudden you’ve got a hardcore punk song called “European Tour Bus Bathroom Song”. And then you sit there, and I wrote that song 12 years ago, and you end up going, “Some day I should fucking record that, because I bet it would sound awesome.” And lo and behold, here we are.
I guess that’s a testament to the idea that you never know where inspiration comes from.
Especially with my brain, dude. My brain is so fucking weird sometimes that… My wife was using a blender, and was tapping stuff out of the top of the cap, basically. I wrote a song based around the rhythm that she was using. That’s how fucking weird my brain is.
“It’s just a representation of all of the different flavours I’ve loved over the years.”
Lead singles “Black Eyes Blue” with “CMFT Must Be Stopped” feel like the two most different songs on the record, apart from “European Tour Bus Bathroom Song”, of course. Was the intention to sort of give fans a teaser of everywhere you’re going on the record with these tracks?
Yeah, absolutely, those two songs… I mean, we were stressing out because we were trying to figure out the one gateway song, and there really isn’t one. I knew that I wanted “Black Eyes Blue” to be the first single, but the label flipped out about how awesome “CMFT” was. So I was like, ‘Well, fuck, let’s do both.” And it really kind of gives people two ends of the spectrum, as it were.
Something heavy-ish that makes your fucking head bounce, and something that is rock, but it feels like it doesn’t have a genre, with a big chorus and great guitarwork, and to me, it’s probably one of the coolest songs I’ve ever written. I wanted to represent two opposite ends of the spectrum, and really make people feel like everything in between is on this album, and I think it was a great one-two punch as the introduction to it.
Speaking of “CMFT Must Be Stopped”, how was it that you teamed up with with Tech N9ne and Bookie?
Those are my bros, y’know? I’ve been lucky enough to do guest spots with both of them on their projects that they’ve been able to put out in the past, and when I was putting this song together, when I was putting “CMFT Must Be Stopped” together, there was really only two people I wanted to be on it, and that was Tech and Bookie. Luckily, they were both totally down, and I sent them the music early on, from the demo standpoint, and they were both stoked, because it was such a different vibe.
It was such an old-school Run-D.M.C. vibe, and that’s really what I was trying to go for. I wasn’t trying to go nu-metal, I was trying to go old-school hip-hop rock, and that’s totally different. And I feel like we achieved that, we really gave something exciting and different and fun. Hearing those guys back on that song in the control room, we were fucking losing our minds. “This is so awesome!” We were just freaking out, man, it was really, really cool.
Obviously fans of your work will flock to a Corey Taylor solo album, but was there any apprehension during the creation that leaning too far one way musically would alienate Slipknot fans, while leaning the other way may disappoint Stone Sour fans?
Nah, I don’t spent a lot of time worrying about things like that, to be honest. I knew that would probably be something, just being realistic about it, but at the same time I was like, if they know me, then they know that I’m not going to put something out that’s going to be too reminiscent of either band, if it’s a solo thing. For me, if you’re going to do a solo thing, be different. I think that’s why people are so stoked on it, because it feels so different, and it feels so different to both bands. I
t kind of goes back to the whole reason of why I make music in the first place. I make music for me, and then I share it for people. I don’t necessarily make music for other people, I’m just sharing it with other people. I think that has really made people understand that when I put something out, it’s special, and maybe it prepares them for the unexpected. I mean, the response has been fucking great. Everybody’s been like, “I didn’t have any idea it was going to be like this,” and it’s perfect. I feel like that’s the best thing anybody could have ever said.
Corey Taylor’s CMFT is officially out now.