THE DEFIANT ONE
Corey Taylor looks, well, normal. Reddish brown hair, piercing blue eyes, goatee beard. He's shorter than you'd expect (five feet seven inches in his socks) and stockier. Nothing, in fact, like you'd imagine the man behind the slipknot singer's serial killer mask to look.
"Sure I was a little worried about going without the slipknot mask for this", he says. "But then I thought, 'this is who I am in stone sour'. I shouldn't be worried or ashamed of that. I did stone sour for five years without a mask on. And people liked it the, why shouldn't they like it now?"
Stone sour are, of course, the second of the Slipknot offshoot bands to make it out of the gate while the rest of the 'knot rest up. The break has given Taylor, and fellow 'knot man Jim Root the chance to revive what was once /the/ band in Des Mines, before anyone ever mentioned masks, boiler suits, and people = shit.
This afternoon, Stone sour are filming their first (?) Video - a suitable sombre, moody affair- for the track "Bother". Corey Taylor is holed up in his trainer between takes waiting, ironically enough, for the make-up crew to fit him a prosthetic mask which will age him in decades. His fiancee, Scarlett, is sat in another corner of the trailer. She has pink hair and is eight months pregnant with the couples second(??) Child.
Stone sour were the first band Corey sang with, gigged with and recorded with. He says they mean "melody, freedom and everything" to him. Scarlet says that her family can finally understand what she sees in Taylor now they've heard stone sour. "I tell them that /this/ music is where his hearts really at",she says, "I tell them, 'he does slipknot in order to do this'. And it's the truth".
Stone sours album is markedly different form Slipknot. Downbeat and brooding, it stands up with comparisons to Alice in chains' louder moments, and with 'knot Dj Sid wilson adding sonic wallpaper to three tracks and Taylor himself singing passionately rather than shouting psychotically. Its taken them 10 years to get round to making it. Between 92 and 97 Stone sour played constantly in and around the Des Moines area, building local kudos but never attracting the attention from record labels in the outside world. Members came and went, and when Taylor finally handed in his notice to join hometown rivals, Slipknot, stone sour seemed to be dead and buried.
"By 97, I'd been doing it for 5 years straight", says Taylor. "No-one comes to Des Moines too see you play- even slipknot had to go to Chicago to get fucking noticed. I was sick of working my ass off in stone sour and seeing nothing on the back end. I knew that I wanted to make it, and I wanted to try something new. So, the guys in slipknot came and asked me to join."
Stone sour's second guitarist Josh Rand, bassist Shawn Economaki and drummer Joel Ekman were left behind when Taylor exited for slipknot. Sitting in a trailer next to their prodigal singer, they evidently bear no grudges. "Sure I was mad when Corey left", says Economaki. "It's hard to find a good singer, especially in Des Moines. Corey's voice is awesome and I wondered how we'd replace him. When we first came out, we had our own little reign in Des Moines. Then Slipknot came out and blew the scene to shit. So when they needed a good singer, /of course/ Corey was the one to grab. I did tell him good luck and wished him all the best".
The seeds of the Stone Sour reunion were sown a couple of years back, when Rand approached Taylor with a batch of new songs he was working up. The pair hooked up on the ensuing 18 months to knock them into shape. They called themselves project-x, the superego, then closure. Is was only when root found out from Economaki (who'd become the 'knots stage manager) that the pair were also reworking old Stone sour songs such as'blue study' and 'monolith', that the project became a fully fledged reformation.
"It felt like an ex-girlfriend I was dating again," say Root. "Obviously I love playing with these guys-we have a natural thing together. I couldn't imagine not playing with them again." Root is sharing an on set trailer with the rest of the Stone sour musicians, while Taylor spends hours in make up. In contrast to the singer, he looks exactly the way you'd expect /sans/ mask : a hulking, bear like man, who's pint you'd be ill-advised to spill. He has no fear that slipknots mystique will have been sacrificed by the triumvirate of unmasking he, Taylor and drummer Joey jordison with murderdolls, have orchestrated.
"I was playing without a mask for a good 12 year before I joined slipknot", he says "It just so happens that many more people saw me play with my mask on than without. In one way it frees me, it feels more natural this way. But you can do certain things with a mask of that you can't do when you're basically naked. You lose all your inhibitions and bring that freak out".
Back in his trailer, Taylor is reflecting upon the fact that stone sour spent a mere 30 days recording their album at a tiny studio in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, at a comparatively paltry cost of $10,000. "Stick that up your ass korn!", he bellows having imparted his information in a measured manner. "Four-and-a-half million dollars to record an album that sucks? Get over yourselves, man. Figure out why it is you play music. If you don't have anything thats worth saying, if it's all about the look and not the texture, you're fucking over!".
People have begun to question the long term future of slipknot in the wake of Murderdolls, Stone sour and Dj Sid's various Dj-ing projects. Taylor isn't about to play the diplomat on the subject, and clearly it's not all sweetness and light in the 'knot camp at present. He says he's had very little feedback from the rest of Slipknot on Stone sour.
"I haven't talked to them in a while," he continues. "They've been doing their own thing, and I've been so busy with this. I've talked to Joey a couple of times. He's having a good time in the Murderdolls. I feel that if they can't be happy with the fact that I'm happy right now, then why are we doing all this in the first place, you know?"
The clown has made some less than encouraging noises about both Stone sour and Murderdolls, though, hasn't he?
"He said some shit about me Joey and Jim- about how we better realise that it's all fun and good to do this side project shit. Which pissed me off, because Stone sour is /not/ a side project. It's an /actual band/. He said that if our side-projects get in the way of slipknot, that we have to answer to him...This coming from a guy who hasn't called me in six months." For a second there, Corey, his eyes narrowing and his vice rising, started to look the part of slipknot's singer. He checks himself and visibly relaxes. "Then again" he says, "you know the clown is like. He loves to start shit. I want to prove a point. That I'm not just a guy who screams all the time. That I can do other stuff besides slipknot. And that if you put your fucking mind to it, you can do anything. I couldn't do a song like "bother" in slipknot. It just wouldn't fit in, and it wouldn't be right". The same goes for 'Omega' the spoken word that concludes 'Stone sour'. Taylor admits it was inspired by the spoken-word work of Henry Rollins, with whom he work on 'Rise above', the upcoming collection of Black Flag covers Rollins has assembled to raise money for the west Memphis three legal fund. Less predictably he also points to beat poets Kerouac, Burrounghs and Ginsberg as influences. "I've always wanted to try something like that, just from a writing point of view, because of you're singing all the time you get bored" he concludes.
Ultimately, Corey's desire to both prove and stretch himself is what will ultimately drive stone sour in the limited time they have before slipknot reconvene. "I'm much more comfortable with myself now than I was five years ago, much more committed and willing to do anything I can do to make my dreams come true," he says. "Before, being in Des Moines, you could only go so far. With Slipknot, I've seen the world, and I've seen what happens when you apply yourself and when you work your ass off, and you give something to people that's worth while."
"If you sit on your ass, you don't get anything done. Even when slipknot get back together, because we haven't written anything for the new album yet, we're going to be starting from square one. And if they don't need me, and they don't need Jim, Fuck it, we'll go back out on the road again".