Corey Taylor: "I wanted this album to be stacked with the best songs that I have, because you don’t get a second chance to make that first impression"

Corey Taylor
(Image credit: Supplied)

Between the sadistic and visceral nu-metal grit of Slipknot and the pummelling post‑grunge punch of Stone Sour, it’s safe to say that Corey Taylor’s creative heels are planted firmly in the ‘90s. Or it would’ve been until recently: with his long‑gestating solo album finally upon us, the 46-year-old Iowan has tapped way back into his roots and embraced the equally cool and uncouth crunch of ‘50s-thru-‘70s rock ’n’ roll – think along the lines of AC/DC, Rose Tattoo and all the other classic bands that called Alberts home back in the day. 

But of course, this is Corey Taylor we’re talking about – CMFT was never going to be a simple or straightforward 50 minutes for you to pop on and rock out to from cover to cover. This is a dude whose entire existence revolves around sharp and severe left-hand turns – from the belting first solo on “HWY 666” to the semi-satirical hardcore punk juts on “European Tour Bus Bathroom Song”, Taylor takes the listener on an all-out rollercoaster ride through distant peaks and valleys of classic rock. It’s an absolutely breathtaking experience to embark on – but one that demands you shed all expectations for before you do, if only so that you can truly be prepared for anything. Because with a record like this, you really should be.

With CMFT now out and wreaking havoc in the wild (courtesy of Roadrunner Records), we went one-on-one with Taylor to figure out how he made it all happen.

We’ve been fans of Slipknot and Stone Sour since the beginning, but nothing could have prepared us for how totally f***ing crazy this LP is. Was it your goal to surprise everyone with how wild and loose you get on the record? 
I don’t know if that was the goal – I think it’s a byproduct, absolutely. I’ve always been the guy that puts it out there that if I’m going to do something, I’m going to do it wholeheartedly. So if I was going to do a solo album, I didn’t want it to feel like either of my other band. There would have been no point if I was going to do that, y’know? If I was going to do a solo album, I wanted it to represent a whole different part of my musical prowess, and songwriting talent. 

And that’s really where this stuff came from – most of these songs have been sitting around for almost 20 years. I love the fact that people are so taken aback by it – that’s the best compliment I’ve heard about this album so far, that people are like, “I didn’t know what to expect, but it was exactly what I needed!” That f***ing makes my life, man! 

Did you look at this record as an opportunity to explore all the genres of music you love and make your own sort of playlist of influences? 
A little bit. To me, it was more about sharing my influences, and realising that I’m influenced by so many different genres, bands, movements and whatnot, that there was no way this album wasn’t going to feel very diverse. But it still just feels like an awesome rock album, y’know?

My approach to making albums has always been, y’know, let’s not lay everything out for people and make it easy – let’s challenge the listener; let’s put things together differently and make sure that it isn’t reminiscent of anything that I’ve done before. And that was the case with this album as well – I wanted to put something together that would really grab people by surprise, throw them through a loop and leave them going, “Holy f***!” 

I do take people through a lot of different genres on this album, but you don’t really feel it until you listen to it in retrospect and you go, “Huh, that was pretty all over the place!” But when you’re in it, it feels very connected.

You mentioned that a lot of these songs came from your archives – why is it only now that you feel you were able to make this record? 
I was just waiting for the time to do it. It had to be the right vibe. But I was going to go in and make this album regardless of COVID. My plan was to finish up the tour cycle with Slipknot throughout this year, then go in and record this album in January and February of 2021. I just moved it up because y’know, everything got put on hold. 

It just felt like it was time to get it all out of my system. The more time I spent listening to these songs, the more I knew that I wanted to put them out. I knew that none of them fit with either band – and after doing so many records with Slipknot and Stone Sour, I felt like it was time for me to show people something different; to really put myself out there in a way that nobody had ever seen before.

So why these 13 songs in particular? 
Because they were the best songs at the time. I wanted this album to be stacked with the best songs that I have, because you don’t get a second chance to make that first impression. It was like, “Let’s just go all-out, right out the gate, and just make everyone lose their minds.” I wanted it to have that old-school feel that every song may not be a single, but every song is important – every song is f***ing vital to this record. I don’t want to f*** around, y’know? I just wanted killer songs that people would want to sing along to.

You’ve put together an insanely talented group of collaborators to bring this record to life. What was it like to curate the CMFT band? 
They’re some of my best friends, man. I’ve had the privilege of playing with these guys in various projects over the course of almost 20 years. My best friend Jason [Christopher] is on bass, we’ve got [Christian ‘Tooch’ Martucci] from Stone Sour… I was jamming with Tooch for years before Stone Sour. Zach Throne, who is an incredible guitar player, he and I have been doing stuff together since 2003. 

And then Dustin [Robert], who was in Jericho, is such a criminally underrated drummer – he can just play anything! And that was key. Y’know, anybody can put together a diverse album, but if your drummer can’t really make his way through all of those different genres, it’s not going to work. And that’s just how talented that kid is, man. I’ve known him since 2005, 2006 – so we’ve been good friends for 14 years. 

This band was such a great unit, talent-wise. But the most important thing was how good we all get along – how much excitement we bring to the table when we get together. It’s one thing to be able to go onstage with a bunch of people who can play the parts, but it’s another thing entirely to be stoked about being able to hang out with your friends and play music with them.

Were you recording live to tape? 
Probably 99 percent of the music was done live, with the exception of acoustics, vocals, keys and some of the solos. But everything else is live – everything is right there in the room, all of us just jamming it and going f***ing wild with it.

Was that important to capture the raw energy you were all feeling? 
I think so. I mean, it was definitely something we all wanted to try. There was such a great vibe when we were rehearsing, so we looked at each other and we were like, “Man, we should try to do this live.” And it just worked! Honestly, we spent less time recording than we did just hanging out. We would all do the same thing – we’d come in for two hours, bullshit and drink coffee with everybody, and then we would go in and play a few songs. It was f***ing ridiculous, dude, we were such assholes about it. We were just like, “Oh, I guess we should f***in’ go in and play.” And then we’d just bang it out. It was the best bro-hang ever.

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Ellie Robinson
Editor-at-Large, Australian Guitar Magazine

Ellie Robinson is an Australian writer, editor and dog enthusiast with a keen ear for pop-rock and a keen tongue for actual Pop Rocks. Her bylines include music rag staples like NME, BLUNT, Mixdown and, of course, Australian Guitar (where she also serves as Editor-at-Large), but also less expected fare like TV Soap and Snowboarding Australia. Her go-to guitar is a Fender Player Tele, which, controversially, she only picked up after she'd joined the team at Australian Guitar. Before then, Ellie was a keyboardist – thankfully, the AG crew helped her see the light…