Best known for heading ghoulish Midwest nu-metal outfits Slipknot and Stone Sour, Corey Taylor has made a career of stomping across stages in demonic Halloween masks and prison-issue jumpsuits, belting out songs with names like “Pulse of the Maggots,” “Butcher’s Hook,” and “People = Shit.” But just because Taylor rages like a bat out of hell on stage, doesn’t mean he doesn’t have a quieter, more reflective side to match.
The 39 year-old Des Moines native is also a New York Times’ Bestselling author, a distinction he earned for his 2011 debut title Seven Deadly Sins. A couple weeks ago, Taylor released a follow up to that book, entitled 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 Funny Thing is in large part a collection of ghost stories (personal stories from Taylor, as well as stories he’s collected) and an attempt to provide “’armchair science’ and possibly formulate some soft of scientific reasoning for these mysterious things we call spooks.” But beyond tales of “padded shuffles on hardwood floors where there should be no noise,” “shadows in the corner of your eye when you are sitting home alone,” and “doors that go nowhere,” A Funny Thing is an earnest spiritual investigation by an author who can’t stomach the hypocrisies of organized religion.
Bullett recently caught up with Taylor to discuss religion, things that go bump in the night, and the sci-fi novel he’s waiting to write.
Towards the beginning of A Funny Thing, you discuss church and disillusionment with organized religion. Do you come from a religious background?
Not really. My grandmother has gone to church her whole life, so her family was quite religious. Mom wasn’t. Religion is not something that’s supposed to be forced on someone. You either find it or you don’t. I just never bought into it. For me, going to church was just a chance to hang out with my grandma. That’s really all it came down to. The older I got, the more I realized this wasn’t for me. No offense to anybody, but it wasn’t something I could subscribe to.
You talk about knowing versus believing, where religion is something you’re asked to believe, but you don’t necessarily know anything about it.
Exactly, these stories are handed down from generation to generation, and with every passing, it becomes even further away from the source material because everything is about interpretation—whether it’s this conversation we’re having right now, or someone reading it. People are going to take it differently every time, no matter what. I think that’s the real issue that I had with religion for the longest time: the fact that these stories, while they may be very nice and wonderful moral stories, they’ve gone through a filter every time. There is no unified vision of what religion is, even inside the same factions of religion. What bothers me is that there’s no one philosophy that you can jump behind and have it be correct, nevermind the fact that man’s fingerprints are all over religion in one way or another. If it works for you that’s fine, and how you want to live your life, that’s fine, but for me, I just can’t buy it.
Speaking of interpretation, how can you be certain that you’ve had a spiritual interaction from the beyond?
When something weird happens, the first thing I try to do figure is out what it was. My reaction to something that may or may not be a paranormal experience is a lot like hearing something move downstairs when you’re in bed at night. It could be the house settling, or it could be someone breaking into your house. You won’t know until you go and check it out. And that’s kind of my approach. There are a lot of things that I’ve seen that I’ve been able to figure out right away. But then there’s this whole other subsection of things that I just can’t explain—whether it’s seeing a person walk through a locked door in a bedroom in a mansion in LA, or a furnace flying across the kitchen and scaring the crap out of me at seven in the morning when no one is awake. The things I talk about in the book are things I can’t just dismiss away. And it’s from that point of view that I honestly Ito figure things out for myself. I’m not trying to convince anyone that what I’m saying is true or false, what I’m trying to do is work out what these things could be and why they stick around with us. And if you subscribe to that, that’s fine, if not, it’s okay. Like I said, I’m not trying to change the world. I’m just trying to make up my own mind.
Personally, I haven’t experienced any paranormal interactions. Meanwhile, it seems like you have them all the time. Why is that? Do you think you have your eyes open to it?
I was doing a lot of research and I was trying to come at it from a scientific point of view, and the thing that I found in all the research that I was doing is that energy, or a certain bundle of energy, is attracted to one another. We know that as scientific fact. And I was able to take that and apply it in various instances, whether it’s humans talking about soul mates—which we hear all the time—or souls being attracted to other souls. Why couldn’t this apply to spirits being attracted to a person giving a certain type of energy? I think that’s one of the reasons why, especially in the last 10-12 years, a lot of things have become more prominent around me. That’s the only thing that’s really made sense.
Is there one paranormal episode you’ve experienced that stands out above the rest as the scariest?
The one that kind of sticks out for me was the one time that I really had a physical confrontation. I got pushed down the stairs at my old house while I was holding my son. That was the one that freaked me out because up until that point, I’d had experiences. I’d seen things. I’d heard things, but there was no physical contact. I could always kind of put it in perspective and convince myself that there was no real malevolence behind it. But when I got shoved down the stairs I was shoved so hard my head flew back. Luckily, I was able to turn myself in mid air and land on my back and my son didn’t get harmed, but that was like the first time where I was like, Wow, what the hell was that?! It was the one time that gave me pause, but I haven’t let that one encounter color the way I look at it. I don’t try to say whether one thing’s a good spirit or another thing’s a bad spirit. I think these things are…I won’t give too much away since I talk about it in the book, but I don’t reserve judgment for these things. I think they’re just trying to get our attention.
With Slipknot and your music there is this a similar theme of fear and horror, right?
Fear, aggression, embracing individuality—it kind of hops back and forth between the positive and the negative.
Were you drawn to the darker side of life from a young age?
Yeah. I grew up in a pretty gnarly household so you would think that the adverse affect would be that I would be more drawn towards puppies and kittens and all that pretty crap, but for the most part, I’ve always been more fascinated by the aberrant side of humanity. Ever since I was young, I can remember being fascinated by things that scared me. I think that’s become an unconscious reason for why I’m so devoted to Slipknot. It’s one of the reasons why I take things like spirits and the paranormal from a fairly removed standpoint. I don’t let it freak me out. I don’t know what it is that fascinates me about that side of things, especially from a psychological point of view, but I know that I’ve tried to understand it from a more creative standpoint. There’s something in all of us that can trigger craziness at any second. We’re all walking, talking bundles of cells that could really go off the deep end with the right push and the wrong set of circumstances. Because of that, I look at is as the spontaneous nature of humanity as we know it.
You recently did a Q&A in Rolling Stone and you mentioned that you were considering writing a novel. Can you share anything else about that?
I’ve got a pretty good idea for a really great story. It’s one of those things that I want to do so much, but I don’t want to rush it. I’ve got the beginning, middle, and the end figured out, but I need to work out the details before I get into it. It’s set in the future, but it’s a more realistic future than maybe your Star Treks and your Star Wars. It will have a slightly sci-fi vibe to it, but more from a psychological sense, and it will deal with how we handle our penal system and with our fascination with the human mind. It’s going to be something that is fairly fantastic sounding but at the same time, it’ll be a really good murder mystery. I’m just kind of looking for the time to really sit down and start hashing it out.
This is your second book, you have two bands, you’re thinking about writing a novel—is there any other art form that you haven’t experimented with that you’d really want to?
Let’s put it this way: I can’t draw to save my life, but I’ve thought a lot about taking painting classes and getting into that, because there’s a difference between drawing and painting. I think I could get my mind around painting. Other than that, I still love to write. There’s a lot of different things I would love to do from a writing standpoint. I would love to write a script for a movie; I would love to write another comic book someday, a completely original comic book, maybe do a mini-series from that. Other than that, I’m still searching for the next quickening of the creative side of me basically. As long as I love to do it, and as long as I’m still coming up with ideas that are fresh, unique, and smart, I’ll try to take advantage of all of the opportunities that come my way.