The advent of any new Slipknot album brings with it a sense of horror and foreboding. This is a band, after all, who used to huff a jar containing a dead crow to get psyched up for live shows. The End, So Far, however, caused a new kind of consternation among Slipknot’s “Maggot” fanbase. Was the album title a hint at this being the band’s final statement?
Though they’ve been together for nearly 30 years, Slipknot have endured more than their fair share of trials over the years. Not only did they lose Paul Gray in 2010 but former drummer, and founder member, Joey Jordison passed away during the making of the new album in July 2021. Nobody would hold it against the members of Slipknot if they chose to step away from a project that has often focused on searching for catharsis by facing hell head on.
And yet it is that very role that the band provides, to its many masked members as well as a global army of Maggots, that means any sense of finality remains unthinkable. The End, So Far, in reality, is a reference to Slipknot’s label situation. Two decades ago they signed to Roadrunner Records on a seven-album deal, and this is their seventh studio record. It’s an album that explodes from the starting blocks with an intensity unparalleled by their peers. Frontman Corey Taylor, who purged his personal demons on 2019’s We Are Not Your Kind, takes a more zoomed-out approach to the writing this time, casting his eye across society and reporting back on the horrors he’s witnessed. Herd mentality, tribalism, and social media-led ignorance make their way into an album that once again marries Slipknot’s dual obsessions: togetherness and unrelentingly heavy riffs and breakdowns. Focusing on the conclusive nature of a title like The End, So Far was a trap. Slipknot have delivered an album to propel them into the future.
The FADER’s David Renshaw spoke to Taylor this week about remaining energized after multiple decades in the game, looking outward with his lyrics, and what happened when their merch accidentally became a collector’s item thanks to The Sopranos.
This Q&A is taken from the latest episode of The FADER Interview. To hear this week’s show in full, and to access the podcast’s archive, click here.
The FADER: What motivates Slipknot to get back in the studio and make new music in 2022?
Corey Taylor: We allow ourselves time to breathe, to process everything we’ve done previously, to get away from each other and the pandemonium of it all. That allows us to appreciate what we’re still able to do. So when it comes to making new music, there’s a genuine sense of excitement because there’s still so many musical realms we haven’t explored. It keeps us looking for what the next road is. And because there’s so many people in the band, there’s never a loss for ideas and inspiration.
Your last album was We Are Not Your Kind, which came out in 2019. After the touring had died down from that album, how did you reflect on that record, and how did it inform the new one?
We were only about eight months into our cycle by the time the pandemic hit. There were still a handful of places we hadn’t hit, so when it came time to ramp up again, we ran out on the road before we were done recording the album. There was already excitement about being able to do this again, to get out in front of a massive audience and share new music with them. So I guess it was a bit of pent up cabin fever, combined with the usual excitement for new material.
You’ve described the making of We Are Not Your Kind in the past as one of the darkest chapters in Slipknot history. What was the vibe going into the new album, both for you personally and collectively as a band?
It wasn’t as heavy. What I let go of personally on We Are Not Your Kind enabled me to move smoothly into the writing for this album and get into a great, healthy mindset — something that was positively aggressive, as opposed to a purging. It lent itself to some of the topics I was dealing with, which were very much outside of my sphere. I was going back to an old-school way of writing: less about looking inside, more about looking outward and trying to relate to other people instead of trying to get people to relate to what I was talking about. It was more of a spectator perspective than somebody trying to figure out how to write his own narrative.
What were some subjects that grabbed your attention? What did you find yourself drawn towards writing about on this album?
Once you kind of cast your direction outwards, you start to pick up on things you’ve been thinking about in life. The song “Heirloom” has to do with the legacy of abuse, whether that’s from a relationship or growing up, parental or romantic, and how we process it and carry on. How do you break the chain? Are you strong enough to do that, or do you inadvertently pass it onto the next person? That’s something I’ve thought about for a long time. I know how I’ve processed it, but I’ve always been fascinated by how other people process it as well.
Then there’s the usual suspects: Looking at the world as a global network, how we’re feeding one psychosis and cutting off another. Looking at how fans look at us and the expectations they put on us; a lot of people cave into toxic fandom. We’ve stiff-armed them for the most part and kept that at bay because there’s more important things than worrying about what the mob is directing us to do.
It’s not just a music thing: If you look at movies, at art in general, it feels like fans have taken this position where they get to dictate where it goes instead of looking to the creators. We’ve been able to slip a lot of that toxicity because we’ve never encouraged it. We’ve always from day one fostered the idea that we’re not with you; you’re with us. We’re going where we wanna go, and that’s just the way it is.
That anxiety is prominent in the song “The Chapeltown Rag,” which also has some context within the story of the Yorkshire Ripper. Could you explain how you balanced those two aspects in the song and what you wanted to say about social media?
The thing that fascinates me about social media is how twisted it’s made media in general. It’s how we get our news, and we can’t just take it at face value. The Yorkshire Ripper thing came from the fact that I’m as guilty as everybody else of being fascinated by these documentaries about serial killers, true crime, whatever. It permeates everything we do, and the media feeds that so much. It’s like throwing meat to the lions: We chase every crumb and try to lap up as much of the tabooism of it all [as we can]. We don’t understand that by chasing down the dark side, we’re allowing that darkness to become our reality. Instead of it just being entertainment we visit, it becomes this thing we’re all living with — to the point where we don’t know where the darkness starts and where it ends.
So you see the true crime phenomenon as not just a reflection of society but a driving force?
I think so. I mean, we’ve always been fascinated by that darker side, all the way back to the coliseum, watching the gladiators fight. Maybe it’s part of human nature, but because we find ourselves in this weird feedback loop now — where it’s not enough to visit it — we’re not happy unless we’re completely wound up, completely dramatic, completely torn and stressed.
There are real clues [when] people become addicted to stress, to that chase for needless drama and darkness. People romanticize it, and then they feel like they can’t exist without that desperate need to be involved in something. That’s one of the things social media is fostering, and it’s one of the reasons why we’re so fascinated by true crime: because someday maybe it’ll be our story out there. So maybe I should stay as on the edge as possible, because maybe they’ll do a podcast about me someday. And that’s so fucking toxic, man.
You could argue that the desire for danger and an extreme end to society has benefited Slipknot in the past. The very comfortable middle classes, perhaps, are drawn to the violent imagery of the band — the way you present yourselves, the heaviness of the music.
There’s always gonna be something salacious about vibrant imagery and music that makes you feel a certain way. But this is also a culture where we tell people to look out for each other in the pit, where we encourage unity. As far as breaking down barriers inside the genre and the community itself — whether it’s fostered racism or skepticism of anyone who might be homosexual or from a different country — we try to level the playing field and get everyone to come together to express themselves.
Some of the imagery is violent, but show me something that’s not. Even some of the “nicer” acts out there use violent imagery as a way to express art, and that’s all we’ve ever done. We’ve never tried to be violent just for violence’s sake. This has always been about expression, about creating art. The music and lyrics have always encouraged people to express themselves and get to a place where they don’t need that darkness anymore. It’s always there, but by realizing you’re not alone, you can let some of it go and come to appreciate it.
As a frontman and an individual, you’re outspoken with your political views. I know Trump’s time in office didn’t filter through to We Are Not Your Kind — that was a very personal album — but on The End, So Far, you’re looking out into the world and viewing a different political landscape in your country and globally. Were there any political themes behind the record?
Not really. It’s more of a social album. The thing I learned from my experience writing about politics really came from when I wrote America 51. That was when I realized there were so many people off their shit. There’s no way to get those people to understand, because they feel like they have been vilified. It’s a very strange world they live in. Trying to convince them they’re wrong is like trying to punch my way through a brick wall; it’s just not gonna happen. I’m not the Hulk. I’m gonna break everything. I’m gonna walk away with two mushy, meaty pulps hanging from my wrists.
So I try to take a different approach: I try to connect people on how there are certain views both sides of the political landscape have in common and get them to talk on that level. When you break it down like that, when you get away from that mob mentality and get people to talk one on one, they see there’s no need for the outrage and the fear. That’s how Trump rules: by feeding into the fear and the ignorance. When you’re in a group, ignorance is easier to push, but when you’re one on one or even two on two, you can work out through conversation what the reality is.
Everybody knows how I feel, and there’s no need for me to run around and trumpet it. What I can do is try to talk people off of that ledge, get them looking at things from a different perspective. There are enough people trying to tear us apart; I don’t need to be one of them. I’d rather mend fences than set the whole damn place on fire.
The album you’ve compared The End, So Far to from your back catalog is Vol. 3: (The Subliminal Verses). What similarities do you see between them?
The experimentation. The embrace of melody again. Playing to the nature of the songs, trying to find those beautiful passages. That’s something we’ve always wanted to do. Heavy music isn’t just heavy; it’s beautiful, and it can be powerful. For us, it’s about exploring different musical landscapes, pushing the boundaries and writing music that feels fresh. And we really started that with Vol. 3.
We set the tone for people with Iowa by saying “You never know what you’re going to get with us.” Everybody expected us to go in and write a bunch of “Wait and Bleed”s, but we threw them for a loop by writing one of the heaviest albums of all time. And then we did the same thing with Vol. 3 and went experimental: Yes, we can do heavy, but we also have some of the best songwriters, best players, and one of the best singers in the world.
This is the first Slipknot album since the untimely death of Joey Jordison in 2021, Was his passing on your mind during the making of the album, in the writing or in the studio?
It definitely crept in because it happened while we were working on some of this music. We dedicated the album to him. We hoped it wouldn’t happen, and when it did it was a sad resolve that… For somebody that creative and explosive… I just wish we hadn’t lost him this soon. We were hoping to mend fences with him, and it’s one of those things that tells you: whatever you need to do, do it now, because you never know when you’re gonna lose somebody.
You also lost Paul Gray in 2010. Do these experiences that you as a band have been through make you appreciate your time together more?
They definitely woke us up a little bit, made us realize we’re on the other side of youth. There’s gonna come a time when we start losing each other again, and we should take advantage of the time we have right now with each other. I’ve tried to let these guys know how I feel about them and the music we’ve made together. We’re all such different people, and the fact that after all these years we’re still doing it together — and still doing it at this pace — you have to embrace each other after that.
The image of Slipknot has always intrigued me: the masks, the boiler suits. It’s one of the most creative parts of the band, and I’m always as excited to see what you guys look like when you come back as to hear the new music. At what stage does that process begin for you guys? Do you start designing the masks and thinking about how to present yourselves while you’re writing the songs, or does it come afterwards?
We end up piecing it together as we go. Clown is so driven by art, and he sees these great textures we can mess with. But some of us just gravitate toward the stuff we want to wear, and we can usually find that common ground that visually ties us all together. We’ve all been very fortunate in the fact that even when we’re looking at different ways to express ourselves through the fashion, we’ve found ways to kind of get on the same page. We’re all into each other’s vision, even when we’re at our craziest and rawest.
Could you talk me through the inspiration for your new mask? I’m looking at it right now. The eyes are removed. The teeth are very prominent. It looks like a haunted baseball.
[Laughs] That’s beautiful. I was trying for something that was almost an homage to all of the masks I’d had in the past, which is why there are little pieces of some of them all in this thing. But I also wanted to do something reminiscent of Dr. Decker, the serial killer doctor from Nightbreed, because it’s such a striking visual. I wanted to take all those ideas and kind of throw them together. I worked with a great new kid, Connor Deless, and we were able to [make] something really special.
In 2020, Slipknot brought back a windbreaker jacket you’d sold out of years before because it had a revival through A.J. wearing it in an episode of The Sopranos, which people were watching a lot during the pandemic. It was fetching $400 online. Were you surprised?
It definitely wasn’t something we were planning for. We got to meet [Robert Iler] backstage at a show in New York. He was a fan in real life as well. It’s so weird how things like that come around and hit you for a loop. Everybody tries to pride themselves on being able to foresee what the future holds, but there’s times where you don’t see it coming.
Are there any other examples of Slipknot making their way into some part of culture that you didn’t see coming and had no control over?
One of the cooler ones was Little Nicky. There’s a great shot of [Adam Sandler’s] bedroom in hell with two or three Slipknot posters up in it, which I thought was so rad. And we were name-dropped in Ab Fab, for Christ’s sakes. Right when we first came out they were rocking out to us. I watched that show and I was like, “You’ve gotta be fucking kidding me.” I was so tickled. We really captured something in that moment, and I’m proud of that.