"My boy's taking a nap right now," Taylor says softly. "It's either do an interview with you or go online and check out porn."
"Yeah, I had to think about it a couple times."
Taylor has a funny, if forceful public persona. He speaks with all the vein-popping animation of a pro wrestler, dropping more f-bombs than the cast of Goodfellas. "If we want to write a song about ripping the pope's spine out through his back and wiping our ass with it, we will," he says at one point. "If people don't like it, then they can fuck off, basically."
And then, from another room, a baby's cry becomes audible.
"Shit, hold on, I gotta get my boy. He woke up from his nap," Taylor excuses himself. "Hold on, bear, I'm coming."
Taylor returns a few moments later. "I totally forgot what I was saying," the weary dad apologizes, clearly out of character. But he's back by the time the subject turns to Slipknot's anticipated new record, Vol 3 (The Subliminal Verses), due out on May 24.
"The first challenge was really just getting back together," he says of the recording process for Slipknot's third LP, which was tracked in the Hollywood Hills by storied producer Rick Rubin. "We hadn't played together in about a year and a half, we hadn't really hung out together for a while, so the real connection was just getting back in a room together and seeing if we were going to kill each other or not. When we first got together, there was obviously some weird feelings, because me and Jim [Root, guitarist] went and did Stone Sour, Joey [Jordison, drums] went and did the Murderdolls, Shawn [Crahan, percussionist] went and did To My Surprise -- everybody was kind of doing their own thing. Then it was like, 'Let's get together and see what can happen.' We got together, dude, and we wrote some of the best music we've ever written. It was weird."
A pair of the new songs from the sessions -- "The Pulse of the Maggots" and "Don't Get Close" (featured in the video game MTX: Mototrax) -- are available for download. The latter is an indication of the extent to which Slipknot's sound has developed. A predictably overheated gut-punch, the song features cleaner, more straightforward production than that found on Slipknot's previous disc, the monolithic, misanthropic Iowa. For the first time, the band lets loose with "Crazy Train"-worthy guitar solos, and Taylor's snarl is less guttural and more discernible. Slipknot's intensity hasn't abated any, but fans of the band's nonstop nut-grab of the past may be disappointed.
"You can be extreme, and then there's the true extreme, which is using everything in your arsenal to paint a picture," Taylor says. "That was something that we had really kind of held back from ourselves. Rick came in and said, 'You know what, fuck all that shit, you're Slipknot, you can do anything you want. Don't worry about what other people are going to fuckin' say; worry about what you want to say.' He sat me down and said, 'You can be just as extreme with a whisper as you can with a scream.' I've always said that, but it took Rick saying it to make the rest of the band get it."
In addition to Rubin's presence, Taylor's time outside of Slipknot in the more melodic, mid-paced Stone Sour project (which managed to go platinum) has given him the confidence to bring a broader outlook to the band. Past Slipknot albums have been couch trips with blast beats. On Vol. 3, there's less navel-gazing, more perspective.
"This is kind of an extension of what I started with Stone Sour," Taylor says. "On the first two Slipknot albums, I was really a head case, man -- not that I'm not still, to tell you the truth. On the first two albums, I was much more comfortable talking about myself and about weird, neo-psychopathic fantasies than I was actually looking at the world and making observations. With this album, it's much more of a through-my-eyes instead of an inside-myself kind of view. There's some stuff about the people that used to work for us, there's some stuff about religion, there's some stuff about the music industry itself, there's some stuff about us as a band trying to fight through the fog and keep it together. It's a much more extroverted rather than introverted album. It was very healthy, very liberating."
A year ago, as Slipknot was beginning writing for Vol. 3, Taylor spoke openly in the press about how it could be the band's final disc. These days, he's not nearly so fatalistic.
"This has definitely helped us kind of look toward tomorrow instead of staring at yesterday's ass," he says. "It's helped us come together. When we were writing this stuff, not only were we working out the music; we were working out the relationships that we kind of let deteriorate. We all went through personal demons. We all went through changes. Now the future is wide open for us. I know I've said in the past that this might be our last album, and it still may be, but at the same time, we're not even thinking about that. It's a good feeling to know that we've said goodbye to a lot of pain that made this unpleasant."
With that, a high-pitched giggle is heard on the other end of the line.
"Hi, baby boy," Daddy coos. "There he goes."
And so does Taylor.