"'N Sync is one of the most popular bands on the planet. How does that happen in a free society, for fuck's sake?" fumes Slipknot vocalist Corey Taylor. Even though his other band, Stone Sour -- which makes its Cleveland debut this Friday -- released a ballad as its first single, Taylor is plenty pissed about the state of the modern pop-rock marketplace.
His rage is channeled in a slightly more mainstream direction these days, though. Stone Sour's self-titled debut is one of the best melodic hard rock albums of the last decade, and it's finding listeners.
"Coming from a band like Slipknot, the novelty factor is obvious -- 'Oh, let's see what this is,'" Taylor snorts. "But the music and the material is strong enough that there's a whole fuckin' audience out there right now that was looking for an album like this." That audience isn't just made up of Slipknot fans either. "There's a legacy that's been killed by this fast-food mentality that's in music right now," Taylor explains, "and that's setting up a career based on doing as much music as possible and doing it well. This isn't just an album targeted toward singles. Half these songs we wrote a long time ago, and half we wrote just because we wanted to write music like that again. And I think that shows."
Indeed, the band's enthusiasm is evident: Stone Sour has been touring the country nonstop since the album's release in August. More important, the group is doing it at ground level. Slipknot plays arenas; Stone Sour plays clubs. Sometimes this can be a problem. The band had to replace drummer Joel Ekman early in the tour after he was injured at a particularly low-rent beer barn.
"We were in Toledo, at this place called the Hard Hat," Taylor explains, "and the place had no code. It was fucked up. They had two trailer beds pushed together; that was the stage. No railing in back, no fluorescent tape: It was brutal. So they blacked the stage out when I was doing 'Bother,' the drummer took one step back, fell four and a half feet, fractured his wrist, and fucked his knee up. He's back now, but we had Jimmy DeGrasso from Megadeth filling in for us, and he did a really good job."
Ah, "Bother." The sensitive ballad that's been Stone Sour's opening salvo to the world -- at least as far as mainstream radio's concerned. It sneaked out early, via the Spider-Man soundtrack, and radio picked up on it with almost no encouragement from the band or the label. "We didn't want to tell them to stop," Taylor says. But the song is nothing like the rest of the disc, about which Taylor makes no bones. "Anybody who buys the record thinking that everything sounds like 'Bother' is in for a treat," he says, laughing.
True to Taylor's words, the rest of Stone Sour is one fast-burning, guitar-heavy rock track after another. One of the most ferocious is "Tumult," the last piece of music on the disc and a fusion of thrash and, of all things, disco that would make KMFDM cower. But the first five cuts -- "Get Inside," "Orchids," "Cold Reader," "Blotter," and "Choose" -- tear by in a solid mass of huge drumbeats and crushing guitar riffs. It's one of the most solid openings to a major rock album since, well, Slipknot's 1999 debut.
And what about Slipknot anyway? Taylor obviously isn't hiding the fact that the masked nine-piece ensemble is his first home. But when it comes to Stone Sour, he also makes clear that "we're in this for the long fuckin' haul. Everybody asks me, 'Is this a side project?' No, this isn't a side project. This is an actual band with an actual agenda."
Still, at some point, Taylor's got to return to the Leatherface headgear and coveralls, and record another album with what's still, from a commercial standpoint, his main gig.
Just not right now.
"I'll be honest," he says. "There's a lot of negativity surrounding Slipknot. And a lot of it, we did to ourselves. We really kind of kicked our own asses, in a way. I am totally ready to go and do another Slipknot album, but I'm not going to do it until this album plays itself out. If you're out there selling 50,000 albums a week, and you have the opportunity to do a huge fuckin' tour with a couple of bands that kick ass, then why wouldn't you? The kids are gonna be there, and they're gonna want the album no matter what. So why not take the time and set up something else, and do both? There really hasn't been any negativity towards us from [the rest of Slipknot]. Paul's really into it, Chris is really into it, and those guys have come to the shows and hung out and shit, but it's one of those things where we'll see what happens."
What's likely to happen, frankly, is the implosion of Slipknot and the continued voyage of Stone Sour. Even Taylor recognizes this, on some level.
"Stone Sour's got a little more longevity than Slipknot does, just because it's more than the music with Slipknot," Taylor says. "There's a whole different mentality there. And if you overstay your welcome, it's gonna turn on itself."
And become bothersome, in other words.