Waxing lyrical: Corey Taylor, Slipknot/Stone Sour

Slipknot's Corey Taylor might be expert in the art of noise, but he's also sensitive soul with a penchant for melancholy lyrics (even if they were written in a porn shop)

The first lyric that made an impression on me: "One line that comes to me right out the gate is Jim Morrison on the Doors' Five to One. That song was so dark for its time: 'No one here gets out alive.' For a kid growing up with no money, no friends, to hear something like that you're like, 'Oh, dude, I know exactly how that feels'. I've always gravitated towards those ultimate lines in songs, the line you grab on to. That line in Smells Like Teen Spirit, 'Here we are now/Entertain us' – the irony, the antagonism, that's always stuck with me."

On lyrical inspiration: "I'm the guy that gets up at three in the morning to jot down an entire sheet of lyrics for something that won't be recorded for six months. You have to get it down when you can, because thoughts are fluid. The lyrics for the first Slipknot album were written in the bathroom, while I was working 9am till 8pm at a porn shop. I would always have my notebook and pen, and for some reason every time I'd go to the bathroom I'd start writing something great."

How Stone Sour differs from Slipknot: "When I'm writing Slipknot lyrics, there's a certain type of darkness that just opens up for me. When I'm working on a Slipknot song, it's like a switch flips in my head. I can go there easily – it doesn't take a lot of soul searching – and it's a dark, almost sinister place. Stone Sour is more the way I've always written. It's a different tone. It doesn't mean I don't write about melancholy things, but it's a more approachable method – it lets me branch out and do stuff like the Christmas song. I've never wanted to limit myself to one style."

On the influence of authors: "People such as Hunter S Thompson and the Beats were a huge influence on me, not just in what they were saying, but how they said it. The first time I read Howl by Allen Ginsberg – my God! Despite the fact I have little in common with a gay Jewish man, there's something so stirring in that poem. Those first two lines: "I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked …" The poem came at a time when society wanted everything to be hunky dory, but it really captured that underlying darkness, ignorance and prejudice. It was revolution in print, and that to me is really a lost vibe. It's influenced what I do, for sure – there's nothing I'm not afraid to say, nothing I'm not afraid to blurt out."

The cover I've played that feels like my own: There's so many I love playing, especially acoustically. I do a really slow version of Tom Petty's You Got Lucky – it's a bit more melancholy and soul searching than the original, which is to take nothing away from the song. And I've actually started practising a version of Nobody Home by Pink Floyd, from The Wall. It's a piano song, but I've learned it on guitar. It's one of the loneliest songs in the world: 'I've got a little black book with my poems in/ Got a bag, with a toothbrush and a comb in.' So desolate."

On songs that are misunderstood: "I was doing an interview about the song Duality for the book Chicken Soup for the Soul, and I was trying to explain the lyric – it's about the push and pull between people, struggling with the dark side and trying to promote the good. The chorus goes, "I push my fingers into my eyes/ It's the only thing that slowly stops the ache", and it's about that headache you get at times of stress, like a migraine – and by taking your fingers and putting them right by your eyes and pushing, you can make the pain stop. But my wife overheard, and she was like 'Wow, that wasn't where I thought you were going with that'. She thought I was taking my thumbs and pushing them right into my eyes, with blood pouring out. I was like, 'Honey, you're terrifying me'. That's a little brutal."

A song that feels harder to sing these days: "Snuff, definitely. It really reminds me of Paul [Gray, late Slipknot bassist]. I do it in my acoustic set. That song really makes me miss him a lot. It was written way before he passed, but there's a sadness in it that breaks my heart. I still play it, though."

On last month's Christmas single, X-M@$: "It's taking the piss out of the attitudes that spring up around Christmas. If there's a message to it, it's telling people to just relax, enjoy Christmas, whether you want to be a Scrooge, or whatever. All proceeds are going to charity [the Teenage Cancer Trust] and I think some people were worried the content would be viewed as conspicuous. But I'm like, dude, lighten up – I say, fa-la-la-la-go-fuck-yourself."

Louis Pattison

The GuardianTramp

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