Corey Taylor on Headlining a Crowd-Free Forum, the Future of Slipknot

Corey Taylor is best known as the hard-charging (and often masked) singer and lyricist for metal acts Slipknot and Stone Sour. So it might come as a surprise that his upcoming streaming solo concert at The Forum in Los Angeles was inspired by a dad joke.

“My guitarist Christian Martucci and I had this idea for a concert at The Forum based on a horrible dad joke — like, you’re either ‘Forum or Against ‘Em’ — and we thought it was the funniest thing in the world,” Taylor recounts to Variety.

The “joke” has since turned into reality in the form of a pay-per-view engagement. The Forum or Against ‘Em concert will stream on Oct. 2, coinciding with the debut of Taylor’s first solo album, “CMFT.” Despite its lighthearted origins, it promises to be a serious rock show, complete with pyrotechnics, light show and dance troupe the Cherry Bombs. It is the first time the venue will be utilized since March.

But like many live events in the time of a pandemic, it won’t be business as usual; for one, Taylor will be performing in an almost-empty venue, which, at capacity, can seat over 17,000. But despite the pared down physical audience — which will mostly be crew, artists and select photographers — Taylor says he’s approaching the livestream like a highly energetic, elaborate rehearsal for a big arena show, with all the bells and whistles and none of the live applause.

Taylor teamed up with manager Cory Brennan and Brennan’s company 5B Artists+Media and Danny Wimmer Presents to bring the event to life, with virtual tickets going for $20. A menu of bundled experiences at various price points are also available, the most expensive of which costs $375 and includes a virtual meet-and-greet with Taylor, an acoustic set performance and mini-replica of Taylor’s customized CMFT wrestling belt.

Brennan, who has executed live streaming events on a smaller scale with other bands on his roster, says tiering virtual concert experiences is key for generating revenue, something he doesn’t see going away any time soon, especially in the time of COVID.

“What we’re trying to say [to audiences is], there’s no finding a babysitter for your kids. There’s no parking. There’s no drinking and driving. This is all in your living room,” says Brennan, adding that production for the one-time event has cost upwards of $250,000 and final ticket sales numbers generally don’t come in until about 72 hours before the event.

For artists, it speaks to a hunger for touring and performing. Adds Brennan: “Rock artists don’t get streams the way that hip-hop artists do, so there’s not the streaming revenue a hip-hop artist or pop artist might generate online. So, touring is still a big part of their income and COVID cut that off at the knees.”

Taylor is more blunt about not being able to perform in front of a live audience. “It’s the only thing that I’ve ever been good at is entertaining an audience, and it sucks not being able to do it. It really does. There’s no intellectual way to say it,” he laments.

Event producer Danny Wimmer — whose company DWP produces rock festivals around the country — says the pandemic has meant deep financial losses. “In the heavy seven figures,” Wimmer estimates. Forum or Against ‘Em is DWP’s first virtual event. “There’s not a lot of money in pay-per-view,” Wimmer confesses. “I mean, we’re doing a lot of this to get our people back working, and I think that’s the most important thing for promoters and artists right now — is to keep the community working.”

And then there’s the issue of getting bodies in seats or, rather, eyeballs on screens. Without local drivers like radio spots, marketing for the event has mostly been online, an irony for Taylor, who says he quit social media about a year ago because “it really triggered the side of my addictive personality,” he says. (Now he has people run his official accounts, and doesn’t know the passwords.)

As for Slipknot, Taylor says the band is currently on hold but does intend to finish a world tour in the future (2020 dates for the band’s music festival Knotfest and Knotfest at Sea have been canceled). He candidly acknowledges his sometimes fraught relationship with other band members. “I know I’ve been a douche, and there have been many times when I’ve been a douche, and I’ve put my band through hell sometimes.”

“It’s beautiful, what we were able to accomplish especially with the first two albums,” says Taylor. “And yet, once we got into the grip of real, real fame — I can’t even say ‘recognition’ because nobody really knew who we were — we still had the trappings. We had all the people surrounding us who were hellbent on taking advantage of us. We were starting to delve into the very clichés that we were trying to shun, all the addictions, all the darkness, all the insanity. I mean, the first three years of our existence are an absolute blur.”

Slipknot’s 1999 eponymous album went double platinum and four of the band’s six studio albums have surpassed sales of one-million units-plus.

As the world waits out the coronavirus pandemic, Taylor says he has plenty of material gathered for another solo album, but he’s currently focused on the task immediately ahead: a full-scale rock show at The Forum, complete with an acoustic set, piano solo and select songs from Slipknot’s and Stone Sour’s repertoire.

Taylor is especially excited about the show’s big finish, which will include pyrotechnics and aerial artists. “It’s so ridiculous,” he says. “I want this to look like the biggest, most fun party that anybody ever could want to go to.”

Forum or Against ‘Em streams at 2 p.m. PDT on Oct. 2. Virtual tickets available here.

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