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Why I Love 'Les Misérables' – by Corey Taylor

The Slipknot frontman on the epic story of resilience against a backdrop of revolution and loud singing...

‘Les Misérables’ is not only my favourite book, but it’s also my favourite musical. A lot of people think it’s about redemption but it’s not; it’s about discovering who you are and having the courage to be yourself. It takes more strength to be who you are than to lie.

The story follows the spiritual journey of Jean Valjean, who’s fresh out of prison. He’s trying to do the right thing, even in the face of ridicule and the people who are holding past mistakes against him. That, to me, is the strongest story you could ever tell – and the songs and music are gorgeous. 

It’s a very dark musical and, depending on the cast, it can be so powerful that it can bring you to tears. I’ve been brought to tears by it and there’s a reason that Jean Valjean’s prisoner number, 24601, is tattooed on my back. It’s because I see so much of myself in those songs and those stories, where I came from and struggling to do the right thing... overcoming all the odds and the hellish addictions and behaviours, because I know who I want to be. It doesn’t mean I’m always that person, but it means that I’m dedicated to being that person every day. There might be moments where I’m selfish or I do terrible things, but as long as that’s my centre that I come back to, I’ll be OK. That's why I love this story.

Les Misérables' official show poster (left) and Corey's inky tribute
Photo: Chelsea Lauren/Getty Images

In a small way, Les Misérables has influenced me lyrically – not overtly, but it’s definitely a theme that I play with. I’ve always talked about the duality of the soul and how a human person can never be all evil or all good, it’s just a constant war. For me, it’s all about trying to win the war every day against that devilish side so, in a way, the story and songs of Les Mis can be told even when they’re from a flawed perspective. It’s the fight that counts though. Nobody wins that war. You just have to keep pounding your fists on the wall.

If I were to pick a song to translate to Slipknot’s audience, it would probably be One Day More. It's the song right before the intermission. It’s an ensemble piece, but it’s lead by Jean Valjean. It’s essentially him saying he needs one more day to protect his ‘daughter’ and to get her away from the police who are finally trying to hunt him down while her heart is breaking. It’s because this person she fell in love with is going off to fight a tiny little revolution. It’s set in Paris around the time that the revolts were starting to happen, but it’s over a period of 20 or 30 years so it jumps around. All of the main players are in that song and the way it’s put together is just amazing.

Les Misérables: The Dream Cast in Concert is the one to check out. They’ve cherry-picked the people that originated or defined the role, so it’s the best of all of the casts. There’s this great moment when the cast comes back on and they have all of these people from the worldwide casts... the Japanese, Canadian, Polish and Russian Jean Valjeans come out and they sing Do You Hear The People Sing?. Everyone takes a verse and it is so good. I can’t praise it enough.

For more information on Les Misérables, visit the musical's official website.

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