Joey Jordison: “Every time I go onstage and get behind the kit, it’s a gift”

In November 2017, Kerrang! ran a career-spanning feature with Joey Jordison ahead of the release of Vimic’s Open Your Omens album – our last ‘major’ interview with the drum legend. In light of his devastating death, we revisit that conversation…

Joey Jordison: “Every time I go onstage and get behind the kit, it’s a gift”
Simon Young
Paul Harries

This interview was published in a November 2017 issue of Kerrang!

Almost four years ago, Joey Jordison’s world was turned upside down.

On December 12, 2013, Slipknot announced that they had parted ways with the drumming powerhouse, one of their founding members. While details surrounding the decision were not forthcoming at the time, the drummer was also battling a debilitating condition called transverse myelitis – a form of multiple sclerosis, where sufferers experience an inflammation of the spinal cord which dulls electrical signals in the central nervous system. He lost the use of his legs, and if you’ve ever gawped in awe at his POV drumming videos and wondered how he played his double kick drums at such blurring speed during the Iowan nonet’s shows, then you’ll understand the gravity of his diagnosis.

The metal world could well have lost one its greatest drummers. But, four years on, he’s here, thanks to his gritty self-determination, and courses of gruelling physiotherapy.

It’s apparent when Kerrang! meets the drummer at Gibson’s showroom, a building tucked in a side street away from the bustle of London’s Oxford Street, that he’s making the most of his second chance of playing again, with not one but two bands – Vimic and Sinsaenum – the focus of his dramatic comeback.

“I was thinking about the fans when I was going through rehabilitation,” says Joey, as we retreat to a quiet room to chew the fat. “They put me where I am, and it’s a responsibility to get back to doing what I do best. I don’t take it for granted anymore. Every time I go onstage and get behind the kit, it’s a gift, and I’m so thankful to be able to play again…”

How many times have you been to London?
“You know, I couldn’t tell you. It’s weird you ask that question, because I woke up and thought the same thing. It’s been 18 years since I first started coming here. The thing is, I just love the fact I get to come back here all the time. The fans are always amazing, the press is the best here, and I love playing here. I haven’t got a bad thing to say about London.”

What are your memories from the first Slipknot London show at the Astoria in December 1999?
“It was the first time most of us had been out of the country. The Astoria show probably goes down as one of the most memorable shows I’ve ever played. There was something different about that one. The fact we got to come over here and showcase our music and see that type of reaction blew our minds. If I had to pick five shows from my career, that would be one of them.”

The Astoria has sadly been knocked down to make way for a railway station. Have many of Des Moines’ venues suffered the same fate?
“There’s different venues now, but the ones we’d play before Slipknot even formed are history. It really sucks. Every time I drive down University Avenue, I’ll go past where we’d play and get a really weird feeling.”

How was Vimic’s recent tour of South America with Megadeth?
“I’ve played South America before, but Megadeth was so cool to take us down there. Something about playing South America is different to anywhere else – they go fucking apeshit!”

There’s a video of you playing Slipknot’s (sic) for a group of fans outside of your hotel. How did they know where you were staying?
“That’s a mystery! I was going out to grab something to eat and there were a bunch of fans waiting outside. If you know me, you’ll know that I’ll stop and sign something for all my fans. This kid came up with a guitar and he was nearly in tears. I signed it and everyone else’s stuff. I don’t know what spark hit me, but I had an impromptu jam. Those are the type of things in life that are almost better than playing shows sometimes. It was a song [Slipknot] wrote before getting signed, and here are some kids in South America, years later, singing the words back to me. It was spontaneous and cool to do.”

Vimic are managed by Dave Mustaine’s son, Justis. Is he a chip off the old block?
“Justis has the heart of the ultimate metal warrior. I couldn’t ask for a better person to be on our side. All the managers I’ve been with have been great, but there’s something different about Justis; he has this fire inside him that he needs to – I wouldn’t say prove – but he has a goal and he goes after it. That’s what I respect the most about him. He knows what he’s doing, and has one of the ultimate mentors of all time.”

What was the first Megadeth album you bought?
“I had a dubbed copy of Peace Sells… But Who’s Buying [1986], because I didn’t have a lot of money back then. But So Far, So Good… So What! in 1988 was the first one I bought with my own money. The thing is, there’s better Megadeth records than that one, but there’s something about that album; it’s got this dark, fucked-up feeling, and it’s one of my favourite records ever. I love it – it’s in my top 10.”

Dave plays a solo on Vimic’s new song, Fail Me. How did you keep your composure?
“When Dave came in to play his solo I was sitting on the couch, and I wasn’t star-struck, but I had an ‘I-can’t-believe-this-is-actually-happening’ feeling. How did this come to be? It’s meant to be. I don’t ask questions. Me and Dave have started to work together for whatever reason, I don’t know. What I do know is that it works, and we have total respect for each other. I can’t be more thankful for what he’s helping me with. What can you say? The dude’s a fucking legend.”

What was it like to see him play?
“I kept my mouth shut while he worked on his part. He went through a bar a couple of times until he found his pattern. He did it on the fly and nailed it – a total pro! It was awesome to see someone I’d been a fan of since school play on our record.”

What were you like as a student?
“It depends on what year.”

Did the change have something to do with metal?
“I was a great student until fifth grade, that was 1985. My grades started deteriorating the more I progressed in music. I’ll be honest, I started caring less and less about education because I was so consumed by my drumming, guitar playing and songwriting. But I’ll tell you what, if you get the chance to get a great education, take advantage of it. Do not screw it up!”

Did you learn a lot from your music lessons, though?
“Yeah, I did. I was in marching band and was the lead snare drummer. Maybe when I get home, I might put out a picture from my yearbook. There’s a really cool picture where I’ve got a plume on my hat! I really enjoyed marching band a lot.”

What was the biggest thing you learned from it?
“The discipline – it taught me a lot. It’s no joke. That goes for every marching band out there. You’ll see a marching band at half-time on the football field and they’re some of the best musicians ever. They blow my mind – it’s just total power.”

Do you have any artistic pursuits outside of musical endeavours?
“I have tons of folders of sketches, logos of pretty much any band I’ve been in. I drew the Slipknot logo and the tribal ‘S’, the Murderdolls logo, Scar The Martyr. I designed the Vimic logo. I’d love to put out a book someday of all of my sketches.”

Do you remember where you designed the Slipknot logo?
“I drew that logo on my dad’s old desk in the house I grew up in. I had this little piece of paper and drew it with pen and ink. It stained the desk! I took it to band practice and they loved it. The next thing you know, almost half of the band got it tattooed – this was before we got signed.”

What albums from your formative years do you still listen to now?
“Albums by Deep Purple and The Rolling Stones. The first record I bought with my own money was KISS’ Alive! [1975], and that still remains one of my favourite records of all time. And, of course, everything from the Big Four [Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth and Anthrax]. It’s inspiring what those guys have been through and the fact they’re still going and kicking more ass than they did even then. Without those four bands, I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing. They changed my life.”

To have drummed with Metallica at Download 2004 must have blown your mind, then?
“Metallica are a huge influence on me. I’d been practicing to their records since I was a kid. Here’s what happened: Slipknot just got offstage and we were in our dressing room. We were ready to get dressed and pack up and the manager came in and said, ‘James [Hetfield, Metallica frontman] needs to talk to you.’ I thought I was in trouble for something. He asked if I’d mind filling in with Dave [Lombardo, then-Slayer drummer]. As cool as it was playing that show, what was cooler was playing in their practice room. It was just me and those three guys warming up. What a dream come true, man. I’ll have dreams about it every once in a while. It was one of the best gigs of my life.”

Vimic’s album Open Your Omens is out next year, and Sinsaenum have just released the Ashes EP. How do you juggle two bands?
“It’s all down to the schedules; we’re musicians and this is what we do. We always make it work. I’m really glad that people are digging the Ashes EP. We want to make the time to get on tour because it’s overdue at this point. When it does happen, do not miss it.”

Was making Open Your Omens an enjoyable process?
“Yes. Basically, most of the ideas came from demos and we worked on it in my basement in my old house. It wasn’t like it was a big band rehearsal, we communicated via email and were well-rehearsed by the time we went into the studio. It didn’t take long at all. We’ve got a whole other record which we’re going to record, and we might do the drum tracks while we’re on this tour.”

What does drumming give you that playing the guitar doesn’t?
“That’s a really hard question. Drumming is more of my angst and frustrations with everything, and to challenge myself to become a better player. I play constantly. When I was diagnosed with transverse myelitis and my legs got wiped out, it was the most devastating thing. I’m not just saying this, but through determination, I’m stronger than I’ve ever been, because I cannot not play drums.”

How did you go about tackling your diagnosis?
“I didn’t give up. I wasn’t going to let it beat me. I was like, ‘I am going to walk again, I am going to play again.’ And now, I have no problem walking, and I’m playing just as good as I always did, if not better. It’s just determination and confidence and doing what you’ve got to do. I’m very lucky to come out of it. A lot of people don’t. That’s the beauty of metal; it gives you that energy. When I’m home, depending on my mood, I play for about four hours a day minimum.”

So what does the future hold for you?
“I just want to keep moving, stay on tour. We have a whole other record ready to go. Stay positive and keep making music.”

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