Few can dispute how well known and heralded Slipknot's Joey Jordison is as a drummer. In fact, he was just recently crowned the Greatest Drummer of the past 25 Years in a Rhythm Magazine poll, based not only on his drumming career with his primary band, but also on his ability to fill-in for bands like Metallica, Rob Zombie, Satyricon and many others along the way. But what's more is that Jordison is also an accomplished guitarist as demonstrated in his other band Murderdolls. With all that in mind, our UK counterparts sat down with Joey when he was in London to discuss how he got into playing, what inspires him musically and what set-ups he uses for both instruments in the latest installment of our Gear Nerd series. Read it all below, and if you missed any of our previous Nerd sessions, go right here to find out about Marc Rizzo, Matt Heafy, Gavin Harrison, Daniel Adair and more.
Roadrunner: So which did you start playing first, drums or guitar?
Joey Jordison: I started playing guitar first at age five.
RR: So when did you pick up the drums?
JJ: Age seven.
RR: So when you think back to the first time that you ever saw a guitar, what was it that made you pick it up? What made you want to lean how to play?
JJ: My parents introduced me to music at a very young age. You know, I knew how to work a record player by the age of three. My grandfather, he was a church organist, and he was… kinda was a jack of all trades with musical instruments, and he had guitars at his house and something just intrigued me. He had like a bunch of different guitars and stuff like that so I just picked it up and just started messing around with it. I was small but he like stared showing me chords at a very young age and I just got really enamoured with it and you know like my parents were always playing music and all that- I remember my Dad bringing home the Rolling Stones ‘Tattoo You’ album in 1981, and I think I was still five, before I turned six. And I had already heard Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, Mott the Hoople etc and it just went on from there. I didn’t watch TV I was just consumed by music all the time.
RR: So you say your grandfather started showing you chords and stuff like that, did you go on and have lessons or did you teach yourself?
JJ: No I’m self taught.
RR: And then a few years later, you started the drums. Where did that come from? How did that come about?
JJ: My second cousin Matt had his drum kit also in my grandfather’s basement for this band he was playing with and I just started messing around with that. And drums came really easy to me. I kinda just sat down and I could do it, you know. With guitar I had to work a little bit more cos my hands are small and stuff like that. Drums came like natural; instantly I knew how to do it- it was weird. I just had a rhythm you know? I was so consumed with music. Like I said I…I learnt how to use a record player at like age three. I mean who does that? [Chuckles] I mean it’s weird. I mean I could barely talk.
RR: So was it the same with the drums- you were completely self taught with those as well or did you have any lessons?
JJ: Yeah, nah, I never had any lessons.
RR: So if you think back to the people that you most admired when you were first starting out, playing each instrument, who would you say were your biggest inspirations?
JJ: John Bonham of course and my favourite drummer of all time is Keith Moon. I’m a big Moon fan. My parents would always play ‘Quadrophenia’, very loud on the weekends, parties and everything, so I’d say if there were two that really influenced me it would be those two- John Bonham and Keith Moon. Both English! [Laughs]
RR: A very good point! I didn’t think about that.
JJ: Yeah. It’s kinda cool like feeling that and being here in the UK.
RR: Any other instruments that you play at all?
JJ: Um, bass, keyboard, piano a little bit, um, and you know I sing, right? You know, besides back up vocals? I can actually sing but no one’s really heard it. The next instrument that I want to conquer honestly, that might surprise people is the violin.
JJ: Yea, that’s the next one I’m going for.
RR: When are you going to find time to fit that in?
JJ: I’ll find time. I always find time! Everyone’s like how do you do all these things? I make it happen so my next adventure; my next conquest is the violin.
RR: And what’s inspiring that move?
JJ: I listen to a lot of ambient music; you know, more mellow music but I just think there’s something very, there’s something very mysterious about the violin for me. And I think that… I know I know all my instruments and song writing or whatever but with music, I’m so passionate about it that I wanna learn more stuff. You know, before my dying day I wanna learn as much as I can so, that’s my next one, is the violin, so...
RR: Can you remember the first guitar that you ever owned and how you acquired it?
J: Aw man, it was just a piece of shit acoustic guitar; I don’t even know what it was called. [Laughs]. I mean, it sucked but uh, I remember my Dad you know, after he saw me starting playing guitar and starting writing songs when I was really young, he bought me a Taylor acoustic, and that was really cool and then from there, weirdly enough, my first Thrash Metal and Speed Metal bands were written on an acoustic guitar. [laughs]
RR: That’s really surreal.
J: Yeah, it’s the truth. Yeah. I didn’t have an electric guitar at the time, so.
RR: So you just had to…
JJ: Yeah, cos I worked, you know, to buy my first major drum set, so, I didn’t have, an electric guitar or anything, but I had an acoustic guitar. So with my first like Thrash and Speed Metal bands I had, all the songs I wrote were on an acoustic.
RR: So you’re talking there about your first band. Tell us a little bit about the bands you were kind of in as a kid.
JJ: The first bands? The first band I put together was in 1984. But I was playing, you know, I was playing drums of course, it was with people who were a lot older than I was. I was playing with people that were like three grades above me. And we were just starting out, it sucked [laughs] I mean but ya know, you were learning; you were learning how to be a band and how to write songs and stuff like that. And then once I started getting into Middle School, I started getting into the heavier side of stuff for my first thrash band- we pretty much just a lot of like speed metal, thrash metal covers, pretty much the classics everyone already knows. And then after that I got serious with it and the band Modifidious which I formed with a friend of mine. That’s the one I got really serious with and it got really big in Iowa.
And after that I broke up that band and the next thing you know, Paul Gray came down to the place where I was working after I broke that band up and we were talking, you know, he’d broken up with his band and everything and he was talking about um, this project that he was working on with Shawn Crahan. And this is the very first thing, this was the very small seed that started Slipknot and I went and saw what they were doing and it wasn’t really all that good. But I could tell, I was watching them and Shawn was actually playing drums at that time but he wanted to move onto percussion and they wanted me in the band and I went and watched them and I’m like [clicks fingers] instantly, the second they started- it was actually the first incarnation of the song Sic- and I’m like, this is gonna be big and it went from there.
RR: And so what was it then that triggered later on in your career doing Murderdolls and playing guitar? Was it just a desire to do something a little bit different, play a different instrument again?
JJ: Yeah, I mean, you know I’ve always been playing guitar of course and I write a lot of songs for Slipknot (but a lot of people might not know that) but with the Murderdolls, the first record was great; I just kinda wanted to go out and let loose with the first record, and just like do something completely different; shake things up in a different way than what we’ve done with Slipknot. And we did. We were a little bit dysfunctional, you know, and we kinda had a band thrown together at the last minute and we had a lot of time off with conflicting schedules and all that. And there was a point where I thought that Murderdolls might, you know, might be finished but then I started thinking I’m like, man, stuff’s starting to get boring out there. I mean there are so many bands out there right now and a lot of them… there’s not really many that are really sticking out. I was talking to Wednesday and I was like, I wanna make another Murderdolls record. And he was, and he was silent for like twenty seconds but we had been talking about it already so he was like “Finally, I’ve been waiting for this call for like five and a half years!” and then it started from there.
RR: So you’ve obviously mentioned that you’re one of the main songwriters in Slipknot & your work with Murderdolls. But you also did the Roadrunner United record and I think that showed people just how diverse a range of styles are that you can write.
JJ: Yeah, yeah, that was my point
RR: Does that come from a really broad base of influences?
JJ: Yeah, you hear Annihilation by the Hands of God then you hear like No Way Out then you hear like Enemy of State, Constitution Down, Tired and Lonely, but everyone one of ‘em is different.
RR: Completely different. And who would you say your main influences have been in your writing because they must be every broad and varied? Your musical taste I’m suspecting must be quite eclectic?
JJ: Oh man yeah, it’s all over the place. I’m very particular on what I listen to but I mean I listen to everything. I’m very open minded, you know. The best thing about music is there are so many different styles and there is so much you can learn about it. And you know you can never learn to play it all but I always strive to- that type of mentality.
RR: So tell us a little bit about your guitar set up. Who are you endorsed by at the moment and what’s your set up when you’re playing?
JJ: Um, I only use Gibson Marshall and BC Rich. There’s JCM 2000 as far as the Marshall head. I use electric harmonics and MXR pedals and just Gibson customs. And I’m now using these custom BC Rich Warlocks that have been made for me that you can probably see pictures of on our website and I also have a custom Namm Show piece, a BC Rich red bitch that I use also and also a prototype SG Iguana, it’s like a cream Iguana that I’m using right now, so that’s pretty much it, there’s not much to it.
RR: And how about your drum set up when you play? Tell us a little bit about that.
JJ: It’s insane! [Laughs] You can pretty much find that online but it’s two twenty two inch kick drums a signature snare, ten, twelve, thirteen, fourteen rack toms, sixteen, eighteen Floors, um, two Roland V Drum Electronics, a Twenty inch Gong Drum and four ten inch quads. That’s just drums and then I got like fourteen symbols.
RR: Did you ever imagine when you were a kid that you would ever have a kit like that?
JJ: Never, no. [laughs] Pearl, Paiste, Promark and Remo, they all treat me really well I’m glad to have such great supporters you know, with those companies. They’re the best.
RR: And if you’re going to give your top tips for budding musicians what would they be?
JJ: Top tips? Perseverance man, that’s pretty much all I can say. That’s what I did you know, as a kid. I just practised, practised, practised, practised and listened to as many styles. Try and delve into different styles and, you know try and keep your mind open, you know, ‘cause there’s so much great stuff to absorb out there. I mean, that’s how I’ve learned and how like- what you were talking about with Roadrunner United- how I did so many different styles of music. I mean, that’s cause I have an open mind and I always try and push myself and that’s the thing- it’s like, if you believe in something, always, you know, strive to be the best you can. That’s pretty much all I can say is perseverance and practise.
Slipknot will release DVD '(sic)nesses' on September 28th. Full details HERE.