Joey Jordison’s Lessons In Perseverance
Nothing stops Joey Jordison. Not transverse myelitis, which sidelined him for months during a long recovery, not being fired from Slipknot, the world famous band that he had drummed for since 1995, and certainly not the opinions of the Internet, a medium he has no time for. Instead of worrying what the comment section has to say about him, Jordison spends his time working. Case in point: when this interview was conducted, Jordison was wrapping up a tour with Vimic, a project that shares members with his former band Scar the Martyr. Shortly after the tour, the band hit the studio to finish up not just their yet-to-be-released debut, as well as its follow-up. While neither of these records have been released, Jordison has been hard at work with another project, Sinsaenum, which features Dragonforce’s Frédéric Leclercq and Attila Csihar, who will drop their Ashes EP on Friday, November 10th.
Jordison’s complete dedication to playing music is matched by how he speaks. He is confident and direct, clearly aided by the countless press tours under his belt, but he’s hardly jaded. Instead he is by his passion for his new projects. I spoke to him to Jordison over the phone about those projects, along with his songwriting process and his experience playing as a session drummer for everyone from Satyricon to Metallica.
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You recently overcame a battle with transverse myelitis. Do you feel that coming out on the other side of that put the pressure on you to focus on your career?
The thing is, as far as music is concerned, I’ll never stop doing what I do. I’m very, very grateful and happy that I have the strength in my heart and my brain and my soul to be able to come out of this. I’m completely fine. I get this question a lot, I understand that you need to ask this. Everything is absolutely cool. When [Vimic are] doing the new record now, getting Open Your Omen out there and following up with the next one after that. I think that’s gonna be the biggest triumph, to show people my strength to come back and know exactly where I’m at and why it’s where I need to be.
It’s killer, man. I couldn’t be more happy. We just constantly just drive at it. It’s like we just do not take baby steps or anything like that. It’s just full-force. The record industry, it’s just a different place these days. Even though I’m not an internet fan, and a lot of people know that I’m not that type of person, it really, really helps out your band a lot. You know, with doing tours, and the goal of what we’re doing with the next record, the internet is gonna definitely going to help us, for sure.
What do you feel has changed the most since you started to where you are now in terms how the internet has affected the music industry?
When Slipknot got signed, you would get to fly to New York, and you go there and you meet with tons of people, and then you fly to Europe and you meet all their executives, too. Everyone’s on the same team. Now, it’s pretty much up to the individual to promote whatever they have coming out. And you know what? There’s nothing wrong with that. The internet, I don’t like it. I hate it to be quite honest. But, at the same time, it is your friend. It can help you very much.
Here’s my thing, man. I hate the the fact that the record industry is dying. It crushes me. The days when you get to go to a store and buy all these records, you’d look at each label and be like, “Oh my God, there’s this label, and this band is on it so it’s gotta be awesome,” and you buy it. You know? Usually, 80% it’s good, sometimes 20% it’s not. I miss those days, you know?
It’s just not there. I go to record stores all the time, even independent ones that actually carry all the great stuff now, and they’re even going downhill. But at the same time, the internet is actually your friend. That’s what you need to help promote your career. So it’s kind of a catch-22. But hey, if you can get your music out to the people, that’s all that matters.
You mentioned the importance of having a team. You probably have one of the deepest Rolodexes in heavy music. How did you go about choosing the people that you wanted to play with for your next projects, for Vimic, specifically, and for anything else that you’re working on?
Okay, I can explain that, and it’s easy. When you get older and you’ve gone through the blessings of all the great stuff that you got to do and all the accomplishments that you’ve had, you don’t take them for granted. No matter where life leads you, you always look towards the positive and what you can do while you’re here on this earth. These people that I’ve got to work with, I’ve known for a long, long time.
I’m at the point in my career that I’ve been through enough stuff that I know when someone’s full of BS. They can’t sell me anything that I’m not going to completely see through. I just want to absolutely have the right people in place that get along. Especially with all of us living in a different states, we have to be able to focus when we come in and actually see each other, and make sure everyone knows their part. You can’t have a weak link. You just can’t. That was the thought process behind Vimic, to actually get everyone together that actually had the same focus and want the same result.
What do you see that result as? What are you aiming for with this band specifically?
You know, that’s one thing about this. I’m not looking towards a Golden Record. I’m not looking towards Grammy Awards. I’m not looking towards awards or anything like that. What I’m looking towards is to getting out to the fans that meant so much to us while we were doing all our other projects. You know, we could’ve gave up. We could’ve done a bunch of stuff, but we just don’t. We just don’t. Even if things went bad, we would still not quit. No matter what, we’re going to be here for the long-haul. We’re not going anywhere. You’re not getting rid of us. We are going to keep making music no matter what, for the rest of our lives, while we’re here on earth.
When I say, “Not going anywhere,” I mean we’re not leaving your presence. We’re going to excel. We’re going to gain as many fans as possible, and we’re going to be in your faces. And we’re gonna go everywhere that we need to be from the strength of the people that are in the band.
Specifically, musically what are you aiming to do? When you sit down to write a Vimic song, what is your goal?
The thing is I cannot pick up a guitar or sit down at a drum kit and try and make a song. There has to be something that is either going on in the rest of the world or going on in my personal life, or in someone else’s life or that means something to me. Or maybe one of the other guys in the band, they might have something going on or something that they bring in and I’m like, “You know what? I understand what you’re saying,” It relates to other things in life. You talk about what you want to create, and then you sit down and just start drawing it out. That’s what’s the best thing about being in this band is. Just creating music that’s very, very personal. it’s not a gimmick band. It’s nothing like that. It’s like they’re actual stories. I want to portray, with everything that I’m gonna do with Vimic, with Open Your Omen and in the future, real-life stories.
What makes a story appropriate for a Vimic song? What kind of stories do you want to tell?
That’s the trick right here. We’re not a Satanic band. We’re not a Christian band. We’re not any of that. We keep the lyrics open-ended enough to where the listener can enjoy the song, listen to lyrics, and get their own interpretation out of it. That’s what the whole point of making music is. I’ve never been in a band that’s like, “This is exactly what it is and you need to follow us and that’s that.” I don’t like that. When I listen to, like, say, old, classic rock songs, or even if I listened to black metal songs I get my own interpretation. That’s what music is supposed to be.
Now, I know there’s certain bands out there that have a certain message and they stick to it and that’s what it is. With Vimic, what we’re doing, there is a message. Kalen has a great way of portraying the feeling of what the song is and where his heart’s at at the time being. We all kind of have a round table. We talk about stuff and then we sit in the room and create a song. Kalen already mapped it out. But it’s not for me to tell anyone or a listener exactly what to think. That’s the beauty of music, is it needs to be open-ended. Get what you want out of it, man. Like it, love it, like, hate it. Throw it in the trash, it doesn’t matter. What matters is the fact that we put this much energy and love and thought into this process, and that’s what we’re trying to convey. And Open Your Omen will tell you a ton, man.
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You write music both as a guitarist, and as a drummer. Do you feel like knowing how to play guitar and having experience as a songwriter changes the way you approach the drums as an instrument?
I mean, it’s really hard to get across within a certain answer because it’s really in-depth. When I started playing guitar, I learned from my grandfather, and I started learning piano right after that. So I learned keys, I learned notes, and I learned progressions. I wasn’t that good then, but at least I knew where I was at. So when I was in fourth grade, you know, you have band tryouts and all that, and I was like, “All I wanna do was play the drums. I don’t want to play the saxophone. I don’t want to play a trumpet.” I wanted to stick to rock. It was either guitar or drums. There was no in-between.
I started on guitar, but I still work on it. You know? The drums, for some reason, I could just do. It was just instilled in me. I started playing in fourth grade but I stuck with guitar the whole time and it still lasts to this day. That’s like my childhood. If it wasn’t for my parents blasting music all the time, I don’t think I’d be doing what I was doing. I grew up in a great house where there was just constant music all the time. Once I got older and I got involved with, I wouldn’t say with the wrong crowd because it was the right crowd. Because it put me where I’m at now. I just started getting into metal. Metal spoke to me. Rock and roll always spoke to me. I’m always into it. It’s going to be a part of my life. It was basically 1986 that changed my life. You know, “The Big Four.” Master of Puppets from Metallica and Reign in Blood. I was already playing drums and I was already a rock drummer, but that really what took me to the next level of determination as far as being a musician.
I can definite tell that you did have that earlier stage where you were more of a rock guy. Because one of the things that’s made your career so interesting is that, even at their absolutely heaviest, all of your songs are still very catchy.
What do you feel is, the method to create that’s super-heavy music still catchy and accessible in some way?
You know, honestly, man if you’re trying just to create a song, usually it won’t work. Let’s just take the song “Wait and Bleed.” I’m looking at the guitar right now that I wrote that song on. [When I wrote that song] I picked up the guitar, and I played the whole song all the way through. It was done in literally 10 minutes. You know? Same thing with “She Sees Everything”. That song came out instantly. It’s just something that spills out of you, but it always has to be at the right time.
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I didn’t mean to parallel those two songs. They don’t need to compete against each other. I’m just saying that from way back then to now, it’s always about the moment. It’s what’s is in your heart and where you are at in your life at that time. That’s all that matters. Because no matter what if you’re a true musician, when you pick up your drumsticks, when you pick up your violin, when you pick up your cello, when you pick up a tuba or a trumpet, you’re going to have great days and you’re going to have shit days, man.
You’re going to have both of them. You’re never going to be perfect all the time. I can’t just pick up a guitar and be like, “I need to write a song right now,” because it seems forced. I can’t do that. It has to be from the heart.
There’s this other side to your career, too, where you’ve been a session drummer for Ministry, Satyricon, Korn and Metallica. How do you approach playing with other people and doing other people’s music differently than doing your own?
I’ve had the privilege, I’d like to say, of playing with those bands that you’ve mentioned. I’ve looked up to all of those bands. They’ve been a big part of my life. When you get that type of opportunity, you get taught. No matter what, you can’t go in there and think that you know everything. You get that opportunity to sit down and see these icons and they teach you so much. Even if you get to play with them just one time, there’s no bigger lesson. They will teach you more within that hour than you could ever believe. I’m telling you, it’s insane. And I’ve got that opportunity to play with not only Metallica but I got to play with Rob Zombie and I got to play with Korn. I’ve been able to do the things on my own making Sinsaenum and Scar the Martyr and, of course, my ex-band, Slipknot, Murderdolls, the Roadrunner United. I’m just thankful, man. The thing is, the fire doesn’t burn out because there’s always something else while you’re on this earth to accomplish. And that’s what I’m looking forward to.
At Vimic shows do you feel like some people are going specifically to see you are people going to see the band?
Well, here’s the thing. This is not a Joey Jordison’s side project. When this band was formed, everyone was equally involved. It wasn’t just me. Because when we went in to record everyone was equally involved. This is a real band. All of this great stuff that is happening would not be happening without the equal participation of everyone in the band.
I can go and create a solo album. But am I gonna sing on it? Am I gonna play the leads on it? It wouldn’t match, you know? Bands are marriages, and sometimes the marriages break up. Sometimes they succeed. I’m looking at succeeding because this concoction of people, is absolutely on fire and they’re in the right place. Everyone is doing great. Everyone is ready and we’re ready to just get out there and start to get it out to the fans, man, because they deserve it. We’ve been away from them for too long, man.
I feel like for a certain generation of drummers, myself included, you were the guy for metal.
Oh, thank you, man.
Do you feel like there’s anyone else in a younger generation that is coming up behind you? Do you see any younger drummers that sort of have caught your attention in the last few years?
I feel bad for saying this, but, honestly, man, I’ve been focusing so much on Vimic and Sinsaenum. It’s like day-in, day-out. Honestly, man, I could not even tell you. I mean, there’s not one band that’s really turned me on recently or drummers that I’ve been following. I know that sounds a little weird, but it’s just the truth. It’s not that I don’t want to know, it’s just that I’ve been having to work constantly, you know, day-in, day-out.
That makes sense to me because I know that some other musicians like to not listen to other music when they’re working on their own stuff. Do you kind of feel like you need to have that tunnel-vision when you’re working on your own music?
Right now, yes. With the two bands in two different time zones, absolutely. I love to give people props and stuff like that. I can name albums, but as far as drummers I always go to the classics, man. As far as new bands, I’ll get an album. I’ll listen to it, and, usually throw it on the shelf unless it really, really intrigues me. But right now, I’ve been so busy working with two bands that I’ve really not had the chance to actually sit down and dissect anything. I’m pretty sure when I go out on the road, I’ll be able to do that. But right now, I couldn’t tell you anything.
Do you have any records that have caught your attention lately?
I just went record shopping the other day, and I actually found a lot of great stuff. So I got the new Six Feet Under. I got the new Sovereign. I got the new Insomnium. I got the new Gruesome. I got the new Superjoint Ritual. I got the new Crowbar, which I can’t wait to hear. I can’t wait to hear it. Like, I haven’t opened it yet. I bought the new Charred Walls of the Damned.
I don’t know if you’re into the band Today is the Day with “Sadness will Prevail.” There’s a new version of it that you can get two albums for the price of one, it has “Sadness will Prevail” and “Live Till You Die.” I got the new Heaven Shall Burn. I got the new Puscifer, “Money Shot,” which I’m looking forward to listening to. I got the new Sick of It All, “Outtakes for the Outcast.” That’s it.
As someone who’s actually played with Metallica, what did you think of the new Metallica record?
I like it. I think it’s good. I know a lot of people have different opinions on it but no matter what people say, I think that you cannot dis that band at all. They set the benchmark for pretty much from 1983 to now. I think them playing with that much fire is absolutely amazing. They are still blistering as far as I’m concerned. Metallica can do pretty much whatever they want. I could never say a bad thing about that band because they win. They’re the kings.
You talked about doing it for life and sticking in it for the long run. Metallica’s a perfect example of going through everything and still coming out with the same degree of intensity that they started with. You know, that’s pretty much unparalleled in music. Like, you can’t really talk shit about something like that. You’re totally right.
Absolutely not. You can’t. Listen, man, have me and you been able to achieve that type of success? No.
You’ve gotten a lot closer than I have!
Well, thank you. Thank you. But at the same time anyone that gives that band shit can go fuck themselves. You know? They are still the masters. Of course we have Slayer, we have Megadeth, we have Anthrax, we have all that. But all these [new] bands that we listen to right now, Metallica inspired. They really did. You’re talking since 1981, man. I was, like, five years old. And they’re still going. As far as I’m concerned, they’re kings. They are the absolute kings of heavy metal. They are the fucking kings of all heavy metal. No one can beat them. Period.
The album should be coming out soon. Is that correct? There hasn’t been an official announcement about the exact date.
It’s gonna be really, really soon. I can’t give an actual date right now because it’s coming out and it needs to be official, like, from the site and stuff like that. Make sure that, you know, the management has it locked down. But, yeah, it’s coming really soon. And, like I said, there’s that whole other album that is completed in the works. But we’re coming out very soon. We’re gonna be on tour very soon. Cannot wait to get out and see all the fans. Like, everything feels positive right now. We could not be more energized and excited. So we’re just ready to get out there, man. I really thank you for your time and all that stuff, man. I really appreciate it.