Joey Jordison taught people to break the rules, to play with passion, and even to expand their musical taste.
Look at the comments section on any of Joey Jordison’s YouTube videos – it’s no exaggeration that the former Slipknot drummer has inspired thousands of people around the world to pick up the sticks.
Joey was known for his creative, no-Fs-given approach to drumming (framed famously by an expressionless black and white mask and long black hair) and he helped to usher in a new era of metal in the late 90s. That’s only one of his many accomplishments – as any fan will tell you – but let’s start there.
This article isn’t just for metal drummers, and you’ll see why. No matter what style you play, here are 5 things every drummer can learn from Joey Jordison, one of the most influential figures in heavy drumming:
You might expect that the list of Joey’s influences ended at metal players like Lars Ulrich and Dave Lombardo, but he was also inspired by rock legends John Bonham and Keith Moon and jazz heavyweights Buddy Rich and Gene Krupa.
While he was self-taught at first, he started studying with an R&B/jazz teacher even though he wanted to play metal. “Never be scared to venture out and learn to adapt to different styles of music.” Without that foundation, he said, “I don’t think I’d have the chops I have today.”
His diverse background and taste for different styles doesn’t end there. If you listen to the drum-and-bass inspired intro of “Eyeless”, it’s pretty unexpected to hear that from a metal drummer.
While most drummers he inspired are into the heavy stuff, Police drummer Stewart Copeland found himself jumping on the Joey Jordison train:
“All that cool shit that he does with both his feet and his hands has to be marveled at. I mean, with his feet he does what most drummers aspire to do with their hands. And then the stuff he does with his hands – look out! Genius.”
“We were so determined, hungry, and ready to take on the world and we did. We feared no one, and it showed when we took the stage.”
If you’ve listened to Slipknot, the drum parts have probably caught you off guard. For example, Joey could’ve made simpler choices for the verses in “Purity”, but instead he chose to infuse a snare roll into a groove and created more of a frantic soundscape.
His style helped define the future of metal drumming and inspired an entire generation to pick up the sticks. He wouldn’t have been so notable if he’d played by the rules. He drummed erratically and creatively, throwing in snare hits and fills where you wouldn’t expect them – yet he also wrote parts the songs called for. Most metal drummers will recognize the intro drum beat in “Duality” even if they can’t hear the other instruments.
Joey helped to bring death metal style double bass into the mainstream. While bands like Metallica and Slayer had already set the stage for double kick work, Jordison’s punishing high-speed runs (like in “Disasterpiece” or the “The Heretic Anthem”) made people say ‘wtf’.
At the same time, he didn’t do it just because he could: he wanted to add it where it made sense. “Double bass needs to be used as a dynamic, not for flash.”
Don’t be afraid to take risks with your playing, and don’t let anyone tell you you can’t experiment with the instrument. You might be setting the standard for the next generation.
One mistake many new drummers make is trying to play fast, complex parts before they’re ready. Don’t try to run before you can walk.
When he started studying the drums, Joey’s mentality was to establish a solid foundation. “Without [starting with the basics], I don’t think I’d have the chops I have today. You want to go crazy, but you’ve gotta realize, if you don’t have your chops right, the song’s never going to be right. Songs are not drum solos. Always learn your basics first.”
On top of his mature work ethic when studying drums, Joey also had multiple projects on the go. Imagine playing in one of the world’s biggest bands and making time to tour and record with a second project (Murderdolls, where he played guitar).
Over the course of his career, Joey played in multiple bands, toured with Rob Zombie, Korn and Ministry, filled in last-minute with Metallica, performed on various albums as a session drummer, and even flexed his producer muscle.
If you set goals, get organized and stay focused, a strong work ethic will go a long way. Always be at the top of your game, and if you’re professional, you’ll keep getting the calls.
“You don’t have to play at 100% all the time to get your passion across.”
This quote might seem contradictory for a drummer who always headbanged at 200%, but Joey always played like his life depended on it. Other drummers have rarely matched his intense energy. It’s probably in the contract now for anyone who joins Slipknot, but Joey never shied away from putting on a show.
He definitely wasn’t afraid to take risks in his performances (although to be fair, most drummers don’t have the budget for a floating, rotating drum platform):
You don’t need to choreograph your headbanging or be a master stick spinner to be a better drummer. But the more you relax, feel the music, enjoy yourself and connect with the audience, the more energy you’ll bring to your playing.
In the mid-2010s, Joey was diagnosed with transverse myelitis – a neurological condition that resulted in weakness and loss of power in his legs. He parted ways with Slipknot around that time and had no real answer from doctors on whether or not he’d be able to get back on the kit.
He could’ve accepted it as his fate, but the experience gave him more incentive to push harder. “There’s no way I’m not gonna play drums,” he said. After extensive training and medical attention, Joey was able to overcome the condition and never took his ability to play drums for granted again. Because of this, he said it was the “best thing that ever happened” to him.
When times get tough, take a note from Joey: don’t lose hope. Be willing to fight for what’s important and know that your mindset is a big part of your journey.
“Sometimes life takes you down troubled paths, not to hurt you but to cleanse you.”
Joey wasn’t afraid to take risks. He didn’t stick to convention or play by the rules. Other drummers may be as technically proficient, but the combination of creativity, gusto, unpredictability and badassery is what set this madman apart.
Whether you are (or aren’t) a fan of Slipknot, Murderdolls, or one of Joey’s later projects, there’s a lot we can learn from him. And there’s no other drummer quite like him.
Feature Image: Kieran Krud
By signing up you’ll also receive our ongoing free lessons and special offers. Don’t worry, we value your privacy and you can unsubscribe at any time.