Joey Jordison: Celebrating the Genius of Slipknot’s Drummer

When I saw Drumeo had released a video entitled ‘The Genius of Joey Jordison,’ I had to bite. I’m a real sucker for theatrics in music, and I love exciting performers.  

These characters occupy an audio-visual space a little like a WWE wrestler, capturing the audience’s imagination and making them believe in the unreal. 

These are more than just musicians. They’re more like actors and athletes; who can make people believe in new possibilities and dream bigger dreams. 

Many drummers could be placed in this category. They’re not all metal drummers by any means, but metal certainly has a knack for being larger-than-life. 

The Genius of Joey Jordison

Joey Jordison sits around the apex of all the artists that could be discussed in this field. He married mainstream success with strong visual imagery usually found nearer the underground circuit. He blended genuine artistry and aggression with rockstar-sized fame.  

In this Drumeo video, Ash Pearson (Three Inches of Blood, Revocation) breaks down some key Joey Jordison moments and gives his thoughts on the man himself. 

It’s an inspiring watch and features some interesting quotes from Joey Jordison. So why not grab some popcorn and check it out; I’ll share some of my key takeaways from Drumeo’s excellent feature on this charismatic figure.  

Joey Jordison’s Drum Kit Setup

Joey played a Pearl Reference drum kit outfitted with Remo drum heads, Pearl hardware, Demon Drive double kick pedals, and he used his signature Pro-Mark drumsticks.

Pearl Reference Series Drums

  • 8×7 tom
  • 10×8 tom 
  • 12×9 tom
  • 14×10 tom
  • 16×16 floor tom
  • 18×16 floor tom
  • 22×18 bass drum
  • 20×14 gong drum
  • 15×6 quarter tom (aka Octoban)
  • 18×6 quarter tom
  • 21×6 quarter tom
  • 14×6.5 snare

Paiste 2002 Series Cymbals

  • 14″ Wild hi-hats
  • 6″, 8″, 10″ splash cymbals
  • 16″ (2), 17″, 18″, 19″ (2) Power crash cymbals
  • 20″ and 22″ Wild China cymbals
  • 22″ Power ride cymbal

Humility and Hard Work 

Jeez, this isn’t a sexy heading to start with, is it? However, we’re only a few seconds into the video, and it’s already clear how Jordison became such an influential figure in the metal world. 

“I’m still learning, y’know? Like, if you start thinking that you know everything, [you] realize that you don’t know everything. So I don’t take it for granted at all anymore, man.” -Joey Jordison.

This has to be the attitude of anyone who makes it to the top of their game, but it’s so easy to forget it. I don’t know about you, but I’ve heard so many drummers talking badly about this musician or that person, pointing out all of the perceived flaws in their work.  

Ministry featuring Joey Jordison performs at The House of Blues in Chicago, Illinos. July 1,2006 © Gene Ambo /MediaPunch
MediaPunch Inc / Alamy Stock Photo

I’ve also heard drummers exalt another player beyond reason and act almost like the sole judge over ‘who’s great and who sucks.’ 

Hey, sometimes I’m that guy too! I’m going to get controversial here, though: how many times have you heard someone make fun of Lars Ulrich’s ‘St Anger’ snare sound; or talk down on artists like Nickelback and Creed? 

Sure, it’s mostly in good fun, but when we dismiss successful people out of hand, we lose an opportunity to learn something from them. 

Jordison’s comments reminded me of the importance of staying humble and having a ‘learning mindset.’ It’s intriguing how — for Joey Jordison — this humility leads necessarily to hard work: “I’ll be up at… four o’clock in the morning, still playing and getting yelled at!” 

Most of us are still looking for a shortcut to drumming greatness (I know I usually am). But, unfortunately, it turns out that the secret is just plain, old-fashioned hard work. 

Just the other day, I heard a top session drummer say something like: “I’m always getting emails asking for advice on drumming, and the trouble is, those people are emailing me… but they’re not drumming!” 

Having Fun and Staying Positive 

The following clip in the video shows Jordison in an interview, reflecting on Slipknot’s live show.  

“It’s extremely sick and brutal, but it’s all within the realm of being controlled and having fun; and everyone leaves… with a positive experience.” 

Herein lies another ‘obvious secret’ that many of us overlook. It stares us in the face, but it’s hard to believe sometimes. Success comes – pretty often – when we’re having fun. 

Okay, so there are different kinds of fun, and most of us probably aren’t going to get rich from sitting in our underwear, drinking beer, and watching old episodes of The Simpsons. 

I understand that discipline isn’t easy, and hard work usually isn’t. But the things that make us come alive are often what we get really good at. I’m thinking about this in my own life right now. I’m considering one or two changes in my self-employment work, and I have to remember to aim at the things in which I’ll chase excellence. 

We all have to do things that we don’t want to do, but having more fun is a pretty important component of success, and I often forget that. 

He continues: 

“Sometimes life takes you down troubled paths, not to hurt you but to cleanse you and put you on the right path.” 

It’s easy to dismiss positive thinking as wishful, but it took Jordison pretty far(!) It’s easy to get pressed down by all the demands that life can throw our way, and there are a billion reasons to stop pursuing the things we’re passionate about. Still, Jordison’s ability to acknowledge the bad and seek the good reminds me to try and do the same. It’s a movement from hopelessness to hope, and a mindset like that can keep us moving toward reasonable goals. 

Inventive Drum Beats 

I love this section of the video breaking down Jordison’s approach to key grooves in a few of Slipknot’s major hits. 

The first groove is played in the ‘Wait and Bleed’ chorus. I’ve always loved choppy, broken double kick playing, but what strikes me in this clip is an almost jazz-fusion-influenced use of the toms. 

I once read an interview with Joey Jordison, where he talked about his love of big band drumming. That influence shines through in this groove. 

This section of the video starts with a comment on Jordison’s open-minded approach to various influences. That’s got to be another key factor behind his level of influence in the metal world. 

The second groove is in the chorus to ‘Duality.’ 

In the video, Ash Pearson picks up on the fact that Jordison’s drumming matches the guitar work in the song.

Yeah, this is pretty common in some corners of the metal world; but in this case, it’s a perfect example of how a drummer can contribute to a song without stealing the limelight. 

Here’s Jordison thinking like a composer, creating grooves that weave their perfect way through the song, supporting all of the key moments in the track.  

It’s seamless and tight – and the groove is seriously catchy; by the way: I’ve been singing it for years (seriously)

The third song is ‘All Hope is Gone.’ And hey, whaddya know? Lars Ulrich gets a mention! I love this choice of the clip from Drumeo. The cymbal fill in question is seriously tasty. It reminds me of something you might see in a Gospel Chops video; this points to Jordison’s multifaceted creativity all over again. 

Creative Fills 

After breaking down a few of Jordison’s grooves, Ash Pearson turns his attention to some of his key fills. 

His take on ‘Eyeless’ is eye-opening! It’s a hard fill to interpret because it happens so quickly and sits within a busy mix. So it’s super helpful to see it broken down (and by the way, Drumeo’s habit of putting written notation on the screen as someone talks is convenient too)

What strikes me about the ‘Eyeless’ example? It’s that jazz-fusion influence again! This is an intricate fill, but the way the accents stand out like stabs and the way everything supports the arrangement – it sounds like something a big band drummer might play, albeit a little heavier. The example in ‘Tattered and Torn’ is also pretty interesting. 

These kinds of ‘four in the hands, two in the feet’ combinations seem relatively common in metal, but it’s a good reminder of Jordison’s knack for knowing when to play for the song. 

There’s enough in this video to highlight just how creative he was. Yet, he could also be tasteful and unpretentious when it came to playing foundational metal ideas.

Playing With a Big Band 

 “Joey was great at choosing his moments to shine behind the drum kit, and with nine band members in Slipknot, he also knew when to simplify things for the sake of elevating what the other band members were playing.” 

It’s that humility thing again. And having a ‘composer’s ear’ is vital for the bigger picture. It’s straightforward to nod along with this idea, but I find it hard to do when playing. 

When I sit behind the kit on stage, and people are watching, it’s just so tempting to break out some chops

to try to draw attention to myself. Most of us work hard on perfecting our skills, and it’s nice to have some acknowledgment of that.  

It takes real self-confidence, experience, skill, and humility to allow yourself to fade into the background; and objective judgment to know when to let the drums shine through. 

“Joey found a way to successfully insert himself as the drummer of what equates to a heavy metal orchestra.” 

I love Ash’s reflection here. Seen in this light, it’s an amazing achievement from Joey Jordison, and the fact that it seems so easy while it’s happening only shows how expertly he operates. 

Going back to that analogy of an athlete, a great performer makes things seem effortless. Most of us would struggle to repeatedly make the same spot-on judgments that Jordison makes throughout the entire Slipknot back catalog. As an aside, I love the visuals at this point in the Drumeo vid.  

Watching Shawn Crahan whack a keg with a baseball bat brings Slipknot’s anarchic stage show home. Their combination of power, aggression, surrealism, and comedy is captivating. 

Technical Drum Parts 

“One thing we have to talk about is Joey’s technicality behind the kit. He could play at blazing tempos, with an extreme sense of precision and accuracy.” 

It’s hard to say anything about this section. I want to sit and watch, man. However, ash Pearson’s breakdown of the section in ‘Disasterpiece’ is pretty breathtaking, and it’s a great tribute to Jordison’s power and technicality. 

I like the breakdown of Surfacing, too—particularly the reference to the paradiddle-inspired groove that Jordison plays.  

I love paradiddles, so any opportunity to explore more applications for those is welcome! The sextuplet fills in ‘Tattered and Torn’ are pretty exhilarating, too, aren’t they? This takes me back to the idea of the pro athlete again. 

Imagine playing some of this stuff between one and two hundred nights of the year, for a couple of hours at a time, when you’re beaten up and tired. 

The sheer dynamism and stamina of metal drumming have always been remarkable to me. It’s one of the things that first drew me to learn the drums. I can never get enough of the way that metal drummers chop and change between ultra-fast, technical grooves and fills with real speed and precision. Jordison embodies all of this at times. 

One of the YouTube comments made me laugh – it says: 

“And he did it all with a mask, a long sleeve shirt, and long pants. That’s all I can think about when I watch him drum. It makes me sweat just watching.”  

You could argue that this is pretty common in genres like Black Metal, Death Metal, and Power Metal, and I think that’s true. 

It has to be remembered, though, that Jordison did these things in such a musical way, with such a diversity of influences and ideas, and managed to capture a somewhat mainstream imagination while doing so. 

That’s no small feat! 

Final Thoughts 

I like Ash Pearson’s reflections in this section of the video. He sums up Jordison’s charisma, stage presence, and personality well; his words say a lot about the man behind the drummer.  

It shouldn’t be unfair to suggest that there are other drummers out there that could play what Jordison did. 

Don’t get me wrong, it’s crazy impressive — and I can’t do it, myself! But there are some incredible metal players out there, Ash Pearson being one of them. 

Nevertheless, with Jordison, you have the complete package, which is uncommon. He seems to have embodied so much of what makes metal great: the wildness; the dream-like quality; the sheer, primitive power; and — yes — the fun, too. 

I especially liked Ash Pearson’s memory of Jordison standing beside the stage, smiling at him while Ash played a perfect set.  

That speaks of Jordison’s love of drums, great drumming, and his ability to encourage others. But, unfortunately, that’s not necessarily a common combination. Many people in music never stop being concerned about protecting their reputation, being stand-offish or defensive towards others, so they don’t lose their place in the ‘pecking order.’ 

Musicians can be insecure, and even some top professionals fall into that trap. However, ash Pearson’s personal experience of Joey Jordison makes him sound like a great guy to hang out with. He probably wasn’t perfect (I mean, who is?), but it’s pretty special to hear about top professionals who stay down-to-Earth despite their success. 

That’s even harder than playing the drums as he did… and that’s saying something! Taking a look through the comments section is pretty sobering.  

People gravitated toward Joey Jordison. But, as I’ve finished writing this up, Tocatta and Fugue in D Minor has just come on the radio. The technicality, precision, dark atmosphere, and good fun of that piece seem like a fitting tribute to the legend himself. 

A Little Note on Drumeo 

I love what Drumeo have put together with their ‘Genius of…’ series, and I recommend taking a good look at it. 

If you’re unfamiliar with Drumeo, it’s a fantastic online learning resource.

Try Drumeo Free for 30 Days

As a supplement to lessons with a tutor, they offer hundreds of learning materials to help you grow in your playing; and to help you break out of any rut you might find yourself in. 

We all hit a wall in our playing now and then, and Drumeo offers excellent ways to overcome some of the difficulties we can easily encounter. 

There are many styles covered, and I’ve been super encouraged by some of the interviews and masterclasses they’ve hosted, as well as some of the great drummers they’ve highlighted. Being a drummer can be a lonely experience sometimes. 

There’s usually only one of us in a band (excluding Slipknot, of course, and a few other exceptions), and all the other musicians seem to think they know how to play drums(!) 

Who hasn’t sat in a rehearsal while the singer turns and says something incomprehensible like, “Hey man, can you just play, like – ‘boom, bat, ba-da-da-doosh!’ please??”  

It’s nice to have an online community that offers inspiration, education, and a little solidarity to drummers worldwide. So take a look, and see what you can find! Until the next one: happy drumming!

Chris Witherall

Chris Witherall is a pro drummer, producer and songwriter from London, England. He loves talking about music, and helping people to reach their music goals.

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