Best known for his work with the heavy metal band Slipknot—in which he was suggestively known as #1—Joey Jordison was one of the most gifted and technically proficient metal drummers of the 21st century.
Slipknot fans have been familiar with Jordison’s talent for a long time, but there are enough reasons to believe that his genius surpassed the heavy metal genre, as convincingly stated in this video, hosted by one of his former “3 Inches of Blood” bandmates:
So, how can we play the drums like Joey Jordison did? In a nutshell, we can’t! But, as drummers and non-drummers, we can learn from everything he achieved during his three-decade career as a professional musician and try to be at least a fraction as good as he was.
Jordison passed away in 2021 at the tragically young age of 46 after years of battling a rare neurological condition. However, his priceless contributions to the world of music (and drumming in particular) will continue inspiring thousands of drummers, metalheads, and overall musicians all over the world.
Below, you can find seven tips, approaches, and frames of mind that should sum up part of everything Jordison represented.
1. Learning the basics first
On the path to becoming a great drummer, it’s important not to go ahead of yourself and forget that every house needs to be built on top of a strong foundation. If you don’t master the basics of drumming first, you will never have what it takes to reach the next level. This 10-minute Drumeo video by Domino Santantonio is just an example of how to get started.
This sounds like a basic drumming tip, but it’s something Jordison directly recommended to every drummer and aspiring drummer who wanted to be as good as him. In an interview, #1 bluntly stated “Songs are not drum solos. Always learn your basics first.” It’s a piece of advice coming straight out of Jordison’s mouth, so we better not ignore it.
2. Adjusting to the band
Music is a collaborative effort, and Jordison knew this better than anyone. After all, he spent the majority of his career performing and composing with Spliknot, a nine-member heavy metal collective.
While some drummers approach music quite selfishly, Jordison knew the importance of leaving the ego at the door before every practice, show, and recording session with his band. That’s probably why some people disregard his playing as basic: they cannot recognize the value of simplicity (especially in a band context) the same way #1 did.
“My Plague” is but one of the many songs in which Jordison took on a simpler approach to his drum playing as a way of showcasing the other elements of his band. It was a less-is-more kind of mindset that worked wonders in the Slipknot environment. A less talented drummer would probably want to exhibit his abilities to the fullest in every song; Jordison, however, was smart enough to recognize the importance of letting others shine—something that ended up benefiting Slipknot’s music immensely.
During some of Slipknot’s live performances of “Duality,” Jordison was even kind enough to leave some room in the song for one of his percussionists to play the kegs. It was never about being a nice guy, though: it was about understanding what a song needs and acting accordingly.
3. Have an interesting setup
It’s never about the drums; it’s always about the drummer. Nevertheless, it’s impossible to disregard the importance of the drum kit to a drummer’s signature sound. Like all top drummers, Jordison relied on a stable stage and recording setup. If your goal is to sound like #1, it may be a good idea to take some notes.
While Jordison’s kit changed throughout the years and depending on which music project he was playing with, his core setup was made of dual bass drums (often with a double-bass pedal instead), four rack toms, two floor toms, and two snares (which were crucial to his playing).
In many cases, Jordison relied on a few extra sounds, including electronic pads and octobans. Most of his equipment was made by Pearl, but he also used Paiste cymbals and Remo drumheads extensively. He trusted Roland for his electronics and played with Promark drumsticks.
4. Going big by making small changes to standard beats
A big fan of the basics, Jordison was a master at making small changes to standard beats and suddenly sounding like no other drummer around. His work with Slipknot shows that a drummer doesn’t need to go crazy to create insane grooves and develop a signature sound. A huge part of Jordison’s inventiveness came from his uncanny ability to do a lot with tiny changes to well-known metal and rock patterns.
5. Being inspired by many different influences
Getting fixed up just in one musical genre is not a common trait of talented musicians. Like many of the other great drummers of the 21st century (including the influential danny carey), Jordison was inspired by drummers outside of his genre.
While he listed the metal greats Lars Ulrich (Metallica) and Dave Lombardo (Slayer) among his heroes, he was also a keen fan of The Who’s Keith Moon and he even got influenced by jazz drummers such as buddy rich and Gene Krupa.
In other words, #1 wasn’t “all about the metal,” and that showed in his playing. His double-bass technique, for example, was a rarity in the context of Nu Metal. While most Nu Metal acts of the ’90s were fine with pretty standard rock-metal beats, Jordison was a master at blasting the double-bass pedal in supersonic, 32nd notes.
Jordison’s expansiveness also shows in how he managed to work with so many different projects throughout his career. Aside from Slipknot, he was a band member of the death metal supergroup Sinsaenum and the rock band Murderdolls (among others). He also recorded with the horror rock great Rob Zombie and even remixed a song for Marilyn Manson.
6. Never being content
In his own words and the words of others, Jordison was described as the kind of man who was never content with what he had achieved. He had a legendary work ethic, never stopped practicing, and considered himself to be a lifelong student. Like many other music geniuses, #1 was known to be humble—even after reaching the very top of the music industry. His unswerving determination, however, didn’t just show in his professional life…
In 2010, while touring with Murderdolls, Jordison started feeling the effects of a rare disease known as acute transverse myelitis (which was only diagnosed years later). This eventually caused him to lose control over the use of his legs. To 99% of drummers out there, this would be a career-killer. Not Jordison. Instead of giving up, he worked hard through rehabilitation and managed to go back to playing the drums before passing away.
7. Playing with unmatched technicality
Last but not least, Jordison was a technical beast. Even though he enjoyed playing simply, he never shied away from showcasing the full range of his abilities on more than one or two occasions. If you still have any doubts about his technical prowess, just listen to how he moves in and out of super-fast blast beats in Slipknot’s “Disasterpiece:”
A masterful composer as well, #1 could play pretty much any drum fill he desired (despite the difficulty). The intro to “Eyeless” is but one of the many instances in which he rocks drum fills like the best in history. His timing was notable too.
Jordison was also extremely disciplined in the way he controlled his limbs, as shown by the 4-and-2 upper- and lower-limb interaction in the song “Tattered & Torn.”
Do you still need some more Joey Jordison to get your daily dose? Go and check out five more things every drummer can learn from #1.
In the meantime, don’t forget to learn from the lessons the great late Jordison has taught us:
- Master the basics first
- Know the value of simplicity in drumming
- Respect fellow band members
- Get a cool setup
- Listen to many genres of music
- Be determined
- Be as technically efficient as you can be
Even though he’s sadly left us too soon, Jordison still left behind one of the most inspiring discographies in heavy metal and rock music. Such a legacy should be cherished by all.