Joey Jordison obituary

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<span>Photograph: Jeff Hahne/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: Jeff Hahne/Getty Images

Notorious for their ghoulish horror-movie masks and their super-aggressive form of heavy metal, the band Slipknot emerged from Des Moines, Iowa, in 1995. The drummer Joey Jordison, who has died aged 46, had joined the group when it was still known as the Pale Ones, after being invited to attend rehearsals by the bass player Paul Gray. It was Jordison’s suggestion to rename the band Slipknot, after their song of that name.

Jordison remained with Slipknot as they established themselves as one of the pre-eminent exponents of what was dubbed nu-metal, through four platinum-selling studio albums and the in-concert recording 9.0: Live (2005). However, their fanbase was stunned to learn from the band’s website in December 2013 that Jordison had left for personal reasons.

He subsequently insisted he had not quit and had been shocked by the announcement, but later revealed he had been suffering from the neurological disease transverse myelitis. “I couldn’t play any more,” he told the audience at the Metal Hammer Golden Gods awards in 2016. “It was a form of multiple sclerosis, which I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy.”

Related: Slipknot’s Joey Jordison corralled chaos with his explosive talent

During his tenure with Slipknot, Jordison earned a towering reputation as one of the pre-eminent drummers in the demanding metal universe. His thunderous but precise playing was enhanced by a vivid sense of theatre. On stage, he would be strapped into his drum chair as he played while spinning round and tilting at a 90-degree angle. In the band’s video album Disasterpieces (2002), Jordison could be seen ascending heavenwards on his drum riser. Ginger Wildheart of the Wildhearts said that Jordison “was better upside down than any other metal drummer sitting normally”.

With Jordison one of their regular songwriters, the band’s first recording was Mate. Feed. Kill. Repeat., a limited edition demo album of which 1,000 copies were pressed, distributed by the band themselves. Things got serious when they signed to the heavy metal label Roadrunner Records (part of Warner Music Group), and the band made a roaring start with Slipknot (1999).

This gained a powerful boost from the band’s inclusion in the touring Ozzfest musical extravaganza and earned exposure from the videos for the singles Spit It Out and Wait and Bleed. The group also projected a carefully cultivated image. Each member was allocated a number – Jordison was No 1 – and wore an individual uniform and mask, Jordison favouring a version of a Japanese kabuki mask.

Their second album, Iowa (2001), reached No 3 on the Billboard mainstream album chart and topped the UK album chart, while giving the group a Top 30 hit in the UK and US with Left Behind. But despite the album’s powerful material, problems were developing behind the scenes. “We were all on drugs and drink and it sucked,” Jordison told Revolver magazine. “It’s a time I don’t like to talk about much because I don’t like to condone any drug use whatsoever.”

In 2004, Vol.3: The Subliminal Verses debuted at No 2 in the US and No 5 in Britain. All Hope Is Gone did not appear until 2008, but it leapt straight to the top slot on the US chart and reached No 2 in the UK. It also gave Slipknot a No 2 US single with Snuff, a doomy, broody piece that proved the band could be melodic and atmospheric as well as just skull-crushingly loud.

Jordison was born in Des Moines, to Jackie and Steve Jordison, and was joined by two sisters, Anne and Kate. He grew up in the small town of Waukee, and fared badly in his school work. He started a band at school, first playing the guitar and then switching to drums; his parents had bought him his own drum kit when he was eight. Inspired by Kiss, Black Sabbath and Mötley Crüe, he formed the speed-metal band Modifidious, who played local gigs and released several demo recordings.

After leaving school, Jordison worked in a music store and then, as he told Rolling Stone magazine, “I was a night manager at a Sinclair gas station from 95 to 97. That’s where most of Slipknot [the album] was conceived.” He worked with the future Slipknot percussionist and vocalist Shawn Crahan during the early hours of the morning to plan out the group’s musical direction.

Jordison explored numerous projects outside Slipknot. In 2002 he formed the Murderdolls, with whom he played the guitar. They recorded two studio albums and performed internationally on the Women & Children Last world tour. He also did studio work with Marilyn Manson and Puscifer, played drums on OTEP’s album House of Secrets (2004), and recorded songs with Rob Zombie in 2010. He played drums with Metallica at the 2004 Download festival, standing in for Lars Ulrich, who was unwell, and toured with Ministry (2006) and Korn (2007).

Slipknot at a signing in London in 2004.
Slipknot at a signing in London in 2004, with Jordison in the centre. Photograph: Geoffrey Swaine/Rex

Before his departure from Slipknot, earlier in 2013 Jordison had formed the alt-metal band Scar the Martyr, but in 2016 ended it and founded a new outfit called Vimic. Also in 2016 he became a member of the death-metal combo Sinsaenum. At the Metal Hammer event in 2016, Jordison explained how he had overcome transverse myelitis: “I got myself back up, and I got myself in the gym and I got myself back in fucking therapy to fucking beat this shit.”

In 2010 Jordison was voted the best drummer of the past 25 years by the readers of Rhythm magazine. In 2013 Loudwire readers voted him the world’s greatest metal drummer, and in 2010 he took the Drummies award for best metal drummer, voted for by an international poll of drummers.

• Joey (Nathan Jonas) Jordison, musician and songwriter, born 26 April 1975; died 26 July 2021

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