Convinced Slipknot was Satan’s 18-legged auditory psychosis — chundered proclamations of pain, isolation and hate, its perilous speed flailed by premium musicianship — September 1999, Roadrunner Records insisted an American eyewitness experience to be mandatory.
Spiritually aligned to the Iowan’s “People = Shit” mantra, and vocalist Corey Taylor’s “Fuck it all!/Fuck this world!” rant on debut highlight “Surfacing”, as Metal Hammer’s editor, I agreed to a November cover story.
I considered it a sales risk. Slipknot’s eponymous debut was just three months old. Yet their Dada death metal chic compelled me. Simultaneously, their punk ethos delighted me. I needed to poke, squeeze and excise their latex masks, and reveal what lay beneath. Thus, I not only pushed Metal Hammer’s boat from its moorings, but also splintered the fucker with the decision to interview each member separately, written into a 16-page pullout.
After 13 hours aboard Virgin Atlantic, photographer Mick Hutson and I disembarked at Memphis International Airport. Dizzied by jetlag, at the hotel, we stuffed crumbed chicken and Coke down our necks, and capsized aloft beds.
Early afternoon, a cab ferried us to the 1,000-seat, 1941 built New Daisy Theater, for the Coal Chamber, Slipknot, Amen and Machine Head bill. Sheltered at the candy coloured entrance from the feverish heat, I alerted Mick to the approach of boiler suits and gas-masked attendees. Something brewed, I thought… the surreptitious hatching of “maggots”.
Inside, Mick and I trod the theatre’s incline. Outside, I encountered Robb Flynn, who insisted I join him on board for a Brown Eye, Machine’s Head’s totemic drink.
Post vodka, Coke and ice, in the adjacent car lot, I spied a slight figure with black hair with magenta streaks. Ahead of Slipknot’s tour bus, he paced the gravel: hockey top, long black shorts, calf-length white socks and Adidas sneakers. Our eyes locked: he on my Neurosis vest, me on the sole conventional drummer and founding member of Slipknot. I walked over and told him who I was and why I was there. He complimented my attire. Our similar heights and extreme tastes, an immediate bond.
Joey escorted me to their coach, where I commenced the first of nine interviews. Disconcertion attempted by each musician – Sid, turntables #0 by fondling a soft jelly sausage, suggestive of masturbation; guitarist Mick Thomson #7 whose demeanor, leather executioner mask, and fantasy for murder to be legal for a day, succeeded.
Joey was last. As I sat on the bench seat opposite, I posed his favorite sexual fantasy involving a Salvador Dali, a bicycle and an orange. His reply? That whoever made up that question should be in the band. I blushed. With that enquiry, he knew I “got it”: the surrealist objectives, masks as projections of internal horror, barcoded uniforms, the pivotal attraction: Slipknot’s music.
That night, cramped on the compact wooden stage, and re-costumed in grey, infraction erupted. Boiler suits slammed against boiler suits, riffs liquefied interior humidity, coiled dreadlocks thrashed, while a shopping centre bought Clown mask-induced churn, with its aqua eye shadow and rubbery white teeth. Wooden seats trashed, army surplus gas masks fogged. Joey’s mission statement “to create complete fucking biomechanical ultraviolent music, and not fucking compromising anything”, achieved.
Some weeks later at my desk, I received a request from Slipknot’s UK press officer. Our November 1999 edition — the Iowans’ debut British and worldwide magazine cover — keg percussionist Chris Fehn #3, wanted 16 copies sent to his mum, which I posted.
I next saw Joey in December, at London’s Astoria for Slipknot’s first UK gig. Watched from side of stage, the larger venue put me proximate to his craft. Sid’s quadriplegia-baiting dives from both the PA towers and first-storey balcony aside, Joey’s command and dexterity mesmerized me. The savagery and pace with which he tapped, smashed and lashed his fan of skins and cymbals, forced my reconsideration of Dave Lombardo, Dave McClain and Vinnie Paul as metal’s princely drummers.
I returned to Melbourne to live at the end of 2001. In Australia, Joey and I reconnected during Soundwave 2011. UK monthly Terrorizer had commissioned a cover story. On a five-date Australian tour, he was doing two gigs per day: guitar with Murderdolls, the ghoul-punks fronted by Wednesday 13 (seen in the Melbourne Showgrounds milk shed); three hours later, drums for Rob Zombie.
Following Zombie’s sound check Festival Hall, Joey and I spent 60 minutes in an oblong shaped dressing room — his beloved KISS shoulder bag on the carpet; metal make-up box with eyeliner, foundation and silver and red wigs positioned beneath a mirror.
Ten months on from Slipknot bassist and best friend Paul Gray’s death, the shared black leather couch mirrored his spirit. Grief, drinking to comatose, human distrust, life in a dark house without clocks, cocaine, and his pre-purchased gravesite steered our conversation. Tears dripped onto my Sony cassette recorder as he relayed his grandma’s wisdom: “If he had one good friend, to consider himself lucky.” When he boasted he cooked great steak with his “secret sauce”, I wished to accompany him home, to ensure that he ate it.
Professorial as he spoke of black metal — his prized Mayhem picture disc, how Faust, drummer for Norway’s Emperor, sat at the drum stool and “became the atmosphere” — I told him of my interlude with Varg Vikernes in a Norwegian jail. His black jeans inched closer. I feared for my fellow Taurean and 5’4” friend. I wanted him happy and alive.
Almost a year later, and in promotion of merciless fourth LP All Hope Is Gone, Slipknot headlined the five-date Soundwave Festival. Such was Joey’s mood, he insisted we do two interviews for Terrorizer: one at 6.30pm before their Rod Laver Arena sideshow, another at 11.40pm.
Positive about the intervening months, he’d “worked non-stop, pouring all my energy into writing music, and nothing but good results have come from it. I am happy being the studio and am working on music because that’s my life-blood”. He claimed, perhaps, to be the only musician with a guitar in his toilet, as he awoke with a riff, in need of its expression. He’d stop partying, he said: “The pulse was back.” Equipped with an exacting bullshit meter, nearing one am, he added: “I don’t like journalists, but this is a very important interview to me, because I like you. I could tell that we’d get along. I just knew it.” I knew it, too.
On a Ghost high, and in search of a dunny at Soundwave 2013, I ran into Corey Taylor; there with his band Stone Sour. I enquired after Joey whom he said had a fucked-up disease and had lost the use of his legs [he was diagnosed with traverse myelitis]. Ashen, over the next week, I tried to contact Joey but couldn’t. Seems he’d moved from the address he’d given me years earlier.
Come December Joey had been sacked, no precise explanation provided. His exit disturbed me. How could you sack the person who pre-Slipknot realization drew the logo while he worked at a gas station? Who schemed with Clown at said gas station, to initiate and customize masks to negate their identities? My mind whirled.
Upon announcement of Joey’s “blackened death metal super group” Sinsaenum at Max Watts in November 2018, I got my arse to the underground venue. I needed to know how he was. The local promoter organized a backstage pass. Ushered up tight stairs and into the minute green room, when he saw me, we hugged.
Live Photos by Mick Goddard (MickG Photography)
The Ned Kelly beard apparent from its unintentional formation in 2012, we stood amid his couch-slumped European counterparts and drank beer. I said how glad I was he was well. That I’d worried about his condition. When the topic of his dismissal arose, he wouldn’t elaborate. That was Joey: unbendingly loyal. He spoke of him working with Dave Mustaine. I mentioned Download 2004, and his cauterizing stand-in for Lars. Said the best part was rehearsing with Metallica in their space. He was a fan. I was a fan. Stage time approached. I said I wouldn’t see him after the show. We hugged, and I traipsed downstairs.
On July 26, in unison with metal fans (he preferred to call fans “friends”), I was distraught at Joey’s death. As a failed musician, I was in absolute awe of his talent. Self-taught, from at age five on a toy kit, he was the Galileo of drums — he blast-beated us to black holes, and back. Yet ego bypassed Joey, as despite Slipknot’s platinum certifications and Grammy award, he remained humble, kind, generous and witty. In 2012 when I asked about his wealth, he said: “I have no fucking clue. I don’t calculate it. Money is like bullshit to me; I hate it.”
There was no bullshit about Joey. Which is why he was loved.
Written by the one and only Robyn Doreian
Robyn is the former editor of Hot Metal, Kerrang! and Metal Hammer magazines.
She is currently writing her rock memoir.