INTERVIEW: Scar The Martyr’s Joey Jordison
Joey Jordison has always been a monster of a drummer. His inventiveness and power have played a crucial role in making Slipknot into the unstoppable juggernaut it is. And if he was ‘only’ a drummer, his place in metal history would be assured. But Jordison isn’t tied down to one particular instrument. Murderdolls proved that he had a solid handle on rock-metal riffage. But with new band Scar The Martyr, Jordison is really free to explore his own musicality. He plays drums and bass throughout, and provides the guitar backbone for all but two of the self-titled album’s 14 tracks. As a guitarist Jordison’s style is assured, aggressive, and equal parts rhythmic and textural. As a result, Scar The Martyr [Roadrunner] is an incredibly dynamic listening experience, crammed full of brutal riffs and haunting chords, and some pretty damn chunky guitar tones too. In addition to Jordison, the album features the guitar work of Jed Simon (Strapping Young Lad), Kris Norris (Darkest Hour) and vocalist Henry Derek, as well as Nine Inch Nails’ Chris Vrenna on keys.
Hey Joey! How you doing?
I’m good, man. Literally, I just now, like, one minute ago walked out of the rehearsal room. We just finished our set a second ago, so good timing.
How did this all come about? At which point did you realise ‘Whoa… I have a band!’?
I was accumulating so much material between bands and during off-time from Slipknot. On and on, I just started stacking material and I started getting so much that I was like, ‘Man, I need to get this on. I need to do more than just demo riffs.’ So I booked time up at the same studio where we did All Hope Is Gone. I think my first session was seven songs, then I came home and Slipknot went on tour. I came back, booked more time, went up and demoed another eight or nine. And when I got in there, I wasn’t just demoing: I had demos at home. What I was doing was I started making an album to myself, y’know? I was writing this record but I didn’t have a home for it. I didn’t have players, I didn’t have a record label. All I had was a blueprint idea and I just started recording. So when I got home I was just like ‘I want to go and make a record. I want to make a band. It’s too good to just sit here.’ That’s when I started looking for members to complete the band.
So how did you get these guys? Jed Simon is a monster and it’s great to have him in the mix.
If you rewind, like, five minutes ago I had his guitar right in my face! Well, first of all when I was like ‘I want to make a record,’ first thing I did was look for a vocalist. And I tried out a bunch of people from a bunch of demos. I sent them a song and had them put a vocal on it, and I went through, I dunno, about ten guys. And a lot of them were good but it wasn’t what I was totally looking for. And a mutual friend of mine and Henry’s, James Murphy, got me in touch with Henry. I called him on the phone and went through the whole thing about the project, the style, and I sent him “Dark Ages,” “Blood Host,” “My Retribution,” “Never Forgive Never Forget,” “Soul Disintegration” and “Last Night On Earth,” and I was figuring he’d get back to me whenever, and I was in the studio literally the next day and he sent me rough ideas. First of all, I loved his work ethic and his fire. But then I listened to it and I’m like ‘Fucking perfect.’ Exactly what I was looking for. It was like finding a needle in a haystack with this guy. So I sent him the rest of my demos and we just started working day in, day out, just via email, and then we set time. I talked to the label, sent them the demos and they said ‘Absolutely, let’s make a record.’ So we set a date and got in there.
And it’s so hard to find a voice that can do melodic singing and heavy singing, and do melodic singing that sounds heavy. Sometimes it can pretty up the music too much.
People describe it in all kinds of different ways but you’re the first one to nail it, in the fact that he’s got more of a manlier voice. He doesn’t get too wimpy even when he’s singing clean. That was important.
So at what point did Jed and Kris come in?
So I started the record and I had to pick a producer. I went through a bunch of producers and I picked Rhys Fulber. Reason being is that I wanted to work with someone fresh, I always liked the records he produced, and I wanted to bring in someone with a little bit more of a – I hate the word, but for the lack of a better term, a little bit of industrial influence and a little bit of post-punk, and a little bit of new wave influence. So I knew he would understand what I was going for. So I talked with Rhys and I settled on him and said ‘I want that guy.’ He liked the material, lucky, so we got him in the studio. Now, Jed Simon. I talked to Rhys and was like “We need lead players. I was recording guitars, drums and bass, and Henry was recording some guitars, and I wanted to get a lot of the music down so Henry could have the full vibe when he sings. So I started thinking about lead players and me and Rhys were talking, and I said ‘Well, what about Jed?’ and he’s like ‘Well let me call him.’ It was literally like this: ‘Hey Rhys, what about Jed?’ ‘Oh man, that would be perfect. I can give him a call.’ ‘Yeah, call him up, man, see if he’d be interested to play some songs.’ So he leaves the room, calls him up and ten minutes later he’s ready to come in. And same thing with Kris. I wanted a twin guitar team. Of course I wanted two people with different styles, but also who would understand what I was doing. And James Murphy, who I’d worked with in the past on Roadrunner United, recommended Kris Norris. And I’d never listened to Darkest Hour or Threat Signal. I checked ‘em out and I was like ‘Oh man, that guy’s a monster as well.’ He brought a whole other lead element, and the fact that I got along with these guys was an added bonus, and they just came in like they were a member of the band already. It was really interesting. And when I had to get keyboards, I was already like ‘If I can get a keyboard player, I want to get Chris Vrenna. And I’ve known Chris for a while. Me and Jed have toured together but we’ve never hung out, and Chris has been a friend for a while. He was totally into it. And that’s how I got the band together: I created the bulk of the material but it was going to sound too one-dimensional if I recorded it all myself. I wanted a band on the album. So I got Chris to add a lot of colour and darkness to it overall, and he really brought that. That’s when I knew the record was complete, when Chris got all his stuff on it. It was like ‘Alright, now we’ve got an album.’
Now, being a guitar nerd myself, I have to ask about guitar stuff. What did you use?
I used my Gibson Black Beauty ’79 Les Paul Custom. I used my ’82 Silverburst Custom…
There’s something about those Silverbursts. They bring out the metal from whoever plays them.
Let me tell you about my baby Silverburst. It’s almost my most treasured possession. More than my house, cars, any of that crap. I mean, this guitar… I was working at my old gas station – and I’ve never said this in an interview – I was working at a gas station and I’d always check the classified ads looking for musical instruments. I saw one and it said ‘Gibson guitar. $300 or offer.’ So I thought it was like this piece of shit but I said ‘For three hundred bucks I should check it out.’ So I went over to this lady’s house and she’s an older lady, and she went down into the musty basement n’shit, pulled this guitar out and I was expecting crap. Opened it up and it was a 1982 Les Paul Custom Silverburst. She was asking three hundred dollars for it, so I gave her $250, because she didn’t know what she had. Other than that I have a prototype NAMM Show piece that’s a BC Rich Bich. I got it from Mick, my guitar player in Slipknot. A Gibson V… the Gibson Les Paul Customs that I use don’t have EMGs, but my V has an EMG 81in it with a mirror pickguard, and I have an Explorer also EMG-loaded with a mirror pickguard that I put on. Kris used his custom Schecters, and Jed used Bernie Rico guitars – like the custom Rico ones, not the BC Rich ones. And now he’s endorsed by BC Rich. It’s pretty funny.
What amps did you use?
I used a modded Marshall JCM2000. I used a JCM800 that was modded as well. They were my main two rhythm tones.
Something about those Marshalls. People get all wrapped up in other amps for metal but there’s some magic there when you plug into a Marshall.
Yeah. People get the boutique amps and stuff like that – Diezel, Bogner are absolutely amazing. But I’ve been playing Marshall for so long, I know there are sweet spots. Marshalls sometimes are tricky because you might be like ‘Oh man, I want more of a crunching guitar tone’ and shit like this. But I always have mine modded. I have ‘em hot-rodded. I have more distortion to push, I have more low end to push. And that mod with the original Marshall tone is unbeatable.
What’s your approach to guitar? When did you start playing?
Before drums. Guitar was my first instrument, but when I picked up drums I was more of a natural, weirdly enough, and I could just play it. I’m still learning both instruments. Never stop learning. But I’ve always had a knack for writing tunes and progressions. They’re both different but I love ‘em both the same. The advantage I have with recording is I’ll lay down the drum track and get it to where I want it, and me begin the guitar player as well as the drummer, it’s easy because it’s the same right hand that’s on the right cymbal of the high hat, and that’s my right hand on the guitar, so I’m solid. I’m right with me. I’m gonna double that up, put like four guitar tracks on it, it’s gonna sound massive. So I have an advantage there. With bass playing, same thing. I get a bass tone that kinda like chomps through, and I pull my pick almost close to the bridge using the bridge pickup. And therefore I can really lay in and get as much tone out of the bass as possible.
Was there a point with this band as a live entity where you were like ‘Do I play rhythm guitar? Do I play bass? Do I play drums?”
Y’know what? That’s a good question, man, because it’s always intriguing to play guitar when I do another band. And I’m sitting there thinking ‘I’m a great guitar player, I know that, that’s good enough. The fans are gonna wanna see me on drums. The fans are gonna wanna see me on drums, period. If I could take myself out of me being me and I was a fan, I’d wanna see me on drums too. So I just stayed on drums, man. That’s what the fans want. And Kris and Jed are way better guitar players than me anyway. Jed and Kris are fucking monster guitar players, man.
Any plans to come down to Australia?
Yeah, man. We’re looking towards the beginning of the year. You know what I’m talking about. Around February or March or whenever it lands. Haha. Around then.
Scar The Martyr’s self-titled debut album is out now via Roadrunner.