“The first time I heard Slipknot was when I was in Monte Conner’s office (Roadrunner A&R who signed Slipknot and Soulfly),” Roy Mayorga recalls. This was winter 1997 and Roy had just finished recording with Soulfly. While living in New York he would often frequent the office of famed A&R guru Conner, but what he heard on that particular day has stuck in his head ever since.
“Monte pulled out this Slipknot demo and said I had to hear it. It was on cassette and it was all the songs that you heard on that first record. I swear to god when I heard it I was like, ‘What the f***!’ It was one of the coolest things I had ever heard.”
While blown away by the whole band, it was the firecracker behind the kit who really grabbed Roy’s ear.
“I heard Joey and wondered who the hell this kid was. His playing was like punk rock meets metal. The way he played, he had this attitude and push and pull on the tempos.
"I had never heard anyone like that. Usually with metal it is consistent and punchy but Joey was pushing and pulling the tempos, going incredibly fast and then downshifting to a slower groove.
"It was insane and mind blowing. I heard the song Sic and said to Monte, ‘Are you going to sign these guys?’ He said absolutely he was. I couldn’t wait to hear the songs properly recorded. A year later it came out and I haven’t stopped listening to it ever since, I still listen to it today.”
What was it about Joey’s playing that was so inspirational?
“He had the whole package. First of all, if you’re a ten year old kid and you see Slipknot you will be drawn to them but then when you listen it’ll be,’ Oh my god!’ It was like my reaction to KISS in the 70s.
"It was a bunch of monsters playing metal, which kid wouldn’t like that? But they were also amazing players. Jim, Mick, Paul…they were all amazing players. No other band had that magic.
"Joey played so differently to everyone else who was playing at the time. I hear so many drummers where you can hear Joey’s influence. There are so many drummers who try to sound like Joey. He changed a lot of a lot of people.”
He loved jazz as much as he adored metal, can you hear that eclecticism in his playing?
“I hear a little bit of that in his drumming, but I hear more punk than jazz. Maybe on some of the slower songs there is more jazz. Every drummer has a range of influences.
" Joey was just a unique drummer, there was no one like him and that shows in his playing. He was a drummer, a guitarist, a songwriter, an arranger – that made him stand out from the rest.”
Did you cross paths during your Soulfly days?
“Oh, for sure. I think the first time we met each other was through Casey Choas from Amen. It was a Los Angeles show when I had just moved here, maybe in 1999 or 2000. They were playing somewhere in Hollywood .I was there with Casey and he introduced me to Joey, Paul and Corey. We hung out a lot from there.”
What was your reaction seeing Slipknot live that first time?
“I was absolutely blown away. I had never seen anything like it. Nine dudes in unison going crazy. It was so over the top and I was so blown away. There was nothing like it. It was so well done. Live, they were so tight and over the top.
There was nothing like it, it was relentless. Joey drove that truck. No one is ever going to sound like Joey. He was one of a kind. Joey was one of the best drummers out there. He changed and inspired so many drummers. It was a game-changer when he came onto the scene.”
Joey often spoke of being his own worst critic…
“He was a perfectionist. He was an artist. He had no ego whatsoever. He was very grass roots. He was always cool and super down to earth.”
He was a king of the drum solo too
“I mean, going up in the air and upside-down, I had never really seen that before other than Tommy Lee. Peter Criss would rise up the air and Buddy Rich did it as well on the Johnny Carson show but Joey took it to a whole new level. He took it vertical and spun, that was just amazing. That was his thing.”
Do you have a favourite Joey track?
“The Heretic Anthem is one that really sticks out to me. The first two records were, as Ross Robinson would say, molten metal. Joey was insane on both of those records. They are untouchable, especially the first album.
"The sound of that first album is so awkward and uncomfortable but it’s so punchy and in your face. That record to me is my favourite Slipknot record because it was so raw and relentless.”
Was there much crossover with Joey when you worked on Roadrunner United?
“We worked separately. He was a team captain and had his crew of people that he was working with in Iowa and I was worked with Dino Cazares in LA. We were simultaneously working together. We didn’t really work together until we did the Roadrunner United live show in 2015, that was great, I had a great time doing that.
"We did some orchestration and there would be two drum kits in the room and we would trade off. Even for me, when playing a Slipknot song I would figure it out the best I could and then he would come and show me how he did a certain roll and things like that.
"I would try my best to copy it and make it doable! His stuff was really hard to play, man. There’s a lot of people who can play it but only he can do it how he does it.
"It’s like there’s so many people who want to sound like John Bonham and they can get on Bonham’s drum kit but they won’t sound the same because it is all in the hands and from the heart. No one is ever going to sound like Joey, he’s one of a kind; he was one of the best.”