Few musicians have been chucked into the deep end of the music industry as regularly as Jay Weinberg. Son of Max Weinberg (drummer for Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band), Jay followed in his dad’s footsteps by picking up the sticks, and even filled the same drum stool as a teenager when his dad had a schedule clash.
Stints in other established bands like Madball and Against Me! followed, but his biggest challenge came when he replaced the late, great Joey Jordison as Slipknot’s drummer in 2014. This is what he’s learned from his journey so far.
IT’S FUNNY HOW THINGS WORK OUT
“[The famous photo of a young Jay meeting Slipknot] was the second time I’d been around the band; the first was in 2001 on the Ozzfest tour when I didn’t know anything about them! I’ve since learned that there are so many serendipitous moments in Slipknot, things from the past that connect many years later.
It was Halloween, I’d been trick-or-treating dressed as a member [Corey Taylor] of my favourite band, and they’re playing around the corner from my house. Of course I’m going to wear my costume to the show! Thankfully, somebody had the presence of mind to film it. I remember being on tour and getting the 10-year anniversary edition of Iowa with the DVD, putting it on and going, ‘Oh my god! That’s me!’ It was 11-yearold me and 12 years later I’m in the band. Who could have predicted that?”
ONCE A FAN, ALWAYS A FAN
“If that kid back then knew what was going to happen, it’d blow his mind. I didn’t even start playing drums for about four years after that, when I discovered punk rock and hardcore. If you showed 10-year-old Jay him in Slipknot, he’d go, ‘Wait… I start playing drums?!’ Ha ha! I like to think I’d be proud of what we’ve achieved in the last 10 years. I always want to believe that 10-year-old me would put on these albums that we’ve done and go, ‘Hey, this is pretty good.’”
FIND YOUR OWN PASSION
“I took to ice hockey before I took to music. I was a goalie and an avid ice hockey fan. I love the ferocity of the sport, the impact. I loved getting hit by a puck, that intensity was wild. I often equate that to being the drummer in a punk rock or a heavy metal band, that need to just hit shit. I didn’t know music was gonna be my path until I set myself on it. I never had any pressure from my family, which was a great gift; they wanted me to find it out for myself.”
DON’T LET LEARNING BECOME A CHORE
“I didn’t take any drumming lessons, because I didn’t want it to be like school. My lessons were my Ramones, Metallica and Slayer records! So, I never felt any pressure, I just got to 14 and found myself at a crossroads between music and hockey. I’m glad I picked music – it’s meant that me and my dad have connected through it on a level we never could have anticipated.”
START OUT SMALL AND BUILD YOUR WAY UP
“The first punk song I heard was American Jesus by Bad Religion, and my first musical goal was to play that riff on the guitar. After a little bit of working out the fundamentals, I worked out how to play that riff, and that was all I needed to do. It gave me this sense of satisfaction, a sense of accomplishment. Then you think, ‘Oh, I could maybe learn a whole song, maybe write my own song!’ It gives you an entry.”
YOU CAN’T JUST REPLACE SOMEBODY
“I never felt overawed by the pressure to replace Joey [Jordison]. Up until that point I had always come into existing projects, primarily as the drummer for Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band; to me, that’s incredibly intimidating. I was playing to crowds of 80-90 thousand people in stadiums, and I had only been playing drums for three years!
Having accomplished that, I had set myself up to be this guy who could jump in on a moving freight train, be it Madball or Against Me!. So, I put myself in that context, and I knew how to be myself, I knew how to find my own voice in another artist’s catalogue. But Slipknot was the biggest challenge. That took all my experience and turned the dials up to 20.”
NOBODY IS GOING TO CUT YOU A BREAK
“I’m very grateful that I got to play with the E Street Band so early on in my career. It kicked me straight into the deep end of rock’n’roll; very intense, you just gotta fend for yourself, and no one is gonna cut you a break. Bruce isn’t going to cut me a break. My dad isn’t going to cut me a break. The fans certainly aren’t going to cut me a break. That’s exactly what I needed. You can only take that shot in the dark and prove to people that put you in that position that you’re worthy of it.
They really took a shot with me – I was 14 when I first started playing drums, and I was 17 when I started playing with Bruce. It was cool because he wanted to keep it blood, keep it family, but I had to be on it and prove myself from day one, and I took that into Slipknot.”
PLAYING WITH SLIPKNOT AND SPRINGSTEEN ISN’T AS DIFFERENT AS YOU MIGHT IMAGINE
“Sonically, yes, it’s different. Stylistically and generationally too, but the commonality is the passion for the music. For someone like myself, coming into either band, I knew that the only way I was going to survive was by application, repetition, practice and an unflinching commitment to giving it all I’ve got.
When you put it in those terms, it’s exactly how I approach playing with Bruce, it’s exactly how I approach playing with Slipknot. It’s going to take everything I’ve got; it takes a lot of understanding of where the music comes from, you can never be on autopilot, it constantly needs feeding and energy.”
PUNK REALLY IS THE PERFECT STARTING POINT…
“Punk rock felt more obtainable and achievable than some kind of arena rock setting. That’s what translated to me and made me want to start playing drums. Punk and hardcore give us such a gift. As kids we’re really energetic and it gives us something to funnel into straight away. Punk and hardcore give young musicians such a great starting point; here’s a vehicle for all your frustrations and it’s broken down to its base elements.”
…BUT IT ISN’T AS SIMPLE AS YOU MIGHT THINK
“In the 90s you started to get these drummers playing at a high level in what would usually be quite a rudimentary style of music. That’s when you get Travis Barker in Blink-182 bringing this almost avant-garde way of playing drums with these very catchy, very simple punk songs.
Same thing with Brooks Wackerman in Bad Religion, The Empire Strikes First is still one of the most impactful drumming albums for me; he made punk rock seem even more wild, yet controlled because he has this crazy personality. Same for Derek Grant on Good Mourning by Alkaline Trio; super out-of-the-box [drumming] for simple punk songs. It makes for this elevated experience of what punk rock could be and really made me appreciate it as an art form.”
MOTÖRHEAD BRING EVERYONE TOGETHER
“Motörhead brokered peace between punk rock and heavy metal. It broke everything down in such simple ways. Incredible, powerful, fast… those elements transcended genres and brought us all together. Punks over here, metalheads over here. But after Motörhead, it was like, ‘Not anymore, we can all connect to this.’ It made people want to see what they could explore. It certainly did for me.”
BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN IS A POTENTIAL MAGGOT
“I don’t know what Bruce thinks of Slipknot, but if he could see us live, I’d like to think he’d be into it. There was one moment I remember really fondly – I was on tour with Against Me! and we were in Gothenburg in Sweden playing a punk rock festival. Bruce and the E Street Band had a day off and they came to the show. It was the first time they had seen me play drums, but not playing with them. It was really cool to show them that they had primed me and now I was off doing my own thing. I think they really took to that.”
The End, So Far is out now.