If Wednesday 13 has anyone to thank for getting him the job as the singer in Murderdolls, it’s Joey Jordison’s mom. It was the spring of 2002, and the two men were sitting at the kitchen table in Mrs Jordison’s house in Des Moines, where Joey was still living despite his success in Slipknot.
The 26-year-old Wednesday had signed up to Murderdolls as their bassist. He was playing bars to a couple of hundred people back home in North Carolina with his own band, cross-dressing crypt-creepers Frankenstein Drag Queens From Planet 13. What did he have to lose by joining the drummer from Slipknot’s glam-punk side-project?
Murderdolls were initially fronted by a friend of Joey’s from Iowa named Dizzy Draztik, but Wednesday’s guide vocals on the songs they’d recorded so far – which included a bunch of Frankenstein Drag Queens ones – had impressed his more famous bandmate. And, apparently, his more famous bandmate’s mother, too.
“We were at his mom’s table and Joey goes, ‘I think I want Wednesday to be the singer of the band,’” says Wednesday now. “His mom took a puff on her cigarette and went, ‘I think he should be. He sounds better.’ And Joey was just like, ‘OK.’ I’m thinking. ‘Whoa, way to go, Mrs Jordison!’”
And so Wednesday found himself replacing the unfortunate Dizzy. Their debut album, Beyond The Valley Of The Murderdolls, was released a few months later, in August 2002. It was a glorious, gory explosion of blood-splattered punk rock, head-spinning hair metal and more B-movie horror references than you could shake a severed arm at. More importantly, it showed that behind the bloodied mask he wore in Slipknot, Joey Jordison was a man of multitudes, musically speaking.
“He sat behind the drums for years, but he was such a talented dude,” says Wednesday. “He could play guitar, write amazing songs, he had an ear for a great chorus. I miss him.”
Before he joined Murderdolls, Wednesday 13 wouldn’t have been able to pick Joey Jordison out of a police line-up, masked or not. He knew who Slipknot were, of course – he’d seen them on the covers of the magazines he delivered as his day job, and had sold plenty of t-shirts with their photo on it in his other day job working at Hot Topic. But he’d never listened to them.
“They just weren’t the sort of thing I listened to at home,” he says. The first time he caught a whiff of something happening was when he got a call from a guy who said his name was Dizzy Draztik. “I’m in a band called The Rejects with Tripp [Eisen, then Static-X guitarist] and Joey Jordison from Slipknot,” Dizzy said. “We’d like you to play bass with us.”
Wednesday’s first reaction was: “Play bass? I sing and play guitar in my band.” But he thought about it for a second. “I realised this would be a lot cooler than delivering those fucking magazines.”
And so it was that he found himself speaking to Joey Jordison himself. Wednesday remembers Joey’s mum making dinner in the background while they spoke. “I said, ‘So you’re in Slipknot? Now, which one are you?’ And he goes, ‘I’m the cool-looking one.’ We just both started laughing and that was it.”
They started talking about the music and movies they liked: Alice Cooper, Kiss, glam metal, The Exorcist, 1979 Steve Martin comedy The Jerk. Joey said he was a big fan of the Frankenstein Drag Queens From Planet 13. “He genuinely loved the band,” says Wednesday. “Then he goes, ‘I’ve got three months off from Slipknot before we go back out. I’m gonna fly you over to Iowa, we’re gonna jam, we wanna use some of these songs.’”
Not long after, Wednesday found himself on a plane en route to Des Moines to meet Joey face to face. The connection they’d had on that initial phone call wasn’t a one-off. As they spent time in each other’s company, they realised there was so much common ground beyond shared taste in music. Both came from working class families, both were driven by a desire not to have to get a ‘proper’ job, and both could quote freely from 1980 spoof disaster movie Airplane!.
It helped that Wednesday wasn’t remotely intimidated by Joey’s fame. Joey told him that one guy they’d tried out had turned up to the first rehearsal with a Sharpie and a Slipknot album for him to sign. “Joey actually asked me, ‘Do you like Slipknot?’” says Wednesday. “I said, ‘Not really’ and he just laughed. He loved it that I didn’t care who he was. He wasn’t like, ‘I am Joey Jordison, you better do what I say.’ He never had that type of attitude.”
When Wednesday arrived in Des Moines, Joey and Dizzy were still calling themselves The Rejects (Tripp Eisen had bailed to focus on Static-X). It was under that name that they began working on a bunch of songs with Wednesday in a Des Moines studio.
“They already had some songs recorded, but they wanted to use some of my Frankenstein Drag Queens songs,” says Wednesday, who stayed in Joey’s sister’s old bedroom whenever he made the trip. “I thought, ‘Fuck it, I’m only playing them in these little bars in front of no one.’”
Among the FDQ songs that Joey picked were Twist My Sister, Graverobbing USA, 197666 and The Exorcist-inspired glam banger Love At First Fright. They threw in a couple of old Rejects numbers as well, while Joey brought in a track that he’d originally written for Slipknot titled People Hate Me. Joey played drums and guitar, Wednesday played bass and a little guitar, and laid down guide vocals for Dizzy to follow.
“That was kind of weird, hearing someone else sing those songs I’d been singing for years, but I was like, [shrugs] ‘OK, let’s do it,’” he says. “Then Joey went off to do his Slipknot thing and I went back to North Carolina.”
Wednesday was back in Iowa a couple of months later to finish off the job. He’d used up all his vacation time on the first trip, so he faked a death in the family, telling his bosses that his grandad had died and he needed more time off to head west for the funeral (this was true: his grandad had died, it was just several years before and not in Iowa). Except Joey was about to spring a surprise on his bandmate. Wednesday had assumed that the conversation that had taken place in Joey’s mom’s kitchen about him singing for the band had been idle chit-chat. It turned out that it wasn’t.
“Four days before I was due to leave, Joey pulled me to one side and goes, ‘I want you to be the singer,’” says Wednesday. Joey told him they were going to re-record Dizzy Draztik’s vocals. “I went, ‘What about the stuff that Dizzy wrote?’ He just said, ‘Rewrite it.’ So I rewrote Dizzy’s lyrics in two days, and ended up recording the vocals in a day and a half. Then I flew back home and he went out on tour with Slipknot.”
There was just one thing left to do. “At this point, it’s not The Rejects and it’s not Frankenstein Drag Queens, so we decided to call it something else,” says Wednesday. “And Murderdolls just suited us.”
The first the world heard of Murderdolls was via the three-track Right To Remain Violent EP, released in the summer of 2002. Beyond The Valley Of The Murderdolls followed on August 20, 2002, beating the debut album from Corey Taylor’s Stone Sour by a week. For Wednesday 13, the days of playing bars while dressed like a decomposing cheerleader in Frankenstein Drag Queens were over – and he loved it.
“I thought there was potential for what we were doing to be huge and there was potential for it to be a complete failure,” he says. “But from where I was standing, I didn’t give a shit either way.”
Heading out on the road meant recruiting a band. Joey and Wednesday enlisted guitarist Acey Slade, bassist Eric Griffin and drummer Ben Graves. The Slipknot fans who turned up to see them on their first few US dates didn’t know what to make of them.
“They had no idea who I was, or anybody else in the band,” says Wednesday. “It was all ‘Joey, Joey, Joey!’ Some of them did not like us, and they let us know.” It was a different matter in the UK. “It fucking blew up,” says Wednesday. “I felt like I was in The Beatles. I suddenly had a bunch of fans that liked me: ‘Who’s this other guy? He’s cool.’”
It was in the UK that Murderdolls scored their biggest hit with a cover of Billy Idol’s 80s classic White Wedding, recorded as a bonus track for a special edition of the album. They even tried to get Billy Idol himself for the video, in which Murderdolls cause havoc on an American Idol-style reality TV show.
“His management went, [narkily] ‘Real funny, Billy Idol… American Idol. No,’” says Wednesday. “I heard we offended him. They weren’t gonna let us put the song out.”
Except the single did come out and went Top 30 in the UK. Suddenly, this bunch of freaks found themselves on Top Of The Pops alongside Evanescence, Marilyn Manson, Yeah Yeah Yeahs and “somebody from The Spice Girls”. There was just one little problem.
“My voice was shot,” says Wednesday. “I was like, ‘Can I just lip sync? Everybody else did it – Bowie, Alice Cooper, T-Rex. Come on!’ And Joey went, [sternly] ‘No, you’re not lip-syncing, your voice will be fine."
Joey and Wednesday put Murderdolls on ice in 2004. The former returned to Slipknot for the Vol.3: (The Subliminal Verses) album, while the latter launched his solo career the following year with his debut album, Transylvania 90210: Songs Of Death, Dying, And The Dead.
But the clamour among fans for more Murderdolls music never went away, and they reunited in 2010 for Women And Children Last, before reinterring it once more. The two men drifted apart during the 2010s. They didn’t speak for a time while Joey dealt with both health issues and personal demons, but they reconnected towards the end of the decade. There was talk about resurrecting Murderdolls for a third time. “And then,” says Wednesday, “like everybody else, I got the news.”
The news was that, on July 26, 2021, Joey Jordison had died in his sleep. The obituaries and tributes naturally focused on everything he’d achieved during his time in Slipknot, though the smarter ones also acknowledged the genius of Murderdolls. Wednesday still thinks about the music they made together – and the music they never got to make. “That’s one of the things that sucks,” says Wednesday. “Knowing that we couldn’t do any more together. We’d been talking about it, I felt like it was gonna happen again.”
There are a couple of Murderdolls songs that have never come out. One was a new version of the Frankenstein Drag Queens’ ickily titled Hit And Rape. “It was the name of a Japanese movie I saw about cops in Tokyo blowing the heads off rapists,” protests Wednesday. “The label wouldn’t put it out, which was probably smart.”
The other was no less tasteless. Wednesday and Joey wanted to write their own version of the Sex Pistols’ sneering, anti-monarchist rant God Save The Queen. “Joey was, like, ‘Let’s do a song about Princess Diana!’” says Wednesday. “So we wrote a song called Princess Died. It was literally the story of what happened to her. The chorus was just: ‘Princess died! Princess died!’ The UK office [of their label Roadrunner] said they wouldn’t work the record if we did it.”
Wednesday is set to mark the 21st anniversary of Beyond The Valley Of The Murderdolls on a solo tour this autumn. It’ll be a joyous occasion, albeit a bittersweet one given his onetime partner in crime is no longer around to celebrate it with him.
“Joey didn’t have to do Murderdolls,” says Wednesday. “The guy was in Slipknot. But he got to get out from behind that drumkit, he got to play guitar, he got to take off his mask. He got to be a different person.”