Before he found international fame as the gravel-throated frontman of Murderdolls, Wednesday 13 was just Joseph Poole, an aspiring musician still living at home with his parents in the late 90s. Granted, at night he’d dress up and front cult horror-punk crew Frankenstein Drag Queens From Planet 13, but, a couple of albums in, fame hadn’t come knocking and he was still writing most of his songs from his childhood bedroom.
“My guitar was just sat in the corner, and that’s where most of my songs for Frankenstein Drag Queens were written,” he recalls. “We were a punk band, but I always loved a little element of metal. White Zombie, Pantera, Megadeth, Anthrax… so I was always trying to come up with something a little heavier. I remember worrying that one song sounded too much like [Megadeth’s] Symphony Of Destruction. It was mean- sounding, and I’m looking around my room and see my Frankenstein poster. I instinctively went, ‘Hey Frankenstein, what’s on your mind?’ and then there was a Dracula poster, and I went round the whole room the same way.”
The song Wednesday wrote was christened Hooray For Horrorwood and would be included on the Drag Queens’ 1999 album, Songs From The Recently Deceased. It was a clear standout track on the album. “I thought, ‘Well, we’ve got something here,’” Wednesday says. “We went into the studio, recorded it and had it mixed. I remember our bass player, Seaweed, putting it on in the car and we both got goosebumps: ‘We made a fucking cool song!’”
Frankenstein Drag Queens were something of an underground, cult concern, but in time word began to get out about the band, ultimately reaching the ears of Slipknot drummer Joey Jordison. After a brutal promotional campaign for Slipknot’s second album, Iowa, there was tension in the band, with members heading off to pursue their own projects. For Wednesday, that meant he was about to get a call that would change his life.
“Joey heard the song and liked it, but he said, ‘I don’t really like the chorus!’” Wednesday recalls. “He said, ‘I have this songtitle called Dead In Hollywood and I think we can do this…’ That was when I realised that Joey and I could make something really cool, and that we could work together. He made all our songs better, and that was the first song that we collaborated on.”
The chemistry between Wednesday and the late, great Joey was strong. The almost telepathic intuition of how they wanted their music to sound meant that the recording process for Murderdolls’ debut album, Beyond The Valley Of The Murderdolls, was a breeze.
“If anyone ever saw us together, they would know we had an instant connection,” smiles Wednesday. “I used to say to Joey, ‘When I have drums in my head when I write a song, you instantly play them exactly how they sound in my head. You’re the only person I’ve met who can do that.’
“I never had that with anyone before. That’s why it’s such a sad thing to lose him, because I’ll never have that relationship with someone like that again. We had more work ahead of us, for sure.”
Although Wednesday had written the majority of the songs prior to the recording of Beyond…, many taken from his previous project, he credits Joey with playing an integral role in improving the songs far beyond their original versions.
“He made it sound like a big band, not a garage band – we were primed to be arena rock,” recalls Wednesday. “He loved drumming, but Joey was a great guitar player. He loved Keith Richards, Mick Mars, Angus Young… and he got to get up there and show that. I remember my friend coming to pick me up from the airport after I had finished all my parts. I got in the car and said, ‘Put the CD in!’ and he goes, ‘Holy shit!’ He had only heard my old stuff, and here was the slick, produced version of what we were now.”
Around this time, Wednesday 13 started to realise things were about to change. When Hammer asks if he felt like he was about to become a rock star, we get a definitive, one-word answer: “Yes!” He elaborates: “We went out on tour to Japan, and while we were out there, the day the album came out, we opened for Guns N’ Roses.
“This was a fast thing; we went from playing in front of 100 people to playing in front of 30,000 people! We went out and played the first song, everybody was jumping, and that’s when I realised I could do this for the rest of my life. I was just thinking, ‘I wrote these songs in my parents’ house!’, but once I got my foot in the door, I wasn’t getting it out!”
Despite fan acclaim, the expectations from their label were still fairly low for Murderdolls.
“Roadrunner were OK with letting Joey and Corey [Taylor] do their side- project thing,” Wednesday remembers. “Like, ‘Go do your thing, if it does something, great, but it’s never gonna compare to Slipknot.’ But both bands [Murderdolls and Stone Sour] ended up being massively successful. I’m not sure they saw that coming!”
Thankfully, the label’s hands-off approach also afforded the group some freedom – which was lucky, as Joey was in no mind to compromise his ideas for the band.
“I remember when we were going to put out the White Wedding single, we had a meeting with this label guy who was pitching the treatment to us,” Wednesday says. “He’s going, ‘OK, so you guys are at this house party and all your fans are there going crazy. It’s kinda like… Good Charlotte!’ The second he heard the words ‘Good Charlotte’, Joey just said, ‘Fuck. You.’ and hung up the call. I thought that was amazing! They might have wanted to tone us down and have us not be so outrageous, but it never would have happened.”
Released on August 20, 2002, Beyond The Valley Of The Murderdolls had an immediate impact on global audiences. It reached both the UK Top 40 album chart and the US Billboard 200. More significantly, in a metal scene that was still clinging to the now-rotting corpse of nu metal, Murderdolls felt like the most exciting band to come along since, well, Slipknot.
“It was a weird time. Nu metal was on the way out it seemed,” Wednesday muses. “We were that band that came in and made people go, ‘Who are these guys?’, because we were this mixture of Mötley Crüe and Sex Pistols with a little bit extra put in.”
Dead In Hollywood was the first single released from the record, and just missed out on a Top 50 placement in the UK singles chart when it peaked at No.54. But, as is appropriate for a song inspired by the art of classic horror movies, it was the music video that really helped Murderdolls capture the imagination of metalheads worldwide. An explosion of punk rock, make-up and horror imagery raging through the song’s sleazy riffing in a filthy operating room, the video further set the band apart from anything else going on at the time.
“Where we filmed that video is where they filmed [2002 movie] Resident Evil,” Wednesday recalls. “It was an abandoned hospital that went three levels underground. People said it was haunted because there was an actual morgue down there. It was my first professional video shoot and it was weird, I was like a kid in a candy store! I’d been waiting my whole life to do a video. I felt like I was in Kiss for a few minutes!”
Of course, Joey tragically passed away last year, so Murderdolls are no more. Twenty years on from those early days, Wednesday is aware that the song, the album and the band that he took such pride in still impact his fans to this day.
“With the time off we’ve had with the pandemic, I’ve been able to interact with my fans a lot,” he says. “I get to hear about how that was a moment in time for them that remains special. They talk about that album in the same way that I talk about [David Bowie’s] Ziggy Stardust, which is an honour for me.”
For Wednesday, the memories and feelings attached to that time are still some of the fondest of his career.
“It was special,” he smiles. “It was a crazy time. I had just turned 26 and it was the first time a member of Slipknot had unmasked, so we had all these eyes on us. It’s a perfect, great, cult record and the longer it goes, the more people wanna know about it. Who knows what the legacy of it will be in another 20 years?! But both of the records we did together are two of the prize records that I have done. It’s sad that it can never be replicated, because there is no Murderdolls without Joey, but I’m proud of our legacy.”
Wednesday 13’s Horrifier album is out now