Posted on: 05 Jul 2016
In truth, only Joey’s closest friends and business associates know what he’s been up to for the last couple of years, but as he warmly greets Hammer at the door of the house he shares with girlfriend Amanda in Des Moines, it’s immediately apparent that today’s interview is much more than just an opportunity to herald the arrival of not one, but two new bands and Joey’s wholesale return to action. Instead, this is what he describes as “an opportunity to tell everyone what the fuck has been going on”. And it’s almost certainly not what anyone is expecting.
When he arrived home from the Slipknot tour, Joey could barely walk. On August 21, 2012, he was admitted to Mercy West hospital in Des Moines, diagnosed with some form of leg paralysis but unaware of exactly how or why this was happening to him. Ten days later, he was transferred to the neurological unit at University Of Iowa Hospital in Iowa City, understandably terrified and extremely confused about his physical deterioration.
“It was fucking bad, dude,” he recalls. “My lady has everything documented. I got struck with this fucking thing that I couldn’t control. The doctors said I might not be able to walk again. Today, I can almost run, but back then I couldn’t even stand up. I was bed-ridden. If I wanted to turn over in bed, I had to move my legs with my hands. I was in and out of the hospital for months. Some beautiful people have helped me out and got me back stronger and taught me how to walk again, but at that moment my whole life was screwed, man. Acute transverse myelitis is a fucked-up disease and a lot of people don’t recover from it and they’re paralysed forever.”
All the while, of course, his global army of admirers remained entirely in the dark about the turmoil and trials going on behind the scenes. It was widely noted that Joey was looking overweight and far from healthy during Scar The Martyr’s debut UK tour, but the conclusions that most people were jumping to – in essence, that he had a problem with drugs and/or drink – were completely off target. Unfortunately, when Slipknot announced on December 12, 2013, that they were to forge ahead without their talismanic drummer, those rumours seemed to gain a little extra momentum.
Several times during our interview, Joey’s eyes fill with tears. It’s abundantly clear that the extraordinary effort required to confront acute transverse myelitis and doggedly chase a light at the end of a seriously dark and bleak tunnel has taken a lot out of him, particularly on an emotional level. But now that he is about to click into top gear once again, via new bands Vimic and Sinsaenum, Joey is channeling his energies towards a cathartic clearing of the decks, and setting people straight about his life over the last five years is top of the agenda.
“Life takes you on weird trips and you just have to hold on, ride the wave and be as strong as you fucking can,” he shrugs. “I’ve been through so much fucking shit over the last few years and people just don’t know.”