Jay Weinberg has become one of the top drummers in metal, but if it wasn’t for a lesson learned very early on in his musical development, he might not be in the position he’s in today. The Slipknot drummer shares one of his childhood experiences as a cautionary tale, speaking to the importance of hearing protection as part of a public service announcement for the Hearing Health Foundation (HHF).
According to Jay, back when he was a teenager he first learned to play while wearing some sound-canceling headphones, but when it came time for his first jam, he was having trouble hearing his bandmates so he came up with an idea that actually put his hearing at risk.
“So back when I was 14, I got into a jam room with two buddies from school who started to teach themselves how to play guitar. And we’re in a room and we’re jamming, but I can’t quite hear them because their amps are turned away from me. And I’m playing everything I can, playing hard and it’s already — the drums and cymbals — everything is super loud, but I can’t hear their guitars,” the drummer recalls. “So I have a bright idea and tell ’em, ‘Well, I can’t really hear your guitars. Why don’t you turn it all the way up to 10 and turn both of your guitar amps towards me and then I can hear your guitars?'”
“That was not the most astute decision. And I learned that really quickly,” says Weinberg. “We had a great day jamming, but then the next morning I had no high-end frequencies in my hearing. I thought I honestly lost my hearing altogether, and I was really frightened ’cause I didn’t know how to deal with that. And especially when you’re recovering from major hearing loss or a hearing loss event like that, the one thing you wanna do to kind of pass the time is listen to music, and you can’t even do that ’cause it’s too painful.”
“So I learned really quickly, at a young age, that hearing protection is an absolute must if you want any sort of longevity and sustainability in playing music,” he adds. “So ever since that day, I’ve never sat down at a kit and played the way I play without hearing protection — not even once. It’s not an option.”
The drummer drives home his point, “If you want to have a sustainable life in the creative field of playing loud rock music, especially if you’re a drummer with… These are dangerous tools that we have and we have to use them carefully and not shortchange ourselves for the experience of playing music and still play super hard and still play super loud, but it has to be done intelligently. And that’s where hearing loss prevention comes into play and where the Hearing Health Foundation comes into play. I’d like you to head to HearingHealthFoundation.org and check out the ‘Keep Listening’ campaign, because it is very important, and it’s very important to start at a young age to start taking care of your hearing health.”
Weinberg concludes, “For me personally, I don’t go to a single show without wearing earplugs; I don’t go onstage without wearing earplugs or in-ear monitors where I can hear myself and my bandmates. It’s incredibly important, and if I had not worn earplugs and in-ear monitors from a young age, I might have done a tremendous amount of damage to my hearing. So I strongly encourage you, wear earplugs, do it the right way, do it intelligently. You can still rock out, you can still play the way you want to, and you’ll be able to play for the rest of your life. So take care of your ears, keep listening and head to HearingHealthFoundation.org.”
Weinberg has been Slipknot’s drummer since 2014, having previously played stints with Against Me!, Madball and with Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band.