Jordan Burns, the drummer for Strung Out, is one of the most influential modern-rock drummers ever. His timekeeping skills have been recognized by magazines such as Modern Drummer, and most recently DRUM! magazine, which tapped him as best punk drummer. The bionically gifted Burns has carved out an enviable career. It took some wrangling and persistence on our part, but we finally were able to catch a minute with him to ask a few questions in advance of the band's show at the Ogden Theatre this Sunday, September 26.
How long have you been holding down the drum chair for the band now?
Well, I've been in the band for just about nineteen years so...yeah, nineteen years it is!
What makes Strung Out different, musically speaking, from the other SoCal bands you came up through the ranks with?
I guess it's the fact that we have five writers/contributors in the band to create the music we make. Toss in our producer, and that makes six creative minds working on the tunes. I do think that has something to do with it. We've kinda managed to find our own little niche over all the years we've been playing together, and in our opinion -- and I think the fans and media opinion as well -- we put out another really good-quality Strung Out album with Agents Of The Underground.
You've been credited by numerous hardcore, metal and punk drummers through the years as influential in the way you play the drums. With the newest album, was there any pressure to set the bar higher when it came to how you played your drum parts?
Well, with the new album I guess there sort of was, in a sense, because I broke my thumb a few days before we were set to hit the studio. Long story short, we had to hire a fill-in to track drums in order to keep things on schedule. So this drummer, Jarrod Alexander, did the drum tracks, and the rest of the guys finished all their parts while I healed up.
I went in last and re-tracked all my drum parts, and yeah, I had this feeling inside me that I just needed to shred it up like no tomorrow, so no other drummer would be showing me up, ya know? It was just a weird process, but in the end, I liked how it worked out, and I'm really happy with my playing and all my parts on our latest album. It's always about trying to create new things each album, and I feel like I did so.
Many bands in their younger phase make mistakes such as falling into drug and alcohol abuse or letting their egos get in the way. Were there any mistakes you or your band made in your early days that you had to overcome to get to where you are today? I don't know. I mean, I'm sure there's something, but it's hard to think of. All bands have some sort of egos with each other. We've managed to get through all the bullshit that happens within our camp and continue to do what we really love. Sure, there's been some different "abuses," but that's life, right? We're still kickin', and that's all that really matters.
Who inspired you to play drums when you were younger, and how old were you when you decided to try and make playing music your career?
Well, if I have to pick one drummer, it would, of course, be Neil Peart of Rush, who was my number-one early influence growing up. There's tons of others, of course. My good friend Dean Butterworth is inspiring to me, as well as this kid Terry Stirling Jr. [Rufio's drummer], who's been on tour with us. But, yeah, that list can go on and on, of course.
As for making music my career, I don't think I ever consciously decided it would be. When I was younger, I was just a punk rocker playing music 'cause that's what I loved to do. The fact that it turned into making me a small living is just the icing on the cake, you know? But I can't say it was something I was constantly thinking about.
Strung Out has played shows all over the country. Is there anywhere left your band hasn't played yet where you'd like to go?
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For sure there is. I hope we can play in Russia, South Africa, Mexico and anywhere else our music can take us. We've been lucky enough to travel to lots of really great places multiple times. There's still lots of ground to cover. If there are fans of our music there, why not go, you know?
Name something most people would be surprised to hear about you.
I don't know. I have no surprises, really. Um, how bout this: I've basically managed our band from the day I've been in it. That might be surprising to some. We've never had a manager. All DIY, baby!