From the surface, JoJo War Drummer might seem a bit gimmicky, or maybe even (dare I say it) obnoxious if you’re a fan of the “other” team. But if those thoughts have crossed your mind, you’ve likely never tried to get to know the man beneath his war paint.
Experience a Major League Lacrosse game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High in Denver, Colorado, and you’re impression of him will never be the same. With passion and enthusiasm for the game of lacrosse pouring from his heart, he’s become a walking billboard for the fastest game on two feet in the Rocky Mountains.
I met JoJo War Drummer in person for the first time at the 2014 World Lacrosse Championships last month. Upon our very first handshake and communication, I felt a connection as if I’d known him for a lifetime. What resulted from our conversation was the unique opportunity to shadow him on gameday when the Denver Outlaws’ hosted the Florida Launch.
For a person who has never suited up in lacrosse pads at the professional level, I must say, JoJo War Drummer is a whole new kind of lacrosse celebrity. How often do you see an “unofficial mascot” (AKA Official Lacrosse Drummer™) signing hundreds of autographs for young fans at a sporting event?
Not only is he the king at Outlaws’ games, drawing high fives and handshakes from just about every hardcore fan in attendance, JoJo also makes his presence known throughout the greater Colorado lacrosse community. He’s become a staple at Denver Pioneers men’s lacrosse games, and he’s also a well-regarded lacrosse official at the youth and high school levels. During our time shadowing him, I witnessed a handful of young players either tell JoJo, or confirm behind his back, that he was one of the best referees they had all season long.
It’s obvious that the Denver, Colorado, lacrosse community not only stands behind JoJo War Drummer, but picks up the beat his drums and other instruments let off. It’s no wonder the Denver Outlaws have made it all the way to the championship game accompanied by such a strong fan base. JoJo’s passion, dedication and unrelenting smile has helped set the tempo for unprecedented growth of the game in Colorado.
But who is that guy behind the war paint? Honestly, he’s not a whole lot different than the warrior with it on. What follows is a candid interview with the man himself – the true story of JoJo War Drummer. We hope you enjoy!
Get to know JoJo WAR DRUMMER
Name: JoJo War Drummer
Hometown: Denver, Colorado
Hobbies & Interests: Lacrosse, MMA (began in 1994), and I dig playing many sports. I also enjoy making music and writing songs.
LAS: What can you tell us about the personality of JoJo the drummer?
JoJo: I am enthusiastic, outgoing, entertaining, fun, energetic, excited, etc…all to the power of 10! The enthusiasm is helping to bring out fellow fans’ excitement for lacrosse, the Denver Outlaws and DU lacrosse! I say this yet with all that I’m still quite easy going!
Still, I would like a contest versus the Energizer Bunny…but for real though!
Where did the idea for “JoJo War Drummer” spawn from?
LJ (Lajon) of the popular metal band Sevendust named me JoJo over a decade ago, somewhere around the year 2000. The JoJo part stuck and the life as War Drummer pretty much began just after that.
Do you provide all of your own instruments and noise makers?
Yes, I provide everything for theDenver Outlaws & DU Pioneers games. For the Denver Outlaws’ 4th of July Game I bring out my “reinforcement war drums” to help cut down on time (Sports Authority Field at Mile High is big, haha)! I mostly sound off my conch horn after an Outlaws or DU player snipes in a goal. My rattles come in here and there too.
You’re a celebrity from the moment you walk on to the lacrosse field, but do you get recognized often in public?
Yes, the lacrosse world knows me and it’s excitingly ever growing. It’s pretty crazy sometimes, I am often approached outside of the “lacrosse world”, whether I’m at the market, food shopping, restaurants, movies, or at a park. For example, kids and adults will say, “are you JoJo, JoJo the War Drummer,” or many times I hear people passing by saying” I think that’s JoJo.”
What has been really crazy cool is that at the FIL/World Lacrosse Championship so many fans from different states came up to me and introducing themselves, as well players and fans of all ages from all over the world!
Totally crazy cool! I made new friends from all over the globe!
What sort of support have you gained from the Outlaws’ organization?
Well, first of all a big thank you to Mr. Pat Bowlen from the Outlaws! Mac Freeman has supported me and my ideas from our initial meeting back in 2007. Mac and Chuck Olney are totally awesome! I am thankful that they continue to stand behind my sideline support! In addition, the entire coaching and support staff, including Public Relations’ Liz Mannis, are always ever so welcoming and encouraging to me.
How has iSplack made your preparations easier? Does it help more on the sweaty days?
I’m proud to be the iSplack Ambassador, and here are some reasons why. iSplack has made my preparations AND aftermath much quicker and literally at peace of mind!
Time wise: Because of the shape of the iSplack sticks’ angles, it is applied so smooth and precise. When I’m drumming and working up a crazy sweat iSplack stays on as it was put on; crisp colors and all! That’s right no streaming sweats smears allowed!
When it’s time to wipe off, it’s as simple and easy as a wet wipe and/or a soap and water wash! No scrubbing is needed, which means more skin on JoJo’s face!
The iSplack owners/founders are fantastic which is actually another big reason why iSplack has made my preparations easier. My peace of mind also comes from no longer putting so much gross junk on my skin that even after scrubbing off, my skin still was icky and itchy!
The ongoing innovative ideas and developments that result from becoming a Team iSplack member are going to rock the sports world! United In Color, some colors still being added, has your team and fans ready to roll!
As I like to say “It’s Not Face Paint, It’s War Paint!”
Where did your experiences with the game of lacrosse start and how has it grown?
First experience was at the 1984 Summer Olympics when my brother and I witnessed some dudes playing this awesome action sport in a parking lot! They told us the Creator’s Game story, and instantly my brother and I had more than just the sports fan connection to lacrosse but a actual Native American blood connection for this one of a kind way of life!
Living in L.A., we could not find lacrosse, so we continued to play Pop Warner football. When I moved to Denver, lacrosse was reintroduced to me and I then realized this game must reach out to people everywhere and sooner than later.
I remembered as a kid my parents would take us to Pow Wows and we learned that drumming is the opening and closing of ceremonies. I thought to myself, how can I help promote to Grow The Game? I have grown to become the Official Lacrosse Drummer™ with the Seed/War Drum opening games for youth, high school, college and professional lacrosse!
In order to #GrowTheGame we need a grassroots Seed/War Drum!
You ask how has it grown? Well, it’s still growing through many avenues. My drumming (and rattles) are featured in the movie Crooked Arrows. My drumming and flute playing will be featured in another upcoming movie and Carlo Sunseri and I plan on working on my drumming for the soundtrack to crossestudios.com lacrosse video game!
My friend Dan “Sub Zero” Paur founded the internet based Lacrosse Broadcast Network to reach, teach and have fun with with guests from the Lacrosse, and MMA, world. We host our own radio shows that have listeners all across the globe. We also have Official Lax Girl, Laxx Confessions and Chewy as our radio hosts and we have sponsors on board but more are welcome! I thank ESPN, CBS Sports Network Broadcasters, Major League Lacrosse, as well all the coaches, players and officials for the respect, honor and shout outs! And to you Lacrosse All Stars!
When and why did you begin officiating lacrosse?
I began officiating lacrosse many seasons ago. What I had hoped for is that reffing would bring me closer to the knowledge of the ins and outs of how to understand this great game more than just playing. Officiating has surpassed so much more on the respect and honor level of the talent, fun and experiences of lacrosse!
I have coached different levels of kids and reffing has brought, and continues to bring, so much more of an eye for the game and lacrosse mentalitly whether just watching the game on TV, live, or even when I’m war drumming for the Denver Outlaws and Denver University lacrosse games.
What’s one thing about the real JoJo that most people do not know?
I have four children of my own and a wife that totally supports our family.
Fifteen years ago myself and a friend were jumped by over 20 guys. This fight for life went on for nearly 30 minutes as I was stabbed all over my head, neck and body 14 times while my friend got stabbed 9 times.
As the doctor said, I died a few times at the hospital as my head, neck and body would not stop bleeding! After continuing to fight back even with some horrifying wounds and faces starting to look like mush, my buddy and I were amazingly still standing until THEY got tired out and left the scene!
I will tell you that my daughter Kiana, age 8, not being allowed to have any communication with me, due to parental restrictions, is a thousand times worse than what I went through that night.
When did you begin playing music?
My brother and I had a cover band back in Los Angeles when we were in elementary school (4th & 5th grade) rocking out for our friends by playing songs from KISS, Ozzy, Judas Priest…and then just throwing down some heavy duty jam outs! Our friend base, or fans (haha), would bring us food and a lot of high fives!
In my Jr. High days, my brother became good friends with a younger brother of a guy in a band called SLAYER! We would then go hang out and watch these high school dudes, still SLAYER, even before their first album came out. We formed a band called ARCHENEMY (The original back in L.A. ’83). I did not have time to practice so I became their manager along with punk band L.K.K. (Latch Key Kids).
In high High School I began hanging out with Lars, the drummer, from Metallica at local L.A. gigs. My interest in making music sparked up again. A couple of years after high school I moved to Denver; my brother and I brought together some dudes and formed two bands here in the Rocky Mountains with my idea to have a whole set up of Native war drums…we rocked many people in Colorado!
Now my time is too tough for it. But it’s exciting to have my “real name” in the Wiki Metal! As a pioneer on the frontier of the Thrash Metal genre.
Would you say rock/heavy metal your biggest focus…. or lacrosse?
Rock/Metal is not my biggest focus. God, my family, friends, lacrosse and MMA are, but do check out my heavy duty pump up energy lacrosse song on my JoJo War Drummer YouTube channel! It even got Jake Steinfeld on a major pump up mode!
So, what’s next for JoJo War Drummer?
Parents and kids have been asking me for several years now “why don’t I have a lacrosse tournament?” Well I am now in the works with some big names to throw down a War Drummer Lacrosse Tournament(s)!
I have also been in a few movies when I lived in L.A. and now I’m back, currently in a big role in movie called Soul of Silas. We are still in the acting/filming process. It’s been a blast! The Director/writer has asked me to be a main actor in his next movie project so I’m looking forward to that contract (laughs)!
My next moves are always geared toward helping lacrosse grow.
How can more fans get involved to make Major League Lacrosse that much more enjoyable?
The MLL is an action packed game and will eventually be labeled as a mainstream sport here and around the world. I believe even the little things are big in the world of lacrosse.
For example, fans can wear MLL apparel when their out n’ about the town. Everyday people will begin to start noticing the lacrosse names on jersey’s, T-shirts, hats with team names, hoodies, etc… and such the (MLL) familiarity will grow!
Embrace the opposing teams fans with fun competition and respect. I have seen plenty of fans in support of opposing teams at our professional and college venues and I say that is great! It shows the game is growing!
So instead of meanly bashing,or even ignoring, those fans, I give them a thumbs up for it’s a matter of Grow The Game or not. It’s about meekness not weakness. Besides, they know the War Drum is gonna get ’em!
MLL keeps getting more fans through TV and social media sites like mine and the LaxAllStars network, which is grrrreeat!!! But fans must come to witness the MLL in person. Being at a game live, you will see hear and be part of the action like not other sport! When the TV cameras are fixed on to where the game is “active” there is still so much going on off screen!
Staying fixed on the action maybe fact for the king of USA sports, aka football, in the case of lacrosse the movement must be ready at ALL times because of the absolute quick turn of the ball is back in your face.
So, I give a “War Drummer Challenge” to each and every MLL and lacrosse fan! Step up and bring at least one person that has not yet experienced a live game and/or I challenged you to reintroduce two fans back to a MLL seat!
We can start this through social media by hitting our friends with shout outs or even calling them out to go to the games!
I must also say, MLL fans, you MUST know that the Major League Lacrosse officials are the best referees in the sports world. The amount of action they have to see, anticipate, acknowledge, know and reflect upon is incredible. It’s a ton of fun yelling at the sidelines during the game, but know the MLL officials are on the top notch when it comes to professional referees.
It’s a part of the tradition to respect and honor the game and the return is great enjoyment!
A big thank you to JoJo War Drummer, iSplack, and the entire Denver Outlaws organization for supporting production of this piece. Be sure to follow the famous JoJo WAR DRUMMER on Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Facebook to keep up and join in his passion for the game!