Korn materialized from the murky depths of Bakersfield, CA at a time when mainstream rock radio was reeling after the loss of Kurt Cobain from the airwaves. From coast to coast, labels were churning out carbon copies of Nirvana hoping to strike gold once more, but the majority of them resulted in nothing but cheap imitation.
Something had to give. Someone had to shift the paradigm and put the posers out of their misery before it was too late.
The reality was that we didn’t need another Cobain, because never in a million years could there ever be one. What we needed was a movement predicated on something real rather than forced, atypical rather than another notch on the belt of the status quo.
When I first heard “Shoots and Ladders” at nine-years-old, I knew even then that a new scene was forming. A frightening one, to be sure, but one intriguing enough to warrant seeking out “Follow the Leader” when it was released a year later.
Whether it was the distinctly dark illustrations from Greg Capullo and Todd McFarlane, or the organized lyrical chaos of Jonathan Davis, everything about that album resonated with kids struggling to navigate the muddied waters of adolescence.
The Nu-metal opus, “Freak on a Leash,” dropped as a single on my eleventh birthday, which meant that the days of Britney Spears and 98 Degrees dominating MTV’s Total Request Live were numbered. While I was never enamored with what the rest of the scene was doing, the relationship between Korn and its fanbase never ceased to fascinate me.
I caught up with guitarist Brian “Head” Welch and drummer Ray Luzier prior to their set as part of the 2014 Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival recently to discuss why they still love being a part of the circus.
If you’ve never seen them live, you owe it to yourself to venture out at least once to experience what they bring to the table.
MNOD: Are you guys enjoying the tour so far?
Luzier: We’re loving every minute of it.
MNOD: So, you guys have an upcoming CD release?
Luzier: The Paradigm Shift: World Tour Edition. It’s at Best Buy right now, they’re promoting it. You can also get it on iTunes soon, as well. It has our new single, “Hater,” which is being played on the radio and during our live set. There’s a song called “The Game is Over,” which was meant for the Hercules soundtrack, and I really like it a lot. There’s also one that didn’t make the original album called “Die Another Day.”
MNOD: Do you guys get excited to see the film when one of your songs is chosen for a soundtrack?
Luzier: I was a session guy for a while, so I had a lot of movie soundtrack stuff come along. It’s pretty cool when you hear yourself, but I’ve been on a lot of movies such as “Money for Nothing” and “Home Alone 2: Lost in New York.”
MNOD: How does Mayhem compare to other festivals you guys have played?
Welch: They’re all about the same. They’re really fun and they have a great vibe. When you get into the building scene, sometimes it feels like you’re in prison due to being stuck backstage within the walls. It’s better than prison, obviously, but the backstage areas aren’t as glamorous as people think.
Luzier: Everyone’s always trying to get backstage, because they think it’s this amazing place. When they finally get there, they’re usually like “This is it?”
Welch: These tours are better, because everyone wants to hang out and there are more bands to watch.
Luzier: Overseas, they’re definitely different. The states are getting better, but, to me, when you go over to Donington or Rock am Ring, those people camp out in tents to be the first ones running in there when the gates open at 9 a.m.
MNOD: How you guys construct a setlist when playing a festival?
Welch: We definitely need to put together a new one for the next tour.
Luzier: It’s hard, you know, because Korn has been around for so long. I’ve been in the band almost eight years, but they’ve been together almost 20. There’s a lot of material. 120 songs. We try to please the old-school fans, but then other fans get pissed when we don’t play the new stuff. A few years ago, when Brian was out of the band, we did a medley of like eight Korn songs in 10 minutes where we played a verse and chorus of each. It was cool, because everyone who wanted to hear “Twisted Transistor” or all the other songs we never play got to hear them. I hope we do that again someday. We have to play the hits, but we also try to play obscure ones. Our real show is about 90 minutes and here we only get to play an hour.
MNOD: What music are you currently listening to?
Luzier: Honestly, I’m supporting my boys from Emmure over on the side stage. I had never heard of them before this tour, but I’ve become a big fan. I went over to watch them the other day and I actually bought their album on iTunes. That’s right. I bought it, kids. Don’t steal music. I’m so sick of that. Just to support them, I paid for the record. I also listen to Gojira and Seal, that’s how weird I am. I listen to eclectic stuff.
Welch: I like a new band on this tour called Islander. They’re really good and great to watch.
MNOD: What’s your strangest road experience?
Welch: Someone offered me coke the other night, which was weird.
Luzier: I’ve never done a drug in my life, so it’s always funny when someone offers me something. Weird stuff happens every day. My drum set gets mixed up on the truck sometimes, so half of it is uneven when it first goes on stage. Mostly, it’s like Groundhog Day, because you wake up and do the same stuff.
Welch: One of the other band’s crew members punched another guy the other night, as well.
MNOD: What would you be doing if you weren’t drumming for Korn?
Luzier: We’re lifers. I couldn’t see myself doing anything else. I’d probably be an engineer in the studio, because I’m a music geek who loves the mixing process. I always tell people at my drum clinics that the music business is in such a weird state right now that you should have something to fall back on. 10 or 15 years ago, I wouldn’t have said that, but now it’s much different. It’s weird, really. I told myself a long time ago that I’d be doing it whether I was successful or not. Weddings, Bar Mitzvahs, I’ve done it all. Some people get into it thinking they have to become rock stars or nothing, but I’ve had a rocky road. Korn blew up very quickly and stayed on this wave, but I didn’t have that. I played with David Lee Roth for years and the guys from Stone Temple Pilots, but then I’d put on a wig to go play disco on the weekends. Korn found me and it’s my new home. It’s awesome.
Don’t miss Korn as part of the 2014 Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival. They’re absolutely killing it night after night on the main stage.
See http://www.rockstarmayhemfest.com for details.
“The Paradigm Shift: World Tour Edition” is available now as a Best Buy Exclusive.