- Mon, 2012-04-02 14:42
When Korn stormed out of Bakersfield, California, in 1994 with their debut album they helped to change the face of heavy music. Leading a new generation of metal bands, they brought their genre kicking and screaming into a new era. Nearly two decades have passed since then, and as the majority of their contemporaries have been consigned to the annals of history, Korn have continued to evolve and inspire. Their latest album The Path Of Totality, sees the band doing just, incorporating dubstep into their trademark sound.
I Like Music caught up with Ray Luzier, Korn’s drummer and the band’s newest member, just before their show at Brixton Academy. He told us about settling into one of the biggest bands in the world, their non-stop creativity, learning to play dubstep live, and the tough side of the music business.
“I Like Music because...it’s my way of life. I would die without it!” Ray Luzier, Korn
ILM: You were at the BBC’s famous Maida Vale studios yesterday, how was that?
Ray: Unbelievable. That was breathtaking. To this day I still listen to the Zeppelin sessions, and so many legendary bands...the feel there, with the giant orchestra room... I had chills!
ILM: How are you in general?
Ray: Great! Here we are in wonderful London. I’ve been in the band almost five years and this is my third time here. It’s an awesome place to be.
ILM: How have the shows been going so far?
Ray: Really good. It’s cool to see people sing the words to the new stuff. For the first couple of shows in the States it wasn’t out yet so people were still kind of grasping the concept that it was way different from what we normally play. But now they’re singing Narcissistic Cannibal as much as Freak On A Leash, so that’s a good sign.
ILM: How are the rest of the band?
Ray: Horrible. HORRIBLE! No! [laughs] Everybody’s cool, we’re in good spirits. You know, I don’t know if I could have been in this band ten years ago. There were a lot of parties going on; people were younger. Fieldy told me there was a time when the gig was an interruption of the party... they were partying so much. Now we all have families, and it’s a little more subdued. We skype our kids and it’s all about the music. Jon’s writing songs all the time, everyday. It’s exciting to be a part of that. And for Korn to have been together eighteen years...it’s hard to do!
ILM: Right. It doesn't happen that often, eighteen years is a long time.
Ray: Exactly, and to have a fanbase worldwide like that...The first tour I did was 35 countries, we did places like South Africa and Dubai: crazy places you wouldn’t think you’d ever go.
ILM: I watched your drumming audition video for Korn...
Ray: Yeah, that’s funny! I didn’t know they were filming me. I’m glad I didn’t otherwise I would have been more nervous.
ILM: And as you say, that was five years ago right?
Ray: Pushing five. It’ll be five years in October.
ILM: They’re such a tight-knit group, but you’ve fully settled in now...?
Ray: If you’d have told me eight years ago I would be in this band I’d have laughed at you. I’m still a fan of music. I go out and see tons of bands. I know what it’s like to see your favourite band and there’s a different person in it. Alice In Chains even have a new singer: it’s one thing replacing a guitar-player, drummer, bass-player, but you replace the voice... I used to get a little bit of grief for being the new guy, and I understand that! Korn fans don’t wanna see a replacement, I understand. But people do change. It’s like a marriage. You move on with your life and you accept the change or you don’t. But mostly I get really good compliments!
ILM: It seems dubstep is the big story with the new album. When did you guys discover it?
Ray: Jon was the main source. Korn has always had an element of hip hop: rap, funk. People call it nu-metal but I just call it Korn. It’s hard to classify. It’s so identifiable. Jon Davis sings one note and you know it’s him. He told me the other day “I never even intended to be a singer. I played a bunch of instruments and I just happened to sing...” Maybe that’s why he’s so unique. But the dubstep thing: he always plays music. I played drums on his solo record, which we did about two and a half years ago, and it’s fricking amazing. I can’t wait for it to come out. I don’t know when that’ll be, cos of the timing of everything...
ILM: Is that the J Devil stuff?
Ray: No, completely different, Jon’s solo thing. It’s kind of like the JDSFA thing that came through, but even different to that. It’s like a Peter Gabriel meets Korn thing... It’s insane and intense, but he’s not on that page right now, he’s on this page. But he’s always playing us new stuff: “you got to check this out, you got to hear this, oh my god!” He’s so passionate about it. I love being in a band with people who are just crazy about music.
ILM: And he played you some dubstep?
Ray: Yeah, he played Get Up by Skrillex for the first time through the PA system. He was just like “you gotta hear this.” We were literally dumfounded, staring at the PA. Then he’s like “I’m gonna sing over this,” and I’m like “what are you going to sing?” He’s like “I dunno, but I’m just feeling so many ideas.” He came back with Get Up. To come up with all those melodies to that kind of stuff is really challenging.
ILM: How did it work from your point of view, as a drummer. The drums are typically programmed aren't they?
Ray: Yeah. A lot of times I was the last one on the record. The drums are already programmed, and I respect that. A lot of drummers would be like “wait a minute, what about me?” But I’m a huge fan of Nine Inch Nails, and Marilyn Manson and Ministry – all those bands that program stuff – and I just wanted to make sure I was playing it live. Jon’s a drummer too, and he goes “I want you to play all this stuff live. We’re just gonna replace the snare drum and kick drum with electronic pads, trigger the sounds from the record and you’ll play it like that.”
ILM: What’s the most challenging part of Korn’s set as a drummer?
Ray. Ummmm... Well, we start the set with four songs that are very old school – for the die-hard fans – then we change it up a third of the way through and do five or six of the new ones before ending with the hits. I would say our new single, Chaos Lives In Everything, is the hardest bit. I’m trying to recreate what’s on the record, and to recreate a machine is a challenge. I like Way Too Far, because on the record I embellished the electronic sound with organic drums. There’s a floor tom that goes with the chorus part. So it’s chugging along with the electronic sound and all the rest of it – the cymbals and toms and everything – so that’s probably the most fun to play. Of the old stuff, I don’t know. They’re all kind of challenging in their own way. Maybe Good God. It’s a weird song. There’s a weird bounce thing on the drums and you’re finding your balance constantly. There’s a lot of stuff going on.
ILM: As we’ve already said, Korn are almost twenty years old now, what do you think it is that keeps the band together after all these years?
Ray: The passion has never died. And there aren’t many bands out there like this band. There are your exceptions, AC/DC, Maiden, Megadeath, but then there are also certain bands where you feel like they’re doing it for the money, or they’re over it but think “what else are we going to do?” This band is not like that. We’re not at the point where we’re like “let’s just be nostalgic and go out and play the same things over and over again.” Creativity is out of control in this band. I’ve been listening to Munky’s new record so much: Fear and the Nervous System. It’s so inspiring! So he’s on his bus with that band writing stuff, and I’ve got two instrumental projects going on at home, Jon is completely psychotic with all the bands and stuff he’s doing... With the J Devil thing he’s DJing as well, so he’s got that whole side of it.
ILM: Is he going to release J Devil material?
Ray: I think so. He keeps writing all this new cool stuff, so he has enough material to do it. It’s just a matter of scheduling.
ILM: How would you describe your experience of the way Korn make music together?
Ray: Well, Path Of Totality was completely different to Korn III. For KIII we took a break and said “let’s bring Ross Robinson” – the old school producer – “back in, and sit here in a small room and vibe off each other.” I would come up with a beat, Munky would come up with a riff, Jon would come up with his bit... We all contributed, and Ross too.
On this record Jon would meet with a dubstep artist and they would come in with what, sometimes, was an almost finished song. So, Jon might do a vocal track in Korea, or I would be hanging out in a room like this one and he’d say “go grab three cymbals!” and I would do a cymbal overdub on top of an already finished track while we were in Hawaii. He was crazy. He would put up mattresses against the door in hotel rooms because he was screaming in the room, finishing the record....
ILM: No way!
Ray: Yeah! You can imagine what the neighbours thought! Jon Davis screaming in a closet surrounded by mattresses, soundproofing as much as possible. It was insane! There’s video footage that we’re gonna put up on korn.com.
ILM: So when the inspiration strikes you'll just do whatever you can to make something happen...
Ray: Oh yeah. It’s constant. It’s never stopping. Jon wakes me up on tour, out of my bunk at 3am like “you gotta hear this, get on my bus!” Cos there are three buses. His studio on his bus is never stopping. Our bus is pretty mellow; James and I share a bus. Fieldy’s always writing with his band, and Jon is non-stop. Sometimes you just want silence though. I hit things for a living, sometimes I just want to chill out, y’know?!
ILM: What’s the plan for the future of Korn?
Ray: Some guy asked us over in Asia, “Ozzy’s 64, Ronnie James Dio before he passed was 63, Lemmy is 67...do you see Korn playing in ten or twenty years?” We all said ‘yes’ almost at the same time. We really go for it. Everyone’s always like “you guys are all 40 now, you’re not going to go for it like you used to,” but we really do! I had the worst case of metal-neck the other day!
ILM: Oh no! Not metal-neck!
Ray: Yeah! Some drummer asked me the other day, “you’ve been drumming since you were five, do you ever have hand problems?” Knock on wood, no, I’ve never had hand problems, but metal-neck... I’ve gotta slow down! I went to my chiropractor and showed him these videos on my phone of us playing. There’s a shot of us at Rock Am Ring in front of 70,000 people, and the camera guy is behind me for the part of Somebody Someone where everyone goes nuts, and my head is literally going from as far back as it can go to as far forward as it can go. He watches it and is like “and you wonder why your neck kills?” I gotta slow down! Maybe I’ll be fat and bald in some jazz club when I’m 55 and I can sit back and chill! Haha.
ILM: What advice would you give to a young band, artist or drummer who looks up to a band like Korn?
Ray: Go to law school! I’m kidding. It’s a rough business. It’s not easy. I’ve had a long rocky road. But, I don’t regret any of it. I would never change it, because it made me who I am today. But to the new guys out there: the way the music and recording business is right now with people ripping stuff and kids taking records without even knowing that they’re stealing stuff... you really got to be in it for life. If you’re not a lifer, and you just want to do it on the weekends and have a, quote, ‘real job’, that’s great, practice enough and maybe you can be in a covers band. If you really wanna make music, and it’s inside you and you want to create, it’s a whole different ball game. You’re gonna get your face shoved in the dirt. People are gonna ridicule you and scrutinise you. You’re also gonna get praised as well though; it’s like a Jekyll and Hyde thing.
When I was in my early twenties I would say “I’m gonna get so good no-one can turn me down.” But I didn’t understand how important the music business was. It’s a business like anything else. It’s a great, fun business, but it’s a business. I’ve signed so many bad contracts in my life, so I always tell people to look at what you’re signing. When I was nineteen I signed my first contract and I didn’t give a shit. I was just like “I’m gonna make records!” Little did I know I wasn’t gonna make a dime off of any of those records. I couldn’t even pay my apartment rent or a phone bill. But I was making records, so I was like “wow, I’m on these CDs... how come I’m starving right now?” People should educate themselves on the business as well as practicing as much as you can. But it is fun, you just got to be in it.
ILM: What have you been listening to lately?
Ray: I have an eclectic taste! If you look at my iPod right now I have Die Antwerp, a crazy band from South Africa, to Seal. I listen to crazy stuff. Me and Munk were just cranking Nine Inch Nails the other day. There’s a band out of Australia called Karnivool; we were in Oz with Guns N Roses last year and somebody gave me this CD. Fans give us CDs all the time – “check out my band!” – sometimes it’s horrible, sometimes it’s great. They gave me this CD and I cannot stop playing it. I love being turned on to new music that really moves you.
ILM: If you had to choose one drumming idol who would it be?
Ray: I couldn’t! We were joking with our manager the other day: I was like “I finally got my picture with Peter Criss!” He starts laughing: “you’re not a KISS fan are you!?” I’m like “if it wasn’t for KISS I wouldn’t be sitting here today.” On the giant farm I grew up on no-one told you to listen to Zeppelin or Deep Purple, but KISS was on the cover of every magazine. I figured I should go buy all the KISS records, and I did. For the first years of my life that was all I knew. Then people started turning me onto Rush and Yes and Ozzy and Deep Purple. So Peter Criss changed my life. I dunno if he’s my idol... Terry Bozzio is so influential because he’s so out there. I love how he’s 60 now and he practices every single day for hours. To have that kind of drive is amazing. He’s probably the one that I always revert to. He was in the band UK, to Missing Persons, to Frank Zappa... He goes way back to when I was like 5. When I see him I just bow!