Unlike their stage image, the members of metal group Korn were serene when they spoke
The Slipknot face masks, goatees and mascara were out in full force outside the venue, and the nu-metal angst was palpable. Backstage, however, the members of Korn cut a peaceful, friendly figure.
The band from Bakersfield, California, were in Bangalore on Sunday, marking their first concert in a city with its own thriving nu-metal clique. Bass player Reginald Arvizu, drummer Ray Luzier and guitarist James Shaffer spoke before the show, they are three of the four current artists in the band. Frontman Jonathan Davis skipped the interaction, preferring to get in the zone before the landmark concert.
Korn is credited with being the godfathers of nu-metal, a metal genre known for incorporating a heavy dose of hip-hop with a pronounced ‘You messed me up, and I’m gonna hurt you real bad’ lyrical theme. Arvizu, better known as Fieldy, explains Korn’s position in the metal pyramid. Is it a point of entry to heavier bands, or is it at the apex? “We kind of went against what metal was about anyway. Metal was all guitar solos and fast drum beats, and we did the opposite of everything. But it was very heavy and threw everybody off.”
Luzier, who replaced original member David Silveria in 2007, chips in. “As a fan, I remember when Korn came out, they didn’t sound like anybody. There was no fitting in. They were carving through everything being done in metal, so it was never about following a trend.”
Korn is also popular for not following the standard EBGDAE guitar tuning, preferring to tune down. This isn’t a new concept, but it certainly produces a darker, heavier sound which fits perfectly with the often self-loathing frustration found in the band’s tracks. Shaffer, aka ‘Munky’, says the move to drop tuning came naturally, and nothing was planned. “Honestly, the idea came from Steve Vai’s record – ‘Passion and warfare’. I’m a big Steve Vai fan and when I heard the seven-string with that low note, I thought ‘Oh man, I want to hear that more’. So when I bought a guitar, I wanted to take it another step forward, which is to tune down the whole guitar to get a baritone sound. Then the five-string bass was tuned down with me, and Jonathan’s vocals fitted so well too.
“The sound was created without any premeditation, it came organically. The best things come when you don’t include the mind and clutter the process. It comes from the heart,” Munky says.
In 2005, after more than a decade with the band, guitarist Brian ‘Head’ Welch decided to quit the band after turning Christian – dramatically different from the manic lifestyle of a popular metal act. His absence meant the band lost an integral component where Munky and Head used to bounce off their guitar parts with rhythmic, yet rage-inducing timing. How hard is it for Munky to do things more or less on his own? “Man, it has been a really hard mountain to climb without Head. A lot of people wondered if we can even go on. I pushed myself to overcome this and think as two people. Now I have to create what I would normally write, and then think about maybe coming in another day to the studio and think of an alternate part which complements both. That’s how we used to do it when Head was around, now I fill in,” he says.
Pretty soon, out came the band on stage, and the familiar rage is evident once again, first from the fans and then from the band. The band feeds off the explosive crowd, resembling a disturbed mob letting go through music therapy. As Munky puts it – the mind clutters, it should come from the heart. Fieldy slaps away on his fluorescent five-string bass alongside his mates, and the hits – ‘Freak On A Lleash’, Falling Away From Me, Here To Stay — keep coming. Dark thoughts surface once again.