Jonathan Davis, the lead singer for Korn, helped create more than just a rock band with occasional rap lyrics that ended up being labeled nu metal. With Korn (1994), the band’s self-titled debut album, Davis unleashed a completely new animal on a music scene that really needed it.
During the ’90s other musicians would photocopy the game plan to develop their own band, but no one could match Korn in its ferocity, ingenuity or energy. The band really made its mark with Life is Peachy in 1996, and Follow the Leader ended up No. 1 on the Billboard 200 in August of 1998.
Innovative drumbeats, funky bass lines and powerful guitar hooks combined with excoriating rap lyrics (and even bagpipes) formed an addictive combination, and more than a decade later the band still rocks stadiums. With The Path of Totality, released late last year, Korn promises to bump its game up even higher.
Ray Luzier, a legendary drummer in his own right, joined Korn in April of 2009. “They’ve paved the way. That’s why I’m such a fan. From the day I heard that opening riff from ‘Blind’ on the radio I knew they were going to mess the whole scene up.”
Through the decades, Korn has always tweaked and fine-tuned its sound, so that every album is a new incarnation. There’s much on The Path of Totality that hasn’t been on previous albums.
“Jonathan has been bringing dubstep artists to us for a year and a half now,” says Luzier. “He would just blow us away with what was coming out of his speakers. It was this bombastic sound you couldn’t ever reproduce with a guitar.”
Once Korn worked the tool into its technique, completely new musical vistas opened up to the group. “We were just amazed. I remember thinking, ‘How are we going to write words to this?’” Luzier says.
A lot of time has passed since Korn’s debut album release and its newest release, The Path of Totality. When I ask if Luzier has any advice for any other musician that thinks they can stay as relevant as Korn has for two decades, he’s quick with a response.
“Go to law school,” he laughs. “It’s still a crap shoot. There are still people out there rolling the dice on a sound they have faith and confidence in.” The veteran drummer goes on to point out that “you never know what’s going to appeal to the masses. It might not matter that a musician has talent. I have friends working at Starbucks who are virtuosos. They could beat anyone on American Idol.”
Maybe it’s that you’ve got to want to be a musician for something more than the money. “We’re 40 now, but we still truly love it,” Luzier says. “It’s too deep in all of us to stop. The fans still love it. My final advice is, don’t fake an ounce of it. If you fake it deep inside, you are only playing yourself.”
Taking A Wiz
Recently, Korn performed with Cypress Hill and the equallly green-friendly Wiz Khalifa.“I’m surprised we’re playing there,” Luzier told CULTURE a few days before the band’s scheduled set at the SmokeOut Festival. Then he laughs. “No one in the band smokes out anymore. [I was] really interested in seeing the new Sublime, with their new lead singer Rome. I’m also looking forward to seeing Cypress Hill.” ’Nuff said.