Korn’s Ray Luzier on New Van Halen, Negativity and Korn’s “The Path of Totality.”

A few weeks ago I went to check out Korn in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and the Rave. While I was there I got the chance to interview drummer Ray Luzier about all sorts of things, from playing with Jake E. Lee, David Lee Roth and Army of Anyone, to joining Korn and playing dubstep. During the interview a member of Korn makes a surprise appearance. Be sure to pick up Korn’s newest album “The Path of Totality,” it really is genius how they combined dubstep with the Korn sound. Also be sure to check out www.korn.com for everything Korn. You can listen to this interview if you download the Zoik! Podcast here.

Zoiks!: Path of Totality is kind of a new sound for Korn. Where did that idea come from?

Ray Luzier: I’ve been in this band 4 ½ years now, and it’s been… we’re always recording stuff, we’re always tracking songs and it’s whatever people are into. There’s a couple of ballady kind of tunes that are just sitting there not even doing anything and they sound amazing. I like being in a band that’s not afraid to take creative paths and venture off and not just do the same stamp of “here we go” and do another records that sounds like the last five, you know? You know if you listen to them, “Korn III” was nothing like the new one, and that was nothing like Untitled, “See You on the Other Side,” and so forth. It’s like, you know, it still sounds like Korn at the end of the day. So John introduced us to these DJs, you know Sunny Skrillex over a year and a half ago. He’s like you gotta check this out, this is like, you can’t make this noise with a guitar, it’s just this whole new thing, and everyone’s like “oh you’re going electronic.” Electronics been around since the 80s, like early 80s, it falls and takes twists and turns and it gets extreme like it is now with the dub step thing, but it’s not going away. Korn’s always had an element of hip hop and different things involved, and everyone’s like “god you guys are going off the deep end.” It’s like not really, it’s extreme to go this way, but to me it’s not that out of whack. It’s way different than last record cuz we brought back Ross our original producer, scaled everything down, and did the opposite of pro tools, and this is like we took 3 months off the road for “Korn III,” sat in a really small room, made this record, and this was like made around the world. If you look at the liner notes, John sang one vocal in Seoul, Korea. I did a cymbal overdub in Hawaii. It’s cuz we have laptops and everything can be done on that, but most of the collaborations were done first. He would meet with 12th Planet, meet with Skrillex and they would have almost the complete tune done and then a lot of times I was the last guy on the record. Which usually the drums are the bed, but not in this case, I just played along to the loops. They’re so massive sounding.

Z!: Did he have a hard time convincing you guys to go this direction?

RL: No! It wasn’t like he had to sit us down and say hey you know. I just was blown away when he played the Instrumental version for “Get-Up” for the first time over the PA, we were in an arena and he played it, and I was just like this is nuts. He’s like I’m gonna write words over this, and I’m like good luck pal how are you gonna do that. Next thing you know, he’d come up with these, a lot of this dub step is just this one note droning. I give it up for James cuz that was some of the best guitar I think I heard. I give it up for James cuz he really took different twists and turns and brought different melodies and different you know noises out, and then John’s vocal melody. So it wasn’t like convincing it was more like are you up for the challenge? For me, most drummers it would have been a nightmare, but I actually embrace it cuz I’m a huge fan of heavy program like from Trent Reznor to Manson to all the bands that have taken programming and done it extreme. My whole thing is I just want to do it live. Let me play it note for note live. And that’s what we do. I got Viggy, I got Tommy Lee’s tech of 16 years, and he does programs for Shinedown to Justin Timberlake to Manson, you name it. He’s one of those guys who knows programming backwards. We were fortunate enough to have him on the road. But what he did was I’ll go through like, the program is so when I play the verse it’s the exact snare off the record. I’m actually playing it physically live, and then when the chorus kicks in it’s that. So I change up the kick and snare and then all the rest is live. So to me translates really good live you know?

Z!: What’s the recording process like for a drummer with something like that?

RL: Well something like this, like I said, it’s the complete opposite. Usually you lay the bed down and everyone piles on top of you and you’re the first one done, but in this case with programming a lot of times I just play on the loops, and most of the time on this record the loops were stronger than my acoustic drum so they ended up staying on there a lot of times it’s just live cymbals, but I’d add little nuances here and there or maybe set up fill or another kick drum here or snare, but you know it was definitely I couldn’t be as creative cuz I’m always about playing for the song, but when you have something this massive you can’t really sit there and do a lot of, I don’t want to do a lot of drumming on it, that would ruin the song you know what I mean?

Z!: Are a lot of the songs making the set?

RL: We’re playing about 4 or 5. We switch up, actually we switched one from the past tour. We’re gonna start doing “Chaos’ Losing Everything” instead of “Kill Mercy Within.” We were doing “Kill Mercy” on the last one, so we were doing 6 now I think we’re doing 5 so you get a good dose of it in the middle. We open up with 4 obscure songs from the old days, stuff they haven’t done since ’96, ’95, and then we play the dubstep and then of course you’ve got to do the hits or you get tomatoes thrown at you.

Z!: Korn like you were saying earlier is one of those bands that has changed almost every album. With that comes the diehard fans, the negativity and stuff, is that something that’s ever bothered you or how do you deal with that?

RL: You’re always gonna piss someone off. You can’t make everyone happy. If we did a brand new metal record that was like the first record exactly it would still piss a bunch of people off. A lot of songs like blah blah you’re never.. I’ve been professionally playing in this business for over 20 years, I’ve been in a lot of bands, I know what it’s like, and it’s the same thing all the time. As long as you stay true to yourself as an artist, you’re not faking anything. I hate it when bands jump on the bandwagon. Who’s hot right now? Let’s sound like them cuz they sold a bunch of records. Korn’s never been like that.

Z!: They kind of created the bandwagon.

RL: Yeah exactly. They put their stamp on something and they don’t really give a shit and that’s what I love about it. A lot of the diehard fans come up to me going I hated it at first and now it’s grown on me. And then I’m getting letters in the e-mail from 16 year old Skrillex fans they don’t even know what Korn is. She goes I don’t know what a Korn is, but I bought their new record cuz Skrillex is on it. So there you go we’re turning on a bunch of new fans.

Z!: You were saying you were in other bands prior to this, have you noticed is the negative thing that is everywhere or is Korn have it worse than others?

RL: It’s everywhere. Everything gets slammed. I was in a band with Stone Temple Pilot guys and Richard Patrick from Filter, and god there are so many diehard STP fans out there that love Scott Weiland and poor Richard, as big as Filter was, like he still got scrutinized for like, we would do “Interstate Love Song” on the set and we also did “Take a Picture” and “Hey Man Nice Shot” to oblige to those fans that came to see an Army of Anyone, whatever you know. But it was like, he, I’m a drummer, and I give it up for him. I mean come on Journey got a new freaking singer. Alice in Chains. Those guys are way under more than Gun when you replace a member like that, but you know coming from all that waves like that you always get that. You’re gonna have haters out there and that’s just the way it is.

Z!: I don’t get why, I’ve been a Korn fan for a long time and every album you hear people complaining, they’re not playing old stuff, and then three albums later they’re cheering for the songs they were complaining about.

RL: It’s always something man. Especially me being a drummer that’s now a member, it’s even worse. A lot of people can’t accept change, it’s like hey did you get a divorce? Yeah I did. Well what happened to your wife. It’s the same thing. It’s like people evolve and make changes and you either accept it and embrace it or you move on and listen to somebody else. The funny thing about it is, a lot of the diehard fans, I go on the web boards every once in awhile, there’s like 36 Korn fan sites out there, and I’ll just go on the Poland one for the fun of it because a lot of it’s in English and they’re bitching and bitching, and I’ve been in this band for 4 ½ years and it’s the same people bitching about it but yet they’re still here. They won’t leave, cuz you’d think if you’re that pissed go listen to another band if you’re that bummed about it. I get it, I’m a fan myself. I’m a huge Alice in Chains fan. They opened for us at a festival a couple of years ago, and just to see a new singer up there going. Are you kidding me? I wanted to hate that guy, but you know what he sang his heart out and he gave it his all. Of course it’s not going to be like the original, people need to wake up I think. I wasn’t expecting to hear the sound of Layne Staley, come on man. People are kind of dumb for me. I don’t know. Cuz I’m a fan, I get it. I freak out when a band. I’m freaking out. I was in David Lee Roth’s band for eight years. I’m a huge Van Halen fan. And the fact that Wolfgang Van Halen’s up there instead of Michael Anthony kills me cuz I want to see all four of those guys up there, but you know what that’s not the way it is and they had a falling out with Sammy and Sammy and Mike were best friends, and know that had something to do with it so Eddie’s sons up there. It bums me out every time I watch it I don’t even look at that side of the stage when I go see Van Halen now, but you know what that’s the way it is and people need to accept it.

Z!: Have you heard their new album?

RL: Yeah I actually dig a lot of it. Cheesy lyrics, from Dave, but I expected to hear that from him, but I think Eddie’s playing his ass off and Alex sounds great.

Z!: Who are you listening to now?

RL: Currently the Van Halen record, but um I listen to everything. I’m weird. I listen to the new Janes Addiction and I have the new Bjork, there are these rarities from Trent released from Nine Inch Nails. He has all these obscure remix things, I listen to them, but I have a one year old son so lately I’ve been listening to a lot of like freaking Wiggles to Disney stuff it’s driving me mental, but yeah I listen to everything man, whatever moves me emotionally. It doesn’t have to be technically or amazing, it’s just gotta be something that, John oh my god, this band has such an eclectic mix of styles. I mean John’s so into this DJ thing right now. Munk will come in and give me a cd and I’m like what is this cuz it’s this crazy mix of Linkin Park meets hiphop and you’re just like what is going on so there’s a lot of cool stuff out there. But for me being a diehard old school player it’s refreshing getting a Van Halen record going, but this is the new Van Halen like I don’t get that feeling a lot anymore. I used to get that feeling a couple of times a month, like my favorite artist would come up with a new record, I couldn’t wait to pop it in and that really hasn’t happened to me. It’s kind of a bummer. But it’s good that there’s still people out their kicking.

Z!: Do you think the music industry changes have anything to do with that?

RL: Yeah of course. I still get kids coming up to me every day at these shows going I loved song 2 and I loved “Get-Up,” and I’m like oh where’d you get the record? Oh I ripped it a week before it came out. I’m like it’s $10 fucking dollars go buy it! How hard is it? I actually go online and I buy records and I have downloads and I’ve “stolen records” from other people and stuff, but I still go out and buy, I pay the artist respect, you know what I mean, I buy the record. But a lot of these kids don’t think they’re doing anything wrong. You know and it’s just like kinda weird how they’re just like “what I’m listening. I’m here at the show.” And they are at the show. The attendance is proving. You can’t replace live entertainment and that’s never gonna change. In a good way it’s instantaneous. You put a song out, and head over to Germany they can listen to it in 5 minutes via the internet so that’s a good thing. But I just don’t understand why people I don’t know. Like today we had that signing and 150 people came up, whoever bought the record come up. And you could see some of them like “wow a cd” they’re opening the pages, and you can see the little kids like “I heard about this!” you know what I mean? It’s just like wow man you’re killing me.

Z!: You’ve been in a lot of bands. What’s your proudest moment of your career?

RL: I’ve had a lot. Each is so different. I mean the first time I played with the Boston Pops Orchestra with David Lee Roth in front of 500,000 people and that was probably the, playing in front of half a million people is definitely one of the highlights of my career and it was on CBS aired in front of millions. But just getting this gig of course, if you’d told me 10 years ago I’d end up in this band. James just walked in the room. James is here.

Munky: Fucking Crazy

RL: If you’d told me 10 years ago I’d be like no way, you know, the funny thing about this business is one thing leads to another. You know my last band Army of Anyone was managed by the same management as Korn and then they were having drummer troubles and I learned a bunch of songs went out and played. But it went from I was in Jake E Lee’s band from Ozzy going from that to David Lee Roth to Army of Anyone to Korn it’s just crazy. Korn is not a band you just join, you gotta really get inside you don’t just join a band like that.

Z!: How long have you been in to Korn?

RL: As a fan? First time I heard the opening riff for Blind. I’ll never forget that day. I was just like this is gonna mess everybody up in a good way. Just hearing that, that raw energy, just so loose and carefree in your face, I knew it was like they had something amazing so ever since.

Z!: As a drummer and the way you’ve handled, what advice would you have for up and coming drummers?

RL: Be a doctor, be a lawyer, no. it’s a rough business. Unless your heart is 110% in it and you really really want to sacrifice your family’s sake don’t do it. It’s a big deal. All these kids just think you’re gonna be a rock star over night. Or if they practice and meet somebody. And to be honest I’ve had friends who’ve just been playing for a short amount of time and they get the right gig and they take off, but the reality is it’s not that way for everyone so you’ve got to really put your time into it and really do your thing. So if you’re dedicated and willing to do it and put in the time and practice, but it’s a lot of, can be some crappy points in your life, I’ve had a rocky career you know? I’ve done everything from put a disco wig on and play in front of 15 people to a stadium; you know I’ve done it all. I taught drum lessons, I’ve done sessions, I’m one of those guys, but I knew I was gonna do this the rest of my life no matter what it took so if you have that kind of attitude I think you’ll do okay, but if you don’t, why suffer? Go to law school. Go do something you know you can get a job somewhere. I never used to be like that until 10 years ago, when I was just like yeah you can do it man just keep playing, but the reality is this business is in a wacky state it’s not you know what I mean so if I can save someone from suffering you know what I mean?

Z!: Thank you.

RL: All the best brother


Bob Zerull is the Managing Editor of Zoiks! Online. He writes pop culture commentary, does interviews with bands, and reviews music and stand-up concerts. He also administers Zoiks! Online's Facebook page. Follow Bob on twitter at bzerull. Email Bob at bob@zoiksonline.com.

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mewzak said...

I actually prefer Richard Patrick singing "Interstate Love Song."


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