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Home » Rock n Rolla

Korn get back to the basics on RWYA

Submitted by on July 12, 2010 – 5:00 amNo Comment


The magic eight ball has not been kind to Korn over the past few years. “Outlook not so good” is what’s come up with every shake of the black ball for Jonathan Davis, James “Munky” Shaffer, Ray Luzier and Reginald “Fieldy” Arvizu since the release of their last record, 2007’s Untitled.

First, the band’s lead guitarist, Brian “Head” Welch, quit music altogether and gave his life to Christ (rumours are he doesn’t even own a guitar pick anymore). Next, Untitled flopped, barely surpassing sales of 500,000 copies, marking the least successful of Korn’s eight albums. At around the same time the record’s third single was being pulled from radio stations, a month after its release, the band was dropped from its label.

It would be easy to count Korn out – what with shows being cancelled in Scranton, a small city of 75,000 people in northeastern  Pennsylvania, due to poor ticket sales – but the brothers-from-different-mothers have something up their sleeves. The ninth full-length from Korn may prove to be the band’s defining moment, 2010 the year the Bakersfield, CA, rockers come full circle on a 15-year career.

Recorded in a small room using a retro-fitted 16-track board (no Pro Tools) and trapped on two-inch tapes, Remember Who You Are is a fitting title for an album reminiscent of earlier Korn records, not only in sound, but in character.

“We wanted to go back to our roots,” says Fieldy, who has also recently given his life to Christ, while remaining true to Korn. “After so many years of being out and making music, you keep evolving until you evolve so far that you miss the old days when you were a band in a little garage. But it wasn’t easy going with a simple, stripped down approach,”  he admits. “It was actually hard to go back and play like that.”

Describing the rekindled approach Korn took to making the new record, Fieldy often uses the word just to describe the process, as in “we just all drove to the studio and we just went and said, ‘let’s record in a little tiny room, standing up like a band. With technology today, you just don’t have to do that anymore.”

Perhaps as a result of the return of producer Ross Robinson – who hasn’t worked with the band since helming Korn’s first two albums  – RHYA, with its raw, heavy grooves and unabashed mix of hip-hop and metal, is a throwback to an era, the mid- to late-90s to be exact, when Korn were kings.

The massive success of 1994’s self-titled debut, 1996’s Life is Peachy and mainstream breakout, Follow the Leader (‘98)three albums that together have sold more than nine million copies – cemented, for a long time, Korn’s reign in the hard-rock world.

Issues, released in 1999, debuted at #1 on Billboard, beating out Celine Dion’s Greatest Hits and Dr. Dre’s 2001. The aptly titled Untouchables (’02) sold almost 500,000 copies in its first week. Similarly, Take a Look in the Mirror (’03) and See You on the Other Side (’05) were both commercially successful Korn albums.

But when Head left the band, it seems, a piece of the band left with him. Untitled was met with little fanfare and the fallout from its release further relegated Korn to the fringes of a genre they had once dominated.

“When we put the last album out it was a big production, almost to show how great of musicians we are or something, and it’s a great album as far as musicianship. But that’s not what we’re about,” Fieldy admits. “I think that now we’ve got to a point in our lives where we know what we’re all about, and that’s what we’re always going to create.”

With this latest offering, the intention is simple: Bring it back. Bring it back, not only to the basics – vocal, guitar, bass, drums, a garage and a tape recorder –  but to a time when Korn was, in the words of Robinson, “destroying” people.

“Will Korn be returning to their roots?” Robinson answered rhetorically, asked the question in a recent interview. “What roots? They have Bakersfield and I have Barstow – we really don’t want to go back there. If ‘roots’ is to destroy and wake people from sleepwalking through life, then yes.”

Fieldy, who also recently published his biography, Got the Life: My Journey of Addiction, Faith, Recovery and Korn,  agrees with Robinson’s assessment. “Yeah man, it’s pretty heavy,” he says enthusiastically. “I think it’s the heaviest album we’ve put out in a long time.”

For Fieldy, the most important, and puzzling, aspect of the gig remains the same all these years later. “I still don’t understand it when kids come up to me crying, saying that our music helped save their life,” he wonders. “I guess sometimes you can lose yourself in music.”

In the time before and since the release of its now ubiquitous debut album, Korn has sold 30 million records. The band had put out 30 singles, made 32 music videos and won two Grammy awards. They have toured the planet (multiple times), and even have a “Korn Day,” Feb. 26, in their hometown of Bakersfield.

It seems regardless of how well RHYA does, or how many units it moves when it’s released tomorrow, Korn will have come full circle, at least as far as they’re concerned. Asked if, when Korn first catapulted to fame in the mid-90s, he could ever have imagined still making a living off music all these years later, Fieldy is immodest.

“Back in the day when we started out, we imagined all this. But now that I’m sitting here living it I realize how hard it is for a band to actually do what we’re doing,” he says. “When you’re a kid you dream of this, but now it’s happened. It’s one in a million.”

Remi L. Roy

also appeared in UMM-Summer 2010

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