Korn have done a few covers over time, but save for their previous hits album, most have not seen the light of day. However, that doesn’t mean that they won’t. During a recent Q&A at the Live Nation offices in Los Angeles, the guys spoke of their desire to eventually release a covers set, and they’ve been quietly adding to their stockpile over the years.
“There’s a handful of cover songs that nobody’s ever heard before,” revealed guitarist Munky at fan event. “We’ve been talking about the cover album forever,” added Jonathan Davis. “But it’s making its way because each year we kind of add to the pile of it,” responded Munky. “We recorded a couple of more for this [album session] and put it aside, and no I’m not telling you what they are.”
That said, while a covers album won’t be arriving soon, the band’s 13th studio album, The Nothing, is en route on Sept. 13 and the band spoke openly about their creative process, while individually Munky and drummer Ray Luzierspoke to Loudwire just prior to the fan event.
Though you might expect the band’s well-deserved 2018 break to have been beneficial creatively, Munky told Loudwire it did come with its set of challenges. “It was good because we actually had some time to try a few things and realize that maybe it wasn’t the direction we wanted to go. We couldn’t wait for Ray to get back [from playing with Jonathan Davis’ solo band] to be honest. We wanted to work in the room,” says the guitarist. “We’re just old school songwriters where we sit in a room together. We write riffs and figure it out from the beginning to the end. This was a period of kind of copy and paste, and it just felt like not Korn.”
Once things began to flow, the band started to present their music to Davis, who prefers to work with completed musical pieces. Munky recalled, “It’s funny because when we started he was like ‘I want some Pantera heavy riffs,’ and then when he came in the room a couple of times it was like funky where he’d jump on the drums or pick up a guitar or bass and everything was like this late ‘70s / ‘80s funk, but Cure-like goth funk. I don’t know what you’d call it. It was just kind of goth-funk. That’s Jonathan’s lane.”
While the guitarist admits that there were some cuts that hurt because they were played with such conviction, there’s always the chance that material may eventually surface. He referenced one lick that’s been revisited for the last three albums and also recalled how a guitar part for what became “Did My Time” was initially shot down by their producer for one album before it surfaced on the next one.
“It’s the worst when I get a song and I’m not feeling it. It kills me because I know they put so much fucking work into it, and I don’t want to be that fucking guy,” Davis said during the Q&A section, before guitarist Brian “Head” Welcheased some of angst: “I will add that we work very well together, cause yes, he picks apart our music and he wants to feel it and he feels bad, but when we went back and made some notes about the vocals, he was really cool with it. It’s a touchy thing cause it’s really personal for him but everything we wrote down, he was [cool].”
Helping the band sort The Nothing out was producer Nick Raskulinecz, who makes a return engagement with the group. “He probably brings out a different characteristic in that he is a fan,” says Munky of why the producer fit so well with them. “He can look at the history and say, “You know what I liked about the last such-and-such record … is that this kind of went away and I love that element and want to bring it back.”
Luzier adds, “That’s super important because there are producers where you can tell it’s just a job to them. Nick really gets inside what’s going on with it and his perspective is as a fan and not dollar signs. He just wants to make the best quality record and have every song be the best of its potential.”
Korn fans have already been treated to the lead single, “You’ll Never Find Me,” a percussively fulfilling ride through moments of pure heaviness and melodic bliss. Working off a Brian “Head” Welch guitar melody, the instrumental part came together over a studio jam session before it was turned over to Davis.
“Here’s something that not a lot of people know about it, but when I was writing melodies, I was working with Billy Corgan,” the singer revealed to the audience. “It was the first time I’d worked with Billy Corgan and we went to the studio together, and it was the first time we sat down and he broke the song down. I’d never had this done before. We sat in two chairs across from each other and he picked up an acoustic guitar and he started playing the chord progression and said, ‘Sing the melodies.’ I’ve never done anything like that, so it was a really cool experience with Billy. He helped me with that song, and it was amazing.”
Davis also got experimental with the production. “I think I had 12 to 14 vocals going at once. I did it old school style like bands like ELO and Queen and Def Leppard, who do those big sound beds. I was doing four or five part harmonies, like a Tripleto, so I set up four different mics so I wouldn’t do one double on the same mic,” recalled Davis. “In the end, altogether, it’s just all this massive wall of beautiful vocals that just sits perfect in the track.”
“Before Jon’s vocals, I thought, ‘It’s cool,’” says Head. “But when he put the vocals on, I was like, ‘Whoa.’” The guitarist would later reveal that the working title for the track was “Smog Check,” primarily because he quietly ducked out of the studio early while they were working on the song just to get his car serviced, and the faux title remained for a good period in the studio.
As for the remainder of the album, Munky says “You’ll Never Find Me” is indicative of the album’s mid-section. “I feel like it represents the middle ground of the record because definitely there’s heavier stuff on the record, but there’s more melodic stuff on the record. So the first song, it made perfect sense to kind of represent a little bit of everything on the first track,” says the guitarist.
The Nothing will be one of the more personal records of Davis’ career, as the musician worked through the grief over the death of his wife last year, but where Korn’s music has helped so many fans over the years, this time it was a place of solace for Davis, and it continues to be that beyond the album’s completion.
When asked by a fan about the band members’ daily lives, Davis said, “I always go to the studio and hang out, take it in and get inspired. I don’t necessarily write every day, but I always try to make that time. That for me, gives me my peace, just being creative. That’s my church. That’s my everything and my safe place, so I go to the studio every day.”
In the end, The Nothing has the potential to be one of the band’s stronger releases. Luzier seemed satisfied, telling Loudwire, “This one has the ‘no filler’ thing. We were up to 22 or 23 songs and there’s some where you were like, ‘Hey, that’s gotta go on the record,’ but ultimately this is the best 11, well plus the interludes, but this record, I can honestly say there’s not a bad tune on here.”
The drummer is also psyched for the band’s upcoming summer tour, which finds them hitting the road with Alice in Chains, Underoath, Ho99o9 and Fever 333. While his bandmates reflected on some of their best tour cycles, Luzier said this upcoming trek has the potential to be their best. “After seeing our production, I think you guys are gonna be blown away by this new tour,” gushed the drummer. “I can already say this is gonna be my favorite one.”
Davis is also looking forward to the run, finally getting a chance to play dates with Alice in Chains, who were a big influence early on: “For me it was all the crazy minor vocals and the deep harmonies, odd harmonies – let’s put it that way, that Jerry Cantrell did with Layne Staley. It’s just going to be amazing to do a full tour with them. They were a big part of what we did. I’m just really excited to see them every night.”
The vocalist also had some high praise for the opening acts, hoping to put a spotlight on Ho99o9 and Fever 333. “It’s just nice when all of us collectively see a band and go, “Oh god, that’s amazing,” and those two bands represent that,” says Davis. “Fever 333, I get those Rage vibes, but there’s something more than that. It’s a totally different thing and there’s so much energy, and then the Ho99o9 thing, the dark punk I don’t even know what to call it, but it’s just dope. It’s important to us to bring new and exciting stuff.”
Korn also touched on the Korn Koffee that was being served at the event, with Fieldy, Munky and Luzier being outed by Head as the coffee crew in the group. The band members met with J. Gursey, who educated them on the process of putting together a blend, mixing the beans and seeing how the whole process comes together. For Luzier, it was a thrill. “It’s a bigger process than we thought. I’ve been a coffee connoisseur for years and I’m always the guy, no matter what country we’re in, I’m finding the local bean shop.”
Finally, at 25 years, it was also a time of reflection before the next album cycle starts. “It’s surreal,” says Davis. “I think we all catch ourselves wondering how we get to do something so incredible, tour the world, touch a lot of people’s lives. It’s definitely a blessing. We don’t take it for granted.”
Korn’s The Nothing album drops Sept. 13. Pre-orders and bundle options are available via their website. Their summer tour with Alice in Chains, Underoath, Ho99o9 and Fever 333 kicks off July 18 in Austin, Texas. Dates and ticketing info can be found here. And to pick up some Korn Koffee or related accessories, be sure to head to this location.