Mitch Andrews / Lantern photographer
In the current era of rock music, band lineups aren’t quite as reliable as they once were.
October will mark 17 years since Korn released its eponymous debut album, and the cast remains largely the same: vocalist Jonathan Davis, guitarist James “Munky” Shaffer and bassist Reginald “Fieldy” Arvizu.
The exception is drummer Ray Luzier, who joined the band as the permanent replacement for original drummer David Silveria, a distinction that he does not take lightly.
“You don’t just join a band like Korn,” he said in an interview with The Lantern. “Korn’s got such a loyal fan base. I’ve been a session drummer in L.A., featured on more than 80 records, but you don’t just slide into a band like Korn. You’ve got to understand what they’re about.”
Luzier has toured with David Lee Roth of Van Halen, the “supergroup” Army of Anyone, and has played guest shows with bands like Stone Temple Pilots, but he says Korn is a different animal.
“It’s nothing like it,” he said.
He didn’t have any problems figuring out “what they’re about,” however. He said his first international tour with the group in 2008 demonstrated to him just how powerful of an effect the band had on its fans.
“People with Jonathan’s face tattooed on their backs, people with all nine album covers down their leg,” he said. “It’s crazy.”
The number of people at Rock on the Range on Saturday wearing Korn T-shirts stood as a testament to the loyalty of the “children of the Korn.”
“Their music changed my life, man,” said Randy Travers, a 29-year-old from Indianapolis wearing a shirt emblazoned simply with the band’s trademark backwards “R.” “When I was in high school, I would get down and didn’t have an outlet … Korn was my outlet.”
Korn rewards loyalty through its “Roadie of the Day” program, which allows fans to work backstage with the band for a day. The experience is usually rewarding, but Luzier emphasizes that winners will do real work.
“They get to shine my drums for an hour-and-a-half,” he said, laughing. “They don’t like that.”
Davis’s lyrics on his dysfunctional family life and maligned childhood years struck a chord with listeners during the 1990s, pushing 1998’s “Follow the Leader” and 1999’s “Issues” to the top of the Billboard album sales charts. By 2011, Korn had won two Grammys and was one of the largest acts playing at Rock on the Range.
Luzier says the question of how such a successful group remains so angry is a common one.
“It’s more of an attitude, more of a lifestyle,” he said. “It’s different than when the band started, I’m sure, but the average bands last, oh, seven years. If you stay big, to have that kind of longevity, it takes fans.”
The band has begun working on its 10th studio album, an unnamed project that guitarist Shaffer described to Zoiks! Magazine as “a little bit of the Soundgarden style, that sort of Seattle sound.”
Luzier says not to expect anything in particular, however.
“We never know. Even for ‘Korn III,’ we were saying it was going to be a concept album,” he said in reference to last year’s album (which was not a concept album). “A lot of bands rehearse and rehearse and rehearse, but Korn’s not afraid of doing new stuff.”
Despite lyrics about child molestation and homophobia, Korn has maintained a sense of humor, ranging from an appearance on an episode of “South Park” to the music video for “Twisted Transistor,” in which rappers portrayed the band.
“You gotta laugh at stuff,” he said. “Every business has its ups and downs. The only way to get through is to laugh at yourself.”
Even Korn’s fans get a chuckle out of their appearance.
“You see them on stage, and Fieldy’s got that goofy hair, and Jonathan has the pants with the chains. … It looks funny,” said Alyson Schmidt of Whitehall, also at Rock on the Range. “But then the music starts, and you know they mean business.”
Luzier doesn’t resemble the prototypical Korn member. His hair is straight and not dreaded or in awkward ponytails, and he has no tattoos, but Luzier says he’s all right with that.
“I love that. I’ve never been the ‘rock star’ thing,” he said, drawing quotation marks with his fingers. “I don’t have ink, and I’m not planning on getting any.”