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KoRn

KoRn


Here's a tough career decision: To be an assistant county coroner or a Rocker. Actually, it wasn't much of a decision for Jonathan "HIV" Davis. Leaving his day job behind Davis became lead singer in Sexart. But when Sexart ran into LAPD (another group) things started to happen. LAPD members James "Munky" Shaffer (guitar) and Brian "Head" Welch (guitar) saw Davis and were impressed. So Sexart was history and Kon was born with Davis choosing the name. Added to the line-up were Reggie "Fieldy Snuts" Arvizu (bass) and David Silveria (drums). Both had played with the guitarists in previous groups.

KoRn's self-titled '94 debut featured the darkly metallic "Shoots and Ladders." "Life Is Peachy," released in '96, added to the group's huge fan base. Of course, there was the famous and over publicized Zeeland, MI, incident where a student was sent home for wearing a KoRn T-shirt. The school's principle claimed the attire was inappropriate since KoRn's music was "indecent, vulgar and obscene." KoRn's marketing department (if they had one) couldn't have said it better.

KoRn's next album, "Follow The Leader," arriving two years later, was undeniable. Blending Rock and Hip-Hop on "Freak On A Leash" and "Got The Life," KoRn hit the mark. The group wrote all the songs and the performances were dead-on. On top of it, there was Davis' over-the-edge vocals. Even Ice Cube appeared on "Children Of The KoRn" which contained all the words you still can't say on the radio.

The next stop was '98's wryly titled Family Value's Tour. Blaming the whole "family values" concept on former VP Dan Quayle, they invited him to the concerts. But Quayle was a no-show. Apparently, he was busy or otherwise occupied. Maybe he was just too easy a target.

Returning to a more metallic sound KoRn released "Issues" in '99 with the Grunge influenced riff Rockers "Falling Away" and Trash." After that success KoRn was semi-dormant until "Untouchables" hit in '02. "Take A Look In The Mirror" arrived the next year. Then their label decided to wrap things up with a "Greatest Hits (Vol. 1)" package. KoRn still had a lot of life left but things got a little bumpy.



Welch left in '05. An online post from the band stated that he "has chosen Jesus Christ as his savior, and will be dedicating his musical pursuits to that end." The group continued as a quartet, releasing "See You On The Other Side," led by the single "Twisted Transistor," later that year. The single's video featured Rappers Snoop Dogg, Xzibit, Lil Jon and David Banner. "It's basically a video with Hip-Hop stars playing us," explained Davis.

"See You On The Other Side" represented a new direction for the group. "When we started this album we totally wanted to reinvent ourselves and do something different," said Davis. "It's a bit more progressive and a lot more emotional," claimed Munky. "It's not so much anger, anger, anger, like on previous KoRn albums." But isn't anger what KoRn is all about?

Being in KoRn must be rough. First Welch exited, then two years later Silveria took a break to "recuperate" and spend time with his family. In the studio, Kon used drummer Terry Bozzio (Missing Persons and countless sessions) on nearly half of their 8th studio album plus Bad Religion's Brooks Wackerman and Davis, who hadn't played percussion since '99's "Issues." KoRn also enlisted keyboardist Zac Baird for recording. He'd toured with the band.

KoRn's '07 release was untitled, not "Untitled." "It's not titled. It's not going to be titled," said Davis. "We didn't want to label this album. It has no boundaries. It has no limits and why not just let our fans call it whatever they wanna call it?" Still, everyone referred to it as "Untitled." Either way, the first single, "Evolution," made its debut in May on L.A.'s KROQ.

The group's European trek hit a slight snag when tour guitarist Clint Lowery (Welch's replacement) was arrested in Piestany, Slovakia, after getting drunk and trashing his hotel room. "I pulled some Rock 101 stuff," said Lowery, a member of Dark New Day and a former member (at the time) of Sevendust. "(I'm) not proud of it at all. Cops were called and they took me away." Lowery paid for the damages and was released. Then it was on to the next tour stop.

For the Family Values Tour KoRn enlisted Slipknot's Joey Jordison. "I'm lucky to have had the opportunity to perform with bands that have influenced me as a musician over the years," said Jordison. "When I first heard KoRn they blew me away and I have been a fan ever since."

KoRn participated in the '06 revival of the Family Values Tour. That went well so they signed on for the '07 edition, this time co-headlining with Evanescence. "It's gonna Rock," Davis exclaimed prior to the trek. "We were able to make it more of a festival-style tour (in '06) and bring it outdoors. It was successful last year, so we decided to do it again." It all began in Maryland Heights, MO.

With the group on the road their "not titled" set dropped. "I think it's probably more like a progressive Kon (than) people are gonna be used to," said Munky of the band's latest offering. Didn't he use "progressive" to describe their previous album ("See You On The Other Side")? Yes (see above). Must like the word a lot. The album followed an "MTV Unplugged" set issued earlier in the year.

KoRn added Shane Gibson to their touring line-up in November ('07). Davis said the guitarist reminded him of "Head." "Not in his playing, more about just his presence," explained Davis. "It's kind of cool to have that energy back because I miss . . . 'Head' so much." Also, the group hired Army Of Anyone's Ray Luzier to take over the touring drummer slot from Jordison, who had returned to Slipknot. Luzier later became a band member.

Fieldy reported in April, '09, that Kon was working on their ninth studio album. "We're trying to strip it down raw and get those heavy groove riffs that make you want to . . . go crazy."

Davis struck a more serious tone stating the band was working on a concept album focusing on five symbols he'd designed that represent drugs, religion, power, money and time. "These five symbols . . . I think are the downfall of man," explained the frontman. "And each symbol is going to have a couple songs about it . . . and then [there will be] a couple songs about how they are all tied together."

At the controls was Ross Robinson who produced the group's initial albums (their self-titled debut and "Life Is Peachy"). "It's so much fun to be recording with him again, 'cause he has such a passion for what we did on the first two albums," said Munky of Robinson. "And he just keeps putting out platinum albums."

"Ross is the only person in the world that's ever been able to draw us to that place," added Davis. "He reminds us why we're here, why these songs are important to our fans and why what we do as a band relates."

And what of Silveria's possible return to KoRn? Not likely. "I [recently] found out David had sold all of his drums and never wants to play the drums again," said Munky. "I'm still in disbelief, but that's the way it is . . . Drug addiction has been a really big part of it."

While all that was happening, Kon landed on Roadrunner Records. In conjunction with the announcement, the group laid out plans for the release of "KoRn III: Remember Who You Are," their first studio effort since '07.

With the album in the works, Fieldy was upbeat regarding the addition of Luzier. "Ray is like the missing KoRn member we never had," said Fieldy. "He just fits so well."

The cover shot was taken in Oildale, CA. "We thought it was fitting to have 'Oildale (Leave Me Alone)' {as the first single}, since Oildale is near where we grew up as kids," said Davis. "It's a poverty-stricken area surrounded by endless, rich oil fields. The money doesn't really help the local people and it's tough for local kids to get out of there. I feel blessed that our music busted us out."

Before the album dropped, KoRn called for a boycott of the oil giant British Petroleum (BP) following the massive oil well leak in the Gulf of Mexico. "We need to do our part to let BP know there are consequences for causing something like this," wrote Davis via a press release. "We want to send a message to corporations like BP so that they will take more preventative measures in the future. The more costly their punishment, the more money they will spend to make sure disasters like this don't happen again." Disturbed, Rise Against and Godsmack joined the boycott. "I'm really proud that this many artists have already come on board, and I hope more will join soon," added Davis.

"KoRn III - Remember Who You Are" sold fewer copies than any of the band's other discs. With that ominous fact hanging out there Shaffer talked, a year later, about developing material for KoRn's 10th full-length album.

"Jonathan demoed the songs on his computer, and then we took them into the studio and played them live and tweaked them a little bit." He added that the tunes reminded him "a little bit of the Soundgarden style, that sort of Seattle sound."

Ross was back as producer and Shaffer, for one, was very pleased. "{As the producer} he really makes us feel open to try different stuff, more challenging stuff," Shaffer told Lithium Magazine. "He removes that fear somehow and pushes you... until it develops into something great. He can see that little seed and he will just keep nurturing the idea until it becomes something great. He does that with every member of the band. That is something that we have regained through recording with him."

As it turned out KoRn produced a Dubstep album utilizing the talents of Skrillex, Excision, Downlink, Noisia, Feed Me, 12th Planet, and Flinch. '11's "The Path Of Totality" was the band's second full-length studio effort for Roadrunner Records.

Despite the group's enthusiasm, they received harsh criticism for venturing into Dubstep. "There's a lot of closed-minded Metal purists that would hate something because it's not true to Metal or whatever, but KoRn has never been a Metal band, dude. We're not a Metal band," said Davis a radio interview. "We're always ever evolving, and we always piss fans off and we're gaining other fans and it is how it is."

Leaving Dubstep behind, KoRn issued "The Paradigm Shift" in October, '13. Davis wrote songs while getting off anti-depressant medication. "I'd been on it for three years and the doctor told me you gotta get off this, it's bad for you," explained Davis. "I didn't really have to try to write, it just came out."

The album marked the return of co-founding guitarist Brian "Head" Welch, who performed with the band for the first time in seven years at the Carolina Rebellion Festival the previous May.

On the same day "The Paradigm Shift" was released, KoRn was inducted into Guitar Center's RockWalk in Hollywood. Rob Zombie presided.

"Twenty years ago I remember flipping on MTV and seeing this band called KoRn," said Zombie. "They're still constantly reinventing themselves, reinventing the wheel. There's not a lot of spectacular bands who have survived the past twenty years - KoRn is definitely one of them."

Davis said, "When you look at the names of the other people inducted here all you can say is 'wow!' What an honor!"

"When we started out we were five guys in a garage with a dream," added Munky. "I'd like to think we tried our best to create some great music and an innovative sound but to be honest we are truly humbled to be included here."

KoRn Discography

Studio Albums:

1994 KoRn
1996 Life Is Peachy
1998 Follow The Leader
1999 Issues
2002 Untouchables
2003 Take A Look In The Mirror
2005 See You On The Other Side
2007 Untitled
2010 KoRn III - Remember Who You Are
2011 The Path Of Totality
2013 The Paradigm Shift

KoRn fans were so happy with the return of Welch and remission of Dubstep, parlayed on "Path Of Totality," that they were ready to declare "The Paradigm Shift" one of the group's best albums as soon as it was released. If "The Paradigm Shift" means anything it's a return to the core KoRn sound with edgy spiraling riffs and Davis' malicious vocals.

It's not that the "Path Of Totality," and its Dubstep injections, are a total misadventure but it's an odd brew. The electronica, rather than amping-up the fury, actually softens the blow.

"My Wall" has the expected dark and foreboding tone but "Let's Go" is almost danceable. "Narcissistic Cannibal" is a great title, unfortunately the song doesn't live up to it. No worries, "Burn The Obedient," "Way Too Far" and closer "Bleeding Out" take up the slack.

"KoRn III Remember Who You Are" followed eight albums and over 30 million CDs sold. That might imply that the band has already made its reputation and can cruise. Then again, "KoRn III" was also the band's first set for Roadrunner Records.

"The four of us got together in a small room with the intention of writing an old school KoRn record," said Davis. "This album is a perfect mixture of everything we've done." "Oildale (Leave Me Alone)" with Fieldy's heavy bass and an inescapable riff does reflect vintage Kon with a vindictive tone as bleak as the place it's named after.

KoRn's appeal has always been Rockin' the Funk beats. That's evident on "Fear Is A Place To Live" and "Trapped Underneath The Stairs." "Pop A Pill" proves they can still ride a killer riff and Davis gets "in your face" literally on "Are You Ready To Live" and infects/inflects "Move On" with some weighty drama. The down and out angst of "Holding All These Lies ("I am nothing") is accentuated by "People Pleaser's" rage and aggression ("WTF is going on"). "Lead The Parade" gets edgy, both musically and lyrically, and shows the band playing to their strengths.

When someone uses the words "progressive" and "KoRn" in the same sentence, as Munky did, it conjures up Mars Volta with a harder edge. Their untitled set, mercifully, is not that. It is an energetic album where the arrangements get stripped or imploded before building back to the KoRn crescendo. Credit the combined efforts of Bozzio, Wackerman and Davis for providing the backbone and energy to hold it all together. There are a handful of killer tracks, including "Killing," "Innocent Bystander" and the epic "Hold On."

Following a "new age" intro, the set rolls with its best song , the thrash Metal, "Starting Over." A couple OK songs ("Bitch We Got A Problem" and "Evolution") lead into "Hold On" and the surprisingly tough power-ballad "Kiss" ("I'm feeling like I'm sinking, and nothing's there to catch me, keep me breathing"). It provides dagger-in-the-heart drama but "Do What They Say," which tries to be dark and disturbing, is only ponderous. "Hushabye" and "I Will Protect You" end the album on KoRn's core strengths (power, passion and drive).

KoRn has been a "benchmark band" since their debut. Their blend of hardcore Rock with various complimentary styles - Grunge, Hip-Hop and Metal - allowed them to craft a unique and highly original sound that influenced countless other bands. They've reached legendary status. But the trouble with being stylistically innovative is that the bar can be very high. Sometimes expectations outstrip reality. That and the loss of the "Head" hampered "See You On The Other Side."

KoRn's trademark sound (Davis' spitting vocals and churning guitars) is evident on several songs including "Politics," "Hypocrites," "Coming Undone" and opening cut, "Twisted Transistor," a dark, moody, incessant Rocker. But other tracks, notably "Throw Me Away" and the "almost pop" of "Open Up," downplay the guitar and seem generic. Davis does manage some interesting vocal interplay on "For No One."

The remaining tracks are OK, and just that. "Love Song" an ode to the dear departed, tries to sound menacing but comes off dull while the set closing ballad "Tearjerker" is a waste. The deluxe edition has a couple remixes of "Twisted Transistor." "It's Me Again" is potent ("you see sky and I see acid rain") and the stilted vocals on "Eaten Up Inside" punctuate the track. "Last Legal Drug" is a great title. Too bad it's not a better song.

KoRn fans have everything the group has produced. That said, "Follow The Leader" and "Issues" are KoRn's best albums for different reasons. "Follow The Leader" has the most going on and manages to consistently succeed. "Issues" is a return to the hard-edged sound that KoRn is known for. Overall, KoRn's self-titled debut is stronger than their sophomore album "Life Is Peachy."



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