Long before joining the groundbreaking metal band Korn in 2009, drummer Ray Luzier had established himself as a key player in rock by performing with David Lee Roth, Army Of Anyone and many more. Several years into his full-time position with the band, the Pittsburgh native seems to fit right in, which is made clear on the group’s 11th studio album, The Paradigm Shift. A special version of the release, titled The Paradigm Shift: World Tour Edition, hit shelves last week, which included previously unreleased tracks and live recordings.
Luzier took a moment during Korn’s stint on this year’s Rockstar Mayhem Festival to discuss the new release, the state of today’s music, and the trouble with having such a massive discography.
How is Mayhem going so far?
It has been mayhem; it’s pretty chaotic (laughs). I was actually just over on the side stage watching a couple of my buddies play that I haven’t seen. I’m friends with the guys in Body Count and I just watched Emmure today, which I’m a new fan of. Those guys are not messing around.
They’re really good.
Very angry fellows—they need to cheer up a bit (laughs). But no, it’s great. We’ve been friends with Avenged Sevenfold for a while, and we’ve toured with Asking Alexandria before, so it’s all a bunch of brothers out here.
How does the band prepare for such an extensive tour?
It’s weird, a lot of bands have this whole tour cycle and then they’re off for a long time. Korn’s never really off. We all have families now, and it’s all about our kids and seeing each other, so we never really go out for more than four or five weeks. So when we prepare, we usually just do stuff at our homes. I have a studio at my house that I’ll warm up in. We all do our homework, though we don’t rehearse that much together, so it’s up to us to get in shape for the tour.
I just moved into a new house, so all of June I was unpacking boxes. I think it took me a good week to get back into the swing of things out here. But it’s funny, because even when we’re home, we’re still in “road mode.” We never really stop, in our minds.
For you, what are the best and worst parts of touring?
Well, obviously being away; I have a three-year-old now, so it’s tough being away from him and my family. But I just feel that we are in such a great place now with this band, it’s in its 20th year, and October will be eight years for me. We’re in such a better headspace right now.
We still love touring. It’s weird, I have a lot of friends who are 40 and are really bummed out and don’t want to do it anymore. We’re very grateful that we are doing this for a living and the crowd still appreciates us. We’re re-releasing The Paradigm Shift on July 22 and we’re playing “Hater” off the new record, which is our new single. That’s definitely a high point. We have another song that’s meant for a movie soundtrack called “The Game Is Over,” which is one of my favorite songs.
Which film was the song for?
It’s for the Hercules soundtrack. We don’t do much of that, but it’s kind of cool to have that victorious song. Don Gilmore, who also produced The Paradigm Shift, is such a great guy for that kind of stuff. He puts you in that mode like, “Okay, here’s what we’re doing and here’s what we’re going for.” He’s really laid back and really easy to work with—very demanding, but he’s very easy, too.
With so much material to work with, how does the band create a setlist?
We have 120 songs, so it’s really hard. Even for this set, we’re only doing an hour when we usually do 90 minutes. A couple years ago, we were having a tough time making the setlist to please everybody, so we actually did a medley. We put eight songs into about 10 minutes just so you could get a taste of them, and that worked out well. You always get those diehards who want to hear the old-old stuff, and the newer fans who want to hear the brand new stuff.
There’s no one like Korn fans. In Germany, there’s this girl who has seen the band 47 times, which is insane. It’s really sentimental and fragile to people out there. Then I’m meeting people on this tour that this is the first time that they’ve ever seen us. You have to throw the older hits in there, but you also play the newer tunes.
What are your favorite songs to play live? Which would you say have the best reactions?
“Here To Stay” might be one the heaviest riffs, in my opinion, ever written. It’s just so fun to play and it’s really not complicated on drums; it’s just a very powerful groove. I like playing the stuff off The Paradigm Shift because I helped write it, so I love playing “Love & Meth” and “Never Never.” The beginning of “Blind,” of course, gets everyone going. If anyone is yawning in the crowd, you play the song “Blind” and they’re going to stand up and mosh around.
How is playing with Korn different than performing with any of your previous acts?
I was a session drummer for many years, and when you do that a lot, you tend to have to adapt very quickly in these situations, and it becomes very challenging. But hey, it’s your job, so you do it.
With Korn, there is no band like Korn. They don’t sound like anybody, they never tried to sound like anybody, they’ve always been [doing] their own thing, from the tuning to the groove to [Jonathan Davis’] vocals. So I was very intimidated at first joining this band because I was just filling in. I was just touring, and then they asked me to be a member. It’s vastly different. It’s a feeling, it’s an emotion; it has nothing to do with how technically good you are. Obviously experience helps, but it’s more of the emotional content; all five of us connecting on stage, which is the most important thing.
Being so involved in music over the past two decades, what changes have you noticed in the scene?
When I was over on that side stage—and no offense to the bands over there, because I like a lot of them—but a lot of it sounds the same to me. I don’t know if it’s because I’m getting older or what. I look for uniqueness. Anyone can get up there and scream and tune their guitar down to B-flat. Everyone is so pissed and angry. Give me something special. Move me, you know? Move me emotionally. Don’t just be pissed off to be pissed off and play in a band. There’s a lot of that going on. There are a lot of cookie cutters. Like when Slipknot broke, everyone tried to sound like Slipknot.
That’s why I like being in a band with Jonathan Davis, because he absolutely hates metal. Whatever we’re called—it’s not nu metal, it’s not rock, it’s not death metal—we’re just Korn. Like I said, I saw Emmure this afternoon and they had something about them that wasn’t just a bunch of dudes playing angry music; it was something more there that attracted me. I was more tuned in, like, “Okay, I’m getting this and I’m getting chills.” That gave me goose bumps.
If you looked at my iPod, you would laugh, because I’m a metalhead, but I have like, Seal to Nine Inch Nails to Sting to Justin Timberlake to Gojira. I’m all over the map. They keep saying rock and metal is going away, but it’s never going to go away. It just changes and evolves; it goes through its patterns and phases and comes back around.
How does The Paradigm Shift differ from previous Korn releases?
Well the obvious thing is that [guitarist] Brian “Head” Welch came back in the band. [Welch quit the band in 2005.] Munky [co-founder and guitarist] even admitted that he missed that extra element. Watching those two write and bounce ideas off of each other, they really connect mentally. I always tell people, it’s one thing to be brothers in the band and connect on a human level, but it’s another thing to connect musically. Having been in so long now, I’ve found my niche deeply in this band, so having all of us together I think is what made The Paradigm Shift so special.
It would have been too easy to write a Life Is Peachy2. We didn’t want that. We wanted to have that heaviness but sprinkle elements of electronics in there to make it 2014 and not just have Jon scream his balls off. We’re always writing new songs, hence re-releasing the record with “Hater” and “The Game Is Over” on it. It’s just great to evolve as a band and see what happens next. It sounds a little different, but at the end of the day it’s still Korn.
2011’s The Path Of Totality was heavily influenced by EDM. Why choose to break away from that with this record?
Jon has always been heavy into electronic stuff. At first it was meant to be an EP release because he and Skrillex had written together, but then it would be like another producer would say, “Hey, I want to write with Jon!” or, “Hey, I heard Skrillex is involved!” and then the next thing you knew it just snowballed into all these different tunes. I had no idea it was going to be a Korn record.
So, why didn’t we continue that? It ran its course; it had its phase, and we still have fun playing “Get Up” and “Narcissistic Cannibal” live sometimes, but we didn’t feel the need to make it extreme like that anymore. Especially with Brian coming back in. It’s weird, because we pissed off a lot of old-school fans, but we gained a bunch of new ones, so that was really strange.
What are the band’s plans after this tour and for the rest of the year?
We have a lot of stuff planned. I can’t really let it out just yet, but there’s a couple cool things planned for the 20th anniversary and definitely some touring in October and November. We also confirmed Knotfest in Japan in November. We’re just trying to get confirmation on these other little surprises we have going on, but we’re definitely going to keep on supporting The Paradigm Shift.
Korn will be playing on the Rockstar Mayhem Festival, which hits Nikon At Jones Beach Theater on July 30, Susquehanna Bank Center Aug. 1, and the Toyota Pavilion on Aug. 2. The Paradigm Shift is available now. For more information, go to korn.com.