It has to be a little shocking for a drummer to learn that the bruising metal band he recently joined is about to make a new record -- powered by the electronic beats of dubstep and house producers.
That was the situation presented to Ray Luzier from Korn frontman Jonathan Davis, who had decided, after making 2010's "Korn III: Remember Who You Are" that the rock scene was "stale."
- With: Sluggo, J Devil.
- Where: Stage AE, North Shore.
- When: Gates at 6:30 p.m. today.
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"When he first approached me," says the drummer from nearby West Newton, "and played 'Get Up,' the first single, a few years ago -- and he played it through a PA in an arena -- I remember my mouth went open, and I was like, 'You're going to write lyrics over this?' "
It was a track from the Grammy-winning Skrillex, former frontman for the band From First to Last who has since blown up in the electronic dance music scene. Mr. Luzier, who joined Korn in 2008 after playing with David Lee Roth and Army of Anyone, realized his role on what would become "The Path of Totality" would be changed, and clearly diminished, by adding accents to processed beats.
However, he says, "Obviously I love the organic playing methods and I'm all about the no-click-track playing, but I've been a fan of electronic music, the metal end of it, like Nine Inch Nails, [Marilyn] Manson and Ministry. To me it wasn't a big switch. I've played with a click-track in several bands, but Korn's music bends a lot. There's a lot of movement, a lot of speeding up and slowing down and just whatever we're feeling. So, with the dubstep stuff, which is so regimented and routine and strict, you just kind of switch gears."
The road to "Path" took shape gradually, starting with that explosive Skrillex track, which sounds like a monster attacking Tokyo.
"We decided to do a five-song EP," Mr. Luzier says. "Well, the DJ/dubstep world is such a small circle, all those guys know each other so well, the next thing you know you have everyone involved in a full-length record. We just got into it and Jon had this rejuvenation, he was so excited he was belting songs out. I wasn't too freaked out at all, I was really into it."
Along with three contributions from Skrillex, Korn ended up with tracks from 12th Planet, Excision and Kill the Noise, giving Mr. Davis a ground-shaking bottom for his furious howl. Korn's usual recording process was turned upside down.
"Everyone knows that the drums are usually the first thing laid down. In this case, a lot of times, I was the last guy on the record," Mr. Luzier says. "And with 'Korn III,' we all took a break for three months off the tour, sat in the studio, wrote a song and 45 minutes later, tracked it for the record. With this one, we would do a vocal overdub in Seoul, Korea, do a drum track in Hawaii. It was done all over the world, 'cause you can do that with ProTools these days."
Korn touches down at Stage AE tonight on a tour that incorporates "The Path of Totality" into the set, changing the way Mr. Luzier approaches his kit.
"We play the new tour in thirds, so the first third is the old obscure Korn stuff, like we're doing the demo version of 'Predictable,' which the diehard Korn fans freak out about. And from the first album 'Lies.' Then, we take a small interlude and I switch up my kick drum and snare drum, and bring up an electric E-Pro Pearl snare and plug that in, then we have three triggers on the kick and I actually sample the sounds right off the record, so I hit the pads and actually play everything note for note."
The reaction to "Path" has been widely mixed. Korn won its first Album of the Year at the 2012 Revolver Golden Gods Awards, while other publications have given it "F's" or one-star reviews.
"People are going to slam and people are going to praise," Mr. Luzier says. "The whole thing is, we never half-ass anything. We believe 110 percent in what we do. It was never like 'Oh, we have to follow this dubstep thing now.' Before Skrillex blew up we were already half-done with our record. I learned a long time ago -- I've been in many national acts -- you have to really believe in what you do, because the fans notice that. They're not stupid."
Korn's dubstep venture may have turned off a few old Korn fans, but it also has brought some new ones into the fray.
"I'm getting letters from 16-year-old girls saying they never heard of Korn, but they bought a record cause Skrillex was on it," the drummer says. "Diehard Korn fans really didn't know how to take it at first. Now they see it live and they love it. You get all different kinds of things. Then you have more closed-minded fans who want to hear another metal record. So at the end of the day, to me it's still a Korn record. No one sounds like Jonathan Davis, that's for sure. And the shows are doing really well. It's really packed and we have a whole new light show, and it's visually cool as well."
In the end, despite taking a lesser role on the current project, he appreciates that it might be a necessary step.
"I'm proud to be in a band that's willing to take chances. You know, I'm a big fan of AC/DC and bands like that, and you know when you get an AC/DC record, it's pretty much going to sound not too far off from the last one. I like being in a band that takes some twists and turns. You're going to [anger] some people, but gain some new fans, and that's just the way it is."music
Scott Mervis: email@example.com; 412-263-2576; Twitter: @scottmervis_pg