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Korn Guitarist Munky Reflects on Kicking Boy Bands to the Curb on ‘TRL’

Munky
Chung Sung-Jun, Getty Images

For those of us who rushed home from school each day to catch MTV’s ‘Total Request Live,’ we know all too well about the dominance of the ’90s boy band craze. Each and every week for six months, the Backstreet Boys and N*Sync populated the No. 1 and No. 2 spots on the request show – consistently leaving Korn to linger at No. 3. 

On Feb. 25, 1999, however, as fans were ready to see their daily No. 3 video, ‘Freak on a Leash,’ TRL host Carson Daly introduced one of the boy bands instead. The moment seemed unreal. One of the untouchable pop groups had been defeated by Korn. As the No. 2 video was introduced, yet another boy band was announced – with Korn finally achieving that top spot they had deserved after all this time. The bullet from the ‘Freak on a Leash’ video had passed through the heart of the music industry — proving that rock ‘n’ roll will never die.

We recently spoke with Korn guitarist James “Munky” Shaffer about that very day, and what it meant to Korn as a band.

Back on ‘TRL’ in the late 90s, Korn was constantly stuck at the No. 3 spot due to the Backstreet Boys and N’Sync, but then suddenly one day ‘Freak on a Leash’ hit No. 1. I know I was running around my house screaming, but was that a big moment for you guys?

Totally. I mean, it was a rock band knocking off the boy bands. It was like, “The people have spoken!” It was that sort of conformation. You know the fans are you there, but you need their support, you need their help. For a show like ‘TRL,’ it’s not like a lot of rock and metal people really even watched that show at the time. To get those sort of numbers and people behind you was a big deal.

It felt like a big victory for rock.

It was, it was. I think also as far as bands or anybody that played music at the time, or you know, bands practicing in their garage and stuff — I think it gave them some inspiration. I really don’t see too many, except if you turn on ‘American Idol’ or some of those shows, many band scenarios that get too much airplay. I think there should be more of it.

Is it safe to say that you’re not the biggest ‘American Idol’ fan?

I can safely say that, yes. [Laughs] I like the stories where the small-town kid gets to go to Hollywood and gets to do what they love to do, but the show in general isn’t something I’m into.

 

Stay tuned for our full and in-depth interview with Munky, where he discusses the birth of ‘The Path of Totality,’ Korn’s song remix contest and much more.

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