Korn’s Munky Dishes on ‘The Path of Totality,’ the State of Rock Music + More
Korn are gearing up for another round of U.S. tour dates, and we recently checked in with Korn axe-man Munky about a wide variety of topics spanning their latest album ‘The Path of Totality’ to the state of the music industry.
A few weeks ago, we posted Munky’s insider’s perspective on the days of MTV video countdown show ‘Total Request Live’ and how Korn managed to grab the No. 1 spot against boys bands N*Sync and the Backstreet Boys. Now we bring you the full interview with the guitarist, where he goes in-depth about the birth of ‘The Path of Totality’, as well as several other topics:
Firstly, congratulations on recently tying the knot. How’s life as a married man?
It feels good, man. I had a 20-year bachelor party! [Laughs]
How did the concept of making the dubstep-inspired album ‘The Path of Totality’ come to be? Did it just evolve naturally in the studio?
Originally, Jonathan came to us to play us some tracks from Skrillex’s album ‘Scary Monsters’ and that’s sort of where it all began. He was doing a lot of DJ gigs and stuff and getting inspired by these up-and-coming dubstep DJs. After he played me some of the tracks, he said, “What do you think about incorporating some of this stuff into our new record?” At first I was kind of taken aback, but then after a minute of thinking about it, it felt like it could be a refreshing take on what we already do. I thought it would be challenging – we’re always up for a challenge. It not only challenged us, but it challenged music lovers and Korn fans.
The fans seem to be embracing the new direction…
There seemed to be a preconceived notion that it would going to be a dance album or something, but the album is refreshing. I’ve been a big industrial fan for a long time back to Ministry‘s ‘The Mind is a Terrible Thing to Taste,’ so it was exciting to play something with that sort of feel.
Was there any uneasiness within the band about redefining yourselves after being around for so long?
I think there was a little bit of worry, because Korn is Korn and trying to open new doors is challenging when we had nine records under our belt at that point. I think there was more of a worry not on our part but with the fans – are they really going to accept this? But if you look at our catalog of albums, we’re constantly evolving and constantly trying new things and experimenting. Essentially, it was always going to be a Korn album, but there was some worry within the band like, “Ahh man, I hope people dig this.” But you know, you’ve always got to follow your creative needs as an artist, so that’s what keeps you focused.
Also in the back of our minds I think that kept us on track with still making a heavy record and still sounding like Korn — still having the elements that make Korn, like Jonathan’s lyrics, his voice and the heavy guitar sound. It was quite challenging for me as a guitar play because I’m kind of competing with these big synth sounds – and sometimes it was like, “Wow, how could I compete with that super wide-frequency stuff?” Sometimes it was just better to try and lay a melody across the top of that stuff or play in between the beats that the DJs and the producers get in there.
Before teaming up with Skrillex, did you ever know him as Sonny Moore from the band ‘From First to Last?’ Did that have anything to do with the collaboration?
Not so much, but I did meet him a few times just hanging out at friends houses and stuff. I didn’t really know how it was going to go down, but after we did the song ‘Get Up!’ it was then when we thought, “Wow, this formula is really going to work.” We spent the afternoon together working on that first track. We just wanted to work with him to see how this sort of thing would go down. But after working with him it was like, “Cool, lets keep writing!” Then Sonny gave us a bunch of other producers’ names, because he’s so busy working on his own stuff, he didn’t really have time to work on the whole album with us.
How did you go about choosing all the DJs and dubstep artists to be a part of ‘The Path of Totality?’
Well some of them Jonathan was a fan of, some of them were recommended by Sonny. It was all about seeing whether they all were into doing the collaboration and it all just went from there. Some of the guys that were into it, like Downlink and Feed Me were into it, so they’d come up with these tracks and send us sort of a skeleton of some songs. Then I’d add guitars and melodies onto it, send it back and they would listen to it and arrange it differently.
Then Jonathan would get a hold of it and put it together in a way that would make sense with him singing over it. It was pretty much a science experiment the whole time. Even down to when we started to mix the album, because obviously Korn is very guitar-driven, so I wanted to make sure that the guitars were loud and that they still had that element of the Korn sound.
On the last leg of your ‘Path of Totality’ tour, all of the opening acts were exclusively dubstep guys and DJs. How do you think the audience reacted to that kind of live experiment?
Well, I think at the end they understood what we were trying to do, which is to open people up to a new style of music and show how talented these guys are. A lot of them don’t play instruments, but what they do with their laptops is very much an instrument. The scientific approach they have towards to designing sounds and the way they design the low-end — they taught us a lot in the studio. In our future recordings we’re always going to use some of their techniques.
We’ve heard Jonathan say that part of the decision to make a dubstep-infused album was him being unimpressed with the state of rock music right now. Are you personally into any new rock bands at the moment?
I’m constantly searching iTunes to search for new music but not necessarily by new bands. I always go back to stuff like Rage Against the Machine and Nine Inch Nails. Both of those bands still inspire me. I agree with Jonathan to a certain degree. I like to see different bands taking chances. There is one band called The Qemists. They’re really cool. You’ve got to look for it, you’ve got to search for it. Great rock music is out there, I just think the state of the record business isn’t really giving a fair chance to some of the up-and-coming artists. There are so many out there that its hard for them to get recognized.
Do you think its harder to get recognized now as opposed to the ’90s?
Yeah, I do. With YouTube though, you can upload a video of your band and have a lot of people watch it, but its just changed to much because you still need the money to promote and get it out there. Now the record companies don’t have that money to promote their new bands. But the beauty of it is that if your band is great and you put up a YouTube video, you can get noticed and gain credibility in the underground scene.
That kind of credibility is even more valuable because you can gain fans through the internet, but does that translate into ticket sales? You can have 100,000 hits on your YouTube video, but how many of those people are going to show up to your gig? That’s a tough one too. Plus the way the economy is doesn’t help people get out of their houses.
Fresh off their recent performance on Jimmy Kimmel Live!, Korn are soon to embark in the second half of their ‘Path of Totality’ tour, kicking off in Detroit on Feb. 23.
Watch Korn Perform ‘Narcissistic Cannibal’ Live in NYC