Korn Drummer Ray Luzier Discusses Return of Brian ‘Head’ Welch, New Album + More
Korn fans are excited that guitarist Brian ‘Head’ Welch has returned to the band for both their live shows and upcoming album, and among those sharing in the excitement is current Korn drummer Ray Luzier.
The stickman joined Korn after Head left the group, so for Luzier, this is a whole new experience — and he’s enjoying every minute of it. We sat down with the drummer to get his perspective on Head’s return, as well as a hint of what to expect on the new Korn album and more. Check out our interview with Ray Luzier:
Rock on the Range was the first big-scale full show with Brian ‘Head’ Welch back in the band; what was that like?
The energy is insane, this is my sixth year with the band so since I got this gig I’ve always envisioned and dreamed about the four original guys up front and me in the back just as a personal fan of the band for so many years. For that having come true and him being on the record and writing was a blast and when we started rehearsals for this run, it became apparent to me – there just something about the individual uniqueness of all of them.
No one plays bass like Fieldy, no one on the planet sings like Jon Davis and no one plays guitar like Munky and Head – it all comes from the fingers, yeah the tone and the low tuning is a huge deal, but there’s something about when those two got together. There’s been three rhythm guitarists since I been in the band six years; the way [Munky and Head] feed off of each other is unbelievable and it doesn’t happen with anyone else. Of course out of the gate, playing one warm up show and then hitting it on Rock on the Range, it was a very emotional and intense moment for everyone.
It’s your first time working with Head in the studio. How was the experience recording with him?
It’s weird, we started writing back in July of last year and you never know — for a while, I made my entire living playing sessions, so I’m very used to playing with musicians of all calibers whether they be a beginner or Billy Sheehan, virtuoso, Steve Vai kind of players. It’s one thing getting along with someone musically and it’s another thing getting along with them on a personal level and there’s all different things that go with it. Sometimes you either have chemistry or you don’t, so I had no idea how it was going to be with playing with Brian.
It’s funny because I would play something and he’d be like, “I’m not used to playing with live drummers” because they’d program everything and play and he was throwing me stuff like, “Can you turn another beat right here,” and I’m like, “Sure,” and he’s like, “Why aren’t you getting mad at me,” and I’m like, “I’m not going to get mad at you, I’ll gladly take your suggestion.” He’d go, “I’m so used to drummers being like, ‘I got it man you do your thing, you play guitar, I play drums’,” but I’m used to that and I’d make a suggestion for him.
Instantly, we just got along musically and then as we got to know each other I find out he’s a great person and we have a lot in common. His parents are still together, they were high school sweethearts, same with my parents — we have all this personal stuff in common. All of us have kids now so we talk about family. The party days are well in the past, I’ve never personally got into the party thing – I’ve lived my entire career drug free, I’m very proud to say that but I’ve been around a lot of musicians that have had substance problems.
Tell us a little bit about the direction of this new Korn album.
With Head back in the mix, it would be too typical to put out an old sounding record. We could have easily gone in and been like, “Here’s a bunch of old metal songs.” Korn’s always been about not being afraid to take chances, on ‘Path of Totality’ we went way off the deep end compared to ‘Korn III,’ which sounds nothing like ‘Untouchables,’ and so on. We wanted to sound like today, 2013, there’s got to be modern elements and with our producer Don Gilmore I think we hit it right on the Head, no pun intended. This record it’s not even mixed yet. [When] we’re listening to roughs, we usually you go, “These two songs are amazing and the rest are okay.” [On this album,] every song you listen to it’s like, “This is great” or four songs into it you’re like, “I thought this one was my favorite,” then seven songs into it you’re like, “This one is really great.”
We’re all so high off the record, this is the best vocal performance I’ve ever heard Jonathan Davis do and that’s saying a lot – the guy’s been on some big records. We’re so stoked on it right now, it’s got elements of everything, it sounds like today but it’s got that Korn magic that was once lived and is now re-lived. It’s a whole new rejuvenation of that – I’m excited man. I can’t wait for people to hear it.
Is there a timeline yet for a first single and then eventually the album?
We’re letting management do all that, I never know. I’m not sure, it’s all in the timing, having the right time when it comes ou,t but I know we’re planning a huge tour for the fall so it’s got to come out somewhere around there – end of August, beginning of September, that’s what we’re hoping for.
[Editor's note: Luzier later tweeted out that the album is coming out Sept. 24.]
As a drummer, how was it laying down the tracks for the new album versus the dub-step infused ‘Path of Totality’?
It was a big difference, I’m all about playing for the song – the dubstep programming I played everything acoustically underneath all that stuff but in the final mix there’s no use to even try and compete these acoustic sounds to these massive layered drum sounds they had. On half the record there’s just live cymbals and I’m okay with that, it’s about the song I didn’t want to ruin it with a dumb drum fill and be fancy. It was just about laying it down and making people move their heads.
On this record, I got to do more my style and obviously ‘Korn III’ was definitely organic. Don Gilmore, it’s just like, wow, this guy knows what he’s doing and he’d be like, “You just chased a bunch of people away with that fill” and now that I listened back to it he was so right. The cool thing about this band is that there’s no more egos and attitudes – we’re all team players, we all want to make the best sounding record.
You’ve been in the band for a while now. I guess people can stop calling you the new guy …
People will always call me the new guy, I understand I’m a fan, I get it. C’mon, Alice in Chains are one of my favorite bands – [William DuVall is] always going to be the new singer – for 10 years he’s going to be the new singer. It’s okay, what the fans out there have to understand is that I never will be an original member. It’s funny because there’s people out there with David Silvera tattoos on their back and if it wasn’t for the five original members I wouldn’t be here today.
I’ve had a huge career before Korn, it’s funny to me because people are like, “You finally did it,” and it’s like I toured the world with David Lee Roth and it’s okay, the people have to accept change and I have to too as a fan. I have to accept when I go see Journey that Steve Perry’s not up there singing; the drummer’s obviously less recognizable than a singer but I get it though, I sympathize with the fans.
What have you come to appreciate about Korn that you may not have realized when you first joined the band?
I was just the touring guy on the first big tour we did – I was considered the touring drummer and I was okay with that but right off the bat these guys don’t mess around. I never understood when you travel and you have a 19-hour time difference and these guys bring it every night. Jonathan is such the real deal — it could be no sleep for two days or someone’s sick and we just throw down every single night. The fans that pay good money to come see you, they don’t care if you’re jetlagged or if you didn’t sleep the night before you give them a show.
Their work ethic blew me away – I didn’t know that about them, that to me was the biggest thing. We’re all lifers, we’ll be doing this until we’re dead and I think that’s what transpires onstage, in the studio, it flows in your blood and in your veins. There’s some nostalgia bands in it for the money and it shows onstage, this band – it’s proof, when Jon gets offstage he’s on his bus and writes songs until 6 a.m. and it’s like, ‘Who does that?’
We all have side projects going on, we were off for six months, right when I finished the Korn record I went into the studio with George Lynch and Dug Pinnick from King’s X and we just finished a side band called KXM and it’s coming out later this year. We all have music in us and we all want to create all the time, I think that’s why we get along so well.
What would you say is your favorite Korn song to play live as a drummer?
It depends on the tour. When we were pushing ‘Korn III,’ I loved playing ‘Pop a Pill.’ The drums are very simple for ‘Here To Stay’ but that to me is one of the heaviest riffs of all time and when it kicks in there’s nothing like watching everyone – whether it’s 2,000 or 60,000 people bobbing up and down, I get off on that. With the set this year we’re doing a lot of stuff with Head singing on it like ‘Ball Tongue’ and ‘Lies’ and it’s really cool to play that stuff. I love ‘Blind’ it’s one of my favorite songs to play live ever, there’s something about the groove of that and it transpires live way heavier than the record.
You guys have a bunch of European festivals this summer. After that, can we expect the band back in North America?
I’m sure in the fall when this record comes out, we’re really going to hit it hard. I don’t know where the places are yet but the managers are like, “Get ready because once this comes out you guys are going to work” [Laughs]. One thing about Korn is that it’s worldwide – I’ve been in a lot of bands where we only play Canada, Europe and the States. The first tour I did with this band was 35 countries in four and a half months. Not many bands do that, it’s kind of cool that bands of that magnitude appeals to so many people worldwide. We really want to go back to South America again.
Last question is a goofy one: With Head being back in the band, there’s a lot of hair going on in Korn. Is there any pressure on you to grow your hair out and get dreadlocks?
See, people always say that but Dave had a shaved head, I don’t get that. No, in fact I went shorter this year, I cut more of it off. It’s kind of weird, I asked James that. “Did anyone give David pressure” and he’s like “No one ever said anything” and it’s like why do I get s— for that. [Laughs] So no I don’t think so, just for fun this Halloween I’m going to get a big dreaded wig and wear it!
Our thanks to Ray Luzier for taking the time to chat with us. He also discussed his experience working with David Lee Roth for several years. See that part of our interview over at Ultimate Classic Rock: