In the early ’90s, heavy music looked to be going the way of thedinosaurs: Well-heeled Brit-pop and well-scrubbed pop-punk werethoroughly dominating the guitar-rock landscape, and the few survivingold-school metal acts seemed hopelessly unable to adapt.But somewhere within the vast, murky Southern California wasteland, adynamic new species was being born, a forward-thinking beast thatdisregarded the mistakes of heavy bands past while meshing dark, urbanrhythms and low-tuned guitar sludge with violent, expressionist blastsof hip-core noise. That and the wildly emotional vocals of JONATHAN,which alternated between a bourbon-smooth croon and a viscerally sharphowl, made for a revolutionary mix that redefined heavy rock better thananyone had in a decade. The result was a monster 1994 self-titled debutalbum that went solid platinum, and by the time 1996’s Life Is Peachywas released, this beast had a fanbase over two million strong–and alegion of musical imitators so large it threatened to saturate theplanet.
It was time for a change of rules.Hence KORN’s latest, greatest slab, aptly titled FOLLOW THE LEADER. Fromthe broadened musical and emotional scope to the much beefier productionvalues to the stunning cover art courtesy of Spawn-creator ToddMcFarlane, FOLLOW THE LEADER is indeed an ambitious and deeplysatisfying outing for the band.
And while there is considerably morehype surrounding this rightly anticipated disc, JONATHAN is quick to putthings in perspective.”Our only goal was to take our time on this album,” he says. “Because Iknew we had it in us to do something great. To full integrate both(previous) albums and put out a record we could be proud of…
we wantedto do some phat shit.” “I think working with a new producer and going into a new studio helpedus grow musically as a band,” adds guitarist MUNKY. “All of us reallyhave that fire again about being excited about a record…We all feellike we grew, like when you grow out of some old shoes; your feet areall crammed in forever and you know you need to buy a new pair, but youneed to save up the money to do it.
We kind of saved up our confidenceand made that leap into our new shoes.” Fans of old-school KORN needn’t despair–the new shoes kick just as muchass as the old pair. “Freak On A Leash” is a molotov cocktail ofscathing, psychedelic guitar runs, hypno-groove bass grind, hip-hopjungle drumming, all sliced in two with an ingeniously placed scat linereminiscent of PEACHY opener “Twist.” Then there’s “Children Of TheKORN,” title courtesy of legendary gangsta rapper Ice Cube, whocontributed an arresting series of verses to the tune, as well as amallet-blunt mantra that speaks for every fed up kid in America: “Stopfuckin’ with me!” Check the epic closing track, “My Gift to You,” one ofthe band’s heaviest songs to date, rife with the sort of lyrical honestythat’s earned JONATHAN true street cred with the kids–and dismay fromthe parents. Which is just fine with him–KORN, after all, speaksdirectly to those disenfranchised with a world of spent opportunity andviolence, due in large part to the short-sightedness of generationspast.”Yeah,” says JONATHAN, “I am pissed off that I inherited it. I wishsometimes that I was born back in the day.
But today’s society is sofucked up…we gotta thank the parents for doing that to the kids.” Yes, they still rock. But FOLLOW THE LEADER also illustrates just howmuch JONATHAN’s vocal and lyrical abilities have broadened from the”straight fuckin’ cathartic rage” of KORN and PEACHY to a level thatcommunicates a full range of human emotion, from regret (“It’s On!”) andempathy (“Justin”), to lighthearted if incredibly vitriolic banter (“AllIn The Family”). The band’s musical growth is also well evident–fromdrummer DAVID’s successful integration of D-Drum sampling to FIELDY’sever-more-percussive bass playing.
Meanwhile, twin guitar towers MUNKYand HEAD have made their joint stylistic fusion nearly seamless. “It’slike we’re one person,” adds HEAD. “We’re one guitar player thinking.It’s weird.” The end result is an album that could well be KORN’s swansong–and one that’s sure to find the band’s ever-growing throng ofmusical imitators scurrying back to the chalkboard.
Although FOLLOW THE LEADER will not be officially released until August18 on Immortal/Epic Records, MUNKY considers it a mission accomplished:”I think we’ve already achieved success on this record,” he says. “We’reall 100 % happy with all the songs. That was the personal goal for me.”In the making of FOLLOW THE LEADER, KORN’s also been busy with theirground-breaking live weekly Internet program, as well as the formationof its own record label, Elementree Records. Its first signing,California “death pop” outfit Orgy, has already drawn critical acclaimfor its debut CANDYASS (Alternative Press enthusiastically endorsed therecord, saying it displayed enough “smart melodies, head-banging crunchand electro-kicks to impress even the most fickle music fans”).
CANDYASSwill hit the shops the on the same day as FOLLOW THE LEADER. As forElementree itself, FIELDY offers up the band’s business philosophyaccordingly:”I think we’d all like to sign some bands that everybody’s scared tosign. And of course to make them as big as KORN, if not bigger. I thinkwhere we’re at in ’98, the whole decade is really hurting for some goodmusic.”In addition to the new record and the new label, KORN has also puttogether its own answer to Lollapalooza: the “Family Values” tour, aneight-week U.S. tour which will feature Ice Cube, Limp Bizkit, Orgy,Rammstein and, of course, KORN, in addition to a throng of breakdancers,fire-eaters and a myriad of other cultural oddities. Why would analready overworked band want to tackle such a monumental task? “There are all these festivals that have weak links in them,” saysDAVID.
“It’s not easy to put together a big festival because there are alot of people involved–but we thought we could give it a shot and dosomething better.”1998 is proving to be an intensely creative year for the band. Anambitious new record that redefines the school KORN defined in the firstplace–that’s already garnering massive airplay for its first single(“Got The Life”). An ambitious new label that’s already undermining thealternative world. And an ambitious new tour showcasing some of theheaviest acts of the day. No surprise. KORN has always been aboutambition–and much more often than not it’s paid off.
“We’re not out to change the world, just music.”Category: Music and Movies