Korn Guitarist: We've Never Considered Ourselves 'Nu-Metal'

Shawn Fernandes of GibsonGuitar.in recently conducted an interview with Korn guitarist James "Munky" Shaffer.

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Shawn Fernandes of GibsonGuitar.in recently conducted an interview with Korn guitarist James "Munky" Shaffer. A couple of Blabbermouth's excerpts from the chat follow below.

GibsonGuitar.in: When Korn started out in the early '90s, you were right at the front of the nu-metal movement. Almost two decades later, nu-metal and many of its most famous acts have fallen by the wayside but Korn's still alive and kicking. What's kept Korn going all this while?

Munky: We've never considered ourselves "nu-metal," or any particular genre for that matter. When we came out, certain media outlets coined that phrase to group all these bands together, but we've always tried to do our own thing. We love metal, but also incorporate hip-hop, funk, electronic music, and try to keep challenging ourselves to be different and push our own boundaries with our music. I think that's kept us in a good creative space that our amazing fans have been so supportive of, thankfully.

With your current album, "The Path Of Totality", Korn has made a massive shift, diving into the world of electronica and dubstep. What triggered the change?

Jonathan Davis, our singer, has always been into electronic music, and was a DJ in high school before he joined Korn. When we were looking for a new direction for our next album, Jonathan came to me, sat down and started playing the wildest, most interesting music I had heard in a while. "What is that??" I asked. He told me it was this DJ named Skrillex. He asked if we wanted to incorporate these sounds into our next album, and I was all for it. We were very fortunate to be able to work with all these incredibly talented electronic music producers for the album, and it came together in a way that we were very happy about.

A lot of Korn's music over the years have been inspired by experiences from life. How hard is it to maintain that level of well, rage when you're now well-off, reasonably happy rock stars? Or do you just find other sources to inspire the music?

We are definitely all in a different space than when we were 20 years old. [laughs] We have kids now, are older, more mature. But like anyone, we all have conflict in our lives, things that drive us or fuel our creativity. I know Jonathan channels a lot of real pain and emotion into all of his lyrics, even to this day. We're still making music because we have something we want to express, not because we "have to."

How different is a Korn tour now from the way it used to be in the '90s? Is the band better behaved now? Are the tour buses/hotel rooms quieter now?

[laughs] Definitely! We are more mature, better behaved, quieter, and less drama. I think we've also grown as musicians from playing for so many years. We all have families and enjoy each other's company, and the road is a less hectic place than it was when we started out.

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    But... They are nu-metal. ._.
    Maybe, but why do bands need to categorise themselves? Not to mention they defined the genre. Do you think Black Sabbath ever sat there and one day thought, "Let's invent heavy metal."?
    They don't have to categorize themselves, but seriously. Limp Bizkit and Korn STARTED that genre. It's a part of who they are. Their style sounds exactly like the definition of nu-metal.
    That they started it kind of proves their point. They just set out making the music they wanted to make, regardless of genre. Then people decided there is no such thing as genreless music so the name nu-metal was invented and those people are now outraged that Korn still refuse to just follow a specific genre.
    You can say "we don't consider ourselves nu-metal," but if the music you write is nu-metal, then, well, you're nu-metal. Musically, Korn wrote nu-metal for years. So... yeah.
    i haven't ever categorized them as nu-metal either... they didn't exactly rap or do the same shit as Limp Bizkit or Linkin Park. i've always considered KoRn as alternative metal, and always will. while some of their stuff sound like nu-metal, that's fine. some bands aren't considered ONE genre ALL the time...
    We've never considered ourselves "nu-metal," or any particular genre for that matter. yet KoRn is among bands like slipknot and SOAD who have pretty much defined nu-metal...
    But those bands do IMO not sound alike at all... I wouldn't even call N-Metal a genre because all the bands in it sound so different..
    That's always the case. The Clash, The Pistols and The Damned all sound very different. Mudhoney, AIC, Pearl Jam and Soundgarden all sound completely different. Genres are more about a style, or a zeitgeist, than a 'sound'.
    This. There are that many bands categorized as nu metal that sound completely different that I'm not even sure what nu metal is. I love some bands classed as nu metal but others are complete shit and sound completely different. There are good Death Metal bands and shit ones but you can always identify Death Metal when you hear it.
    Korn and Slipnot without a doubt, but SOAD not so much. Linkin Park would be a better citation.
    System of a Down really defined their own genre. It's nothing in particular done before. Not trying to sound like a fan boy, but they're just SoaD
    I would classify system of a down as klesmir metal, klesmir is basically jewish folk music that makes heavy use of the harmonic minor scale.
    "Korn, Slipknot and SOAD defined nu metal" Those bands all sound completely different, how the hell are they anything alike.
    I wouldn't include SOAD in the nu-metal category...I don't really hear any hip-hop/funk in it.
    SOAD definitely got rid of the nu-metal sound in their music. Slipknot did as well but they also stopped once nu-metal quit being cool.
    I would put SOAD in there. They're closer to Korn, Slipknot, Limp Bizkit (give me the hate, I can take it), and a lot of those other bands than anything else.
    Nope. SOAD's first album is ARGUABLY Nu Metal, but everything from Toxicity on has more in line with Frank Zappa, Mars Volta, Devin Townsend, all of those strange bands that experiment. SOAD, from albums 2 to 5, have NO Nu Metal influences, except for heavy guitars, which is characteristic of any Metal genre. SOAD is "Experimental Metal". They have no Hip Hop or Funk influences, they only have 4 members that do their normal JOB, instead of guitarists that just do dissonant high notes or DJs who do just about nothing. SOAD is not even CLOSE to Nu Metal, is all I'm trying to say.
    The term "nu metal" was coined as a shorthand way of saying "this isn't thrash or grunge and I don't know what to call it"
    I dunno why these bands don't just use the term "alternative metal". I think that it's far more befitting. I mean, what the hell does "nu metal" even imply? It's not exactly "new" anymore, either.
    No but the mis-spelling of the word new is kind of identifiable to that early 2000's vibe were everything was trying to be the new big thing. Skillz, dawg, nu, it's all very 2000's, whether or not it seemed dated at the time.
    Korn is definitely one of my favorites, and (in my opinion) the biggest band to fall into the Nu-metal genre, it's true, it is hard to categorize them, they are all over the place sometimes, which is what I love about them, you listen to one track and think you've got them all figured out, then, BOOM! It changes up.
    Dubstep sound just aren't cool if you mix them with metal. Korn and muse are great examples of this. Please just stick at metal.
    Just because they didn't do it well, doesn't meen that it is something that will never work.
    I didn't mind the Muse one so much, I just don't like vocals in dubstep too much, I really only listen to it for the heavy drops. That being said Matt Bellamy's falsetto fits pretty much anything.
    I could kinda understand what he's talking about. When I think Nu-metal I think Linkin Park, Crazytown, Limp Bizkit, and Taproot. The hip hop influence is very distinct in these bands, but when I used to listen to Korn, I never found them to be Hip-hoppy. I always thought they sounded more like funk metal and groove metal.
    Just another example of a band that doesn't want to be labeled really, even though they are the textbook example of the style. You look at any famous metal band and they'll say "Well, you know, people always call us X and Y, but we're really just metal" or whatever. I've never really understood why famous bands hate being labeled as a particular genre so much. Is it really so bad?
    A lot of musicians find it to be really constricting. If they felt like changing their sound, it would be hard to go in that new direction if they're supposed to be the epitome of a genre. There would certainly be some backlash.
    Totally agree with you. At least they're not one of those bands that says, "we're our own genre" or something like that. That sounds so pretentious. Very few, if any bands have the right to say something like that, I think.
    good point, but as a musician its almost disrespecting for some lil punk kid to say, oh, you guys are this. however, in this case, korn = nu metal without a doubt
    they've always done different stuff with new albums. so stop complaining about path of totality because they probably won't make every song on the new album a dubstep song
    korn are my very favourite band and always will be no matter now i listen to 213921312 kinds of music and a lot of them not metal ...but basically I think i should stop reading EMPTY articles like these for bands with 15+ active years ....they always say the same bullshit like the previous interview
    They don't call themselves "nu-metal" because other people did that. They call themselves KoRn, and always have. You have to respect the fact that they don't want to be labelled, and they make a real effort to be different.
    It's the same with all genres. Labels get applied to bands by other people, not the band themselves. Also, yeah, Korn have always tried to be different. They seem old hat now, but I still remember how excited I was hearing Ball Tongue live on Headbanger's Ball. Must've been about '94, and they genuinely did sound completely different to everything else at the time.
    I kinda think Korn haven't done anything worth listening to since Take A Look In The Mirror.
    Well that's great and all, Korn, but you don't really have a say in it. If bands are the ones who decided which genres they belong to, classification would be even more of an incomprehensible mess than it is now.
    I never mentioned Lulu. Lou Reed has a 40+ year recording career, so it hardly seems fair to write the man off as 'crap' when you're familiar with one album. Does that make me hipster? Being familiar with an artist's back catalogue before making sweeping statements?