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.

85 comments sorted by best / new / date

    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...
    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.
    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, Slipknot and SOAD defined nu metal" Those bands all sound completely different, how the hell are they anything alike.
    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 wouldn't include SOAD in the nu-metal category...I don't really hear any hip-hop/funk in it.
    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 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?
    "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" Oh my gosh...
    "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." Followed by: "'What is that??' I asked. He told me it was this DJ named Skrillex." Skrillex is not what I would call "wild" or "interesting" by any stretch of my imagination. But that's just my opinion. I listen to a lot of weird stuff. At least compared to that...
    I kinda think Korn haven't done anything worth listening to since Take A Look In The Mirror.
    I don't quite understand why people are shocked at the idea of Korn and Muse experimenting with electronic music. To me these bands have always had a bit of electronic influnce. It just seemed natural that they would try to go in that direction...
    It's not that they're experimenting with electronic music, it's that they're drawing influence from bottom-of-the-barrel electronic music like Skrillex.
    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.
    Lou Reed prob doesn't consider his music crap, but it is. As a former Korn fan I am disapointed. I grew away from Korn for heavier stuff, but always gave them respect and defended them whenever I could. When the last album came out I could no longer do that.
    Wow, so you're managing to pull off the 'Of course, I only liked the early stuff' hipster attitude, AND getting some band-wagon-tastic Lou Reed bashing in there? Well done you.
    I liked early Korn proly cause I was 12, and your saying Lou Lou was good? Only thing hipster here is your attitude. Also I have never even heard of rockn roll animal or transformer.
    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?
    They always try something new but they keep the heavy riffs and the growling vocals so I don't see the problem with the word nu-metal. It completely fits them. When did it become awkward anyway?
    Yes, bands need to categorise themselves in order to have identity. As humans, we start naming everything since we are born, starting with colors and shapes. There's nothing wrong with defining a band's genre. That "we don't need to name our genre" stuff sounds kind of hippie to me
    Veronique Vega
    Just like bands in the 90's fighting the label of 'alternative' or 'grunge'. Every so often a music style comes along thats either new or a revival of old, and industry publications want to differentiate it from the pre-existing music by coining a new genre / sub-genre. Sorry, KoRn, you got tagged as Nu-Metal.
    I got an idea, lets just throw all these so called genres out the ****in window and sit back and listen to the MUSIC
    Korn is the epitome of Nu-Metal. If he doesn't consider Korn a nu-metal band then who does he consider to be nu-metal? Let's look at the characteristics of Nu-metal. A blend of metal and rap played with low tuned instruments, brief guitar solos, cookie-monster style vocals, and pity-party lyrics. Of course every there are some exceptions to these rules.
    You know, his description of what aspects they incorporate into their music sounds an awful lot like a specific genre... what was it.... oh yeah! Nu-metal. I don't understand why they and other bands have to try to escape the label attached to them. Especially given that Korn is one of the primary bands that started the genre in the first place. A label helps fans of one band in the genre find others like them.
    link no1
    Nu-metal isn't a popular genre anymore, from what I see/hear it gets alot more abuse than praise these days. If Korn for some reason where under the category of 'Thrash Metal" (It will never happen) they probably wouldn't be trying to defend themselves saying they aren't 'thrash metal' because it's not a frowned upon thing in the metal community but Nu-Metal? I don't blame them for trying to argue they are nothing to do with it, even if they did create the damn genre.
    They definitely didn't create nu metal, its been around before them, it just wasn't referred to as nu-metal.
    when I think nu metal I think Korn, Deftones, and Limp Bizkit. Never really think of SOAD
    SOAD's first couple albums were very nu-metal influenced. They did manage to completely escape the label with mezmerize and hypnotize though.
    Not nu metal? What about the song structures, the stupid ass stage names, the incredibly low tuned guitars (on what planet must one tune a 7 string so low?). I love Korn, but they are a nu metal band.
    Didn't they sort of create NU-metal? Then they.. actually would not be Nu-metal. The way i see it, if you do it before it exists, you should not really fit into the bracket that might form years later. On to the dubstep thingy. I just really don't like dubstep. Seriously, i feel OLD when i hear it. Because i honestly think that SOME of it is SO bad that i can't even think of it as music. Just effects. And i don't mind NOISE-music. But Dubstep.. Alot of it is just plain horrible, to me. All personal opinion of course.
    Black Sabbath invented heavy metal, and they are considered heavy metal. Metallica invented thrash metal, and they are considered thrash metal (at least their 80s stuff). However, Iron Maiden and Judas Priest inspired power metal (note: inspired), and they are NOT power metal bands. At least that's how I view these things.
    It seems weird that so many commenters get so worked up on the music (which i think is great and very interesting) and noone cares that the lyrics are just not TRULY angry anymore. They are angry because Korn is an angry band. They don't spit hate in your ****in face anymore and that's something i loved about Korn.
    I'm Johnathan Davis and I don't sing about how much I hate my daddy! my daddy! my daddy! I ****ing hate my daddy! waaaahh! ...I don't sing about my daddy, OK!?
    i loved korn till they changed.. now i cant stand them!! call them self what they want.. to me there jus a bunch ofsellouts!!