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Blood and Guts: Korn’s James ‘Munky’ Shaffer Talks About the Band’s India Tour

Shawn Fernandes

Korn OilfieldThese days India’s shaping up as the prime destination for the world’s biggest metal acts. Over the last few years we’ve had Metallica, Iron Maiden, Lamb of God, Meshuggah and Megadeth make their way to the sub-continent, while Slayer, Slash and Korn are on their way.

On the eve of Korn’s first-ever Indian tour promoted and produced by MOOZ Entertainment, Gibson Guitar India caught up with Korn guitarist James “Munky” Shaffer, who talked to us about the band’s surprising plunge into electronica, what things are like on the Korn tour bus and why they prefer “blood and guts” in their lyrics rather than “flowers and blue skies”.

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?

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.

Korn in India

Along the way, Korn’s gotten into some trouble, especially with “moral” authorities and with people taking offense at the visual imagery, lyrics and subjects of your songs. How does Korn deal with it all?

Jonathan once said he likes to paint “blood and guts” with his lyrics rather than flowers and blue skies. We’ve never been attracted to the nice, happy things in life when it comes to our music. We love dark, frightening and subversive tones – that’s just what we want to express, and we make the music we want to hear. We’re not trying to offend anyone, but we’ve never worried about what other people thought of our music. If they like it, that’s fantastic. If not, no problem.

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?

Ha ha, 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.

Given Korn’s controversial reputation over the years, how do reactions differ as you tour around the world? More to the point, how do you think India will react?

Fans in each territory are all different, but there are still a lot of commonalities. We’re all human, and we all connect similarly at a show. It’s so cool that no matter where you are in the world, you may not speak the same language, but at a live show you can understand and connect with the audience on such a deep level. That’s the power of music, and I guess that’s why they call it the universal language. As for India, I can’t wait to play these shows. We have amazing Indian fans who contact us through our website and Facebook pages, and I know these are going to be historic shows.

What can Indian fans expect when Korn play here?

All I can say is that these shows will be a lot of fun, and they will be historic for us. We’ve never played India before, so we’re incredibly excited and are going to remember this for the rest of our lives. We’re going to play some new songs, some really deep cuts, and definitely some classics that everyone will hopefully know and love. It’s going to be a blast. 

What’s in the Korn future for the next year? Is there another album or are there any more interesting collaborations on the way?

We’re just in the beginning phases of starting to think about our new album. It will probably lean more rock than the last one. In terms of collaborations, we’re just getting started in terms of thinking about it, so we’ll have to see!

Korn Path of Totality India Tour:

5 September - Leisure Valley Grounds - Gurgaon

7 September - MMRDA Grounds - Mumbai

9 September - Clarks Exotica - Bangalore

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