Monday, 23 October 2017
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Interview: Ray Luzier of KORN

Photo: Thomas Woroniak

Prior to Korn’s performance in Vienna, Austria, Antihero Magazine’s Ivana Kováčová had a moment to chat with drummer Ray Luzier about his time with the band, as well as KXM, his project with Doug Pinnick (King’s X) and George Lynch (Dokken/Lynch Mob).

korn - ray luzier
Photo: NIWY KOVÁČOVÁ

ANTIHERO: How has the tour been so far? It’s nearing the end.

Ray Luzier: Yeah, it’s nearing the end. It’s all really good, we always have fun in Europe – we love coming to Europe. But this time there was something more special about the crowds. I don’t know why, but every show is selling out, every show seems a little bit more powerful. It seems Korn is in great state of mind and we’re very confident about the new record. We feel we put out the best record we can and we’re out here to support that. It’s so much stronger feeling, you know. We’re all about music and family now. There’s no drama, the band gets along great.

ANTIHERO: That must be really an improvement from what it used to be like a few years back.

Ray Luzier: Yeah, sure! Because this is my tenth year, October starts my eleventh year. They’ve been around for 23 years, I wasn’t in the band when it was so crazy. You know, the substance abuse. And it’s okay, I’m glad I joined when I did because everyone’s just focused on good shows, music. The only thing that sucks about being on the road is we miss our families, we miss our kids, we all have children. This is a long time for us, four weeks. Years ago, we would go off for two or three months and not care about being home. But now it’s like, you live on skype.

ANTIHERO: How do you look back on those ten years spent with the band? You are the only band member right now who is not one of the founding ones.

Ray Luzier: I’m so glad that Head rejoined. I was in the band almost as long he has been out of the band so when he rejoined, now it feels like a powerful force. He had reason for quitting. The original drummer just quit. He has just said, “My heart’s not in it anymore. I’m out. I gotta go.” And he left everybody. Head kind of left because he had a reason to, there was more of drug problems, and his daughter, and a lot of things. And he became a big rockstar when Korn blew up, they were unstoppable. It was like on top of everybody, you know? It does a lot to your mind when you’re in that game. I’ve joined a lot of bands, from David Lee Roth, and Army of Anyone, and Jake E. Lee from Ozzy Osbourne. I have a lot of experience with big bands. But all my original bands in Los Angeles were not as successful. We’d get a little bit of success and then nothing. So yeah, it feels great though. Just in the last few years I feel like, “okay, now I’m even part of this band and everything feels great.”

KORN - Ray Luzier
Photo: Justin Williams

ANTIHERO: When you were auditioning for Korn I’ve read that you were supposed to learn 5 songs and instead you learned 30.

Ray Luzier: Sure, yeah, yeah.

ANTIHERO: Why the hell would you do that?

Ray Luzier: In Los Angeles for many years I made my living doing sessions. And playing on movie soundtracks. And playing on someone’s records. So, you kind of adapt. You play on this record, okay, I have to learn 25 songs in the next two days. And you try to learn all these songs, and you play that record, and you finish with that, and now you’re playing this. Now I have to learn this cover band, now I have to teach this drum lesson. Like, I wasn’t the typical rockstar guy. I was a working drummer.

ANTIHERO: Isn’t that a little bit overwhelming?

Ray Luzier: It was. Very overwhelming. But when I auditioned for someone, like when I auditioned for Jake E. Lee I learned the entire Ozzy’s Bark at the Moon and The Ultimate Sin he played on. I learned all the Badlands songs, everything that Jake ever put out, I learned. Because I wanted to go to the audition. When you are auditioning with 50 or 100 drummers what do you have that they don’t have? Maybe one has dreadlocks, maybe one is a muscle guy, maybe one’s black, maybe one’s white. You don’t know what people are looking for. So, you have to be prepared. So, my thing was I’m going to learn more than I have to.

ANTIHERO: And how did the guys react to that?

Ray Luzier: Munky was the one that saw the paper. He says, “What do you know?” I said, “Well I kind of learned this.” “You learned all that?” “Kind of, I can probably play these.” “Well let’s just play the hits.” And I said, I’m a big Terry Bozzio fan, he’s one of my favourite drummers. And he’s on the Untitled record from Korn. And I said, “I really want to play the Untitled record.” He’s like “That’s a lot of hard drumming,” and I’m like, “I know, I love it!” And so, we played “Ever Be.” You can even watch my audition on YouTube when you type in my name, just ‘Ray Luzier audition’ and the Korn audition comes up. And yeah, that’s just the only way I know. Because what were they looking at, twenty drummers? I don’t know. I was on a drum clinic tour and after the drum clinic tour it was Joey’s last show with Korn. He filled in on Family Values. The last show was when I went to Seattle, Washington and played with Korn for the first time.

Korn - Ray Luzier
Photo: Justin Williams

ANTIHERO: What made you even audition for Korn?

Ray Luzier: My last band Army of Anyone, you know the Stone Temple Pilots and Filter singer, had the same manager Korn did. And when I saw this band not doing so well I called my manager, “man do you know any other gigs?” And he’s like, “what’s wrong with Korn? Their drummer left and now they have Joey filling in, and Terri Bozzio, and Brooks Wackerman, who is now in Avenged Sevenfold. All these guys filling in, like, “Yeah, they want someone permanent, they’re looking.” And he said, “you should audition.” I was like, “Why? I don’t have tattoos.” I had long blond hair at the time. He said David doesn’t either, David had a shaved head, he looked like a surfer guy, he doesn’t have dreadlocks. True. And I said, “okay.” So, I went to my drum space in Los Angeles and just playing all the songs that I knew and I knew more than I thought. It’s because I’m a fan, I was fan of all the old stuff. But I really wanted to learn the new record. Because I love Untitled, I love that record. And so that’s why, when I walked in there I knew so many, because I just kind of prepared. And that’s it, I played six songs and they said welcome to Korn, see you in Dublin. Then I didn’t hear anything for month, two months. I called the manager, “what’s going on, do I have the gig?” He said, “Yes, of course, why?” “No one calls me. What are the songs we will play?” He’s like, “they don’t like to rehearse too much. You’ll probably just go to Dublin and rehearse there.” “What the… what are you talking about?” When I played with David Lee Roth, we rehearsed three or four weeks.

ANTIHERO: So, you’re pretty used to rehearsing for a long time.

Ray Luzier: Yes. And now this. My first Korn show, we ran the set one time at the venue the day before the first show.

ANTIHERO: That sounds crazy.

Ray Luzier: I was dry heaving, throwing up.

ANTIHERO: Pretty eventful first show for sure.

Ray Luzier: Yes. The Korn fans are very serious about their music. You can’t fool the Korn fans. They don’t care who I am, they want to see great Korn show. And I knew that so there was a lot of pressure. I wasn’t nervous, I was confident in my playing. But it doesn’t matter how good of a player or how much experience you have. You have to get the band, you have to know what Korn is all about.

ANTIHERO: Yes, you have to “click.”

Ray Luzier: Right, of course. It took a lot of the fans to get, “who’s this guy?” And if it wasn’t me it’s going to be someone else. Someone’s going to make the band continue. The first drummer, his heart is gone, he doesn’t like the music anymore, the band. That’s his decision. He left the fans. And the fans don’t realize that. You know it’s like they think like, “well, Dave has to be back in the band.” He doesn’t like the band. He stopped liking it eleven years ago. So, if it wasn’t me, someone else is going to play for Korn. So, since they picked me and now they made me a member, it’s like I really need to get inside everything that they are about.

Korn - Ray Luzier
Photo: Thomas Woroniak

ANTIHERO: So, were the beginnings hard with the fanbase? Did you get a lot of shit from the fans?

Ray Luzier: Sure. I see David’s face, tattooed on people. I understand because I’m a fan, you know. When I saw Alice In Chains with the new singer I was like, “I don’t want to see that guy, I want to see Layne Staley.” But you know what, they’re fucking great! I love Alice In Chains now. And I never thought I would. So, again, they need to live on. And the singer’s a way bigger deal than a drummer. I mean come on, no one’s going to replace Jonathan Davis. No one. I mean you could find someone good but no one’s ever going to sound like him. Same with Head. When he disappeared, this guy to my right he was good, of course, we had three guys in my ten years. But there’s a vibe about when Munkey and Head get together, there’s this force, it’s a very strange thing what they do. So, it took me years to really find my room in this band. And it’s okay. Because now it’s stronger than ever and we can’t wait to make another record and we just started supporting this one.

ANTIHERO: Yeah, you just released it in October. Talking about the record, many, including Head, said it’s heavier than anything you’ve ever done before. So, what’s your opinion?

Ray Luzier: Yeah. It was important for us to make sure the record sounded like today, 2016-17. It’s too easy for to write a Life Is Peachy or Korn one again. You know what I am saying? We could have reproduced that. But we wanted to sound today. Nick Raskulinecz, the producer, he has a way of feeling the vibe of the band. So, I think a lot of the diehard old school fans like the record because of that. But yeah, it sounds like today. Lot of bands are easy-peasy, they put out the same sounding record. And that’s okay.

ANTIHERO: It’s a safe way, maybe.

Ray Luzier: It’s the safe formula. But the fans, they like it. So, hey why not? Korn, I like the fact that we kind of twist and turn sometimes.

ANTIHERO: But it still sounds like Korn.

Ray Luzier: At the end of the day, yeah.

ANTIHERO: So, apart from Korn, you have another band, KXM. You just recently released your second album. I’ve heard that you did the whole record in ten days.

Ray Luzier: Twelve. Thirteen songs in twelve days.

Korn - Ray Luzier
Photo: Thomas Woroniak

ANTIHERO: Twelve days, how is it possible?

Ray Luzier: And that’s with not one bit of music written outside the studio. George Lynch is one of the greatest guitar players, Doug Pinnick is one of the greatest singers-bass players in my opinion. We’re all friends from years ago and we were so busy in each of our own bands that we don’t have much time. Not like Korn when we spend a year and a half writing a record, producing and living with the songs. Just because you’re a good musician doesn’t mean you’re going to write a good song. You know what I’m saying? I respect George, I respect Doug and I respect me. But first time we did it in 2014, we got in a room and within like ten minutes we had a song. We’re like looking at each other, “how did that just happen?” Like, “did you write that before?” And George was like, “no, it just came up. What drum beat is that?” “I don’t know I just made it up.” There was chemistry so strong that every song we wrote, it took one day. We were like this is weird. The producer is like no band does this. This is so strange. And then the record went so good for the first record with no shows, no live shows, just media support and word of mouth. So, he said, “you guys should do another record.” But I don’t have time, with Korn so busy and I have two babies at home and I want to be with my family. And Doug said, “let’s do the same thing we did, let’s write one song a day, but this time instead of taking a break between songs, let’s do it all at once.” So, we booked twelve days in California. And I was scared, man. Especially doing a second record if people like the first record they usually don’t like the second one as much. And then we did the same format, we started writing. There were a couple of days where it was not so good. But we made it happen. And now, the reviews for the new record are better than the first album reviews.

ANTIHERO: Seems like you’ve done something right here.

Ray Luzier: Right, yeah. I would love to do some shows someday. I don’t know if it’s going to happen, but I think someday I would like to do two weeks of shows and maybe film a DVD. So, the fans can watch it at least.

ANTIHERO: I’ve also heard something about you playing with Jimmy Page and Johnny Depp in Japan.

Ray Luzier: I did this thing of a Classic Rock Awards and it was a surreal moment of my life. I flew on Johnny Depp’s private jet to Japan from Los Angeles. Bizarre. It’s a tight little jet, being on a plane with Johnny. And then Robert and Dean DeLeo from Stone Temple Pilots, our good friends, they flew with me on there. So, we were the house band, us four, Joe Perry from Aerosmith, Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck, my guitar hero of all time, Def Leppard’s Phil Collen, Tesla, Scorpion’s Rudolf Schenker. This list of legends. And I was the drummer so I learned 27 songs for this event.

Korn - Ray Luzier
Photo: Justin Williams

ANTIHERO: No hard task for you.

Ray Luzier: Oh no. I was a fan of all of them, of course so. Jimmy unfortunately did not play, but he came to the event. And we hung out and met and spoke. And was beyond star struck because, come on, it’s Led Zeppelin. He’s the nicest guy ever. We spoke about his kids turning vegan and not eating meat anymore, nothing about music or Led Zeppelin. I could have been a fan instead like, “you wrote ‘Stairway To Heaven’ you know, but I couldn’t do that, I was just too respectful towards him. Ross Halfin, the famous photographer, he called me to be the house drummer, and at the time I thought “I don’t think I can because Korn is so busy.” But I’m sure glad I made it work because yeah, that was surreal. You can see the pictures on my Instagram, it’s @rayluzierkorn and then Twitter is @RayLuzier1 and then Facebook is Ray Luzier Official. So, readers can see pictures of that stuff.

ANTIHERO: Thank you very much, have a fun show tonight!

About Niwy Kováčová

Slovakia - Photographer/Writer

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