Munky See, Munky Do: Korn Ready for Mayhem, Reunite with Brian 'Head' Welch (Q&A)

Korn Promo Image - H 2014
Courtesy of Prospect Park

Korn Promo Image - H 2014

The band’s guitarist, James "Munky" Shaffer, holds forth on new directions for the venerable funk-metal outfit as they get set to embark on the Rockstar Mayhem Festival tour, July 5.

Funk metal band Korn have been at it for two decades, and with their headlining spot at this year’s Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem tour, kicking off on July 5, it looks like they won’t be slowing down any time soon.

Their newest album, The Paradigm Shift, and its accompanying documentary DVD, Reconciliation, which came out last October, explore sounds that you wouldn’t expect from Korn, while simultaneously sticking to the band’s heavy and dark roots, breaking the mold with their first album back in 1994. This time around, original member Brian “Head” Welch is back in the game after a seven-year hiatus, just another step in the right direction.

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THR caught up with the group’s longtime guitarist, James “Munky” Shaffer, to discuss everything from returning band members to this summer’s Mayhem festival.

What’s your label situation these days?
We’re with Prospect Park Records, the label Jeff Kwatinetz started with his partner Peter Katsis. It’s an independent label, which put out a few records before ours. I think we’re at the point where we felt like we didn’t need tons of major label money to promote this album.

What did you get to do at Prospect Park that you weren’t able to at a major label?
With every label, we’ve always had complete creative control and that’s something that’s always been important to us. When you’re basically exercising your freedom of speech, you don’t want somebody over your neck telling you, what you can and cannot say.

Talk about the creative process for the new album. How did you go about putting this one together?
On the previous records, we sort of sat in the studio and recorded in front of a computer. This time, we all got in a room with Brian coming back and we started to come up with riffs, ideas and sounds. It was very much how we wrote records 10 years ago, before Brian left the band — record the music and then the vocals.

What is it like having Brian back in the band after seven years to record again?
We didn’t know how it was going to be.  There was a question of, like, we hope this is going to work because it would be great for us. When he came in, we started to hang out and talk and it didn’t feel like seven years. We were able to pick up our instruments and start communicating on a musical level that was right in sync with where we left off. Having that creative energy just helps people stay excited, and that’s definitely what we had for this album.

To what do you credit the longevity of Korn?
It’s been about respecting each other as much as five people can. We have respect for each other where we know that this thing couldn’t continue without every one of us. We know each other’s boundaries, finally, but through the years it’s been a learning process for everybody.

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How do you feel about being back on the Rockstar Mayhem Tour this year?
I like doing festivals in the summer because generally you’re in front of a great many people that wouldn’t normally come see you play; they’re there to see another band. I like seeing a lot of people come together that normally wouldn’t even be in the same room. Most of them obviously are all metal heads, which is cool, but people get weird about their metal.

Fans aren’t happy about the line-up, since it’s more metal-core than in the past.
If you start dividing it up, things fall into different categories and then… they’re just songs! If you don’t like it, it’s OK; maybe they have another song you haven’t heard and might like. It’s like when you get served food and you don’t like your mashed potatoes to touch your turkey or whatever, it’s like, get over it! It’s all going to the same place. It’s so diverse. There are so many different types of metal these days, which is great for everybody. It all just comes down to personal tastes.

How do you feel about the direction that metal’s going in?
The accessibility to the Internet — the fact that it’s flooded with so much music has made it hard to find that one band that you really love. It sort of feels like metal is going back, you have Avenged Sevenfold and there’s some nostalgia about other things. I always feel like, to make a leap forward, you have to take a step back.