Ray Luzier on dubstep drumming with Korn



© Amy Harris/Corbis

Korn are preparing to drop their new album, The Path of Totality. And it marks a real seachange for the band - it's basically Korn does dubstep.

But, hold on a minute, it doesn't sound quite as strange as you'd imagine. The record is Korn's finest for more than a decade, and keeps the band's trademark broodingly sinister sound, but adds in more of the industrial tones of Nine Inch Nails, as well as, of course, those huge dubstep drops.

What does drummer Ray Luzier have to say about this unlikely, but ultimately successful, collaboration? We got on the phone to Ray and found out all about it.

The album is very different from what Korn has traditionally done, how did it come about?

"Korn's a very organic band and this album is totally opposite. We're working with DJ dubstep artists. Korn III the last record was no click tracks, two inch tape and most of the drums I've done on this had been programmed before I'd even started playing on anything."

"It was all locked up with a machine and I had to play right on, there was no pushing or pulling."

Given that the last album was back to Korn's roots and was so well received this must be a risk

"That's what I love about this band, they're not afraid to try new things. If you try to change the style too much and take a risk you might lose fans but there's nothing wrong with being creative and expanding what you're doing. Jonathan was a big fan of dubstep about a year ago and I'd never been exposed to it. The more he got into it he started writing over the top of it. He's such an amazing singer. There's no one that sounds like Jonathan Davies. Little by little we messed around with some recordings. It's weird because there's not drummers at all, they're DJs. It was really interesting. It was an experiment that turned into an EP and then a full-length record."

Did the electronic element add a challenge for you drum-wise?

"I like to get creative and do my own thing and whatever I feel. I play from the heart. I like to hear a riff and come up with a groove. In this situation the drums were programmed for a reason, they wanted these really long snare sounds and then there's tight ones and on one song there's four snare sounds on one song. You can't reproduce that with acoustic drums. I went in there and a lot of the time it was just real cymbals. The sounds are so massive that it just takes over. At first it was a shock to me because I like to just go for it."

What was the balance of acoustic and electronic like for you?

"Mostly I would play acoustic then go back and there's a lot of sound replacement where they would take the kit and lock it up with a machine. Some of the tracks were completely done and I just went in a played what they'd programmed. It was weird for me because there were times I'd love to have played a fill here or leave something out but it sounded so good and the band agreed on that sound. You'll hear more live cymbals than you'll hear live drums. It was challenging for all of us, but it still has that signature Korn sound, in a very obnoxious way."

A lot of people were surprised at how quickly this album has come together

"This band is always writing. They never stop. Jon has a studio on his bus and he'll come in at 3AM and be like, 'You've got to check out this riff'. This album was made on the road. Jon would be thrashing out vocals in Korea and I'd be doing cymbal overdubs in Japan! It was nothing like the last one. On a lot of the songs we weren't even in the same room."

"I'm sure we'll piss off a lot of die-hards, but if they give it a chance it's such a massive sound."

The dubstep sound is a departure for Korn, are you concerned about the fan reaction?

"I'm already having emails from Skrillex fans saying they don't own a Korn record but they cant wait for the new album. I'm sure we'll piss off a lot of die-hards, but if they give it a chance it's such a massive sound. I cranked the master in my car the other day and it's blown out my speakers! I've always been a Nine Inch Nails fan and it's got that edge to it. We started rehearsals the other day and all my drums are triggered. It makes you not want to play more notes. I just want to plough through because it's so bombastic and big. We were laughing at how massive it sounds."

Having said that, the snippets that people have heard so far have been well received

"I'm glad people are into it. Korn has 20-something fan sites and every once in a while I'll skim through and see what they're talking about and they were freakin' out saying, 'Man, I didn't want to like this, but I love it', so I think it's turned some heads for sure. A lot of bands just put out the same record year after year. That's cool but it's cool as well to be creative and take some chances."

Are there any tracks you're particularly pleased with from a drum perspective?

"It was all locked up with a machine and I had to play right on, there was no pushing or pulling. I love playing with a click track but when the other band members can't hear it so I can push a chorus or pull back a verse and play around it. On this I was playing right to the programmed drums which was challenging because I was playing some real syncronised parts. It's kinda cool sometimes when non drummers throw out these approaches because they don't really know, they just know what sounds cool to them and sometimes it's not humanely possible! There were some things on a couple of songs, like one of my favourites 'Way Too Far' where I'm playing a floor tom overdub in the chorus and playing a groove on the hats, kick and snare while riding the floor tom. That one's a little challenging to play. I didn't want lots of overdubs because I've got to play this stuff live and I love that challenge."

"I'm already having emails from Skrillex fans saying they don't own a Korn record but they cant wait for the new album."

What kind of knock-on effect has this album had on your live rig?

"My tech has doubled the triggers up and I have a bunch of pads off to the side. Personally live I hate the electronic world because something always goes wrong. So many bands play with so many tracks these days and it drives me crazy. I saw a band where I could see the guitar player stop playing and all these guitars were on a track, it was crazy. This band is so organic compared to that. At the same time it's cool to branch out and experiment. We'll be playing five or six new songs in our set. The new single 'Narcissistic Cannibal' has this double bass pattern right off the bat and with the triggers if you don't nail that double bass part one of them might not come out and that drives me crazy because I'm a stickler about playing clean."

Rich Chamberlain

Rich is a teacher, one time Rhythm staff writer and experienced freelance journalist who has interviewed countless revered musicians, engineers, producers and stars for the our world-leading music making portfolio, including such titles as Rhythm, Total Guitar, Guitarist, Guitar World, and MusicRadar. His victims include such luminaries as Ice T, Mark Guilani and Jamie Oliver (the drumming one).