Korn Look Back on "Follow the Leader"
Mon, 05 Aug 2013 08:33:43
In August 1998, Korn changed hard rock and heavy metal forever with Follow the Leader.
Now, their impact had been undeniably seismic with their self-titled debut four years earlier, but Follow the Leader blew the doors open to make them one of the biggest and most important bands in history. The title couldn't have been more a propos as an entire movement followed. It wasn't just in terms of bands biting their style either. If you want to any mall in America, you could count at least three Korn shirts. Their first Family Values tour evinced the influence as well as Korn, Rammstein, Ice Cube, Limp Bizkit, and Orgy showed the world the future of music. Nothing would ever be the same.
Fast forward to 2013, it's been fifteen years, and Korn is about to do the same thing to hard rock with The Paradigm Shift on October 1. It's that important of a record as it welcomes Brian "Head" Welch back in the fold and builds upon the creativity of 2011's The Path of Totality, while maintaining the group's signature sound. Get ready to follow the leader all over again…
In order to celebrate the record's 15th anniversary, ARTISTdirect.com editor in chief Rick Florino spoke to Jonathan Davis, James "Munky" Shaffer, and Brian "Head" Welch about Follow the Leader, their memories, songs, and so much more.
What's the first thing you remember when you think of Follow the Leader?
James "Munky" Shaffer: A lot of beer [Laughs]. I remember a lot of partying and a lot of beer. Everybody was really open to try something new. There was a certain method we were stuck with on the first two Korn records. There was no compromise. It was the way it was supposed to be. That was successful, but it was time to grow as musicians. It was about being open to try new things. I think that set the tone for the rest of the albums to come because we were always open to new writing methods, producers, and different stuff. I remember everybody being really willing to try working with electronics, a new studio, and even a different producer. There were no boundaries. We were writing to have fun, and we were having lots of fun at night.
Jonathan Davis: That record was just the pinnacle of fucking indulgence, bro [Laughs]. It was nuts. It was fucking sex, drugs, and rock and roll. That's what it was. I was fucking out of my mind, but it was good. Right after that record is when I got sober [Laughs]. Doing that record, we went so over the top I had to quit.
Brian "Head" Welch: The first thing that comes to mind is that click. Everything clicked right there for me and the band. Something happened with the songs. We were all married at that time. Life was really good. The divorces weren't there yet. The friendship was intact. We weren't so big that we lost our minds. It was a peaceful, fun, and exciting time. We found the songs. We found something in us that took us to the next level. "Munky" and I found our trippy guitar style. Anything went with pedals. It's a good memory for me. Dude, then it was one record cycle later and half of us were divorced on Issues. That's when things started to turn. Follow the Leader had really positive memories.
Watch the video for "Got the Life"
Did Korn's message come through more clearly at that point?
Jonathan Davis: Definitely, it was cool because the band went in a more melodic direction and that opened me up to sing more. Fieldy was doing those hip-hop bass lines, and the guys started complementing those. It was more the groove-funk thing going on. It gave me that room to do what I love to do, sing, and catch that groove.
James "Munky" Shaffer: I think that record showed we have a sense of humor and we do like to have fun. There's a lighter side to the band. There's diversity in it. We had Fred Durst on the record, Ice Cube, and Tre from The Pharcyde. There were so many experiments going on. Vocally, Jonathan was using a de-tuner. He put a Whammy pedal on his vocals. It would make his voice go really low. At the end, it was a lot of fun.
Brian "Head" Welch: Getting that message out is what I love the most about music. That beauty and melody come out. The theme is there. Your album is like a canvas. You're painting part of your soul on there. I'm an emotional guy. I'm too emotional sometimes, but I love that part of me when it comes to creating music.
"Dead Bodies Everywhere" still slays live.
Jonathan Davis: That's a great song. It's about me working in the mortuary at the coroner's office [Laughs]. It's also about my parents not wanting me to be a musician.
James "Munky" Shaffer: That little high chime-y thing that "Head" wrote is still one of my favorite melodies. I have the low guitar talk box like Peter Frampton on there.
Brian "Head" Welch: We're definitely going to do that one live. I was going for a toy box sound. You open up a jewelry box or one of those little kid things and it does that sound. It's all pretty. Then, the dark thing "Munky" did with the effect is chilling. That eerie, evil sound with that toy box thing was one-of-a-kind. I love that.
What's your favorite song on Follow the Leader?
Jonathan Davis: I really like the more electronic stuff we did like "Cameltosis" with Tre from The Pharcyde. That's when I started experimenting with electronic sounds in Korn music other than "Helmet in the Bush". I like the really weird songs.
James "Munky" Shaffer: "My Gift to You" would have to be my favorite. It starts with bagpipes, and it drops down into this really heavy riff. It has this nice, melodic chorus, and it goes into the Jonathan freakout we used to do. We did that song every night in 1999 on one of our tours. Every time we did it, he'd say, "Man, I can't do that song anymore". He would give so much. I saw some old videos of him freaking out on the ground during that song. He channels that. Man, you find that energy and raw power in the music, and it propels me to push as hard as I can ever night when I'm performing the songs.
Brian "Head" Welch: My favorite is probably "Freak on a Leash" just because of the dynamics. It starts all eerie and dark. Then it goes into that swing thing. The breakdown Jonathan did is one of a kind.
You've got to bring "My Gift to You" back into the live set...
Jonathan Davis: That's a good one. I'm sure we will one day. It's a sick ass song.
Watch the video for "Freak on a Leash"
What's your favorite song from Follow the Leader? When did you first hear it? Should Korn play it live?
Read our exclusive interview with the band about their reunion and new album here!