Interview : Robert Cavuoto
Building off the success from their 2014 self-titled debut and 2017 sophomore CD, Scatterbrain, KXM returns with their third and most powerful CD to date, Circle Of Dolls due out September 13th via Rat Pack Records.
Comprised of dUg Pinnick of King’s X on vocals/bass, George Lynch of Lynch Mob/Dokken on guitars and Ray Luzier of Korn on drums; Circle Of Dolls features 13 new tracks that continue down their dark thematic path but perhaps with more melodic undertones. They still boast infectious riffs coupled with big hooks, and memorable melodies that only these theses three musicians could come up with. Circle Of Dolls showcases dUg’s tremendous vocal abilities, George’s fiery riffs, and Ray’s infectious grooves. Stand out tracks are “War of Word,” “Time Flies, and “A Day Without Me.” Circle Of Dolls is available for pre-order via the Rat Pak Records in various bundle configurations. Visit www.ratpakrecords.com/kxm.
I spoke with legendary Korn and KXM drummer Ray Luzier about this ambitious project, how the chemistry between the players dictates the musical content, and what fans can expect from the new Korn CD!
Robert Cavuoto: Out of all three KXMs CDs, this is my favorite. I feel it is more melodic and the band is coming really coming into its own. Is it a challenge to come together musical when you are not in the same space touring, rehearsing, and collaborating consistently?
Ray Luzier: Before I had any success, I had been in a few failed original bands. My goal was to be in a band with all the same members; to progress as a unit, further our songwriting skills, and mature together. Fortunately, I have KXM as a sideband. I call it a sideband because Korn is my bread & butter, and my main band. I feel very fortunate to be in a band with such talented and legendary musicians as dUg Pinnick and George Lynch. They’re really monster musicians, and I think the experience between the three of us speaks for itself. We got a lot of time on the water; we’ve all done a ton of tours and recordings, and played many notes in our lives.
Robert Cavuoto: In 2017 when we spoke, you told me Scatterbrain was written and recorded in 12-13 days. What was the recording process like for Circle of Dolls?
Ray Luzier: We approached Circle of Dolls the same way we approached our first two CDs; we did one song a day and wrote it fresh in the studio that day. We didn’t have any preconceived notions. Initially, we did talk about whether we should do this third record like the first two or go into pre-production to really work out riffs for weeks and weeks. We agreed, we’re all men, and we can do this. [Laughing] That’s what happened; a song a day!
Robert Cavuoto: I felt Scatterbrain had a more progressive or industrial vibe, Circle of Dolls I felt was more melodic. Was there anything that happened organically during those 12 days of writing and recording that lead you down that path?
Ray Luzier: Like I mentioned, there are no preconceived notions. We didn’t collectively sit in a room and say, let’s make this more progressive or let’s make it darker. It’s whatever happened in that moment of our lives that came out. There’s a certain mystique about Circle of Dolls that I really dig. There was a darker edge to it from the beginning. I don’t know quite why there was a different vibe in the studio. We went back to Steakhouse Studio in Burbank where we made Scatterbrain as it had such a cool vibe. Being a musician is like any other job out there; there are days you feel good, days you have a headache, or days when you don’t feel like performing your job but when you commit to spending 12 days in the studio, and you’re trying to write 13 songs you have to get it done. That’s the timeframe; then it’s over. It’s a big commitment to take. The energy of these guys really inspires me. George would get so excited with a riff he came up with that you couldn’t help but feed off that energy. The song “Circle of Dolls” came about when I was sound checking my drums. I started playing this groove, and George came running out from the control room asking me, “What is that? He told me to keep playing it and we came up with an idea that turned into “Circle of Dolls.” Boom a song is born!
Robert Cavuoto: I know it might be hard to pick a favorite KXM CD but are there elements of one of them that you prefer?
Ray Luzier: There are certain songs off each CD that I really love based on what we would perform live. At my drum clinics, I play “Stars” and “Gun Fight” from the first CD and “Scatterbrain” off the second CD. People go nuts because they know they probably won’t see us live. So when they see me play at the clinic, I’m playing it to dUG and George. George really just never ceases to amaze me as he came up with some amazing riffs on the new CD. “Mind Swamp” comes to mind, what a riff! It’s so dingy, dirty, and simple yet heavy. The song “War of Words” was created when George and I were just messing around just jamming. There’s something special about the first CD because that’s the first time we ever got together, and we didn’t know what was going to happen.
Robert Cavuoto: How did you get George to commit to three CDs, his limit on project bands seems to be only one or two [laughing]?
Ray Luzier: [Laughing] We were actually talking about the fourth KXM CD and changing the format up and this one’s not even out yet! Quite honestly, all three of us are really into this band. We all have our respective bands, but there is something amazing that happens when all three of us get together. From the first day we met at my house in Los Angeles for my son’s first birthday party, when we looked at each other and thought, “This would make a cool band!” We assumed it would never happen as there is not enough time for that. From that moment until now, when we get together something happens. That doesn’t happen with a lot of musicians. I’ve got together with some of my favorite musicians and as people, you get along, but when you get in a room with them to play you realize this isn’t as cool as you thought it was going to be [laughing]. That’s not a bad thing; it’s just you don’t have that chemistry.
Robert Cavuoto: You hinted at a fourth CD and changing the format. What are you thinking of changing it to?
Ray Luzier: We literally just talked about it and thinking, what would we do? Then dUg said we got to play some shows first before we can think about a fourth CD. I agree with that, so we’re probably do some shows before we get into for a fourth CD. We have such a nice catalog of songs to choose from to pick a set list. Some are very obvious, like the seven songs that we have videos for. I encourage your readers to check them out. We really have fun with them, and we spend time doing them. We are just lucky enough to be where we’re at now with number three.
Robert Cavuoto: A tour is long overdue for KXM.
Ray Luzier: It’s mostly my fault that we haven’t toured yet. My schedule with Korn is crazy, so it’s hard to commit to additional touring with KXM. Everyone knows you have to book a tour months in advance in order to promote it properly and I never know because we’re always so busy with Korn. We’ve been heavily talking about doing a string of live shows and filming a DVD for the fans who can’t get to a show.
Robert Cavuoto: How is the writing and recording process different between Korn and KXM?
Ray Luzier: It’s quite different. With KXM, there are no producers. Chris “The Wizard” Collier has worked with us on all three of our records. There’s something cool about not having a producer breathing down your neck saying, you shouldn’t play that, or you should play this groove, or this is too busy. There’s none of that. It’s 100% us. In that freedom something special happens because no one’s holding you back. You don’t have that fear of someone saying, “Homeboy’s not gonna dig this!” Every once in awhile Chris would tell us we are getting a bit nuts [laughing]. He’ll pull on the reins a little bit, which we love and that’s why he co-producers these records with us.
With Korn, it’s a totally different animal because we have Nick Raskulinecz on the last two records, and he is one of my favorite producers of all time. Getting together to write is very sporadic. I’ll get together with Munky and Head and write some stuff then live with it for a while. Fieldy or Jonathan David will then come in to add their two cents or play a groove or play a bass part. It’s an evolution. Then you go in for pre-production where you’re really honing in. You make demos of it to hear what it might sound like on the record. Then you go back and pick the demos apart. I love that process as well it’s just so different than the KXM format. dUg, George and I always joke that we should spend more time together! We spend less than two weeks with each other writing recording and shooting a couple of videos. I live in Nashville now and they both live in LA, so we really don’t see each other that much.
Robert Cavuoto: What can you tell fans to expect from the new Korn CD, The Nothing. Jonathan described it as being very dark due to what he has been going through.
Ray Luzier: We just released a second single today called “Cold,” and we did a visualizer video for it. These two records are two of my favorites that I have ever done; The Nothing and Circle of Dolls. I’m not just saying that because they’re the newest records. There is no filler on either CD; they are really straight up. With Korn, we really took our time as I mentioned earlier. Of course, Jonathan had some traumatic changes in his life last year with losing his wife. He also released a great solo record called the Black Labyrinths which I played drums and toured in support of last year. I can’t believe he’s finished that tour with the traumatic events that happened. But damn, the music was his therapy. It was the only way out or he would go nuts, and I understand that. With this new CD, the lyrical content is very emotional, very deep, and dark. He didn’t write the whole record about what happened, but there are definitely elements of it in there. I’ve never heard this guy sing this well before. This band’s been around 25 years with 13th records and you would think as we got older he would start slowing down but this is the best I’ve ever heard him sing. I’m so proud of what he’s come up with. There are not many singers out there and can do as many voicings as this him; he holds nothing back; it’s stunning to me.
Robert Cavuoto: One of the newest singles “You’ll Never Find Me” was recently played live for the first time. How did it go over?
Ray Luzier: We released the video and people heard it online. As I was counting out the song in Austin, Texas for the first time, Jonathan said, “You want to hear some new shit?” I guessed everyone would be pulling out their phones and sure enough, all the phones came out! Even if you’re a fan, sometimes you want to see a band crash and burn a little bit on that first time out. I was so happy that it went well and we killed it the first time playing it to 15,000 people. It’s a fun song to play live and our new stage shows is probably the best. Eventually, we will start to play the song “Cold” on this tour as well. This tour with Alice in Chains is a great package. They’re absolutely killing it every night. They have so many great songs.
Robert Cavuoto: A lot of Korn fans associate your music with some of their best memories, and you guys are still rocking on tour. What’s inspires or motivates you to keep such a heavy tour schedule?
Ray Luzier: Basically, we’re all lifers. We all pledged an oath at a very young age that we were all going to play music until the day we died. That’s a big thing to say as you go through life with all its personal events of happiness and tragedies. A band is like a marriage; you support each other as brothers and you have to be there for one another. Sometimes people have a change of heart from where they are in their live musically and that can hurt a band. Korn is in a position where we appreciate what we have. We really are respectful to the fans that we can still do this at this level. I think that’s where we are in our lives that we are just so appreciative and thankful. A lot of bands who have been around 25 years will go on riding on a couple of hits they had back in the day. They become a nostalgia act while Korn is really about being in the “Now” with writing music and staying current. They have over 170 songs to choose from when playing live. There’s no, there’s no bullshit on stage or on the records, and we are not just going through the motions. We are on deck that 90 minutes and we lose ourselves. Hopefully, people walk away feeling exhausted and that we gave them a great experience. That’s what we are aiming for!