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Korn’s James “Munky” Shaffer Interviewed by Rock Ur Life
During the promotional tour for “The Paradigm Shift”, Korn’s eleventh album, we’ve been welcomed in a classy hotel in Paris to have a chat with the famous guitar player of the dreadlocks haired band, Munky, for a nice and cheerful interview.
Read the original article on Rock Ur Life
Hi! First, how are you?
Munky (guitar): Hey! I’m good, thanks!
Your new album is called “The Paradigm Shift”. What’s the story behind this title?
M: The story behind this title is that, somehow for the last couple albums, they kind of gave me the duties of coming up with the titles. For this one, “The Paradigm Shift”, I always liked the optical illusion, how you can see different things… I was researching this on the Internet and I came across this pencil drawing of a rabbitt, but if you look another way it’s a duck. And I thought “eh it’s kinda cool” because it depends on how your mind wants to see. It makes sense with Head returning to the band and us having this gift that we’ve had for so long to create music and it just makes sense for the shift of where we are now. The shift of gratitude that we took for granted for so long. It also represents sort of the shift in our career from the past, where we are now and the songs that we’ve created have given us a positive outlook into the future.
So, the record begins with “Prey For Me”, a song with a quite heavy sound that will certainly be a future hit. Then from “Love & Meth”, the sound of the album begins to turn into something more electronic. Have you decided to stick with electro sounds from now?
M: We really enjoy electronic elements in our songs, and with what we did in our last album, “The Path Of Totality“; (2011), it was such a great experience for us, we learned a lot. Skrillex taught us so much in the studio about how he uses electronic instruments to give songs more depth and to make them sound better. He told us about the musical techniques and all of that stuff about electronic music. Something that our band has always wanted to do which is embracing technology and staying current with what’s happening in music.
Let’s now talk about “Never Never”. Why did this end up being your first choice for a single and how would you describe it in relation to singles of the past?
M: The “Never Never”; single is something that was gonna challenge people. I can remember back to our album Follow The Leader (1998) when we chose one of the singles, I don’t know if it was the first single or not, but it had kind of a disco beat and it was so different. People ended up really enjoying the song and they still do because we’ve been playing it for fifteen years. The song reminds me of that, because even though it’s one of the most different songs on the album, when you listen to the song in the context of the album with the way the songs are sequenced, it has this flow like with this really heavy “Prey for Me”; song, and then the “Never Never”; song comes in, kind of a lighter side of the band, and then you just get hit with all these other guitar riffs and stuff. We wanted to see if girls like songs *laughs*. There’s nothing wrong with having some more girls at our concerts! You know, 90% of the audience is composed of men… It’s a good song, everybody loves the song. There was some back and forth about which song should be the first single and this is the song that won the battle… but not the war. (laugh)
Pretty much every song from this record could be a single. What are your three favourite songs and why?
M: I do really love the song “Prey For Me”, the chorus is one of my favourite choruses and it’s just catchy. Another one is “Spike In My Veins”. That song has an electronic feel to it and reminds me of a Nine Inch Nails song… I’m a huge NIN fan and there’s a guitar part in the middle too before the bass drop or the chorus. Jonathan and the guys from Noisia wrote the song, then we re-wrote it and took it to the studio. It’s one of my favourite songs that we re-wrote and it ended up on the album. Some of the songs go very aggressive in the middle or in the intro, but this song doesn’t quite reach that anger or super heavy moment and I like that, it’s a very intense song. Another song that I really love is called “Victimized”, the tempo is just super fast, and it’s got a heavy riff, a catchy chorus and it has this super psychedelic move into it.
In 2005, Head left Korn and in 2008, his first solo album called “Save Me From Myself” was released. Therefore, it’s been announced on your official Facebook page that he’s now a member of Korn again. What’s the story behind his comeback?
M: He was at this festival where we were playing. He brought his daughter who’s about fifteen. It’s funny because he left the band because he wanted to get off drugs and become a real father to his daughter who at the time was five years old, and the reason why he came back was because of her too. He ended up at this festival because he wanted to take her to a concert and see other bands and we were there. We hung out and our bass player asked him to come on stage to play some old songs with us and he came and played one song. It went so well, a week later I called him and said “hey! That was fun right? What do you think about trying to write some songs and get back in the studio?”. He wasn’t so sure about it but he called me a few days later and said “Yeah, let’s try!” and it worked out. We wrote an album and we’ve had a lot of fun!
By the time the album is released it will be two years since you released your last full length, “The Path of Totality”. Considering the fact that Head is now back, do you feel that it has created a new kind of pressure for your new album “The Paradigm Shift”?
M: I think people’s expectations are very high… but I think it has created a kind of pressure. However, regarding the process when we were writing the album, each day there would be less pressure as we were coming up with greats songs. So now, before the album releases, we know we made a great album and that’s what we have to be comfortable with. If people like it, great! If they don’t, then they can buy another album. Or download another album for free. (laugh)
When we compared your last record with your new one, there was something that really grabbed our attention: in “The Path Of Totality”, every song was featuring an electro artist or band, but it seems like “The Paradigm Shift” doesn’t feature any artist at all and it’s just about Korn. How did you come up with this choice?
M: (thinks a lot) When we were starting writing the songs a year ago, it just felt like we just needed to be a band again. We wanted to get to the studio and take as little outside influences as we could because we didn’t need any outside influence. We felt like we just needed to sit in a room and write songs like we used to and let things happen again. Even on a lot of our past albums we’ve had guests, rappers, singers and DJs. I think that’s something I really like about “The Paradigm Shift”. It’s just us. I think that’s what our fans wanted to hear for a long time.
It’s been announced that the music video for “Love & Meth” was about to be finished. What can we expect from this music video?
M: This is really cool, we used a contortionist as a common thread. I don’t want to give away the video but the director has really amazing ideas. He’s also the same director that did the “Never Never” video, which is also a lot of post-production special effects that he’s gonna put together. We did two videos back-to-back, it was a long two-days. The treatment sounds great, it’s a lot of special effects. Hopefully it comes off as good as it sounds on paper.
As live shows are important, how is the recording process of an album? Do you first think about how it would sound live?
M: YEAH! (laugh) We sort of go back and forth because certain riffs or certain songs sound good on the recording but we always wonder “is this gonna translate live?” or “is this a song we see ourselves playing live?”. But when we are writing the songs, we usually try to remember this, to think about how it would sound live. If a song isn’t gonna come across live, either it will be put aside or we’ll try to create something interesting where there will be a nice dynamic in the middle of shows, like a slower song or something.
M: I don’t know but I hope it will be as good as the Sonisphere show, because that was REALLY good. The day before we played at Rock Am Ring and it was a great show but we felt like the crowd was a little tired. I don’t know if they were sitting back listening because that was the first time they saw us all back together on stage, but the crowd at the Sonisphere was really good. Maybe they were just “wooooo!”. You never know when you play in front of people, you don’t know what to expect. Maybe the sound was better, I don’t know… but that was a great show. We’re gonna come back soon for a European tour to do some proper shows and it will probably be in January-February.
Korn has sold around fifty million (KornRow Note: Korn have sold 35 million, not 50 million) copies worldwide, eleven of the band’s official releases have peaked in the top ten of the Billboard 200 and eight of which have peaked in the top five, eight official releases are certified Platinum or Multi-Platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America, and one is certified Gold. Moreover, Korn has earned two Grammy Awards out of seven nominations. What is your goal now?
M: The gold records and all of that, that’s nice, but really, it’s about playing those shows for the fans. To see the reactions on their faces, their excitement, their enthusiasm is priceless. Our fans are so loyal, we always want to go to as many cities as we can. To put on a really big show together with a great stage production, that’s a goal for us now. We’d like to put on really big concerts and great tours, give back to the fans as much as we can. They allow us to create music and continue to be artists.
Finally, our website is called “RockUrLife”, what rocks your life Munky?
M: Right now, this band and this record. I don’t want to sound cheesy but I’m here promoting my new record! (laugh) Of course I’m really proud of this album but I’m trying to stay healthy for my family, my wife and I have a brand new baby who’s nine months old and that’s what important to me, that’s what keep me happy and healthy, so that I can continue making music. That’s what rocks my life.