From the January 1997 issue of Guitar Magazine


by Bob Gulla

          "Emotional" is the one word answer Korn guitarist James 'Munky' Shaffer comes up with when asked to describe his band's lurching beast of a sound. "We play from our hearts," he adds after a pause, "so it's really emotional."

"The sound just came out," says guitarist Brian 'Head' Welch, "we never tried to do anything special. [Bassist] Fieldy's into a lot of hip-hop and me and Munky are hip to a lot of guitar shit like Mr. Bungle and old Cypress Hill."

It's that kind of musical mutation that makes Korn's new album, Life Is Peachy, such a potent dose of metallic madness. With songs like the paranoid "No Place To Hide", and the haunting "Kill You", Head and Munky, along with singer/lyricist Jonathan Davis, stir up a peculiar ruckus that's not so much rock music but a creepy narcotic mood. Much of that ruckus comes from the band's dueling seven-string Ibanez Universe guitars.

Head remembers the seven-string thing got started before Korn was even Korn. "Fieldy got a five-string Ibanez bass when the band was getting started," he says, "and he told Munky he should check out one of their seven-string guitars because it had a low B." When the band wanted an even fatter sound, they hired Head, already a friend of the band, as a second guitarist. "When I joined I bought my first seven-string too, and we developed from there. The seven-string brings out heavy riffing. It's the Korn sound."

The Korn sound also developed from the guitarists' diverse influences. Though they both came up through the metal ranks as youngsters, they stayed open-minded about their influences. "I listened to AC/DC, Mötley Crüe, and shit like that," says Head, "but I liked everything. I'd watch MTV and want to learn a Tom Petty solo or a Cars riff. All those videos my friends hated, I'd dig 'cause I wanted to do the solos. I never bought the record because I'd get laughed at, but I'd learn the solos."

"Angus and Eddie and Yngwie were our heroes," Munky admits, "and we loved them. I've always been a huge fan of Vai because he was more than just a great player. There was something spiritual about him. But we knew there was other stuff out there beyond those guys that was cool, too."

Both Munky and Head pushed each other as friendly competitors coming of age as players. "We started playin' together early on," says Head. "It wasn't competition, but.... he'd see me as I was getting good and that would pump him up; then I'd see him a month later and he'd pump me up. We motivated each other that way."

All the while, both Munky and Welch had success on their minds. "When I was 14 and I first started playing, I knew that this would be my path," says Munky. "Something told me I'd make it to this level as a guitar player. I believed in myself. I knew. Something in me told me so."

That Korn attitude and work ethic has brought the guitar team to a place of considerable prominence. Written and recorded over the course of four months, Life Is Peachy helps the band achieve a singular sonic vision, with those Universes directly plugged into Munky's and Head's imaginations. "We wrote for eight to 12 hours a day, five or six days a week to make that record. We did whatever we felt, experimented with a lot of wacky shit, and this is what we came up with."