From the April 1997 issue of Modern Drummer

(Interview with David)

by Matt Peiken

Anyone who's ever passed through Bakersfield, California has quickly learned three things about the town: It's homely, it's hellishly hot, and it's not necessarily a place you'd want to vacation. But according to Korn drummer David Silveria, that "freeway view" keeps people from discovering the town's hidden treasures. "I think one of the reasons music became such an obsession for everyone in the band," says David, "is that there just wasn't a whole lot to do where we lived. But you have to come from somewhere, and we made good with what we had. We didn't let Bakersfield be an excuse."

Any excuses went out the window when Silveria and two bandmates moved to Los Angeles -- well before the formation of Korn. Under the name LAPD, they plied the pay-to-play circuit and released an album before finding a new singer -- in, of all places, Bakersfield. Korn was born, and the band soon saw itself at the heart of a hip-hop/headbanging hybrid that attracts legions of fans without the benefit of extensive radio or video support.

On Korn's second album, Life Is Peachy, the twenty-four-year-old Silveria blends the high-toned, staccato style of Tim Alexander with the militaristic bent of Ted Parsons. In this interview, Silveria discusses the making of Korn's new album, his natural evolution as a drummer, and how five musicians happened to find each other in a metropolitan California desert.

MP: Tell me how you guys managed to find each other in Bakersfield. I know there are a lot of people there, but it's not necessarily a music mecca.

David: The music scene in Bakersfield goes in peaks and valleys, but when it's on a high, there's a lot more happening there than people would think. And we happened to get together when things were going all right there.

I'd been playing for five years by the time I hooked up with the other guys. I started at around nine years old. I remember picking up the drums on my own and not being able to get my mind off them. I just listened to music and kept beats to it, and made up some of my own beats in my head.
I didn't get my first kit until I was thirteen. I started playing in the school bands then, too, but I picked up the drumset on my own. Even then, I never really liked playing on my own -- like sitting in a garage and practicing to records like other guys do. I was always more into playing with other people. I never took any lessons or studied from a book.

MP: But every player goes through some kind of learning curve. Who or what were your models for development?

David: I kind of developed naturally as I went along, without ever really worrying about it. I started playing with some guys in high school, and even back then we were doing originals. We weren't any good, but it helped me develop my own style. I wasn't trying to copy anybody else's songs or sounds. I just played my own way.

I think I probably improved a lot mentally, just in the way I think about playing -- coming up with ideas and then being able to play them on the drums. Sometimes I'd work out new ideas in my head, and sometimes I'd try them in a show, if I really felt confident in what I was trying to do.

MP: Were you always serious about music? I get the idea that music just sort of happened for you more than your making it happen.

David: Well, I always liked playing. I mean, there was nothing else I really wanted to do. But I don't think I really took it seriously until Korn.

MP: But prior to Korn you recorded an EP in 1990 and an album in 1991 with LAPD.

David: Yeah, but they weren't really very good. We were still trying to find our own band sound and develop our own individual sounds on our instruments. If you listen to those records now, you wouldn't even think we were the same guys playing on them. It was kind of a heavy, up-tempo punk, not at all what we're doing now.

But LAPD really was good for us, too, because we learned a lot about the industry and how things work. We played all the L.A. clubs -- even some pay-to-play places -- for about two years. Even when we didn't pay to play anymore, we were playing for nothing, which is still paying to play. We didn't just get a record deal after putting a few songs together. We definitely paid our dues.

MP: What made you shift from the more upbeat pop-punk music to what you're doing now in Korn?

David: It was a matter of maturing and finding our own sound as musicians. I know I just got tons better as a drummer. I became a lot more creative and percussive, using more of my set to create beats. I started mixing up the hi-hat, snare, and toms a lot and fooling around with different combinations. I'd heard some other drummers using the set that way, and I liked it. I didn't pattern myself after anyone, or try learning their beats, but it inspired me to kind of go in that direction.

MP: With your style of playing and how it fits into what Korn is doing, it seems like you couldn't afford to be too loose. In fact, you seem really tight and precise on the record.

David: I think that has to do with staying in shape physically more than staying in shape just for drumming. When I'm at home, I work out five days a week, and I think that has something to do with how I play the drums. I can take a break and not feel rusty when I come back.

MP: Let's talk about the recording process with Korn. Once you're in pre-production, do you work your parts out much beforehand, or do you just go in with some very loose ideas before the tape rolls?

David: On the first record, I had everything already worked out before we started tracking. We took a year and a half to put that record together, and I'd played the songs so much that my parts were already second-nature by the time we went into the studio. But for the new record we went in really fresh, and we wanted to get it done quickly to capture that energy. So it was probably about 60% knowing what I was going to play and 40% just playing whatever came to mind at that moment.

I laid down about three songs a day and finished all my tracks in five days. I don't think I did more than three takes on anything. I was a little nervous doing it that way, because I didn't want to just throw off some fills and then be unhappy with them later on. But it ended up really good, and it has a kind of energy I probably wouldn't have gotten if I'd worked everything out beforehand.

MP: Do you ever come up with beats on your own that turn into the basis of a song?

David: "Good God" is one song where I came up with the beat first, just messing around with a beat I kept hearing in my head while we were writing for the new record. The opening song, "Twist", was like that too. That's how we come up with a lot of the music. Somebody will start playing something and the rest of us will work around it and see where it goes.

MP: Tell me a bit about your kit. You seem to go for high-pitched sounds with both your drums and cymbals.

David: I use a 20" kick drum and a 3 1/2" piccolo snare. They're small drums, but I get a lot of volume out of them. I get a punchy sound out of the kick that I really like. I use a hard Danmar pad on the head and I turn my DW beaters around, so I'm hitting them with the hard side.

I started using the smaller drums for the first Korn record, and I got a really good sound. My setup is pretty tight, and it took me a while to get used to the smaller sizes. But once I did, it felt great. And even though they're smaller drums, I still think I get a pretty good bottom end to them. I also have an 808 sample pad hooked up to a Roland TD-7.

MP: What about your drumming future? Is there any area of music you want to get into, or any element about your playing you want to work on?

David: No. I'm pretty satisfied. I know I'll get better on my own.