From the December 1996 issue of Newsweek Magazine
CHILDREN OF THE KORN
By Rick Marin
With virtually no prompting from radio or MTV, hard-core fans of a hard-core band fire-start a cult
By Rick Marin
Backstage at Lollapalooza's opening show in Palm Beach, Fla., is a dissappointingly deadbeat scene. Perry Farrell, founder of the seven year-old alternative rockfest, looking blandly beatific. Snoop Doggy Dogg and his maximum-security entourage amble out of their armored tour van without incident. It's all way too orderly, except for one spot: outside the Korn dressing room. A hard-core outfit from Bakersfield, Calif., Korn is headlining this summer's "Lolla" tour, and its fans are definitely not orderly. They are obsessed. Just look at 20-year-old Rishi Arya. The guy has prostrated himself on the ground in front of Korn lead singer Jonathan Davis and is weeping hysterically. "I can't belive I met you, man!" sobs Arya, ripping open his green coveralls to display the Korn tattoo on his stomach. The unfailingly polite Davis (also branded with the band's logo on his back) urges his crazed acolyte to stand up, offering him a hug and a consoling "It's OK, dude." This sort of maddness happens at every show. An exotic teen beauty with a silver stud in her bottom lip begs Davis, 27, for a moment alone. She's followed him across the country, calls his manager 10 times a day, always gets herself backstage. "She wants to be friends, " Davis says with a shrug. He hugs her, too, but with a bodyguard hovering close by. Later, two 17-year-olds, as blond and scrubbed as a couple of cheerleaders, offer themselves to Davis in the most graphic terms available. He shoos them away, shouting, "I'm gonna call your mom and tell her what you just said!" These are the children of the Korn cult. They've fire-started a phenomenon. With virtually no prompting from radio, MTV, or rock magazines, the Korn kidsconsumed 700,000 copies of the band's first album ("Korn") and 800,000 of the follow-up ("Life is Peachy"), which debuted at No. 3 on Billboard's Top 200 album chart and scored a Grammy nomination last year. Korn-logoed T shirts, hats and bongs are huge sellers. Ignored by the media, the band tours maniaclly- 400 gigs in two years- and conects with its devotees on-line and in concert. During Lollapalooza, a frenzied mob of pierced, tattooed youth tore up the seating up front that was put there to prevent audience mayhem. Faced with this sweating, seething mosh pit, the grim security goons on guard could do nothing but bob their heads along with the band's pounding, aggro anthems. To which the unpierced, untattooed parents of America might respond, "In the mane of all that is good and decent: why?" Simply because while traditional metal bands fixate on sex, drugs, and Satanism, Korn fixates on sex, drugs and teen angst. It melds the introspective lyrics of alt rock with crunching seven-string guitars, blood-curtling vocals and the occasional bagpipe solo. The group's pounding anthem "Faget" is a call to arms for any kid who was ever mocked for being (or looking) gay in high school. "Kill You" is Davis's vicious fantasy about his stepmom. "I feel like the f---ing Pied Piper," says the singer of his disaffected -youth following. To many of them, he is. Davis is the band's "tourtured soul," in the words of his manager, Peter Katsis. His bio includes the requisite dysfunstional childhood as a "geek and a weirdo," a kicked crystalmeth habit and several years as an autopsy assistant in the Kern County coroner's office. He's sensitive and articulate. He's also penned such spinal tap tunes as "Ass Itch" and "A.D.I.D.A.S"- the band's signature sportswear and an acronym for "all day I dream about sex." And no matter how tourtured his soul, he still insists on checking into his fancy Palm Beach hotel under the name "Homer Sexual." To which any self respecting, fist-in-the-air fan can say only, "Korn rules!"