Ray Luzier enjoys staying busy and focused on his creativity, and this year, he’s been incredibly active between KXM’s new album Circle of Dolls (order here) and KoRn’s latest effort The Nothing (read our review here and order here). Somehow, we were lucky for Luzier to take some time from his hectic schedule to talk to us about both records as he expressed, working in both projects are two different animals.
What was the process like for you creating Circle of Dolls?
The people that know the history of KXM One and KXM Scatterbrain, we decided to go with the same format that we did on those first two records, and there’s no real reason we’re doing this. A lot of bands would hate doing this method, but basically, we go into the studio with no preconceived notions or riffs or grooves or ideas of any kind. We want to see what we can come up with and we discussed before we went in for Circle of Dolls, we discussed what we were going to do, and we’re like, should we go in and do actual pre-production like real bands or should we wing it again? We decided to wing it back and do one song a day. We booked 13 days and did 13 songs. All the basics were done fresh like that, not overthink, not over anything, go in and do it. Then, obviously, Doug [Pinnick] would have to do his melodies and words afterward, and George [Lynch] would have to overdub leads, but for the most part, we all have so many miles on us with so much experience playing that we love the challenge and love what we come up with. We find out we have a kind of a unique thing going on.
Can you talk more about the video for “Lightning?”
The first single was called “War of Words.” We always like to come out of the gate with a banger. We did Scatterbrain off the last one, and the first one was “Rescue Me,” and then “Lightning” was the follow-up up single to that. We always have fun with these videos. We have a great crew of guys that are into the band. Jamie Brown is one of the editors, producers. He was in a group called Roxanne. Actually, they just put a new record out now, and he was in charge of the Boogie Knights and Metalshop, and I was in a lot of his bands back in the day. Steel Panther is the most popular right now. I was the original drummer in that. Not a lot of people know that, but I was the original drummer in Steel Panther, which was called Metalshop at the time. Anyway, Jamie Brown is one of the guys that’s in charge of the videos. Sébastien Paquet, who toured with KoRn for many, many years, is another great photographer, and we have a lot of fun with him. We didn’t go out and get too boneheaded and put the “Lightning” there. The interesting thing for me was they rented a rain chamber in downtown Los Angeles, and basically, it recreates rain. They asked me if I could get a drum kit that can be completely submerged in water, which is crazy, but we decided to go ahead and do it, and I think the video came out nice.
That’s awesome seeing the entire drum kit get drenched.
The funny thing about that is that’s the first kit I bought with my own money when I grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I kept it for sentimental reasons. I made my whole career, and now that I’m endorsed, you look back. The stuff that you used to paint buildings for and do odds and end jobs just to buy instruments, it’s a privilege that I’m endorsed now on a higher level than I was back then. That drum kit was sitting there for years, and I’m like, “Why am I hanging onto this? It’s turning yellow like old paper.” Then when they asked me, I said, “You know what? I’d rather have this kit preserved in a music video for life than to rot away in storage,” so that’s how it happened.
That’s a smart move. How has this year been for you working on two new albums? I’m sure the process between KoRn and KXM are very different. How was it like for you to make both?
I have to keep busy in the music business, or I go kind of crazy. There’s a lot of musicians out there that take time off. I mean, KoRn took two years off from touring, which is insane cause we never really stopped. In the meantime, I did Jonathan Davis’ solo record, and we toured off of that last year. I kept myself busy with that, and I’m always doing side projects. I’m on several new records coming out. I’m on a couple I can’t mention because they’re bigger names, and they want me to wait until the press release. I’m on two other records coming out at the beginning of 2020 that I’m excited about, and I think just creatively, as a musician, you always want to go out of your box a little bit.
KoRn is definitely my band for the last what, October starts my 13th year in the group, so very dedicated and loyal to KoRn, 100%. But it’s cool that we all have side projects to do. KXM, I don’t think we ever planned anything past one record, but we have such a great time playing together and seeing what we come up with, and enough fans bought it to allow us to go back in the studio for albums two and three. It’s kind of my fault that we’ve never toured yet because everybody knows it takes several months to plan, properly promote and plan a tour and KoRn’s so busy, it’s hard for me to have that timeframe, but we want to play live in the next year or so.
Your loyalty with KoRn is evident as they’re always on the road. Despite having a touring break, you went with Jonathan Davis on his solo tour.
People call me crazy because they’re like, “You have two kids at home.” I do spend a ton of time with my family, that’s my most important thing ever, but I also have to work, or it’s a mental thing with me. I can’t sit still creatively or playing-wise. I love to perform, I love to entertain, I love to write, so if I don’t have those things, I start going crazy.
With KXM, there’s something unique about you guys because all three of you come from different musical backgrounds, how has it been since you guys formed?
It’s been great. George asked me to do his instructional DVD years ago as a guest, and I did two songs on that. We were talking on the set of that shoot. I go, “Man, I’ve always wanted to do a project with you or a band,” and he goes, “Ah, it’s inevitable. It’ll happen sometime. It’s too small of a world out there in the rock world.” Then, Doug, I’ve just been following King’s X forever. I’m the biggest King’s X fan and think that they should be bigger, bigger than the Beatles, but they have their following, the loyal followers and I was one of them. I’d jump on a plane and fly to Phoenix from LA or Vegas to see him play. It was like going to church for me. It’s not just going to a concert; their music really moves me.
Anyway, I got to know Doug through the years just showing up at his shows all the time and told him, “Before I die, I want to play tambourine on one of your records. Just something small.” He said, “Oh, we’ll jam; we’ll jam.” Lo and behold I had the first birthday party for my son, and in LA it’s the land of the flake, you invite 50 people, and 10 show up kind of thing. All these rock stars showed up at my house. Dean DeLeo from Stone Temple Pilots, Billy Sheehan, and there was Doug and George, and by the end of the night, we were all in my studio. George looked around and went, “Man, this would make a good band.” I go, “Yeah, right. Like that’ll ever happen.” That’s pretty much how it came together. As I said, I wish we had the time to tour more because I know we’d do some magical things live.
I wanted to ask, do you guys have any plans for any one-off shows?
We’ve been approached so many times and had so many offers from really good friends of ours. The Winery Dogs asked us to go on tour with them to different kinds of various projects. I always thought that would be the coolest thing ever to go out and support someone we respect and do bigger clubs and theaters than it would be to fill up a half a club kind of thing. No offense to our popularity, but with KoRn, we’re playing 13 to 15,000 seats every night, and then we’ve all done or paid our dues for sure and played clubs. I’ve done it a thousand times, but it’d be awesome to get in front of a good crowd, like Sons of Apollo, The Winery Dogs, Dream Theater, something where fans can respect, and spread the word. It’s a good way to play in front of a bunch of people.
The reality is, it would take us a long time to prepare for just one show. As I said, it’s so fresh in the studio; we’ve never played these songs live. I’ve done it, several at my drum clinic or drum festivals, that you can see those online where I’m playing to Doug and George from the record. There are about six or seven KXM songs on there, but our whole goal ultimately would be to rehearse for several weeks and do a string of shows and then, hopefully, film the last one for a DVD, so a lot of the fans that cannot attend will at least have that. They could watch online or get some way to see the whole concert, have it professionally done. That’s the ultimate goal we keep talking about doing, and I feel that it’ll happen eventually.
As a drummer, between both new albums, KXM’s Circle of Dolls and KoRn’s The Nothing, are there any songs or parts that you find more challenging?
It’s quite a different animal. KoRn’s new record, which I couldn’t be more proud of both new records coming out and not just because they’re fresh, and this is the latest thing I’m on. This is probably the best KoRn record to me in the last 15 years, and I was proud of The Serenity of Suffering, but there’s something special about The Nothing. Jonathan went through a dramatic turn of events losing his wife, and we really took our time writing this record and spending time. We had a producer, Nick Raskulinecz, again on this, and he’s one of my favorite producers to work with, so passionate. We took our time. We got to write a bunch of songs, live with them, sleep on it, come back, write more, get rid of the not so good ones, and keep nothing but the cream of the crop, and it’s really special. I love it.
Some of the parts drumming wise were more challenging than others. There are some challenging parts in the song “Cold,” and it’s not that they’re difficult to play, just more challenging than other tunes on the record. There’s a song called “[email protected],” there’s a lot of drumming in it, and it’s definitely a butt-kicker. I’d say on the new KXM, Circle of Dolls, “War of Words,” the opening track, there’s a lot of drumming on that, so it’s more challenging, but it’s also fun. With KXM, we don’t have a producer telling us what to do there. There’s no like, hey don’t play that drum fill, don’t sing this part. It’s a hundred percent us. We have Chris Collier, that engineered and mixed it, co-produced it. He was our outside ears to say like, “Hey guys, you’re getting kind of crazy on this,” or, “Let’s pay more attention to this,” but for the most part, we produced that record a hundred percent, and that’s the last three we did. There’s something cool about that creatively.
On KoRn, I have to say, the album takes me back twenty years during the Issues era, I haven’t heard this aggressive style from you guys in quite some time.
It’s not like we got together and said, “Hey, let’s try to sound like this from our past,” or anything like that. Even when we released the dubstep record years back (2011’s The Path of Totality) because Jonathan believed in that music at the time. It still sounds like KoRn. Someone asked him not too long ago, what does The Nothing sound like? He goes, “You know what it sounds like? KoRn, 2019.” It was funny because he stomped anything. We’re like, “We’re not trying to rehash the past, we’re not trying to be modern and cool. We’re writing what we feel a hundred percent.” You can’t bullshit the fans. Especially KoRn fans, they are different animals and are intuitive about what’s going on. We’re at a point in our careers and lives where we appreciate what we have. It’s all about music and family now. There’s no drama; there’s no substance abuse. Nothing’s in the way.
I think the fans feel that live and on the record. I have been getting a lot of, “Yeah, it sounds like this.” etc.” Even the first single, “You’ll Never Find Me,” it has a reminiscence of a song on Life is Peachy, and that’s great, but I think that’s because, KoRn has been together for 25 years and ultimately, if you’re ripping off yourself, that’s okay. When you’re blatantly ripping off another band, that’s another story. It’s cool being part of a force that doesn’t sound like anyone else.
I remember when KoRn first came out, there was STP, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, and all of these different bands. KoRn carved right up the middle and said, “We don’t sound like anybody. This is what we do.” I respected that right away from them. Still, to this day, so many years later, we’re achieving that. It’s a cool place to be, especially in a world that music’s kind of all over the place right now.
You’re right about that, KoRn is one of the few bands that stepped out and kept their game by not being afraid of walking out of their element. Before you joined, KoRn released the music video for “Freak on a Leash.” At that time, it was something that no one has ever seen before with the bullet floating around. The video is now over 20 years old, and people still talk about it today. No one seemed to have used those special effects back then, and even now, KoRn are never afraid to take risks. You also dabbled in dubstep, and no one thought to combine dubstep with metal. However, you guys figured it out and did it. You continue to spice things up, and with The Nothing and everything you guys have been through over the last few years, especially with Jonathan Davis, you’ve completed a strong record.
The emotional roller coaster you go on when you listen to The Nothing from front to back is devastatingly good. I can’t explain the power of it. A couple of the record labels, people have said, “I’m so drained emotionally in a good way. Because I can’t believe what I just heard and how I feel.” It’s super powerful, and I think that’s what makes it so special. Unfortunately, the bad thing that happened to Jonathan last year, music is his outlet, and it’s therapeutic for millions of people out there. I can’t believe we continued his solo tour last year after she passed, but he said, “If I don’t do this, I will literally lose my mind.”
Of course. The fans most likely understood he needed that and are also there for him.
We’re all human. We all break the same, you know?
Is there anything else that you want to say about the new KXM record?
I hope people check it out and get the vinyl. I’m a vinyl freak now, and they did an excellent job on the splatter turquoise vinyl. There are some cool pictures and artwork there, and I’m really happy the way this came out. You never know on the third effort. I look at it as musicians getting together and putting their hearts and souls into creating the best music we can. And to pull it off three times, I’m quite proud of it. Anything could have happened, even on the second effort. It’s really beautiful the way we get in there because we’re weighing three different personalities, but it works out musically. I hope everyone checks it out and supports and buys music. Even though there’s Spotify’s and Apple music out there, take the time to support your artists and buy the music. Some records take months and months to make, and I’m not to trying to sound like an old dude, but spending ten bucks on a record or I know some of the vinyl’s more expensive these days, but it really does help a lot when people purchase it.