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How about some of the other guys like Noisia?
Noisia is from the Netherlands so there was a geography thing.
So you did it all by email?
Yeah, email and Dropbox. They’d send us some skeletons, I’d riff on them, send it back, and then they’d change it a little bit or add a section here and there. Feed Me was the other guy. He was out of the UK. Funny thing about it is that these guys are from all over the world, but it still sounds like a Korn record.
What was the secret to maintaining your identity on this album?
That was really tricky to balance. Let’s do something different but still retain who we are. I think it comes down to Jonathan’s vocals—what he’s singing about and the delivery of the vocals—my guitar sound and also the mix of the guitar, and Fieldy’s bass.
The interesting thing about working on this record for me was, because the synth was so heavy, when I heard it, I thought, “Man, it’s like a guitar.” I started to feel like I had to compete.
What adjustments did you then make to your sound?
We had to create this big guitar sound to compete with those sounds. We came up with this wall of sound using octave pedals and by layering stuff. Then the heavy synth and bass stuff were complementing each other.
And you came across a satisfactory balance?
Yeah. Then I could lay out in this section and play something a little cleaner and pick lightly instead of trying to compete with the heavy synth stuff. It was like having a second guitar player.
How will you reproduce the electronic stuff live?
We have a lot of it on a Pro Tools rig—our keyboard player samples a lot of stuff. The new stuff from the record sounds so massive. I don’t know if you’ve listened to the record on a big stereo but it bumps harder than anything we’ve ever done. You can’t play a new song, then an old song, and then a new song because nothing holds up.
But you’re not playing only new stuff on tour, right?
No, no, of course not. We’d get tomatoes thrown at us. We’re doing a lot of new songs because we want to promote it and a lot of people seem really excited about it. We’re having a great time. We’re going to play old stuff, too: “Here To Stay,” “Got the Life,” “Blind,” “Freak on a Leash.” If I went to a concert to see Korn and didn’t hear “Freak on a Leash” or “Blind,” I would be pissed.
What’s your main guitar?
Ibanez made me a few prototypes with a single-coil and a humbucker in the bridge position and we called it the APEX100. It was kind of my own design and has that Ibanez RG body style. It’s a classic looking guitar with a modern feel. I wanted to have a Tele clean-sound, single-coil, 7-string neck pickup and modern, metal-sound bridge humbucker pickup.
You also went with standard tuning on this new record, after tuning down a whole step for about 20 years. Is this a first?
I’ve done a lot of stuff that’s standard tuning for overdubs, but as far as standard tuning for a whole record, yes. It [going to standard tuning now] was done to minimize the musical communication gap. I’m used to playing dropped-tuned guitars and there had been a little bit of confusion. You know I’m listening and watching them play and I’m like, “This is C, this is D,” and I’m trying to transpose it. So then it was like, “Let’s tune up,” and once we tuned up, everything sounded better. The guitar actually played better.
How about effects pedals?
The Digitech XP100 has been kind of a staple of my setup for recording for 15 years, ever since Follow the Leader. A Dunlop Wah, an MXR Phase 90, a Uni-Vibe. A company called Magic Box made a prototype distortion pedal and it’s great for lo-fi stuff and I use it as sort of an EQ but it can also be a great distortion. But it worked so good I asked them if they could make a production model, and they are going to do it. It’s going to be called The Crush. Then I have the Devi Ever Beautiful Disaster pedal, and a couple of Z.Vex pedals like the Seek Wah—that thing is really temperamental though, you have to be patient with it.
Ibanez APEX100 with DiMarzio Blaze pickups
Marshall Plexi with Marshall straight cabinet loaded with Celestion Greenbacks, Bogner amps, Mesa/Boogie straight cabinets
Digitech XP100, Dunlop Wah, MXR Phase 90, Dunlop Uni-Vibe, Magic Box The Crush, Devi Ever Beautiful Disaster, Z.VEX Seek Wah, Electro-Harmonix Micro Synth, Electro-Harmonix POG, Electro-Harmonix Ravish Sitar
Dean Markley .011–.060
You got some pretty wicked sounds on “Sanctuary.” What did you use on that?
I’m going to give away my secrets right now—you’re hearing an Electro-Harmonix Micro Synth pedal and also a Whammy pedal for a few dive bombs.
How about amps?
I’ve been using a modified Marshall Plexi for the last few records. I used it on the Issues album. When I was working with Brendan O’Brien we were renting some gear from Andy Bauer in L.A. and he had this Marshall that Brendan loved so much. He asked Andy if he would sell it and Andy said, “Yeah.” “How much?” And he said $800. Brendan was like, “Dude, if you don’t buy this amp, I’m going to.” So I said, “Okay, I better buy it,” and then it sat in my garage for so long. I finally got it out and used it on the last couple albums. Everyone loved it.
What mods does it have?
I couldn’t even tell you. We’ve been trying to figure it out. I have my guitar tech dissecting it to see if we can duplicate it into another Marshall. For a long time I used Mesa/Boogies and I kind of got over that.
With the band going all electronic I would think you’d be using something like an Axe-FX.
I know. I’m not using Guitar Rig or anything like that. I use a traditional setup. I like to record analog. We did add a couple of things, a couple of plug-ins. But it was recorded with a 4x12 straight cabinet and a Marshall amp. I just like to hear my amp turned all the way up in an iso-room mic’d. If we’re going to capture a Korn sound, this is how it has to be.