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Korn Recall The Highs And Lows Of “Follow The Leader” In New Oral History


With its twentieth anniversary looming, various members of Korn gathered together recently to share the oral history of their 1998 5x multi-platinum album “Follow The Leader” in a new feature over at The Fader. The album’s producer Toby Wright (Alice In Chains, Metallica) also took part in the chat, as did the directors for the band’s video for “Freak On A Leash” and more. Notably the band’s since estranged drummer David Silveria did not take part.

Follow The Leader” will officially turn 20 this Saturday, August 18th, and the band have these three 20th anniversary shows booked to celebrate it. Some excepts from this latest feature can be found below.

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On bringing in Ross Robinson initially to help with the vocal sessions:

Jonathan Davis: He was doing this weird method acting shit and I was just like, “I did that and it was cool, but I’m past this shit with you, Ross. No offense, I love you brother, but I’m trying to do something different. I don’t need to have you put your fucking nails in my back and make me hurt to feel the pain.” So he peeled back a little bit.

Toby Wright: He’s a very violent person. I’ve heard stories of him throwing chairs, guitars, all kinds of stuff at people while they’re playing. I don’t think it lasted more than two or three vocal sessions.

Jonathan Davis: He was my crutch. I was very afraid to do an album without him — that’s all I’d known. He came in for a couple songs and then I didn’t need him anymore and he was like, “Cool, it’s all good, no hard feelings.” I did the rest with Toby.

On adopting the internet early:

Jonathan Davis: We pretty much pioneered the whole fucking internet thing with bands back in the day. We made it into Time magazine in 1996. We did the very first webcast — we had Adam Carolla come in to host a show, and we partnered up with Quicktime and they came in and brought all these cameras. 1996 — think about that, technology and the internet. You could look around in the studio if you dragged a cursor over it. We’d tape songs right off the board and we had little interviews and shit. We really embraced the internet at the time.

James “Munky” Shaffer: Dita von Teese came on one of the shows and tied Jonathan up in some weird knot and whipped him. It was awesome.

On the excess that took place in the studio (Davis estimates the alcohol budget was $60,000 alone):

James “Munky” Shaffer: It was fucking crazy. You’re giving a bunch of kids money that are already drunks and drug addicts. Probably not the best thing.

Jonathan Davis: I refused to start singing unless [Toby] got me an eight-ball of cocaine right away. Toby started freaking the fuck out, because he knows if I do coke I only get a couple takes and the shit’s gonna kick in and then my vocals are going to suck. There was a lot of that.

Toby Wright: I tried to limit the amount of candy that went on before the parts were actually laid down — whether it was beer or weed or whatever. None of it was allowed in the control room. I didn’t want to see. I just stayed in the control room and covered my eyes.

Jonathan Davis: I’d come in and do my vocals, and once they were done, I’d start drinking. I wasn’t drunk when I did my vocals. I was under the influence of some coke at times, but for the majority of it I’d stay sober. Then I was done and I’d just get hammered. We’d start around 3 or 4 o clock, [then at] 9 or 10 at night we’d stop and that’s when the parties would start. We partied at NRG until 4 in the morning. Those poor guys would have to leave the place open and we [were] just raging.

Toby Wright: There’s a certain — how do I say it — loveliness to being high while you’re playing, and then there’s a certain disrespectfulness to your band members and everyone else who’s working on your record. You’re wasting money and everybody’s time.

Jonathan Davis: In the end, it was necessary. It had to happen for me to realize what a fucking out of control motherfucker I was, because it made me become sober — which, in turn, saved my life and my band, because my bandmates were ready to fucking kill me.

James “Munky” Shaffer: Hey, better have learned it that way than still have to learn those fucking lessons later in life. I just want to get that shit done now. I’m glad i went through a lot of that. I don’t want to be an old man sitting in a bar grumbling. I might still be though! Never know.

On Davis getting sober while touring in support of the album and the price of fame:

Jonathan Davis: After that, we were put right into arenas [for the Family Values Tour]. I quit drinking, so I was detoxing the whole fucking tour. I was going insane and had horrible anxiety attacks. I can’t even put it into words — watching everybody slowly go crazy because we lost our freedom. We couldn’t go anywhere without bodyguards. Back in the day, we were the type of band where we’d play a club gig and have tapes and demos we brought to hand out to people —we’d meet people, go to their house, and have keg parties and shit like that. We couldn’t do that no more. We couldn’t hang out with our fans. We couldn’t do shit.

I call it “being stuck in a box,” and to this day they keep me in a fucking box — a bus, a dressing room, a hotel room, or a car. I can’t be out in public. I can do it now a little more, but back then I had two fucking bodyguards, one with me 24 hours a day. We went kind of crazy during that time period. After I got sober and went through a fucking detox, after all that shit wore off, everything was good. But I remember all these emotions from that time period.

James “Munky” Shaffer: Jonathan got sober a lot quicker than the rest of us did, so he saw things that the rest of us wish we had seen earlier. He saw a lot of the dirty, shady music-business components earlier than we recognized because we were too busy getting hammered.

Jonathan Davis: That’s what that song [“Freak On A Leash“] is about — I just felt like everyone was using and abusing me. Then that record just made it ten times worse. That’s how it goes, but it’s all good. Looking back, I think it’s amazing I get to do what I love for a living. It’s not work.

You can dig in deeper over at The Fader.