KOí¿N offer some insight into their ninth studio offering: Koí¿n III – Remember Who You Are. Each song unleashes an uneasiness reminiscent of the band’s earliest and most unbridled material, but there’s also a modern refinement that’s epic in its execution. Koí¿n definitely don’t lose sight of their roots on Remember Who You Are, but they also venture into uncharted darkness. The album strikes a balance between their past and their future, as it finds the band reuniting with producer Ross Robinson, who manned the boards for their first two records, all the while joining forces with Roadrunner Records.
“This album is a reflection of us being a band since 1993,” says vocalist Jonathan Davis. “We worked hard on the previous records, and we experimented a lot. For Remember Who You Are, the four of us got together in a small room with the intention of writing an old school Korn record. This album is a perfect mixture of everything we’ve done, and this version of the band is the best ever.” It’s as if Korn revisited their storied beginnings, but as a wiser, tighter and more precise outfit blessed with the benefit of experience.
In order to tap into the chaos that made their self-titled debut a modern classic, the band enlisted the help of the man who helmed Koí¿n and Life is Peachy—producer Ross Robinson, whose goal was to bring Korn back to square one. He undoubtedly succeeded. “Ross helped us remember what we used to do this for,” the singer says. “It was more psychological than anything. Ross was right there pushing me and he drove me insane. I sing about a lot of things that hit really close to my heart and he knew how to trigger that. I nearly fucking broke down at the end of almost every song, but I got it all out.”
For guitarist James “Munky” Shaffer, the experience was no different. He elaborates, “Teaming up with Ross has brought that raw, emotional feeling back to the music. Ross is the only person in the world that’s ever been able to draw us to that place. He reminds us why we’re here, why these songs are important to our fans and why what we do as a band relates. He made us remember how our music saves lives, and he came into the picture at the perfect time. We had no record label and just wanted to make a great album. Ross stepped in at the right moment to hit the reset button.”
Hitting that “reset button” involved stripping down the process. There would be no Pro-Tools, no tracking separately and no heavy post editing. In order to conjure Remember Who You Are’s claustrophobic yet wholly organic chaos, Korn recorded on two-inch tape and locked themselves inside a 10×10 room buried within their Los Angeles studio, nicknamed “The Cat Box.” Being in such close proximity to one another stirred up a torrent of explosive music. Bassist Reggie “Fieldy” Arvizu remembers, “In that room, even if I turned my bass head, it would hit somebody. Getting back in there was like a family reunion. We felt like brothers again. Being older and setting egos aside, we were able to focus on making the best record we could.”
Davis dug deep for cuts like “The Past” of which the singer says, “A lot of people dwell on the past, and they feel guilt. There’s nothing you can do about the past because it’s gone and it’s blown up. We’re here now.” On Korn III – Remember Who You Are, Davis is fully present and at his most vitriolic, violent and vibrant.
He goes on, “I let everything flow, while I was coming up with lyrics. They’re about me living my life for others when I shouldn’t, people-pleasing all of the time, stress, guilt and all kinds of emotions we live with everyday that destroy us and tear us down. I write about all of the fake people around us and how I always try to fix other people’s problems. I write what I feel, and it comes out naturally. I’ve got a lot of shit built up inside me; that doesn’t go away.”
Even though Korn went back to square one, they continue to break new ground. In a career marked by innovation, they still smash boundaries. Munky even fingerpicks certain instrumental passages, while trying out new tones on echo-y soundscapes. “The heavier I play, the more you can hear the aggression. The lighter I pick, the lighter the mood is,” he said. “I used vintage guitars, echos, long delays and reverbs. When we did the first two records, we broke the music down to a completely emotional beast. Through the years, we started to experiment with vocal harmonies and more orchestrated pieces. Recording this album, we brought that knowledge into the raw emotion of what we already knew. You hear the melodies and layers, but it still comes from a very primitive Korn.”
That primitive Korn includes drummer Ray Luzier, who became Korn’s touring drummer in late 2007 and was made an official member in 2009. On cuts like the deadly “Fear is a Place to Live,” he propels the aggression. Fieldy says, “Ray is like the missing Korn member we never had. He just fits so well. When we found him, it just clicked because his playing sounds like Korn. He plays with me, and the way that he plays is exactly what I needed. We know what we’re doing on stage with each other, and everybody’s on the same page. I’ve waited my whole career for Korn to sound like we do now.”
For Davis, the album name covers it all. “It comes down to one question: ‘Who the fuck am I?’ It’s about remembering where we came from. The title sums up everything I’m talking about lyrically. During the first two records, we were kids, and we didn’t have anything. We were making music, having fun and not worrying. I went back to that place where I wasn’t worried. I wanted to be completely honest with my feelings, express myself and let them out. People get so wrapped up in social communities, the Internet and technology that they forget who they are and what life’s really about. I fucking forgot who I was until I did this record. This album is just a bass, a guitar, drums and my vocals. I look at the records we’ve done as slots in time, and I believe Remember Who You Are is very special.”