KORN guitarist James "Munky" Shaffer was interviewed on the August 1 edition of "Whiplash", the KLOS radio show hosted by Full Metal Jackie. You can now listen to the chat using the widget below. A few excerpts follow (transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET).
On what dictated the overall style and tone of the songs on the new KORN album, "The Serenity Of Suffering":
Munky: "That would be the producer's [Nick Raskulinecz] dictator ways. [Laughs] He's really good. Head [KORN guitaraist Brian Welch] and I kind of went through this process with different producers, narrowing it down and vetting out people who we thought were right for us at the time, at this moment. His name kept coming back up. And then we met with him. He came to Bakersfield and met with us at the studio. And he's, like, 'Man, I really miss these elements. The back-and-forth guitar thing, the heavy riffs, Jonathan [Davis, vocals] scatting. Where's Fieldy's bass been the last ten years? How come I can't hear it?' And we're, like, shrugging our shoulders: 'I don't know.' He's, like, 'As a fan, these are the things I wanna hear.' And so he, basically, pulled all our strengths, polished them, and that's what you get on the new album. And he was relentless about making sure there was those heavy riffs and still had melody. And even moments on the record feel a little progressive for us."
On the songwriting process for "The Serenity Of Suffering":
Munky: "We worked for a long time on it, it seems like. We started writing the album in a little small room, about ten feet by ten feet, in Hollywood. It was Head and I. We wrote, like, three demo songs on eight-string guitars. This was before the producer [got involved]. We were just trying to demo stuff. Those didn't quite make the cut. They didn't really sound like KORN songs, but we did use a lot of parts and pieces and ideas. But it just didn't fit. It just doesn't like KORN, and it was kind of, like, 'Okay, well, it was a good try.' We tried to get outside of our comfort zone a little bit there, and maybe it was too much."
On how playing with Head has shaped him as a guitarist:
Munky: "I'm telling you what, and this is from the heart: this guy has been inspiring me since I was 14 years old. Because I remember from high school, I'd go over his house and he'd start jamming on the guitar, and I was just like in awe. He just has a sense of… his songwriting and his sense of melody — the little melody lines that he puts through the songs… 'Cause I can play the chords and the progressions really well and rhythmic stuff, but when it comes to melody, he really has such a great ear. And now that we have a couple of records with him back in the band, it just feels like a really well-oiled machine now. Before, it was, like, 'Okay, let's kind of get back to knowing each other songwriting-wise,' because personally, it was immediately 'bros,' but as far as songwriting, now it really feels like the machine is running on all cylinders."
On whether the new KORN song "A Different World" was written with Corey Taylor (SLIPKNOT, STONE SOUR) in mind for guest vocals:
Munky: "It wasn't. It was not. We wrote the song… It was one of the first songs that we wrote [for the new album]. And it just has this cool, bouncing, bending riff, and it definitely reminds me of something, like 'Untouchables' era. But there was this huge bridge section that it was this wide-open spot… Nick has worked with STONE SOUR before — Nick Raskulinecz, the guy that produced the record. He basically picked up the phone and [asked Corey], 'Hey, would you wanna sing on KORN's record?' And Corey was, like, 'Yeah, man.' He was really into it. So he came down… I think he listened to, like, three tracks, and he narrowed it down to this one song that he was feeling. And it came out killer; I'm really happy with it. I can't wait for people to hear it. 'Cause it definitely has one of those… it has a quiet moment in the verses, and then it has these big choruses, and then the middle part just opens up and it gets really heavy."
On how KORN approaches writing differently from when they made the band's first album and what is still the same:
Munky: "Well, I think the things that are the same are we always kind of get inspired by a guitar riff, and I think that comes from either Head or I. It starts with a guitar riff. Drums, bass kind of squeezed in between it in some way to kind of complement that riff, and then Jonathan writes the lyrics and melody over the top, after that's done. That's stayed the same. I know a lot of bands… they write the melody and the lyrics first. To me, that just sounds so crazy. [What's different now is] the tone. Before, it was just like, 'Oh, that sounds great.' But now it's kind of, like, 'Where is this gonna go? Where do you want the listener…?' We kind of think as two perspectives now instead of just, 'That sounds killer.' Boom boom boom. I think we think, 'Where does this song need to go? What do we want the listener to feel?' Or, 'Where do we want to take them on a listening path of?' whether it's, like, 'Do you want them to feel a sad part?' Or more of a journey, sort of, in our songwriting. And maybe it should come down. Maybe the tempo needs to slow down, or maybe it needs to change tempos and turn left. So I think, as evolved, creative people that we've become today, I think we just look at songwriting as more of an art form than sort of just a bunch of guys in a room jamming. But that stuff was good, because it was so innocent. Like, the way that we used to write songs, it was real. There was no thinking behind it. It was just pure anger and just, 'Grrr….' And it worked."
"Whiplash" airs every Monday night from 10:00 p.m. to 12:00 a.m. on the Los Angeles radio station 95.5 KLOS. The show can be heard on the KLOS web site at 955klos.com or you can listen in on the KLOS channel on iHeartRadio. Full Metal Jackie also hosts a nationally syndicated radio program, which can be heard all over the country.
To see a full list of stations carrying Full Metal Jackie's show and when it airs, go to FullMetalJackieRadio.com.
Photo credit: Dean Karr