Interview with Ray Luzier of KXM
Interview by Robert Cavuoto
Building upon the success of their 2014 self-titled debut, KXM returns with their sophomore CD Scatterbrain. The new album is scheduled for release on March 17th via Rat Pak Records.
KXM is comprised of dUg Pinnick of King’s X on vocals/bass, George Lynch of Lynch Mob/Dokken on guitars and Ray Luzier of Korn on drums and Scatterbrain features 13 new tracks.
From the infectious riff of the album opener “Scatterbrain” to the outro of “Angel,” KXM have created something truly special and musically diverse. Songs like “Breakout,” “Calypso,” and “True Deceivers” are sonically different from each other taking the listener on a musical journey. Thematically this CD is darker record than their debut. The album builds upon the developed KXM rock sound but this time includes some different dynamics drawing inspiration from prog, ska, punk and metal. Through it all, it remains undeniably KXM.
I spoke with legendary Korn and KXM drummer Ray Luzier about this ambitious project, how it different from KXM’s first CD and balancing Korn with his musical endeavors.
Robert Cavuoto: KXM is truly a musician’s musician band. What is it about the chemistry between the three of you when playing together that sounds so good?
Ray Luzier: We have known each other for many years and respect each other as musicians. Between the three of us we have lots of miles and experience. George and dUg were at my son’s first birthday party five years ago when KXM first started. I was showing them my little studio in LA when George looked at us and said “This would be a great line-up for a band, we should do a record!” I said, “Like that will ever happen!” [laughing] Korn was so busy and they are both busy, but low and behold it happened. The rule for recording was that nobody would come in with a written riff or song. We also did that on the first CD and it was well received. I love the way musician’s progress not only between CDs but on songs. We had the studio booked for 12 days and we wrote 13 songs. We would literally go in to see what happens. Some days we would be getting towards evening and we didn’t think it wasn’t going to happen and then all of a sudden we would make a left turn and would have a song.
Robert Cavuoto: So you would write and record the song the same day?
Ray Luzier: Yes, 100%. We would start a noon every day and by 4:00 or 5:00pm you could see the map of where the song would go and then by 6:00pm I would be tracking the drums. Most bands would laugh at that schedule. With Korn The Serenity of Suffering we started on it in June almost a year and half ago. We would piece together riffs here and there. Sometimes as a singer you might not feel the song that day, but with this situation, dUg was forced to do it. I’m so proud of Scatterbrain as well as the first CD.
Robert Cavuoto: Was the CD recorded live with all members playing at the same time?
Ray Luzier: No, I would initially play to dUg and George so they could track their parts. It would have been too much to think about as well as taking months of rehearsals to be able to do that.
Robert Cavuoto: Speaking of feeling vibes, both of KXM’s CDs have different vibes. I thought this one was more progressive/industrial. Do you agree?
Ray Luzier: This was what we felt at the moment in the studio, nothing was intentional. The song “Not a Single Word” starts off with a Foo Fighters feel then goes into a ska reggae verse. “Scatterbrain” is more on the progressive side but it very easy going and not as aggressive as the song sounds. There are moments on this CD where it sometimes it would take a listen or two to get it.
Robert Cavuoto: Considering the ambitious arraignments on this CD, is there a concern when you have to perform them live?
Ray Luzier: It’s my fault that we are not touring; because of Korn’s schedule. Korn never has a “normal tour cycle” we are all over the place. We did shows right up until December 20th of last year. KXM almost did the Monsters of Rock Cruise that George is on now; the promoter was begging me to go as he wanted to be the first one to showcase KXM live. I was just too busy with Korn. Ultimately we are going to do some touring down the road when our schedules permit. Regarding playing live, I think there will be quite a few rehearsals before we go out. There are a lot of parts and vocals to work on as dUg sings and plays bass at the same time; he not 22 anymore [laughing]. We are a trio so we are not going to have a rhythm guitarist; so yeah it will be a lot of work to do this live.
Robert Cavuoto: In your career you have managed to quickly gel with different musicians, what’s the secret to doing that?
Ray Luzier: Back when I was young living in LA, I paid a lot of my bills with session work. I was in music school for 10 years and around a ton of different musicians at different levels; from legends to guys fresh out of high school. You have to become a chameleon to those situations. There have been situations where you are in studio recording for the first time, you say hi to bass player and the next thing you know the red light is on and you are recording. You have to make it sound like you have been playing with them for years. So from all that experience I’m able to adapt to most situations pretty easily. Korn on the other is an entirely different animal. It’s probably the hardest thing that I have ever had to do. There is simplicity in what they how and the reason they sold 40 million records is because they appeal to the masses. You just don’t join a band like Korn, it took me months if not years to find my niche. It doesn’t have anything to do with my playing style or capabilities it’s just a feel or vibe. They are 100% from the soul. Korn has the fan base they do because they have the same five core original members that’s the reason people love that band. So for a new guy to come in even though I have a crap load of experience doesn’t matter. I’ve had Korn fans come up to me in the last 2 or 3 years saying, “I hated you, but now I love you!” [laughing]. I get it, if I’m a fan of the band I don’t want to see a member change either. The truth of the matter is; if it wasn’t me it would have been some other drummer who got the gig and Korn would have lived on either way.
Robert Cavuoto: Being in one of the biggest bands why do you take on these project bands? Tell me about that drive and passion to peruse other opportunities.
Ray Luzier: It’s hard for me these days as I spend a lot of time on the road with Korn. It’s tough to play or start another project because I don’t want to remove myself from my kids and family. The reality is that I’m a lifer-musician, I didn’t choose it, it chose me! I still have a ton of music in me. I told myself in my early teens that I would be playing the rest of my life. It wasn’t to be rich or famous. It was something I wanted to do whether it was playing disco tunes in a Holiday Inn lobby six nights a week wearing a wig – I’ve done all that. [laughing] When you take an oath like that at a very young age, when you really don’t know what it’s all about or how messed up the business side of things are. It’s a pretty big undertaking. I left a 160 acre farm in Pittsburgh PA to move to Hollywood Blvd, I left my family and friends. I look back now and ask my parents, “What were you thinking to let me do that?” [laughing]. They saw the drive and passion too. So to answer your question, it keeps me creative on another side. I love doing Korn and I can see myself playing with them the rest of my career. But I have tons of other music in me as I’m a closet writer. I have guitars, basses, and keyboards in my studio where I write all the time. My original songs don’t sound anything like KXM or Korn. I have a different type of music in me and it keeps me on your toes. If it was up to me I would have more side projects; it just that I can’t.
Robert Cavuoto: You’ve played and met so many musicians over your career, who was your favorite and did meeting your heroes change your perspective of them?
Ray Luzier: [Laughing] That’s happened a few times. I’m the last guy in the band who is outside the tour bus signing autographs in the rain. A lot of time they want the singer’s autograph, not the drummer [laughing]. I’m that guy because of that reason of meeting your heroes. We all have mood swings or if you have been on the road and haven’t sleep for two days then someone comes up to you at dinner to ask for an autograph or tell you that you are they are your biggest fan. You want to say “Hey I’m eating and would really like to be in peace right now.” But you have to swallow it and say to yourself this might be this person’s only shot to tell you this.
There were people in my career that really bummed me out, I don’t want to mention names because I’m friends with them now [laughing]. Some of my heroes like Kiss; I grew up with them and the first time I met Gene Simmons he was a little stand-off-ish. Then I got invited to his birthday party; you have to realize that maybe he wasn’t in a great mood that day. There are pricks out there that don’t need to be. We are all people and are all the same. No one is any better than anyone else. These people moved you emotionally or they got you through a difficult time. People come up to Jonathan Davis all time and say, “I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for you!” Music is far more powerful than we think it is. It gets us through life and I always remember that. If my words or music can inspire someone to be a better person or musician, who am I to deny anyone of to say hi.
Meeting Jimmy Page was insane for me. I’ve met like every rock star on the planet but when I got asked to do the Classic Rock Awards in Japan that was pretty surreal. I flew over in Johnny Depp’s private G6 jet rehearsing songs on the way with the DeLeo brothers. It was bizarre as we are up 50,000 feet getting ready to play with Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck, Joe Perry, Phil Collen – the list goes on and on. Jeff Beck was another guy who was so influential to me and loved every drummer he ever had. Being on stage with him and playing three songs was surreal moment in my life. He is a guy that is pretty cool until you get to know him. He didn’t say much walking on stage with his shades on but at the after party with two glasses of wine; we’re best of friends.