Growing up on a farm outside of Pittsburgh in the ’80s, Ray Luzier was pretty isolated during his youth. And yet, he still found a way to listen to the hard rock acts of the era, and once he moved to Hollywood, he would join a number of them. Nearly 15 years ago, he became a full-fledged member of the hard rock act Korn.
“I went from a 118-acre to Hollywood Blvd.,” he says in a recent Zoom call from his Nashville home. Korn performs with Evanescence on Tuesday, Aug. 23, at Blossom. “It was a shock. No one told you what to do on the farm. I would listen to my sister’s Rush, KISS, Led Zeppelin and Ozzy albums. I started listening to that stuff and playing drums to it, and I loved it. It went from there. I was pretty secluded out there. There was no internet and no nothing. If you’re in the middle of nowhere, if you go to the mall and since KISS is on the cover of Hit Parader, you know you should go out and buy their records.”
Initially, Luzier formed a hard rock group that played the Pittsburgh area and even made it up to Akron on occasion, but the band ultimately fizzled out when Luzier picked up and moved to L.A. to try to take his talents to a bigger stage.
“I graduated high school in 1988 and loaded up my Maxiwagon and made the 2600-mile trek out west,” he says. “I stuck it out and told my parents that as long as I was making a living playing music I would stay out there. I had a lot of failed original bands. I'd play with anybody who would hire me to play. Out there, you’d have this carrot constantly dangled out in front of you. Warner Bros. would like this song but not that song, or they’d tell you to get a new singer.”
Luzier toured with guitarist Jake E. Lee and then joined the rock supergroup Army of Anyone. He says he sensed that Army of Anyone was coming to an end and started taking auditions for other groups to ensure he’d have some work going forward.
His audition for Korn was a particularly unique experience. Since Luzier was already on a West Coast drum clinic tour, his manager suggested he learn some Korn songs and try out for the band, which had gone through a few different drummers at the time.
“[My manager] said I should just show up at the arena,” says Luzier. “He made the arrangements and they rented me a five-piece dinky thing. Jody’s monster kit is right here. The crew guys looked at me like ‘what the hell are you doing here?’ They gave me six songs, and I learned 33 or so songs. I always over-prepare. I gave them the list. They said, ‘You know all these?’ I said, ‘Kinda.’ That was it. We started jamming and playing, and it felt good instantly. It was smiles all around. They offered me the gig.”
He was a fill-in for the first year or two but says he was okay with that
“You don’t just replace anyone in the original Korn,” he says. “You can’t just drop in. They have a sound that’s totally different from everyone. “It took me a good two years to get the groove. They offered me the full-time gig in 2009.”
When the pandemic shut down touring, the group shifted its focus from touring to writing new material. Luzier says he regularly flew out to California for writing and recording sessions; the band's latest effort, Requiem, came out earlier this year.
“It was such a weird time,” Luzier says of recording. “There was no pressure because there wasn’t a tour coming up. I like the freshness of the new album. We had Nick Raskulinecz do 2016's The Serenity of Suffering and 2019's The Nothing and had Josh Wilbur mix them. They’re two of my favorite people in the business, hands down. It was nice having Chris Collier produce Requiem and James Harley engineer the new record and Rich Costey mix it. It’s sometimes good to have fresh ears. It still sounds like Korn at the end of the day. There’s a sound that we have. We felt like Requiem was a new sound for us.”
The single, “Start the Healing,” a song that, with heavy guitars and crooning vocals, sounds like it could pass as a Filter tune, offers a sense of optimism, something that’s a departure from the band’s previous studio effort, the decidedly dark The Nothing.
“The Nothing is a heavy brutal record about what Jonathan went through [after his wife’s death],” says Luzier. “That’s the great thing about music. It really helps you get through difficult times. With Requiem, everything that was going on at the time made us realize music is our food and soul. They can’t keep us from creating music. That attitude was so vital. We were really selective and picked the best nine songs. There were a couple of tunes that didn’t make it, and I was almost in tears.”
Luzier says the band doesn’t obsess over the fact that the Rock Hall continues to snub the group (“Is it because someone’s grandmother is on the committee?” he asks), and he credits the group’s loyal fans with the band’s continued popularity.
“You can’t fool the fans,” he says. “If you try to fool them, they go on to the next thing. This is the 30th year coming up for Korn. It’s my 15th year. I’m proud and honored to be part of the band. We could easily be on a side stage somewhere just playing the hits. But we keep making new music. We’re on a whole other level now, and after the pandemic, we have a whole new appreciation. We just did 17 countries in seven weeks. This is the third time they rescheduled those shows. The fans wanted it, and there was a whole new surge in energy. Fans bring the morale of the band up, and they just keep coming back.”
Jeff has been covering the Cleveland music scene for more than 20 years now. And on a regular basis, he tries to talk to whatever big acts are coming through town, too. If you're in a band that he needs to hear, email him at [email protected].