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SCATTERBRAIN: Ray Luzier On The Making of KXM’s Dynamic Sophomore Album!

Ray Luzier – Photo by Fadewood Studios

Building upon the success of their 2014 self-titled debut, KXM returns with their sophomore album “Scatterbrain.” The new album is scheduled for release on March 17 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. Scatterbrain features 13 new tracks and was recorded at the Steakhouse studio in North Hollywood, California. The album was produced by Chris “The Wizard” Collier (Flotsam & Jetsam/Prong/Last In Line) who also produced the band’s 2014 debut.

From the infectious riff of the album opener “Scatterbrain” to the outro of “Angel,” KXM created something special and musically diverse. Songs like “Breakout,” “Calypso” and “True Deceivers” are sonically different from each other, taking the listener on a musical journey. Scatterbrain is thematically a darker record than the debut. The album builds upon the developed KXM rock sound but, this time, includes different dynamics drawing inspiration from prog, ska, punk and metal. Through it all, it remains KXM.

Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently caught up with Ray Luzier to discuss the making KXM’s dynamic new album, ‘Scatterbrain,’ there creative process and the lessons learned along the way!

In the past, we discussed your musical influences. Going a step further, we were curious to know how your journey in music began.

Cool! It’s weird because I grew up on a giant farm outside of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. It was 188 acres to be exact. It was pretty secluded from everything. My uncle was a big rock fan and he would listen to Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, KISS, Rush, Yes and all kinds of other bands. At the same time, my sister was five years older than me and she would play everything from Sabbath to Ted Nugent. I don’t know what drew me to it but I just loved music. My parents were always playing Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry and The Beatles. I think being around music all the time had a big effect on me. No one in my family is in music, so it was kind of weird how I just started tapping on stuff. They bought me my first drum kit when I was 6 years old and I destroyed it! [laughs] It was this really bad paper kit from K-Mart or something! Six months later, they bought me a junior pro-kit and I just never stopped. I was self-taught. I would just put on KISS or AC/DC records, whatever I had, and just drum along. I had no idea what I was doing but I knew I loved what was going on! When I got to high school, I started doing all the concert, symphonic and marching band stuff. That was when I first learned what a quarter note was and how to read music a little bit. I got into some rock bands in high school and tried to do the original band thing in Pittsburgh a little bit but I was kind of too young. My guitar player talked us into moving to Los Angeles when we graduated. When I was 18, two months after I graduated, I packed up the church van that I bought and drove 2,600 miles to LA! We attended Musicians Institutes, which was a percussion and guitar institute. We went there for a year and he didn’t really care for LA, so he moved back. I wanted to stick around because I knew LA was a giant opportunity! I did everything from teaching drum lessons to playing in a couple of original bands; I did anything I could to make a living by playing!

What kept you going during those lean years in Los Angeles?

It was nuts! I was so naive and I didn’t know anything. [laughs] I didn’t even really go to downtown Pittsburgh when I was growing up, aside from going to concerts like Motley Crue, KISS or whatever. When I moved to LA, all of a sudden, I lived in an apartment with neighbors above, below and on both sides of me. LA’s its own animal as it is, so it took me years to get inside there. I didn’t know where to go or who to meet! Nothing! I would just practice six hours a day! What I didn’t know was that I should have been networking by going out to clubs more and meeting people. I just thought, “I’m going to lock myself up in a room and practice so much that no one can turn me down!” Little did I know that it wasn’t necessarily the right thing to have in my head. [Laughs] I’m glad I practiced so much because you are never where you want to be and always want to be better. I worked at a fan club and stuffed envelopes and filled T-shirt orders. I did anything I could in the music industry because I didn’t want to bus tables or work at a coffee shop. I wanted to do something in the entertainment business, so I worked a fan club for Cypress Hill, House of Pain, Richie Sambora, Slaughter and all the bands back then. It was really interesting. I worked for five bucks an hour but I got free concert tickets! From there, all my original bands would get signed and get dropped, get signed and get dropped. Finally, that led me to the Jake E. Lee gig from Ozzy Osbourne and that was my first official tour. It was the first time I was on a tour bus, playing and actually making a couple of dollars from playing drums. From there on out, I just went for it. I joined David Lee Roth, not long after that, and toured with him for eight years. Then I did Army of Anyone with Robert and Dean De Leo from Stone Temple Pilots and Richard Patrick from Filter. I’m really proud of that record we did. That led me to Korn; Korn’s manager was also Army of Anyone’s manager. Now, this is the 10th year I am in Korn!

KXM at Steakhouse Studios in North Hollywood.

Those are big milestones, as is the sophomore record you are putting out for KXM. I loved the first record and was excited to see you back for another round. Going back to the beginning, how did you cross paths with George Lynch and dUg Pinnick?

I was such a huge fan and had such a great admiration for their musicianship. To find out they were also great people was a huge bonus! There is nothing worse than looking up to someone, only to meet them and being let down. I waited in line for Dokken tickets at Pittsburgh Civic Arena when I was 15 years old, so just meeting George was a huge thing! He asked me to do a couple of ESP clinics back in the day. I was an instructor at PIT for almost a decade, around all the tours. I did a couple of clinics with him and then he asked me to do a DVD with him. We just kind of stayed in touch from there. We always said we would like to do a band someday but it was really hard because we were both so busy. The same thing goes for dUg; I’m a huge King’s X fan! I would fly to other states and drive to San Diego to LA, Phoenix or anywhere I could to see them! It’s such a great thing for the soul for me as a die-hard King’s X fan! Low and behold, I get to know dUg because I showed up at so many shows, he would say, “Hey man, I just saw you not too long ago!” I would say, “Yeah, I know! I’m here again!” [laughs] We exchanged numbers and the next thing you know I’m putting his name on the guest list for David Lee Roth shows every time I would go to Texas. I told him, “Before I die, I just want to play tambourine on one of your records! That’s my dream!” Low and behold, we had a birthday party for my son’s first birthday and I invited a bunch of people over. dUg, George and myself ended up in my little studio at the end of the night. George was looking through all of my guitars and looked at us and said, “Man, this would be a good lineup for a band. We should do a record someday.” I said, “Yeah, right, that’ll happen!” [laughs] He’s just so busy and Korn is out of their mind busy but amazingly we made it happen! George was really persistent about getting together. The great thing about KXM is that it doesn’t take a lot of time out of our schedules. We have this formula where we just do one song a day and that’s it. That way no one can come in with any preconceived notions or riffs or grooves. We just meet up at the studio at noon and go! By 5 or 6 o’clock, we are arranging the songs and by 6 or 7 o’clock, I’m tracking drums. Then George does his rhythm guitars and the next day we move on. dUg did all his vocal overdubs and his bass but, for the most part, everything was done on the spot. That’s saying a lot because most musicians write a song, live with it for a couple of months and change this or that along the way. With this band, there is none of that. We just go for it! There is a beauty about not overthinking it and the spontaneity.

“Scatterbrain” has a darker tone than the first release from KXM. Is that by design or did it come about organically?

It just kind of happened. We didn’t know what we were going for on the first record or for the second one for that matter. We really don’t know what we are going to end up with. When you have that up-in-the-air style to it, anything goes! Sometimes, just because you respect each other’s musicianship, it doesn’t mean that you are going to sound good and mesh together. In this case it did and actually worked better than we thought. When the first record was so well-received, we said, “OK, let’s do another one!” There wasn’t anything like us having a meeting and saying, “Let’s get darker with this one.” It just came out that way. George was really experimental with his chords and was doing some really cool, jazzy, darker stuff using whammy pedals. dUg had his new signature head, which is an amazing bass tone that he has with it. We really just went for stuff this time recording. “Scatterbrain,” the title track, happened because I wanted something a little more up-tempo. We had been writing a lot of mid-tempo stuff and George had this whammy pedal out, which you hear on the intro. That song was crazy to try and arrange and solidify. The video for the song came out really cool too! Definitely check out the YouTube channel. We have three videos you can watch right now on there and I’m really proud of the way they came out.

When it comes to what you brought to the album, where did you look for inspiration?

Ya know, George and dUg really inspired me. When we get together, like I said, there are no rules. I mean, I love Korn and it’s my baby and it’s 100% of my time but we always have a producer. There is always someone saying, “Hey, let’s not do that. Let’s try this … ” That is cool because you do need outside ears on occasion because you can get lost in your music. You need that outside person to say, “You’re not thinking of it this way.” That way you can say, “I didn’t think of it that way but you’re right.” With KXM there are absolutely no rules and dUg and George inspire me because of that. I’m not going to tell dUg what to play on bass, he’s not going to tell George what to play on guitar and he’s not going to tell me what to play. All of the parts just kind of fit together and that’s inspiring in itself. We have so many miles on us and so much experience from touring and all the records we have done combined that it is just fun! Especially when I am traveling the planet with Korn so much. I love those guys to death, I love everything we do and I never get sick of playing the songs but it is so cool when you get into a room like that with such different personalities as dUg and George! They are such different people and that’s a good thing! It’s definitely inspiring in itself!

They say you take something away from every project. Was that the case with “Scatterbrain?”

Yeah, definitely! Like you said, everything is an experience! Whether it’s a new mic’ing technique or whatever, there is so much involved with making a record. That’s what kind of bums me out about today’s generation who doesn’t buy music. I’m not going to do the old guy preachy thing about “go buy a record!” But, kids really don’t get how much goes into just mic’ing a drum set from the types of microphones you’re going to use or acoustics of the room or just getting dialed in for one instrument, let alone all the guitar tones that George and dUg go through. Then you’re talking about writing process, arranging all this stuff and then when it’s all down and arranged, it has to be mixed properly! There are so many processes and steps, so I’m always learning something about the recording process and I have been on about 70 or 80 records at this point! That’s really cool and I love learning that kind of stuff! As far as it goes musically, when you step outside of the box and there are no boundaries, rules or producer telling you no, I think it makes me more mature as an artist to think up a song as a whole. Back in the day, when you’re first starting out, you just want to show everyone how cool a drummer you are. As you mature, in your late 20s or early 30s, you’re like, “OK. This is more about the songs.” I always try to get younger musicians to think about it as a whole. I mean, if you are talented, your talent is going to shine somewhere and someone is going to see it. That’s one of the main things I have learned over the years; playing for the song and trying to make the best song you can.

That’s a great segue to my next question. As an artist, is there any musical ground you are anxious to cover or other artists you would love to work with?

Yeah. I had this side band called Hideous Sun Demons and we actually had one record out on Magna Carta records. It was very experimental. For example, there is a Latin song on there, jazz fusion and metal. It’s all instrumental and without vocals. I love that kind of stuff! I would love to do another one of those records, just to branch out. We got pretty experimental on the “Scatterbrain” record and we are doing some proggy stuff, some ska, straight ahead rock and odd timed stuff. There is all that on there but I always tell people I want to get into a room with Dave Grohl, Trent Reznor and Billy Sheehan. [laughs] It would be a little whacky and out there but that’s kinda what KXM is with George Lynch, dUg Pinnick and myself being from such different worlds. I would love to get experimental someday with people I really respect, like Dave Grohl, Trent Reznor and Billy Sheehan. I’ve played on Billy’s last two solo records. It’s really fun to see what you come up with. Sometimes, it’s not good. I mean, just because you are somewhat talented, it doesn’t mean you’re going to write a good song! [laughs]

You mentioned the videos KXM has put out. I enjoyed them but it makes me what to see you guys play together live. Is that something that might be in the cards this time around?

That’s the golden question with a lot of people! [laughs] It’s completely my fault. I say that because my band is so busy and I have dedicated everything to Korn. I actually love the band so much that I told them to get a drummer to tour and they said, “No way!” [laughs] I respect that! Ultimately, I wouldn’t want them to do that but I just love the band so much, I want to see it succeed more and I don’t want to hold them back. However, if you add a different flavor to the mix, it’s going to sound different, even though it’s just drums. We need a good frame of a month-and-a-half to two months to really rehearse and do it right because we’re not going to go out there and half-ass it. We’ve had so many offers from cruise ships to other big name people who really liked the record, who I won’t even mention because it could still happen some day. Hopefully, they will like this new one too! [laughs] It’s definitely something I want to do someday. If worst comes to worst, I want to go out for a couple of weeks and then film a DVD after we have those few weeks under our belt. That way, at least the fans could have something to watch in the form of a really great live recording. Who knows! Korn isn’t a band to take a break! We just had two months off but that was the holidays and we are about to get out there and hit it hard again! I’m not saying it’s not going to happen because it very well could!

My last question for you is about playing live with Korn. As you said, you are a fan of the band and dedicated yourself to it. Is there anything you haven’t played from their huge back-catalog of music you would like to take on in the future?

That’s the thing, man! When you have 140 or 150 songs to choose from, it’s really hard for us to make a set list! [laughs] We are always trying to get new songs in the setlist but you have to play the bigger hits. The problem is that it isn’t like Korn only has one or two hits! They have a ton! You always want to appeal to the die-hards who are old school because if you play something really weird, they go nuts! Some of these Korn fans are beyond dedicated! There is one fan in particular who will be attending her 48th Korn show! [laughs] I mean, if Bonham came back from the dead, I don’t think I would see Zeppelin more than 10 times! [laughs] That’s nuts to me! So, you want to give the die hard fans something different things. There is a song that we started playing called “Dirty” that is really cool with a slow groove. We almost did that but we ended up pulling it out. I kept joking about doing “Word Up,” which is the Cameo song we covered. We actually did it on the last tour and I think we are doing to do it in Europe this time. It started as kind of a joke because I love the funkiness of the song but then we started doing it again! They are definitely not afraid to pull out something! I’m a little bummed that we don’t do anything off of “Korn III” anymore. That was my first studio record with them and I really like the song “Oildale (Leave Me Alone)” and I would love to pull that one back out!

Awesome, Ray! Thanks again for your time today and we can’t wait to catch up with you on the road very soon!

Cool. Thank you, Jason! I appreciate it!

Follow the continuing adventures of Ray Luzier through social media via Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. KXM’s ‘Scatterbrain’ is available now from www.ratpakrecords.com