Whenever metal bands mix things up and throw their fans a musical curveball, many of the diehards among their following can get pissed off, even though they may eventually believe the risk can be worth it in the end. On the latest Korn album, The Path of Totality, the Bakersfield rockers serve up an exotic brew combining the dark, drum ’n’ bass–like electronica of dubstep with the down-tuned, aggro rock that is their forte. The resultant concoction tastes great but is not less filling, and it is among the strongest music they have ever created in their two-decade career—even if some fans and critics are scratching their heads. Taking the textures and noisy sounds bequeathed them by various dubstep DJs and producers—Skrillex, Kill the Noise, and Excision among them—Korn shaped tracks such as “Chaos Lives in Everything,” “Get Up!” and “Sanctuary” into flavorful metallic tunes that helped land the album in the Top 10 of the Billboard 200 on its first week of release and garnered an album of the year nod by Revolver.
Just after the release of The Path of Totality and the band’s two-week warm-up tour, INKED tracked down Korn bassist Fieldy to interrogate him about a wide range of subjects: the new album and direction, his forthcoming musical side projects, being born again, conspiracy theories, and, of course, his colorful tattoos.
INKED: What kind of reaction to the new album have Korn fans been giving you?
FIELDY: We’ve gotten a really big response off of this, probably one of the biggest ever. For example, this is our 10th studio album and [at one point] the number one downloaded iTunes song [from Korn] was “Falling Away From Me,” which is off one of our older records, and number two is “Get Up!”, the brand-new one we do with Skrillex. You would think it would be “Blind” or “Freak on a Leash,” but it shows that the world continues on and gets current.
Why the new sound? Korn has always been trying to stay current with the world. With every record we put out, we’ve always tried to stay up with everything. Everybody’s always known that about Korn—we’ve always tried to push whatever’s coming out next.
You’re in the band StillWell with rapper Anthony “Q-Unique” Quiles and drummer Noah “Wuv” Bernardo Jr. from P.O.D. What’s that been like? I play guitar in StillWell, and I really stayed away from anything that was Korn, or tried my best, because that’s the way that I would play guitar if I didn’t play in Korn. To me, it’s nothing like Korn; it’s really different. We put an EP out on November 21 called Surrounded by Liars, which is like B-sides that we had laying around. We’re working on a new album. We have about 20 songs [written], and my goal is to have 50 songs, then we’ll go back and pick the best ones. It’s going to be awesome to be able to choose from 50 songs.
And you’re working on another solo album? It’s close to being finished. I have 20 songs. It’s a bass album called Bassically, and I really put a lot of time into it. I play stand-up bass, fretless basses, and lead bass guitar. It’s instrumental. It goes from jazz, fusion, funk, blues, and reggae to every style, so you just listen to the bass doing these crazy things. It was a great way for me to get every musical style out of my system.
Are there other elements that you think Korn will bring into their music in the future to keep it fresh? I think there’s always a fine line. You can’t really go too far. A full-on blues song wouldn’t go for Korn, so you’ve got to really make sure it has the integrity of Korn or you just lose people. I’m going to put out an album with Latin, jazz, blues, and funk. I can pick up and play anything, and so can [Korn guitarist] Munky, but we’ve got to be real careful not to lose people. Then you’re not getting the right product. It’s like going to buy a Big Mac and having a fish fillet thrown in the middle there.
StillWell’s “Surrounded by Liars” and its video are fun because they take the familiar theme of growing up and realizing that certain things aren’t true and gives it a humorous twist. Is there any childhood lie you’ve uncovered that turned out to be really damaging, even if it wasn’t intentional? I guess hanging with so many people all the time, you see so many people just lie about so many things, including myself. Everybody has a point where they lie. Some people may say they don’t, but everybody does somewhere down the line. Where I’m at in my life today, I guess I can’t really say I remember anything, because growing up you find out that everything ends up being a lie. To me, everything in this world is a lie, and there’s only one thing that’s truth for me, and that’s the word of God. Everything else is a philosophy or a conspiracy or a lie. Other people can disagree with me, but that’s just where I’m at in my life.
You went through a lot before you considered yourself a born-again Christian. What has it been like for you staying in the rock world and dealing with all of the temptations? Temptation is always going to be there, and we all fall short. I think we’re all sinners saved by grace through Christ Jesus. There’s no way to be this good, perfect human being. So many people think they’re a good person, but according to what? Who is a good person? Nobody. I don’t care about what good works you do, someone else will say that it’s not good, so it’s so hard to just say that you’re a good person.
There are some people who think because they’re religious that they’re automatically a good person, which isn’t true. Some people who aren’t religious can be good people too. How do you define being good? I’m not a good person. I know that I’m a sinner and have accepted it, but I try my best to live according to reading the word of God. Plenty of times I can read a line in the Bible and know I’m not there right now, and I just [know it’s] through God’s grace and His mercy that I’m not struck dead right now because I’m not there. I want to be and fight to be, but I’m just not ready. So many times in my early days, I was sober and didn’t do this or that, and today I’ve learned to never say those things because you never know what tomorrow is going to bring. Someone can say they stopped eating meat, and they’re just being self-righteous because next year you could see that same person having a steak. Instead, if you don’t eat meat, you don’t have to say anything about it. You can say you’ll take a salad. In most cases, nobody’s going to go, “Salad?!” I just learned to eat humble pie straight in my face and try to do the best I can at being humble and hopefully loving people right where they’re at. People can hang with me and become friends, and from there, sharing my belief if they’re even there. If they’re not, it’s still cool. We’ll still be homies and hang out.
What inspired the new Korn song “Illuminati?” Jonathan [Davis, Korn’s frontman] wrote the lyrics to the song, and I really don’t know a lot about that [concept]. I looked it up one time and from what I got out of it, it’s some kind of conspiracy about something that runs the world.
What’s your favorite conspiracy theory? You want to start with doctors? What do you want to start with? What topic? I can put a conspiracy behind everything. I can go to Target to buy some white Christmas lights, and they’re out. In my head, I’m thinking that they order enough to run out because they make more money off of someone like me walking in and thinking, “Well, since I’m here, I need detergent, I need this, I need that.” I don’t spend $1.37 on Christmas lights, I spent $45 to $100 on junk since I’m already there.
You’ve got a lot of ink on your body, everything from demonic faces to a toy engine. Is there any theme to your tattoos that you have discovered over the years? It’s funny, when I was a kid I was your stereotypical boy who wanted to play with Tonka toys and dirt. Now, today, I’m the stereotype who likes skulls and cool-looking characters. I had little homies tattooed on me before they had Little Homies [toys] out. I’ve always been fascinated with that lifestyle of little homies and low riders, and here I am, 42 years old and looking like a little homie. I have a ’64 Impala Super Sport on Daytons. I have a ’52 Fleetline Deluxe on Daytons that’s all low-ridered out with a visor. You end up becoming whatever lifestyle or image that’s in your head. So most of my stuff is that type of lifestyle.
What are some of the most personal tattoos you have? I’ve got many personal tattoos because I’m pretty much covered everywhere. I’ve got Jesus on my chest—that’s very personal. It’s probably the best piece of ink that I have, from Franco Vescovi. It was [from] a famous piece carved for the Pope, and you can almost look at it and get emotional. It’s amazing. All the way down to the lighter side, I recently got a tattoo of SpongeBob on my right shoulder because for the last four years I’ve been watching SpongeBob SquarePants with my kids, and we laugh out loud together. So I went out and got it on tour, didn’t tell them, and came home and showed them, and they were laughing so hard my daughter was almost crying. They couldn’t believe it.
On your left arm, you have a red and blue train engine, which is very cartoon-like. My whole left arm is pretty cartoony in a way that almost looks like Mister Cartoon did it. It’s a bunch of clowns, but they’re like gangster clowns. I like that lifestyle, and I’ve always felt that my personality is a little bit clowny. I have a Sesame Street train. I changed the driver, who is the Cookie Monster, into a clown. The Sesame Street train is so cool-looking, and it just brought back memories for me.
You’ve got these grinning, demonic faces on your right arm. My right arm is the same theme; they’re clowns, but they’re more like evil clowns. I was young and trying to figure out what I wanted, and I already had clowns and little homies on my left arm. Then I found these weird, scary-looking clowns off an album cover by a rap band called The Goats. I just liked the art on it. Clowns can be really scary. A lot of people are afraid of clowns, so I just did it. So it started becoming the more scary side to the light side. The right side is more scary, the left side is more light.
Plus your right side is all black-and-gray, and the left side is color. Right. Under my armpit on the left side, I got a pretty unique piece. It was done by Mario Barth from King Ink. It’s Jesus with a crown in white ink. And then under my right armpit I got the devil. Franco is very good at doing realistic tattoos. He did the Jesus and Mary on me, and on the light side I had him do a ladybug and a butterfly on my shoulder. He did some real detailed work on the shoulder, some goofy, happy things.
What is on your back and your legs that you like? You know, the funny thing is that everybody I know has tattoos that they hate. Sometimes you hate the way they look, and sometimes you hate the way they’re placed. On my lower back it says “Family Values,” which is a tour that Korn did back in the day with Limp Bizkit, Ice Cube, Rammstein, Orgy. Family values, family man. I had it done big across the bottom of my back, but it’s just too long and too big. But I’m not going to laser it off. My back is kind of a mess. I’ve got a big king and queen—I don’t really know why. I was just going on a tattoo binge, which I even did recently. Last year I went on a binge, and I got some wack tattoos.
Is it true that Fred Durst did a tattoo on you?
He did. We did a show in Florida [in the ’90s], and he was standing out front. That’s how I met him. He was like, “Hey, if you guys want a free tattoo, I’m right down the street. Perhaps I’ll see you guys right after the show.” We were young, had no money back then, didn’t know who he was, and he tattooed Korn on Head [former guitarist Brian Welch]. It looked like Horn when he was done. It was pretty bad. That was the first tattoo that Fred ever did. He was lying to us. He didn’t give me one that night, but he ended up giving me a demo of his band, and I liked it and ended up giving it to my producer, who was Ross Robinson at the time, and our managers. I ran into Fred and ended up getting a tattoo later on down the line, and he got a little bit better.