Before earning a spot as the drummer for Korn, Ray Luzier played some high-profile gigs with David Lee Roth and Stone Temple Pilots. So the guy obviously knows something about working with temperamental frontmen.
Speaking from a car while driving from Abilene to Lubbock, and in anticipation of Korn's show tonight at the Palladium Ballroom, Luzier spoke about his three high profile gigs and how he deals with egos and attitudes.
When did you officially become a member of Korn? In October, it will be five years. So it was 2007.
Were you a fan of the band previous to joining? You know I was. For many years, I was in other bands, but I always was a fan of Korn. I had always admired them. I knew from the very first time I saw them that they could do some damage. They changed so much of what the '90s were all about. Being around for 19 years is just amazing. We just got back from Europe and there were fans that had seen Korn 47 times. I have never seen a band more than 15 times and that seems like an insane number.
Didn't the band hire you immediately after you auditioned? Pretty much because they wanted somebody permanent after having people fill in for awhile. Bands are like marriages. Sometimes things work out and sometimes you have to move on. I got hired on to be the touring drummer and then I got the official gig.
Did you feel it during the audition that you were going be in Korn? Every time you audition for a band, you never know. Same thing when I auditioned to be in David Lee Roth's band. It's not all about talent. You have to have the right personality. There are so many factors involved and you can't take it personally when you don't get a gig. I used to take it personally. When I did the Korn thing, I just gave it my best shot. I knew that I knew the material well enough. I knew that I am a powerful drummer, but I didn't know if I fit well enough. Sometimes you get along musically, but not as friends. We just clicked right off the bat. Everything just felt great.
Besides playing with David Lee Roth, didn't you do a short stint with Stone Temple Pilots? I filled in for Eric Kretz who took time off because his dad passed away. I am really close to the DeLeo brothers. They are great people and some of the best musicians on the planet. They called me to fill in on some reunion shows and it was quite an honor. STP has always been one of my favorite bands. People think you can replace drummers, but it's not that way. I had to work really hard in STP. The first show was in front of 40,000 people.
David Lee Roth, Scott Weiland from STP and now Jonathan Davis in Korn. You've worked with some interesting personalities. That's an interesting trio, to be sure. Those three couldn't be more different people. You have to learn how to adapt. You learn patience and tolerance. That's a lot of big-time rock stars and you have to deal with egos and attitudes. But Jonathan Davis is such a great guy. He is a great pro and a very humble musician. He's sold 38 million records, so you'd think he'd be untouchable. The truth is the opposite. He is a really great person.
When you think of David Lee Roth, you certainly don't think of humility. No, he's got the biggest ego and attitude, but he's not afraid to admit that. I love Dave. He changed my life. He really taught me what show business is all about. Before, I was just playing in professional bands. Dave showed me that you have to put on a show. People pay good money. I don't care if you're jet lagged or tired or whatever.
Were you nervous when you played the first gig with Roth? I almost peed my pants before my first gig with David Lee Roth. It was a giant festival and I am from a small town. I idolized the guy since I was ten and I never thought I would meet the guy, let alone play "Hot For Teacher" with him every night. It was intense, but I got used to it.
Have you seen any of the Van Halen reunion shows? I haven't seen the new show yet, but I have heard the record. My parents went into Pittsburg to see them, but I haven't seen them. I didn't like the new record at first, but now I love it. It's exciting to have a new Van Halen record in 2012. That is awesome.
Throughout Korn's career, Davis' lyrics have always received criticism. There's the assistant principal back in 1998 who said the music was "indecent, vulgar, obscene and insulting." Shouldn't all rock music be that way? If it's not doing that, you shouldn't listen to it. Jonathan's lyrics always go very deep. They are very intense. There are some fans that have obviously been through a lot and if Korn's music can take them away from all that, we may be even able to save a life or two. Those two hours of us on stage can take you away from your everyday life. If we can make those people happy, we are doing our job.
Who were your drumming heroes when you were growing up? Neil Peart from Rush and Phil Rudd from AC/DC were always two of my favorites.
What advice would you give to a young person who wanted to be a drummer? Get out and be a lawyer. It's a rough business. You have to be dedicated. You have to be focused and you have to be willing to sacrifice your family. It's not like you can go to carpentry school and then think you are going to be a musician. It takes an amazing amount of effort.