When you think of Bakersfield, CA, most guitarists might say that infamous "Bakersfield Sound" or Buck Owens; maybe Dwight Yoakum or Pete Anderson. Korn most likely would not be your first response. But that's where the band members James "Munky" Shaffer, Brian "Head" Welch, bassist Reginald "Fieldy" Arvizu and drummer David Silveria got their start. With the addition of Lead Singer, Jonathan Davis in 1994, it didn't take long for this provactive quintet to get noticed by the majors.
Many a guitarist have named Munky and/or Head amongst their guitar influences, with their unique use of drop tunings and 7-string guitars. They helped supercharge the world of guitar-based music as well as give a jolt to the world of guitar sales once again. Guitar.com takes a few minutes out with one of Rock's more noted tag-team guitarists.
Guitar.com: When did each of you first start playing the guitar?
Head: I starting playing when I was 10, in the fifth grade. I wanted to play the drums but my dad wouldn't let me.
Munky: When I heard Eddie Van Halen. I heard "Eruption" and I didn't understand that it was guitar. My concept of a guitar was an acoustic guitar.
Guitar.com: Did either of you study guitar at school or are you self-taught? Do you read music?
Head: I had some classical training but I didn't really get good at it. In high school I took guitar class. The teachers taught me how to read and write music but I taught them Van Halen tunes.
Munky: I cut the tip of my finger off when I was young in a motorcycle accident and my doctor wanted me to take up an instrument to rehabilitate my finger. My dad bought me a little classical guitar and took me to lessons and I was like this was weak, this isn't what I was hearing. It was the guitar. It didn't sound like "Rock You Like A hurricane." So I said, "I'm done playing this, trying to read music. I want a distorted guitar, Dad." I would go over to Brian's house, he was playing the electric guitar already. He was the first person I saw play an electric guitar loud. He was playing a Dokken riff.
Guitar.com: When you were younger, was there a guitarist in particular that inspired you?
Head: Brian May really got me going when I was young. George Lynch of Dokken. Eddie Van Halen of course, and Angus Young.
Munky: I used to love Warren DeMartini - he was great.
Guitar.com: Do you two compose Korn tunes on your own and then bring them to the band or do you all write together?
Head: Sometimes we come up with riffs at home and bring in into the band for a yay or nay but these are not really whole songs.
Guitar.com: What do you do to warm up before a show?
Head: I have a couple beers and a pre-show shot. If my tech sets up a guitar in the dressing room, I'll play it. I massage my fingers to warm them up.
Munky: I warm up a little bit at soundcheck and that's it. For Korn songs, we are not running through scales. I just gotta get my chops up and make sure I am flexible on stage and can do the songs tight and have fun.
Guitar.com: What guitars and amps are you using?
Head: Ibanez K7 guitars and Mesa Boogie Triple Rectifiers.
Munky: I have been using Ibanez for years. I remember it took me 3 months to save up for my first Ibanez, I put it on lay-away at Guitar Center. I'd go in every week and put down a hundred dollars and play it for like an hour until they would kick me out of the store.
Guitar.com: Korn has been very influential in regards to your use of drop tunings. What tunings are you using?
Head: We drop our low B-string to A and tune from there. Our E chord is a D.
Guitar.com: You both introduced the 7-string guitar to a wider audience than it has ever had before and many bands have adopted your sound. How does that make you feel?
Head: It's pretty cool. Inspiring. It's a compliment.
Guitar.com: How did your use of the 7-string come about?
Head: Munky started using 7 strings back in '92-'93. They asked me join the band and I had to buy one to fit in.
Munky: I looked at Steve Vai and said that's a cool guitar but I didn't want to be a shredder I wanted to be a rhythm player. I tried tuning it down and I liked it.
Guitar.com: Do you prefer performing live or recording in the studio?
Head: It depends. Our first love is creating music and second is getting out there and performing.
Munky: That's a hard question because both are so much fun. I would say creating is just a little bit better than performing, but just barely. Performing is cool because we see the reaction on people's faces wherever we go around the world. When we create it is different because we think about the impressions people are going to have when they hear new stuff. When you hear it back on the recording you go I can't wait to play this, when is our first show going to be. You get pumped.
Guitar.com: Which contemporary guitarists or bands are you listening to?
Head: I like John Mayer. He is different. Cool jazzy stuff.
Munky: I am looking forward to watching one band blow up because it is inevitable - (hed) PE. They are talented as a motherfucker.
Guitar.com: What advice can you give to beginning guitar players?
Head: Anything goes. Don't give up.
Munky: Practice, practice, practice. But don't over practice! Don't lose sight of what you want to contribute to the instrument.