Australian Guitar - - Contents -

They said it would never hap­pen, but alas, here we are: the Down­load Fes­ti­val is com­ing to Aus­tralia! We caught up with its head­lin­ers, who prom­ise one hell of a set.

The leg­endary Down­load Fes­ti­val is com­ing to Aus­tralia for the first time, and a leg­endary fes­ti­val needs an equally leg­endary head­liner. Korn are the per­fect choice to unite Aus­tralia’s di­verse metal com­mu­nity: 24 years have passed since their self-ti­tled de­but, and along the way they’ve helped shape the course of modern metal, bring­ing al­ter­na­tive, hip-hop and ex­per­i­men­tal el­e­ments into their sound. They pop­u­larised the seven-string gui­tar, en­dur­ing the storm while all the nu-metal copy­cats drowned in their wake. We caught up with gui­tarist James ‘Munky’ Shaf­fer on the eve of their only Aus­tralian show.

Do you ever just pinch your­self and go, “Holy crap, I’m head­lin­ing Down­load!”?

It’s pretty un­be­liev­able, but then you go, “Y’know what? I’m gonna need a five-star ho­tel [ cack­les]. I’m not stay­ing at that shitty ho­tel again, I’m head­lin­ing Down­load!” One minute, you’re so hum­ble and you’re so hon­oured to play, and then they say, “You’re stay­ing at this ho­tel.” And the only rea­son­able re­sponse to that is, “No. We’re head­lin­ing, I want a first class ticket too!”

So this is the only Aus­tralian show you’ll be play­ing. Are you do­ing any­thing dif­fer­ent with the set be­cause of that?

We’re go­ing to bring a full stage pro­duc­tion and do some­thing spe­cial for the fans in Aus­tralia. We thought about the dif­fer­ent op­tions and the pos­si­bil­ity of do­ing other shows while we were there, but it be­came a lo­gis­ti­cal night­mare. If we were to bring the whole show across the coun­try, we’d have to cut things – we wouldn’t have the same sound that we will at Down­load and we wouldn’t have the same lights, and we don’t want to give the fans a half-assed show. We want to give them a full Korn ex­pe­ri­ence with a long set and some­thing they can re­ally re­mem­ber. It’s go­ing to be 20 years since Fol­low The Leader came out, so we’ll prob­a­bly put a few of those tracks in the set. It’s all the lit­tle things like that. So we’re work­ing on a new pro­duc­tion that Aus­tralia’s never seen be­fore.

I feel like you guys are in an in­ter­est­ing place right now, be­cause you’re still putting out vi­tal mu­sic – it’s not like you’re a legacy act where peo­ple only want to hear one record – and you’re al­ways get­ting new fans, but as you said, Fol­low The Leader is 20 years old and you have some fans who have stuck with you since then. Maybe they’re go­ing to bring their kids, y’know?

When I’m up on­stage and I see fam­i­lies, or I see a dad in the front row with his kid and they’re hold­ing onto the bar­ri­cade, it makes me have such a great ex­pe­ri­ence while I’m play­ing. Just to see the bond­ing be­tween gen­er­a­tions, it brings peo­ple to­gether. I think it’s such a great ex­pe­ri­ence for you and your kids. I mean, I wouldn’t take my kids to see GG Allin if he was still alive…


I saw a kid the other day, maybe 13 or 14, in a brand new Mar­i­lyn Man­son shirt. He’d just started to grow his hair out and it seemed like that was his first step into this world. In a cou­ple years, that shirt is go­ing to be well worn and his hair is go­ing to be long – he’s go­ing to be one of us!

Yeah! That was me at 11, 12 years old, y’know? The awk­ward teenager with long hair, try­ing to

find who I am – I’m still look­ing, by the way – and try­ing to find a group of kids who were like me. It was like, “Hey, this guy likes these bands, let’s hang out!” That’s such an awk­ward age, too, and when you’re find­ing mu­sic and you’re find­ing a group of friends, mu­sic is such a gal­vanis­ing el­e­ment in putting friends to­gether. You find com­mon things in the lyrics that are rel­e­vant to you at that point in your life.

What was your first band shirt?

Mine was Ozzy Os­bourne – one from the Di­ary Of A Mad­man era. I wore that every day. I don’t even re­mem­ber what my sec­ond one was, all I re­mem­ber is that one. And then I cut the sleeves off and I tried to do the shark vents on the side, and it got all tat­tered up.

Now, let’s talk gui­tar! Is there any new gear that you’re re­ally into at the mo­ment?

I like the stuff from Stry­mon. I like that you can ad­just them on the fly be­cause they’re on the floor, or you can keep them in a rack draw. I’ve been mess­ing with my Kem­per – I like that I can save my pre­sets on a USB drive and take that wher­ever I go. But as far as do­ing live shows, I’ve gotta have the old-school Mesa Triple Rec­ti­fier. I’ve gotta have my ped­al­board and I’ve gotta have speaker cab­i­nets fac­ing at me. I’ve got a new gui­tar, which is a Fen­der Star­caster – a Chi­nese semi-hol­low­body. I was hav­ing a chat with a friend of mine – Matt Mitchell, who plays in A Per­fect Cir­cle – and he had the bass ver­sion. I said, “That bass is so sick!” and he told me about a gui­tar ver­sion that you could get on­line. It’s just some­thing that I like play­ing be­cause it sounds dif­fer­ent from my typ­i­cal Ibanez. I just play it in the house with­out the amp and it sounds so nice. And for a Chi­nese gui­tar, it’s very well-made.

The qual­ity of gui­tars these days in gen­eral is so much bet­ter than when I started play­ing.

It’s crazy! I saw a bud­get Ibanez RG on sale re­cently and it was just in­sane. They’re made in In­done­sia and they’re, like, $150 dol­lars – and it sounds great! It’s crazy.

So are you work­ing on any­thing out­side of Korn at the mo­ment? I love your Fear And The Ner­vous Sys­tem al­bum.

Yeah, you’re my only fan! I lost dis­tri­bu­tion and never fol­lowed it up. I was go­ing to make some vinyl – I still might do that. But no, I haven’t been do­ing any­thing ex­cept raise my fam­ily, and that re­ally takes up a lot of my time when I’m not on tour. When I’m on the road, I’ll sit with my lap­top and some plug­ins and write mu­sic, but I tend not to pick up the gui­tar too much un­til I have some at­mos­phere, some beats and a bassline. I won’t re­ally work on my riff­ing un­til we’re in a band set­ting and there’s more en­ergy, y’know? I feel that when I sit down to play, I’m find­ing chords that sound nice to­gether and fig­ur­ing out what that chord is later, or I’ll look at di­a­grams of new chord shapes, or dif­fer­ent voic­ings in dif­fer­ent parts of the neck. Lately, I’ve been lis­ten­ing to pi­ano pieces and try­ing to pick out the chords, be­cause some of the chords you hear on a pi­ano wouldn’t typ­i­cally be played on a gui­tar. Even in a movie, I’ll fig­ure out the melody in a score.

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