HeAd’s KoRner: An Interview With KXM Featuring George Lynch, dUg Pinnick + Ray Luzier
Brian ‘Head’ Welch, guitarist for Korn and frontman of Love and Death, contributes a popular monthly column called ‘HeAd’s KoRner’ to Loudwire. In his newest entry, Head interviews the band KXM featuring Dokken guitarist George Lynch, King’s X singer-bassist Dug Pinnick and Korn drummer Ray Luzier. Check out Brian ‘Head’ Welch’s latest edition of ‘Head’s Korner’ below:
Along with Angus Young and Randy Rhoads, the biggest influence for me playing guitar was definitely George Lynch from Dokken. Out of all the metal guitarists back in the day, Lynch had a style that made him stand out above all the rest. My friends and I always said he was the “tastiest” guitar player around. The speed and vibrato in his leads was his own, incredible, unique style. It seemed like his soul was pouring out through his fingers as he made his guitar speak a language that I and countless others couldn’t get enough of. There was so much feeling in his solos and I practiced so hard and tried to come up with my own style of lead guitar that was unique like Lynch did.
Little did I know, around 10 years later I’d become known for starting a band WITHOUT solos. It’s funny how things work out.
Flash forward to today. I rejoin KoRn and find out our amazing drummer Ray Luzier is in another band called KXM with Lynch and dUg Pinnick from King’s X. The guys in KoRn and I used to really dig King’s X back in the day, so when I heard about it, I knew this project would be killer!
Head: I’ll start with George Lynch. You were everything I wanted to be. You inspired me to practice so hard and I want to thank you for all the hard work you put into your art to inspire a little Bakersfield redneck boy like me. I wouldn’t have been able to have the incredible career I’ve had in music if it wasn’t for you, Angus, Eddie, Randy and all the other greats who inspired me. I seriously honor and appreciate you. With that said, who are some or your heroes and what was it like growing up in your family learning the guitar?
George Lynch: Wow. What an introduction. That’s going to be hard to live up to [laughs]. But thank you. I’ll do my best. I was very fortunate to have grown up at a time when rock guitar was in its infancy. Hendrix, Page , Beck and Clapton were my teachers … the four horsemen. My method of practicing and learning was to just put on those records and jam along intently. I used to imagine I was in the band or actually on the record. I took it very seriously. All my current playing is “in the spirit” of those giants. I’ve been influenced by just about every other guitar player of note that came before or after, but those four guys were the foundation of what I became as a guitar player. Pretty sweet first influences, right?!
When I first started playing at 10, my parents were supportive. By the time I hit 15 and started growing my hair out and started experimenting with a beer [laughs], my folks took my guitar away for a year, cut off all my hair and shipped me off to live in the mountains with my godparents. When I finally returned home I had forgotten how to play and had to re-learn the instrument. I’ve since forgiven my parents for that [laughs]. They were just doing what they thought was best.
Head: dUg and Ray, same question?
dUg Pinnick: I loved anything that made music. I cant remember when I started singing but my mom says it was before I could talk, and I would cry when she turned off the music. I was taken away from her at 3 and I think music filled the vacuum. My great grandma raised me in a very strict religious home. The only music she would allow was gospel music. Staple Singers, Mahalia Jackson, the Dixie Humming Birds, but they were awesome and made me feel emotion. Now, this time period was in the ’50s, and everything about music and what was associated with music was different than today.
I had teenage cousins who played rock ‘n’ roll records like Little Richard, Sam Cooke, Ray Charles, Chuck Berry, and just about every group actually. It was the new thing and there were not many groups like today. And no video games or cell phones, so as a child I had little distraction. Every note I heard, every song I heard, meant something to me and it was new.
Now my Aunt Sadie always played jazz records, my cousins played blues records. I lived outside Chicago and that was the period where Chicago blues was the new thing — Muddy Waters, Howling Wolfe, etc. So I experienced the whole thing in the same way we experienced grunge, glam, metal, etc.
I was 14 and I heard ‘I Want To Hold Your Hand.’ I never liked The Beatles ’cause I thought they were trying to sound like everyone I already heard, but it didn’t have soul to me. I didn’t get them, shame on me!!! But the funny thing is I know every Beatles song, and I have borrowed from them more than any other band when I write a song. But I don’t remember actually listening to any Beatles albums back then. I have them all now [laughs]. But that was the Motown, Atlantic Soul, and Stax/Volt period also, and I was a black kid who wasn’t into late ’60s British music at that time. I was in my teens and singers like Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett, James Brown, the Temptations, and all the other soul singers on Motown, Sly and the Family Stone, all became my first band’s obsession.
Then, when I turned 21, a friend gave me ‘Led Zeppelin II.’ Ever since hearing ‘Whole Lotta Love,’I’ve been playing rock music, never looking back. I sang all the time at school in the choir and in the church choir. I sang in bands, I sang on the street corner, I sang in contests, if there was an American Idol back then I would have tried out. I was annoying and was obsessed.
But my true love was the bass. Singing is something I just did with no real thought back then. I was mesmerized by the bass from a small child, but never played one until I was 23. From the first note I played I became obsessed. I played along with every record I had. I was never encouraged to play or sing from my family, but they never disapproved. They just complained when I was too loud or just wouldn’t stop singing at the top of my lungs when music was and was not playing [laughs]!! But I have learned they are very proud of me.
I never met my dad ’til I was 15, but when I met his family and kids I saw that the whole family could dance and sing. They all were artists – aunts, uncles, all of them! My dad had a great voice, but none of them were obsessed like I was, so they never did anything with it. But meeting them helped me understand better who I was.
I just loved the tone that the bass had. Chris Squire of Yes and Jamie Jamerson, who played bass on almost all the Motown records, were the people I tried to play like. I listened to all the bass players in the ’70s when I was learning and most of them were off-shoots of Chris and Jamie, or John Entwistle and Chuck Raney. Also, bass was dominant in the mix back then so it was easy to hear it, but I have been drinking up everything that’s called music all my life! I also listened to show tunes, musicals, Frank Sinatra, big band music. But my heart has to rock out. The ’70s music just kept on morphing into what it is now, and I love it. It’s not gonna stop. And I’m a lifer.
Ray Luzier: It’s funny ’cause nobody in my family ever played any instruments, except my uncle. He played marching bass drum in high school band. But they all have a great appreciation for music and my parents always had the radio on constantly or played records by Chuck Berry, Elvis, The Beatles, Steely Dan, etc. Growing up on a 118-acre farm outside of Pittsburgh is very extreme and different. I knew at a very young age that I’d be in the music business for life. It was scary how powerful it grabbed me, so young. My parents bought me a toy drum kit at age 5, but I destroyed it. So age 6, they bought me a semi-pro real kit. My parents have always been 100% supportive towards my passion for music my entire life and never questioned it or told me to do anything else.
I would just play along with any record I could find or steal my sister’s Ozzy, Rush, KISS & Zeppelin records! I was self taught until I joined the high school jazz, concert, marching & symphonic bands. I started a rock band at age 14, moved to L.A. at 18 to attend Musicians Institute and have been only playing drums for a living ever since. I feel very blessed to be able to do what I love for a living. I’ve been in a ton of bands and national acts. It hasn’t been easy at all, but I knew I’d be doing this until I die. I’m living proof that if you’re determined, ultra focused, work your balls off, and don’t take no for an answer, you can do it. It’s a ton of sacrifice from your family and it’s not normal by any means.
But I think this is why the KXM record came together so well. We all have a mutual respect for each other’s pasts and have a ton of experience between the three of us. We’re all lifers fo sure.
Head: Where/When did all you guys meet? Were you fans of each other’s work?
GL: Ray was having a birthday party for his son and we all got to talking around the dining room table about the idea of collaborating. We all agreed. I figured it was the weed and alcohol talking, but I was intent on trying to push through and make it a reality. I guess Ray and Duggy were feeling it too, ’cause there was none of that “morning after” effect. We all piled on, did the legwork, showed up at a studio and went to work. As far as being mutual fans, absolutely! But beyond the musical comparability, dUg and Ray are just insanely fun guys to hang out with. I’m so used to being in 4 or 5 piece situations.
Being in a trio is new to me. But it’s very easy and comfortable and it feels like we’ve been playing together for years. I’m kinda looking forward to our first band fight! [Laughs]
RL: George pretty much answered that, but to add … It was awesome having music legends over my house for Hudson’s first b-day bash. When huge artists like Billy Sheehan, dUg Pinnick, George Lynch, Dean DeLeo, Pete Parada from Offspring and others are all in your house at the same time, you have a PAR-TAY! dUg, George and I ended up in my home studio and we were joking around saying, “We gotta do a record someday, that’d be amazing!!” I never thought it would happen, but we figured out our schedules and made it happen. I give it up to George for pushing it, we’re all workaholics.
I’ve always been a HUGE King’s X fan. I’ve actually flown to other states just to catch a show. dUg’s been one of my favorite singers and bassists for decades. We got to know each other at the King’s X shows. Go buy all of their records right after you read this!! In ’85, the guitarist in my band in Pennsylvania turned me onto Dokken and we would jam on those records a lot. I knew that George had something very different than the rest of the shredders out at that time. We met at the school I taught at in the ’90s and where I attended, Musicians Institute. He was doing a clinic for ESP guitars and I got asked to play drums for it. He asked me to play on his instructional DVD a few years later. We stayed friends, but now he won’t leave me alone [laughs].
Head: When did you guys find the time to write with your crazy, busy schedules?
GL: That was the biggest challenge … working around all of our schedules and different projects; Duggy’s in a ton of bands and always working. Myself as well. I’m making a film, got a number of musical projects and I build guitars. And of course Ray’s in some other little band named after a vegetable. Can’t remember the name right now.
We honestly didn’t have a lot of time available to write and record the record, do all the biz, make a video, do photo shoots and interviews, etc. But we managed to be very selective about where we spent our time and energy. Out of necessity, we spent a total of 10 days writing the material and tracking the basics for the entire record. That’s gotta be some kind of world record [laughs].
RL: Yeah, it was rough. There are no weekends or weekdays in the music biz. We live very different life styles. To get three super busy guys to commit to a time frame is really hard to do. Korn never stop,, as you know Head, and I do drum clinics and drum fests as well. dUg’s in 7 bands, George has knitting classes … it was rough!! But I’m so happy we made this happen and am very proud of this CD. I’m cranking it right now!
Head: dUg, what is the overall theme of the lyrics on this album?
DP: I always write how I feel at the moment, so there is a train of thought in this batch of songs, but I really don’t know what that actually is [laughs]! It always comes to my understanding years later, then I get embarrassed that I wore my heart on my sleeve [laughs]! I have been in a hole for the last 3 years and I almost knocked on the door of no return, so now I see the world differently. Writing lyrics that come from dark places always keeps me sane. I did try to focus on telling true stories, Just sharing my thoughts of the moment.
Head: Ray, does it bother you that you’re not as talented as these two guys?
RL: Oh, Head-dog, you’re still upset ’cause I make the least amount of mistakes in KoRn every night. Get over it man, grow a pair!! You’ll get good someday, just keep on keepin’ on, I believe in you!
Head: Lynch, are you bringin’ the badass solos on this album or are you toning it down?
GL: Both — whatever I feel the song is asking for. The solo on “I’ll Be OK” is only a one mic in the room, one take event. We kept everything — mistakes, bloopers, sloppy notes, etc.
I tried to find a balance between taste and angst [laughs]. I threw the heat when I felt it was called for. I never wanted to be that guy — the legacy guitarist that sits on his laurels. I’ve always felt compelled to evolve even if it means disappointing some fans. I can’t change how I’m built and I wouldn’t want to if I could. To me, playing guitar, creating musical landscapes and playing in bands with your friends is an adventure. Otherwise, I might as well go punch a clock and wait to die.
RL: Whoa, that was deep George, I don’t know about your solos, but your tan & biceps on this record are slammin’!!! [Laughs]
Head: What are your favorite tracks on the album and why?
GL: I don’t have any faves, only favorite moments which are scattered throughout the album. I have issues with the fact that it was done so quickly. I would have loved to have had the luxury of spending more time on the writing. We captured a moment in time for sure… our three lives merging for a brief period of time and capturing that for posterity. But no artist is ever completely happy with their work, which is why we keep trying.
DP: I love the album. I have learned to accept things as they are and not beat myself up over it, or let it rob me of the joy of what it truly is. Our first child is born, I have no complaints, next time we’ll build one better… hopefully! And its something we did together, had fun and found new friends. I’m happy about it. I can’t wait to do more with these guys, I love them!! George is a Scrooge!
RL: I agree about the artist never being completely satisfied with their work. I’m on over 75 CDs and I can listen to about 6 of them without cringing! It was a blast writing & recording this record with artists I truly love. I have favorite moments of each tune. Off the top of my head, I love the way the 1st single came out and the video for ‘Rescue Me. ‘Stars,’ “Human Friction,’ ‘Faith Is a Room’ are my faves, too. ‘Sleep’ has the heaviest lyrics I’ve heard in a long time.. .geez dUg! [laughs] I dig them all in a certain way. The crazy thing about CDs and recorded music is that it’ll outlast us all. I hope my son’s grandkids listen to this record many decades from now and say, “Damn, this is some soulful, groovy badass music!!!”
Watch KXM’s ‘Rescue Me’ Video
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Brian ‘Head’ Welch is a founding member of the multiplatinum band Korn and frontman of Love and Death. He is the New York Times best-selling author of the book ‘Save Me From Myself.’ Brian has won multiple Grammys and MTV Music Awards and is currently active in both Korn and Love and Death, as well as traveling the country speaking. Follow Brian ‘Head’ Welch’s schedule at www.loveanddeathmusic.com and pick up Love and Death’s recently released expanded edition of their debut album, ‘Between Here & Lost,’ at iTunes. Korn’s new album, ‘The Paradigm Shift,’ is also out now, and can be ordered at iTunes.