Thanks to good friendships and a birthday party for a one-year-old baby, rock music fans have a chance to listen to the creative output of a trio of top flight musicians, representing some of the best bands of the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s.
In 2013, long-time music pals Ray Luzier, the current drummer for Korn who also spent a number of years in David Lee Roth’s band, Dokken and Lynch Mob axe master George Lynch along with dUg Pinnick, the vocalist and bassist for legendary prog-rockers King’s X decided to create music together, forming the band KXM. Together, they issued forth the critically acclaimed self-titled debut album in the spring of 2014.
Although very busy with a host of musical projects, the talented trio reconvened for some recording sessions last year and the result is the incendiary, melodically memorable and musically momentous new album, Scatterbrain, which will be released worldwide on Rat Pak Records on March 17.
The album is already generating a lot of industry and fab buzz because of the popularity of the band members composing the group, but also because of the trio of cool new videos that have already been released to fire up the music masses for the upcoming issuance of the album: Noises in the Sky, Breakout and the title track.
Luzier, who is in rehearsals for a spring world tour with Korn in support of their latest album The Serenity of Suffering, said no one predicted that the output of an informal musical get-together would turn into two albums of uniquely original material that hearkens back to the past of each band member, but which also has a vibe that is one of a kind, transcending the varied sounds of Dokken, Korn and King’s X.
“We had no idea what would come of it. We had no expectations whatsoever. We were just buddies who said, ‘we’ve got some time, let’s just write some stuff.’ And we liked it so much and the people liked it so much that we decided to do another record and here we are today,” he said.
Luzier, Lynch and Pinnick had a musical epiphany while sitting around together at Luzier’s Los Angeles home at the conclusion of a family birthday party.
“L.A. is like the land of the flakes. You can invite 100 people to something and maybe 15 will show up. So I invited a bunch of my rock star friends, who I really didn’t think would show up, from Dean DeLeo (Stone Temple Pilots), Billy Sheehan (Mr. Big, David Lee Roth, Winery Dogs), dUg, George and some others – all these people I had known for years. Well, they all showed up and it was the weirdest thing. But it was also kind of cool when Dean DeLeo buys your one year old a present,” Luzier said.
“At the end of the night we were all in my studio with people trickling out until it ended up being dUg, George and I. We were just goofing around with some of my guitars and George looked at dUg and then at me and said, ‘this would be a great little band right here.’ And I said, ‘yeah right, that will never happen.’ I put the idea right out of my head because I knew we could never get it together. But we did, and it was fueled by that little accidental meeting that happened one night six years ago, and here we are going out there to promote the second record coming out. And I honestly see us making a third, because it’s been so much fun.”
As with the debut album, Luzier said the band deliberately set a tight schedule for their recordings and also made a self-policing rule within the band that all ideas had to happen on the spot with all three guys in the room together.
“With Korn, we were writing the new songs for a year and a half, and then we demoed them and produced them and played them over and over again – we’d really live with the songs. With KXM it’s completely different and experimental, where we do one song a day. It’s completely insane for most musicians to try and do this. Because of time constraints on the first record we did one song a day. We’d go in at noon and say, ‘okay, what do you got?’ And we’d just come up with something. We thought that process worked so well, we did it again for Scatterbrain,” Luzier said.
“We literally booked 12 days at the Steakhouse Studio in Burbank, California, which is a great studio, and did 13 songs over that time. There was no producer telling us what to do, and each of us didn’t want to tell the others what do either. Whatever we had was 100 per cent coming out organically. And that can be really scary sometimes because what if one day you’re not inspired, or didn’t get enough sleep or something? But to me it kind of separates the men from the boys, if you will. Can you do this or can you not? You’ve got to suck it up and bring to bear all the experience and all the miles you’ve logged as individual artists together in that moment. We’re not trying to reinvent anything or be this new fancy band. But we’re also not trying to put out this dated rock sound either. We want to be current, yes, but by doing what we do and what we know.
“We had so much respect for each other’s talent that the process could be completely open and experimental. There were a couple of days, I’ve got to admit, where it was coming up to 6 p.m. and we’re like, ‘this isn’t going to happen.’ And then somebody would come up with a little idea and it would all come together and the next thing I know I am tracking drums live.”
KXM did use the services of top engineer/producer Chris Collier (who engineered Korn’s The Serenity of Suffering) but he was there more for his technical proficiency, to all allow the creative cadre of Lynch, Luzier and Pinnick to work unencumbered.
“He sometimes would make a small suggestion here or there, but it was primarily for technical reasons. So for guys like us, when you know that no one’s telling you what to do and there are no rules, it makes you branch out and be more experimental which, as an artist, is the ultimate quest for us. We want to express ourselves as best as we can,” Luzier said.
“On both the KXM records I know I have been able to get out so many grooves that have been in my head and so many interesting things that I think are cool fill-wise or even stuff that’s a little over the top. At the same all of us still want to write the best song that we can – we don’t want to just play a bunch of notes and show off. I don’t think we overplayed, but we did allow ourselves the chance to really strut our stuff as musicians.
“And I have to say, George is out of his mind insane on this Scatterbrain record. It’s some of the best leads I have ever heard him do throughout his whole career. And that’s saying a lot because he’s not 25 any more, he’s 62.”
There is a diversity of tone and sound on Scatterbrain, but what brings it together as a cohesive artistic whole is the unmistakable exceptional playing and compositional prowess of all three members, topped off by Pinnick’s very distinctive, soulful rock voice.
“The song Breakout, which was the second one we released from this album, was actually the first one we wrote together for this record. I remember when we were writing it and it finally came together and we started the tracking we all kind of looked at each other and said, ‘wow, does this ever sound like us, whatever ‘we’ are.’ it sounded reminiscent of the first record and it almost made us want to go in another direction because we didn’t want to reproduce what we did on that first one,” Luzier said.
“So that’s why I think the second one has so much diversity. Noises in the Sky has this massive breakdown bridge in the middle that dUg does so well, which to me is like going to church. He is such a soulful Gospel guy when he wants to be. Not a Single Word has a full-blown Foo Fighters-type riff that goes into a ska section and we’ve never done that before. It’s so cool to hear what we came up with, mostly on the fly.
“This makes it kind of hard at times to describe our music. Obviously the voice is dUg and it’s going to sound like King’s X and there’s nothing you can do about that. He’s not going to change his voice. But dUg has said he plays bass differently because George and I don’t play anything like the other guys in King’s X. And the same goes for me: because I am not bashing my brains out like I am in Korn, where there’s not a lot of dynamics. For KXM all our influences come through and you can definitely hear bits and pieces of us. We want to do something new too, we don’t want to sound like an old Dokken record or an old King’s X record or like Korn.”
Luzier is a pretty straight-laced guy, especially for the rock and roll world. He is humble, unaffected by fame, and values family and friends and treats music as both a passion and a profession. Pinnick and Lynch are very different from him and from one another as human beings, but their shared love for music and for creative collaboration makes the seemingly incongruous conglomeration work.
“I remember someone telling me when I moved to Hollywood, ‘Ray, you’re too normal. You don’t do drugs, you don’t have any tattoos, you’re way too normal and people aren’t going to like you.’ I remember that from way back. I just told them that I am going to be the best musician I can possibly be and that will sell me, because I don’t do the stereotypical rock star things. With George, I always say that I worked with David Lee Roth for almost nine years and he is so eccentric, but you can’t be normal in your daily life when you’re that ‘out there’ on stage. I am not going to call George eccentric, but you can’t be normal and be that great. It’s like in Korn, we’ve sold close to 40 million records and those guys, who have been around for 23 years [Luzier for 10] and sold 40 million records, they’re not normal whatsoever. But they’re some of the most awesome people on the entire planet,” he said.
“Think about this, for someone like George to stand out in the 1980s when everyone was wanking on their guitars and doing fast leads and competing to see who had more flash and speed, it says something. He did stand out in that era, and was one of the top five or 10 out of all those hundreds of shredders from that time. And to keep going after 30 years and still have that drive – he’s one of the most passionate guys about his art that I know. You get into the studio and he is so dialed in and just watching him work is so amazing. It wants to make you work harder. And a lot of people don’t know this, but he is also one of the most funny, most sarcastic people I know.
“And dUg is just the opposite. He is such a sweetheart. He is the nicest guy you could ever meet. There’s not a bad bone in his body; he is just a true friend through thick and thin. He loves his wine and what we call his ‘devil’s lettuce’ – the wacky tabacky – but he is a guy that just exudes talent and he really sings from the heart. Why King’s X wasn’t bigger I have no idea. It baffles me to this day why they weren’t massive.”
Speaking of massive, Korn’s tour starts in March with a couple of warm-up dates in California before hoping around the globe for the next couple of months.
“Right now is definitely the calm before the storm. We’re doing two shows at the House of Blues in Anaheim and that’s our rehearsals and then we’re off to Switzerland and throughout Europe for about a month and then down to South America before coming back to do a small run in the States with Animals as Leaders. We’re soon going to announce a bigger American tour for the summer and then we have Japan and Australia,” he said. The omission of Canada from the tour so far was noticed by his interlocutor.
“I did hear that some of that tour is going to be in Canada, a couple of dates anyways. I am kind of bummed that we’re not doing a full-blown Canadian tour because I love it up there. I have done a lot of clinic tours in Canada and it’s been great. I do know we have talked about it, so hopefully we can get up there and do a big run of shows.”
There are no plans for KXM to do any touring, but Luzier said they all would like to try to fit some dates in their busy schedules at some point.
“It’s basically mostly my fault because my schedule is so full with Korn stuff. I am not saying no though, because I can definitely see us playing live shows, I just don’t know when.”
In the interim, Scatterbrain can tide fans over until the hopeful becomes reality. For more information, visit the band’s Facebook page or www.ratpackrecords.com/KXM.
- Jim Barber is a veteran award-winning journalist and author based in Napanee, ON, who has been writing about music and musicians for a quarter of a century. Besides his journalistic endeavours, he now works as a communications and marketing specialist. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.