[You can watch the video of this post here.]
In his 2009 autobiography, Korn’s bassist Fieldy wrote that on their very first day of rehearsal at Jeff “Ball Tongue” Creath’s Underground Chicken Sound Studio, there were a couple of people just hanging around the studio.
Fieldy could see that these kids didn’t rate them very much when they started playing as they were just making weird feedback noises. Little did these onlookers know that that was just the intro. Once they went in, everyone in the studio flipped out.
Not only had they never heard anything like that before, they had never seen a performance like that before. That Korn rehearsal was essentially a free concert. The world was finally introduced to Bakersfield’s best: James “Munky” Shaffer (rhythm guitar), Reginald “Fieldy” Arvizu (bass), Brian “Head” Welch (lead guitar, backing vocals), David Silveria (drums), and Jonathan Davis (lead vocals, bagpipes).
L.A.P.D. and SexArt
Before Korn was Korn, Munky, Fieldy and David were in a band called “Love and Peace, Dude” (L.A.P.D.) They were all from Bakersfield, California but moved to Huntington Beach, which is about an hour away from Los Angeles.
They played this awesome blend of thrash and funk, which you can hear on their studio album, “Who’s Laughing Now?”
The album is available on YouTube and it really blew me away. I didn’t know Munky could shred like that all the way back then, and I loved the chick who wailed on a few of the tracks. Their vocalist Richard Morrill had a great voice and you could hear Anthony from the Red Hot Chili Peppers was a major inspiration.
L.A.P.D. had a record deal with Triple X Records but it was a pretty crummy deal that only allowed enough money to record the album. There are some conflicting reports on what happened next and why but here’s what the sources are saying.
One source claimed that Morrill wanted to remain signed to Triple X Records but the rest of the band wanted out. So Munky, Fieldy and David left L.A.P.D. but decided to keep the songs for their new band.
Another source claimed that Morrill wanted out due to meeting his eventual wife.
Yet another source claimed that Morrill decided to quit the band due to his drug addiction and desire to get clean.
Whatever the reason or reasons, Morrill was out and L.A.P.D. needed a new frontman. And they needed one quick because it was difficult to play venues without a singer and for their management to shop around their demos to record labels.
During this time, Jonathan was in the band “SexArt” with Ray Solis on guitar, Dennis Shinn on drums, Ryan Shuck on guitar (who would later go on to form Orgy) and Dave DeRoo (who would later play bass for Adema).
I don’t know what was in the water back then but there was a lot of talent in Bakersfield.
The only song they released called “Inside” featured Videodrone’s Ty Elam on main vocals with Jonathan Davis doing backing vocals and the vocals on the tail-end of the track.
Give this track a listen and you’ll definitely hear the industrial metal vibe as well as the brooding, dark heaviness that Davis brought to the table. Also, the bass is so slappy in that song.
So you’re probably wondering, “Where the hell was Head at this time?”
Well, he was in Bakersfield trying to work things out with his girlfriend at the time.
Initially he was in a band called “Pierct” with Head’s old friend JC (disappointingly not Jesus Christ), Fieldy and a dude named Ron. They played one show together and then Ron quit because he was about to be a dad.
Fortunately, they found another band called “Toy” who needed a guitarist and bassist. It was at this point that Richard Morrill (remember him from earlier?) was introduced to these guys. But when the drummer bailed, they enlisted David Silveria.
When David left a voicemail on Fieldy’s answering machine, they swore he was twelve because he sounded like a kid. But he was only two years younger than they were.
By the way, at this time these guys were about 15–17 years old.
JC also had to quit the band due to a drug problem, and so Head recruited another old connection: Munky.
It was at this point that Morrill, Fieldy, Munky and Silveria crafted the thrash/funk sound that L.A.P.D. would be known for.
Head might’ve played in L.A.P.D. if he liked funk, which he did not. It just wasn’t his thing. He did go to school to learn studio recording but ultimately, what he really wanted was to be in a band.
In a lot of ways, Head was a major catalyst for L.A.P.D.’s existence. He got Munky into electric guitar and even sold him the Peavey Mystic and amp his dad bought him.
Head and Fieldy weren’t super close when they first met, but had gone to Compton Junior High together where they both shared a love of metal and disdain of new wave. Fieldy actually used to play guitar but Head suggested that he try the bass.
As Head put it in his 2007 autobiography, “He [Fieldy] wasn’t that bad of a guitar player, actually, but he also wasn’t that good. He just didn’t have what it took to play in a band, so I said, ‘Man, you need to pick up a bass. There are less strings, and you can probably handle it better.’”
And thank god he made that suggestion because Fieldy’s now a bass legend.
He met Silveria when he auditioned for Toy and he remembered Jonathan as that kid that Fieldy ran over with a three-wheeled ATV.
What’s even weirder is that Fieldy’s mom used to babysit Jon, which begs the question: What kind of babysitting was she doing??
Anyway, when Morrill left L.A.P.D. and Head was about to move back to Bakersfield after touring and partying with the L.A.P.D. crew, Fieldy asked if he wanted to be in the band and Head agreed.
No more of that funk crap.
With Head joining the band, they now went by the name “Creep.” They initially had a dude named Corey who had a Layne Staley-air about him. But it didn’t work out.
This was when Jon Davis joined forces with these four.
Munky and Head went back home to Bakersfield to visit family and friends, and watched a few bands at a night club. They listened to several acts but just as they were about to leave, there was one more act to go: SexArt.
They decided to watch and listen, and saw what Head described as, “a skinny little twig for a singer, shaking with uncontrollable intensity. He looked like a stick ﬁgure — like a scarecrow. He was amazing to watch already, and he hadn’t sung a note.”
This really was SexArt because according to Fieldy, Jon was on stage fully decked out as a drag queen. But of course, once he sang, they knew they found their guy.
But they didn’t approach him.
Fieldy was the one who got in touch with him and basically gave him this whole spiel about how they were about to be signed, there was a management deal on the table and a worldwide tour ready in waiting. I’m surprised he didn’t offer him his first-born child.
Head remembers this differently. He claimed that David got a hold of Jonathan.
Regardless, Jon agreed to audition. When Jon arrived, Fieldy was put off by Jon’s choice of apparel but once they started jamming together, Fieldy was desperate for Jon to join the band.
They all knew that they had struck gold. After consulting with a fortune teller who told him that it would be beneficial to join the band, Jon walked away from his career as a coroner’s assistant and as the lead singer of SexArt and moved to Los Angeles to join forces with Fieldy, Head, Munky and David in 1993.
Y’all Want a Single?
Creep was no more. Enter Korn — with a backwards “R.”
As I mentioned earlier, they started jamming at the Underground Chicken Sound studio and were building a fan base.
They were able to gel together quickly and then began recording their demo, “Neidermayer’s Mind.” It had four tracks, three of which would make it onto the self-titled debut album. “Blind” was one of those tracks.
Now, we all know “Blind” to be Korn’s first official single. When you hear that wha-nanana, the cymbals, the mini bassline, the scratchy guitar; then the groove sets in and the timeless, “Are you readyyyyy?” you know it’s on at that point.
Kerrang! had “Blind” as the tenth best single of all time and the second best “contemporary metal” song one must own. Loudwire had it as the second best Korn song ever and the seventh best metal riff of the 90s and the eighteenth best riff ever. Louder Sound had it as the best metal song of the 90s.
So what was the process behind writing this song? What was the inspiration? How did the band come up with quite possibly the very first nu metal anthem?
They didn’t. Let me explain.
When you look at the producer credits for Korn’s debut album in 1994, you don’t see the writing credits for each track. Online, the writing credits for “Blind” are just the five guys in Korn.
However, when you look at Korn’s Greatest Hits Vol. 1 compilation, you see the names Dennis Shinn and Ryan Shuck — two of the dudes from SexArt — in addition to the Korn quintet.
“Blind” was initially a SexArt song that Shinn, Shuck and Davis wrote. So it’s not as if Davis stole it or anything like that. Shinn also got a writing credit for “Alive.”
But an Instagram post Shinn posted on November 13th 2018, gave some somewhat confusing or misleading information.
Initially, Shinn wrote that after Davis left SexArt, Davis approached him for help to write lyrics for the Neidermayer’s Mind demo. But Shinn claimed that he wrote all of “Blind” — music and vocals.
He went on to say that “Blind” (and “Daddy,” which at the time was called “Follow Me”) were completed songs before Korn began.
But he thanked Korn for “representing the music for all these years.”
Here’s why this is either confusing or misleading. If Shinn wrote the track all on his own, why did Ryan Shuck get a writing credit for the song on the Greatest Hits Vol. 1 compilation album?
Also, by saying that “Blind” was completed makes it seem that he wrote all the song and the guys in Korn merely played what he wrote, which isn’t true.
There is a SexArt trailer on YouTube featuring band footage, random audio and audio snippets of their version of “Blind” where you can clearly hear the initial groove and the “Are you ready?” But there’s some stuff that doesn’t sound recognizable at all.
In addition to that, the intro we know and love isn’t there. As a matter of fact, the version of “Blind” on the demo tape is itself different from the final cut that was on the self-titled debut.
If you want my opinion, I’m glad Jonathan repurposed the song with Korn. SexArt didn’t hit the big time and we would’ve lost “Blind.” Or to be more precise, “Blind” as we know it wouldn’t even exist.
I think Shinn and Shuck should’ve gotten their writing credit from the get go. It’s only fair. And fortunately, they did receive it. And Shinn also got a writing credit for “Alive” which was released on “Take a Look in the Mirror” but was initially on the Neidermayer demo.
Maybe it’s the decades-long bias, but I cannot imagine “Blind” being an industrial metal or grunge song and sounding better than what Korn did with it. I can’t imagine it having the same heart and guts.
“Blind” is a nu metal anthem, probably the first one ever. When the members of Creep-turned-Korn linked up, they knew they had struck gold. Or should I say diamond as the self-titled debut album went on to sell ten million copies worldwide.
And Jonathan Davis, with the service of “Blind,” helped to excavate the nu metal diamond in the old metal rough.
The track captures the darkness that Korn would ooze into rock and even pop history, as well as the darkness a lot of us knew intimately.
They captured the anguish of needing to hide from the world, not knowing how to navigate through it and the fear that it may spell the end of your life.
We owe Korn and SexArt (and even L.A.P.D.), not only for the sonic excellence but also for inspiring the bands to come who also channeled interpersonal darkness into sound. They obviously weren’t the first but thanks to their work, they certainly weren’t the last.