The Energy and Wonder of Korn's Self-Titled Album | Revolver

The Energy and Wonder of Korn's Self-Titled Album

That CD remains in constant rotation forever in my bedroom
gettyimages-487058568.jpg, Kieran Frost/Redferns
Parquet Courts' Sean Yeaton
photograph by Kieran Frost/Redferns

I got into Korn's self-titled album after the fact, around [1998] when Follow the Leader came out, based on "Got the Life," or something. I remember being really psyched about the band in general, so I took whatever medieval steps were available back in the late Nineties to figure out their whole discography. There was a VHS tape [Who Then Now?] — I don't know how I got a copy of it, because there's no way in hell my mom would have bought it for me, so it must have been given to me by a friend. The VHS tape had the same artwork from the self-titled album. It basically shows them in the studio making it, and it has music videos for all of the singles: "Blind," "Shoots and Ladders," "Clown" and all that shit. It also has footage of them recording the record.

Once I heard those songs through that video, that gave them a whole new dimension to me. I'd seen the "Got the Life" music video — which, you know, I can recall almost frame-by-frame from memory — but this was a lot different. Korn recording that self-titled record was them in the Get in the Van stage of their band, and I've always appreciated that, especially having played in so many DIY punk bands. This was before I was ever directly involved in that scene, but I think there's something pretty exposing and really engaging about seeing a band figuring themselves out, especially when it's a band like Korn, who were already raking in a lot of money by the time I initially heard them. It was, like, their fledgling punk stage — pretty amazing. I got Korn shortly after that. That CD and video tape remain in constant rotation forever in my bedroom. "Ball Tongue" is my favorite track.

I think, bang for buck, Korn was like [Weezer's] "Blue Album" or something: Every song is a hit. It's awesome to say all this shit out loud, honestly. I haven't even really thought about it until now, but there wasn't a single song on Korn that didn't make me go, "Oh crap!" Even the last song ["Daddy"], which, again, seems akin to the "Blue Album" in that it's a long, drawn-out ambient thing, but it's still got its moments. Really, the Korn/"Blue Album" and Life Is Peachy/Pinkerton comparison … it's so similar to me now. But that could be a whole other conversation.

The first Korn record definitely sparked my initial interest in nu-metal, which would eventually become an avalanche of interest in nu-metal. I was pretty obsessed with Korn guitarists Munky and Head. I own a Gibson Universe seven-string guitar because of that shit, and those were not cheap back then. I remember the amount of chores and random tasks and grades that I had to attain in order to get it as a Christmas present. It was my only Christmas present, but it wasn't even a real present. I definitely had to save up for a portion of it. Getting a guitar like that as a pre-teen or early teenager is like something that raises a parent's eyebrow. It's not your standard Gibson Les Paul, something your parents could look at and be like, "Oh, it reminds me of Wes Montgomery!" Seven strings, a mirrored pick-guard — that guitar was made to raise the devil himself.

I loved the way Munky and Head played guitar because it was so atonal and ridiculous. I was reflecting on this the other day, actually. I had a really short-lived period of time where I took "guitar lessons," and in hindsight, I'm lucky to have been so oblivious to how I must have looked. I would go into this place, The Music Connection, a handful of times, and everybody else who was in there was basically at a doctor's office: You wait there with those big bags, you go into a room with a guy who teaches you how to play guitar as a side job so his funk band can make it or whatever. He doesn't want to be there. But I'd roll in with my seven-string guitar, and I wouldn't even have questions for the guy. I wouldn't roll in and say to him, "I want to learn a Django Reinhardt song for high school jazz band" — no, no, no. I would make him listen to "Ball Tongue." I'd be thinking, I don't have any interest in what you do per se, I just want you to tell me how to do that. Basically, the same way that I would use Google now. I'd like to think that maybe me being a wild card brightened up his day, and being able to talk about something different. "You're gonna need a pitch shifter, five distortion pedals and I guess maybe some meth or something?"

Seriously, I was obsessed with their tone, though. I love this one video that I must have watched a dozen times with Dustin [Payseur] from Beach Fossils. It's Munky and Head and they're sitting there and they're supposed to explain where their tone comes from. They seem high or something and instead of explaining anything, it's just them noodling around. That's what's so charming — I don't think that even they know. It's some Greg Ginn shit. And so without being virtuosos they had this sound in their head and they achieved it. Which is truly remarkable, whether you like it or not … I mean, the only people playing seven strings were guitar types like Steve Vai, but they made their own.

I saw Korn once when I was in the eighth grade. My best friend who I got into music with, his parents were very cool parents. They were into Nirvana at the time, listened to college radio and actively consumed modern music. My mom had a Victrola. Anyway, we went to see Korn with his mother and I think Incubus and Taproot played with them in a huge arena in Massachusetts. It's amazing to me that we were even allowed in because the stage show was so inappropriate for us. So to be there with your friend's mom … It was sort of like when your parents walk in the room the one time that there are boobs on television and you swear "the whole thing isn't like this." Imagine that, but for the whole show. His mom willingly agreed to bring us, even though she was pretty vocal about not liking them. But she was down to let us experience it, which was very cool. I loved it, and if I close my eyes, I can remember the whole thing.

I go back to their self-titled album periodically, mostly when I'm with people from that time in my life. I love it, and I love the sense of wonder and obsession that I had for it back then. No one would ever say Parquet Courts is directly influenced by anything Korn has done, but I think it's important to me. We recently recorded a record, and I never said, "I want that Korn tone," but that energy and that excitement and wonder that I had when I listened to the self-titled album, It'll always be there.

Sean Yeaton is the bassist/vocalist of NYC rock band Parquet Courts. The group will release Milano, a collaborative album with Italian composer Daniele Luppi, featuring vocal contributions by the Yeah Yeah Yeah's Karen O, on October 27th.