In November 1999, Korn were on fire. They'd dropped their monstrous hit album Follow the Leader just over a year before and cemented their status as some of the biggest rock stars in the world at the time, winning a slew of awards in the process. Now came the follow-up, which easily could have been a letdown and let-up, but to the contrary, far from resting on their laurels, Korn dug deep to make yet another classic LP, the darker and more introspective Issues.
Propelled by the fury of singles like "Falling Away From Me" and "Make Me Bad," the record topped the Billboard 200 and sold more than a half a million copies in its first week alone and three million copies by the time it turned a month old. This success was in part because Korn struck while the iron was hot, but also owed a lot to the band members' maturing outlooks, which saw them buckle down and keep the partying to the minimum while making the album.
That doesn't mean that there weren't plenty of hijinks and misadventures surrounding Issues. From Fred Durst's tense involvement, to the bagpipe band that was brought into The Apollo, Korn's fourth album was marked with strange and largely forgotten incidents and details. Read on and flash back to the glory days of the late Nineties.
After struggling with addiction, panic attacks and deteriorating mental health for years while on Korn's fast track to fame, Jonathan Davis kicked the booze and got himself a prescription for antidepressants to deal with the years of trauma he'd sustained that led to a downward spiral.
"They got me on Prozac," he explained in a 1999 interview. "I started taking it six months ago. I had to wean myself on it with a child's dosage and I take it in liquid form because I don't like pills. It makes me happy and normal. I can handle things now." The singer remains sober today, 20 years on.
Plenty of folks remember Korn's search for the best fan-made artwork out there for the cover of Issues, eventually leading to a TRL on-air party where they announced Alfredo Carlos as the victor for his tattered-rag-doll design. But did you remember that the artist not only got his illustration on the album cover, but he also won a check for $10,000? Plus, in addition to Carlos' cover, there were several runners-up who had their designs used as cover art for the album's special editions and even a limited tour edition peddled out on the road. Now that your memory is refreshed, step back in time and watch the glory that is the commercial that advertised this contest in the first place — it's a serious time capsule look-back on the golden age of nu-metal.
Durst might better be known as the MTV-star frontman of that other huge nu-metal band Limp Bizkit, but in 1999, the now-full-fledged director was just dipping his toes into the world of filmmaking. One of his first major jobs? Directing the stunning video for what went onto be one of Korn's biggest singles ever, "Falling Away From Me."
Featuring a teenager girl experiencing horrific abuse from her father, the clip sees her open a small box in her room inside which Korn are performing the emotional song. She cries while she watches the performance as flashbacks of the beatings she's taken are spliced in throughout, and the neighborhood kids begin to congregate as the power of the song grows stronger and eventually brings the miniature Korn into real life so that they're playing in the girl's bedroom and empower her to escape her situation.
As it turns out, Davis hated the treatment Durst wrote, as he clearly explains to the camera in the making-of documentary above, but the rest of the band outvoted him. "I thought it was horrible and I hated it, but the band made me pick it," he says with a smile as Durst sticks his head into the frame. Despite these creative differences, the final outcome was an instant MTV classic and remains among Korn's greatest videos to date.
Davis is very open about his roots as a new-romantic goth kid in high school, where he was bullied extensively for his guyliner and frilly shirts. His love for that kind of music was rewarded in 2006 when Korn were able to have Robert Smith, possibly the gothiest of all goths, guest on their edition of MTV Unplugged for a fantastically arranged medley of the Issues single "Make Me Bad" woven beautifully into the Cure's lush 1985 classic "In Between Days."
"Can't really turn down an invitation like this," Smith chirps in an interview segment (see above, after the performance). "You'd probably look back at it and think, 'We probably should have done that.'" Luckily, he did, and in doing so helped Davis prove the old adage that success is the best revenge.
Harlem's Apollo theater is a truly historic venue famous for its star-making "Amateur Night at the Apollo" events and its place in African-American history. So, despite Korn's overt embrace of hip-hop, the venue would seem to be an unlikely place for an Issues release show, and yet, on November 15th, 1999, just that took place, with the group playing the freshly released album front-to-back for a packed house of fans new and old alike.
According to setlist.fm, most of the songs from the LP were premiered live that night, and many never made it back into Korn's live rotation again. Maybe more notably, the concert kicked off with the NYPD's Pipes and Drums band taking the stage with Davis to play Issues opener "Dead." The show remains to this day one of only a handful of hard-rock performances to ever go down at The Apollo (Metallica played there in 2013, and Jimi Hendrix, of course, first made his name there during Amateur Night) and thus marks a special spot in Korn history.