The new Korn album comes by its title honestly: Following a pair of efforts on which the pioneering nü-metal band pushed its sound in unlikely new directions, "Remember Who You Are" presents a return to the moody but muscular style that drove such late-'90s landmarks as "Follow the Leader" and "Issues" to combined sales that exceeded 7.3 million copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan.
"With our last record we just hit a wall creatively with all the experimentation," Korn frontman Jonathan Davis says of 2007's untitled disc, which prominently featured keyboardist Zac Baird. (For help making 2005's "See You on the Other Side" Davis and his bandmates recruited the Matrix, the songwriting/production team best-known for its work on Avril Lavigne's debut.) "It was like, 'What more can we add to this fucking motherfucker?' "
Korn recorded "Remember" with Ross Robinson, who also produced the band's first two albums. "We wanted to make a stripped-down record with just the four of us," Davis says, referring to guitarist James "Munky" Shaffer, bassist Reginald "Fieldy" Arvizu and new drummer Ray Luzier. "And the idea popped into my head to use Ross again. I knew Munky had been talking to him, so I asked him to ask Ross, and Ross said, 'Hell yeah-let's do this.' "
Robinson says, "They've had songwriters and weird musicians and electronic stuff on the last couple of records. But none of that had anything to do with what created Korn. My job was to make sure none of that was in there. And it wasn't."
Due July 13, "Remember Who You Are" launches the group's new deal with Roadrunner Records, which signed Korn after the band fulfilled its two-album pact with EMI. Davis says the band and its manager, Peter Katsis, "thought long and hard" about how to issue the new album, including the possibility of a Nine Inch Nails-style online self-release. "But that's not like putting an actual CD out where there's a marketing team behind you pushing the record," Davis continues. "There's certain bands or certain kinds of records that [an online self-release] is good for; it obviously worked well for Trent [Reznor]. But in our eyes it's just not there yet."
"Roadrunner is a rock label that understands rock music and the whole culture centered around it," says Katsis, who points to the label's success with Slipknot as a primary enticement. "They understood the type of back-to-basics record Korn was making and were very enthusiastic about it. It all just seemed to click."
"We clearly see where the band came from and where it's gotten to, and we've been admirers over the years," Roadrunner president Jonas Nachsin says. "So when the opportunity came up for us to potentially work with them in the next phase of their career, we jumped at the chance. And when we heard the music we jumped even faster."
Senior VP of marketing and creative services Madelyn Scarpulla says that given the label's profile in the hard rock scene, Korn's signing to Roadrunner "is an almost automatic way to reach the band's core fans." At the same time, she adds, "we absolutely believe there are more fans out there to be had."
The "Remember" rollout began in early May when the label premiered lead single "Oildale (Leave Me Alone)" on RoadrunnerRecords.com; it also offered a free download of another album track to members of its e-mail list, which Scarpulla says contains "upwards of 500,000 names." Korn hosted MTV2's "Headbangers Ball" May 25, and the channel premiered the "Oildale" video May 31. On July 1 the band will perform on "Jimmy Kimmel Live!" and do an in-store appearance at a Los Angeles Hot Topic outlet following the taping. And beginning July 10 in San Bernardino, Calif., Korn will headline this summer's Mayhem Festival alongside Rob Zombie and Lamb of God.
In addition to the album's standard version, Roadrunner will release a CD/DVD special edition with extra tracks, in-the-studio videoclips and additional packaging, as well as a red vinyl edition available only through the Roadrunner store. Digitally, "Remember Who You Are" will be available as an iTunes LP with interactive artwork and an exclusive live track; Walmart.com will also offer exclusive video content.
"It's nice working with a company that can deal with all the craziness involved in putting out a record, so we can just go out there and focus on doing what we do," Davis says. "They actually have locals who show up at our shows. I haven't seen that since the early '90s."