Korn bassist shares perspectives on the band’s longevity, outside projects and how he really feels about bass!
Here’s something you don’t expect to hear from Korn bassist Fieldy: “I don’t like bass. I was walking with my son and telling him how, if we’re going on stage, I’m putting ear plugs in ‘cause I don’t want to hear all that bass.” Well, knock us over with a heavy metal feather.
Fieldy (real name Reginald Arvizu) has, of course, made bass a big part of the Korn sound since the group’s inception, blending percussive drive and woofer-shaking bottom for a wholly original approach to the instrument and its sonic placement within a band. Outside of Korn, Fieldy has explored bass terrain in his hip-hop side project Fieldy’s Dream and with rapper Q-Unique in their side band StillWell. He also has a clothing line (Immanuel One Twenty Three) and published a memoir, Got The Life: My Journey of Addiction, Faith, Recovery and Korn, in 2009. He’s a busy guy, in other words – with a Korn tour to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the group’s first album and two other outside projects in motion – but he sat still long enough to chat a bit with FBPO during Korn’s recent North American tour with Slipknot.
FBPO: How did you wind up playing bass?
Fieldy: When we were younger, I remember riding in a car with Head (Korn guitarist Brian Welch). He was like, “I want to start a band.” I was playing guitar at the time, and he said, “I need a bass player” and I said, “I’ll do it!” So that’s how it happened.
FBPO: So how did you develop your approach and figure out what kind of bass playing would be right for the band?
Fieldy: Well, I’m a little bit oddball. I mean, everything about bass, I don’t like. If it was up to me, we’d be rolling all the bass out (of the sound). My band members like bass; I don’t. I just want percussion-style, noisy, clicky things. It’s its own instrument. So I kind of battled with that. I just went against every traditional way of trying to be a bass player. But it’s a good balance. It keeps some bass in the band. If it were up to me, there wouldn’t be any.
FBPO: You still manage to keep plenty of bottom in Korn’s sound, though.
Fieldy: That’s because of the balance of those guys fighting for some bass in there [Laughs], so it’s a good thing. It takes a band. If it was just me, it probably would end up sucking. If it were just me, it would be some kind of nasty, noisy, clicky…like some kind of drum. If it was up to me, I would’ve dug being that, just, extra, noisy, percussive bass player on the side and then they could have a real bass player. That would’ve been sick. It didn’t work out that way, but it would’ve been cool.
FBPO: Korn’s going out this year to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Korn album. Does it feel like 20 years? 20 minutes? 200 years?
Fieldy: Y’know, when I look at time and I see 20 years, it does go fast, man, because somebody can ask me about my story and I can pretty much tell it in less than 20 minutes. So, yeah, 20 years goes by in 20 minutes. It just flies by.
FBPO: What’s the sense of accomplishment you guys feel over that period of time?
Fieldy: I’ll tell ya, in the beginning, when we started, we were like, “We’re gonna be rock stars!” and we knew it. We were kids. And we did become that, but now that we’ve done it, you realize it’s like one in a million, man. It’s not as easy as we dreamed it would be. It just kind of was meant to be for us, I guess. So yeah, it’s just a trip. You really can see the fine line and the slim chances of doing what we’ve done, so we’re just grateful.
FBPO: How has playing these songs changed over the years?
Fieldy: The only thing I can say that’s really changed over the years is you can have a little more fun ‘cause you’re more comfortable. You become a better musician, so you get super comfortable on your instrument, or even Jon (Davis) with singing. People love to watch that. When I go see players and singers and they’re really having fun and it’s effortless, you can really enjoy it.
FBPO: What’s your perspective on the latest Korn album, The Paradigm Shift, after all these months of playing it?
Fieldy: I think it’s a perfect balance of everything Korn. It has a little bit of all our elements, everything that we do. It’s one of my favorites. And I notice through all the years, when I go through Korn albums, every one of the albums has, like, two really kooky songs on them. We’ve always done that; it might not be kooky to other people, and then again I like the kooky songs, the oddball songs. I know hardcore Korn fans want to hear the heavy bangers, but I like that the out-of-the-box type songs are accepted, too.
FBPO: What has it meant to have Head back in the band?
Fieldy: That’s when we wrote The Paradigm Shift, when Head came back. Standing back and writing with those guys, I really got to step back and go, “Man, those guys, Head and Munky, have such a chemistry together. It’s undeniable.” They bounce off of each other and I can kind of just sit there go, “Oh yeah, I’m right in the middle and that’s where my bass always comes in, right in the middle, where I would stay out of the way ‘cause their riffs are so cool I don’t want to ride over them. So I just stay out of the way.
FBPO: So what else do you have going on, outside the band?
Fieldy: I’ve always got something going on, man. My solo band I play guitar in, StillWell, we’re getting ready to release our second album, like, any time. And I’m doing a bass album that I’m finishing up right now. It’s getting mixed.
FBPO: As a guy who doesn’t like bass, what’s that going to be like?
Fieldy: I did about 14 songs on standup bass, fretless bass. I had a custom 15-string bass made that I play on there. Every type of bass I could pretty much think of is on there. It pretty much takes you on a ride from jazz/fusion, funk, Latin, blues, reggae – every style of music you can think of. So you kind of go on a musical journey, and it’s instrumental only. It’s called Bassically. I’ve got to wait for it to actually get out before I get excited about it because it’s just kind of talk right now. But it’s really cool stuff.
FBPO: A 15-string bass sounds pretty interesting.
Fieldy: Oh, man…What it is is I play a K5, which is a five-string bass, so I wanted a 15-string made, which is only a five-string, but every string has three on it so it makes it 15, and it’s just insane. The headstock’s, like, massive. It just looks like this monster bass. I’ve been playing it on the Slipknot tour. I play it only for a couple songs because that thing’s so heavy; it weighs, like, 100 pounds, so by the end of those songs my shoulders hurt.
FBPO: What’s the StillWell album going to be like?
Fieldy: It’s really like a solid rock record – not heavy, just, like rock, a unique rock record. I can’t even categorize it as anything. It’s just one of those things. I don’t really know how to say it.
FBPO: Any thoughts of StillWell touring as well?
Fieldy: We opened for Korn all over the United States and Europe and I would go play with Korn later that night and that was great. So we’ll see. I just kind of let it unfold and see what’s gonna happen. I really don’t know yet.
Gary Graff is an award-winning music journalist and author based in Detroit. In addition to FBPO, Gary writes regularly for Billboard, the New York Times Features Syndicate, Digital First Media, Revolver, Classic Rock, United Stations Radio Networks and Greater Media Interactive, and he reports on music news for WCSX-FM in Detroit and WHQG-FM in Milwaukee. Graff has authored, co-authored and edited books on Neil Young, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Seger and others and was the founding editor of the MusicHound Essential Album Guide series. Graff is also the co-founder and co-producer of the annual Detroit Music Awards.
The Paradigm Shift (World Tour Edition) is available here
Fieldy’s memoir, Got The Life: My Journey of Addiction, Faith, Recovery and Korn is available here
StillWell’s first album, Dirtbag, is available here