From the pulpit of mediocrity comes the sermon of suburban angst.
By Brian Blair
OCTOBER 19, 1998: In the '70s music fans wrote, "Clapton is God" anywhere they could find an empty space. No one really believed Eric of the Guitar to truly be part of the Holy Trinity but it was the best way anyone could sum up his musical abilities without a thesaurus.
Today, white suburban kids have found a new deities in groups like Insane Clown Posse, Marilyn Manson and Korn. Sadly, none of these bands are all that exceptional musically and tend to be a lot more interesting visually than they are on album. At the risk of being blasphemous, I.C.P. is just plain awful, Manson has gone from ripping off Alice Cooper's schtick to David Bowie's (circa Ziggy Stardust) and Orange County, California's Korn is just an average band with a lead singer that likes to break into some type of hard-core scatting whenever words won't express what's on his mind.
Mediocrity, however, did not stop the Korn-fed followers from picking up 268,000 copies of the groups' third release Follow the Leader in its first week and propelling it to the number one spot on Billboard's album chart. With new converts being won over in school yards on a daily basis,
Leader looks to hit Platinum status as did its predecessors 1994's self-titled debut and 1996's Life is Peachy.
Korn's popularity amongst the youth of America became evident when the group ushered in Leader's release with autographing sessions across the country. With MTV in tow, the quintet sat in record stores signing various poster, t-shirts and other sundry items for as long nine hours at some stops. When the Kampaign made a stop in Dallas on July 31, however, local police shut down the proceedings early when the crowd began to grow unruly.
Teaming with the some-time music channel and even getting a video onto the channel's Top 20, as well as generous airplay on radio stations that ignored the group in the early days, has led some fans to say that their beloved hard-core heroes have sold-out. It's a charge that surprises and baffles the band.
"Our fans helped us get bigger because our fans are the ones that are telling people, 'Check this out.' Turning other people on to Korn," says guitarist Brian "Head" Welch. "It's their fault if they want to call us sell-outs. Our music's the same. How can you sell-out if your music's the same? That's impossible. We're not doing nothing different. We got bigger and they helped us."
Just as their fans helped them, Head, vocalist Jonathan Davis, guitarist James "Munky" Shaffer, bassist Fieldy and drummer David are looking to help some of their friends by taking them out on the road for a mini-festival that they humorously titled, The Family Values Tour. Joining rock's favorite plant (not counting Led Zeppelin's Robert) on the tour is the mundane metal miscreants Limp Bizkit, gangsta rap forefather Ice Cube, German industrialists Ramstein and the first act to signed to Korn's personal label, Elementree, Orgy.
With a revolving stage to cut down on the wait between acts, each band is able to put on its show with full-sized sets and special effects. Concertgoers at previous stops have already begun saying that Korn are being upstaged on their own tour by Ramstein's high-powered show. Head dismisses any thoughts of jealousy with one of the simplistic and confusing statements he's apt to make.
"Korn's got Korn, or whatever, and everybody else has their own thing going on," explains Head. "I think everybody will stand out and I think that's good for everybody. You know?"
Even more confusing is the dropping of White Zombie's now-solo vocalist Rob Zombie before the tour ever started. While Korn's people claim that Zombie lacked "community spirit" and was reluctant to tour with hip hop acts, the dreadlocked one claims he has no idea where the charges originated and that he quit on his own.
Zombie may still get a chance to spread the Family Values since Korn is already planning to make the tour an annual event even, if they are unable to participate. In the meantime, however, the fivesome plan to return to the road in early '99 for a solo tour in which they will headline smaller venues.
Undoubtedly, when they return so will the troubled teens that find solace away from their troubles with Mom and Dad in Davis' dark angst-o-gram. Ironically, the band that seems to speak so consistently and loudly about the trials of youth also uses the linear notes of Leader to thank their parents and families.
"I had a fine childhood," Head admits.
False prophets making real profits. Sounds like every other organized religion.
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