BY: MICHELLE PEREZ-VEGA
Guitarist George Lynch is one persistent guy, as Ray Luzier can attest. If it wasn’t for Lynch, maybe there would have been no KXM.
And what a sad thing that would be.
Fortunately, the man who heads the Lynch Mob and pulled the six-strings duties for Dokken managed to persuade Luzier (drummer extraordinaire for KoЯn) and dUg Pinnick (equally extraordinaire vocalist and bassist for the legendary Kings X) to join forces and form KXM .
As the story goes, the dynamic trio was at Luzier’s home, celebrating his son’s first birthday. Later that night, the party soon shifted to Luzier’s home studio. When guests started thinning out, Luzier eventually found himself alone with Lynch and Pinnick.
“George started picking up some of my wacky guitars and playing,” Luzier remembered. “He said, ‘man, this would be a great line-up for a band.’ I was like, yeah, right. You guys are always so busy, KoЯn never stops touring. I just saw it as never happening.”
Enter TPO (The Persistent One)
“There were two or three times we tried to make it happen,” Luzier stated. “But it was always like, I’m sorry, management called me to do this, or dUg would have something to do. My attitude was, if it happens someday, it will happen. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t. And George was like, ‘NO, NO!! KoЯn is off this weekend and dUg can switch whatever he is doing! Let’s just give it a wail.’ And I’m glad he was persistent, because I’m proud to be a part of this band and what we’ve produced.”
Luzier cited the friendship and respected musicianship between the three, but agreed that doesn’t guarantee anything musically noteworthy coming out.
“We’re three different entities, for sure,” Luzier said. “I can remember, growing up, waiting in line to get tickets to Dokken. George definitely owes me a couple of days of my life for sitting in the cold like that! And Kings X, I was such an obsessed fan! I would drive or fly almost anywhere to see them. I was just in love with the band. But even though I had that much admiration for them, it still doesn’t mean that when we got together to write that it was going to work. It did for us.”
Accordingly, the band’s 2014 self-titled debut was an experiment.
“I knew all the experience would come through,” Luzier stated, “that the years and the miles on each other would come through. Obviously, when you have the singer from Kings X, it’s going to sound like that; dUg is that voice. George is one of the best lead players on the planet for decades, so there’s that influence. But when we all play together, it pulled us out of our own boxes.”
He admitted he was curious to see how the members would musically mesh when it came time to record their follow-up, Scatterbrain, a compilation of 13 tracks of one bluesy metal outfit with a touch of driving melodic funky rock.
“I thought, maybe some of that magic we had would be gone,” Luzier said. “No offense to age, but dUg is 66-years-old. George is 62, and I’m 47. I know people who are in their 40’s in bands who say that they don’t know how much longer they can continue, that they can’t stand it. It’s definitely a toll on your body when you tour. But both dUg and George are in amazing shape, totally into it. We were all excited to be doing this. I had nothing to worry about.”
Scatterbrain is a “tad bit on the darker said,” Luzier said, with Lynch being more experimental with chords and Pinnick going out even farther with the melodic side of his voice and bass lines. And Luzier?
“There are some normal, driving, straight-ahead rock beats on the record,” he said, “but I tried to be more creative and unique with what I am doing. I definitely don’t play drums like I do in KoЯn like I do with KXM, because I love the soulful funkiness of dUg and I love the spastic ways of George! It makes you step up your game in a different way and it’s refreshing.”
RULE ONE: THOU SHALT NOT KILL
In the history of mankind, there has never been anything successfully recorded without egos, creative differences, or the impulse to kill one or all your bandmates rearing their ugly heads. Some bands take months to record their offerings. KXM did 13 songs in 12 days. Luzier admitted that fact alone was nuts, but the band went into the studio with a lot of trust in each other. And came out still liking each other.
“Okay, listen, there was never a time when we were going to actually kill each other,” Luzier laughed, “but there was some tension there, definitely! We’d start at noon, and then it would be pushing five o’clock when I should have been tracking drums for that particular song we were working on that day. It would be such a mess,” he continued, “where I would be going, ‘oh, this is not going to happen today.’ Then George would suddenly hit a pedal and say, ‘Wait! Why don’t we try this?’ Then hands would come together and all the smoke would clear. It was like, ahhhh, here’s the tune we’ve been looking for!”
Luzier said there is one other rule the band abides with, and that is: No one gets to tell each other what to do.
Easier said than done?
“It’s funny,” Luzier noted. “One song, George told dUg to play this particular part in unison. And dUg was like, ‘No, just because you said that, I’m going to play the complete opposite of what you wanted.’ That really pissed George off, but in the end he had to admit how rad it was, that it worked out.”
Luzier was quick to also give credit to Chris Collier, who engineered Scatterbrain for the band.
“We didn’t have anyone breathing down our backs, telling us that a part was too busy, too long, or too short,” Luzier said. “There was none of that, so it’s 100 percent us. Chris would make suggestions, but he pretty much let everyone be themselves. Sometimes that was a scary thing for me,” Luzier admitted, “you tend to want that outside ear. But it was a different kind of freedom. You’re thinking about the song, but you also have that freedom of being totally in creative control. It’s a pretty cool thing.”
FILLING SHOES FILLED WITH KoЯn
KoЯn is a band that needs no introduction. Luzier was originally brought in as a session drummer when the band experienced fall-out with former drummer David Silveria in 2006 before becoming a full-fledged member in 2009. Luzier stated that it was difficult for many fans to accept him as the band’s new drummer.
“KoЯn is such a powerful band,” Luzier said. “I was a chameleon for many years. The band has such a die-hard following and it did so much for people’s lives. As a new guy, I got really beat up for the first couple of years. I get it, I really do. I myself don’t want to see some new guy in my favorite band. I want to see the original line-up. I had fans coming up to me with the original five faces of the band tattooed on their backs going, ‘Who the hell are you? You’re in my favorite band that is my life.’ It was a whole other animal.”
Luzier said he believed that the fans have come to accept him.
“Now, things are really awesome,” he enthused. “To find that niche in my band…I just love it. It’s such an amazing thing when we hit the deck, like there’s nothing to stop us!”
Luzier even credited KoЯn with inspiring Lynch.
“It was when we were recording the title track of Scatterbrain,” Luzier said. “That song was all over the place! There was me going, let’s bring it up tempo, let’s do this, let’s do that. Nothing. I then played George three of the new KoЯn songs off of Serenity of Suffering when they were in the rough mixes stage. And George was like, ‘Man, that makes me want to use the whammy pedal!’ That kind of triggered “Scatterbrain” to fall into place. It was bizarre, because he’s Lynch; he doesn’t have to listen to anybody, but he’s a fan of everything like us.”
IN THE BEGINNING, THERE WAS STEEL PANTHER
He has never been one to hide the fact, but some may not know that Luzier was the original drummer for Steel Panther.
“Yeah, I was kind of a drum slut for a while,” Luzier said with a laugh. “It was called Metal Shop at that time. I knew Danger Kitty when the band was playing at The House of Blues. I’m quite proud of it. I have to admit it and own it.”
Luzier – who also toured with David Lee Roth and Army of Anyone featuring the DeLeo brothers of Stone Temple Pilots – said he had to find a way to pay bills when he was off salary.
“The days of getting a record deal, getting a giant advance where you can go buy a house or car…those days are so gone! Perfect World Entertainment would have shows like Boogie Nights, Spazmatics, Metal Shop, all these cover parodies. It wasn’t like you just sat there. It was all about the show! When I played the disco bit, I had a John Travolta-kind-of-wig on, the suit. I was never one to bus tables or serve espresso; I wanted to play drums, no matter what!”
Luzier arrived in Los Angeles from a suburb outside of Pittsburgh, Pa. in the late 1980’s. He went through a series of disappointments when several of his original bands were signed to major labels, only to be dropped before the recordings were released. His perseverance, however, led to a storied career.
“I took an oath when I was young,” he shared, “that I would be doing this until the day I died. Rich, poor, famous; playing in a church or playing on buckets on a street corner, I will be playing drums. It’s a weird path to take. Especially now that I have a full family with kids, it’s even harder. But, there it is.”
Luzier now lives in a more rural section of Nashville with his family, wanting to give his children the experience of growing up on a farm like he did. He knows that no matter where he is, the music of KXM will always take Luzier on some kind of journey, even if it is listening to the band’s recordings via headphones.
“There’s so much talent in KXM,” Luzier stated. “I want people to know about and appreciate us. And, we’re still rocking! People say that rock is dead but, hey, they’ve been saying that since 1985. It’s never going to die – it’s going to take twists and turns, go left field a little bit before going right. KXM just wants to create music. We’re not trying to reinvent anything or pretend we’re this big supergroup.”
“It’s who were are and what we believe in,” Luzier ended. “That’s what I want people to hear, that people say, okay, these guys are obviously veterans of their trade but the music moves us. There are so many people who have come up to me in this last year and tell me they just stumbled upon the band and found KXM to be amazing. I want people to know about us and love what we’re doing.”