From self-producing to naming the album Take a Look in the Mirror, Korn were intent on their sixth release being all about themselves. So to include an outside artist, it had to be someone special.
"There's a really cool track that I did with Nas," frontman Jonathan Davis revealed. "I called him up and asked him if he wanted to be on the album. He said he was a fan of Korn and he'd love to do it."
Nas was hard at work on his own material in Atlanta when Davis called, so they used Internet technology to exchange music and vocals. "We didn't know what was going to happen, but he just started doing his thing and it turned out great," Davis said.
Titled "Play Me," the song juxtaposes Nas verses over a rock track as heavy as anything Korn have ever recorded. The tune sounds like an outtake from the "Judgment Night" soundtrack, the landmark 1993 album that featured metal bands like Helmet and Slayer collaborating with such rappers as House of Pain and Ice-T.
"It's very heavy, it's not anything to do with hip-hop at all," Davis said. "And he's such a great lyricist that he has something to say. He's really deep, and it comes across well."
Davis said he plans to perform the song with Nas at some point, but not on the upcoming Back 2 Basics Tour (see "Limp Bizkit And Korn Reunite, Get 'Back 2 Basics' With New Tour"). That outing, in fact, will only feature one song from Take a Look in the Mirror, due November 25.
"Just the single, because we got the threat of Internet downloading and all that stuff," Davis said. "If we play all the new stuff before the album is out, it'll be on the Net ... And I'm not letting this album leak this time."
The good news for fans is that the single, "Right Now," is basically a sneak peek into the follow-up to last year's Untouchables, both musically and lyrically.
"It's more groove-oriented, not big open choruses, just powerful and aggressive," Davis explained. "It's about basically me waking up pissed off at the world, hating everyone and everything around me. I think everyone's had one of those days when you wake up and you don't want to talk to no one and you're just pissed. I had one of those days and I wrote about it. I was venting out all of my frustrations towards everyone."
For the video, Korn turned to the animation house Spike and Mike, which has supplied cartoon entertainment for previous tours.
"It's not likely to get on air, but it's nothing more than what 'Jackass' would show, so maybe it will get on the air," Davis said. "I love it. It's shocking and disturbing."
For now, the video is available exclusively at Korn's subscription Web site (www.korn.com). Also on the site is information about a contest the band is hosting to have fans direct a new video for "Right Now," perhaps one more in line with MTV's standards.
"I want to see what our fans think a Korn video should look like," Davis said. "We've always thought of ways to involve our fans. Fans are the reason why we're here ... Back in the day, when we were touring, we'd go do our gigs and we'd hang out with them and get drunk with them ... but since it got on a bigger scale, it's just a way for us to give back to them and show them that we really care."
Korn will select the winning video and submit it to various outlets. "We're not going to be in it — or, I guess they could put old footage of us — but with technologies these days, anyone can do a video on a laptop," Davis said. "Hopefully it will be cool."
Perhaps using old footage is the best route to entertain the members of Korn, given the band's recent passion for regaining the spirit of its earliest work.
"[This album] is about us as a band, taking a look in the mirror and remembering where we came from, remembering our roots, going back to basics," Davis said. "We reflect and look back why we really got into this band to begin with and why we started it. It's to make aggressive, heavy music. Over the years ... we were just experimenting. It always was Korn, but it was different spins on what we were doing. So this time we wanted to make an aggressive, heavy album and just kill it. And that's why we've produced it ourselves. Nobody knows Korn better than ourselves."
Before the Back 2 Basics Tour kicks off November 10 in Las Vegas, Korn will play a warm-up show November 7 in Mexico City.