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A hard row to hoe with Ray Luzier of Korn

WANT TO GO?

Korn and Rob Zombie

WHERE: Big Sandy Superstore Arena, Huntington

WHEN: 7 p.m. Saturday

TICKETS: $45

INFO: Call 800-745-3000 or visit www.ticketmaster.com_____

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The path to joining Korn was a long one for drummer Ray Luzier.

The 43-year-old, who performs Saturday with the nu-metal band in Huntington, already had an established music career before he took the seat behind the drums for Korn seven years ago.

"It's been a rocky, rough career," he said. "But I don't regret any of it."

Luzier was a typical small town boy. He grew up on an 86-acre farm about 45 miles south of Pittsburgh.

"In the middle of nowhere," he said.

Luzier spent hours and hours playing the drums. He played at the local high school and was part of a teenage rock band.

"I knew if I wanted to make a living playing drums, I had to get out of there."

So, in 1988, at barely 18 years old, he and a friend decided to try to become rock stars in Los Angeles. They packed up a Dodge Maxiwagon and drove 2,600 miles.

Big name rock bands like Metallica, Poison and Guns N' Roses were regularly coming out the L.A. music scene, and Luzier's prospects seemed hopeful.

He attended the Musicians Institute in Hollywood and continued playing, but catching a break eluded him. And then, suddenly, L.A. wasn't in the spotlight anymore. Everyone was paying attention to the grunge rock bands coming out of Seattle like Nirvana, Soundgarden and Pearl Jam.

"It kind of crushed a lot of my dreams at the time."

Luzier's friend left L.A., but the drummer stayed, piecing together a living doing session work, teaching and playing in different bands before landing an eight-year gig with former and now-current Van Halen frontman David Lee Roth.

That job, he said, taught him patience.

"A lot of people don't last more than a year with David," Luzier said.

Guitarist Steve Vai told him he deserved a parade and a medal for putting in eight.

Working with Roth was a rock and roll fantasy. Luzier was a huge Van Halen fan and said he'd had the singer's poster on his bedroom door when he was teen.

"I never thought I'd meet the guy, let alone open up with 'Hot for Teacher' every night in arenas everywhere," he said.

But that was kind of the problem, too. The rock star, he said, just wanted to stick with the Van Halen hits. Luzier wanted Roth to do new solo material.

"But he never wanted to do that," he said.

So about the time Roth patched things up with Van Halen, Luzier helped start Army of Anyone, a band with the lead singer of Filter and two of the guys from Stone Temple Pilots. The band released one record, which Luzier was very proud of, but it wasn't a big success.

The separate parts of Army of Anyone went back to their respective, more successful bands, while management for Army of Anyone suggested Luzier might find a place with Korn.

"Korn was having a lot of problems," he said. "Some ups, some downs."

Including being short a drummer.

Following the departure of original drummer David Silveria, Korn relied on several different drummers, but they were looking for a permanent replacement.

Luzier auditioned, and six years later he's still with Korn, though he said he still catches some grief from some people who still see him as an outsider.

It comes with the territory.

Neil Pert of Rush told him, "I've been in Rush for 30 years, but I'm not an original member. I'm always going to be the new guy."

And like Pert with Rush, Luzier isn't part of Korn to simply color in the parts of the drummers before him. The rest of the band wants him to contribute and put his own stamp on the songs it writes.

"That was a huge compliment to me," he said. "It meant a lot."

Luzier loves being part of Korn, which has changed a lot even since he joined the group. Recently, Korn welcomed back guitarist Brian "Head" Welch, who left the band in 2005 due to drug problems and a sudden religious conversion.

Welch began speaking and performing at churches and Christian music festivals (which he still does), but he slowly rebuilt his relationship with his band. After a couple of special guest appearances with Korn beginning in 2012, he rejoined the band earlier this year.

"It's been great," Luzier said. "There was no awkwardness at all when he came back into the room and started writing songs. It was just great from the get go."

That work resulted in the band's latest record, "The Paradigm Shift," released in early October.

Luzier said he was proud of what the band has done and looks forward to doing more.

"Even though we've just scratched the surface of promoting this record, we're already thinking about another one," he said.

Meanwhile, Luzier added, Korn will be touring relentlessly with dates booked in South America, Australia, Europe and back in the States again next summer.

"We're booked until October of next year."

Finding his way into Korn, Luzier said, was a rough road, but the road ahead with the band looks great. Reach Bill Lynch at lynch@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5195.


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