Humor of the Beast: Ian Fidance on growing up with Korn and his love for Madball
Welcome to “Humor of the Beast,” a recurring series where we interview the funniest people about their favorite band, as well as the impact heavy music has had on their lives and in comedy.
“I don’t know if anyone in the history of time has been into Madball and been like, ‘Let me go explore the annals of Korn,’” admits Ian Fidance – a regular fixture in the NYC comedy scene, and who can often be heard on SiriusXM Radio’s “You Up? With Nikki Glaser” and “The Jim and Sam Show.”
Indeed, those two bands’ paths rarely cross, and most hardcore fans would be resistant to admit any sort of affection for nu metal. Yet, Fidance is anything but shy from discussing his love of Korn and how he still looks back fondly to the days he grew up listening to albums like Life Is Peachy. He’ll also be the first to admit, though, that the more he performs around the world, the more he can relate to veteran NYHC bands like Madball and the overall “come as you are” ethos of hardcore music.
Read highlights from our conversation with Fidance about why Korn stood out the most to him during his youth (and where they ultimately lost him), what appealed to him the most about hardcore, and why bands like Madball and Blacklisted will always hold a special place in his heart.
When did you first discover Korn?
Actually, when I was younger Metallica was my band… So through Metallica, I got into Hit Parader [magazine], and through Hit Parader I got into Circus Magazine. In Circus Magazine, there were always articles on [bands like] Nirvana, Bush, Pantera, and [finally] Korn! Then I saw the cover of Life is Peachy, and it scared the shit out of me! I saw them all standing in Adidas tracksuits and dreads. I was like, “What the fuck is this?! I want to be THAT!”
I also had a buddy who lived down the street from me – we’d go listen to music in his room quietly because his parents were super Christian. He was into death metal, and all of this crazy shit. But he hated Korn and that pissed me off… I was like, “You just don’t get it!” On Friday nights, we would watch this music video show on cable access, and they had the music video for Korn’s “ADIDAS.” I’d record it on VHS and watch it all the time.
[At a young age] I printed out all the lyrics, and my grandma saw the lyrics to the song “K@#ø%!” where it went like, “Fuck you bitch!” or whatever. And this is someone who was at my baptism and first communion, so she was like, “the devil’s gotten into our child!”
I swear to God because of the music I was listening to, at one point my grandparents hired these Baptist Jamaican women to come to their house and have a prayer circle over me and my mom. I’ll never forget being in the living room with them praying over us and talking in tongues. In my head, I was like, “They came all the way out here… I guess I gotta make it look like it worked.” So I started like shaking, and they thought I was being helped by God, but in reality I was like, “Well I guess my grandparents oughta get their money’s worth!”
I’ll [also] never forget one time I was at my family’s house in New Hampshire – I always wanted these [family members] to love me, although they always thought I was a little weirdo. We were listening to Adam Sandler’s Look What Happened To Me. The whole family was laughing and it was the first time ever we were all getting along. So I was like [to myself], “This is your chance to show them who you really are! They’ll like your music, play them Korn’s ‘Twist’!” So I put that on, and they went “What is this?! Turn this off!” All I could say was [in a high pitch voice], “Oh, my mistake… do you like it?” So I ruined that family moment. [laughs]
How did you go from listening to Korn to hardcore music?
Somehow… the bands I was listening to at the time in 6th grade were Korn, Misfits, Metallica, Operation Ivy, and Nirvana, and then also … I used to be really into hardcore rap because I had a cousin who was adopted and did drugs, and I wanted to be like him… So, I went to this record store my mom took me to all the time and was like [in a high pitch voice], “Um, my cousin told me to get Ol’ Dirty Bastard.” And they were like “No no, you’re going to get Victory Style” [a Victory Records compilation]…
Meanwhile, I never really dressed like the music I liked. People would ask me, “If you like metal, then why don’t you dress in all black?!” I’d be like [in a high pitch voice] “Because my mom shops at Kmart…” I didn’t know you were supposed to wear some sort of uniform for the stuff you liked. So then later when I got into hardcore, I really liked the idea that you didn’t have to dress up to be into that music…
Interesting to hear you talk about loving rap, hardcore and metal. Korn got so big that they sort of wore out their welcome, but you could argue they blended elements from those genres before others. And at a young age, I thought they were the “heaviest” band on MTV and Total Request Live at the time.
Absolutely! Dude, they were so fucking heavy! And you’re right – they had a little element of rap, like “Ooo are they or aren’t they rappers?” The first few albums had such a fucking groove to it. They had all those elements!
I’m a big proponent of nostalgia. Music feels to me like a scent does – it drives me back to a specific moment in time… Here’s the thing though – Korn never led me down the road of Orgy or Powerman 5000. I just kind of liked what I liked, and then moved on. Thankfully I never went down that rabbit hole and went, “I gotta dress like a ragdoll in order to be cool!”
Korn got blamed for leading to many “meh” nu metal bands. But you listen to some of Korn’s lyrics, and there really was a deep, personal message in there.
They were outcasts from Bakersfield, CA raging against the machine of the small town, hick environment they were in. But then it just got weird. I don’t know when they went, “Hey let’s all wear Nightmare Before Christmas fingerless gloves and makeup, and make our aesthetic ‘broken doll’” That’s when I kind of checked out and went, “Nah, I’m just gonna listen to hardcore.” [laughs]
That’s when I went from liking that type of heavy stuff to getting into the actual hard sound of the music. I’ve always been “tribal” with my music. I can never remember lyrics, but I can always remember a beat. And I really, really go for hard type shit. I think that’s what I liked about Korn – the fact that they were so wickedly crazy and dark with their sound.
Is it fair to say that a band from the “Victory Style” compilation, or at least an early era Victory Record signee, was your first introduction to hardcore?
Totally! And then… like, all of those metal bands I was finding out about came from Hit Parader or Circus, or even my friends down the street. Then once that all stopped and I got into hardcore, I would just look in the “Thank You” linear notes of the bands’ albums, and go, “Ok, well if I like Snapcase and they’re thanking New Jersey Bloodline, then maybe I’ll like New Jersey Bloodline!”
How did you first discover Madball exactly?
In high school, I belonged to a hardcore / punk rock Philadelphia based online message board. People would post music and I’d listen… then I found Madball [on the forum] and I loved it. I printed out the lyrics to “Pride (Times Are Changing)” and put it on my wall because I was like, “This song is for me!” Also around that time, my junior year of high school, I had this deep desire to be “tough.” So I thought if I listened to “tough” music, it made me tough. All my other friends were like, “Yeah, I just really like Third Eye Blind… I don’t really listen to music.” And I’d be like, “Maaan, I listen to the tough stuff!” [laughs]
What was it about the lyrics to “Pride (Times Are Changing)” in particular that resonated with you?
I think just growing up and having to fend for yourself. I was going through a lot of … what I didn’t know at the time was that I’m bipolar. I just thought, “Oh, everyone has intense mood swings where they don’t socialize for a whole weekend.” So the idea of having to fend for myself, and the lyrics, “Thinking back when I was a kid / Times have changed so much since then.” I was like, “Yeah, when I was a kid, things were different then than they are now!” [laughs] It was a very rudimentary tale that I could relate to.
Do you find listening to “tough” or heavy music gets you in the right mind frame before hitting the stage?
Yeah. I used to listen to Bad Brains’ “Soul Craft” before I got onstage, or “Demonstrating My Style” by Madball would really get me into the mood to just fucking go up there, swing my dick around and be as big and oversized as possible.
Do you see a connection between heavy music and comedy in that it’s almost like a “larger than life” experience to be onstage?
Oh yeah! I mean, everyone in a band, especially lead singers, want to be comedians and all comedians want to be rock stars.
It’s funny – Jim Florentine told me that as well. Why do you think that is?
Because it’s all about commanding a room, having all eyes on you and having complete control over a mass of people. I would love to be playing a fucking groove on the guitar and singing, and see a sea of people swaying back and forth. I can’t do that, so instead I go onstage and talk, and see a mass of people rocking back and forth with laughter.
Also, we’re narcissists! I want that rock star life of getting off stage and there’s a line of women and men wanting to suck my cock. At the end of the day, I wish I was in Motley Crue in the 80s, but instead I’m on a MegaBus in Ohio and it’s like, “Welp, here we are!” [laughs]
So then why do you think rock stars find the lifestyle of a comedian so appealing?
Well, I think there’s a lot of overlap in the struggle – of loading up a van, going on the road, leaving your family and being alone, not making money, dealing with assholes, having doubt, [asking yourself] “did I make the right decision?”, and seeing other people move on while you’re not progressing. Musicians and comics can relate to that…
One of my buddies is Wesley Schultz, the singer of The Lumineers. He and I really relate because for like 10 years the response to them sucked. They were traveling around, weren’t getting a fanbase, but they never quit. People that work hard – it’s a very blue-collar life – you have a respect for one another that other people just don’t get.
I am pretty sure you are the first person ever to mention The Lumineers on Metal Injection – bravo! But I know you actually opened a few shows for them. A lot of comedians I talk to express mixed feelings about opening for bands – some love it and some find it too difficult. What were your thoughts on that experience?
I was pretty fortunate because it went really well for me, but I was prepped by multiple people who went, “Hey listen, it’s going to fucking suck! It’s not you, you’re good at what you do. It’s just that everything is stacked against you.” [laughs]
So it was really good that you went in with no expectations.
Completely. That’s how I want to live my life – no expectations because the second I expect a thing, the result is not gonna match it and I’m gonna be let down.
Well I used to go to CBGBs back in ’03 and ’05 … I remember I saw them back then and it was the scariest thing in the world. It was wild and I loved it. I’ve actually talked to Freddy Cricien [singer]. I talked to Hoya Roc [bassist] on my podcast, and we’ve kept in touch.
But yeah, first time I saw them was at CBGBs years ago. And everyone [at the show] is hardcore, tattooed, shaved head, wild ass motherfuckers, and I’m in my glasses and had a curly afro down to my shoulders – I looked like a Muppet.
Yet as you mentioned before, hardcore for the most part “accepted you” for the way you looked – didn’t make you conform to a specific style.
That was the whole ethos of hardcore – that it wasn’t fashion [focused]. It was just blue-collar guys playing music in windbreakers and stuff. And then windbreakers became the “fashion.” I just never felt cool when I dressed up in another outfit to go a show. When I was into punk, I dyed my hair and wore patches on my clothes, but then stopped after I turned 15 and just felt like a loser. I very much don’t think you have to wear or “be a certain thing” in order to enjoy that “thing.” I think [that’s why] it surprises people when they find out I’m into Madball and all this shit, because I definitely don’t look or play the part [of a typical fan] at all. I love that I’m covered in tattoos and you can’t see any of that!
… You know, I feel like I should talk more about one of my absolute favorite hardcore bands from Philadelphia – they’re called Blacklisted.
What is it about them that you love so much?
Oh gosh… just the way they’ve completely evolved and changed in their own unique way. They put out one of the hardest fucking albums ever. Then the next album was completely different and everyone hated it – it was a big “fuck you” to people who were like “You have to be a certain way FOREVER, or else we won’t like you!” The lyricist George Hirsch is one of my favorites. Everything he writes is fucking poetry. I’m actually buddies with the guitarist Jon Nean… We dropped off for a while, but reconnected a bit ago which was nice… They put me in a mood that’s like, “Fucking watch out bro! I’m trudging down the street and you better get out of my way!”
Do you see that “We won’t do what others expect from us” mentality Blacklisted displayed as another similarity between heavy music and comedy?
Oh, without a doubt! I don’t know about anyone else’s, but definitely with my comedy. I’ve had to learn to do what makes me happy instead of trying to mold myself in a way I see works for other people. I used to think you had to be a stand-still, snarky “I’m depressed” guy onstage… having to stand still and be a “New York City writer” was just something I couldn’t do because I’ve always been a rambunctious kid. So being able to [discover] that I don’t have to stand still, I can move around, yell, dance, whatever I want, made me realize “Well, not everyone’s gonna like it [but so be it].” Like the other night I was onstage and went, “I’m not for everyone!” [laughs] Because I’m not!
And that’s what makes certain metal bands so great. It’s a secret handshake between people – it’s not meant for the masses. I’d like to amass a following that loves me for me, and eventually if people want to get on board they can, but I’m in it for the long haul. I’m not going to appeal to everyone overnight. I’m gonna be a “slow burn” type of guy that people tell other people for years before I fucking make it.
That really does align with the hardcore ethos – in it for the long-haul.
Editor’s Note: This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.