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BRIAN "HEAD" WELCH Explains How KORN Got Into 7-String Guitars

Dokken, Steve Vai, Munky, Head. It all came together.

Korn 7

Korn's James "Munky" Shaffer and Brian "Head" Welch dove deep into the low end with their seven-string guitars, and came up with the blueprint for nü-metal way back on their 1994 self-titled debut album. But how did the duo land on using seven-strings? According to Head in an interview with WSOU 89.5FM, it was all Munky's idea.

"I was a guitar student, and I went towards the greats: Eddie Van Halen, George Lynch, and Warren DeMartini. My friend, Munky, went to Steve Vai and Joe Satriani; the more jazzy stuff," said Head. "It was a thing where we were just discovering music…"

"[Munky] came over one day, and sure enough, I put [on] Dokken's 'Under Lock and Key'. And I played it note for note, rhythm-wise; when we got to the solo, I faked it as much as I could, but I could definitely hit a lot of the most important notes. [Munky] was playing acoustic guitar, and I was the first one he saw in person playing an electric guitar successfully. And so, he was like, 'Whoa, man, I want to do that!'"

Head continued, saying Munky was ultimately the first one to buy a seven-string thanks to Steve Vai. "I influenced him. But later on, about 10 years later, he got into the seven-string guitar because of Steve Vai. Steve created that, and [Munky] bought one."

"I wasn't playing with James at that time, but he invited me to come back and jam with him. That's when I started playing seven-string. So I influenced him early on, and then he influenced me. I started playing seven-string because of him."

Funny enough, Vai credited Korn back in 2020 for reviving the seven-string. In an interview with Ultimate Guitar four years ago, Vai said the guitar was fading into obscurity when all of a sudden Korn leaned into the downtuned glory of that low B string.

"What I didn't realize was that there were a lot of young players at that time, who were unknown, listening to [what I was doing]. Some were attracted to what I was doing with it, and some were attracted to the idea of a seven-string guitar and may not have been very interested in the way I played.

"So I knew that somewhere, these young kids were going to get the concept of the seven-string and do things with it that were beyond what I was doing. Then what happened was the sale of the seven strings dropped to almost nothing because the wave of me using it had kind of come, and it was more of a novelty. But during that wave, there were these young guys buying it and writing music.

"Even when they weren't selling, I told Ibanez to just keep it available, even if you only sell a few a year.

"Then, I'm driving down the street and this song comes on the radio and I'm like, 'What the heck is that?', and I pull the car over. It sounded so heavy, I instinctually knew it was a seven-string and somebody was doing something with it that was much different than what I was doing.

"And that band was Korn. That was sort of the rebirth of the seven-string. So it was a co-creative effort. I was a part of it but it took many, many people to bring it to the level where it's at.

"So it's really nice to know you have made a contribution that others have taken and run with it. That's what I do, I just take ideas and mix them up in my head to how they could serve me best and then manifest them.

"The idea that I'm associated with something like the seven-string, or the RG, and even the JEM, for a lot of people, they don't know it, and that's fine.

"I do interviews sometimes and I've been asked several times, 'With everybody using seven-string guitars, do you think you'll ever use one?' and my stock answer is, 'Nah, it's been done already.'

"So it's nice to see, it really is. It's nice to see that in other areas as well. There are certain technological parameters in other gear that I know I contributed to. I'm not patting myself on the back… maybe I am, I don't know. Do you remember the 969 Harmonizer?"

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