I am not entirely sure what the Korn accord is, (matted dreads, Todd McFarlane books, gigantic ankle-length chains hanging off of cut-off Dickies?) but I think I speak for all of us when I say that Korn Koffee seems out of step with the rest of the brand. The product was unveiled two weeks ago through an amazing Twitter promo, which featured immortal shots of Munky, Fieldy, and Head stirring massive vats of coffee beans and holding up the brew to their eyes to, I don't know, evaluate the color or something. 2018 is a weird year for all sorts of savage, awful reasons, but I would argue that Korn throwing down their stake in, like, "the craftsman market" is one of the few bright spots.
Avid Korn-watchers will know that Korn Koffee is the latest in a series of unlikely partnerships for the nü metal Beatles. Only a few weeks before that miraculous announcement video, Umami Burger—that chain of experimental burger kitchens opening in every heavily gentrified neighborhood in America—released their very own Korn Burger. (No specs on the flavor profiles of the beef; the only thing we knew for sure is that the bun was stamped with a toasted Korn logo.) Seven days later, Urban Outfitters debuted a series of custom Korn graphic tees, which might very well symbolize the end of early aughts hipsterdom as we know it. Time is, indeed, a flat circle.
I have no problem with any of this; Korn has been a hardworking band for a very long time, and regardless of my personal music taste, they've absolutely earned the right to bring their brand into the food space. But I also did not expect the girl on the Follow The Leader cover to mature into a life of refined Guatemalan coffee and limited-edition $14 burgers, so I needed to figure out why this band— of all bands—pivoted to such an incongruous sector of influencership, nearly three decades in.
As it turns out, the reasons are far less cynical than you might think. I was convinced of that by Jeremy Gursey, the proprietor of J. Gursey Coffee and the roastmaster responsible for Korn Koffee, when I jumped on the phone with him last week. As it turns out, Korn's very own coffee line has been in the works for over a full calendar year, and Gursey told me he's corresponded with the band multiple times to nail down a flavor profile that they approved. In total, Gursey said the collaboration resulted in 18 different prototype blends, before settling on a medium roast—not too bitter, not too sweet—a compromise of divergent palates, like say, thrash metal and hip-hop. "It was a process," he says. "It wasn't just a 'Throw the name on the bag' situation."
Gursey is aware that coffee isn't a natural part of the nü metal wheelhouse, and therefore, concedes that Korn is building (what he describes as) a "lifestyle brand." The band itself is made up of casual coffee drinkers, save for drummer Ray Luzier, who's a genuine connoisseur. (Naturally, he and Jeremy are now friends.)
Gursey told me the specific pungency of the beans was not directly inspired by Korn's music, in the sense that it is difficult to imbue a hazelnut zest with spongy basslines or a long finish with that animalistic noise Jonathan Davis makes halfway through "Freak on a Leash." And Luzier, who was kind enough to answer some of my questions before jetting off on tour, reiterates that he knew from the start that Gursey would bring "an artistic approach" to the project.
"We aren’t doing it to make money, we are doing it because it is a project that we enjoy," he insists, while also adding that he hopes Korn Koffee will help the band "branch out to a different crowd."
Clearly, it's working, because the coffee sold out almost instantly after it hit the band's merch site. The particulars of the market share—people buying up the roast because they love coffee, love Korn, or love the idea of having a Korn-branded coffee on their mantle—will forever remain a mystery, but we do know that they're already gearing up for a restock. This is all great news for Gursey, who tells me he's been simultaneously working with another musician on a promotional blend. I suppose that makes Korn trailblazers again, for the first time since the mid-90s, and Gursey believes this could be the tip of the iceberg as long as the bands in question remain authentic.
"There's not going to be a Korn pasta," he laughs. "If they enjoy popcorn, maybe one day there will be a PopKorn, but it has to be something they enjoy."
All things considered, it certainly feels like Korn are going about all this the right way. There's a wonderful, uncanny joy in watching the rap-rock generation inherit the metatextual shotglass ubiquity previously owned by boomer icons like Aerosmith, The Rolling Stones, AC/DC, et al. (You bet your bottom dollar that an Aerosmith coffee line already exists.) But thus far, Korn has remained pure, and have avoided anything that would contradict Jonathan Davis' sobriety and Head's devout Christianity. (Once you see a Korn logo on a bottle of vodka, you know we've officially jumped the shark.)
"We won’t be contradicting anything because we’re always going to be honest. We are at a point in our careers where we are very focused and driven in making great music and doing the things we love," finishes Luzier. "We aren’t going to waste time on something that isn’t quality."
Hey, that's an attitude I think we can all respect.