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“I woke up handcuffed to a bed in a psychiatric ward”: Korn’s Munky recalls SWAT team arrest

Munky
(Image credit: Amanda Edwards/Getty Images)

Munky from Korn recalls his darkest hour in the new issue of Metal Hammer (opens in new tab), and admits “sometimes I can’t believe we’re still alive.”

Talking about the moment of clarity which shocked him into getting sober after years of over-indulgence with drugs and alcohol, the guitarist, real name James Shaffer, pinpoints the day in 2008 when he was dragged from his beach-front home in California by an armed SWAT (Special Weapons And Tactics) team, arrested, and locked up in a psychiatric ward. 

"Around the time of my father’s death, I had severely slipped into bad drug use and alcoholism,” the guitarist admits. “I had lost both my parents now, and I didn't want to deal with it, didn't want to face it. I had a beautiful house by the beach, and I basically barricaded myself in, with all the windows blacked out, and turned music up really loud in every room. It was a very quiet neighbourhood until I moved in, so my neighbours must have been like, ‘This motherfucker, we can’t take this anymore…’

“So, one day this policeman knocked on my door, at like 6am, as the sun was rising. He asked if I had any guns in the house, and I responded, ‘If I do have any guns, you will be the first to know’, and slammed the door in his face. And about 15 minutes later, I had a SWAT team outside my house…

“They got me out and arrested me, and they knew I was not okay: they could obviously see, like, ‘Okay, not only is he high, and drunk, but he’s mentally unstable.’ I woke up handcuffed to a hospital bed in a psychiatric ward, on hold for 72 hours. And that was the moment where I was like, ‘I can’t go on like this…’”

Korn, who release their new album Requiem on February 4 via Loma Vista Recordings, are interviewed in depth in the new issue of Metal Hammer (opens in new tab). Shaffer, 51, admits that he feels blessed that, for all the madness which surrounded the Bakersfield, California band at the height of their fame, the five original members of Korn are still alive. 

“In the ’90s, our attitude was, ‘Fuck tomorrow, we're living today!’” he says. “Sometimes I can’t believe we’re alive. If my neighbours hadn’t called the cops on me that day, or maybe if I’d been living out on my own in acres of land instead of by the beach, I’d probably be dead.”

“We were definitely not smart back then,” agrees Brian ‘Head’ Welch, Munky’s friend since “eighth or ninth grade…basically forever”, and the co-creator of a game-changing, signature guitar sound with which Korn redefined heavy music in the mid-to-late 1990s. “We thought the Mötley Crüe story was a blueprint for life, and we followed it religiously. When you’re young and dumb, you can live like that for a time, but sooner or later it will ruin your life.”

For more from Korn, pick up the new issue of Metal Hammer (opens in new tab), which goes on sale on February 3.

Paul Brannigan
Paul Brannigan

A music writer since 1993, formerly Editor of Kerrang! and Planet Rock magazine (RIP), Paul Brannigan is a Contributing Editor to Louder. Having previously written books on Lemmy, Dave Grohl (the Sunday Times best-seller This Is A Call) and Metallica (Birth School Metallica Death, co-authored with Ian Winwood), his Eddie Van Halen biography (Eruption in the UK, Unchained in the US) emerged in 2021. He has written for Rolling Stone, Mojo and Q, hung out with Fugazi at Dischord House, flown on Ozzy Osbourne's private jet, played Angus Young's Gibson SG, and interviewed everyone from Aerosmith and Beastie Boys to Young Gods and ZZ Top. Brannigan lives in North London and supports The Arsenal.