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Michèle Lamy and James “Munky” Shaffer
Michèle Lamy and James “Munky” ShafferPhotography Amanda Demme

Michèle Lamy and Munky from Korn go head to head

The new friends discuss their first meeting in the parking lot of the Beverly Hills Hotel, and their upcoming plans to record music of their own

Michèle Lamy has always been interested in seduction, and the enmeshing of energies that occur in an artistic collaboration. Don’t ever call her a muse; that’s a misnomer for one so active and equal a force in her partnerships – Lamy is nothing less than a pop-culture powerhouse, one who happens to have no interest in flying solo. What interests her, as an artist, is the pull that exists between two attracted objects: herself, and the Other.

Known for her romantic and business partnership with the man she married in 2006, Rick Owens, Lamy is a co-founding partner and executive manager of art and furniture at Owenscorp, in addition to creating a scent Lamyland, designing jewellery under her label Hunrod and making music with her noise band Lavascar. All of these things are expressions of a distinctly Orphic narrative, one that explores negative space, dissonance and avant-garde philosophy.

Creatively non-monogamous, she has many admirers and co-conspirators in art, music, fashion and Hollywood (too many seductions to list – after 78 years on this Earth, Lamy has many notches on her belt). Her most recent creative adventure is with James “Munky” Shaffer from the platinum-selling, Grammy award-winning band, Korn. Nearly 30 years after their self-titled debut album ushered in the era of 1990s nu-metal, forever altering the world of rock, last month the band released a new record Requiem, which has been their highest-charting UK album in two decades.

Picture the scene: a tall guitar-shredder softly professing his admiration for Lamy as she writhes, bruja-like, atop a tomb-like marble bed from the Rick Owens furniture collection, a cigarette dangling from her lips…

That’s how we found them, discussing how they first met, how Lamy had never heard of Korn until Shaffer introduced himself to her in the parking lot of the Beverly Hills Hotel, how the first word out of his mouth was ‘Lavascar’, and how plans were swiftly made to record music of their own, in the same Bakersfield studio where Buck Owens forged his influential California country sound.

Lamy’s latest seduction, it seems, is poised to give birth to something interesting…

Michèle Lamy: When I saw you walking towards me, I did not expect the first word to come out of your mouth to be ‘Lavascar’! Not in a million years!

James “Munky” Shaffer: I’ve always been interested in avant-garde artists. New music, stuff that’s weird and out there.

Michèle Lamy: How did you find mine?

James “Munky” Shaffer: One night, I was headed downtown to my loft space with my wife to listen to music and be alone. We have kids, you know, so trying to find time to be alone can be challenging. The algorithm had led me to Lavascar, so on the way, I was like, ‘hey, listen to this.’ Then we saw the photo of you, and realised it was you, Michèle. Being a fan of Rick, and what he does, the shoes and the clothes and the furniture, we began looking into that further, and understanding that you’re so much a part of that. My wife said ‘you really need to do something with her, musically.’

Michèle Lamy: She knew, she knew!

James “Munky” Shaffer: Yes. She’s a little psychic. Very! She said, ‘I can see you and her performing something… I’m just gonna put it out in the universe. I’m just gonna say it!’

Michèle Lamy: Your wife manifested us!

James “Munky” Shaffer: My wife has manifested a lot of things for me. Maybe a month later is when we pulled up at the Beverly Hills Hotel and you were standing outside. And she said, ‘Look, that's Michèle!’ Before we even got out of the car. And then I got really nervous…

“I was genuinely starstruck by you. I couldn’t even say anything. So the first thing I could think of to say was Lavascar” – James “Munky” Shaffer

Michèle Lamy: Why?

James “Munky” Shaffer: I was, you know, I was genuinely starstruck by you. I couldn’t even say anything. So the first thing I could think of to say was LAVASCAR.

Michèle Lamy: [Laughs] That doesn’t happen every day. That’s the first time, in fact!

James “Munky” Shaffer: My thought was that we should do something together because I felt this instant synergy and this frequency. These frequencies, they gather and when sound frequencies are pitched at certain different pitches, they form these patterns. Unique patterns that are very seamless. And I feel like that’s kind of what happened with us. Our frequencies kind of align. They’re going to form something, something creative and unique and in the form of music.

Michèle Lamy: Yes, and in my mind, I had the idea that this could be electronic. And it will be organic. When I listen to what you’ve done already, I can hear it’s not one thing. It’s everything. It’s very melodic, and very sexy. It’s something that you can listen to anywhere. 

James “Munky” Shaffer: After we met, I was doing a concert, and I really wanted you to be there, but you couldn’t come, because you were in Egypt. So I did my fingers, like yours. I painted them black, and my nails gold. An homage to you.

Michèle Lamy: When you perform music in front of people, is it true you like to pretend you’re invisible?

James “Munky” Shaffer: Sometimes, yeah. I have to. There are so many distractions. The crowd is screaming at me, and if I look up, they’re trying to get my attention. And the lights are going. It’s a sensory overload. And if I’m not right on beat with where I am, it’ll throw the singer off and then it becomes this domino effect of mistakes.

Michèle Lamy: Big responsibility!

James “Munky” Shaffer: Yes. So I’ve found it’s better for me to pretend that no-one can see me. For the first song at least. And then I kind of come out of that, and connect.

Michèle Lamy: Me, I love to perform. I am a late bloomer!

James “Munky” Shaffer: Remember when you said, ‘let’s go to Bakersfield!’ That doesn’t happen very often, Michèle. It’s not a place people often like to go to.

Michèle Lamy: Yes, it’s very personal for you. It’s where you grew up.

James “Munky” Shaffer: Yes, that’s where it all started for us. A lot of anger and passion, there. Ambition, when we were young. We have a studio where we go back to, and it’s just a little sanctuary of creative space. Our singer loves it there. He doesn’t want to move away from Bakersfield, because he doesn’t want to be away from the studio. It’s in an old theater and has such a unique energy. You’ll feel it right away. In the walls.

Michèle Lamy: How old were you, when you started writing songs?

James “Munky” Shaffer: I was 23 years old. It was 1993. We were unsigned at the time. I was in LA a lot. And you had your restaurant at the time, in Hollywood?

“From dark things, good things can happen” – Michèle Lamy

Michèle Lamy: Yes. Les Deux Café. But our worlds did not collide then. Not yet.

James “Munky” Shaffer: There was a club in Hollywood I used to go to back then, not far from where we are right now. The Club With No Name. I remember seeing Faith No More there. One of their first LA shows. That’s when I got obsessed with that band. And then Mr Bungle. First time I saw Mr Bungle, it changed my perception about what music could be. I realised it could be everything. And that’s how I felt when I heard your band, Lavascar. It’s everything. There are industrial beats. Your daughter singing. Poetry. It’s literary.

Michèle Lamy: Oh yes, I am very inspired by literature.

James “Munky” Shaffer: I read some article where you talked about certain books that really influenced you,  as a young girl. Henry Miller.

Michèle Lamy: The Tropic of Cancer. Yes. My father spoke several languages and he had hundreds of books. When I read that, I knew there were no limits.

James “Munky” Shaffer: Bukowski was a big influence for me. His experiences in Los Angeles resonated. There was a time when I was really just hanging out in the bars. I guess there’s some similarity in some of the experiences that he wrote about, and mine. Hollywood and downtown, back then, it was a trip! Remember the second place we met, Michèle, in Downtown?

Michèle Lamy: The Soho Warehouse, yes.

James “Munky” Shaffer: We used to rehearse in that building.

Michèle Lamy: Wow! Wow.

James “Munky” Shaffer: Yeah. In the late 80s, it was all a big rehearsal studio. Our next-door neighbour was Fishbone. Suicidal Tendencies were there. And Slayer was on the other side.

Michèle Lamy: When I moved here, it was the time of Devo. My daughter Scarlett danced on stage with Devo when she was five years old.

James “Munky” Shaffer: You left France in the 70s and moved to LA because the French music was too pop for you, right?

Michèle Lamy: If the music is bad, I cannot stay.

James “Munky” Shaffer: I understand. Music for me has always been therapy. Literal, physical therapy.

Michèle Lamy: How so?

James “Munky” Shaffer: When I was young, I snuck out of my house to go to a party, because I was already drinking, unfortunately, at that age. I got on a motorbike and injured my fingers, and that’s when I started playing the guitar. The doctor said it would help me to rehabilitate with my guitar.

Michèle Lamy: How old were you?

James “Munky” Shaffer: I was 11 or 12. There’s not much to do in Bakersfield, just these late night parties out at the Kern River. When the river wasn’t flowing, people would have bonfires, kegs. And everybody would get a cup, no matter how old you were. That’s where the party was. I snuck out of my house at midnight to meet some friends to go, and I pulled out a motorcycle that I was gonna ride out there. And I got my finger stuck in the chain with the sprocket. Took the end off the index finger on my left hand. When we went to the doctor, he said, ‘no more monkeys jumping on the bed.’

Michèle Lamy: So you were already playing the guitar?

James “Munky” Shaffer: No, I hadn’t started. But I loved the sound of it. And so my dad said, ‘OK, I’ll buy you a guitar.’ And the doctor was happy about it. He said, ‘oh, that’s perfect. Dad, go buy him a guitar.’

Michèle Lamy: From dark things, good things can happen.

James “Munky” Shaffer: Like your art, Michèle. It’s the same. Elements of the forbidden. Forbidden areas, forbidden ideas. Dark themes that are only dark because most of the world doesn’t want to look at it.

Michèle Lamy: It’s the not-knowing that is frightening. Just like a child, you are afraid of the dark and then when you put the light on, there’s nothing there to be frightened of.

Korn’s new album Requiem is out now. The band will be playing at Download Festival this June, head here for tickets