As the bass player with Korn, Reginald Arvizu, Jr. — better known as Fieldy to his legions of fans — lived the life. With sales topping 30 million, the proverbial sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll were all in abundance.
As the band heads out on tour this month, he’s as ready as ever to rock. Offstage, however, he’s focused on entirely different pursuits than in the past.
Like reading his Bible, or writing a book of daily devotions.
In the just released Got the Life: My Journey Of Addiction, Faith, Recovery, and Korn (William Morrow), Arvizu tells how he got from here to there. At times, it’s not a pretty story. Despite massive success, he would fight with his band mates, treat fans horribly, and repeatedly cheat through three successive marriages.
The book shares much with the standard rocker biographies – tales of sordid exploits in and out of Korn are plentiful – but it’s much more.
Arvizu taps into universal truths, and at its heart the book is about the human condition, and one man’s struggle to find love.
Maintaining that all personal darkness comes from having a broken heart, Arvizu says that for him, the first occurred during his teens, when his parents divorced. His father — a musician — was an alcoholic and often violent towards Fieldy’s mother.
Their dysfunctional relationship provided a blueprint he would follow for years to come. Drugs, alcohol, food and sex became crutches to fill the void.
“It’s crazy,” he acknowledges, “because you end up following your parents. People do. I didn’t really want to, it’s just – you end up doing it. Whether it’s the man following the dad, or the woman following the mom; the majority of people end up following their parents. Why do we do that? I don’t know – it’s kind of a mystery. I guess because we love them.”
Anger defined many of his relationships while growing up. More often than not, it was directed towards women, with little self-awareness as to why.
“Looking at it today, it was probably because I put up my wall. I didn’t want to be hurt, and I knew that that’s what it took; if I didn’t let any women in, I wouldn’t have to worry about getting hurt. Because the only thing that could hurt me, was a woman.”
Eventually, no one could get through. After the divorce, Reginald Arvizu, Sr. underwent a radical transformation, embracing Christianity and remarrying. Despite attempts to mend relations with his son, Fieldy remained skeptical.“I guess I was probably to a point where I felt: I’m not gonna get hurt by love, period. By anyone. I hardened my heart – because it hurts when you get your heart broke.”
Discussing his feelings was not an option. “I didn’t know how to voice it. I didn’t want to sit and talk about things like that. That’s probably a lot of the reason why I stayed high all the time.”
He believes that’s typical of his generation. “I see that. People want to run – they don’t want to sit down and talk deep life. There’s very few people that can just talk about things.
“Even for myself today – I still find it hard if somebody tells me something I don’t want to hear, but I know it will make things better. I still feel myself get a little defensive, and I have to step back, and be like; ‘You know what, man? You’re right. That would be better.’ It’s just human nature.”
“Actually,” he reconsiders, “I don’t think it’s even human nature. It’s that roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. The enemy; the devil. He’s loose. If it wasn’t for him, we’d probably all be real, loving people. But he’s here. ”
His father’s death was the catalyst for change. Four years ago, his dad was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer. Initially, Fieldy was in denial about the illness, believing he could remedy the situation via his own exalted position as a millionaire rock star.
He continued to party until the day of the funeral. That night, for the first time ever, he and his wife prayed with his stepmother.
At the time, he didn’t understand the ramifications, but a fundamental change had occurred. The following day — after 20 years of non-stop partying — he flushed his drugs down the toilet. That was it. Not rehab, no self-help groups.
For many, it takes a crisis to bring about substantial personal change. Arvizu agrees, but with a caveat; “I think that when a crisis comes in someone’s life, you do have a choice to make that turnaround. But when someone makes a turnaround without Christ, it doesn’t work.“We all thirst to fill this emptiness inside, and we chase everything from money to women to drugs to alcohol. And there’s only one thing that can fill that emptiness, and that’s Christ Jesus. That’s it. And until people can realize that, they’re going to continue to try and fill that emptiness.”
In spite of his prolonged substance abuse, he’s adamant that neither rehab nor Alcoholics Anonymous could have helped him.
“It wouldn’t work, because I just can’t trust that whoever – the founder of rehab or whoever put this book out – they put a book out and said, ‘This is the way.’ Why is that person better than me? I could put a book out saying you can become sober. But when you become sober, are you going to have that peace? Is your heart going to be filled? If you look at the A.A. book, it’s thicker than a Bible! The Bible’s free, and some rehabs cost $30,000.”
Twelve Step-based programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous employ a language of inclusiveness, subscribing to the God of your understanding, or one’s ‘Higher Power.’
“I don’t really agree with that. The Bible says that nobody comes to God but through his son Jesus Christ. If there are some A.A.’s that are going through Christ, I’m fine with it. The ones I know, they only use ‘God.’ But because the Bible says that nobody comes to God but by Jesus Christ – if they’re not doing it that way, then I can’t agree with any of them.
He confesses to not understanding ex-addicts who struggle to stay clean.“You know, I don’t. I ran into a guy yesterday at my book signing, and man, I wished I had time to talk to this guy. I wanted to – and next time I’m going to make some time – but I was signing, and there was a line. He walked up, and he’s like; ‘Man, I want to congratulate you. You’ve been sober, and I’ve been sober for five years – and man, every day is so hard.’ And I’m like ‘What?’ I want to go ‘Why?” I’m just curious to get in his head. I’ve been set free, and I don’t have those problems like that. I’ve been set free.
“I’ve never met someone that’s gone to rehab that has a sense of peace. Most of those people, I’ll hang out with them, and they’re so jittery – either smoking cigarettes or pounding coffees – that I want to go ‘Hey bro – can you hand me a beer? You make me want to drink.’ Because they’re so not at ease.”
We spoke on a couple of occasions for this feature, and returned each time to this subject – which is clearly close to his heart.
“It’s funny, because right before [the second interview], I prayed to have the right answer; ‘What do I say about this?’ I didn’t really know exactly what the question was, but I prayed, and I read my Bible.
“Where I’m at in right now is 2nd Corinthians, and I got into the first chapter, verse 3 – and it says: ‘All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus God is our merciful father, and the source of all comfort.’ And I was like, ‘Wow; that’s pretty heavy.’ I mean, I think that’s why so many people go to rehab and A.A., and then they fall short; it’s because they don’t do it through Christ.”
According to some reports, the pioneer A.A. fellowships required each member to accept Jesus Christ as his personal lord and savior. That’s open to dispute, but there is no question that Christ is clearly missing from all of the group’s literature today.
“And that’s obviously the enemy,” Fieldy maintains, “because why is he rejected? That’s crazy. I don’t really understand that; but that’s what it is – that’s the world, you know.”
Korn has been credited with singlehandedly creating the nu metal genre – but it’s a label they tend to reject. According to vocalist Jonathan Davis, the designation “a band that rocks” is best.
Since arriving on the scene in 1994, they’ve had nine consecutive albums debut in the top 10 – two going all the way to #1. Tracks like ‘Freak On A Leash,’ and ‘A.D.I.D.A.S.’ [an acronym for ‘All Day Long I Dream About Sex’] cemented their reputation for mixing cutting edge with commercial smarts.
In spite of a decidedly cynical image – Davis, in particular, has been a frequent and vocal critic of religious groups – the band has been accepting of the change in Arvizu. “It’s cool. They are supportive. And I don’t know why. Obviously, that’s through the Lord, because I don’t know why.”He’s especially hearted by Davis’ reaction. “He’s cool with me. He’s not where I’m at, and I know that he’s not, so I don’t try to put that on him, because it’s a waste of time. But he knows what I’m about, and when he’s ready, he knows he can come talk with me.”
According to Davis, the band’s next album will focus on the hypocrisy of organized religion. “He’s always felt that way. Even on the last album that we put out, he wrote a little something. It’s kind of hard for me to fully understand, but I know that he really hates organized religion. He’s so hateful towards organized religion, that I’m not even really sure that he’s hateful towards Jesus himself. I don’t think he’s actually rejecting Christ; he’s rejecting people — the world — maybe some things that happened in his past.”
Arvizu is at a loss as to the exact cause of the hostility. “I don’t know, because he won’t really open up. I’m kind of waiting for him to open up, and see what’s going on. I’ve got to sit and dig with him one day deep, and see where he’s at, you know?”
He’s aware that might take awhile. For the time being, his approach is simple; “Loving him right where he’s at. And it’s crazy, because we’re closer than ever.”A song cycle disparaging of organized religion is not a concern for Arvizu. “If you get into, say, Matthew 28, that’s where Christ is screaming at the religious leaders and the Pharisees and Sadducees. He doesn’t hate them, he hates religion. And it’s because of how corrupt it’s got.”
He maintains he’s not religious, anyway; he simply follows Christ. That’s a concept some might find hard to grasp. So, he admits, would he, up until a few years ago.
“The old me, I wouldn’t even know what Christ was, let alone religion. I didn’t know at all. So either way, it wouldn’t matter. But today I understand the difference. You hear the phrase a ‘baby Christian;’ I guess I can consider myself still a baby Christian – because it’s been not quite four years. But in the four years, I’ve read my Bible every day.”
Arvizu is not the first member of the band to find faith. Guitarist Brian ‘Head’ Welch made headlines in 2005, when he announced he had become a Christian and was leaving Korn. Two years later, he documented his story in Save Me From Myself.When I spoke with him at the time, Welch discussed his relationship with Fieldy’s father. The two had reconnected soon after he left the band – and shortly before Arvizu Sr. was diagnosed with cancer.
“I tracked him down,” he recalled, “and I talked to him, and he said ‘I just want my son to be saved’ if he doesn’t get saved by the time I die, I’m gonna go right up to Jesus when I get to Heaven and say ‘Why isn’t my son saved?'”
A month later, he passed away.
Fieldy was unaware of his dad’s comments to Welch, but verifies the circumstances and sequence of events leading up to his conversion. At times, he admits, this story – two members coming to faith, conversion within hours of his father’s death – encompasses far more than meets the eye. “I know,” Arvizu marvels, “people are wondering; what’s really going on here?”
He’d love to see the rest of the band follow suit, but imposing his beliefs is not on the agenda. “There’s no way that I can force them to love the Lord or change their life. I can’t change that, I can only pray for that one day. Whatever God’s will is.”