TRICKS OF THE TRADE: Vocals – Jesse Korman (The Number 12 Looks Like You)
August 23rd, 2017
Back in 2010, New Jersey mathcore masters The Number 12 Looks Like You at the time seemingly performed for the very last time in their home town. That was until last year, when from the ashes they rose again, and are destined and determined to bring their flurry of genre splicing, technicality, hooks and aggression back in an absolute staggering and overwhelming force.
Originally adopting a two-vocalist attack until Justin Pedrick stepped down from the group on 2009 shortly after putting out their fourth and to-date latest album, ‘Worse Than Alone’, vocal duties have now mostly been handed over solely to Jesse Korman, both just before their hiatus and now going ahead into what is now The Number 12 Looks Like You version 2.0.
Now their only vocalist, and with the vast sounds, styles, influences, and genres that ebb and flow throughout the body of the band and their material, Korman is at the peak of his vocal capabilities, even against his peers and contemporaries in their scene. So, we caught up with him to talk about his influences, how he began his path as a frontman, how to avoid and recover from damage, and more tips and tricks for all you vocalists out there.
My favourite vocalist of all time is Michael Jackson. He has nothing to do with our kind of music, but the passion and intensity of his vocals are unparalleled. But, for heavy metal music, I was a huge fan of Guy Kozowyk from The Red Chord. But, fuck, MJ all the way.
I truly love all kinds of vocals. I think that’s why I try to include all different styles when writing number 12, because I love it all. I love the high pitch screams, I love death metal, and I love stuff like System Of A Down all the way up to Michael Jackson. They all of have something special, and I like to try and take those special elements. Make someone cry, maybe someone piss themselves – that’s my goal.
The actual first band that did any kind of “screaming” that inspired me was a straight edge hardcore band called Strife. I was about 15 years old when I was at a practice space of one of my friends who was in a band, and I asked if I could scream in the mic like the singer of Strife. Then I started getting into more screamo stuff like Love Lost But Not Forgotten who had a different kind of vocal approach, way more intense and shrieky, which REALLY made me want to become that kind of vocalist. Someone who sounded like they were screaming bloody murder but also can eat your face off.
I just began the same way probably any other heavy metal vocalist began, just started screaming into a mic until I lost my voice.
It would be almost impossible to describe how I warm up, because everybody has a different way to get their voice to the sweet spot. Mine is quite weird and strange; it involves me walking through the hallways before we go on blowing through my lips or screaming “REDRUM REDRUM” from the movie The Shining. It helps move my register to the correct one. It also scares everyone who doesn’t know what I’m doing and say I become possessed by a serial killer before our performances, but it’s totally normal.
Warming up is important, as is drinking lots of water and not making a lot of chit chat before and after the show. Just small amounts of talking all the time. Try to preserve your voice as much as possible and brace yourself for the length of the set. Don’t blow it all in the first song or two cause you will start sounding like shit.
Breathing is the cornerstone to everything with vocals. So, just practice breathing beforehand as much as you can, and to make sure with each vocal delivery, take a good breath.
Two words: vocal rest. That’s literally it. No talking, no nothing for at LEAST 24 hours. I don’t do anything else besides stop talking. If you hurt your ankle, you aren’t going to go for a walk. It’s the same with vocals.
All that throat spray shit is garbage in my opinion. All its done is empty my wallet.
After a few years, I had to go for proper vocal lessons for more aggressive singing. I went to Melissa Cross, the guru of heavy metal vocal coaching. She taught me to create the sound of a scream, but not to project the actual volume of the scream and to let the mic do that. My mind was blown.
She’s the best. She taught me everything I know, and it was very useful to be there one on one. Everyone is unique in their own way… awwh, that was emo.
Make it feel real. If you’re screaming about something that doesn’t mean anything to you, then it feels kinda silly to be “screaming” about chewing bubble gum or going out to dinner. Mean every word that you say and you’ll hear the realness that comes out, and that’s what the audience wants. They want to relate.
The Number 12 Looks Like You are currently working on their fifth full-length album, expected to see a release in early 2018.
The band’s latest studio album, ‘Worse Than Alone’, is out now through Eyeball Records/Silent Pendulum Records.
Are you in a band? Do you own a label or PR company? Are you a tour promoter? Do you run a festival? Want to share your experience and tips with others aspiring to do the same thing? Get in touch with our features editor, Mike Heath (email or Twitter), and we can share your tricks of the trade.