When family obligations sidelined Korn bassist Fieldy from the nu-metal group's South American tour last year, the band welcomed an unusual pinch hitter: Tye Trujillo, the 12-year-old son of Metallica bassist Robert Trujillo. The tween accompanied the band on seven dates this past April, and the band's official videographer, Sébastien Paquet, created a 15-minute film, Korn and the Prodigy Son, about the experience, premiering at Rolling Stone.
"Tye is truly a musical prodigy," Paquet tells Rolling Stone. "His skills on the bass, especially for his age, are extraordinary. It's in his DNA. He was always slapping his bass, practicing, jamming and improvising. I have never witnessed a musician being glued to his instrument like that before."
The elder Trujillo, who also narrates the film, might attest that it runs in Tye's blood. When Robert, whose full history with Korn is told in the film, looks back on the tour now, he's filled with pride about Tye's capabilities. "I didn't have to help him with anything," he says of accompanying his son on the trek. "When you see your kid with that much pride, energy and focus, it was a beautiful experience. He doesn't even play five-string bass, really. And he's not a slap-bass player per se; he slaps for fun. He had an afternoon with Munky, the guitar player, where they ran through the songs, and I was there basically to offer him snacks and water."
In the doc, Robert speaks of how he saw Tye gravitate from drums to mastering the bass. Before long, he was even able to teach him the complicated line to late four-string virtuoso Jaco Pastorius' "Punk Jazz." He also explains how a chance run-in in the airport with Korn led Fieldy – who follows Tye on Instagram – to inquire if the kid could fill in for him.
"The band embraced him right away," Paquet says. "They loved reliving the emotional moments while watching the film. Fieldy, who obviously was not in South America with the guys, got a kick out of the live footage, watching his band perform with Tye, playing one of his signature Ibanez K5 basses. He is extremely proud of him."
"I was more nervous than he was," Robert says with a laugh. "I forgot how physical that band is, and he was right there with him. And then he'd get offstage and say, 'Where's my iPod?' He's still a kid. And not once in the two weeks was he like, 'I want to go home.' He was a pro.
"I just said, 'All you have to do is get up on the stage and kick ass,'" Robert continues. "'Just play great and be a performer and do what you do and take your time – groove into it – and enjoy the experience.' He went beyond anything I could have imagined. It was really impressive as a dad. Then we came back on a Sunday night, Monday morning he went back to school, homework and reality. He actually got up early. He was excited to go back."
Beyond capturing the dynamic between father and son, Paquet hopes the doc inspires a new generation to want to learn to play music. "Teenagers who are too often glued to their phones and video-game consoles can pick up an instrument made out of wood and strings and literally change the world, one note at a time," he says.
Trujillo concurs. "One of the blessings of what happened with Tye and Korn is that as a 12-year-old, he was able to get up onstage and hold his own as a true professional and deliver the goods as a player and performer," he says. "I hope other kids will embrace classic bands, metal, hard rock, whatever, and embrace it and make real music. That's what I know he loves and what he's gonna do with his fellow musicians. The future of rock & roll is coming from the youth."