An interview with Jonathan Davis of Korn
The release of Korn’s first album in 1994 contributed to a cultural shift for a generation, including mine. They had a huge impact on me in school, skating around the local parking lots, and surrounding myself with this new world of nu-metal. I took a lot of influence from this band with their aggressive sound, gothic look, and the dark side to their art.
Later in their career, Jonathan Davis showcased a microphone stand by Swiss artist H.R. Giger, famous for Ridley Scott’s Alien in the 80s (as you can see in the music video for “Here To Stay” below). This dark realm of heavy music and dark art has followed me from a teenager to my mid-30s, influencing the clothes I wear, the creations I make, and the words I write.
Digging through the AltSounds archives I found an interview with the lead singer of the band Jonathan Davis. It was cool to find this gem and suddenly realize how much influence this band did have on me. On the flip side, reading through this interview sheds light on some of the struggles we faced as an independent online magazine to get a really solid interview with some of the larger artists. This interview was no exception.
Interview with Jonathan Davis of Korn by AJ for AltSounds.com, November 2005
I have been interviewing artists and music biz people for a number of years now. The thing that I love about it is that someone has the ability to completely change your perception of them and what they do in one conversation. Alex Patsavas, for example. I fuckin’ hate the OC, but talking to her made me want to check it out and got rid of some of my preconceived notions.
I was stoked about interviewing Jonathan Davis from Korn. I did an interview with the whole band years ago when I was doing radio, but a lot has happened since then. More recently they have lost a member to Jesus, switched labels, and recorded a new full-length with new producers. I was hoping my interview with Jonathan Davis would really open me up and let me know what Korn is all about – and that’s exactly what happened…
So your new record “See You On The Other Side” comes out tomorrow…any big plans?
Um…I know we’re playing FUSE. Hold on [to someone else] hey, what are we doing tomorrow for the record release? [back to me] Sorry, I’m in the middle of this press thing, I don’t know what’s going on.
Is this a bad time? We can do this later if you want.
No, it’s cool. Oh, so we’re doing something with K-Rock. Our big event was that plane ride with Rammstein. Oh, and a Tower Records in-store tomorrow.
Very nice. I know you usually bounce around to do your albums, where did you record this one?
In Hollywood. We have a new clubhouse…got it a while ago. We do our recording there now.
It has been about 2 years since your last album, not including the “Greatest Hits” record that came out last year. Have you been writing this whole time?
No. We have been touring. We did the tour for “Take A Look In The Mirror” and then toured for the “Greatest Hits.” We didn’t start writing until January. It took about 6 months to write and record. Now we’re doing this press thing for it.
Well, I was reading your website about this album earlier. Have you checked that out?
Jonathan Davis: No.
Oh. Well, it’s kind of over the top on the hype, talking about how you are revolutionizing music again and even saying you are “redefining heavy.” Do you think that’s what you’re doing? Do you think this new album will be as revolutionary as what you put out 10 years ago?
I don’t think so. I mean that’s what started it all. Our new stuff is very different though.
(I pause – waiting for an answer to the question – it ain’t happening). There aren’t a lot of bands that sound like you. It seems that there are bands that try.
I suppose, but I can’t think of any bands with mainstream success that sound like a KORN rip off. There are bands that have tried – and are still trying. No rip offs though, yeah.
Right. Like there are a lot of bands you have influenced, but not many try to sound exactly like you. No obvious imitators.
All right. Forget that. So… why did you leave Epic?
We were done with them. We had been with them for 10 years and we just wanted to work with other people and get some new ideas going.
Are you happy with the deal you got from Virgin?
Yes, very happy.
Ok Great! So, your video for “Twisted Transistor” ís fuckin’ hilarious first of all. It said on your hype sheet that you put rappers in it so it would get airplay on MTV.
Yeah, that seems to be the only way.
You don’t seem like the kind of band that would really give a shit about MTV airplay.
Oh… we don’t. That’s the joke.
I see. So, you put rappers in the video so you can get MTV airplay, but you don’t care about MTV airplay?
Yeah, I mean it really paid off. It’s a great video. Really funny. Everyone likes it.
It is really funny, yeah. Snoop is hysterical. You’re working with Lil Jon and Xhibit for the second time now, the first being on the “XXX” soundtrack. Are you in their posse now? Heh.
I have been for a long time.
You should have HR Giger make you a chalice to match your mic stand.
Lil Jon already gave me a chalice.
Yeah, but a Giger chalice would kick ass.
And cost me a lot of money.
Allllllrighty then. Well, this next question you don’t have to answer if you don’t want to – you might think it’s dick, but you guys started out really strong 10 years ago with your records selling like mad. It seems the sales have progressively declined over the years. Are you at all concerned about the sales of this new one?
We’ve been doing fine. They sell well. We always go multi-platinum. I don’t care if it’s 5 times or 2. The last 2 records sold over 2 million. That’s more than a lot of bands.
Do you think downloading has anything to do with that?
Yes. I mean you can get the record for free pretty much anywhere. Music is more popular now than ever, but it’s obvious that people are downloading it more than buying it.
I saw you guys play on SNL… what was that like?
It was cool. We hadn’t done that before.
I noticed the performance wasn’t as full as when you play regular live shows. Is there a certain way they do things there that kept it from being as explosive as a normal live performance?
I don’t know. It’s live TV. Probably just the way they mixed it.
I see. How do you feel about kids getting hurt at your shows? I know it’s becoming an issue again for you.
Do you feel artists have any responsibility for what happens to their fans at shows?
No. If you don’t want to get hurt, don’t go in the pit.
I kind of thought that’s what you would say. So, you have done some soundtrack work and you all have little things going with other people. Like Munky doing that thing on Corporate Punishment and…
What thing with Corporate Punishment? He’s not doing anything with them.
Well, he makes an appearance on that KCUF record.
He’s on one song. That’s not a side project.
Well, I just mean you guys work with other people and do things outside of KORN do you think that makes KORN stronger? Or can it be a distraction?
I think it’s cool. It makes us stronger. I think it’s fun to play with other people.
Ok, I’ll wrap this up. Let’s pretend your hype sheet doesn’t exist. What’s the one thing you want people to know about this record for fans and non-fans?
Just go pick it up. You’ll see our progress. We’re a 4 piece now, so we sound different. We experimented a lot.