Interview: Jonathan Davis of Korn Introduces J Devil
Mon, 13 Feb 2012 06:17:24
Walking around Jonathan Davis's Southern California abode, one thing is clear.
He's an artist in the truest sense of the word.
Like all of the greats before him, the legendary Korn frontman surrounds himself with the things that inspire him, and that's one of many reasons why he remains so fervently creative. Gazing around, a wall of ornate crucifixes overlooks the stairs, while his library houses a collection of religious texts, books, and oddities accrued from around the world, flanked by original paintings where gothic intensity belies intricate beauty.
Upstairs and down the hall is Davis's creative nerve center, a screening room and a studio where he synthesizes tracks, writes music, cuts vocals, watches movies, cranks tunes, and plays video games. He can rattle off passages from his favorite literary tomes just as quickly as he can talk the work of Cannibal Corpse, Datsik, or Hyro Da Hero.
He doesn't stop listening to music, and he doesn't stop creating. Sleepless nights yielded Korn's tenth masterpeice, The Path of Totality. His obsession with music and prescient perspective places him on par with the likes of Nine Inch Nails' Trent Reznor and The Cure's Robert Smith. However, Davis wields a darkness that entirely belongs to him alone.
Ever since Korn's self-titled debut, he's been able to harness raw tragedy and turn it into blisteringly infectious music that's simultaneously catchy and chaotic. His output has been just as revolutionary as the aforementioned figures, but he's not stopping either. Enter J Devil…
Davis's DJ alter ego is an id gone mad. J Devil insists on "Indulgence instead of abstinence" and is about to throw the best party hell's ever seen. We went deep into Davis's world to introduce you to J Devil.
In this exclusive interview and video, meet J Devil and hear about everything Jonathan Davis has in store for the future…
Watch the video and read the interview below!
How was J Devil born?
J Devil just came to me. I was making music, and I was trying to think of a name for myself. It just popped into my head. It's my initials "JD" and then "Evil". My wife's nickname is "Devil". I've been fascinated with the devil my whole life so it slipped in organically. It's like Korn and everything else I've ever done musically, in that respect.
How do songs start?
There aren't that many lyrics here. I'm going to do some though. It starts with an idea. I just start with a beat, a bass patch I made, or anything like that, and I build on it. It's intricate, tedious, and difficult work. People think electronic music is really easy. A lot of people are like, "Oh, I wish I could do that" or whatever. It's really hard though. Doing Korn songs is easy to me. I can do a Korn song in an hour. That song I just played you took two weeks to make. It's all intense programming, and it's pretty difficult.
Has J Devil always been in the back of your mind? Did you know if you were going to do EDM, you were going to take it to an evil place?
Yeah, it started off as dark. I made Korn dark. I'm inspired dark things, and I wanted to create this alter ego that was different from Korn. EDM is so much different in general. I wanted to basically incorporate all of the kinds of EDM music that I like into this. I have song called "Move" that's basically dubstep, jungle, and drum 'n' bass all in one. I like mixing genres together. I have some songs that are straight metal. I don't know what the fuck it is. It's just different. Everybody I play it for just freaks out because it is so different. It's all still in the electro vain because I'm an electro freak. I love that 130, 128 BPM. I love the four-on-the-floor pattern, but I change it up.
What's the story behind "I'll Fuck It"?
I hooked up with this kid Sluggo. He and Nerd Rage did "The Dark Crystal", which is one of my favorite dubstep songs. He's been doing this for a long time. He was even doing it back when Excision was. Sluggo's stuff is so heavy, and he's working with this new kid he found named Tyler Blue. They put together a little group called Killbot. I said, "Ya'll come down, stay at my house, and let's do something crazy and experiment". We spent two weeks in this room and came up with the song "I'll Fuck It". It's some next level shit for sure.
Is it important for you to create visuals with the songs?
Yeah, it's about creating a vibe or a landscape but incorporating those evil, dark things in our lives and putting them to music you can dance to and get your aggressions out to. At the same time, you can just dance, have a good time, wild out, and have fun. That's one of the main things I like about the EDM scene. Everybody's so nice. There's no jealousy or competition. All of the DJs get up together. It's like a family or a brotherhood. I want to come in there, shake things up, and be the antichrist of that scene.
You embrace that "antichrist of EDM" notion and then take it in a completely different direction.
Definitely, I'm not trying to fit in or do anything that anybody else is doing. This is my own thing. When I'm doing something like HARD HOLY SHIP!, I'm hanging out with everybody and they're like, "Who's this new kid? What's going on? Can he really DJ?" Once I did my show, they changed their opinions of me.
What's it like to be the new kid again?
It's fun, man. I feel like I'm a little kid. I'm just enjoying myself. I'm challenging myself musically. I do all kinds of musical styles. This is one I'm really into right now. I'm embracing that and learning everything I can learn. I'm turning into this character and having fun. It's for me.
What's the psychology of J Devil? What's his backstory?
He represents indulgence, doing what you want to do, and not ignoring your instincts. Do what you want to do. Indulge in whatever you want, as long as you don't hurt anybody.
Do you feel like you're going with your instincts musically?
There are no boundaries musically. I'm thinking outside of the box. I'm not thinking, "Oh, I have to be this or I have to be that". I'm just going with what's inside of me being musical, being an artist, and doing different things.
Where did "I Think I Need an Exorcism" come from?
I think that sample from a newscaster talking about Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and everybody in the White House. In the clip, he goes, "I think the White House needs an exorcism". I chopped that up and made this really weird dark song. It just spoke to me.
Which other songs do you have on deck?
I love "Anger". It's a four-on-the-floor electro song, but it's got the big dubstep bass, and the drop line is, "Anger has a place in all of this." I like that line. It's an emotion. Anger isn't a bad thing. A lot of people think the seven deadly sins are bad. They're not bad. They're what make you excel in life. Greed isn't bad. It inspires you to go out and get things you want. That's one example. I'm down for all of those. Killing somebody—no. There is true evil out there. I think pedophilia is true evil. That's demonic, crazy bullshit that goes on in this world.
Do you keep studying different elements?
There are all of these things in the world that intrigue me. People call me crazy or whatever. I don't care. I'm having fun researching the Illuminati, Satanism, and Christianity. Jesus is just as important. There's the duality of dark and light. That's just me. It's what I feel and what I do. I'm just expressing myself through music and art. Doing that is bringing the truth which is a representation of the dark.
What's the story behind "Evilution" [Collaboration with Datsik and Infected Mushroom on Datsik's Vitamin D]?
"Evilution" was a track that I did with Datsik and Infected Mushroom. I worked with Infected Mushroom before on "Smashing the Opponent". They had collaborated on a song together. When we were on tour, Datsik asked me to sing on it, and I actually sang on it in the bus going down the road. It came out great. It's a dope song, and the video's ridiculous. It's very dark and evil. When you see it, you'll get it.
Where were you coming from lyrically?
"Evilution" means we're evolving into darker territory. Things have changed a whole bunch since I was a kid. I see the world getting darker and darker, and we have this "Evilution" going on. They're taking more of our rights away. We're in a recession. Everyone is dying for money and starving. It's affecting everybody. It's an "Evilution" into a darker time.
That's the perfect place for J Devil to be born.
Yeah, that inspired everything that's going on. I've always been fascinated by the dark side and why we're not supposed to explore it, understand it, and research it.
When did that fascination start?
Probably when I was five- or six-years-old, I just liked scary stuff. I started watching horror movies and got into all kinds of crazy stuff. I've found a lot of positivity in it. That's been my therapist. To me, Jesus was the first rockstar. He was a man who taught people how to live in a way. Don't judge anybody. Jesus hung out with whores and horrible people, but he didn't judge them. That was the first thing that inspired me to go search this because I'm not going to judge anyone. Everybody has a right to do what they want to do as long as they don't hurt anybody. That's the cosmic universal law. Jesus was a cool guy who went around and spoke out against all kinds of things. He taught people not to judge. He basically said don't get caught up in "religion", be positive, and love people.
Would you say J Devil is the embodiment of everything you love?
Yeah, I think so. He's the embodiment of life and living. Don't hold yourself back from anything. Do what you want to do as long as you don't hurt anybody. For me, becoming this character and doing this music, I'm doing what I want to do and I don't care about the repercussions or any of that. It's being musical and having a good time.
It seems like you get to have fun with the lyrics as well.
It's different. With Korn, I have to do melodies, write tons of lyrics, and try to express myself in different ways. This is more musical. It's minimal lyrics and minimal singing. It's the complete opposite.
How do you describe the J Devil live show?
It's crazy non-stop madness. I'm there to get you moshing and dancing. Do whatever it is you do. Indulge. Have fun. Forget everything. Just be you. Do what you want to do. It's something totally different. I want people to get their aggressions out and dance.
How was playing HARD Holy Ship!?
It was amazing. I didn't know what to think. Everybody had mad respect for me on the boat. All of the fans were nice and polite. The theater was packed, and I went on first. It was an amazing experience. The boat was crazy. It was something fun and different, and I got to see all of my favorite DJs for three days. It was ridiculous. Destructo knows music very well, and he brought a really cool festival on a boat. People had a blast. There was no drama. Everyone was having a good time and no one got hurt. It was everything I love about that scene.
Are you excited to hear more from J Devil?
Photo: Chad Martel Photography
See our live review of J Devil here!
See our review of Korn on Jimmy Kimmel Live! here!
See our review of Korn's record release show here!
See our review of The Path of Totality here!
Jonathan Davis talks the album here!
See celebrities and musicians share how they discovered Korn here!
See our exclusive video interview with James "Munky" Shaffer of Korn about The Path of Totality here!
Watch our video interview with James "Munky" Shaffer of Korn about "Narcissistic Cannibal" here!
Watch the lyric video for "Narcissistic Cannibal" here!
Watch Munky remember his favorite Edgar Allan Poe story here!
See Jonathan Davis and Munky remember Life Is Peachy in this exclusive interview here!
Read our exclusive interview with Jonathan Davis of Korn about electronic music here!