Interview: Jonathan Davis of Korn — "It's so real…I just throw my heart out"
Mon, 24 May 2010 11:19:44
Korn's ninth album, Korn III — Remember Who You Are, is something of a symphony for the damned.
Like their now classic first two offerings, Korn and Life Is Peachy, the record bleeds vibrantly and viciously. James "Munky" Shaffer orchestrates a bloody and brutal riff massacre on cuts like "Oildale" and "Pop a Pill" where overpowering distortion envelopes an unforgettable groove. Fieldy slaps out demonic funk, while Ray Luzier pummels one raucous rhythm after another. The conductor of this symphony of destruction is singer Jonathan Davis. Jonathan unleashes a cathartic fury like never before on album closer "Holding All These Lies," and he goes right for the throat during "Are You Ready to Live?" sincerely asking, "Are you ready to die?"
Those words "Are you ready?" signaled a revolution in 1994, and they're about do the same thing once more when Korn III — Remember Who You Are hits shelves via premiere heavy metal label Roadrunner Records on July 13th, 2010.
Korn vocalist Jonathan Davis sat down with ARTISTdirect.com editor and Dolor author Rick Florino for an exclusive sneak peak at Korn III — Remember Who You Are.
Jonathan reveals his favorite lyric from the album, discusses how Ross Robinson literally drove him to the brink, talks about the albums that shaped him and why he dug Daybreakers…
(He's going to have to check out Splice though for some real sick horror this summer too in addition to Korn's new record of course…)
What does Korn III — Remember Who You Are mean to you?
This album means the world to me. It just feels right. It feels like we made a record that was amazing all the way through. This music is incredible to play live. We only have one song in the set right now, but we've been messing around with the other new songs and they all translate awesome. It feels good to be back to what we did on the first couple of records. Doing the later albums was amazing with all of the experimentation, but some of it just didn't translate live. This is stripped down; it's guitars, drums, bass and me. Listening to the whole thing, I get that spark again. It's emotional and powerful, and I'm very happy with it.
With how much experience you've garnered over the years, this is probably your most cohesive offering.
Every song's bangin'! The record is ridiculous!
If you were to compare this album to a movie, what would you compare it to?
I really don't think there is one that would compare, bro [Laughs].
Does the anything come to mind off the bat visually?
I'm thinking Gummo by Harmony Korine—the guy who wrote Kids. Our first video for this album is set in Oildale outside of Bakersfield, and it's very Gummo-esque. It's like how we grew up and what we saw. There's that kind of vibe.
This album is going to speak to the fans just as much as the first two records, if not more so.
I think so. On the record, I'm battling finding myself, battling figuring out who I am, battling to stop pleasing everyone around me and making myself suffer by trying to make people happy—that's basically the gist of the whole album. It's a long struggle.
Is there a moment that comes where you can let that go and embrace yourself? Is that what's at the heart of Remember Who You Are?
Definitely, it's more me on a personal level. The music is more about life and living. Whatever I'm going through at the time reflects in the music. The lyrics are just a huge battle of me trying to figure out why I'm fucked up a lot of times and why I have all of these demons.
Is it easier to confront those demons when you step into the vocal booth or is it as tough as it was the first time around?
It's definitely tough. When you're dealing with shit that really fucks with you, it's hard. It takes a lot of courage to get up there and just deal with it—plus to put it out there for all these fans to hear, it's hard, bro [Laughs]. I've always thought about that. It's what I do; I just throw my heart out and give one-hundred percent. Hopefully it helps somebody.
That positive message at the heart of music is more apparent than ever.
I think it comes through a lot more clearly. Ross Robinson [Producer] was a big part of that. We had experimented for so long. It was hard to do something so different for each record every time. We really lost touch with what we were about. It's about the band and playing this music—not worrying about anybody or fucking singles and none of that shit. This record really brings those vibes out.
Is there a lyric on this record that you're particularly proud of?
One that stands out is, "Love without affection is like hate without the pain. Life is a connection separate from the brain." I like that one. When I do lyrics, every song is done in like a half-hour. When I write, I just let it flow. It fucking comes out, and I do it. I don't second-guess it. I don't spend time sitting there and trying to make it better or anything; that's why I think it's so real. The shit flows out, and I let it go. It's stream-of-consciousness, and it's simply real. I remember Ross saying he was so happy that I trusted myself to put down what was coming out of my head on paper, and there's no one singing it. A lot of other vocalists spend hours and days on lyrics just rewriting and rewriting trying to be so fucking poetic—that's not me. I try to get my point across in my own way and let it go.
Does that "Back-to-basics" mentality tie in with the current Ballroom Blitz tour?
Doing this tour is like a celebration of our whole career. We're playing like seven songs off of the first record. It makes me feel like we're at the beginning again seventeen years ago when we were in these clubs playing for 20 people. The vibe feels good. I got extremely tortured by Ross for the whole record. He pulled a lot of shit out of me. He goes that extra mile doing things another producer wouldn't do. He broke me down to the point where it took me a couple of months to get over the torment he put me through. I regressed into a bad depression because it was hell going through that shit with him. He did that on the first two records but not to the extent that he did it this time. This was brutal. Now that look back on it, I love it and it was worth it, but going through it was not fun.
What's the story behind the closing song, "Holding All These Lies"?
It's basically a story about destroying someone you love by lying. Everyone does it. You don't know why it happens. You don't know why you do it, but you do. It's what I was going through at the time and I lost it a little bit. It was one of those days [Laughs]. Shit kept pouring out. It was crazy.
What albums shaped you? What's always in your iPod?
There are the classics that I grew up on like all of the '80s new romantic stuff. I still listen to Duran Duran and The Cure. The heavier stuff would be Ministry and Skinny Puppy. I was a huge Christian Death fan. I'm also into Joy Division. For rock, it'd be any Led Zeppelin record. The record that got me into heavy music is Pantera's Vulgar Display of Power. I was totally into dance music like 2 Live Crew and any all of that old electro hop, planet rock shit. I was all into that.
What's your favorite Cure record?
I loved everything they did. I didn't get into them until later on. It was when I was in high school. I was really cool listening to them because the guy spoke to me. I freaked out really hardcore when Robert Smith did the MTV Unplugged show with us. That fucking freaked me out. I was like a giddy high school kid, star struck!
Well, you guys have spoken to kids in the same way that The Cure spoke to you now.
Yeah, it's so fucking cool. I don't ever ponder any of that shit. It's weird. I look back at what we've done, and it trips me out.
It's crazy because the new stuff still elicits the same feeling as the first time I heard your debut.
Thanks bro. That's awesome! We did our job.
You've got to see Splice. That move will fuck with you…it stays with you like a Korn record.
[Laughs] I've got to check that motherfucker out. I just saw Daybreakers and I dug that. It was reallycool! I liked the concept. Everyone's a vampire!
Will you be picking up Korn III — Remember Who You Are on July 13th? Don't forget to enter our Rockstar Mayhem Fest ticket contest for your chance to see Korn and Rob Zombie for FREE this summer and get signed CDs!