Life remains peachy for Korn’s Jonathan Davis
By Roberto C. Hernandez
It’s been 16 years since Korn’s Jonathan Davis growled the question, “Are you ready?” and helped confound the world with a band that played down-tuned seven-string guitars, sounded like Cannibal Corpse on animal tranquilizers and sported Adidas track suits like they were going out of style. Soon the Bakersfield-raised band was (wittingly or not) dubbed the standard-bearer for the just-christened nü-metal wave of late ’90s music.
At one time, the triple threat of this rap-rock-flavored subgenre of popular music was Korn, the Deftones and Limp Bizkit. (Where are you now, Durst?)
Yup, a lot’s happened since Korn hit store shelves with buckets of psychological angst, distorted guitars and enough hip-hop cred (hey, Snoop Dogg was in a Korn video and Ice Cube rapped on 1998’s Follow the Leader) to get kids from the ’burbs salivating like a tween girl looking at Justin Bieber’s Twitter account. The band’s since sold 20 million records in the U.S. and won two Grammys for “Freak on a Leash” [personal fave] and “Here to Stay.”
CULTURE recently spoke with acid-tongued (and sober) Korn frontman Jonathan Davis about a variety of things—not the least of which was the new album, Korn III: Remember Who You Are, the band’s recent boycott of British Petroleum (that’s BP to the rest of you) and his views on medical and recreational marijuana. Are you ready?
You’ve toured with Metallica. Was it a trip to see a band that has been together so long—and compare it to Korn?
Seventeen years. It kind of blew me away. On our first tour with Metallica, I was, like, “How can they do it that long?”
Who are you, Jon? Compare the Jon Davis of today with the Jon Davis of Korn, the band’s 1994 debut.
My passion for music. It’s something I’ve never lost. I’m very passionate about music. I give it 110 percent. I think that’s the thing that’s stayed the same . . . I was playing drums since I was 3, playing on a milk crate. It just came out, full on music. Music, art, anything in the arts.
Tell us a bit a bit about the “Oildale” video for your new album. There’s a brief scene in the video when you get this flashing image of a playground swing and the kid in the middle of a decrepit neighborhood. It sort of reminded me of the cover to your first album.
Oildale’s a really impoverished, crazy place. It’s overrun with meth and alcoholism and it was a place that, growing up, we saw every day and lived that kind of craziness.
Why work with Ross Robinson again for Remember Who You Are?
He brought f*@king pain and hell to me. He’s one of the hardest workers I’ve ever met. It was not fun. He really tortured me. And it made me get a grip on some bad depression. Ross is the king of using stuff against me. For Untitled [the last Korn album], we had really reached a creative wall.
I heard you recently kicked off a boycott of British Petroleum, the a-hole company responsible for turning the Gulf into an oily hellhole. So, why get all political?
I turned on the TV and I see all these f*@king animals dying and I see people’s lives being destroyed and I see marshes being destroyed forever. It’s gonna be f*@ked up forever. And all I see is this company—why didn’t they have safety precautions? Why the f*@k couldn’t they cap [the oil leak]? There’re all these questions. Why? Why? Why?
And how can they put a price tag on the damage that’s gonna be around for generations and generations? That’s why I wanted to step in. F*@k, I don’t want anything to do with this f*@king company. When we do a boycott like that, they should be held accountable. There should be huge fines. All I know is this is f*@ked up and there should be something done about it. I don’t give a f*@k about the politics. This is horrible.
What are your thoughts on marijuana—and I ask you this keeping in mind that you’ve been drug- and alcohol-free for the past 12 years?
I think it’s great for medical use and it should be legal for recreational use. Nobody gets crazy when they’re stoned. They’re just mellow and happy. I never understood why it’s illegal. Let’s just let people smoke and be happy.
The Wow Factor
Despite the band’s super-heavy guitar bottom-end, Korn’s no stranger to hip-hop’s aesthetics. In fact, when the band released the video “Twisted Transistor” in 2005, the band was able to convince Lil Jon, Snoop Dogg, Xzibit and David Banner to play the role of each member of Korn. To portray Davis, Snoop donned a wig with dreadlocks.