Korn’s Jonathan Davis: “Every Korn Record Is Therapeutic For Me… It Keeps Me Alive”
After surviving the hardest year of his life, the dawning of 2019 offered Jonathan Davis a chance at salvation. Little did anyone know that it would also yield Korn’s finest material of the decade…
How did you approach 2019, Jonathan?
“I was ready for 2018 to be over and done with. It was the worst year of my fucking life [following the passing of his wife, Deven, in August]. I was looking at 2019 to start over. Fuck everything that’s ever happened to me, I’m gonna look forward, keep pushing on and really start to get everything, with Korn and me personally, going in a good direction.”
You started the year working on Korn’s 13th album, The Nothing…
“I just wanted to get in the studio. Music has always been my saviour, my church, my everything. I was dealing with so much bad stuff, and this was how I vented. The band had delivered a lot of great music that I was really into, so I was excited [to get working on it]. We were doing it all with a new management team, a whole new crew, too, so it felt good. But at the same time, it was sad, as there were a lot of emotions going on at that time – and also a little frustrating, because everyone was overthinking a lot. That’s when I got frustrated… and told everyone to fuck off (laughs)!”
What was being overthought?
“Everyone was so passionate about the project and worried about how I was going to do my vocals. When the music’s done, then it’s my turn. Usually when we do records, I get screwed at the end, because tours get booked and shit, so the band has a year or two to write the music, and I only have a small window to do what I need to do! But this time I wanted to take my time; I didn’t want any pressure. Everybody was like, ‘Uh oh, we don’t know about this!’ So I locked myself in the studio with my engineer and I told everybody, ‘When it’s done, it’s done.’ It was good. I actually had the time to sit and do what I wanted to do. I think the last time I got to do that was back when we did Untouchables in the early 2000s.”
How did you feel about actually releasing The Nothing?
“It was bittersweet. I wanted to put it out there, and I thought that if there are people going through the same things as me, it could help them. It’s a very emotional, dark record. It felt like a proper Korn record, and we hadn’t done one of those in a long time. But on the other hand, I was hurting really bad. Back on our first record I was singing about stuff that had happened in my childhood; I had time to let things pass. But this shit was fresh.”
Was it therapeutic making the album?
“Oh, definitely. Every Korn record is therapeutic for me. It’s like a chapter in my life. I can pull out any Korn record, listen to it and remember what I was going through emotionally at that time. It’s my everything; it keeps me going, keeps me alive and helps the pain.”
Is it difficult for you to listen back to it?
“I can’t listen to it. Every time I listen to it I fucking start crying. I mean, it’s difficult for me to perform the songs. It’s fucking hard. But I do it because there are people out there who can relate.”
Did you play any of the new songs on the road last year?
“Yeah, we played one new song [You’ll Never Find Me], and when we go out next year we’ll play more. But for the summer tour we just played the new single. But we did an album release party, in this little warehouse, with around 50 diehard fans, and we played three or four new songs. We had suspension artists, stuff like the wire man from the album cover, hanging there spinning. It was really cool.”
You only did one tour last year, with Alice In Chains. Did you manage to also get some rest otherwise?
“Yeah. This year we slowed down a little. The tour with Alice In Chains was a blast. But then we started to take time off, so that we can go hard next year. I’m really enjoying coming home, resting, hanging out with my family. My sons are older now and can take care of themselves – my oldest is 24. So I can come home, recover, relax, and be 100 per cent for going on tour again.”
2019 also marked 25 years since Korn’s debut album. How did hitting that landmark make you feel?
“When it hit 25 years, I was like, ‘This is crazy!’ Most bands who’ve been around 25 years, they can be successful, do a good album and then fall by the wayside. To be still making records and going on big tours, with no end in sight, I think, ‘Wow, what a ride.’ It was a completely different time when that record came out. The internet was in its infancy and people didn’t have cellphones yet. I mean, those big brick phones were there, but it was a different world!”
How are you feeling about 2020?
“I have my birthday in January, and then we leave for a tour of the States, which starts off a whole year of touring. For my birthday I’ll just have a nice, quiet dinner with my kids. Back in the day, there would have been all kinds of crazy shit going on (laughs)!”
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