Korn frontman Jonathan Davis is undeniably busier now than he’s ever been. The Californian rocker has been “living the good life” conducting press for Korn’s appearances at Australia’s Download Festival this weekend and doing so while in Japan, working on the band’s new album, finalising his first full-length solo release and prepping for an transnational solo tour.
The man who has been quoted as saying “I don’t know the true meaning of happiness” sounded markedly upbeat when he spoke to Music Feeds’ Jade Kennedy about Korn, his home life and his love for all things Australian.
Music Feeds: Hi Jonathan! So, how are you feeling? Are you keen to head down under for Download Festival?
Jonathan Davis: Yeah, I’m excited. It’s been a while, last time we were in Australia was about 2013, and I’m excited to get down there and play Download, it’s gonna be a good time.
MF: For sure, it’s the first one here, too.
JD: Yeah! It’s really cool that we’re going to be on the inaugural version of this festival down there. We’ve played them all and this is a new one so this is going to be amazing, we’re really excited.
MF: Fantastic. Your old mates Limp Bizkit are on the bill as well I noticed.
JD: Yep, they’re going to be there… and the Prophets… oh, it’s gonna be a good show!
MF: Yeah for sure. I noticed it’s your only show in Australia this time though?
JD: Yeah, unfortunately that’s how it worked out. We only had time to come and do the one show, and I apologise — we apologise — but we’ll be back to do a proper tour of Australia as soon as Korn is done making the next record.
It’s just the way it is. We’re in the middle of making a new record, and it’s just how it ended up, our agent obviously handles everything so it’s out of our hands. But we definitely want to come back because I love Australia, I’ve played everywhere there and I’m kinda bummed I’m going to be missing my favourite places there, so… it’s all good though.
MF: So what is it that you like about Australia? Is it the people? The vibe? The landscape? The weather?
JD: It’s just a cool vibe there. I love the culture there, I love the Aboriginal culture, I go there and I buy boomerangs and I buy didgeridoos and I play one, too. I know it sounds cheesy (laughs) but I like it, as an American it’s pretty cool. I like the Aboriginal art… and just the people are just really cool.
Every town offers something different. I mean, I remember going to Melbourne and I remember I was there when the Crown Casino opened — I remember the opening night of that place (laughs) like it’s just so random. I love going to the Gold Coast, and I remember hanging out there and going to the Australian Open one time, and hanging out with all the tennis players… I’ve had good times there, some really good memories.
MF: Well yeah, I remember when you guys came out here with Guns N’ Roses you came to my home town, which is Townsville in North Queensland, and everyone went kind of crazy because we don’t get a lot of big shows like that.
JD: Well that’s cool! I mean that run was fun, I really liked going down there and hanging out with those guys, that was a good tour.
MF: Well from all accounts — I didn’t actually go to the show myself — but I heard you guys pretty much blew Gunners out of the water.
JD: Well thank you! It was different. I mean, now it’s with the original band and I’m sure it’s amazing, it’s just a different thing. For us, I mean, we’re just a live band, that’s what we’ve always been, and I mean, nothing against Guns N’ Roses. I mean when we did that tour I thought it was amazing but it was just different players. I mean that could affect it. It’d be amazing seeing Slash and Duff up there and everything else but you know, it was cool then, it was lots of fun.
MF: Obviously with you guys, as well, Brian left for a little while there — how’s the vibe since he’s been back?
JD: Oh, it’s been amazing. It was like he never left when he came back. He just had to go and figure some things out, and I’m glad he came back. We carried on without him and that was cool, we did some really cool experimental stuff, but it felt really good to have him back, and to have Munky’s guitar partner back. It really helped Munky so it was all around good.
MF: I noticed you’ve got a fairly new synth player as well — a guy I’ve somehow been a Facebook friend with for ages and missed the memo on him joining you guys — Davey Oberlin?
JD: Yeah Davey! Davey’s awesome. He was in a bunch of metal bands and he’s a good kid, I love hanging out with him. He’s a really sweet dude.
MF: He was a guitar tech for Avenged Sevenfold at one stage, wasn’t he?
JD: Yeah! That’s how I met him, when we did a tour with them.
MF: Is that how you ended up picking him up?
JD: Well it was from [Brian] ‘Head’ [Welch], actually. But I met him out on that tour too, and he’s just a really sweet guy, and Head said he was available so we tried him out and he was perfect for the job, so it was like, there you go.
MF: Speaking of alternative instruments – you play the bagpipes and the fiddle as well, is that right?
JD: I play everything (laughs). I grew up in a music store. So I play drums, guitar, drums, bass, bagpipes, panpipes and all kinds of stuff. I grew up around musical things so I play lots of things. It’s not like I’m classically trained in all of them, but I’ve taught myself the basics.
Basically you know, when you’re a kid, the first thing you learn is drums, then the second thing is piano, so if you mix those two things together you learn rhythm and you learn musical notes, so then you can pretty much put the two together to learn the basic working of the instruments. So you can mess around and learn pretty much anything, so that’s what I was doing.
MF: I know from previous interviews there’s been quite a theme of bullying and violence in your earlier life. Have you taken a lot of that and turned it into inspiration for a lot of your music?
JD: I mean yeah, that was back in the early days. I mean the Korn record Life Is Peachy some of that stuff I dwelled on, but I’m 47 years old now and I’m not really talking about high school any more (laughs). But I mean, shit, that high school stuff just carries on in everyday life — I think everyone can relate to that.
I mean, you’re going to have great times, you’re going to have bad times. I have a lot of amazing times in my life with my family, and I have really bad times too. It’s just that I choose to use the bad things to help me when I’m writing lyrics to get those things out. It’s my therapy. I guess though a lot of people can relate to them so that’s how I do it.
MF: Well obviously Korn has been around for a while now. Do you think your fan base has kind of grown with you?
JD: Definitely, I mean, it’s been like 24 years so yeah, definitely (laughs). I mean I know we have some fans that have been coming to shows since they were kids, and now they’re bringing their kids to the shows, so there’s a second generation of Korn fans coming. It’s definitely grown over the years, yeah.
MF: And are your own kids into your music?
JD: Yes. Definitely. They’re not really into rock music, they’re more into hip-hop and stuff, but when I put my tunes on they like it. So that makes me feel good. I mean, kids are the biggest bullshit metres, they can call bullshit a mile away, so if they like it I know it’s okay, it’s good.
MF: So they get the early listening parties and they can say, “Yeah Dad, that’s great,” or, “Ehhh that’s not so good”?
JD: Oh they’re with me when I create it. It’s part of my process now. I’ve got a studio here so when I do my vocals and everything they’re always with me, so they get to watch and hear me do my thing. They’re my little production team. They’ll be like, “No, Dad, that sucks,” (laughs) and I’m like, “Really?!”
MF: Well, you know, you can’t beat their honesty.
JD: Yeah I love it.
MF: And you mentioned earlier you’ve been working on some new music?
JD: Yeah, well Korn we’re in the process of writing our next record, so we’ll be doing that and it’ll be out probably sometime next year, late next year. So yeah, that’s an ongoing process at the moment.
MF: Sounds great. I mean, 2016’s Serenity of Suffering is the last one we saw from you — it was a little different for you guys, a little more intense?
JD: Yeah, it was a little heavier sounding. I mean, it was cool, it was something that Head and [James] ‘Munky’ [Shaffer] wanted to do and you know, each album is a different vibe so that’s the vibe we were going for. I think that we executed it perfectly, and a lot of people latched onto it and really enjoyed it.
MF: So what do you think about Rolling Stone giving it two-and-a-half stars?
JD: Whatever. I mean, it’s all subjective. It’s all an opinion. It’s all up to the reviewer, you know? I mean you can’t really judge… I mean, there’s horrible shit, and then there’s good shit, but it’s just up to the individual. I mean, you can hear it (laughs) it’s just tastes so whatever, it’s all good. I mean our fans loved it.
MF: Well I guess that’s the main thing, right? I mean, who’s buying the music at the end of the day?
MF: I have spoken to a couple of people who weren’t aware that you had an EDM alter ego as well.
JD: Yeah that was back in 2011 and 2012 I think. Yeah, it was cool. I did that whole thing for a while, and I had fun with a lot of my friends, and made a lot of new friends — it was a really good time but that’s done. I haven’t done that stuff in years. Now I’m just concentrating on my solo stuff and the Korn stuff now.
MF: I know with the JDevil thing you had to drop out of the Zombie/Manson tour in, what was that? 2012? I know they’ve just announced they’re going to tour together again, so is there any chance you’d jump on that?
JD: I mean I’d love to. At the time I dropped out I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes so I was out of my mind. And this time, you know, I’ve got too much of my own stuff going on… but I wish them the best, I mean, I love Rob and I love Manson, they’re some of my best friends so it’s going to be a great show, they’re going to have a good time.
MF: How is your health now?
JD: Great! No complaints.
MF: What about taking care of yourself on the road now? Obviously touring in your 40s is a lot different to touring in your 20s?
JD: I have a physical therapist with me all the time, and I exercise and do all kinds of stuff. Gotta keep my body in good shape, so that’s what I do. I eat whatever, but try to eat healthy and clean — that’s all I can really do. I mean, it’s hard being in a different town every day so I just try to eat the best I can.
MF: And what about your solo stuff, how’s all that going?
JD: Oh, killer. I mean I’ve got my single out that’s being played everywhere, and my record’s done. I’m getting really excited. I’m taking off on tour soon, so I do Melbourne and Japan with Korn then I take off on my own solo tour in the States and Europe after that, so it’s going to be good.
MF: Oh, amazing! So do you think we might see a Jonathan Davis solo show in Australia soon?
JD: I would love that to happen! That’s up to agents and promoters that want to bring it down there, but I would love to do that.
Korn perform at Download Festival Melbourne this Saturday.