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Korn’s Jonathan Davis: “If We Made Records Trying To Make Everyone Happy They Would Suck”

The fact Korn are releasing a new album in 2022 is not in itself anomalous. Limp Bizkit are back together and releasing music and the likes of Rage Against the Machine and System of a Down have announced reunion tours and put out charity singles in recent years.

But Korn’s case is different. For a band whose late-’90s and early-’00s heyday was so drenched in Jack Daniel’s and pills, Korn somehow managed to keep their fingers away from the self-destruct button. As such, Korn have simply never stopped making albums; the California band’s new album, Requiem, is their 14th overall.

The lineup that made Requiem – singer Jonathan Davis, guitarists Brian “Head” Welch and James “Munky” Shaffer, bass player Reginald “Fieldy” Arvizu and drummer Ray Luzier – is four-fifths of the lineup that played on Korn’s self-titled debut album back in 1994. Luzier is the odd one out, joining in place of original drummer David Silveria in 2008.

Fieldy recently stepped back from the band, citing mental health reasons, but Korn’s core unit remains as tight-knit as ever. Requiem was recorded in the band’s hometown of Bakersfield and it follows 2019’s The Nothing in melding Davis’ penchant for melodic choruses with the dynamic, industrial-sized heaviness Korn are known for.

Music Feeds spoke to Davis about making the new album, country music and what’s kept Korn together for so long.

Music Feeds: Korn are from Bakersfield and I’ve just learned that your dad played keyboards with Buck Owens. Is that right?

Jonathan Davis: He did. Not during the heyday, but he was involved with doing stuff with him, yeah. Actually, our recording studio in town, our whole facility was Buck’s old studio. So all those [Korn] records are done in his building. It’s a great, great place. I love all that old stuff. The music was so good then, it was so real.

MF: Does everyone in Korn still live in that part of California?

JD: I live here, Munk lives in LA and Head and Ray live in Nashville. So they fly in and that’s our headquarters – we all meet in Bakersfield and that’s where we do all our stuff.

MF: So you’re recording in Buck Owens’ studio and two band members live in Nashville. The Korn country left turn can’t be far off.

JD: We grew up on it, man. I did a country style for one of my solo songs I put out. I like it. Old country is real. Not the new pop shit they’re doing now. The old shit from Hank Williams, ’50s, ’60s, ’70s – all that was cool. It’s pretty fucking depressing and heartbreaking, a lot of those songs.

MF: It’s the saddest music I’ve ever heard. Your music is up there too. You put out a couple of singles before Requiem. This far into your career, do you spend much time gauging how people are feeling about your new music?

JD: I sit there and I read some of the comments, but I think at this point in my career I’m really just happy putting out what we’re all, as a band, collectively happy about. If the fans like it, great. If they don’t, it’s the 14th fucking record – you’ve got a lot more records to listen to. It doesn’t freak me out like it did back in the early days.

MF: What were you like in the early days?

JD: When the first Korn album came out, that blew up and I’m like, “Great, now we’ve got to get over our sophomore jinx.” Second album came out, that blew up, I was like, “OK.” And then Follow the Leader blew up and I was like, “Oh my god. So this is happening now.”

If we made records trying to make everyone happy they would suck. You’d just go into a fucking spiral and overthink everything and it wouldn’t be art and in that moment. The five guys sitting in a room, that’s what counts. You get a producer, you hope that people like it.

MF: After the commercial highs of the first decade of your career – from Korn through Life is Peachy, Follow the Leader, Issues and Untouchables – were there any records that came out and you felt a bit flattened by the reaction?

JD: I think Korn III. That was hard because we were trying to recapture something and it was way in the past and we failed miserably. I mean, I like the record, but it wasn’t fun to make because Ross [Robinson] was doing his methods and he really turned them on really hard. And it was just a fucked up, weird time in the band when we did that.

MF: You said you don’t want to be motivated by what you think people might like. That comes across on albums like The Path of Totality and See You on the Other Side, which flirt with dubstep and other electronic and poppier sounds. When you started working on Requiem, did you talk about what the album should sound like?

JD: It’s funny, when we get in a room, we start writing and it just comes out and it is what it is. We talk about stuff like who we want to produce. I’m really involved in the production, how we’re going to capture it, what medium. Like, Requiem was done all analogue – it was a mixture of analogue and digital, so it sounds really alive and huge. It doesn’t sound like everything now; all modern rock sounds like shit done in a box and it’s perfect and I don’t like that.

But we’ve just been lucky. We’re already working on another record. That’ll be album 15. It’s nice being in a band with guys you get along with and you love. I get excited to write with the guys and a lot of people in bands that have been in bands as long as us, they hate each other – they can’t even be in the same fucking room.

MF: You’ve all taken different paths in your personal lives; Head left the band for a while, Fieldy is taking a break at present. What do you think keeps you all so close?

JD: We just all have a shared passion for playing music. We love going on tour and playing live. We love writing music. It’s a dream for us still and we’re not burnt out on it at all. Some members need to take a break here and there and I get that and we’re all really sensitive about everybody’s needs. Everyone’s the same and equal in the band and it’s just a magic thing – we all get along really good.

‘Requiem’ is out this Friday, February 4th.

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