Korn’s Jonathan Davis Talks 2014 Mayhem Festival, Bond With Fans, ‘Hater’ Single + More
Korn just kicked off their summer run as part of the 2014 Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival with an electrifying opening night in San Bernardino, Calif. Loudwire had a chance to chat with Korn frontman Jonathan Davis after the set to discuss his thoughts on their Mayhem performance, being part of this year’s festival, their new single ‘Hater’ and the bond that the group has with their fans.
Davis also shares his favorite DJ jam, recalls his first concerts and talks about the impact that the return of Brian ‘Head’ Welch has had on the band’s internal relationships. Check out our chat with Korn’s Jonathan Davis below.
Electric show tonight. Watching it from the crowd and seeing the arms going and people dancing in the crowd, it looked and sounded great.
Did it look cool?
Yeah, it looked awesome.
We’re going for a complete opposite of what metal is supposed to be. So, we’re going for some lights and a cool dance party kind of thing. It was cool, I was happy with it.
You even mentioned out there when you were onstage, “Nice to see to you all dancing up there.”
Yeah, that’s what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to get that. I think somewhere people lost that. I remember mostly those really old-school funk days. Back with Rick James or even going back further — The Meters or Brothers Johnson. All these old funk bands and I remember when my dad and my wife’s dad were telling me stories how you were suited and booted. You just had your boots on, you were all dressed up, you were going to party, it was a good time. Somewhere that got lost. You know what I’m talking about? I’m trying to show kids that s–t and it’s slowly happening.
I love that you threw out The Brothers Johnson reference.
Oh, hell yeah, with the funk! ‘[Get the Funk] Out Ma Face,’ get that! My son little Zeppy, that’s his favorite song.
Those were your kids on stage tonight?
Those were my boys, yes. Zeppy was the one who came out first and then Israel is Fieldy‘s son, who’s the other little boy out there, yeah.
How fun is it to basically make this kind of a family affair? The kids are finally old enough…
Yeah, it’s fun man. It’s summertime, so they’re not at school and I can’t think of anything better than watching my boys watch me rock out. I mean, my dad was a musician and I remember being their age and watching him and I actually jammed with him in bars because I played drums when I was really little. It was magical back then. I could imagine what they’re seeing when they see the lights and all the crazy people and all of that. It’s the same when I’m in the studio too. I have them with me too. I watched my dad record in that same studio that we have now when I was their age, so it’s really cool.
Do you remember your first show? Or the first time someone took you to one?
First show I believe, one of them was either Ray Charles or rock shows, ‘Jesus Christ Superstar,’ that’s what got me into rock n’ roll. I was three years old. It’s a f—ed up story — my dad was in the orchestra, my mom was one of the dancers and she left my dad to take off with Judas. It’s a f—ed up story. Seriously, Judas is still my stepfather to this day. That’s what got me going, but I grew up in a musical family. My dad had a music store and a music school next door. That’s where I learned how to play almost every instrument there is. I’m blessed, man. I’m happy.
The new Korn single is ‘Hater’ and seeing it live just took it to another level tonight.
You should quote “good Korn songs are like that.” You really can’t capture that s–t on an audio recording, you gotta see it live. That was the first time we ever played it. It was the very first time we ever played it and it felt good.
While we’re talking about that song, can you tell me more about where it came from?
All those people that ever hated on a band — it’s not just for our band. I think it’s for everybody. I don’t understand what’s going on with society today where it’s to the point where kids are getting bullied to the point they blow their f—ing heads off or people hate on people because they have stuff that they don’t have. Somebody needs to go out and take a belt and whip those kid’s asses like they used to back in the day.
Something f—ing happened, something switched and everyone thought it was funny and okay, so I just wanted to do… I’ve never done a self-empowering kind of song. It’s always been more, I don’t want to say negative, but dark. With this one, it was a big ‘f— you’ to everyone. I’m up on stage doing this s–t 20 years later, still relevant, still doing the big shows and all these people that hate on this, it’s just a big ‘f— you’ to them. I love this song all the way around. It’s amazing and it just happened. I was in between tours and went to my studio and me and [producer] Don [Gilmore] got together and we did this song. It was so good. It was like, “Man, we gotta get this f—er out now as soon as we release the record with some new songs on it.” It’s going good.
When you mentioned ‘Blind’ tonight, has it been 20 years already?
Yeah, it’s been 20 years man. October 11th will be 20 years from when that album was released.
Can you offer some reflection on that milestone?
Did I ever think in 20 years I’d still be here doing this or still be relevant and not be doing the whole casino circuit? No. But, I mean, it’s amazing. I think that over the years I’ve really pressed and tried to find different things to keep us inspired and to keep us creating music and to not stay stagnant. It’s just for us, personally, to be happy with what we do. I see a lot of old bands that go out and they’re playing the same old songs over and over again. The s–t gets tiring and they get tired and they’re not into it. For us, it’s just been exciting all this time and oh s–t, we’re just getting better. We really are, I don’t see us stopping any time soon.
I’ve seen you several times over the years, but Brian ‘Head’ Welch’s return, it kind of kicked it back up another level for you.
Yeah, it’s been amazing. It’s good to have our boy back over there. He was gone for so long. I just missed having him around, if you just hang out with Brian, he’s a comedian. He keeps us all happy. He does the stupidest, funniest s–t. We all laugh and it’s fun and yes, it was hard when he came back in the fold because I hadn’t been around him for eight years and creatively we were bumping heads and now that I look back on it, it was a necessary thing and I’m glad it did happen.
One of the biggest things that he brought to the table was that he taught us as a band how to communicate again, because we got in our old ways where we’d be our own buses and we wouldn’t even really f—ing talk. We’d just go up there and play, do our thing and then go back to our bus. He started emailing us and doing these group texts and all that s–t and I’m like, ‘Whoa, this is kind of f—ing cool,’ and now we’re all communicating and tighter than we’ve ever been. It’s real easy for bands to fall into that, so it was amazing. I’m very happy he’s back.
Sebastien Paquet’s been shooting all these Korn fan testimonials that we’ve been premiering at Loudwire. It’s been awesome seeing that bond with your fans. Can you talk about the special care that you take with the fans and what that bond means to you?
It means everything to me. That’s why I’m still here doing it. I mean, I’m getting up there, I should be home and gardening and doing [Laughs] old people s–t. But, when you see something as powerful as that, man, I wouldn’t give it up for the world. That’s why I’m still here. I love music, but also that my music does that to people. All of our music does that to people, f—, that’s the biggest gift. No amount of money can pay to see what we’ve done and how we’ve affected those people’s lives. So, I think Korn is more than just a band, it’s turning into something different, like a sorority or a club of people that have been through s–t and use this as a way to get that s–t out.
I noticed you guys are doing the ‘Korn After Party’ on Mayhem this year.
Yeah, we can’t do it tonight, but we’re going to start doing these after parties and I think I’m going to be DJing and we’re all going to hang out and I think I might do an old-school funk fest. This is going to be me DJing playing Brothers Johnson. All those old, cool songs and making it a party. So everyone just wilds out and just has a good time, funk out.
Tell me, as a DJ, do you have a go-to track when you want to get the party jumping?
I’m trying to think what that track would be, it just depends. A funk track, my favorite is ‘Cold Blooded’ by Rick James. [Hums beat, sings lyrics] I love that jam! Whenever I want to hear a jam, it’s on, or ‘Mary Jane’ or any of those. For me, seriously, Rick James was the quintessential rock star that could never have anyone top him. There will never be another one like him. When they made him, they broke the mold. There will never be a rock star like him.
Absolutely. There’s a couple new songs that are on ‘The Paradigm Shift’ tour edition. Has that all sparked where you might go directionally for the next album? Or have you even thought about that yet?
I’m doing it right now. I’m continuously writing. I mean, those songs were me getting off on touring, going right to my studio and spending a week in the studio with Don and you’d come out with the two new songs, which were ‘Hater’ and ‘The Game Is Over’ and I’m just going to keep on going.
I’m anxious to hear ‘The Game Is Over.’ Obviously we’ve heard ‘Hater’…
Yeah, yeah it was another song that we didn’t get to finish because I only had two weeks to do all the vocals so we had to pick 15 songs. We did 20. We grabbed that one and worked on that and it’s good man. It really is.
When you get back on tour after a break, I would imagine sometimes things hit you where you really come to appreciate a particular song in the set. Is there anything hitting you right now?
Songs from the album ‘Untouchables.’ I played it when we were in Canada, that show and everyone stuck their hands out. We had like four dressing rooms in a trailer and I started bumping that s–t and ‘boom boom boom boom’ was Fieldy, Munky and him were like, ‘Whoa,’ because we never listen to this s–t. I’m like ‘Man, we gotta start playing some songs off this record.’ So, maybe next time around we’ll throw some more in when it’s our show and we have a longer time period.
Right! And Mayhem this summer, it’s a great bill all the way around. Who are the bands that you’re excited to see?
Body Count, Cannibal Corpse. That’s it. I mean, the other bands are great, don’t get me wrong, but those are real badass motherf—ers, I love it. Body Count is so good, dude. I love the new single too, ‘Talk S–t, Get Shot’. That’s some bad mother f—er… it’s amazing. Love it. I love the f—ing controversial s–t, rock n’ roll doesn’t have that s–t anymore.
Obviously, ‘The Paradigm Shift: World Tour Edition’ is coming out and we have Mayhem all summer, but what’s coming in the future for Korn?
After this I think we’re going to Europe for a week, then we come back and we’re going to do some more dates. I think we’re going to touring through the end of the year. Then I want to get in the f—ing studio and do another record. I’m itching.
Our thanks to Korn’s Jonathan Davis for the interview. Be sure to pick up Korn’s ‘The Paradigm Shift: World Tour Edition’ exclusively via Best Buy. And look for Korn on the Mayhem Festival all summer long at these locations.
Watch Korn Guitarist Munky Chat With Full Metal Jackie at Welcome to Rockville