As Jonathan Davis prepares for the October 8 release of his band, Korn‘s newest album, The Paradigm Shift, he’s cool as a cucumber. After two decades of making aggressive and often polarizing hard rock, he’s realized there’s not a damn thing he can do about his critics so he’s stopped worrying about pleasing them.
Nowadays, the leader of the ‘90’s Nu-Metal movement is concerned with only one thing: writing songs that he wants to hear.
This was never clearer than on the band’s last release, 2011’s The Path of Totality, which pit Skrillex-produced dubstep beats against the band’s signature guitar riffs. Although that one received mixed reviews, the band is sticking to their guns and that same style for their latest full-length.
Speaking to Radio.com while literally taking a relaxing walk in the park, Davis discussed the band’s growth over twenty years, how the unexpected reunion with guitarist Brian “Head” Welch has brought a smile to his face and why their 1998 album Follow The Leader changed their lives forever. Not to mention why The Paradigm Shift is Korn’s best album “in a long long time.”
Radio.com: Where are you calling from today? Are those birds?
Jonathan Davis: I can’t stand hotel rooms. There’s a park across the street from the hotel and I’m just walking around. It’s nice to get out.
Twenty years ago when you were just hanging out in a garage in Bakersfield, California, could you have ever imagined you’d be 11 albums deep today?
No, I’m a lifer, full-on. I’m so happy I get to do what I love for a living and touch so many people positively. I’m blessed definitely.
Do you think you’re the same after all these years?
I’m the same. I think when Follow The Leader hit back then [in 1998], I think that’s when we got thrown into the mainstream. That really affected all of us and the band went cuckoo for a little bit cause our freedoms were taken away. We had bodyguards everywhere we went. We couldn’t hang out like we used to at shows, go back to their house, have keg parties. That stuff was fun and it got kinda ripped away from us.
How did you manage to stay grounded?
I think it’s from us growing up in our town of Bakersfield. It instilled good values in us I think. It’s really easy to get carried away and start to think you’re more than you are when you get in this business. I watched it happen to tons of my friends. When we started this band we wanted to stay as grounded as we possibly could, and I think we did.
While other bands that emerged in the ’90s remained stagnant, you’ve evolved. How?
I think it’s our general love of experimenting and not being scared to try different things. You’ve gotta evolve. If you keep writing the same record you’ll become stagnant. You’re not gonna like it and no one’s gonna like it. For us, it started when we did Follow The Leader. I remember when we put “Got The Life” out we were so terrified we thought it was just a stupid disco song…. And look what happened. You never know. Our motto in the band is if it makes you scared, then you’re doing the right thing.
How conscious of a decision was it to infuse your music with EDM?
That’s where I came from. I started DJing when I was 16 years old so I’ve been a huge fan of electronic music forever. I never really was a big metal fan. I loved some metal bands but pretty much I listened to dance music and old goth music, industrial and stuff like that. That’s where I come from, that’s what makes Korn so different because we’re all into different stuff. It was awesome to be able to do something different. We’ve always wanted to switch things up every record and we’ve been lucky enough, some have hit and some have missed, but we’re not scared to try.
Is it weird that ’80s synth music is back?
It’s awesome… that we’ve been alive long enough to see how the s*** turns around and repeats itself every couple decades. I’m lovin’ it cause I’m a kid of the ’80s. I love all the music from the period. I love hearing all the new electronic bands and EDM music. Everything going on right now is really exciting.