“Korn will never forget where they came from: a dark place where salvation arrives in the form of twisted, throbbing guitar riffs, syncopated chaotic funk beats, a schizophrenic bass thump and an unmistakable cathartic howl. Emerging from the depths of Bakersfield, California with a sound unlike any other in 1994, Korn have been able to cement themselves as one of the most important bands in rock n’ roll history.” Now they take their stab at the electronic world with a new album featuring Kill the Noise as well as their lead singer Jonathan Davis becoming a DJ. Techibeats very own Gregory Sills had the opportunity to interview Jonathan Davis over the phone.
TB: Were here at Techibeats.com with Jonathan Davis of Korn. Great to have you here. How are you doing Jonathan?
JD: I’m good, man, how are you?
TB: I’m good. I saw your set on Holy Ship! And went up and thanked you for a great show. I grew up listening to Korn and you’ve always been a huge musical influence in my life. How did you feel about performing at Holy Ship!
JD: Cool man, I’m glad you enjoyed it. That was fun. I was scared shitless of that show. A lot of people didn’t know what to think. That was a total, straight up EDM event. I was really stoked. I really love that scene, people dancing to my music and singing with the DJ. It was fun because I was thinking for about two years about the stuff at Bottle Club and I hate that shit. So I said, “I’m not doing that shit anymore, I’m just doing straight raves, anything that’s techno, straight EDM” and its been fun and I’ve met a lot of really great people. Yeah and its all about that stuff that’s bass heavy… I love it and I’m an electro-head at heart so I’m all about stuff at 128-130 [bpm], been fucking around with Dubstep, some Drum and Bass tempos. Its great, its just me and my labtop.
TB: So how did you begin with the electro/dubstep scene? What was the initial start point for you? Where was Korn at, as a band, at this point?
JD: I started DJing when I was 16. I DJed hip hop and more Miami bass and freestyle music. 80′s music. I did that up until I started Korn and I stopped. Started doing the Rock thing and I discovered a new kind of music cause I wasn’t really into metal that much as a kid, I was more into Electronic music. But Ive always kept up with the scene and I got my buddy C minus, he was back into DJing again, so I started getting back into DJing again see what’s going on. All those guys who were doing that back in the 80’s the one that got me really back into it was Steve Aoki. When we were playing a Korn show, he was playing his show upstairs at the Rave in Milwaukee, People’s Ballroom. So I went and hung out with him, we watched each others sets and I said “Oh Fuck, I wanna do this again.” That’s when I just went full-blown with everything. Back in the Drum n Bass scene back in the day. Just everything. I’m a big fan of the entire label listed shit. Been talking to J Edgar, Kill the noise, Feed Me, Evil intent and they say were going to get back together and do a song for me. Going to do some crazy shit. With Spor and Evil Intent. People don’t know my history, they just think I’m some rock guy but you know I really get into it. I try to stem some knowledge of that stuff. So that’s pretty much how I got back into it. We were doing a Korn record again, and this was the music I was really excited about. Sluggo, Excision, North American Dubstep…that shits metal man. I thought how cool would it be if we mashed this shit together. So I took some songs and I played them for my band. They were blown away and said, “lets try this shit” so I called Sonny and …ugh. “Scary Monsters” just dropped so I said, “lets do some work” and he was like “Hell yeah” so we did the first one with Sonny and the next one with Excision and Downlink. Then we did the shit at Coachella with Skrillex, I hooked up with 12th Planet and Jake of Kill the Noise, Noisia. Jake hooked me up with Spor/Feed Me. It just organically grew. People were interested, it was freaking me out, they were huge fans of the band, and we thought it would be really cool to do something together something different. It was hard to carry the integrity both sides becuase it really went wrong and that was a tough start.
TB: Are you working on anything personally?
JD: I’m working on an EP for Dim Mak, doing all my J Devil stuff and it’s all electro and Dubstep. And I mean, I hate the word Dubstep because I really listen to what Dubstep really is and its nothing like what American Dubstep is. But I am mixing all these songs together, electro songs, jumping tempos, changing to drumstep, changing time signatures doing all this crazy shit just having fun. I got a lot of people helping me out and its just great to learn. The only problem now is just learning the basic EDM structures, so song structures. Its hard getting my head wrapped around that so ill call Downlink or Sluggo and ask, “do you know how to arrange this” and they’ll show me templates and I’ll go out on a song and fuck shit up, so I am having a blast. It’s an amazing art form and it’s very difficult to do. And I don’t know if I’ve told this to other interviews but I’ll tell you electronic music is the most difficult shit I’ve ever done in my life. It takes skill and a lot of times it’s very difficult and that’s why I love it so much.
TB: How has the producing been going for you?
JD: I’ve got like six or seven songs. I just got to mix, got to tweak things here and there. I’m doing a remix for Steve for “The Kids Will Have Their Say”. Make it really evil and crazy…
TB: When’s the EP coming out?
JD: Just got my J Devil website up so I’am putting up some of my remixes up on my Soundcloud. Going to get my EP out and put that up on Beatport and do the thing and just play shows and have fun.
TB: Can you talk a little bit about some of the production aspects of The path of Totality? How was it working with producers like Feed Me in “Bleeding Out” and Excision on this album? Where do you hope to see Korn taking this?
JD: I want to take a lot of influence from that but I don’t know if the next Korn album will be all Dubstep or not. As long as it’s really bass heavy and you never know because the scene is changing constantly. I don’t want to put my self in a box like that but it was an amazing experience working with these guys and teaching each other and playing music together. It was really hard and it was difficult. We had this entire bass around, it’s so sub heavy and then you roll off the sub and the bass in between. Munky having to work around guitar riffs, the mid bass stuff, the top, the guitar, and the placing and actually side chaining rock music, side chained guitars and basses and Ray had to play his drum set we took his kick and snare away. It gives it a live kind of feel but sampled beats and snares are way heavier and way more intense than anything we could record. There’s a lot of trailblazing using computers, analog and digital, none of us knew what we were doing. We were inventing it as we went along and in the end we learned a lot from their side and they learned a lot from our side. We both came away with something new and new knowledge and respect.
TB: How did the decision come about with Munky and rest of the band to decide that this album was going to be heavily electronic based?
JD: I played some songs and I said “I don’t know if you guys would be down to experiment” and they were like “lets do this” and the guys were like “fuck yes” so we were going to start with an EP and we did three songs with Skrillex and I am like man this shits so much fun, it’s working. Lets work with some more people and we just kept going and that’s how it ended up. But I am Down I can’t wait to get my hands on some shit like this. But it all started from scratch, jamming in the room. Most of the shit we did was with the producers in the rooms with us, except for Noisia and Feed Me because they were over seas. So we sent tracks back and forth, that way, everything was pretty much done in the room together, just collaborations.
TB: How is it working with Sonny and Jake and some of those guys?
JD: It’s amazing. I mean Sonny is just amazing at what he does. He is such a talented kid. If anyone deserves the recognition that he’s gotten lately it’s because he’s been doing it since he was 16 and he’s an amazing, amazing musician. Working with Jake is cool because I like old school 7-byte bits. The E1 shit. He gave me one of the tracks on his EP “Talk to Me”, which he had the bass talk and all this other shit and I said, “Fuck he’s awesome”. So that was fun. But everyone I got to work with, I loved all their music. It was really awesome. And I was as excited as they were. Getting really positive vibes working with them and watching what they do with computers. I mean for us fucking with guitars and shit with pedals. It’s a completely different way of working and understanding… working with massive or production or whatever. It’s been a big and exciting experience for me. Felt like we were doing something really innovative.
TB: The path of totality was a truly innovative piece of music. Korn putting out a Dubstep album, I mean, that’s huge. Could you talk about some of the production aspects that went into the making of that album?
JD: Well when your dealing with that much bass, its challenging to get things to pop through, so there was a lot of crazy side chaining going on ill tell you that. And we mixed it analog we did it… everybody does that shit on the computer but we took it out. We busted it out with all these crazy converters and did all kinds of shit and mixed it back down to digital so it was something that we had our engineer and Downlink they mixed our album together. They combined their knowledge and did this shit so electronically and see this thing come through because it was a nightmare. The bass tones and guitar tones or being able to get the kick drum to come through, different stuff, compression, I mean there’s a lot of shit that went down I couldn’t even get into… its crazy.
TB: What do you use to produce?
JD: I use Ableton. Some people use Logic. It’s either Logic or Ableton. I use Ableton. All this conversion gear looks very familiar. Crazy side chaining and all this other shit and old analog compressor and we have to use more shit to get back to digital. It went through different stages. It went from Ableton to Logic, Logic to Protools, Protools to some old analog shit tape… then back to digital. This whole platform all across the board. We definitely did some shit like that. Stuff that would make me say, “what the fuck”. Us having all that stuff and working with people who were able to use that stuff I was just blown away. Side chaining was just a big part of it all.
TB: What kind of software did you find the most useful?
JD: I used a lot of stuff. A lot of plugins. For the drums we collected a library of samples. I’ll do a lot of re-sampling stuff to really make it my own; to have a starting point and taking a sample or effect and making something completely different or unique.
TB: What about hardware for DJing/mixing?
JD: I use Serrato Itch with a novation twitch controller. I love that button thing. It’s awesome. Compact works every time. I use the NS7. I like to have everything done on those. If it sounds good, I’m using some converters, its awesome.
TB: What do you believe your strengths and weaknesses are in performing live shows?
JD: A lot of DJs just play their music and stand behind the decks, which is cool and it works for them, but for me I like to get up there and get into peoples faces and make it entertaining. That’s why I do my whole J Devil character, I got my blacked out eyes, looking like a demon, its sick. The shits just scary because nobody’s doing that crazy evil shit right now. It’s different and refreshing for me and seeing the reactions of peoples faces and “WOW” them every time. I want to be accepted for all my music, not just five or six songs, not every concert, but you know. Right now, I’m coming up, paying my dues and playing those little shitty clubs, but for me it’s just the passion alone, you know, I want to learn.
TB: Where do you see the EDM scene going in relation to how now live bands are starting to incorporate more electronic elements into their music and vise versa?
JD: Rays drum kit, he plays maybe 6 or 7 songs off the new record and there’s over 50 drum kits automated into his drum set that he’s hitting the samples and there all automated. Everything in the guitars is done live except for the big bass wobbles and sequencing shit. We wanted to keep this as live as possible because it’s a really cool experience to see it live. As cool as it is seeing DJs, it’s really refreshing to see a live band rocking out to electronic music. It’s all sort of blending together, rock music and electronic music becoming assimilated. It’s a really exciting time to be living in. Our whole culture is coming together under EDM. At electronic shows it’s everyone sort of doing their own thing.
TB: What advice would you give to young producers or people just starting out in the music industry, either in a live band or DJing?
JD: Own your craft. Always keep learning. You can’t not learn enough. I’ve been in the scene 20 years and I’m still learning shit. Just be open and have fun and stay true to you and make great music. Get it out there as many ways as you can.
2012 is going to be a big year. Thanks for the interview Jonathan.
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