From the August 19, 1997 issue of Circus Magazine
LOLLAPALOOZA '97 SPECIAL INTERVIEW
Korn's Jonathan Davis Reaches Out To His Audiences
With their explosive, hard-working chemistry, the group has virtually taken on endless trekking around the world and composing their trade-mark pounding tunes as intense as KMFDM or as primal as Ozzy Osbourne (acts Korn have toured with).
Armed with a distinctive sound - a surreal blend of avant-garde, metal, hip-hop and alternative - they have gathered a huge following that has earned them a much-coveted spot on the mainstage of Lollapalooza '97 and regular airplay of their new singles "No Place To Hide" and "A.D.I.D.A.S." with their two albums, Korn (1994) and Life Is Peachy (1996) (the latter entering the Billboards at #3) selling platinum and gold respectively (as well as a documentary with video and interview clips titled "Who Then Now?"), their upward spiral to popularity has just begun.
Korn has fulfilled another emotional need of Davis' in a different way. Writing lyrics has allowed Davis to become more in touch with his emotions - something he has fervently avoided throughout his troubled life. As a three-year-old, Davis began coping with a broken household when his parents became divorced. He was shifted around constantly during his childhood, living with his godparents, his stepfather, and his grandparents at different times. A victim of abuse by his neighbor (and losing trust in people because of several bad relationships with women), Davis' first full-time job was as an autopsy assistant at the Kern County coroner - an occupation that couldn't be more detached from human feeling.
Davis looked for a source of release even early in his life through music. His first happy memory as a child was receiving a sparkling blue drum kit from his grandmother at Christmas when he was five. His parents stemmed from musical backgrounds; his mom worked as an actress and dancer in several local theatrical productions and his father owned a music store and was a keyboardist for a few big bands and shows.
By high school, Davis was at least acquainted with drums, piano, and most uniquely of all, Scottish bagpipes - an instrument he doodles around with to this day on tracks like "Shoots and Ladders" from their debut album. This emotional release would become a financial asset, as fate would reveal, when bandmates Munky and Head (then in local funk-rock band LAPD) heard Davis for the first time delivering his typical fury-fueled vocals for his own band Sex Art in a Bakersfield bar in 1993.
Davis' lyrics run the gamut of the emotional spectrum and societal issues he has dealt with, touching on paranoia ("No Place To Hide," "Swallow"), drug abuse ("Helmet In The Bush") to sexual abuse ("Daddy"), and gay bashing ("Faget").
Because of their trauma and pain, his word captivate with their cathartic upfront bluntness, helping the listeners find a release in their own lives. Davis said he's still touched when fans send him thank-you letters and E-mails for giving them hope.
Davis spoke more with Circus about touring, responsibility and hatred in his own life:
CIRCUS: Hello Jonathan. Nice to talk to you. Last time I interview Brain -- or tried to.
Jonathan: Yes I remember, Head was a bit out of it. The jet lag combined with a massive hangover and stuff.... We tried to take the phone off but he put up quite a fight. Hey and call me Jon, OK?
CIRCUS: Jon, you seem to be so much calmer, has it anything to do with you being a father?
Jonathan: I think so, I grew up - matured I guess. Responsibility does that to you. I've been through a lot this year, I became a father. I'm not so angry now. The first record was me at age 20. This is everything after.
CIRCUS: But you can't see much of your son or your girlfriend with all that touring. Or do you take them with you?
Jonathan: I miss Nathan and Rene a lot but I wouldn't do that to
them, dragging them all over the world with me would be cruel. Touring is
It's such a weird feeling, last time I saw him he was a toddler and now he is already walking! I love music and I feel I have something to say but sometimes i wonder if it is worth it.
CIRCUS: But your albums are doing so well. That must be a great feeling.
Jonathan: It is a great feeling but we've got great fans, without them we wouldn't be where we are now. I mean look, we played our way up and they supported us even before we were known and that is what keeps us down to earth.
CIRCUS: You're always wearing Adidas track suits. Are they your sponsors? Like the Rolling Stones and Volkswagen?
Jonathan: Nope, but they started sending me track suits. It is weird, a few years ago I was really struggling to afford them and now they are sending me tons of it.
CIRCUS: That's a great promotion for them, you get photographed a lot and you are wearing their gear.... You should ask them to pay you.
Jonathan: Yeah you're right, never really thought about it. I was wondering why they are so nice and send me all that stuff.... But I am not Boris Becker or another sports guy.... Who cares anyway?
CIRCUS: You have a tattoo that says HIV on your arm, I guess my next question is obvious.
Jonathan: Nope, I am not HIV positive! People ask me that all the time. But I tell you what, that tattoo has probably saved my life. You know in situations when passion and lust take over your brain.... I take a look at that tattoo and I remember that the virus is out there and you never know who got it. It saved me quite a few times from doing something very stupid.
CIRCUS: You have a very colorful past, working in a fast food restaurant, as a coroner's assistant, you came from an unstable family and you were a speed freak. Is this the reason why your lyrics range from child abuse to drug addiction to everything in between?
Jonathan: We always end up in shit over my lyrics. In Europe
there's some shit with Sean Olson because of the song we did for Crow
2 soundtrack, because of the end of the song where I scream "I'm
cumming, I'm cumming, I'm cumming on you".... Because they take me too
literally or something. That song is really about being fucked over by
friends or so called friends, and getting them back in the end.
"Kunt" (from Life Is Peachy) is another one. People are like saying I'm a women-hater and shit, but I'm not. Sure there are some women I hate, but there are also some men I hate. And that's what that song is about. I don't hate women. But this album just has many different sides to my lyrics.
CIRCUS: But the kids seem to love your lyrics. They know them all by heart.
Jonathan: The coolest thing for me is when the kids come up to me at the shows and say 'I've been through that', or 'you helped me a lot'. That's why I write my stuff, so they know they're not alone and other people have been there too.
CIRCUS: To motivate them? Wake them up and give them hope?
Jonathan: After one show a girl came up to me and told me her brother was molesting her. I told her to tell all his friends about it, and see what happened. She came up to me later at another show, and said he stopped. Just knowing that i can help our fans through shit is the best. I wish I'd had someone there to do that for me when I really needed it.