From the February 1997 issue of Metal Hammer Magazine
IF SOMEONE HAS NO OUTLET THEY'RE GONNA CRACK
by Dan Silver
Salem, Oregon, is the sort of town that Korn were made for. Despite being the state capital, it's a dead end, nowhere city, existing in the shadow of its more illustrious neighbor, Portland. Consisting principally of nondescript streets, lined with endless processions of car dealerships and burger joints, fuelling and feeding North America's twin obsessions of driving large cars and putting on weight, the uniform suburbs are the spawning ground for a hundred real life Beavis and Butt-Heads. The obligatory shopping malls in what passes for a city center teem with overweight mothers, hustling for a bargain in the day-after-Thanksgiving sales. This is the ultimate manifestation of the American Dream gone wrong, the superficial society that conceived Korn, only to later wish they'd drowned the child at birth. The irony is compounded by the rather archaic board announcing the bill outside the Armory Amphitheater, the state guard's basketball court and venue for Korn's latest attempt at cracking their home market wide open before heading out with Metallica. The '50s style stick-on letters have taken a bit of battering from the whipping West Coast wind, causing a vital 'P' to fall off, the legend now reading: "MONQUI RESENTS KORN". Welcome to the American Nightmare.
"In America, you can do anything you want, we're fucking living proof. We beat the system, we're out there making money and we're doing what we really believe in," states Jonathan Davis, in between swigs of his second bottle of cheap peach wine, a potent firewater that has become his after-show tipple of choice, "but America's so fucking uptight. Take Amsterdam, for example -- that's a fucking free country right there. You can smoke pot, go down to the red light district, buy a fucking whore, get smacked around and go to jail maybe overnight. There's everything there. You want it, you name it -- bestiality, everything. It's not uptight, that's how it is."
Jonathan, along with his chum Marilyn Manson (surely no coincedence in that meeting of minds), is possibly the most fascinating character in metal at the moment, albeit at a time when faceless individuals with little of nothing to say have become the norm. A(n in)tense bundle of neuroses and paradoxes, he's at once the charming host with the angelic demeanor and the confused child consumed by demons. During the day, in the company of restless, argumentative drummer David and extrovert bassist (and dedicated pyromaniac) Fieldy, Jonathan is reserved and unforthcoming, preferring to allow the other two to play off each other and take center stage. However, eight hours, a draining live performance and a couple of bottles of the hard stuff later, Davis, accompanied by a sluggish and exhausted Munky, opens himself up and allows the Hammer into his head for a rummage.
Dan Silver: The majority of your lyrics are heavily, almost uncomfortably, autobiographical. How does it feel to bare your soul to hundreds of strangers night after night?
Jonathan: I wouldn't say fun, but very rewarding and very relieving. Every time I do it, it makes me feel better -- the comeback from the crowd and seeing all that madness out there. I'm touching something, I think, that people want to talk about, that people can relate to. It's hard night after night, but I need to do it, I have to.
DS: Why do you feel the need to be so confessional?
Jonathan: It's my therapy. I'm like a Coke bottle. It that shit builds up for so long, it's gonna explode, so with my music, it gives me a chance for those feelings to go.
DS: How does it feel knowing that some of the kids in the audience are only there to get loaded?
Jonathan: Here, that's a given. There's kids who just come here to pick up on chicks, but I think if they come to our shows, they're gonna get a rude awakening and realize what the fuck I'm talking about and what we're really about.
DS: Do you ever think, 'Why am I putting myself through this for kids who couldn't give a fuck?'
Jonathan: No, I guess it's for me, I guess I'm a selfish bitch. It's like art -- at least artists have the fucking pleasure of painting a fucking picture and putting it on a wall for everybody to see time and time again. They don't have to repeat that, but musicians have to do that. That's the whole fucking beauty of it, it's gonna be a different show every time.
DS: When you're singing, do you think about the events that inspired the lyrics?
Jonathan: I think about that a little bit, but I'm just letting my brain do what it does. You can only think about that so long before it becomes stale. I do remember those times and that does piss me off -- that fuels my ass -- but it's something fucking crazy. It's like doing a drug. When we're up on stage, it's like going to that place where you're not even aware of it and once the show's over, it's gone, you don't even remember.
DS: You should bottle it -- you'd make a fortune.
Jonathan: I wish I could! If I could record the essence of what I feel on stage, we'd all be millionaires!
DS: Does singing about those experiences every night negate the emotion, reducing the original event to the status of just another lyric?
Jonathan: It doesn't become reduced to another lyric, but I think it does become like that and that's part of the therapy. I want to get this shit out, so when you think back and look at it, it's like [sharp intake of breath] "What the fuck was I thinking?" That's helping what I'm trying to fucking do, but I would never consider them just lyrics, because those feelings are very meaningful to me and what we do is very meaningful.
DS: Is there anything that you now regret being so open about in your lyrics?
Jonathan: The only thing I regret is that with the song "Daddy", everybody thought that my dad fucked me. All I'm going to say is, he didn't fuck me.
DS: How about the sentiments behind "Kunt"? Have you had a lot of flak for the attitude towards women in that song?
Jonathan: Yeah, in America. In Europe, you call each other cunts -- "You bloody cunt!" -- all the time. [In America] they thought because I named it "Kunt" that it was against women, but I just wrote that song. It is toward women, but women that have hurt me in my life, ex-girlfriends and stuff like that. Women go around talking about men all the time -- 'Men are pigs!' Well, fuck that! I can fucking talk shit about women, because women do fuck men over a lot. All women in America or wherever always want guys who will treat them bad and make them fucking go, 'OK, I'm gonna try and get him to love me more.' They thrive on that 'fuck you' complex, yet I write a song about women that hurt me and I get fucking bashed for it! I have no animosity towards women at all, I fucking love women! Women are great, they're great, great, great people. Without a man and a woman there would be nothing. Behind every great man -- I'm going to do this quote -- there's a fucking woman, and it's fucking true! If I come home and talk to my girl about personal things she makes me feel better about myself: 'Don't forget who you are...' and all that, and I go, 'Thank you.'"
DS: Do you still find it hard to form relationships?
Jonathan: Fuck yeah -- it's a trust thing. I mean, I love my girlfriend now, because I trust her and she's been with me since I was nothing. She lived with me in a fucking closet in my house, she borrowed money from her parents to keep me and pay our rent, she believed in me. Now if I met some girl, it would be different, I would always have that thing in the back of my mind that she's with me because of who I am.
DS: How has bringing up your son Nathan affected the way you look at things? Has it made you re-evaluate your own childhood?
Jonathan: Fuck yeah. Growing up, I had all these aggressions because my father and my mother were doing all this shit, but now that I have a kid and I'm in their shoes, I kind of fucking know why shit happens, I can kind of understand now. No one knows what it feels like to be a parent until you have one of your own.
DS: Do you find that you have to stop yourself going down the same road as your father?
Jonathan: I am going down the same road my dad did. It's killing me, because I'm doing what my dad did to me in that I'm always on the road, but I tell myself that I'm making his life better in the future. He'll be pissed off with me, probably get in a band and write songs about me, and that would make me the happiest man in the world.
DS: Has it affected your lifestyle at all? Can you still party like you used to?
Jonathan: Well, I'm responsible, I don't party while he's around. I don't drink while he's at home. Once I came home fucked up drunk, high on speed, looked at him and it killed me, that look in his eyes -- I felt this big, I felt like a little piece of shit. I've never done it since, I can't look at him. I think he saved my life, because the way I was going, I was going to kill myself, dying from drinking.
DS: How emotionally or mentally stable are you at the moment?
Jonathan: Well, I went to a psychologist who said I wasn't ready for the asylum, but I do have problems. I've got a way to deal with them and I have an outlet. Everybody does something, be it killing people, be it writing poetry, be it doing art, whatever -- everybody needs an outlet. If someone has no outlet, they're going to crack.
DS: So it's Korn or mass murder?
Jonathan: I already went... I delved down and fucking cut up dead bodies -- what would be the difference if they were alive?
DS: A long jail sentence?
Jonathan: That's the only fucking thing, and that goes down to what society says is wrong. Lions kill deer to be able to eat -- we're all fucking animals when it comes down to it; the only difference between us and animals is we can communicate. We're just advanced fucking monkeys.
DS: Are you running out of personal experiences to draw on for future lyrics?
Munky: Oh, God... they keep getting larger -- the next album is just going to be Jon screaming!
Jonathan: I'm gonna go 'Woaggghhhhh!'
Munky: We'll just call it 'Jon'!
Jonathan: I don't know, man, I've never ever thought about shit. On this album, we just went into a hotel, I got shitfaced drunk, and when you get drunk, emotions come out, you know that, and I wrote five songs. I've done songs sober too, and I've done songs fucked up on speed. You need stuff to bring things out of you, because your body naturally hides stuff away -- you don't want to deal with it. I've done songs about band members, I've done songs about friends, I've done songs about childhood shit. I'll just dive deeper into what is up.
DS: Would you say that you have a depressive personality?
Jonathan: Oh yeah, ever since I was little, I've always had to bear that shit anyway, it's always what I've been taught -- nice people keep quiet or whatever. I'm not going to walk around 'Fuckyoufuckingfuck' -- that's not right.
DS: Unless you're on stage... what demons still drive you to write and perform as you do?
Jonathan: To prove that I am who I am. The press has always come out and said I'm not this and I'm not that. I'm just basically struggling to prove what I am, that keeps me going. A lot of people don't take me seriously.
DS: The English press has generally been sympathetic to your cause; is the American press not so?
Jonathan: I got one from Entertainment Weekly saying, 'I'm glad Jonathan Davis can capitalize on his bad childhood, like everybody had in this fucking country, to make money out of it', and that really made me fucking mad. Who's this fucking bastard to say that? These are my feelings you're talking about and I'm not putting my feelings out to make money at all. I'm putting my feelings out for myself and other people; if I get money, that just comes with it, but I'm not one to be money-hungry. Fuck them, fuck those scared little bastards.
DS: Whenever I think of Korn, I'm always reminded of the Denis Leary joke about the recent American trend to whine about coming from a dysfunctional family. Leary says that he always wanted to be pitcher for the Boston Red Sox -- sometimes life doesn't work out the way you want, so get fucking used to it.
Jonathan: That's human instinct, just to fucking look the other way. You make fun of anything you're scared of: dying -- oh, you're going to die now, HAHAHAHAHA! It's a human emotion, and when I say really, really, real things, people get scared and there's a backlash, because they don't want to deal with the reality that's in front of them. The truth hurts.
DS: Playing Devil's Advocate, a lot of people are fucked up, only they choose not to go through their therapy in public and inflict it upon others.
Jonathan: [sarcastically] I guess I'm a big tanking motherfucker. I'm going out there tanking people, telling them my problems and hoping they'll feel sorry for me. I don't want their sorrow, I just want them to appreciate what I'm doing. Don't feel sorry for me, that's the last thing I want.
DS: Are you worried about being seen as just another whining American?
Jonathan: No, not at all. There's 1,700,000 people that like us. Fuck that.