Korn: ‘We altogether destroyed what people supposed metal should be’

The original freaks on a leash are back with a new album that tackles methamphetamine craving, procuring religion and learning to like yourself

Jonathan Davis is most comfortable in a dark place. Its more familiar to me, tells the lead vocalist and songwriter of alternative metal band Korn. To Davis, the darkness stirs a fight-or-flight reaction. He knows he can draw inspiration there, but when youre fighting and also winning the daily battle of living with nervousnes and depression, its a place for him to heal.

I started thinking about where I came from on this record, Davis tells. His band is back with its 12 th studio album, The Serenity Of Suffering, which has been lauded as a return to form for that band that is nastier and darker than their recent output, which has included of all things a dubstep album and country outing. Soft-spoken and reflective, one would never guess they were speaking to the vocalist of Korn, a band that has expended more than 20 years building on intense guitar, scats and growl, and, in its earlier days, straight-up screams.

But unlike Davis, guitarist Brian Head Welch, who rejoined Korn in 2013 following a seven-year hiatus, doesnt feel comfy in a dark place. I like to be happy, tells the 46 -year-old, who rediscovered Jesus Christ and spirituality 11 years ago after a destructive methamphetamine addiction tore apart his matrimony. There was a root of hatred in me then, he goes on. I did medications to mask that ache, and then I got suicidal.

Welch, who was born in Harbor City, California, says he was picked on as small children. From get bullied, I didnt really like myself, he remembers. Growing up, he wanted to be a rockstar and spent the majority of members of his time practicing guitar. But when that dream turned into reality, there was a void that couldnt be filled. Even the success in Korn and the fans and the millions of records couldnt stimulate me like myself.

So Welch started going back to church, and the first half of his 11 -year journey to self-love and sobriety was expended exploring dark places and even darker feelings, a place he no longer wishes to return to. Unlike Davis, it wasnt safe for him; Welch find safety in the other side of the spectrum.

As well as the individual members combats, the band has been through a lot during their 20 -year career. We were little kids when we made our first record, Davis laughs. The band lately wrapped up a tour that celebrated 20 years of their debut, and to the vocalist, it felt bittersweet. I had no idea then that my ache would help so many people.

Jonathan
Jonathan Davis: I had no idea then that my ache would help so many people. Photo: Herbert P Oczeret/ AFP/ Getty Images

Back when Korn came out in the mid-9 0s, they were the freaks of the freaks. Dressed in Adidas tracksuits with tattooed limbs and distorted dreadlocks, gold chains hanging from their necks, the five-piece was unlike any other. We were the black sheep, Davis remembers. We totally destroyed what people believed the metal scene should be.

No one genuinely knew what to do with Korn. They did tours with No Doubt, Pennywise, KMFDM; they ricochetted between genres and were eventually lumped into nu-metal by critics. But Davis always felt weird in metal culture, a scene he tells welcomed the band but was still one they never felt totally comfy in. I was always fighting the title of what a metal band was, he says.

He supposes the metal scene is a big place where people who dont fit into the norm are accepted.( I ask him to define the norm, which he tells is a culture where people who never go against the grain settle .) But the thing about scenes that accept a non-polished act is that theres room to be raw, to be honest, to be real, to talk about things that arent rainbows and butterflies. Korn had a safe space to mend not only themselves, but fans who found their darker lyrics relatable.

The things I fight if I can help people, if I can stimulate them see that they can get through the bullshit in “peoples lives”, thats why I still do it 22 years later, Davis tells. Nothing brings more joy into my fucking heart than find our music help a kid who is depressed, or suicidal, or “re going through” an episode. Thats the payoff to me, thats why we keep coming out here, thats why we keep building records. Because we like to see people smile.

Hes lost counting of how many times a fan has told him, You dont know how much youve got me through this, whatever this is. But he does, because back in the working day, it was his bands that got him through: Duran Duran, The Cure. Once, a kid gave Davis the military uniform of his dead friend, who was killed in action; he said the bands music helped him through his deployment.

We have[ sick] fans whose last dying wish is is to come and hang out with us, Davis continues. That is fucking heavy. How do you express yourself when someone tells: Im going to die and I want to meet you before I do?

For Welch, who has authored two autobiographical books( one about craving and spirituality; the other about his daughters fights with self-harm ), “its like” taking out all the junk, grime and stains. Any vulnerability he felt was erased when he saw how many people were able to associate. When I share those conflicts, I put to peace something inside of me and Im able to forgive others, forgive myself for my blunders, he tells.

Same runs for Davis, who writes in a stream of consciousness that is less personal and more universal. Ill sit here with a pen and paper and Ill start writing, he tells. Sometimes, I have no clue what the fuck Im talking about.

Once he gets a song out of his mind, its gone for good, a therapy Davis says he couldnt go on without. Im constantly trying to evolve as a vocalist, he tells. But having that pressure on me is getting a little bit more difficult, even though Ive put out 12 fucking records.

Davis encountered terrible novelists block on the new album. It was hard to do, trying to capture the love I had for heavier music, he tells. The Serenity of Suffering is the bands most intense release in a decade, and there was a lot of history to revisit. Their producer, Nick Raskulinecz, helped the band rediscover their essence. It was a challenge, but we kicked its ass.

Welch says theres a new energy in Korn that hasnt been there for a while. In its darkness, the band find their illuminate. Its what weve done since 1993, Davis tells. Thats just how we roll.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

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