Interview: Korn Frontman Jonathan Davis on Revolver’s Album of the Year, ‘The Path of Totality’

In Revolver‘s new, 100th issue, which hits newsstands everywhere on December 13, we list our picks for the top 20 albums of 2011. And numero uno? Korn’s 10th studio full-length, The Path of Totality–our selection for the Album of the Year. You can read Editor in Chief Brandon Geist’s write-up about the record in the magazine, but to celebrate here online, we recently talked to Korn frontman Jonathan Davis about The Path of Totality, which comes out tomorrow, and about the honor. Below, read our chat with the vocalist, including what led him to want to create an electronic-infused album, winning over skeptical fans, and his link to the Illuminati!

REVOLVER How does it feel to have The Path of Totality named Revolver‘s Album of the Year?
JONATHAN DAVIS I’ve got chills right now. Man, that’s fucking awesome. Thank you. You have an open mind. The album is getting people to have an open mind and just accept that this is the future–accept the change. And once they do that, after we do our shows, ’cause we play a full set–we split our set up into three different sets, then we do a full set of the new record, we do five songs of the new stuff–and during that time they’re kind of like, What’s going on? But by the end of it, the last song, the whole place is going crazy. I’ve gotta take it to the people and they’ve gotta see it with their own eyes, or hear the record, and then they’re gonna be like, What the fuck?!

Are you surprised to receive this honor for an electronic album?
Yeah. It is fucking crazy, but it’s still rock. I executive produced it—that’s what they called it—and my whole job was to keep the integrity of both sides of the music intact and finding that balance. It’s still a Korn record–you can’t deny it’s a Korn record–but there’s those subtle, and sometimes there’s a lot of the dubstep influence, and drum and bass. It’s not that we were going for a dubstep record, there’s all styles of electronic music on this. There’s dubstep, drum and bass, electro, it’s all kinds of different kinds of music. My job was to fit the pieces in and arrange them into song form and then figure out how the fuck I was gonna sing over them and all that stuff. It’s a rock record, but it’s got electronic influences.

How did the process work of making the album, between you, the band, and the producers?
The only two people we didn’t work with in the room was Noisia and Feed Me, ’cause they were in Europe. Basically what went down is we’d get in a room together and the producers would just lay down a skeleton of beats and some wobbles, here and there. And then it’d go to Munky [guitar], Munk would do some guitar stuff on it and then it’d go back to them and their producers. We’re working in digital and in analog at the same time. We had, like, a crazy, mad-scientist thing going on. So we were kind of filing back and forth doing all this stuff. It was really…that’s how you collaborate, like you do with any band. But their instrument’s a computer.

You know, what’s so exciting about it is we didn’t know what the fuck we were doing. It felt good because we were just making music that we loved, open-hearted, not giving a fuck about what anybody thought. We just wanted to do something different and change rock again.

Is that why you wanted to make an electronic-infused album?
And it was my passion for electronic music. I know metal fans, or metal purists, aren’t into that so they call it “gay techno,” but there’s really heavy bass, it’s really heavily heavy-metal influenced. And it’s just, again, close-minded, and for me, because I’ve been out DJing, keeping up on all this stuff for a couple of years, I was excited to see DJs play their music, because it just takes so much talent to do that shit. People think it’s, Oh, you plug your computer in, you play some notes. It’s not–you have to have a vast knowledge of synthesis because all these sounds that these guys make are made out of thin air. It’s not like, you know, with a guitar, you plug it and [makes guitar chugging sound], there you go, you can fuck with your tone a little bit, but you know what you’re gonna get. With their shit, they make shit out of thin air, and it’s difficult.

Do you see this electronic direction continuing on future Korn records?
I mean, I think it will continue in the future, I don’t see how it can’t. I don’t know, it’s like when we did Korn, the self-titled, we had [Roland TR] 808s, we kept 808s–that was the hip-hop element. At that time hip-hop was coming up and was underground and doing all that. So I think there’ll still be some electronic elements in the music, but I don’t know what we’re gonna do next, I haven’t even thought of it yet, since I got done with this record. I’m sure I’ll think of something. At least in the electronic world, everything is evolving so fast and there’s so many subgenres coming out, it’s why I love it so much. People are so fucking creative and it influences me in different ways.

How difficult was this record to make?
This was the hardest Korn record we ever did–at least for me and the production aspects of it. And I think for Munk, too, just wrapping his head around what we were doing, and Fieldy [bass] and then Ray [Luzier, drums] being a sport because we couldn’t use real drums–we did use real drums on some of the songs, but we had to take his kick and snare off because it didn’t meld right with the electronic kicks and snares.

And my hats off to him, ’cause, like, most drummers would be like, “Fuck you, I’m playing on this,” or like, you know, everybody would have attitudes. But everybody in the band was like, “I don’t care if this isn’t up here or if my bass is rolled off there because I just wanna do what’s best for the project.”

How have the new songs been received by crowds so far?
It’s really been awesome. It’s exactly like the crowds when we first came out, back in ’94. People don’t know what to do–they know that they like it, but they don’t wanna show that they like it because the hardcore metalheads, you know, they’re such purists. But I see ‘em in the crowd, like, shaking their head looking around, like, Should I be doing this? I like it, but I know I’m not suppose to like it. [Laughs] Shit, then there’s those fans who wild the fuck out, and then we’ve been getting some electronic fans, too, and they’re just going crazy. So it’s funny, man. I’ve been getting devil horns thrown up at me and heart signs. [Laughs]

Is it almost fun to try and win over the diehard metal fans?
Yeah, yeah, yeah, definitely. I mean, that’s why I’m probably hurting so bad. I knew there was gonna be bullshit, I knew there was gonna be haters, there’s haters in everything, there was haters back in—like, I say this is the new Follow the Leader album—there was haters back then. But you can’t deny it, and you can’t deny what’s going on in the electronic world, it’s happening and I’m a huge fan of it, I love it. I love going to those shows, they’re fun, it’s exciting. I think rock’s gotten so stale. Just because labels are just wanting to churn out, you know, same formula, bands sound all the same, and they don’t know any other way. Then it’s been in the Korn fashion to always experiment and push the envelope and I think we’ve finally nailed it.

How did you first get together with Skrillex for the album’s lead single, “Get Up!”?
First of all, I didn’t know Skrillex was Sonny [Moore] to begin with. I mean, I listened to his previous EPs he did when he was starting to go kind of dubstep-y and electro, but I heard his EP before it came out, I was really blown away by it. And then I realized it was Sonny and then I just called him. Because back in the day, back at Revolver [in the September 2005 issue] you had up-and-coming bands interview their heros, and yeah, Sonny picked me to interview [laughs] when he was in From First to Last. And I knew him from that. And so I just called him–I got his number and I called him. And he freaked the fuck out. He’s like, “Whoa, what’s up, man?” I go, “Bro, we got this idea. We wanna know if you wanna work with us, like, on mixing, you know, dubstep and electro elements with what we do.” And he was all, “Fuck, yeah!” So he came out and we did three songs together.

The last [producer we worked with] was Feed Me. And I really love Feed Me–he was a guy named Spor back in the day, and he was a drum-and-bass guy. Now he goes by Feed Me. He’s, like, the most musical, ’cause he mixes all kind of genres in his music, so, like, electro, drum and bass, and dubstep all in one. And that’s when we did “Bleeding Out.” And that blew me away, ’cause I heard this song and it was the first time I wanted to put bagpipes on a Korn record in a long time, where I wasn’t forced. So I think I did the first ever bagpipe solo on a dubstep song! [Laughs]

What was the original intention when you first got together with Skrillex? Did you always have an album in mind or were you just testing the waters?
No, just was testing the waters if this would work. It started out as my idea, but I knew it would work. And once we got the three done with Skrillex and we were working with the other dubstep producers, I’m like, “Fuck an EP. What’s five more songs? Let’s make a full-length out of this.” ‘Cause we were having so much fun, it felt like we were doing something special, something completely different. And it reinvigorated the band, creatively. Now we’re all sitting in a room together just talking about how great this record is and, you know, rock had become so stale and we were chasing our tails trying to find something to change it again. And then we finally stumbled upon something that I think would do that. And we’re just beside ourselves. ‘Cause this isn’t suppose to happen–we’re an old-ass band, we’re coming up on our 20th anniversary, dude, that’s not supposed to happen.

Your last record, Korn III: Remember Who You Are, was a return to your roots, and now with this album you’ve really branched out. Is there a connection between the two?
Well, that album was an experiment, too. And I love the record, but it was hell to make–I needed a lot of hell and torture to be in, and I feel the album’s forced. And I feel a lot of kids picked up on that, because it was forced. It was tormenting me and torturing me and taking me backwards, because I was over it. Fucking 38, 39 at the time and, like, I’m over this shit, but, oh, the world needs to feel this. And I’m like, Ah, God…so it felt really forced. But I think we needed to take two steps back to go four steps forward, you know? We needed to go and do that record to get to this point, where we’re like, We’re experimenting and we’re doing some future shit. Fuck this going-back shit, we already did that. So it pushed us forward.

You’ve said that the title of the record refers to everything having to be in perfect alignment, as with seeing an eclipse, and that’s what happened with this record.
Yeah, that’s right. That’s exactly why I love the title because I asked Munk to come up with some titles, make a list of titles, and then he was reading about some eclipse shit and that term came up, “path of totality.” And I went, “What’s this mean?” I looked it up on Google and it’s, like, the path you must take to see a full eclipse. You have to be in the right place at the right time to see a full eclipse of the sun. And I go, “Dude, that’s perfect,” because everything had to fall at the right place at the right time, with the right skill, with the right people to make this happen. And the eclipse, to me, was the rebirth of this band.

Do you remember what your reaction was hearing the finished album for the first time?
I cried, dude. I did. I mean, this is like my baby. And, like, thank God I had people believe in me, thank God the band believed in me, and thank God the band embraced it and stepped up and did way beyond, you know, what they’d done before. Just everything, and all the hard work. And when I finally got the master and I got to hear it all the way through, I just cried. I was like, Oh my God, it worked. Because it could be totally set up for disaster. If we didn’t do it just right it would be fucking horrible.

There’s a song on the record called “Illuminati.” Do you share a lot of those ideas?
I saw this movie called Zeitgeist, and that started me out with the whole, you know, conspiracy theory shit, and I just got into it. And the whole Illuminati thing, I really believe’s going on.

It could be all fucking fake, and so what, but it intrigues me. Things I look around at, like this, the Department of Homeland Security–you know who did that first? Adolf Hitler, he created the Gestapo. And that was a secret police to secure the borders of Germany and protect the people. And those guys have all the power in the world, they can just take you out, stick you in a room, stick their hand up their ass, you have no rights. And that’s some of the shit we’ve given up.

You actually have some historical family connections, right?
I do. My son, ’cause he’s really into it, too, my 16-year-old son—I do ancestry.com as a hobby—well, he went through all my records and original Illuminati family was Davies and they came out of Wales and, I don’t know, it was like the 14, 1500s. Well, he found the Davies that came over to America, his name was Griffith Griffin Davies, and when they moved, the Davies was dropped and it became Davis in America. And he did all this research and shit and got all these records–my kid’s a really smart kid when he wants to be–and he showed me, he’s like “Look, Dad, we’re related to the Illuminati.” And I was like, “Oh my God.” It just freaked me out.

What’s your pick for Album of the Year?
Hyro Da Hero. That was really fucking good. So I’ll pick that one–Hyro Da Hero [Birth School Work Death]. That was really fucking good. It’s just so real and I love the way Hyro raps. It kind of reminds me of Rage Against the Machine, but different, with a band and the music. And it’s real, and this kid loves doing what he’s doing , ’cause I saw him in concert. And it’s real, it’s not made up.

 

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  • No thanks

    Congratulations…not to Korn, but to Revolver for finally completing their years-long shark-jumping attempt. 

    • Valtiel

      Ahahahaha u mad

  • Kakein

    Bravo Korn!!! The Best BAND 4 ever

  • Hangon

    Ok, I understand that someone for some reason might think this is a good album but saying it’s the ALBUM OF THE YEAR?? What.. the… hell?

  • Belledeath

    “if you don’t like something, maybe it wasn’t meant for you”

  • gia

    congratulations to KoRn!! and thanks to Revolver for open mind and acknowledgement!!! 

  • 420hater

    this was the funniest thing I have ever read. Korn sucks ass anyways. revolver you are a fucking shame.

    • Viviane Santos1985

      trouxa do caralho!!!

  • Ibmx713@ymail.com

    Korn is the fucking shit,don’t be fucking hateing,i saw korn November19th in Houston,TX,they were unbelievable awesome for my 4th timed Live,will get V.I.P TICKETS next time. :-)

    • http://twitter.com/iLuvLibraries OurDigitalFuture

      OOooOOo Seeing them tonight! I wish i bought VIP too what was i thinking?! Next time tho for’ sure! (last time i saw them was last year June 2010 in San Diego!!) can you tell I’m excited?! :p

  • Ronnie Radke

    everyone shut fuck up. you people saying korn sucks ass makes me fucking sick. you havent heard the  whole album yet so shut the fuck up.

  • European

    The whole album is fucking awesome… my favs are My wall, Way too far and Tension, but these are only my favs… the fucking whole album is fucking enjoyable… 

  • European

    And it’s not an “i’m fucking forced to crying to try comeback to my roots” album like the last one before this… For me, this album is TRUE KORN… they have  evolved in fucking best direction… 

  • Fizo

    This album IS change METAL AGAIN !!!! KoRn did it AGAIN ! AXAXAXAXAXAXA Never doubt KORN, NEVER YOU FOOLS !

  • PoRn

    KoRn is the only band worth listening to because they are different and unique and TPOT is an amazing album, Cant get enough of NC and Way To Far…Going to a store now :)

    • Cinemetal

      “Korn is the only band worth listening to.”

      HAHAHAHAHAHA

  • http://twitter.com/iLuvLibraries OurDigitalFuture

    OMG SO EXCITED TO SEE KORN LIVE IN HOLLYWOOD TONIGHT!!! even more so after reading this interview OOOooooOOooOOoooo!!!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/deadlyhabit Mike Higbee

    album of the year? are you fucking kidding me?

  • Bob Sangreni

    Not even album of the week. Have you even listened to Chevelles new album? I mean.. I like some of the songs on this album but its nowhere as consistent or even catchy as Hats off to the bull. I’d still list it in the top 20 though.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Danny-Lucht/1218420369 Danny Lucht

    This album is amazing. I don’t understand how there can be all these haters when they went out did something new and succeeded at it. KoRn always has a unique sound that no other metal band has ever had and they took it to a whole new level. Good job guys.

  • bonzo

    an album that has been out one day – with 24 days remaining in the year – is album of the year? revolver, take the dollar sign out of your ass. 

  • Jeremy

    haha Korn is now an Ipod band, not like skrillex is going to tour with them everywhere haha there is basically no guitar in that narcissist song, the dubstep is sick tho! i just don’t understand how they get album of the year when they literally just used skrillex’s AMAZING dubstep as their entire song….he is the only reason that song is good. maybe i need to listen to the whole album before i judge them too much but its quite obvious skrillex should receive at least half the award haha

  • Sutherland_jake

    Everyone has an opinion! I love the new KoRn cd, it is amazing sounding and revolver picked the right cd for sure. It is the freshest sounding and most original work this year! Jon davis did all the singing and wrote the lyrics and helped write the music with the dub step producers and jon davis co produced it and junky and field did add a lot of guitar and bass to it so yeah KoRn did a lot of it but just experimented with dub step producers and it sounds amazing!

    • Lee Booth123

      Lol predictive tx is a bitch.

  • Sutherland_jake

    lol on my last post i screwed up the guitarist and bassist names…i meant to say munky and fieldy lmao! Yeah, KoRn did an amazing job as did the dub step guys and I’m also a fan of skrillex now too. The old rock formula has just been beat to the ground and it is time for a fresh sound and these guys are doing just that.

  • Blake Salsgiver

    Volbeat Beyond Hell/Above Heaven!!!!  Most American Rock sucks! There are a few exceptions and Korn isnt one of them! This is why I dont listen to the radio. Because of crap like Korn. 

    • Megold16

      So, why did you even come to this forum?

  • European

    Seriously, korn and korn’s fans should dissociate from metal world and metal music as unique and particular style… I say it as a korn fan… Seems that people is unable to just  take one single korn album and fucking enjoy it like what it is, just music without any kind of brands nor labels… So I’m tired of seeing always the same opinions about this band… You think this isn’t metal? I say yes! This is just Korn and if you don’t like it go to listen to your favourite band or metal music kind and just stop wasting your time critizicing korn reapiting always the same topics… 

  • European

    Seriously, korn and korn’s fans should dissociate from metal world and metal music as unique and particular style… I say it as a korn fan… Seems that people is unable to just  take one single korn album and fucking enjoy it like what it is, just music without any kind of brands nor labels… So I’m tired of seeing always the same opinions about this band… You think this isn’t metal? I say yes! This is just Korn and if you don’t like it go to listen to your favourite band or metal music kind and just stop wasting your time critizicing korn reapiting always the same topics… 

  • European

    Metal music doesn’t deserve korn… Korn is too cool to be called metal, most of metal music is repeat, repeat and repeat the same riff and concepts over and over the years… just crap music and fucking “teenager playing Dungeons and Dragons” emotions… holy crap, seriosly, we are in 21th century… go to de fuking viking and medieval age if you think you would be more happy… and let us, the korn fans, fucking enjoy our music… 

  • European

    Metal music doesn’t deserve korn… Korn is too cool to be called metal, most of metal music is repeat, repeat and repeat the same riff and concepts over and over the years… just crap music and fucking “teenager playing Dungeons and Dragons” emotions… holy crap, seriosly, we are in 21th century… go to de fuking viking and medieval age if you think you would be more happy… and let us, the korn fans, fucking enjoy our music… 

  • Clown

    People have to relax. As Jonathan mentioned, when they first started back in 94, the metalheads didn’t know how to feel about it.  They knew they liked it, but were afraid to show it in case their other metal buddies didn’t.  It’s kinda funny really.  Metal finds it roots in non-conformity and escaping the status quo, yet metal has become a form of conformity in itself and whenever someone tries something different, they’re berated and ostracised for it.  Korn invented an entirely new genre back in 94, which is worth it’s weight in respect alone, and sensing that things have gotten stale and overdone, are reinventing it.  How many other metal bands can you say have even thought to try that?  Hell I’d give them Album of the Year for just experimenting, which is more than I can say for alot of other bands this year.

    Don’t worry. It’s ok to like it.  You’re not the only one.

    • Sphyncter

      ummmm…. there are plenty of bands that use dubstep influences… korn certainly didn’t invent this little gig. this is just a copy of what they liked and wanted to bank off of it. and just because i like metal, and i like some very specific dubstep… doesn’t mean i like korn at all, or there new joke of an album… people have their opinions, and this is a fucking joke!

  • Chase Isringhausen

    I’m just going to say this because for some reason nobody else will. KORN NEEDS TO STOP MAKING MUSIC, UNTOUCHABLES WAS THE LAST DECENT RECORD AND IT STILL SUCKED..why is their attempt to keep up with the “times” the RECORD OF THE YEAR ??? I mean really?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Skylar-Rexwinkle/100000568030230 Skylar Rexwinkle

    Record of the year? Wow, i knew you guys had slipped in the last couple of years, but damn. That’s beyond stupid. I’d read this on relevant blogs about metal, and had to see it myself to believe it. Not like Mastodon released a great album or anything. Yeah yeah, it’s ‘different’. If numetal taught us anything, it should have been that mashing two genres together isn’t ‘new music’ it’s just two genres mashed together. And where’s the guitar at? Whatever, good riddance revolver. For relevant news, I’ll stick to DECIBEL! The only metal magazine that’s good enough to print every month.

  • Trendkill

    This is the last straw Revolver. First going to issues every other month, then covering shitty bands (black veil brides, asking alexandria etc.) but now this? A dubstep/nu-metal album over The Hunter, Unto the Locust, Ritual, Heritage, Thirteen, Forever Abomination, and the like? Really? Well congratulations, you just lost another reader and customer. Just do all the real metal fans a favor and stick to the trendy shit from now on, and leave the, you know, actually good metal to DECIBEL. I’ve stood by this mag since 2007, through all the crappy issues. But no more.

  • Cannibal_dude

    It’s disgusting that korn sees this music as the future, it really is, I am not being closed minded, I have a love for all forms of music, and I do realize that alot of metal lovers are closed minded. Dubstep is a fucking cancer, it’s not the future of anything besides some trend that is happening, Korn is trying to come up these answers about if you don’t look it you are close-minded, it’s a fucking joke, the people listening to and buying this album won’t even remember it in years to come. By naming this album album of the year, not only do I boycott Revolver, I will burn all my old magazines, tell my friends to read other sources of material. Revolver might as well have named A Jonas Brothers album album of the year, this a fucking cock-sucking sell out move if I have ever seen one by both parties. Revolver totally ignore great bands out there today so they can make room for the bullshit trend bands of the minute. Fuck yourself Revolver. Dubstep is NOT a form of music or art, its a money making scheme to sell to kids at hot topic and people who smoke way to much and do not know any better. I’m ashamed I ever read this corporate magazine. It took me a little while to realize that this mag is a fucking enemy of music, but now I understand.

    • Kornfreak

      pissed of your band dint win??? how can you say your not closed minded your lil rant is the very definition of beeing close minded.. some of your moaning there reminds me of the shit my parents told me when i started listening to korn and what my grand parents probably told my parents when they started listening to Wham , the point beeing that you have no say in what or what doesint last, its the ppl that listen to the music and future generations. there is a long list a old music that i hate and wish wasint around but i do realise there a 6 billion ppl in the world so my personal views dont mater much in the grand sceme of things… so learn your place you close minded fuck.

  • Bruno Hébert-Brassard

    Korn are great but, Winning the album of the year award? They are becoming Dubstep… I don’t think we should talk about them that much because Revolver is not dubstep… 

    But well… Revolver talk about SLipknot when they are not even metal, not even close. So i think we can give it a damn and give Korn the honor of Best album…

  • Sutherland_jake

    KoRn have the balls to make new sounding music that is interesting. I get sick of all the same metal bands making the same stuff over and over…that is the lame part of metal. The new KoRn cd is killer! This is the best cd in a long time. Open your mind!

  • Sutherland_jake

    Also, KoRn could give a shit less about sounding metal. KoRn is more interesting than metal and jon davis is the most talented vocalist ever to me. He can sing great melodies and scat and do the hardcore singing and play some good pipes. Love jd!

  • Rgrggrgr29

    ” KoRn have the balls to make new sounding music that is interesting. I
    get sick of all the same metal bands making the same stuff over and
    over.. ” – Korn have been producing the same damn album for YEARS you fucking 12 yr old retarded imbecile. Rock is a fragmentation of 12 bar blues – It’s supposed to sound the same ! There’s innovation and
    evolving style, then there’s just this mainstream sound shite. This
    is Vanilla pOp.

    • Kornfreak

      You are the definition of an Idiot, there are no rules to rock, probably the only rule to rock is that it is heavyer than main stream pop, for god sake the beatles were the rock of there time but if it were to be released to day it would be pop music. your definition is old as shit. now please remove your head from your ass, and go listen to what ever “fragmented 12 bar blues” crap u listen too at let us modern ppl listen to modern music…..asswipe!

  • Sutherland_jake

    I’m not 12 you ignorant rock fan. I’m giving my opinion and doing the same rock sound over and over is very boring. KoRn have made a new sound like 9 times now but you can still say hey it’s korn. They have mad talent! Even revolver agree’s with me lol. Yeah, KoRn is the best cd of the past year and beyond! Also, they are not a vanilla pop at all lol. They have a great groove and jd can sing unlike most the bands you listen too.

  • http://twitter.com/KotowDave David Oakes  

    I guess Revolver just didn’t get around to listening to The Hunter or In Waves. In fact, did they listen to any album this year that wasn’t Korn ? That would go some way to explaining this joke.

  • Tarkongtontrinity

    I think the album was a huge success. Surprising actually that it even got attention. I heard it was terrible from so many people, but when I heard it– ear-gasm. I couldn’t believe it, I’m a long time fan and must say, this album is damn deserving of the title. KoRn: the exception to EVERY rule.

  • Armando Cz12

    LIKE IF YOU THINK THE ALBUM OF THE YEAR HAAAAD TO BE EVANESCENCE’S EVANESCENCE