The frontman tells us what songs he's most excited about playing live from the new album.
With twelve studio albums under his belt as the vocalist for rock titans KoRn, Jonathan Davis is preparing to release his debut solo record, Black Labyrinth. The album, a departure from the heaviness of his full-band, is just as complex. Recorded ten years prior to release, it explores Davis’ inner demons in a fresh light, inviting atypical musical experimentation.
He’ll be celebrating the record’s release with two solo headline shows as part of a wider tour, taking to Manchester and London in June, before returning to Download Festival for his first solo outing. With the release of Black Labyrinth edging closer, we caught up with Jonathan Davis to find out more about the album, it’s creation, and hitting the road as a solo musician.
How are you feeling in the run up to your solo debut record?
I feel ecstatic. I’ve been waiting so long for this to happen. I started this project ten years ago, and had it finished and ready to go. By the time it was all said and done KoRn were heading back out on the road again, and we really don’t stop. We’d had line-up changes and all kinds of things were happening, so being able now to finally put it out and have people starting to hear it is an amazing thing. I’m very happy.
What made you decide to go solo?
Because I f**cking wanted to do something different. Now, I wanted to finish what I started so long ago. I thought the record was too good to just shelve it. It doesn’t sound dated to me. Even though it was made ten years ago it sounds like right now. I chose just to go for it.
Does it still mean the same to you as it did back then?
I don’t think it does. The time when I wrote the record was when Head left the band. There was a lot of pent up aggression towards religion. I was trying to figure out where the f**k I fit into the scheme of things. I was questioning where I came from.
Now it’s a lot easier. I feel like I’ve figured it all out. But I liked the vibe of that time, and it still speaks to me today. I have no problem with putting it out now.
There are a few surprises on the record. Was that important to you then, and is it still important to you now?
I always want to do things differently. This record is more of an experience. I wanted to do something more than just release a record, have people listen to it, like it and that’s it.
I’m doing it with the videos. Each one that comes out is going to tell a story in reverse.
I’m doing these pop-up things too with the Ganzfield Experience. That’s something that’s been going on for a long time, if you deprive yourself of visual and audible stimulus you’ll start to hallucinate. You cut a ping-pong ball in half and put these white globes over your eyes, and you listen to white noise, after twenty minutes you start to hallucinate. Every experience is different, but the brain can’t handle not hearing or seeing anything.
I’m doing these pop up things where I grab a couple of kids and pull them through the experience. It’s just the whole thing, it’s meant to be entertaining and not to be taken overly seriously. But it’s a really dope concept. I wanted something different, and to be more immersive. I think I’ve pretty much pulled that off now.
The record takes you to different places. There are influences from other countries and cultures. Is that all part of that transformative experience?
I just wanted to take you somewhere different. Take you out of yourself, away from whatever you are worrying about. All music is escapism. You’re having a fight with someone what do you do? You jump in the car and turn the radio up loud. Somehow it makes it all better. It invokes some kind of emotion or vibe in you, and I’ve tried to do that. I think that’s what really helps to make this record timeless.
Have you reworked the tracks?
They are still the original recordings. I resung some of the songs, but songs like the first single What It Is, that’s exactly the same as it was ten years ago. There’s nothing new on that.
How did that creative process differ from what you’re used to?
I wrote most of it all over Europe, and came back to the States and recorded some on tape and some on ProTools. There’s mostly a live vibe. Ray (Luzier) plays drums on it. We did basic scratch tracks with some of the instruments live, but then did a lot of overdubs with keyboards and sh*t like that. We did all kind of things.
Did it differ to working with a full band?
With KoRn we’re doing our thirteenth record so I’ve learned a lot over the year. It’s the same principle, but it’s easier when it’s your own solo sh*t. I mean I recorded it and did almost everything myself. It’s easier to do that, I don’t have to bounce it off four other guys, you know.
Does this record represent you more than anything you’ve released before?
It’s a different side of me. It’s 100% me. With KoRn you’ve got the four other characters, which is why the music is different and more aggressive. I’m an ‘80s New Romantic kid man, I didn’t grow up with metal.
How are you feeling about taking it all on the road?
I can’t wait. I’ve been having such a blast doing it out here in the States. I’ve been playing all these clubs, and the vibe’s killer, the fans are having a good time. They’re screaming and welling up. I really think Europe’s in for a treat. I think we’re gonna have a really good time.
How is it touring without KoRn?
I have a whole band on my bus. Normally with KoRn I have a whole bus to myself. I’m only really with the band during the day and when we are playing. This time we’re all crammed on one bus. It feels like the old days; like summer camp. It’s really cool. The whole experience has been a positive one, I’ve got to say.
You’re playing Download Festival solo too. What keeps you coming back?
I love it. It’s an old festival. I remember playing Donington before Download. It’s just a fun festival to come to. I get to see a lot of my friends, and I get to see all the fans. I just love rock shows. It’s an experience in itself… three days of crazy fans, crazy bands… Download just does it right. I know there’s lots of festivals, but that one is really, really fun.
What can fans expect from your solo show?
Just expect a very mellow groove. It’s a chilled experience. I don’t know how to explain it. Just take it in. There’s my solo music, and also a few songs of Queen Of The Damned, so there’s a little nostalgia there too.
If you’re used to seeing me in KoRn, you’re going to want to see this. It’s a very different side of me.
Are you working on more solo material?
I’ve got all sorts of ideas. I’ve got ones I’ve already put together. As soon as I’m finished with the KoRn record I’m going to start pulling this together. I’m going to do the cycle with KoRn, and once that’s done I’ll do a Jonathan Davis record. I’m just going to keep flip-flopping. It’s so much fun. I’ve got a lot to give the world. I know I’ve been doing it for a long time, but I’ve still got a lot inside me.
Catch Jonathan Davis on the following dates:
6 June 2018 – Club Academy, Manchester
7 June 2018 – O2 Academy Islington, London
10 June 2018 – Download Festival, Donington
Tickets for Jonathan Davis’ solo headline shows, and Download Festival, are available now through Ticketmaster.co.uk.
Photo by J Weiner Photography