Korn Embrace A Different Darkness With ‘Requiem’

3 February 2022 | 12:00 pm | Adam Wilding

“All that pain from what I call my previous life, it’s done."

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In the lead up to Korn’s fourteenth studio album, Requiem, frontman Jonathan Davis is still on the road to recovery after contracting COVID last year.

“I have only just started to feel normal,” the nu metal legend begins, “but I am feeling good; I have started back in the gym - I used to do it every day but it’s taken longer than I had hoped.

“I’m just so happy it didn’t go into my lungs, there’s some residual shit there but I’m alive, I’m so lucky and so happy it ended like that.”

The lasting symptoms Davis experienced caused the band to cancel some shows, although he was able to finish some dates, albeit seated on stage with an oxygen tank close to hand.

“I’ve faced death my whole life. I was diagnosed as asthmatic when I was three years old, I was in hospital every two weeks in tents and shit, so I’m used to that,” Davis tells.

“At six I used to bleed out of my eyes… it was really horrible, I have had bad shit happen to me. But the worst thing about COVID was the anxiety, that killed me, it gave me horrible anxiety. 

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“My girlfriend got it the same time I got it and she still can’t taste or smell. It’s a bad disease, but I got through it. I hate that it’s been politicised, everyone is either vax or anti-vax, it’s unfortunate we can’t come together as a species and figure it out. But we play rock music to make people forget about all that shit.”

Requiem differs from other Korn albums in that the band weren’t pressed for time while writing and recording.

“Literally when I record, I come in, it takes me 30 minutes and I’m done and I don’t change a thing,” Davis explains of his previous studio experiences.

“For the lyrics, it was more a stream of consciousness. When I go into the studio, I don’t even know what I’m gonna fuckin’ write; when doing the melody lines, I’ll freestyle and words will pop out and sometimes I won’t even know what I am talking about - it might hit me a year later. I don’t know, but that’s the beauty and way I do it, it’s coming from a different place.

“We had a previous manager who would book studio time and then book a European tour and I had like a month to record my shit… or last time I had shit happen at home, I didn’t really get to do wanted I wanted because of it. So doing [Requiem] all in our studio and having everyone in a positive place, and having time to experiment, yeah it made it very, very different.”

Korn are known for their cover art depicting children in ominous situations, which has featured on the majority of their releases. The latest record is a return to that unease with the band selecting a child’s face superimposed on to a squeezed stress ball.

“We were given a bunch of potential album covers and the one we picked was the one that really spoke out to us, it just felt like a Korn cover,” Davis says. “Iron Maiden have ‘Eddie’, kids are ours, and so we just ran with it. It seemed more modern and contemporary; for us, it was more mature, we like to keep evolving as a band, with music, lyrics and our cover art.”

On Requiem, Korn have somewhat left behind darker themes, moving on from 2019’s The Nothing, which documented a low point for the singer.

“There was no conscious effort, it’s just how it happened,” Davis laughs. “We wrote and recorded 15 songs, we mixed 10 because one is going on a Japanese export, but we picked the best nine.”

Those songs, despite having that trademark Korn sound, which is inherently dark, combine to create an album that’s overall optimistic, even with the ominous Worst Is On Its Way closing the album.

“It seems like in life at the moment I’m having a rebirth after The Nothing,” Davis says. “All that pain from what I call my previous life, it’s done. I am experiencing this new light, I’m really happy… I won’t call it light because I’m a dark motherfucker and I like the dark [laughs], but I‘m in this really good place of enlightenment and happiness.”

He’s quick to add, however, that he knows “that something is gonna steal that fuckin' joy”.

“In life, you have peaks and troughs and although I’m experiencing all this positive stuff, I know something is gonna come along and the dark is going to suck my ass back in,” Davis elaborates, “And I thought [Worst Is On Its Way] would be a really good way to end the record.”

On reviewing the music he was listening to around Requiem’s production, he notes some surprising influences, such as ‘30s and ‘40s big artists, like Cab Calloway and The Andrews Sisters.

“They recorded on two tracks and mono, the way they did it back then… you had to be a badass fuckin’ musician and I’m really into that right now,” he explains.

“In the studio, I have an old gramophone and some old 78s. Listening to them, it’s just this dark, sinister fucked up vibe and it’s fun to listen to, like it’s an experience… it’s the sort of music you’d listen to if you were hacking someone up or doing some very weird, dark shit, that’s where I am at right now.

“Newer bands, I’m sure there’s stuff coming out but I’m trapped in that era of vibe and musicianship. But shit changes and, you know, tomorrow I’ll be bumpin’ Cannibal Corpse and Deicide, it’s all over the place. I love extreme music but I also love the classics.”

Although the band has no immediate plans to tour Australia, for obvious reasons, Davis indicates he would love to return sooner rather than later.

“We would love to go there once it’s open and everything, but I don’t even know how the fuck we can get in right now,” he laughs. “The last time we were there was in 2016, I think, at the Download Festival in Melbourne. It was only one day. But I’d love to come back, Australia’s dope.”