Korn: An unexpected pursuit of happiness


Happiness isn't necessarily a word one would associate with nu-metal icons Korn. Emotive, abrasive, personal and thumping, absolutely - but not happiness. This isn't a slight on the band, after all, happiness is a rare commodity these days.

Indeed it’s so rare, that when happiness found its way into the life of Korn’s frontman, Jonathan Davis, it damn near took him by surprise.

Requiem is a word synonymous with death, darkness and loss, but Korn have repurposed it; recontextualising the concept of happiness in the process. This isn’t the rainbows and puppy dogs discussion on happiness we’re accustomed to. It’s the polar opposite; after all, you can’t have a conversation around happiness without addressing the things that undermine it.

And so with Requiem, Korn have become flag bearers of the idea of finding your own happiness, and defending it with a white-knuckled intensity both despite of, and inspite of the things that undermine it. After all, as BLUNT would learn speaking with Davis, happiness is hard-fought.

What’s new in the world of Jonathan Davis?

Fucking being happy, just chilling. Came off crazy tour and I’m just sitting at home relaxing. Life’s good, man. I can’t complain at all.

Happy. That’s a big word! You don’t hear that much these days…

Shit’s fucked up but I’m not going to let it fuck up my world.

I’ve been through it with everything going on. A lot of shit has been thrown my way and it’s up to me – you got to say this – You are responsible for your happiness. No one else is fucking responsible for it. If things get to you, if you’re depressed about shit, it’s you, it’s not the world. You have the ability to take yourself out of any situation or change the situation that makes you feel bad. It took until I was 50 fucking years old to figure that out. I have to pass that on to people

What was your eureka moment?

Just through all the crazy shit I’ve been through, man. I’ve been through too much shit for one person, honestly. It’s true.

I don’t mean to laugh but that’s a funny concept. It’s like you’ve lived more life per life than the average life lived.

An average life has not been through the mostly bad, dark shit has happened to me.

It took a long time for me to figure it out. You know what it also is? It’s age. Honestly, age is a big part of it. When I turned 40, I stopped really giving a fuck about what people thought and when I turned 50, I really, really fucking don’t care. I want to make me happy. But you got to learn. It takes being on this planet and living to figure that all out.

Were you one of those dudes that rejected the concept of happiness and you thought maybe being happy would take away some edge?

No. Because my happiness is life, right?

Let’s talk about Requiem: It ends with ‘The Worst Is On Its Way’; This is the cycle of life. I’m in an up period; I’m happy, everything’s going great. But you know what, around the corner, something’s going to fucking happen like it always fucking does and steal my fucking joy. Everybody on this fucking planet, that happens to them. It just depends on how you react to it.

The world’s fucked up right now. Australia is really fucked up right now. America’s fucked up. But we just got to find, then tune that out shit and just concentrate on what makes us all happy, and for me, it’s music. For you, writing is what makes you happy. So that’s really super simple.

On the mood of Requiem, the direction it goes as a story, it feels as though as it gets more aggressive and more agitated. Is that a correct read?

You pulled it right off.

The way that it goes is, it starts off a certain way and it gets more and more and more intense. It’s really quick. The record’s fucking nine songs. How many albums are like 26, 30 minutes maybe?

We did that consciously thinking nobody has a fucking intention span anymore. Nobody’s going to sit down and listen to a fucking hour’s worth of music. So we recorded 15 songs I believe, and nine went on the record. We wanted it to be all just slam and slap you in the face and we’re out. Bye.

That's the one thing that's different. It's alienating the band even more now from the fans. I don't like that.

- Jonathan Davis.

I got that very tactile sense that I was following you guys further down into a darker place with each song…

It’s all just real emotion.

Each record is a period in time. You can go through the whole Korn discography and it’s like my fucking diary, what I’ve been going through in my life. This one is this transformation of me coming from a very dark place with fucking nothing, to this new place where I’m discovering all this new happiness and I’m starting to notice things in life that are really fucking amazing. So, Korn’s always about being real. Nothing’s forced. We write music. I do my lyrics. It takes me about 30 minutes tops to write the lyrics…

Then I go directly to the booth and I sing it and once I’m done singing and done all the harmony, everything, I’m done. I’m not going to change anything because if I sat there and fucking really hyper-analyzed it, I could ruin the whole thing. I’m down with whatever comes out. It’s coming from my fucking heart and gut and I’m not going to question that. I never have. That’s why Korn albums are different every time because whatever head space I’m in, I don’t know what’s going to come out.

In that case, do you get to enjoy a finished Korn album as a fan would because you have that distance from the process, not allowing yourself to get too close?

Yeah. I fucking bumped the record when we got it done.

The record’s old to me now, but when we get done, I bump the fuck out of it. I listen to those songs over and over. I love them. Huge stereo at the studio, I crank that up and just sing along with it and I’m still like a little kid. I love it.

Going forward, from your perspective, what are you seeing as being, I don’t want to say ‘new normal’ because it makes want to throw up, but the ‘new normal’ for internationally touring musicians?

It just seems like you’re always going to be worried about catching that fucking shit.

We don’t do fucking meet and greets anymore because we’re afraid someone could be infected with this. We got tested every day. We got to make sure all the crew was tested. We had to do all these things. Some of the shows, the indoor shows, you couldn’t get in unless you had a vaccine card or you were tested. All this shit that’s involved, that incurs extra cost. It was really easy to jump in your car, go to the show, go in the venue, and see your band and go home. There’s a little bit more jumping. You got to jump through some more hoops, but it’s worth it to me.

That’s the one thing that’s different. It’s alienating the band even more now from the fans. I don’t like that.

Fuck, when we play, I got fans blowing fucking air back into the crowds just in case that shit floats onto the stage. There’s all kinds of shit that’s going on. It’s like, fuck. I don’t even want to get into the politics of the whole thing, but that just sucks to me.

How do you think that will impact the art with that? Will it change how you create things for us?

It might. Let’s talk about the Metaverse and all that shit.

There’s new ways for us to hang out with fans now. If the Meta fad kicks up, we could do Meta hangouts where you can come in and hang out and talk to me. I’m just going to be a fucking avatar, but it’s the same thing. It’s just taking the human element of me and you like we’re doing right now. It’d be the same fucking thing. Maybe that’s what we’re going to have to do.

It fucking sucks but it’s nothing like being face to face, but there’s all these things that are going on now…

…You just don’t know.