With the release of rock legend KoЯn's new album 'Path of Totality' a new era and genre of electronic music has begun - a fusion between rock and dubstep in what the band's lead singer Jonathan Davis calls "future metal." Their new album features a variety of electronic producers, including Skrillex, Feed Me, Noisia, Excision, and many many other big names. Back at home after hitting the east coast, DxE had the honor and pleasure of talking with Jonathan on the phone getting the full scoop on what this new beginning in the EDM scene is all about --
DxE: Your new album 'Path of Totality' is about to be the band's 10th album in only around 19 years of existence.. how much time do you guys actually spend in the studio getting prepared and everything done?
JD: It varies per record, you know. We’ve been on the road for about 18 years so basically what happens is we go on the road for about a year or two, come back, and then we go in the studio. And then writing can take anywhere from a month, two months, and then another two months to record it and mix it, and then we’re back off on the road. We did “Issues” in 4 months – wrote, recorded and mixed that in 4 months. And then when we did the album “Untouchables” it took 2 years so it just depends.
DxE: So now that you’ve started working with electronic producers how has that process changed?
JD: It's changed a lot, it was a different experience for us in a bunch of different ways. [For example] I used to write a lot of music on the road and then I’d bring the band and we’d rock it out [live]. “Munkey” (one of Korn’s two guitarists) has his thing where he’ll change stuff and we’ll just do stuff [live] in the studio writing. One time we had the producers come in, they came in with a basic idea, with a beat, then Munkey would jam out on guitar and give them an idea, and then they’d start writing the patches and treating the bass around it. That’s what we did for all the producers except for Noisia and Feed Me [because] they were in London and then [immediately travelled to] Netherlands. Noisia sent us five 32-bar ideas and I picked my favorite three. I put them in song form and then I sang on them. We did the guitars and mixed it and sent it back to Noisia. Then they did their thing to it and we mastered it. With Feed Me, he just sent me a track and I had to cut it all up and rearrange it. Basically I was working with all these guys to come up with parts and it was my job to arrange them into song form because it’s different from electronic music. [With electronic productions] it’s all about the drop and the build and I needed to have verses and pre-choruses, then a chorus...etc. Stuff like that; so that was the difficult part.
DxE: How’d you guys first come up with the idea to integrate electronic artists into your album?
JD: That’d be me. I’ve been a huge electronic fan forever.
DxE: Always dubstep?
JD: No not always. I started DJing when I was 16 so my cup of tea was the electro-hop sound like Egyptian Lover or Afrika Bumbata and then I started getting into freestyle music and Miami Bass. After that I really got into drum n’ bass stuff and that’s why I was really excited to have Noisia onboard because they're gods in drum n’ bass. Especially having Kill The Noise and Feed Me was awesome because Kill The Noise was Ewun and Feed Me was Spor and they were one half of that group Lifted so that shit was amazing. Then I started listening to dubstep about a year and half ago, first thing I heard was Excision, Skream, stuff like that with more dub influence, you know more reggae. Listening to Excision I think he’s the one that invented heavy dubstep. Along with Datsik and Downlink he started taking their bass pack and they could distort them and make that shit heavy and sound like guitars and I really loved it. And then I called Sonny [Moore aka Skrillex] when his EP dropped and I was blown away by all the multi-genres he mixed together. I played the band two songs – an Excision song and a Skrillex song – cuz they had never heard that stuff before and their jaws hit the floor. And then I told them I have this idea of molding these two genres of music together and they’re like “Let’s do it!” So there it began.
DxE: So you reached out to all these guys individually and threw the idea at them yourself?
JD: Yeah, I picked out all the producers myself; I had a wishlist. When we started out we were gonna do an EP, just a couple of songs with with Skrillex and Excision. The first dubstep song we did was with Excision, Datsik, and Downlink and it’s on the album called “Tension”. That was just straight dubstep – no guitars, no nothing it’s just me singing. And that got me really hooked and so I called Skrillex in the meantime and he came down for 3 days, we wrote 3 songs and we did “Get Up!” in like 3 and a half hours. We were having so much fun and being so creative and feeling like we were pioneering into creating like a completely different genre of music that we just kept going. I had a wishlist and I just kept calling these producers and asked if they’d be down to work with us and they were like “fuck yes, we’re huge fans” which made me freak out again because I didn’t know these people knew my band. My last freakout was when we played New York and they took me to a Nero show and the Nero guys came in the dressing room going “holy shit, Jonathan Davis.. we’re huge fans!” so I was like oh my god and they’re one of the pioneers.
DxE: You mentioned the song “Get Up!” was that the first song to preview from the album? Cuz we were at Coachella in 2011 and saw the crowd go absolutely ape shit…
JD: You saw the reaction right? Yeah that one we debuted because we had that song in the can for like 6 months and I kept bitching at my manager like if we don’t get this single out right now someone else is gonna be doing this shit, we need to make our stamp and we made this song and it’s great and it represents both sides – the integrity of KoЯn is there and the integrity of Skrillex is there – lets drop it. So we dropped it that day that we did Coachella
DxE: So right now you’ve got the Path Of Totality tour going on.. your first West Coast stop is this upcoming Tuesday at the Hollywood Palladium (which is the same day as the release of the album). How are the shows different actually performing with the DJs?
JD: Well we play all the tracks live. [The DJs] open up for us; [for example] Downlink opened up with a 30 minute set then Datsik did a 30 minute set and then we came out and did our set. The actual dubstep stuff we do live where we have over 30 drum sets and they’re all automated triggers so they’ll be playing the verse and then when the chorus comes up the triggers change to chorus triggers. We got a keyboard player playing all the lead lines. Only thing that’s on tape is all the percussive stuff and all the bass wobbles cuz they’re tempo sensitive. Pretty much it’s all live.
DxE: So in your opinion is KoЯn the same band it was when you guys started or have you evolved into something new?
JD: I think over the years we’ve evolved, but we’re still the same band. We still have the goal to try and pioneer and do different kinds of music so each of our records is different. But I think over the years, after being together for almost 19 years, we’ve matured and we’re a lot better at what we do and this album we finally got to actually experiment with something we really like doing and it shined through.
DxE: Are you guys still focused on the same target audience or what’s the focus with it all?
JD: We’re branching out to electronic fans and we’re still embracing our fans. We still remember where we came from when we were a metal band. A lot of those fans hate [the new stuff] but we still play all our old songs so, you know, you lose some and you gain some. But we’re getting a lot of new electronic fans because of this new genre we’ve created.
DxE: Have you come up a name for that genre yet?
JD: No… I call it future metal.
DxE: Haha I like it. So now that this future metal hast started, where do you see it going from here?
JD: Oh I can guarantee people are gonna start doing it. It happened it to us in ’94 when that album dropped, how we fused funk and hip-hop together and then we had all the bands that came after.. I can guarantee you’re gonna start hearing bands put dubstep in their music.
DxE: And what’s the next step for KoЯn after this album?
JD: Keep it going man, we love playing together and we’re already 19 years deep so why stop? I mean I don’t do this shit for money or any of that, I do it cuz I love to play and I love to make art. And if that stopped then I wouldn’t do it, so that’s why this album is so important to me – we created art and we didn’t give a fuck what anybody thought.
DxE: I think that pretty much summed it up right there haha is there anything else you’d like to say to electro fans who may apprehensive about listening to KoЯn or a heavy metal rock band?
JD: I just want to thank all the electro fans that have accepted us, I want to thank the electro fans that have come out to my DJ shows cuz I’m a crazy electro head. I love the genre, I love to rage and I just want them to all know that I’m not a bandwagon jumper I’ve been in this game a long time and love the music. It just now, at this time, is starting to shine.
DxE: Awesome, alright Jonathan, on behalf of all of us from Death by Electro, wanted to thank you for taking the time to talk with us.
JD: Sure thing brotha.
KoЯn continues their tour with a stop this coming Tuesday, December 6 at the Hollywood Palladium. As Jonathan mentioned, they'll be joined once again with some of the best in the dubstep business - Datsik, Downlink, and 12th Planet, just to name a few - in what will no doubt be a show for the record books. Tickets are still available right HERE! And make sure to grab your copy of 'Path of Totality' also, set to release in the US on the same day as the show