As the veteran frontman of Korn, Jonathan Davis has become one of the most distinctive voices in heavy music.
However, on his debut solo album, he sidesteps the chunky riffs of the day job in favour of dark, shimmering 80’s post-punk in the vein of The Cure, Siouxsie and the Banshees and The Cult.
We had a chat with him about 'Black Labyrinth', a labour of love that’s been over ten years in the making.
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Clash: What does the release of this album mean to you?
Jonathan Davis: I’m very happy and excited because it took such a long time to get out.
You’ve done stuff on your own before like 'Queen Of The Damned' and 'Dark' soundtrack, but how does it feel to be a solo artist – is that a weird concept for you?
No not at all – I’ve been making music alone by myself a long time. I enjoy being able to do everything and play everything.
Why release this now? Why does the time feel right now?
Because I finally have the time since Korn took time off from the road to write the next record, things finally came together in order to get it out there.
Was this an opportunity to discuss themes you felt you couldn’t discuss with Korn?
No, not necessarily themes. I just write whatever is going through my head at the moment, and I had a lot of fun with this project.
Were there sounds you got to experiment with for the first time as a solo artist? A couple of the tracks play with Eastern influences.
Yeah, the whole album was a giant experiment, I purposely made it in different keys and used different instruments than I normally would with Korn. I just wanted to do something that isn’t normally expected of me.
You grew up listening to industrial and gothic music, and I hear a lot of that on this album. What influenced it? What do you love about that music?
I listened to a lot of Christian Death, Ministry, Murder Inc., Skinny Puppy at the time. There is definitely an industrial and gothic influence. I like the heavy electronic vibe and it was really different for me at the time.
Is the vibe of this album going for what you did on 'Queen Of The Damned'?
Yeah, it’s a similar vibe because I was working on the projects around the same time.
Do you wish you could have released them officially with your vocals?
Absolutely, I still want to!
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You’ve said this has been a bit of a labour of love for you for several years. What's been the timeline of getting it out?
There has been no timeline. I’ve been actively trying to get it finished and get it out, and things would fall through, or I would be needed with Korn. I was waiting for everything to come together so I could finally finish and release it. It finally did!
I thought we could go back to when you first started writing the record. 2007 – can you remember what was going on in your life back then?
We just got doing a tour, my youngest son was born, and I had a lot of shit going on in my life… That’s as much as I remember.
What was the first song to be written?
I think it was 'Final Days' or 'What It Is'.
When was it all recorded? Was it written at different times in your life since 2007 and all recorded in one burst?
It doesn’t sound like a bunch of tracks recorded at different times in your life… Some songs I recorded 10 years ago, some I recorded in January, but everything has been written for a long time.
Do you feel like you’ve changed during the making of this album?
Of course! Anyone is going to change over the course of 10 years. I’ve gotten older and wiser.
But can you still relate to the early tracks you wrote and how you felt writing them?
Yes, definitely, I relate to everything I write. A cool thing about music is that it’s a stamp in time. It’s like looking at an old picture and it takes you back to that time and evokes those feelings and emotions.
You’ve likened the journey you’ve taken with this album to the Ganzfeld parapsychology Experiment. (the study of mental phenomena which are excluded from or inexplicable by orthodox scientific psychology (such as hypnosis, telepathy, etc.) Can you explain a bit more about that and how it relates to the album?
The whole experiment is a form of sensory deprivation that opens your mind. When I first started working on the album, I was having issues with organized religion. I was pissed that Head left the band. I didn’t know where I stood spiritually, and doing the Ganzfeld experiment kind of proved to me that there is more out there, and no one knows exactly what is going on.
The lyrics for 'Underneath My Skin' and 'Happiness' are dark. What are the themes explored on this album?
It’s just about life, and things I’ve experienced in my life. I do have happy times in my life, but I usually just write about the dark stuff. It’s my way of getting it out.
Do you feel exposed talking to personally this time on your own without the rest of the band?
Not at all, I always talk on my own and speak my mind. You said to you this shows there’s more to life than religion, consumerism, and all of that. What are you trying to achieve with this album? I’m just trying to create art, and it’s a form of expression. To me, this is my work of art.
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Words: Dannii Leivers
Jonathan Davis plays Download Festival on Friday 8th June, on the Zippo Encore Stage.
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