It’s the year 2001. The details are murky, but I was driving a cherry red Dodge Neon two-door at 85 miles an hour down the wrong side of Pennsylvania Avenue, NW into absolutely no oncoming traffic whatsoever after a night of drinking and debauchery at Washington, DC’s Capital Lounge. I had met the curly haired, pale and now very much passed out brunette in the passenger seat at a party just five blocks away. It was at her house, celebrating her Louisiana born, stereotypical Southern belle blonde roommate was moving out. She was getting married to a redneck douchebag named Steven with a terrible bowl cut who was going to be a New York stockbroker. The now very much passed out roommate saw me, smiled a silly, toothy grin, gave me a Creamsickle shot and challenged me to a keg stand competition. Rolling Rock was my favorite at the time, and the “33” was no match for my lung and liver capacity, as I stayed up for 45 seconds. When I decided to leave, she grabbed her faded blue Gap hoodie and was headed out of the door with me. Back in the present, in a semi-drunken haze, I looked down at her, peaceful, cute and asleep, and thought the following: “Man. I rule. I am so awesome.” The song playing on DC 101 at that moment? Korn’s “Got the Life,” and man, I did. After making a left turn onto her block, the world behind me turned a violent shade of red and blue, and I had to stop the car. Maybe I didn’t have the life, after all. Twelve years later, I was on the phone with Korn’s lead singer Jonathan Davis, performing as DJ JDevil, literally minutes prior to taking the stage at the DC area stop for EDM mega party, IDentity Festival. Did I tell him that story? Absolutely not. Was I thinking of that story? Not so much? Was I thinking about whatever happened to the brunette? Most definitely.
2012 is the year that went boom. Just like drugs, very few can just say no to dubstep, and everybody’s doing it because it’s cool. When it comes to slowly losing relevancy mainstream acts, the embrace of bass heavy dance sounds feels like an identity crisis, and with JDevil about to hop on stage at the Identity Festival, asking him about his background with dance music felt apropos. He blew me away. “Yeah, so I grew up being ALL about bass. 2 Live Crew, Posion Clan, all of that bass was so important to developing my love of music. I only really started seriously listening to rock about a year or so before Korn started. As far as North American dubstep is concerned, the first time I heard it, I was a fan. I was like, yeah, this is great!” “There’s things that these producers are doing, like wobbling the basslines that we did in Korn like five years before dance producers started to do it.” We also used guitars with extra strings to create a heavier bass sound, too. When I tell these younger producers about these ideas, they’re amazed!” Authenticity proven, I was now intrigued…
“You’ve had incredible success, with multi-platinum albums, numerous awards, and an impressive legacy. So, where did the idea for working with dubstep and bass producers like Skrillex, 12th Planet and Datsik (on 2011 album The Path to Totality) come from, and how have your fans accepted it?” I felt really terrific about this one, as I had spent a day last summer talking over the phone with people I hung out with a great deal in my early 20s who still listened to music I listened to heavily in my early 20s, and they called Korn, and especially Jon Davis, “a goddamned, motherfucking sellout piece of shit.” Jon’s response via my question to their criticism? “As an artist you have to grow. You have to find new sounds, and you want to make great music. I really dig what those guys are doing. They’re like family to me. Dude. I was in the studio, like twelve hours a day with these dudes, recording and re-recording live guitar samples for loops, doing analog recordings, everything. People think that just anybody can produce dance music? Hell no. That shit is hard. Most of the producers were or are still fans of Korn, and down with our sound. Sure there are our fans who hated that album. But you know what? Fuck that shit, man. We’re making music, and they need to understand that you have to experiment and evolve to grow. To hate on that is fucking stupid.” Davis, 1 – My former best friends, 0.
As JDevil, Davis is beginning to release tracks on the internet, giving fans a glimpse into his raucous live DJ performance. Tracks like “Lick Me,” featuring dubsteppers Datsik and Downlink as assistants on the production are bass-bin killers, heavy and anthem-like peak hour crushers. With over a decade as a pop icon with Korn, the ability to translate the same power it takes to slay crowds with “Freak on a Leash” into the dance realm is not exactly a shocking development. Regarding his work in the electronic realm, Davis launched into a giddy, impassioned answer. “This music feels like electronic heavy metal to me, so I know exactly what that should feel like. As far as production, I’m working on my laptop every day trying to get everything to sound exactly right. I ask guys like Datsik for tips, but I’m mainly just working with sounds and ideas and making tracks, just like any other producer.” “These crowds are like nothing I saw in rock. These are the tie dye kids, and I come on stage and fuck all of that shit up. I’m all like fuck this and shit that and just trying to fuck up all of that happy energy, and they love it! . I’m on stage, wearing these crazy black contacts that make it so that I can barely see, and I’m singing and dropping tracks, everything.” “I think the kids like it because they like the energy. I want to entertain and connect with them, and I think I do that.”
“If I’m Jonathan Davis, it’s going to be me doing the rock thing with Korn at 100 percent. If it’s me as JDevil, I’m going to be DJing, and it’s going to be fucking insane.” All I could flash back to was being 22, with a pretty drunk girl nestling on my shoulder, as a cop gave me a pass for bring a good Samaritan for driving this girl home with a busted tail light. Korn helped me avoid a $3,000 fine, 12 points on my license and a year in prison for reckless driving. Possibly for that reason alone, Jonathan Davis has always been a hero. He also turned out as well to be a passionate and earnest dude. Another time I met a hero of mine and he didn’t let me down. Awesome.