Stories from a Pro: Jonathan Davis aka J Devil

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J Devil is another side of the enigmatic singer, Jonathan Davis, who thrives on chaos and contradictions. He may reside in the darkest corners of Davis's psyche, but he's always ready to party.

How did you get your start in music?

I started playing drums when I was three years old and continued into elementary school.

In the meantime I learned stand-up bass, bagpipes, and all kinds of other instruments. My dad had a music store, so I just picked up whatever instrument I could and got trained from the teachers there at his store. It was pretty cool.

 

"...plug-ins really help if we need something to be totally jacked up; it helps us achieve a sound that we couldn’t possibly get on our own."

And how did get from there to the kind of music you do now?

The thing that started me off wanting to do rock music was the musical Jesus Christ Superstar by Andrew Lloyd Webber. When I heard that, I freaked out and wanted to play music.

You have an extremely unique vocal style. How did it develop?

I started off just singing, and I really didn’t try to emulate anybody. I tried not to listen to a lot of music because I didn’t want to copy anyone’s style. It took me a good year or two of singing before I developed my own style.

That’s how it is with almost every vocalist. You’ve got to toy around until eventually you come into your own.

You wrote music for the film Queen of the Damned. How was that experience different from KoЯn?

Queen of the Dammed was an amazing experience because composing cues for film is nothing like rock & roll. At least when you do a rock song, there are things that are just a given: you’ve got a verse, a chorus, a bridge, etc.

But when you do film scoring, you have to paint a picture with music. You’ve got to paint an emotion, hit on certain spots, and make everything work.

Do you think it's something you'd like to do again?

It was a lot of fun - I’ll definitely be doing more of it in the future.

How do you think technology is influencing songwriting?

When we started doing records, all we had were tape machines. We had to physically cut everything. We couldn’t look at a song up on a screen and figure out how "this needs to do this" and "we need to cut that or put this through whatever effect."

It’s an amazing tool, and I think it makes music better.

What do you think of the music scene now?

Music has changed a lot in the last five years; it’s been a good ten years since we’ve seen a lot of really good bands out there. I think it sucks right now. A lot of music is just churned out and it seems like bands are losing their creative vibe. Everyone is jumping on punk and pop and all this B.S. that I can’t stand.

How does your new album compare to your previous work?

This new album, compared to our previous releases, wow—there’s really no comparison. It’s something totally different, we went in a totally different direction, and it’s really amazing. It’s very melodic, it’s very heavy, and I think a lot of people are going to trip out on it.

You worked with producers Atticus Ross and The Matrix on your album. How was it working with such an eclectic mix of people?

I think it was great working with those people because we’re such crazy people ourselves. The mixture of all of us in the same room really worked out.

With Atticus, we had darker, more epic sounding songs. With The Matrix, we had more straight ahead, heavy rock/metal tunes. I think working with both made this album really flow together nicely.

What do you do behind the scenes at KoЯn?

What do I do behind the scenes at KoЯn? Everything! I sing, I write, I produce, I run my studio… pretty much everything.

What kind of gear do you like using in the studio?

I gravitate towards any old vintage gear, and I’ve been checking out a lot of new gear. I’m a big fan of the old-school. If it’s got knobs I can turn and mess with it’s cool, but I do like plug-ins and computer stuff too. Anything I can run sounds through and make it sound f***ed-up, I like.

Have you found iZotope’s Trash, Spectron, and Ozone plug-ins to be helpful?

OzoneTrash and Spectron totally rock. When I sat down to do songs with [producer] Atticus [Ross], we used them a lot and they worked out great for us.

Those plug-ins really help if we need something to be totally jacked up; it helps us achieve a sound that we couldn’t possibly get on our own. There’s no guitar pedal or effects unit that would give us so many choices to play with. It allows us to get new sounds, sounds people have never heard before.

It’s just like this amazing tool we can run sounds through, and we ended up using them more as a musical instrument than effects because we can manipulate the sounds and really make them sound jacked up. So I really dig your plug-ins.

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