Korn frontman Jonathan Davis saw his life change in Arizona.
As a fledgling rock musician, Davis did his first interview at KUPD. Years later, he met his wife, Deven, in Tucson.
“I love Arizona,” Davis says quietly. “My first interview was with KUPD back in the day—my very first one. It was the first time I ever went on a plane, too. They just threw me on the plane and I went to KUPD. It was pretty cool.”
Now Davis is doing a handful of interviews to introduce fans and writers to Black Labyrinth, his debut solo album due out May 25. The tracks will be featured in his set during KUPD’s UFest on Friday, April 20, at Riverview Park in Mesa.
After two Grammy wins, eight Grammy nominations and sales of more than 40 million units worldwide with Korn, changing genres is a gutsy move.
“It’s definitely different from Korn,” Davis says about the world music project. “I didn’t want to do a knock off of Korn. You can definitely hear my influences.”
Davis began writing songs for the album nearly a decade ago, when he had a solo record deal. When record company executives came and went like a revolving door, he eventually left.
“I asked if I could have my record back,” he says. “They gave it back to me and here we are. I wanted to put it out, but Korn was always going on tour, doing what Korn does—tour, tour, tour. We finally got a break and here we are. I’m very happy.”
He penned songs in 2007, 2008, 2015 and 2016, as well. He had one goal in mind.
“I wanted to use world instruments and stuff like that,” Davis says. “Those things are timeless. I was worried about how it would sound 10 years later. It’s a weird hybrid of all the things I love. It was amazing. Amazing musicians played on it.”
Among them are Wes Borland from Limp Bizkit.
“I played everything else,” Davis says. “It was fun playing with those guys, though. It was an amazing thing. I wanted to keep stuff organic and real when you record a real instrument, as opposed to a machine.”
The first single is the somber “What It Is,” and, like the rest of the album, it was recorded live, which is a departure from Korn’s approach. Over the weekend of its release, it gathered nearly 400,000 streams.
“People are losing it,” Davis says. “They love it. It was time for it to come out. It speaks volumes to people.”
Spoiler alert: Davis will not perform Korn songs at UFest.
“I want to separate the two completely,” he says. “If they want to hear Korn songs, tell them to go to a Korn show.”
However, a bit of Korn did sneak in; his drummer and musical director is Ray Luzier. Keyboardist Zac Baird, who tours with Korn, plays on the album.
“I wanted Ray in the band,” says Davis, who is recording new material with Korn. “He played the drums on the record. I wanted it to sound like that.
“I had him go and pick out musicians. He tried out a bunch of different guys. I told him what I wanted. He played with all of the musicians in my band.”
Like Korn’s music, Davis’ new project is personal. He shrugs off any notion that his life has changed in the 10 years that spanned the project.
“I still do what I do,” he says. “I don’t see a big difference between now and 10 years ago. I still have a passion, a love for my music. I just think we’re a little bit older now.”
He’ll carry on that passion through Korn and his solo work.
“Recording and writing, that’s how I stay sober on the road,” Davis says. “It helps me a lot for real.”
Five Finger Death Punch, Jonathan Davis, Sevendust and Bad Wolves, 98 KUPD UFest, Riverview Park, 2100 W. Rio Salado Parkway, Mesa, 98kupd.com, 3 to 11 p.m. Friday, April 20, $49.