Korn's Jonathan Davis Hated Nu Metal Categorization: "It Had Become a Parody of Itself"

"You don't call Metallica some thrash band! [...] You don't call the Chili Peppers a funk rock band!"

Photo: Roger Woolman

BY Megan LaPierrePublished Nov 15, 2022

Having recently launched a line of metal pet accessories called Freak on a Leash, it's safe to say that Korn's Jonathan Davis is in on the bit. But that hasn't always been the case! Back in the day, he and the rest of the band really resented — and actively rebelled against —  the definitive implications of having their music labelled as nu metal.

In the latest Metal Hammer cover story, Davis and Evanescence bandleader Amy Lee joined forces to interview each other about the return of their respective bands to collective consciousness (again, not that they'd ever really left).

The nu metal explosion of the early aughts was a natural topic of conversation, as it was a movement both groups helped spawn and rose to prominence through. Korn especially have been widely credited as the originators of nu metal — which Davis says he now finds flattering. "They named an entire sub-genre after my band? Holy shit! That's cool!," he told Lee [via Louder Sound].

However, making 2002's The Untouchables, "when so many bands were coming out and jumping on the bandwagon," Korn found themselves with a nu metal-shaped chip on their shoulders.

"Punk-ass, crazy Korn back then, we were like, 'What the fuck? Fuck everyone! We're going to make this insane record. Keep people guessing,'" Davis recalled. "It had become a parody of itself — 'I don't want to be defined like that!'"

He continued, "Nowadays, I don't care, but back then I hated it."

Perhaps Davis and co. were simply being characteristically insubordinate, but they seem to have been ahead of the modern post-genre curve.

And they were willing to go down swinging for it: "We always told them that it was going to be our way or no way," the bandleader remembered, explaining how Korn had always been very headstrong about how they marketed their music. "We got into fights with magazines, fights with video directors — literal physical altercations — because we were so sure that it wasn't going to go down like that."

"I make the music I make," he explained, adding some handy examples for emphasis: "You don't call Metallica some thrash band! They're fucking Metallica! You don't call the Chili Peppers a funk rock band! They're the fucking Chili Peppers!" (Or, if you're the 1975's Matty Healy, you'd probably refer to the former as some trash band.)

That's Korn — the (fucking) nu metal band, thank you very much.

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