J Devil commands the underworld.
Sliding into the shoes of this nefarious DJ alter ego, legendary Korn frontman Jonathan Davis conjures up entrancingly evil electro. J Devil is another side of the enigmatic singer who thrives on chaos and contradictions. He may reside in the darkest corners of Davis’s psyche, but he’s always ready to party. He may be spinning dance music on stage, but he lets out catastrophic screams at all the right moments. He may have black eyes and teeth, but he’s as close to Davis’s heart as it gets. On his forthcoming four-song debut EP, J Devil opens up the door to the ultimate celebration inside of the inferno.
Are you ready?
In 1987 while still in high school, Davis became a DJ. Working for Bakersfield’s Pacific West Sound, the 16-year-old spun at high school dances and parties on the weekends. His teachers at the time were Choc, C-Minus, and Eric and Vidal—who eventually went on to being The Baka Boyz and Los Angeles tastemaker Power 106 personalities. They taught the young artist the basics, and he took it from there, gigging every weekend and honing his skills in the process.
“This music has been with me my whole life,” recalls Davis. “I just love watching people dance. It wasn’t about anything else when I was a kid, and that’s why it was so much fun. From the moment I started, I wanted to play good music and get crowds moving.”
However, Davis got crowds moving in another way with Korn’s genesis in 1993, and his electronic demon went dormant. Over the course of ten albums, Davis became a musical icon for an entire generation. Korn sold over 35 million records worldwide, won two Grammy Awards, and continually changed the face of hard rock with every subsequent release. Something was missing for the frontman though, and it took an old friend to encourage him to DJ once more in 2009.
“C-Minus got me back on the ones and twos,” he reveals. “He used to be a fan of mine, and he really pushed me to pick this up again. There was a learning curve though, and I didn’t have the same self-confidence. So we went out together for my first couple gigs. Once I got my confidence back, I knew I could do this shit myself. Then, it got heavy.”
That’s the moment when J Devil was born. In between writing and touring with Korn, he began to pick up one-off shows here and there, uniquely constructing his sets with a heavy aesthetic. It was unlike anything the electronic music world had seen before.
Entering each show with a carefully plotted set dabbling in electro, drumstep, dubstep, pop, and glitch hop, his assault became more calculated than your average DJ. Rather than simply standing still and bobbing up and down behind his gear, J Devil taps into a maniacal energy. He stalks the stage demonically, grabs the mic, and sets off the audience.
He goes on, “Once I got my set and mixing down, I thought about how I could make the experience better. That’s when I started screaming, pumping the crowd up, and acting like a hype man. Now, I incorporate what I do in Korn with my DJ set, and it makes for a better show. I want people to see me wild out.”
In 2011, he decimated stages around the U.S. and Mexico everywhere from the pool at Mandalay Bay to the hottest clubs. The world became formally introduced to J Devil.
About the moniker, he explains, “Ever since I can remember, I’ve always been interested in the devil. In a past-life regression, they told me I was one of the people made to mess with the devil. My nickname from my wife is ‘Devil’. The name works so well since I’m ‘JD’, and it sums everything up perfectly. When I’ve got the black eyes and teeth in, I’m ready to go crazy, have fun, and party.”
The EP is a natural progression from Korn’s tenth offering, 2011′s The Path of Totality. The album saw the band collaborate with dubstep pioneers Skrillex, 12th Planet, Datsik, Excision, Downlink, Kill the Noise, Noisia, and Feed Me. It yielded two hit singles “Get Up!” and “Narcissistic Cannibal”, both featuring Skrillex, and was met with critical and fan adoration.
In the meantime, he unleashed his first formal remix, a gut-wrenchingly catchy take on Hollywood Undead’s “Hear Me Now”, released as part of American Tragedy Redux. It was time to bring J Devil to the studio though. Enlisting Datsik and Downlink once more, Davis retreated to his Bakersfield home studio to craft J Devil’s solo EP.
The music teeters between strangely seductive gothic heaviness and danceably devilish textures. At the heart, the singer’s intense, infectious, and incendiary vocals captivate.
He explains, “The songs are electro with sinister overtones. I’m singing on every track, and it comes across like a theatrical show. It’s a different concept. I’m a DJ, but I sing on my own music. That’s not traditional. I want to carve my own niche with this though. I’m trying to shake things up like we did with The Path of Totality. It’s a natural evolution.”
That evolution encapsulates all of his otherworldly sonic passions. He adds, “I want to meld dubstep, drumstep, and electro into one and then twist it with dark lyrics. I really love it.”
At the end of the day, everyone else is going to love it too, and J Devil is going to possess us for a long time to come. — Rick Florino, November 2011