How Korn got over a major fallout about Jesus and dubstep and managed to become a band again

Munky, Jonathan Davis, Head, Fieldy and Ray Luzier of Korn visit Music Choice on September 26, 2013 in New York City
(Image credit: Theo Wargo/Getty Images)

Korn helped to shape the sound of modern metal, but not without pulling themselves apart in the process. It was back in 2005 that guitarist Brian ‘Head’ Welch acrimoniously quit the group to become a born-again Christian, sparking a war of words with frontman Jonathan Davis and beginning an uncertain, uneasy time for the nu metal giants. They got things back on track with Head’s return in 2013 for their album The Paradigm Shift, and the band told Metal Hammer how the reunion had come about.

It started when Head played in Bakersfield, where Davis lives, with his post-Korn project Love And Death and the singer’s wife forced him to go to the show. “She dragged my ass down there,” Davis said. “We hung out all night and Head was back to normal, he wasn’t into all that crazy Christian shit no more.” 

Looking back to the period before Head departed, Davis remembered a man “cuckoo with religious stuff”. 

“He was kicking speed so obviously he’s not gonna be right in the head for a while,” Davis continued. “Him getting all crazy Christian and stuff, what it really did was save his life, so I don’t give a fuck. I’ve had too many people around me die from drugs and I wouldn’t want that to happen.”

The band had experimented with dubstep sonics in Head’s absence, but the guitarist encouraged them to return to their rock roots. “I was like, ‘dude, I love what you’ve done with the electronics and stuff, but if you wanna do that, I don’t think it’s right for me,’” Head told Metal Hammer. “We all agreed that this had to be a rock record.”

"I was right there with him, added guitarist Munky. "[Without Head in the band], it’s like somebody walking around without their left arm. You can get by, but Korn in its natural state is with Head. With him back in the band it makes sense to do a guitar album.”

It was an album that set Korn right, harking back to their classic records at the same time as mapping a route forward – three albums on, they're still channelling their heavy roots and resisting the latest emerging trends in electronic dance music. For Davis, it helped put the band in a healthier place than they’d ever been. “We’re at that point now where we don’t give a fuck, we’re doing it cos we love it,” he said. “It’s more real than it’s ever been.”

Niall Doherty

Niall Doherty is a writer and editor whose work can be found in Classic Rock, The Guardian, Music Week, FourFourTwo, on Apple Music and more. Formerly the Deputy Editor of Q magazine, he co-runs the music Substack letter The New Cue with fellow former Q colleagues Ted Kessler and Chris Catchpole. He is also Reviews Editor at Record Collector. Over the years, he's interviewed some of the world's biggest stars, including Elton John, Coldplay, Arctic Monkeys, Muse, Pearl Jam, Radiohead, Depeche Mode, Robert Plant and more. Radiohead was only for eight minutes but he still counts it.