Korn's Jonathan Davis on H.R. Giger: "He was a genius"

“I just felt… so sad.” Jonathan Davis has been on great form so far. It’s been a busy day for the Korn frontman, he’s not only played a headline show as part of their Russian tour alongside Soulfly but the show was also filmed for a forthcoming DVD, but he’s polite, courteous and generous company as Hammer chats to him from his hotel room in Moscow. Then suddenly his mood changes to quiet and sombre when we bring up the subject of H.R. Giger, the Swiss born surrealist artist who passed away earlier this week.

There are no mere fanboy crocodile tears either. Davis is a man with a long and personal history with Giger, describing him as “A kind man, a genius and someone that I felt privileged to have known.” Before adding “He, like so many of these artistic types of people, was a very strange guy.” Davis remembers his first exposure to Giger as “Seeing Alien in the cinema when I was a kid. I was just like ‘Whoah!’ it blew me away. It was just so dark. Then I discovered the Necronomicon (Giger’s first compendium) and that’s when I first became aware of him as an artist.” So inspired was he by this body of work that Davis commissioned Giger to design what has now become an iconic staple of Korn’s live set; the Nubian queen microphone stand.

“You’re right,” he enthuses. “It has become a huge part of our live set. We’ll be backstage and we can hear the cheers go up when the black cloak comes off of it and that just pumps us up even more for the show. You know it’s been over ten years since I’ve had that stand and it’s one of my prize possessions, it’s been through so much of our history that we almost regard it as the sixth member of the band.”

Do you remember when you first set eyes on it? “Oh yeah, I went to his house to see it,” Jonathan says with obvious relish. “He had sculpted it out of clay, he sculpted the whole thing by hand, and as soon as I saw it I just fell in love with it. It was such an amazing experience. Before I saw it he asked me if I wanted to take a ride. I was like ‘Er… okay?’ it was pretty creepy, but he has the train from Dune, and I’m a huge Dune fan, running through his house. It was a hell of a moment. Me sat on this train, freaking out, before going to see a piece of art he’d made for me. I couldn’t quite grasp it.”

“He loved the stand too because it was a functional piece of art and he’d never made anything like that before. He was very proud of it. So we stayed in contact ever since, if we ever went to Switzerland I would go and visit him. He and his girlfriend were just such amazing people, they introduced me to some incredible people. Just a real artist and a visionary. It seems weird to think that next time I go over there I won’t be able to see him. It’s still sinking in.”

Not only has he lost a personal friend Davis believes that the world of rock and metal has lost one of its most important non-musical influences.

“His influence is felt in the music. Korn’s music is very dark and his art was dark, the two elements complement each other so well. You can’t help but be inspired by someone that creative and with such a dark imagination. I don’t know what else to say man, he was just a genius.”

Stephen Hill

Since blagging his way onto the Hammer team a decade ago, Stephen has written countless features and reviews for the magazine, usually specialising in punk, hardcore and 90s metal, and still holds out the faint hope of one day getting his beloved U2 into the pages of the mag. He also regularly spouts his opinions on the Metal Hammer Podcast.