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Jonathan Davis: “Ross Robinson was digging his nails into my back. It was real fucked up”

a portrait of jonathan davis
(Image credit: Jeremy Saffer)

Jonathan Davis reflects on the creation of Korn mega-hit Freak On A Leash in the new issue of Metal Hammer. Discussing the circumstances that led to its creation, Davis remembers a young band who just wanted to party.

"Everyone was out of their fucking minds," he tells Hammer. "Alcoholic drug addicts... ha! I just remember all the excess: we're kids, living our rock'n'roll dreams and having the time of our lives."

Written for the band's 1998 breakthrough Follow The Leader, Freak On A Leash has since become one of Korn's signature songs, even getting re-released several times in subsequent decades, while its Todd McFarlane-directed music video won awards for "Best Editing" and "Best Rock Video" at the 1999 MTV Video Music Awards, as well as a Grammy for "Best Short Form Music Video" at the 2000 Grammy Awards.  

"It connected with the kids who shot Korn to where they are today," Davis says. "There's a lot of great Korn songs, but that's the one most people seemed to hear and really identify with."

Follow The Leader was a critical moment for Korn. After two successful albums that had helped launch the nu metal revolution, the band were looking to try new and different things. A big part of that was not using Ross Robinson - producer of their first two albums - again, though Jonathan does admit to some separation anxiety.

"It was really scary, but we knew we had to do something different," Davis tells Hammer. Robinson wasn't entirely absent however, brought on to act as a vocal coach for the early album sessions. As Davis recalls, it didn't quite work... "Freak On A Leash was where Ross was digging his nails into my back!" he reveals. "That was some weird shit, real fucked-up. Once I got to that moment I was like 'I'm done with this, this is fucking stupid."

Read the full feature in this month's Metal Hammer featuring cover stars Machine Head, out now. Order your copy here (opens in new tab)

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Staff writer for Metal Hammer, Rich has never met a feature he didn't fancy, which is just as well when it comes to covering everything rock, punk and metal for both print and online, be it legendary events like Rock In Rio or Clash Of The Titans or seeking out exciting new bands like Nine Treasures, Jinjer and Sleep Token.