Johnathan Davis, the lead singer of metal band Korn, doesn’t drink alcohol, go to big parties or do any drugs. Instead, he has one vice: video games. His love of video games led to him and his band recently being featured in an MMORPG event. It also means that his crew lug around giant boxes containing TVs, consoles, soundbars, and games. He calls these his rigs, and they go everywhere with him.
When we spoke a few weeks ago, Davis was playing a lot of Spyro. Whenever he has a free day while on tour, he said, he chills out with the new Spyro collection all day. The routine helps him on tour: “I feel more relaxed, it’s a way to let go. It really helps me, it does,” he said.
It might seem odd that the lead singer of a dark, twisted metal band would be a fan of a game about a brightly-coloured dragon, but Davis says he prefers colourful stuff, what he calls “kids’ games,” including Crash Bandicoot and Toy Story 3: The Video Game.
“[Toy Story 3 is a] fucking a badass game. I still play it. It’s been out for ten years I think, it’s still so fucking good. When I’m bored and I just want to lose myself, I’ll go fucking do those little quests they have in there, they’re fun.”
Davis likes video games so much that in the early 2000s he was actually working on a game of his own. It was going to be a fighting game called Pop Scars, made with game designer American McGee and featuring other musicians, such as Limp Bizkit and Marilyn Manson.
“I had all the biggest pop and rock stars at the time that were down to do it,” explained Davis, but Pop Scars never happened due to a lack of manpower: “it was with one of the gaming companies, and they had to pull out because they had to pull entire teams for other games. It just didn’t happen, but I really liked it.”
Spyro might be a far cry from a fighting game, but it’s the kind of thing Davis gravitates toward these days. He loves spending hours exploring the colourful worlds of these games. When he told me how much he loved exploration and colourful worlds, I asked if he had played No Man’s Sky. “You know, my son has it, I’ve looked at it. It’s just so huge. It’s a little overwhelming, so I’m thinking about getting it.”
This love of bright, vibrant worlds was part of why Korn recently appeared in the MMORPG Adventure Quest 3D. Adventure Quest 3D is an MMORPG available on PC and phones.
In many ways, it feels like a simplified, kid-friendly take on World of Warcraft. Davis has long been an MMORPG fan — he used to play a lot of WoW, telling me, “I started a whole guild [in WoW], and I had everything back in the day, this was when it came out in like the early 2000s.”
When one of his managers told him the developers of AQ3D wanted to do an event featuring Korn, Davis was instantly interested. After seeing early concept art and footage of the event, Korn agreed to star in an in-game, limited-time event featuring multiple boss fights in a concert arena. Davis recorded some voiceover for his in-game character and helped pick out the setlist for the in-game concert. As the area and characters were being developed, Korn was sent early footage and gave their input on how stuff should look.
Once the event was live, Davis spent a lot of time secretly hanging out and playing with fans. “I go to the event all the time,” he said. “I dress myself up as me, I bought all the shit” such as Korn-themed pets, shirts, weapons and other cosmetics.
Davis has been around MMORPGs and their fans for a long time. He has a non-speaking cameo as an NPC in World Of Warcraft, which commemorates his role as a talent contest judge at BlizzCon in 2005. But Adventure Quest 3D was the first time the band and himself have appeared as themselves in a game with voiceover. He described seeing himself and the band in the game as “amazing” and was happy about how the event turned out.
When I asked him what games would he might like to appear in next, he was a bit stumped. His first response was Fortnite, a game his kids play all the time but which he mostly avoids. (He does play Save The World from time to time.)
After thinking about it for a few minutes, he suggested Borderlands, which he said he’s a big fan of, calling it one of the few shooters he enjoys. Borderlands 3 hadn’t come out when we spoke, but Davis was already excited to spend a lot of time in it. “Don’t even try to get a hold of me, I’ll be getting into that,” he said.
While Davis is a huge fan of video games, he wishes more games these days had easy modes. He brought up Cuphead, which he says he both loves and hates.
“It’s fucking too hard! It’s not fun,” he said. “Some people, they like the challenge. Me? I just want to play. No, give me an easy mode. Please? I just want to enjoy this.”
He’s also frustrated by games that require players to constantly be online, given how much of his gaming time takes place during tours and travelling. On a moving tour bus or in an out-of-the-way hotel, keeping a stable connection can be tricky.
Davis told me he’s thought about trying to make a game again, though it would be pretty different from the kinds of games he likes to play. It would be a big RPG about a scary, twisted carnival. He’s talked to some developers about it, but he ultimately decided it would be too much work. “There’s so much bullshit involved [in making games],” he said. “I’m just going to stick with playing them.”
We spoke on the last night of Korn’s latest tour, so Davis was about to have a bunch of free time to relax. He was excited about finishing up Spyro, then moving on to Borderlands 3. Borderlands 3’s release date, September 13, was the same day as the release date for Korn’s new album, The Nothing. When I pointed this out to Davis he sounded surprised, then said with a chuckle, “Good day for entertainment.”