They've delved into disturbing subject matter many times before, but with their new video for "Here to Stay," Korn make their most direct and pointed commentary on sex and violence to date.
The clip, which views like a graphic channel-surfing journey between CNN and the Discovery Channel, depicts a boy in front of a television broadcasting rapid-fire images, including a mob tipping over a car, fires, car collisions, open-heart surgery, animals mating and crocodiles attacking prey. Throughout, the band is depicted in black-and-white against a wall of TV static. In the end, the boy touches the TV screen and disappears "Poltergeist"-style.
The video was directed by Albert and Allen Hughes, who have created a number of visceral films including "From Hell," "Dead Presidents" and "Menace II Society." The way the scenes in "Here to Stay" are piled atop one another is gritty and somewhat jarring, though the video is far from gratuitous, coming across as a crystalline example of art imitating life.
"This is what we subject ourselves to every day, and our children are subjected to it as well," Korn frontman Jonathan Davis said early this week in Los Angeles. "It seems like parents forget and leave their kids in front on their TV so they are babysat by the TV. And this is what kids are taught."
Davis said he isn't surprised that today's youth sometimes commits belligerent and even sociopathic acts considering how the media so vividly depicts the turmoil and chaos of conflicts in places such as Afghanistan and Israel and the brutality of the many murders and rapes that occur in our own backyards.
"This is how it is, and I don't think adults should be surprised when kids go blow each other up and kill each other," Davis said. "All our children are being brought up seeing 9/11 terrorist attacks and things, so I don't see why people say things like, 'Oh, what's wrong with our kids?' I mean, we've done it to ourselves. And nothing's going to change and there's nothing we can do. People should wake up to it and stop living in the '50s."
Although "Here to Stay" is clearly a scathing commentary on contemporary America, Davis stressed that it's merely a wake-up call, not a cry for action. More than anything, he doesn't want anyone to interpret it as any sort of edict for suppressed viewing.
"I don't think parents should supervise what children watch," Davis insisted. "I think kids should be subjected to violence. And parents should be parents, and tell their kids, 'OK, this is what goes on in the world. Don't be part of it.'"
Davis has similar views about children being exposed to sexual content. "I don't think they should grow up believing the human body is negative," he said. "Not that they should watch graphic pornography, but we're so uptight in this country. In Europe they have commercials with females and males nude. What's wrong with being nude? It's who we are."
Korn came up with the treatment for "Here to Stay" and asked the Hughes Brothers to direct because they were huge fans of "Menace II Society" and "Dead Presidents." They filmed the video in Los Angeles in a warehouse room full of giant television screens.
"We had to rent twice of what U2 did on their Zoo TV Tour," Davis said. "It was insane. But the Hughes Brothers were the coolest guys in the world and we loved working with them. They let us do what we wanted and they know how to shoot us. They were the easiest guys to work with. It went so well I want them to do a director's cut where it's more violent."
The Hughes' expert editing and camera work are what makes the "Here to Stay" video so powerful. On one level, the marriage of Korn and the two directors seems natural since both enjoy working on the artistic fringe. But just a few years ago such a collaboration would have seemed like a pipe dream the Hughes Brothers were unhappy with Korn when the "Freak on a Leash" video came out, as shots of a bullet traveling in slow-motion in the clip looked similar to a gun control public service announcement filmed by the brothers.
"We had no idea," Davis explained. "When we met the Hughes Brothers they were like, 'We did the same thing,' and I was like, 'I am sorry, dude.' If we would have known, it would have been a different deal. So they should be getting patted on the back for that video since it's their idea."