Love and death ... and Korn: Brian “Head” Welch
Guitarist and vocalist Brian “Head” Welch talks about rejoining Korn onstage at Carolina Rebellion and touring with his band Love and Death.
Days before former Korn guitarist Brian “Head” Welch's new band Love and Death was set to open for P.O.D. on its U.S. tour at Rams Head Live Baltimore, Live Metal had scheduled an interview with him to talk about his new band, its new Chemicals EP and whatever else came to mind. As it turns out, we had plenty to talk about because the night before at the Carolina Rebellion festival, Head rejoined Korn onstage to perform “Blind,” playing with his old bandmates for the first time in seven years. In what probably was his first interview since the biggest news Korn fans have had in years, Head talked about how it all came together, Love and Death, the hardships of touring and more.
LIVE METAL: So it's the biggest news going on with you right now—do you want to tell us what went on yesterday, about playing with your old band again?
BRIAN “HEAD” WELCH: Yeah. My daughter’s getting into all these bands, like Chevelle, and so Chevelle played yesterday, Evanescence played. And she couldn’t make it to a Chevelle concert in Phoenix a little bit ago, so I was like, we’re with P.O.D. on this tour, and they were playing the same shows. I was like, I’m gonna take my daughter there ‘cause she couldn’t go to that one. And Korn’s at one of ‘em, so I was like, I’m gonna go say hi to the guys. I hadn’t seen (Korn guitarist) Munky in seven years, so I just wanted to say hi to him. So I went, talked with him, he was so positive and healthy—kind of glowing, just happy. He just got married, he’s gonna have a kid. So we were just talking, and me and my daughter watched Chevelle, Staind, Evanescence—all these bands there, and then when Korn was going onstage, I wanted her to have a good spot, so I wanted to walk with the band. And (Korn bassist) Fieldy’s like, “You should play the last three songs with us.” I was like, “Oh, I don’t play seven strings no more.” The tuning’s different, and plus, they do all these remix changes on those songs live. So I was like, “No, I can’t do that, man.” (Korn vocalist) Jonathan (Davis) comes over and he’s like, “Yeah, man, you should jam with us.” Then Fieldy goes, “I’m not supposed to say nothing, but there’s a guitar ready for you.” (laughs) And I was like, “Oh man, alright, I’ll do it”—if Munky was OK with it. And he walked up—“Are you gonna jam with us?” I was like, dude, that’s trippy.
So there it was. I jammed and they called it out. Five Finger Death Punch announced that I was there hanging around with Korn, so the crowd knew. And some of ‘em in the front, like a few hundred, were going, “We want Head! We want Head!” (laughs) So it was just cool.
So you got a great, great reaction?
Has it been a windstorm on the Internet yet? Have you checked all the stuff out?
A little bit, yeah. (Evanescence vocalist) Amy Lee posted a picture. It was not crazy, but a lot of people were talking.
So what was it like being back up there? Did you feel a reconnection with the guys?
Yeah. I didn’t know people cared that much, you know what I mean? ‘Cause Korn’s done fine without me, without (drummer) David (Silveria). They’ve just kept going. But I just thought it was old news—over it and everything. But then, next thing you know, so many people are in tears and stuff like that. I think they just know that we all grew up together, we’re all brothers, we all did that—just seeing it, even if it was for that one day, that connection or that it’s all good with us. There was some weirdness with us for a while. It was all healed, and everyone sees that it’s all good now. So it was a good day. … It was so cool. I’m talking to all these dudes. Like Five Finger Death Punch, the singer, he’s just a bro, and it was so cool to see everybody care so much. Amy got all excited. I don’t know. I think you forget how much of an impact we had on so many bands. And then these bands come out and they’re so awesome and they sell more than us, but they still respect us. It’s cool. It feels good.
Are you gonna be playing with Korn again any time soon?
A song, a show?
I don’t know. We’ll just leave it at that for now. We’re excited. I’m sure there’s gonna be a lot of videos coming out ‘cause a lot of people filmed it—there was all kinds of cameras going on. But it just fell into a good time because I just went there to hang out and take my daughter to Chevelle and Evanescence, and say hi to some old friends. But it just so happened that our new video for “Chemicals” comes out tomorrow. It’s premiering on Vevo, and there’s probably gonna be some press releases going out and they’ll mention the Korn stuff. It just kind of happened. It’s good timing. We’ll see what happens, man.
Alright, so you have the restart with Love and Death and are out on this tour with P.O.D. and Red—talk about the transition from headlining with Korn back in the day, where you would’ve had these bands maybe opening for you and now it’s flip-flopped with your new band opening up for them. What does it feel like for you?
It’s humbling, but at the same time, it’s a trip. I’m just trying to follow the divine leading in my life. I believe in Christ, and it says that Christ, he was in every way like God on Earth. He healed people, he raised from the dead and all this stuff, but he came from the place God was and became born as a baby and became nothing. So I look at my shows like I was big on top, all these bands were opening for me, and then I come down on this level and I’m opening for them—not that I was God or anything, but just a bigtime to nothing. It’s just a little, tiny example maybe. I have fun with it, and I look at it like it’s something I have in common with that cool dude I read about all the time. So it’s really cool. And then, I also like it because you don’t have to put on the headlining, hour-and-a-half show, so you can just play a few songs and hang out. It makes it funner.
Have fans shown up just for Love and Death, knowing beforehand that you’re a part of this band and tour, or is somewhat of a surprise when they see Brian “Head” Welch from Korn walk out onstage?
Yeah, some of ‘em don’t know about all the change and all that. I think people are learning as we go. But yeah, probably like a dozen people in three shows were like, “I didn’t know you guys were playing,” ‘cause they didn’t know what Love and Death was. Hopefully, they’re pleasantly surprised. (laughs)
Now that Chemicals is out, are you satisfied with the reaction it’s received from fans so far?
You can totally feel it’s a step up from my first album. There’s more energy live. It’s better than my first solo album as far as the reaction live because it’s got more energy, and the Devo and all that stuff—it’s just fun.
I asked (guitarist) J.R. (Bareis) the same question: This isn’t a knock on you, but out of all the hundreds of thousands of songs, why “Whip It?” He kind of explained it as it could have a different meaning to the lyrics. Or is it just something fun to do?
So you’re talking about more of a message thing?
That’s what he said. Breaking from a struggle is what he told me.
Yeah. We were just talking about doing a cover tune, and I was beating myself up, like which one could we do? I wanted to do a ‘80s song, and it had to be New Wave. And so I looked at all these lists. I saw Devo “Whip It,” and I was like, those guys were freaky, so that would be great. But I couldn’t do that (hums the melody). So I put it aside. Then I had some other ideas, but they didn’t work. When I was in the shower one day, I just heard the (hums the riff from his version), and I was like, oh my gosh, maybe we can do this, like more of a Deftones-y. So we tried it, we did it, and that’s just how it came. Then when I was reading the lyrics, I was like, you know what? Even though those guys were weird and freaky and like a joke, the lyrics are about moving on from something that’s in your way. That’s what it’s about, moving on.
Does this restart for the band feel like how it was in the early days of Korn, or since you’ve been there and done that before, is it entirely different?
Yeah, but it’s harder because Korn happened quicker. I’ve been doing this since ’09, and sometimes it’s the same stuff we were doing in ’09. So there’s times when I’m just like, I don’t know how much longer I’m gonna keep doing this—I’m talking about touring. I’m not talking about creating. Touring’s so hard. So I get down sometimes, like do I really want to do this? Should I look to do something else with music? But just when we get like that, something exciting happens, like me jamming with Korn yesterday. So right when I get really down, I get uplifted. I think it’s just meant to be. I’m sure I got a lot of years left in music.
What makes touring so hard now? Is it the economy?
I think so. People not showing up. Rock music is just hard. There’s not a lot of radio. The album sales are pop music and rap a lot. And I’m a single dad. I’m trying to get my kid to do her homework on the road while I’m doing this stuff. Do you have kids?
I have daughter, yeah. She’ll be 11 years old in May.
Imagine having to leave or take her on the road and do everything at once.
It would be a good time, but yeah, it would definitely be a lot of work.
Yeah, totally. You just get mentally and emotionally wore down. That’s it.
You’re involved with The Whosoevers, with Sonny (Sandoval), of course, from P.O.D., Lacey (Sturm) from Flyleaf, some other people. For those not knowing, just tell us what this organization is about.
It’s a movement, and it’s all these musicians and sports people, and we’re trying to get together and do something together to help kids that are on the streets or just wrapped in the crap we were that there’s a better way. So we’re just trying to spread what we got—love and acceptance. Come one, come all. Obviously, Christ has done a lot in our lives. We just love on the kids, put on free events for ‘em.
It’s all nonprofit, free events.
We sell merchandise and stuff, so that helps. Some donations. It’s about the right things. We’re not in it for nothing besides wanting to help these kids, and people get on board with that. Sometimes, it’s hard. It’s all about faith, though, because just when we’re kind of not doing nothing, we get discouraged, and then all of a sudden, some backer will come in out of the blue and say, “Hey, I want to get involved. Here’s a motor home to go tour.” It’s just crazy.
Did they seek you out?
Sonny and Ryan came after me, yeah—Ryan Ries, he’s one of the speakers. They were talking about playing a concert, and I was like, that would be cool. And it was an arena, and I was like, I don’t know about that ‘cause I just started singing. I don’t want to sing in an area yet, I’m not even ready. Sonny was like, “Don’t worry about that, dude. You’ve been there, done that. Just do it.” He makes it sound like no big deal, so I was like, “Alright.” And there we were.
So you’re not completely comfortable singing yet?
I’m better, but it’s a struggle.
There’s a film from The Whosoevers coming, 365?
Yeah, it’s the beginnings of the birth of the Whosoever movement. It’s really gonna be awesome. There’s been resistance to it, problems with the music rights and stuff like that. I think when you have resistance to things, it’s gonna have a good impact. We shall see what happens. We’re excited.
Since your conversion and becoming clean and sober, have you experienced any real temptations or close calls?
No, man, I don’t struggle with that because, to me, everything I ever wanted, I got now, as far as inside. I still have anger, I still have problems, emotions and stuff like that. But I’m so content with life. Christ came in and filled me, and I don’t need that stuff no more, even on bad days. I just don’t struggle with that. I know a lot of people do. Maybe it’s because I did so much when I was with Korn that it just totally turns my stomach now. Even a beer—a beer will turn into 30. But I hung out all last night. I hang out all the time. People were drinking tequila, beer. It’s all good. I’m the same guy, I just don’t drink. But it’s weird because I remember being drinking at parties and seeing a sober dude and just being like, that’s kind of weird. Now I’m that guy. That’s OK.
If someone were to want to take you as influence and follow your path, what would be the first thing they should do?
What I did, I ended up in a church and I heard the message. When you hear a message about life, it calls for a reaction and a response. So what I did was I responded. What they really taught me is you go to God like a friend. That’s basically what I did. I went home and I started talking—“Jesus, he said you’re real. He said you’re God and you help people now. And I need help.” So I just developed that love relationship with God. It happened slowly, but it was weird to me because you close your eyes and start talking to this God who’s invisible, and so many people think there’s no God, some people think there’s a God in this religion, that religion. But that’s all, man. I would say to grow in knowing Christ, I would say to find a good church. If you don’t find a good church the first time, keep looking because there’s some knuckleheads out there. And start reading the Bible and praying. That’s basically it. It’s pretty simple.