LOVE AND DEATH (featuring Brian "Head" Welch)
‘17 Again’ with guitarist JR Bareis
April 26, 2012
Do you remember when you were 17? Are you even 17 yet? I certainly remember. It was 1994, the year I graduated high school, and I became consumed completely by music while looking into the great unknown. I didn’t care—I was partying with girls, doing things I probably wasn’t supposed to be doing, and it was one of the best years of my life. But there’s no way it was anywhere near as good or memorable as JR Bareis’ 17th, who is spending the year and foreseeable future playing alongside Brian “Head” Welch, the former guitarist of Korn who recently rebranded his solo band, Love and Death.
We all know Head’s story—we’ve interviewed him here on Live Metal, and his story perhaps has made him more famous than he ever was in Korn. But now let’s find out about the band, Love and Death. Its first official offering, the Chemicals EP (review), was released April 24, and contains the previously released, “Paralyzed,” the new song “Chemicals” and more. The band also is about to set out on tour with friends P.O.D. and Red. Bareis called into Live Metal’s Jeff Maki to discuss the new EP, his remarkable story of joining the band at such a young age and more. What I would give to be 17 again.
LIVE METAL: So I heard that you just got into L.A. today, and obviously there is a lot going on what with the band re-launching, the upcoming tour and everything else.
JR BAREIS: Yeah, man, I actually just flew into California today, and we got a show out here, The Whosoevers conference we’re doing, and I’m just meeting up with everyone and looking forward to being here, man. It’s going to be great.
So I just kind of want to set the stage. You’re 17 years old, correct?
So are you getting tired at all yet of hearing about that? Is everyone focusing on your age so far?
Yeah, it’s pretty crazy, man. It’s been a dream of mine, since I was like … 5 [laughs]. Music is my passion and my life—and stuff happens. I just couldn’t believe it (when I joined the band). It was just like a dream come true. So now I’m just living my dream.
OK, so I’m 35 years old and I’m trying to think back to when I was 17. So one day you’re in high school studying for an Algebra test and then suddenly you’re playing alongside the former guitarist of Korn, one of the biggest rock bands in the world. So how did all of this come to be?
It’s a crazy story. Last year, the guitarist of Thousand Foot Crutch was talking about stepping down from the band. So they were taking public auditions on YouTube, and I decided to do it; why not—it’s worth a try. I uploaded a video of one of their songs, and it happened that Brian had a tour coming up within a couple of weeks that summer, but his guitarist had also left the band. So he was short a guitarist and needed to find someone quick, and he found my video on YouTube. He then got in touch with me, and I went and tried out for him in Nashville, and it all just sort of came together.
Even though you are so young, were you a fan of Korn and then Brian’s solo work, as well, prior to joining the band?
Honestly, I wasn’t. I had listened to some of (Korn’s) stuff but I never really had gotten into it. But while I’m listening to it now and playing it with him, it’s awesome. [laughs]
Did you —or have you— faced any criticism or disapproval from family and friends for being so young and going off and joining the band?
Definitely. I’ve had a lot of people just tell me, “Do you really think it’s worth this to quit school and go and do this?” It’s a struggle because you want to make everyone happy, but at the same time, I know I’m doing the right thing. You’re going out there and getting to do what you love to do, but at the same time, you’re making a difference in people’s lives, and that’s all that matters.
Upon joining the band, was it a requirement that you be a Christian or of faith to join up with Brian?
No, it never really came up. But I’m sure, knowing Brian, he likes to surround himself with Christians and the right people. I think it plays a big part, but I don’t think he would be too worried about it.
From the outside looking in, it would look like a 17-year-old kid would have to grow up pretty quickly in a situation like this. That said, kind of describe yourself. Do you feel that you’re fairly mature for your age?
Yeah, I think I am. I think that this whole process over the years has really helped me mature. Just being out on the road all of the time, taking care of myself, and the whole experience has really matured me more, and I’m really thankful for that.
With Brian being in Korn and being around for so long, I’m sure he has connections to all kinds of musicians and players. And I’m sure he could have easily assembled a band with his buddies from other bands. So why did he get all of you guys and start over like that?
I think he just wanted to have his own thing and find people to work with that he really didn’t know. I know it’s crazy that he chose me because I know a lot of people were trying to get in the band when they heard his guitarist was leaving. And I’m just grateful that he chose me over everyone else. I think he wanted to have a fresh start with new people and kind of build it on his own.
Obviously, Brian has been in the music business for such a long time, so is he kind of showing you the ropes as you go along or is he letting you find things out for yourself?
He’s kind of showing me some stuff, but then there’s also stuff that I’ve found out. So it’s kind of both at the same time. But I’ve definitely learned a lot about the music industry and whatnot. There’s good and bad in it, but we just take the good and go forward with it.
Thus far, what do you think is the most important thing that Brian has showed you both musically and personally in life?
Musically, I think the guy has such a gift. He created this kind of music, and just being able to play with him and see what he does is just incredible to be a part of it. And he has actually gotten me to start writing music and I never was the one doing the writing. But he’s really started to help me write, and it’s going really good right now.
And then, personally, it was his testimony and all of the stuff that he went through when he had everything and he was just able to give it up to take care of his daughter and knew what he did was right. I think the big influence that he has on me is that no matter how much you can have in this world, doing the right thing is more important.
So you guys have the Chemicals EP coming out, which drops April 24. “Paralyzed” has been out for awhile, and now “Chemicals” just recently debuted. So just kind of take us through the making of this EP here. And will this be a good indication of the full-length due later on this year?
A lot of people are taking it different ways, but “Chemicals” is really about breaking free from drug addiction, and the lyrics are pretty powerful. We got together with Jasen Rauch and (guitarist) Anthony Armstrong from Red, and we just started writing and came up with all of this pretty quick. Most of the new stuff is pretty heavy. —Brian has gone back to his roots like he was in Korn, so there are a lot of good riffs in it.
The new album is planned to come out in the fall. We’ve gotten most of it done already. We’re working through this whole label thing, but it should be out pretty quickly.
You guys do a cover of Devo’s “Whip It” on the EP. I found this to be a very curious cover because out of all of the choices of songs out there, why “Whip It?”
I think we just wanted to have fun, and it’s pretty cool how we put it together. It’s really hard and doesn’t even sound anything like the original. Personally, it’s my favorite song to play live right now. Also, if you really look at the lyrics to the song the way they meant it, you could totally take them in a different way. It could mean like getting out of a struggle.
In all of the press photos, the band is shown wearing what I think is zombie makeup, and I’m sure you wear it onstage, as well. Is there any particular thing it symbolizes or is it just for fun?
It’s kind of both. For me, it represents how you were before you found the right path. You were kind of lost, kind of like a zombie to your own ways.
So Love and Death has the opening slot of the upcoming tour with P.O.D. and Red, and I should be out at the Baltimore show on May 6. It’s got to be a lot different for Brian being an opening act, so what is the band’s sentiment on this? Is there a general consensus that it’s really going to take a while to work your way up? I mean, you’re basically just starting over, right?
Yeah, it’s all new with the band and the name change. It’s kind of like a restart from where we were. But we’re excited, and it’ll be fun to build our way up. We’re really excited to go out with P.O.D. and Red. It’ll be a good time, and they draw pretty good crowds, so it’ll be a good way to get our name out and just spread the word.
I just saw some live footage on YouTube of the band doing a Korn medley from the shows you recently played in Brazil. So what is the set list going to look like for this tour, if you’re allowed to say?
It’s going to be all the new songs—“Paralyzed,” “Chemicals” and we got the Devo cover of “Whip It.” And I think we’re still going to do like one or two of Head’s solo stuff and the Korn medley. We’ll keep it simple, but as time progresses over the summer, we’re probably going to start playing some of the new songs we’ve written for the new album in the fall. So it’s pretty exciting getting to do all of this this year.
OK, JR Is there anything else you would like to tell Live Metal about yourself or Love and Death?
Just spread the word about Love and Death. The Chemicals EP is out on April 24. And I know I’m still young, but don’t make any conclusions until you come out and see us and listen to our music. I’m really stoked to be a part of this, and hopefully we’ll see you soon. Thank you to Live Metal for having me on and doing this.