Back in 2009, Brian "Head" Welch was hosting auditions at his Phoenix studio in order to craft a band for his own brand of music. The legendary former Korn guitarist experimented and jammed out with a few members, but then went back to searching for his ideal bandmates. In 2011, two weeks before his project was to go on tour, Welch found 14-year-old J.R. Bareis and chose him as his new guitar player. Rounded out by drummer (and Phoenix resident) Dan Johnson and bassist Michael Valentine, the finalized four-piece was announced as Love and Death in February 2012.
Love and Death released their Chemicals EP and the album Between Here & Lost, the latter of which was released in January 2013 and was birthed from "trials, tribulations, pain, suffering, anxiety, depression and drama," according to Welch. And while Welch has admitted that the band has been through some very intense highs and lows, the name "love and death" symbolizes everything that the members had been through during the handful of years they had been together.
Love and Death is quite the departure from Korn, the band that made "Head" a name-brand guitarist. Welch wrote, recorded and toured with Korn for years, and helped create the band's pioneering nu-metal aesthetic, a mix of shredded dissonant guitar, turntable-like effects, and down-tuned riffing. Korn has sold more than 40 million albums, and has been touring constantly ever since Head left the band in 2005 to focus on his personal life and Christianity.
However, as much as fans (and Welch, truth be told), thought that his days with Korn were over, one should never say never. In May 2012 Head reunited with Korn on stage at Carolina Rebellion for the song "Blind," and exactly a year later, announced that he was rejoining Korn--although Love and Death was still going to stay intact as well.
Up On The Sun talked with Brian "Head" Welch about his first album with Love and Death, the addiction he struggles with now, and the emotional roller coaster he was on when he played with Korn again for the first time.
Tell me about Between Here and Lost. What's the significance behind the title? I usually come up with... or steal a name from one of the songs and then I call the record that. That's what I've done for the last two records since I left Korn. Then at the last minute I thought we should have a different name to the album. I asked my bass player, because his band works really quick and he usually has 100 weird ideas and one genius. So then he wrote a list and I saw that title, and it was profound.
Why did that one speak to you specifically? I felt so lost in life, you know? It seems like I've come so far, and it's where I'm at today. Then I look back to when I was just lost in life and it just makes me feel like I've come such a long way. I think all the members felt the same way. It's a deep name and makes you think.
It seems that a lot of the influences behind the music represent struggles you have endured. What specifically is the driving force behind the music? To me, life is usually a struggle. You struggle with something every day. I have a happy life, but it's mixed with struggle, so that's what I thought about with my music. Music to me is about strengthening and pouring your soul out and strengthening others, because you're just connecting with people. I'm not a party music guy; I like to uplift people somehow. The thing about struggle, helping people getting past it, is something that I love because all of us struggle. It's a gift, I think.
What is something that you now feel like you struggle with on a daily basis? In the past it was addiction, what is it now? It's lesser now. The biggest struggles I have is trying to stay....I've battled with depression over the years so I fight that once in awhile. Positive thoughts, you know? You can have a full-on negative day with just your thoughts. Thinking about your insecurities, the sound of, "What if that doesn't go right?" ... and no one knows that but you.
So that's one thing I try to fight through. Sometimes we're so used to thinking and worrying about negative things. And then eating right. That's my big thing. It's like I fought to put in stuff that's bad for me in my body my whole life, whether it be cigarettes, alcohol--too much alcohol I should say--bad food. And this is our body, we should be taking care of it. I got rid of a lot of stuff, but now I struggle with; and it's not a weight issue at all; but picking McDonalds over something that's better for you.
So if you can tell, those are lesser struggles than crystal meth running my life. So I'm doing a lot better (laughter).
How is Love and Death a different outlet for you than Korn was, and will continue to be? Is it the challenge of the vocals? Yeah, definitely, challenge with the vocals. Just something new to keep me...because we should always be doing something to stretch us in life to take us to new places, whatever that is. For me, that was singing and learning how to do that.
I never thought I could before, until I left Korn. I never felt like I was supposed to. I started going for it, praying about it. I'm not the best, but I've learned to use what I've got.
That has to be a revelation for you, if you always felt you couldn't do that. And now you're successful at it. Yes, all things are possible if you just believe and work at it you can do anything.
Do you think that in the future Love and Death's sound will be experimental with each album, or do you think this is your niche? Yeah I think so [that the sound will stick]. It's a great sound. But I'm always hoping for different types of stuff. As long as the focus is on the song and just getting it the best it can be. I like the big chorus, the melody...I love some of the deep melody.
This stuff has more melody than I've ever done. But put together with some pumping music it moves me. So I think we'll definitely stay in that realm. I think those are some of the dynamics that people really appreciate about the music. That's what appeals to me personally. Is there a specific track you may have struggled with writing over the others? "By The Way" Is close to my heart, because I lost some old friends last summer. One of them was one of my best friends, Angela. We were best friends in high school and I had a huge secret crush on her. She died last year from cancer. And another one was my friend James, who overdosed. He was Christian and was doing good, and he started drinking again and too much.
Before he went back to rehab, he said since he's gonna get clean he's gonna do one hit of heroin. Then they found him dead on the floor. I haven't lost someone like really close to me at all before, so I was just thinking about all of our old friends and their families and how they might be dealing with the loss.
Thanks for sharing that. No problem, it has a broad meaning, so hopefully a lot of people will really think about their lost loved ones when they hear it, and just think positive thoughts.
When I spoke with Munky shortly before his daughter was born, he was so enthusiastic at even the idea of you being a consistent player in the group again. What's something you know now that you wish you knew when you were first starting out in Korn? Everything that I know now! I appreciated it, but I didn't really, really appreciate everything that was going on. And now I just really try to appreciate everything that I'm able to do. It seems like all my dreams came true you know? And to be miserable and waste that away is like the biggest insult to however the gifts got to you. It's like a chance to live. Playing with them again and the Love and Death stuff? I'm so thankful.
Even though it's hard sometimes with all the traveling I try to be as thankful as possible. And our new record, I was on Nikki Sixx's radio show and I felt like a little kid because I was like, "Wow, man!" I mean I used to draw Motley Crue for hours when I was a little kid. Just coming from the little town of Bakersfield to promoting an album and interviewing with Nikki Sixx, and being successful.
When you played with Korn at Carolina Rebellion, you've said that you weren't expecting the emotions you felt. How did you think you were going to feel when talking to or seeing them again originally? I don't know. It was just... I was just gonna say hi, like, "Hey man." Everyone's been doing their thing for like eight years. I was just going to say hi, then I started feeling that emotion during the day. I was watching all these bands and started feeling emotional and it was like a family reunion.
The crowd even... there were so many people that you make so happy with the music, and I felt that again. And then when Korn asked me to play with them, I was just going to watch at the soundboard. I wanted to see Korn you know, to see Korn from an audience perspective. And then they asked me to be on stage five minutes before. I was standing on the stage by where I used to play, like by the speaker, thinking how crazy this was.
Then after I played the song with them, people were just bawling. It was a wave of emotion. But that's what reconciliation does you know? With all the crap we went through it was like a happy ending. Even in a bad big evil band like Korn there's happy endings! [Laughs]
What do you think needed to heal in order for this reunion to occur after all those years? All kinds of stuff for me. I just needed to get away from all that stuff that my soul was tied to. Money, fame, partying....I needed to figure out what life was about. I needed to just go away. So I went away. And it was cool because I didn't do music for two or three years. Just once and awhile I'd go to the studio.
But the rest of the time I was at home with my daughter, new friends and new faces. And writing my book. It just had nothing to do with music. I just had to lay it down and put it away because it consumed my life for so many years. I needed to pause on everything. Once I did that the healing came and I got refueled with the desire to create music again.
Do you think you practicing Christianity now, is that a big influence behind the type of music you're making now? All I know is that I'm living again. Christianity you know, it promises you, resurrection and life and everything. I feel like I'm living that resurrected life right now. I laid it down, like Jesus. He went by himself, and chose to go to the cross and die with the promise that he knew he would be resurrected for all people. In a tiny, small way, we do the same thing. Walking away, laying things down, it's hard.
But I knew years ago that one day I would come back to music. I didn't know what it was going to look like, but I went along with it. But now, I'm not shoving it down no one's throat at all. Like my songs--my whole foundation is the Christian thing, but I don't go putting it everywhere.
I talk about my struggles, and people know how I dealt with it. Everybody knows that I try to walk with Christ to get through my struggles. I don't need to say it all the time. I am who I am, you are who you are, and I love you no matter what, you know?
It's about time you did a Phoenix show! You have a studio here, right? I used to. It was a building among all these businesses. And I wrote my book there. But then all the businesses I started with--this dude was kind of a crook--they all crumbled. The dude disappeared, and everyone was blaming me so I had like eight lawsuits against me. That was my Phoenix experience. But, I still love it because my daughter and a lot of her friends are there so it holds a special place in my heart.
How do you feel about the dubstep direction on the Path to Totality record? I think it was cool because Korn hit it before it got really huge. It was getting big, but I love that song "Get Up." I think it's a masterpiece. It has energy and those creepy verses and they really open up melodically.
And "Cannibal" I really like too. So I think they did a good ground-breaking thing right then. But I don't think dubstep in general is as popular as it was; it's still there, but I think Korn hit it at the perfect time.
What Korn album is closest to your heart, or maybe had the biggest effect on your life? I would have to say Follow The Leader. To me, that was when we were all together. Even when we were drinking together. We were all married, having babies, happy, writing the best that we wrote I think. There was no drama it was just chill. I think about those good times with that record. After that though...it's funny how the names kind of spoke to us at those times. Like with Issuesm that's when all the crazy issues happened with all of us. Like three out of five of us got divorced. So Follow The Leader was the biggest album to me, but the happiest as well.