He’s a nu-metal icon, a guitarist and songwriter who has seen the inside of three decades as a professional musician. He’s a pioneer in the heavy music world – a word often misattributed or overused but fitting of the legendary Brian “Head” Welch – a pioneer who crashed into his career with Korn in the early ’90s, and now, at 50 years old, is welcoming some of his most fruitful professional years yet.
More specifically, he is welcoming back Love and Death, the side-project-slash-passion-project he fronts, now set to release their second full-length album, Perfectly Preserved, next month, which has no shortage of enviable guest vocals and talent. (It even has a cover of a Justin Bieber song on it, which, why not.) Above all else, it’s a record crafted on a level that no one has heard from Love and Death before. Despite the heavy rotation of media obligations that surround an album release, Welch doesn’t falter, his focus radiating outward, his answers genuine and – as far as I can tell – honest and unique. It’s a trait he’s known for, baring his soul a number of times – even at his own expense, notably as he detailed his return to Korn in his 2015 book, With My Eyes Wide Open.
Welch took time to discuss what happened in his life since the world last heard from Love and Death (it’s been eight years since Between Here and Lost was released), between the outreach project of cofounding a holistic recovery center, spearheading an autobiographical documentary, and his long-awaited reunion with Korn. Yet he doesn’t seem consumed or exhausted by any of this. As he seemingly does with most things in his life, he’s taking it in stride, looking for ways to help those around him. Detailing that journey on the record, at 50 years old, don’t call it a comeback – and he’s still got more to give.
HM: It’s not been the typical album cycle for you; eight years is a long time. A lot of life happens in that time.
Brian “Head” Welch: Right? I was hoping that people would actually care. A lot of fans get invested – emotionally, even – when they want to support a band. For a band to take off and not even say anything for eight years, that’s a long time. But it’s been going good. People seem to really like it and we’re thankful.
It’s one of those things where absence makes the heart grow fonder for fans. Is it like that for you? Are you looking forward to coming back?
Oh yeah, definitely. I was just talking to someone about how some of the best bands go away for a long time, you know? Metallica has gone away for a long time in between records. Breaking Benjamin went away for, like, five years (they were in lawsuits and came back stronger than ever). Disturbed came back huge. There’s just so many. Tool! Obviously, Love and Death is a small band, I’m just saying people seem to miss it. You got to have this thing where you’re not overfeeding people.
What do you think is the most exciting part of Perfectly Preserved? Is it the content? Is it the sound? You have a whole new lineup except for you and J.R. (Bareis, guitarist). Love and Death is a small band on the scale of the whole music world, but you’re made up of pieces of other huge bands.
Yeah, we’re fortunate. I’m a fan of bands like Breaking Benjamin, and we got two guys from Breaking Benjamin’s band. The collaborations actually produce song quality, and those songs are catchy on the record; you want to listen to them because they’re just good songs.
My favorites are the ones that I didn’t write a lot on. These other guys are just great songwriters and I really look up to them. Jasen Rauch – he produced it with Joe Rickard. Joe was the drummer for Red for a lot of years and then moved on to In Flames and then some other stuff. Now he’s producing and mixing a lot, so he’s a writer and he co-produced and mixed it. Having these talented guys work on it is what brings the song quality to where they’re catchy, they’re powerful, and you want to listen to them, you know? That’s why I think it’s doing better than the other stuff. Having time away plus the song quality has really helped us.
Your covers are always interesting. The “Whip It” cover was cool because it was such a metal Love and Death version of it, and I would expect that any you do in the future would be that way. How did you land on a Bieber song?
J.R. Bareis. We actually did a Post Malone cover, a deep cut, like a song that people don’t know unless… We won’t name it right now because we want to release it later, but, yeah, it’s not a very common one. We did a cool version of that.
But J.R. sent me a demo version (of the Bieber cover). He did it all: the guitar riffs, all the vocals, and then sent it to me. He goes – I love doing his voice (in Bareis’s voice): “Hey, what do you think if we did this Bieber cover?” I listened to it and I was like, Oh, my God, I love it. It’s a DJ Snake song, actually, with Bieber guesting.
Our keyboard player in Korn lives in Southern California and we would hang out a lot down there, and I remember being in his car when that song was hot. It was No. 1 all over the radio, and I was like man, I love this song so much. It’s just an amazing song. So when J.R. sent it, I was like, this is one of my favorite Bieber tracks. I thought it was funny heavy. Not funny funny, but like fun and cool. It sounds pretty cool, very melodic, and then making it heavy. And having Lacey (Sturm, solo artist and former vocalist for Flyleaf) come on and work with it…
“Grateful is the word I’m getting this year. Very, very grateful to be able to do all this, musically, at my age. I thought I’d be washed up and done by this time.”
Yeah, I’m so excited about that!
Have you heard it?
No, I haven’t heard it. But I saw that Lacey was guesting on it and was like, Oh, my gosh, whether she’s doing melodic vocals or the heavy stuff, I can’t wait to hear it. She kills it on both.
Oh, she killed it. On the ending part, I get chills every time I hear it because there’s a breakdown. And you know how some songs kind of go (makes crash sound)? It has one of those moments at the end of it and it’s just – actually, two at the end of it. There’s a breakdown into the last chorus and she hits these notes, and you can feel the emotion at the end of the song. I love it.
She has such a way of doing that. I know the two of you have done some work together with The Whosoevers, so I think it’s cool to venture into that realm also.
Right? I’ve always wanted to do something with Lacey. I was out of the band when she toured with Korn in, like, 2006. They’ve done a lot and become friends and whatnot, and I remember not knowing Lacey or her husband that well. I hadn’t even met them yet, and I heard about them and I was kind of jealous, you know? I was like, Man, I wish I was there, too, hanging out with all of them and everything. So, all these years later, I get to do a song with her and I’m back in Korn and I get to do Love and Death. It’s just really… grateful is the word I’m getting this year. Very, very grateful to be able to do all this, musically, at my age. I thought I’d be, like, washed up and done by this time.
Not even close! It’s like you’re restarting. One thing I was curious about. It was the same year you released the first Love and Death album that you rejoined Korn. How has rejoining that family – because it seems like that really is what you guys are is a family – changed your experience in your musical career?
It broke me out of my religious-type-of mindset. Even in this political landscape right now, there’s so much division. It’s like good and evil, democrat and republican, bad and good, and all this. I think back to the tree of knowledge of good and evil and the tree of life. The tree of life is all forgiveness and love your enemies. Jesus had so many chances to just smack people down, even after the cross. His friends deserted him, His enemies tortured him, and He comes back and He cooks people a meal and He heals them and He lets people touch Him. If, at any time He wanted to blast people off the face of the Earth… and it’s after that He comes back and loves. It’s just crazy.
I got lost in Jesus, which is a great thing. I just get lost in that subject. It’s not about us and them; it’s about we’re all one in this Earth experience. Paul, in the book of Acts, is talking to these pagans and he says, I see that you guys are very dedicated to these idols, and he goes on to tell them we are all God’s offspring. Going back to Korn was about opening my mind and my heart and getting rid of the religious mindset that it’s like “Christians are here and they’re there.” No. We’re all one. The only difference is, I’ve awakened to the truth of Christ and one new man, and the creation is in Christ. I’ve awakened to the truth, and other people haven’t or they believe something else, but I honor them where they’re at and what they believe.
I love the relationship (with Korn) and I love the non-separation. That was the most important thing of going back to Korn: that the Christian separation was disintegrated and I could look at people like Paul said, “Don’t regard anybody according to the flesh anymore,” you know? I just look at people with value, and I love them very much.
That’s a testament to what everybody has seen. You have made your life so public and that’s something that I respect a lot because there had to be moments where that was tough. But it seems like you’ve really dedicated yourself to sharing your story. One of those journeys that I have been really curious about is Loud Krazy Love. How did that affect your relationship with your daughter Jennea, having that be so public?
Oh, wow… Well, at first it wasn’t easy. But I gave her the power to choose. I wasn’t controlling her when she was 14 or 15. There are times she’s crying and she’s in counseling sessions and we had it on film. I gave her the power to choose whether we could film that or not, but I told her, “You own the footage. If you don’t want to use it later, then we’ll burn it and trash it.” She was like, Go ahead and film and I’ll decide later. When the movie came out, we got the first edit and we watched it. She had a hard time and had to turn it off. We actually had her counselor and her friend Tiffany watch it with us. So we stopped it and had a session; one person went upstairs and dealt with the emotions, and then we regrouped and talked about it and watched the rest of it.
“I wanted to show the dysfunction to show that you can get past the dysfunction and come back together; God can and will do that.”
She is now proud of it. A lot of the Korn fans and people I’ve met over the years – not everybody – but there’s a lot of dysfunction in families out there. I wanted to show the dysfunction to show that you can get past the dysfunction and come back together; God can and will do that. I was kind of the quiet guy in Korn, and if I was loud and goofy and in your face, it was because it was when I was drinking. When I met God, it gave me the boldness to share, and I thought it was so important – like, if there was ever a time and a subject to share, then it’s this. It’s Christ, it’s life, it’s what he does on the inside of you and how he fixes the mess.
I’m so glad you could collaborate on that. Years down the road that may be something that’s so valuable. That you look back on and are like, Man, I’m so glad we did that.
Yeah, totally. I hope people keep watching it. Documentaries and music and everything just lives on forever, so I think there’ll still be people watching it decades from now, too. Hopefully.
You did one other thing that I thought was interesting between the last album and this one: Zivel recovery.
Zivel, yeah. It’s a Czech word that means “Light of God.” Another meaning is a group of people coming together for a common purpose. It’s a health spa for a lot of different issues, modalities that really help the body, the mind, the spirit, like cryotherapy, float therapy, oxygen, and infrared sauna. All that stuff, a lot of people are talking about. Joe Rogan talks about it a lot. He floats all the time. He has a float tank at his house, I think.
Did you use those methods and were like, man this stuff works, so you wanted to help other people with it?
Totally! My hair is not the best in float tanks, even with a dread cap, or I’d do it every day. But the infrared sauna and cryo and oxygen and all that I just love. My partner, Dr. Matt O’Neill, got changed by it the most. He came on tour with Korn, and he was always working on people and making them feel better but he found out what road burn was. He got burned out on the road and didn’t have anyone to fix him because he can’t massage himself. He can’t adjust himself. So he was like, I’m going to float, I’m going to try one of these places. And it totally changed everything. He told his wife: I know what we’re doing next. He’s a physical therapist, and he had a big practice in Nebraska. So that’s how all that started.
Love and Death has a huge event coming up – a global release of the album – and it looks like you’re playing a concert. What can we expect from that, and who is going to be joining you?
Put it this way: There’s a massive pandemic, and we’re going to invite six people and, hopefully, two-to-four will actually be able to do it or they won’t get sick. God forbid. So, yeah, we’ve got some special guests. We’re trying to keep it mysterious. We’re labeling it as a global event because we want people all over the world to join.
You know, we’re putting a lot into this, and it’s a lot of work, so we’ll see how big it is. If not, we’re going to still do some cool stuff with it, like maybe release it as a DVD or something later. We’re going to try to do something very unique. When we get into the room things may change, but I want to play towards the band. I want to look at each other, but not like this close (puts hand close to his face), you know? We’re going to try to make that happen because I’m not going to play to some empty room with cameras. We’re trying to come up with a way that would look cool and unique for us and just go for it. Have some guests, play some cool songs, just do a concert. The first concert I’ve done in seven or eight years with Love and Death. I haven’t sung in that long, either! I’ll do like one scream a night with Korn or something, but, other than that, I haven’t sung, so I have a lot of work to do. I’m rehearsing, and it’s not easy. I’m not one of those born into the world with a singing gift, I have to really work on it.
I can imagine. And, after all that time, it’s like having to learn it all over.
Yeah, it’s not like riding a bike. It’s like learning to ride a bike all over again.
I have one last question for you, leaving with some food for thought. You’ve been through a lot of things and shared a lot of cool experiences. What would you say is the greatest lesson that you’ve learned and you think is worth sharing?
I think humility. Humility, which leads to giving – giving of your time, your resources, giving your life away, and living for others. I’m still learning that because we’re selfish in our fallen nature. Humility and giving. It’s what Christ did, like what I was talking about earlier. He gave and gave and gave and then He got tortured and He comes back with His disciples and He gives more and He loves more and He’s still giving to this day. I want to copy that and let Him live through me.
Brian ‘Head’ Welch was posted on January 24, 2021 for HM Magazine and authored by Danielle McCallister.