Love and Death’s Brian ‘Head’ Welch on Playing With a Teenage Guitar Wiz
Guitarist/vocalist Brian “Head” Welch, the co-founder of Korn who left after 12 years after he got sober and chose “the Lord Jesus Christ as his saviour,” released 2008′s Save Me From Myself under his own name, but has spent the past couple of years assembling a new band called Love and Death, which was finally solidified in 2009.
Love and Death just returned from Brazil from their first tour there. A five song EP, Chemicals, came out this week and another tour will follow April 30 to May 24 with P.O.D. and RED. A full album will be ready later this year.
Welch talked to Noisecreep about seeking out band members on YouTube, looking out for his new teenage guitar whiz and what place religion has in Love and Death.
I’m intrigued by this whole YouTube audition process to find your band members. How did that work and who is in the band from that?
They created a YouTube account, posted the video and gave us a link. It was so easy. The digital age is so awesome because that would have taken me, maybe even weeks to try out so many people. So the YouTube stuff, I could pick the top 3 of every instrument, who I think would be a good fit. You can just tell. And so I picked them and when they came [for the live audition] they were all awesome and I just decided to go with my gut. So I picked six guys and I got a keyboard player, two guitar players, a drummer.
There must’ve been a lot of ridiculous ones.
Yeah. It’s crazy because some people, close in my circle even, they play and they think they’re really really good and I’m like, ‘You should keep practicing.’ They’re like, ‘No I’m ready’ and I’m like [sighs]. They’re blind to the fact that they’re not there yet. So, yeah, I got a lot of those yet. But the ones that we got were really good. To start a new band is hard and some of the guys got other opportunities so we lost four of them, and two guys, plus one new one, is all we got now. So we got four.
JR [Bareis], the guitar player. He’s 17. He’s a little guitar prodigy. We got him when he was 15. Michael Valentine is the bass player and he’s been with me since the beginning and Dan Johnson [the drummer] is the other guy who has been with me since the beginning.
Listen to “Chemicals” From Love and Death
JR then is the big discovery?
JR is the big discovery, but that was later though. It gets even more confusing. But last year we lost another guitar player because his wife’s having a baby. It was two weeks before a tour and I’m like, ‘What am I gonna do now?’ and randomly our tour manager found this video of this guitar player who was trying out for TSK, Thousand Foot Krutch. So we called him and said, ‘We don’t know if you’re going to get this Thousand Foot Krutch gig, but we need a guitar player for this tour. Can you go?’ He like, ‘Okay. I’m 15.’ [laughs]. In the video, he looked 20 because he could play really good; he was moving his hands all crazy and it looked like he’d been on the road before. And so I talked to his parents and they were like, ‘We pulled him out of school, put him on online school, because we knew he was going to have an opportunity because he’s just really good. ‘ And I go, “Well, sign him over to me so I have full custody of him [laughs].” [Welch has legal guardianship of Bareis while he is on the road]
He’s 17 now, so a borderline adult. Beyond the music, do you feel responsible for him, making sure he doesn’t get lost in the dark alleys of Brazil or lured to the bars? Are there things like that you have to worry about?
No, he’s a good kid. His parents got freaked out once because we have some scary flights, where he was at an airport eight hours by himself. I was like, ‘It’s out of our hands and it’s the way it goes and airports are safe because there are police and security everywhere so it’s all good.’ So he got through that, but Brazil, yeah. You know, he wanders off sometimes so we don’t wanna lose him. We all got through customs and everything and we gotta wait 30 or 40 minutes for him because he was in there and we couldn’t go back in to get him. But, yeah, we always gotta keep an eye on him ’cause he is still underage.
It’s fun. You’re going to watch him hopefully develop into this amazing star.
Yeah and I got one year with him being underage. I can legally ground him if he messes up the show [laughs].
Watch Love and Death Live Performance From Brazil, April 12
What stage if the actual full album at now?
We have all the songs. We just have to finish just one more song, the music of the song; we gotta record drums on four songs and I’ve got to do vocals for about four or five songs. So we’re almost done with it.
Is a drag that you had to go on tour because you want to finish the album or is it a welcome break, which could give you perspective when you come back?
It was a drag to go on the road because my manager told me I gotta finish in June and I get back June 1. If we have hiccups or something, there’s no time for nothing. I wasn’t happy about but I just got word that we have until August 15.
Is there a danger when you’re touring behind all these songs, that you’ll come back and want to scrap a lot of stuff?
We’re at a level now where the songs are good. Before I was writing okay stuff, but now that I’ve got the producer, with his ear, he’s going to be working with me, sending me stuff over email and I can work on it there. I don’t think we’re going to have a problem with scrapping songs.
Is it Jasen Rauch that is going to be producing the whole album?
Yes. He’s amazing. I really liked his work with Red. He used to be the guitar player for Red, but he quit to be a producer and he did some great stuff with Breaking Benjamin on their last album [co-wrote on Dear Agony]. He’s worked with a lot of other people. He’s a writer too, so if I get stuck on something, he’ll pick up the guitar and come up with something. And my band writes too. I think it was just meant to be and everything’s clicking.
Tell me about the Har Megiddo remixes on the EP of “Paralyzed” and “Chemicals.”
It was funny, just meant to be stuff because I was talking to my manager about a remix and I said, ‘Who would we get to remix? Let’s ask Jasen to do it,’ and this guy emails my manager and says, ‘Hey I like to remix songs.’ He’s done a couple of bigger bands, but not much so I gave him a shot. We really worked together on it, melodies especially, but we did it all over email and it turned out pretty good. It took a lot longer than if we were in person, but it was really cool.
You got Matt Baird on “Whip It.” Had you toured with his band Spoken?
He was just in town during the recording and Jasen mentioned it. He said it would be cool to have a guy to scream on there and so I totally tried it. You wouldn’t believe it, at nine in the morning, he got up – you’re hearing him with morning voice and everything and we just threw him on there.
For now, will this band be billed as “Love and Death featuring Brian ‘Head’ Welch,” until people get to know the group’s name?
Yeah I think so. It will probably help us get launched.
Any more books in the works? [Welch has published 2007's Save Me From Myself: How I Found God, Quit Korn, Kicked Drugs And Lived To Tell My Story; 2008's Washed By Blood: Lessons From My Time With Korn And My Journey To Christ; and 2010's Stronger: Forty Days Of Metal And Spirituality]
Probably when I’m old man, I’ll start writing books again, but no I don’t have any contracts or nothing. I really like to write so I would like to do that again. It’s really therapeutic for me and peaceful so we’ll see.
Does you (Christian) faith figure into the lyrics of this EP or the album?
I think it just has to do with life. You could translate it to faith or you could translate it to all kinds of people can get into it, but, yeah, a lot of it’s from the heart. Faith is in the heart.
Is it important when you are putting together your band to find players with the same belief system and values, in addition to being good musicians or you don’t care if other people believe?
I didn’t really care, as far as putting this band together. Like one of the guys we had for two weeks or maybe a week even, his name was Andrew Gerold and he didn’t have any faith like that and it was cool, let’s do it, but then he ended up joining Marilyn Manson two weeks after [as his bassist]. He just felt like he didn’t belong, but we were like, ‘Yeah let’s do it.’ And my drummer, he didn’t really [have faith], but he’s more open now to everything. But, no it’s not necessary. It just worked out like that. I’m the one that has the stronger faith in the band, but we’re all knuckleheads though. We all act like our guitar player, like 17-year-old idiots [laughs].
So it’s not like anyone would feel uncomfortable, as if you are a missionary and will slip a Bible under the pillow?
I’m sure a lot of onlookers who see how we act, it’s sad, but they wouldn’t guess that we were Christians at all [laughs]. That’s the truth. We act like idiots a lot. But, yeah, I love my faith and it’s really personal. I’m just really glad it’s not about being perfect because I’m far from it.
Love and Death’s Chemicals EP is available now. Pick it up on iTunes today!