Brian “Head” Welch's new band, Love and Death, released their debut album, Between Here & Lost, January 22 on Tooth & Nail.
On the melodic, ethereal new disc, the former Korn guitarist is joined by teenage guitar phenom J.R. Bareis, bassist Michael Valentine and drummer Dan Johnson.
The guitar skills that helped define Korn's sound are clearly evident on Between Here & Lost, but the album also finds Welch shifting into the role of lead vocalist. It is full of melodic elements and catchy choruses, making for a refreshing fit that seems comfortable and natural.
Korn fans can take comfort in the fact that Welch — who abruptly departed the band in 2005 following his conversion to Christianity — seems to have made peace with his former bandmates. After playing a one-off gig with Korn at last year's Carolina Rebellion festival, plans are in place for Welch to join the band again for a few dates in Germany this summer. In the meantime, Welch is ready to again connect with fans when Love and Death hit the road next month in support of the new album.
I recently spoke with Welch and Bareis about Between Here & Lost and more.
Part 1, Brian “Head” Welch
GUITAR WORLD: How did Love and Death get started?
WELCH: When I left Korn, I did a solo record, which was very personal and experimental. I hired a few guys and went on the road, and a few of them have stayed with me over the years. We’ve all become good friends. Love and Death is really a group effort that shows you what can happen when you let other people in to distribute their gifts on a project.
Let’s talk about some of the songs on the record, notably your unique version of Devo’s "Whip It."
That’s the coolest, weirdest song from that '80s era, and this is a fresh version of it. I remember everyone initially thought it was crazy, but when I brought the idea to the studio Jasen [Rauch, producer] looked at me and said, “Dude, this could actually work!” [laughs]
"By The Way"
I lost a few old friends that I used to be very close with many years ago. One died of a drug overdose and the other died of cancer. This song was inspired by them, and I think it will be personal to anyone who’s ever lost a loved one.
I wrote most of the lyrics for this song. Take a look at where we’re at in our age; everything in life just flies by. The truth is, we all die. You have to ask yourself: “What’s my focus on?” Are you living just for this world, or are you looking to the future and the next life? That’s what the song means.
This song is about losing everything and finding the strength to go on. I’m talking about “things” and not people. I went through a lot in ’09 where I lost a lot of possessions. Overall, the record as a whole has broad lyrical meaning that people can relate to.
When did you start playing guitar?
I started taking acoustic guitar lessons when I was 10, but I quickly got bored with it and changed over to electric. I kept getting better and better equipment and practiced and played all the time. All the way up until I was 18. That was when I got dumped by my girlfriend and moved to Hollywood with some of the guys that would eventually become Korn. The rest was history.
You were able to reach the pinnacle of success and the rock-star dream with Korn.
True. But if you have all of that and you’re still empty inside, what does it matter? It all means nothing. Everywhere we went, we were able to take whatever we wanted; getting the free alcohol and sometimes free drugs. Wherever we went, there were no laws, and it was killing us. You can call it “fun," that is until you realize it’s tearing you down, and it tore all of us down.
Do you have any regrets?
Never. Everything is meant to be in life, and I love the person I’ve become. I’m still growing into the person I really want to be in the future. Now that I’ve found myself, it means a lot. I know it’s a gift.
You were recently asked to perform on stage with Korn again. What was it like performing with them as the “new” Brian?
It was exciting. I appreciated just being there, but for different reasons. I could also breathe easier because I’m so much healthier now.
What brings you fulfillment?
My spiritual life and raising my daughter and steering her in the right direction. I also know that the music itself is a gift that I have to give.
Part 2, J.R. Bareis
How did you hook up with Brian?
BAREIS: In 2011, I was trying out for the band Thousand Foot Krutch on YouTube. Around that same time, Brian’s guitar player had to leave his band. Brian had a tour coming up and needed to find someone or else he’d have to cancel the tour. Out of sheer coincidence, his tour manager found my video for the audition through Facebook and showed it to Brian, who then got in contact with me.
What’s funny is at the time, they all thought I was around 19 or 20, but I was only 15 when they called me. So I joined the band and immediately got thrown on my very first tour, and less than a year later, I was asked to write and record music for the new album. We worked with Jasen Rauch, who is an incredible producer and musician. The thing I like most about him is that he’s a perfectionist. He worked hard to make sure everything sounded the best it could be.
Was being a working musician something you’ve always wanted to do?
Definitely. I’ve always wanted to do music for a living. It came a lot faster than I thought it would, but I’m so grateful.
What gear do you prefer?
For amps, I prefer Mesa Boogie. I use a Triple Rectifier, which sounds awesome. It’s got good, tight low-end but also has great high range and is very versatile. For guitars I use PRS. I’ve played a lot of guitars, but they just feel so good to me.
What’s was the biggest challenge for you when you joined the band?
When I first joined, I was under the impression I would have to try and live up to a certain expectation. But after I met Brian and we played and jammed, everything just felt right. He’s such a cool dude and so down to Earth. Now, we’re all like a family.
Any advice you can give to other players?
Just keep at it. I’ve always wanted to be in a band, so I know how hard it is. One thing I suggest (obviously) is using YouTube because it gets your name out there. It was the way Journey found their singer and the way Brian found me. You may not think it, but people are watching.
James Wood is a writer, musician and self-proclaimed metalhead who maintains his own website, GoJimmyGo.net. His articles and interviews are written on a variety of topics with passion and humor. You can follow him on Twitter @JimEWood.