Brian ‘Head’ Welch: “Our Justin Bieber cover came out better than I could ever imagine!”

Brian 'Head' Welch
(Image credit: Matt Matheson)

It’s rare to speak to a musician who has been in the business as long as Brian ‘Head’ Welch has who has the same level of excitement and enthusiasm as he clearly still has. As Hammer settles down for a Zoom call with the man who is one half of Korn’s iconic dual guitar tag team, it’s almost shocking how delighted by the music he makes he remains to this day. As we ask him about his career and the reasons he has resurrected his side project Love And Death eight years after their debut album, Between Here & Lost, he throws himself around with wild abandon; playing air guitar, mimicking vocal parts, holding his hands up and widen his eyes with untamed passion for music. We finally got him to calm down for long enough to give us the lowdown on the record.

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Love And Death’s upcoming second album, Perfectly Preserved, comes eight years after your debut. Is it good to get it up and running again?

“It’s been great man. You get such an emotional feel from those guys. I mean, Jonathan [Davis, Korn frontman] is an icon, and he’s so good at what he does, it’s crazy, but writing with these guys you just get a totally different feel. So, I really enjoyed that, being able to go for some more melodic passages, rather than the darker stuff I do with Korn.”

Your role as vocalist is something very different from your day job as Korn’s guitarist. How easy have you found being the focal point of a band again?

“It was exciting time, I love doing vocals. Way back in the day, doing vocals on Ball Tongue, I loved screaming. So, I was excited to come back and do that again. The singing part, I’ve been pretty open about that, it’s hard for me to do that. You look at Jonathan or or Maynard from Tool and you see them just open their mouth and sing. I can’t really do that. I have to work really hard on that. I am also in a place where I don’t have to pull from all this dark stuff in my life anymore, I can treat these lyrics like poetry, me and the guys can throw ideas back and forth and work out what we wanna say with this. It can be a story about someone in your mind, it can be about the pandemic, we’re thinking about mindsets like that, but it was a very positive mindset that this came from.”

It actually feels like a very emotionally uplifting record.

“That's cool, I appreciate that. There are a couple of songs that talk about stuff, Slow Fire is talking about a crumbling relationship, Infamy has some personal stuff in there. It’s not all a happy record, but it comes from a place of ‘I’m not going to let this get me down, I’m not going to be stuck in this place anymore.’ But there’s some darkness on the record for sure. Tragedy is about someone not getting over their trauma, someone who gets stuck in that circle, so it’s a wide range of emotions.”

Granted there is some dark subject matter, but it feels like the songs are, at the very least, hopeful. Like the songs that would be playing as car full of survivors driving away at the end of a horror movie.

“That is the best analogy I’ve ever heard in my life! That’s it! That’s what it is; a horror movie where some of us died, but we all made it out in the end! I love that!”

You also made the pretty bold choice to cover Justin Bieber’s Let Me Love You. How the hell did that happen?

“It was awesome. We actually were thinking about a few different covers and JR (Bareis, guitar and vocals) said, ‘Hey, don’t make fun of me, but I recorded this song, and I wanted to see if you wanted to do it for the new record?’ He sent it to me and I was like ‘YES! This has to go on the record!’. I knew some fans were going to be like ‘Justin Bieber? What the heck!’

“It’s actually a DJ Snake song with Bieber guesting if that makes anyone feel any better! I just remember when he came out and he was pretty cheesy, but the kid could sing, ‘Baby, Baby, Baby, Ooooohh’, all that crap, then he went through the drugs and the racial… whatever, and then he came across to this place of maturity. People in the industry started to respect the evolution of what he was doing. I remember me and my friend driving around across one weekend and that song just kept coming on the radio, and my friend likes heavy shit, and he loved it. And we kind of fell in love with the melody, I saw the vision immediately: we get a female guest and I was gonna do some screams. It came out better than I could ever imagine!”

It’s not immediately obvious that it is that song either to be honest. It’s probably a good idea that you changed it up enough to make it stand on its own.

“Definitely. I like to do that with covers, keep people on their toes a little. On our first record we did Whip It by Devo, and we totally changed that as well, and I like it how we don’t give people the version they expect straight away. I don’t want it to be exactly the same – we’ve done that with Korn before and sometimes the cover asks for that  – but I want people to dig, not get it immediately.”

Now you’re doing Love And Death and Korn at the same time, do you feel like this is a thing you’ll continue? You’ve got lots of bands with members of huge acts in them that feel like their own separate, but equally important entity; Stone Sour, A Perfect Circle...

“Korn is my first love, Korn is my baby, Korn is firing on all cylinders right now, that’s number one. I don’t know if I want to go and tour as being a frontman. As far as doing records, I love doing these records, so I am going to gauge it. Thing is, when Corey Taylor or Maynard go off and do these bands, it’s easier for them because they are the most famous figure in the band, so they can go and do these things and it’ll be bigger for them. Love And Death isn’t that big, and I don’t want to be touring clubs and not making money for my guys. I’ll do it for free, I don’t care, but I want to get out there and make JR some money! He’s mid-20s and I want him to see some reward from this, I make enough money from Korn that I’d do it for nothing, just for the love of doing it, but it has to make financial sense for the other guys, just being honest. But, we’ll see, maybe festival season in Europe.”

Do you find being the centre of attention in the band an easy thing to deal with?

“I’m not sure. It was something that I desired to do, and I did big shows too, I got there and I had a lot more respect for the front person. It’s not as easy as people think, you think you get all the fame and adulation and applause, but if you are feeling off then all the pressure is on you, if you stink all the pressure is on you. If you battle with depression and you are meant to make people happy then it’s a real battle, the last thing you wanna do is pump up the crowd when you’re having a good day. But now it would be easier because we are splitting the vocal duties, and I really think that helps me get into those songs.”

You’re also doing a livestream album release show on the February 12, the day of the album's release. What have you got planned for that?

“We’re rehearsing right now for this live stream event, and I’m still learning how to do it. I think we wanna do something really cool with it, we don’t just want to stand up on an empty stage and play, we want cameras going in-between us so that you can really feel like you’re in the room with us. When we practice, we don’t just look out at the walls, we huddle in together and feel that music together. So, I want to give the vibe of the rehearsal room, I want the people at home to really feel like they are in that room with us.”

Love And Death’s new album, Perfectly Preserved, is released on February 12. Tickets for the album release livestream are available now.

Stephen Hill

Since blagging his way onto the Hammer team a decade ago, Stephen has written countless features and reviews for the magazine, usually specialising in punk, hardcore and 90s metal, and still holds out the faint hope of one day getting his beloved U2 into the pages of the mag. He also regularly spouts his opinions on the Metal Hammer Podcast.