Korn and Love And Death guitarist Brian ‘Head’ Welch has crammed more into his 30 years as an artist than most: from guitarist in one of metal’s most important bands, to years in the wilderness , to finding faith, redemption and a way back into the Korn line up and living a clean and sober lifestyle. We asked him to give us the story behind the songs from his own back catalogue that have come to define him.
Korn – Blind (Korn, 1994)
“Blind is interesting because Jonathan (Davis, Korn vocalist) had his own band before Korn, Sex Art, and a few of the members of that band were quite controlling and told him what to do. He wasn’t free to write as much, they wanted to write what the band wanted to be. But he came to Korn we were like ‘Dude, this is your job, writing lyrics is what you do!’, so with Blind we heard his bands demo and we thought there was a lot of potential. They had the opening with this droning guitar, and then he comes in ‘ARE YOU READY!’, so Jonathan came to us and said that he wanted to make it really heavy.
“We came in with the cymbal part, and Munky (Korn guitarist) came up with the ‘Dan-a-nan-na', then we decided after it kicked in we were going to bring it all right down. That was all Korn rewriting it. It was a powerhouse, that was such an important song for us, we started playing it around Los Angeles, and we always opened with that song, because we were saying ‘Get ready, because this is a new thing, this is a new sound, you’re going to be seeing some freaky looking dudes going nuts onstage!’. I wanna give props to Ryan Schuck and Dennis Shinn, because they wrote the song with Jonathan in Sex Art and we changed it, there were many writers on that song.”
Korn – Ball Tongue (Korn, 1994)
“Ball Tongue came from a former band before Korn called Creep, Jonathan wasn’t in Creep. We had that riff and that killer groove, but the Creep version was faster and repeated itself over and over. So, in Korn, we remembered that riff and we liked it, so we said ‘I wonder if we can do something with that?’, we chopped it up a bit and slowed it down, got the 808 in there inspired by Biohazard. That was one of the last songs in the record to have vocals on it, because it was so riffy. Jonathan was like ‘I’m not sure what to do on that song, so I want you to come in and do a scream on it for me’, so I went in and did the ‘BALL TONGUE!’ and he started doing the mad scatting thing, so that song just came out and he gave me the backup vocals. That’s my debut vocal, and Jonathan gave it to me. I just remember him coming up with that vocal line and then Ross (Robinson, producer) had him smashing that keg... and it goes off still to this day live, 26 years later.”
Korn – Helmet In The Bush (Korn, 1994)
“This has got a good story to it. It’s around the time that some of us started doing crystal meth. Me, Jonathan and Munky were doing that drug and it’s hardcore – heroin is hardcore for a downer, but this was hardcore and making us go ‘Aaaaaarrrrrr!’.
“So, me and Jonathan were doing it for a few weeks and next thing you know we’re up all hours, awake at four in the morning, tweeking, and he says he wants us to write a song. It ends up being about being on crystal meth and falling into addiction. The lyrics ‘please god help me’ were a real cry for that, and it’s really funny that crystal meth became a huge part of me, ruining my life, and, instead of just saying that in passing, I ended up going to church and saying ‘please, god, help me get off this thing’. So that song became like a prophecy for me – 10 years later I was living that. It was like a forewarning kind of deal.”
Korn – Daddy (Korn, 1994)
“I had to pick Daddy, being in the studio that day was a trippy experience. We had written that song months before – I wanna say again Ryan Schuck and Dennis Shinn were co-writers on that song – but we had taken the music and rewritten it, we kept the vocal melody and the vocal themes.
“We get into the studio and record it and Jonathan has a mental breakdown. I won’t comment on the subject because there are things in his past that I don’t know about, but it was a total breakdown, he lost his mind and emotionally lost control while we were recording the song. All that stuff you hear is on the spot, we were just meant to be doing some overdubs, but he was just on the floor, gone, and I can’t see him because his is in the vocal booth.
“I didn’t know if it was real, because he used to freakout onstage, and I just thought he was doing what he did onstage, but then it went further and he was smashing things up in the vocal booth. That’s when I realised that this was not normal, this is not acting, this is not performing, something is happening in his soul right now.
“Ross was looking at us and going ‘Keep playing’, because he wanted us to capture this, because he knew this was a special moment, a real moment. Ross was very spiritual; his mom was a psychologist, so he had a bit of that in him, ‘How do you feel?’ you know, and Jonathan had this breaking point where it all came out. I will never forget that day being the most intense moment in my entire recording career.”
Korn – Twist (Life Is Peachy, 1996)
“You talk about the start of an album, an intro song! I just remember walking to the studio with Ross and Jonathan one day, and, on the first record had some of that stuff, like on Faget, the [starts scatting] stuff, and we said to him ‘You know, there’s almost this kind of reggae thing you’re doing there’.
“He was all into beatbox at the time and he was like, ‘I think I wanna just get in there and scat the whole track’, so he goes into the vocal booth and starts doing this ‘bramaharhaparaha!’ shit and we all looked at each other like ‘What the fuck it this?!’.
“Ross is jumping up and down going ‘Guys, get on this, do it, go! Play now, just go for it!’ and we picked up our instruments and just started riffing! It was the weirdest freaking day ever! The song is one minute long and we had it done like that, but we just kept wanting to play it! We loved it so much we were like, ‘What do we do with that? Do we add a verse or a chorus or... what?!’
“In the end we decided to just make it this one-minute-long song. We called it Twist because Jonathan was always twisting his dreads. Then we started opening our set with that, because what more or a mind fuck of a way can you open a set than with this voice going off like that and then into Blind?! Fun days man!”