Brian ‘Head’ Welch lives and breathes heavy metal, and his aesthetic serves that archetype emphatically. Not only is he known as one of two iconic guitarists in nu-metal lords KoRn, but Head is also an incredible artist, across various creative domains. He’s gone through his own trials and tribulations over the years, he’s found God, and he’s also told his story over two autobiographies, and a documentary called Loud Krazy Love, to top it all off.
To kick off 2021, Head’s about to unleash a massive new album from Love And Death. The metal master has obviously been busy conquering the world with KoRn over the past few years, but he’s also been paying special attention to another musical venture close to his heart.
Love And Death were incepted before Head returned to KoRn, and as he recounts in his second book ‘With My Eyes Wide Open’, when he was exploring opportunities for solo material, and through his circles came into contact with Breaking Benjamin bassist Jasen Rauch.
The band released their first LP Between Here and Lost back in 2013, and in case you missed the memo, they’ve now set themselves up for their sophomore album Perfectly Preserved, set for release on February 12th.
When that zoom entrance sound pinged for our interview, and those instantly recognisable dreadlocks and tattooed eyelids appeared, I couldn’t hide my excitable grin, and felt ready to dive into Welch’s current Head-space, ahead of Love And Death’s big release.
Straight off the bat, the 50-year old rocker wanted it to be known how hard they’ve been working on the upcoming release. “This band has been gone for so long, so it was like, ‘ok we’re gonna flip the switch on this’ and we did it,” Head says proudly.
“KoRn is pretty much off right now, so it’s really helped a lot,” he says in reference to his spare time last year – “all in the middle of a pandemic.”
For Perfectly Preserved, Head (on lead vocals/guitar) is joined by Rauch on bass, JR Bareis (of American band Red) on guitar and backing vocals, and Isaiah Perez (of LA band Phinehas on drums).
Obviously, with influences from KoRn and Breaking Benjamin, the two singles so far off the record, are a straight up fusion of the two bands in the best kind of way, namely ‘Down’ and ‘White Flag’.
“I just don’t think that we have any other talents than just to do what we’re good at,” Head laughs. “You’re gonna get that familiar stuff out of us, but what we can do is get away with things that we wouldn’t be able to with KoRn or Breaking Benjamin.”
It’s easy to see how stoked the Grammy award winner is with how Perfectly Preserved has turned out. “Even some of the song structures that Love And Death can get away with, is a little bit more (than what he’s used to), but it’s catchy, I feel like there’s really good hooks and some great melodies on it, and you know it’s just the style of music that we all love, so we’re really proud of it.”
Compared to the band’s debut record where Head was front and centre, the Perfectly Preserved campaign is equally showcasing both KoRn and Breaking Benjamin maestros as faces of the band, and from Head’s point of view, it’s great to have Rauch on board. “He has three beautiful daughters, so with him touring Breaking Benjamin and doing records with them, there’s no time to be in another band.”
“So with this COVID thing [going on], he was like ‘sure I’ve got time’, and you know, producing a record that takes a lot of time and energy,” not to mention everything that comes with releasing the record. As I saw the book-writer’s mind swirl ahead to the logistics of touring, he adds – “we’ll probably have to have someone stand in for him because Breaking Benjamin will be working; well maybe not,” he smiles, pondering his options.
Rated as No. 26 in Guitar World’s 100 Greatest Heavy Metal Guitarists of All Time (equally with KoRn guitarist James ‘Munky’ Shaffer), Head’s gone into Perfectly Preserved with different motivations to that of the band’s first record, as he’s already shared his demons and poured out his heart, as referenced in his books.
“There’s not as many personal dark themes on this record, as there were on the last one. I feel like there’s more of a lighter feel on this record, it’s not as heavy – it’s just art, you know? I’ve had many afflictions,” and the record still takes on some serious topics – “on songs like ‘Tragedy’, which is about a person that can’t let go of their trauma.”
Interestingly, one of Head’s highlights on the album is track four, their metally controversial cover of ‘Let Me Love You’, featuring ex-Flyleaf singer Lacey Sturm.
“It’s funny because JR sent the DJ Snake song with Justin Bieber to me and he said ‘okay, I’m not gonna say anything, just listen to this song, just tell me if you think we should cover this’ and I heard it and said ‘100% yes’.
“I loved that song when it came out, that was when Bieber went through all his addictions, and he came back in a far more mature way.”
If you know anything about Head’s history, you’ll know he’s suffered his fair share of addictions, most problematically methamphetamine – and although the pop-cover may raise some of his fans’ eyebrows, it seems like he connected with Bieber’s resolve.
Love And Death are not unfamiliar with pop-covers, and released an extraordinary rendition of Devo’s 1980 hit song ‘Whip It’ on Between Here and Lost, which Head acknowledges as interesting, upon reflection. “You wouldn’t know (that it was a cover), and some people just thought it was a Love And Death song.” Give it a listen and you’ll see what the KoRn riff-master means.
On release day, Love And Death are doing a global livestream, which will be really exciting for fans. Outlined in his second book, Welch emphasises the challenges he faced to record and track vocals for his solo material, as he was always far more comfortable behind the axe. However, he goes on to describe overcoming it, but fast-forward to the livestream, and the performance anxiety may be simmering just a little bit.
“It’s big, it’s kind of nerve-racking because I’m not the most trained vocalist, and I haven’t sang live in eight years.” Despite the vocal concerns, Head is excited for the livestream. “We have some guests coming in, and we want to keep it a secret because we’re not sure who will show up,” he says, alluding to the challenges posed by the pandemic.
“We want to do something unique with the show. I think we want to face each other and perform like a glorified kind of rehearsal, with cool lights and some tricks. We’re inviting anybody and everybody, tickets are only fifteen dollars and you can watch it all week.”
Head recently revealed with Knotfest that KoRn are not jumping aboard the livestream train for now, but they do have some big plans for 2021.
“We’ve been working on stuff, we’ve got to take a step back and see a bird’s eye view but we want to come back out of the gate when touring happens in a powerful way. We’re going to make an announcement soon though, we’ve got exciting news coming for 2021, but I can’t say anything else or I’ll get in trouble.”
KoRn frontman Jonathan Davis is celebrating his fiftieth birthday, and Head was letting me know that he’s about to get in touch with his nocturnal bandmate.
“I’m gonna text him when we hang up, but he should be waking up soon. He wakes up at about 5pm, when it gets dark.”
The metal-head laughs at Davis, and his dark ways. “He’s like the sweetest guy but he collects like human heads, foetuses in jars and body parts and stuff like that, he’s strange,” Head smiles and laughs, in a life-long-friend–understanding-kind-of-way.
In terms of next steps for Love And Death, touring’s going to be off the cards for a while, as it is for everyone at the moment. However, if Rauch is able to join the party when the day finally comes, it may be either his first (or one of his first) trips to Australia, as his Breaking Benjamin bandmate Benjamin Burnley has a phobia of flying.
That’s enough motivation for Head. “Let’s do it. I love Australia. I was supposed to go there to promote my movie Loud Krazy Love,” an emotive documentary, originally released in 2018 that brings his written content to life. “I was going to talk about my documentary and then the pandemic hit, so we couldn’t come. Maybe this year or next year, we’ll see.”
In closing, the humble guitarist, writer and director ensured we left off on a high-note about yours truly, not himself – “thank you, you’re helping to keep metal music alive, and that’s pouring into you our genre.”
Interview by Ricky Aarons @rickysaul90
Love And Death’s Perfectly Preserved is out on 12 February.
Pre-order the album here.
Love And Death – Perfectly Preserved tracklisting:
4. Let Me Love You (feat. Lacey Sturm)
5. Death Of Us
6. Slow Fire
7. The Hunter (feat. Keith Wallen)
8. Lo Lamento
10. White Flag (feat. Ryan Hayes)