Brian 'Head' Welch: 'Life Is About Drugs And Mistakes'

artist: Brian Welch date: 11/21/2011 category: interviews
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Brian 'Head' Welch: 'Life Is About Drugs And Mistakes'
When Brian "Head" Welch crawled out of Korn in 2005 he was addicted to drugs and an alcoholic. He finally pulled himself together and in 2008 released Save Me From Myself, a solo album full of dark synths, epic-length songs and tunes all sung by Head himself. Now three years later Welch has returned to the studio to record his follow-up album [maybe an EP]. "Paralyzed" is the first single from the upcoming record and it is a brutal vision punctuated by the staccato guitars Head made famous in Korn. The vocals rise to nasty growls and descend into melodic passages revealing how capable the ex-Kornman is as a vocalist. It has not been an easy road. Sober now for many years, Head looks back at his first solo album, his time with Korn and reflects on those moments with a clear head. He was unabashedly open in this conversation and didn't try to cover up the things he'd done with smoke and mirrors. As further testament to his newfound sense of professionalism, he called precisely at 1:30 p.m. for our interview. The phone rang, I picked it up and someone on the other end said, "Hi, this is Ed." I said, "Oh, man, I'm sorry I'm waiting for a call from Brian Welch. Could you please hang up?" There was a laugh on the other end. "This is Head." The connection wasn't great and I thought the voice had uttered, "Ed." He had a laugh and we jumped into the dialog. UG: You left Korn in 2005 and didn't record Save Me From Myself, your first solo album until 2008. What were you doing for those three years? Brian Welch: First of all I wanted to focus on my life and what I was doing and Who am I now? I was a single father so I was taking care of that. I was working on music off and on and I also wrote a book in 2006 and the whole year I spent writing my autobiography [Save Me From Myself]. So that kept me busy and just doin' the everyday dad stuff, the school, and that stuff. When did you seriously start thinking about putting together your first solo album? I was thinkin' about it since '05 since right when I left but it wasn't nothin' in a rush. It just kinda took its time and then it finally was done. Like I was happy with it and it was good enough to release for '08 and that's just kinda when it all came together. Were any of the songs that ended up on Save Me From Myself stuff you had written for Korn? I wrote it after I left the band and it was more like an experimental album and there a lot of songs were about my life change and everything. Just being fed up with the party and stuff like that; it was for that time period. In what ways was the album experimental? It was my first one so I was experimenting with like singing and all kinds of stuff. There's one nine-minute song on the album and a lot of five- and six-minute songs. There was just like stuff we [Korn] would never do like before. I experimented with string sounds a lot of keyboard synth sounds and we never did that. So it was just like one of those albums I just wanted to do new stuff. You brought in Josh Freese on drums and Tony Levin on basswere you looking for something special in a rhythm section? Yeah, totally. My manager at the time knew those people and stuff and so it just kind of clicked and it just happened. And it was fun to see these legends in there tearin' it up on my stuff. It was good times.

"With the Korn guys we were all family but we were dysfunctional and we were drunk the whole time."

You used a rhythm guitarist on the albumArchie J. Muise, Jr.but did you play most of the guitars on Save Me From Myself? Yeah, totally. I did a lot of em but Archie came in and he was nailin' some stuff better than me on some of the rhythms so I was like, You need to record some stuff. But I did most of it. In Korn, you and Munky did all the guitars together. How different was it being the sole guitar player in the band? Yeah, it was different. It was more on my plate that I had to come up with the stuff like that. Sure, with the Korn guys we were all family but we were dysfunctional and we were drunk the whole time. So it was good to get away from the craziness but I sure missed havin' someone to collaborate with like that but it was cool. It was new and exciting so I just went for it. You talk about Korn being drunk pretty much all the time. How was the band able to function in the studio if everyone was drinking? We wouldn't get wasted while we were recording. We'd wake up, most likely have a hangover and stuff like that, and just kinda wake up, eat and just start recording. And not really start drinkin' til after; we would keep it together. Certainly one of the experimental aspects of Save Me From Myself was you being the lead singer. Were you influenced by watching Jonathan Davis record all those years? Yeah, totally. Some of the stuff where I'm singin' now, I'm not the best singer so you know how Jonathan sounds sick sometimes when he sings? He sounds disturbed. And so, yeah, I get a lot of that dark sound like that. It just kinda goes with the style that we do. I learned a lot watchin' him and a lot of the other bands like the Deftones and Tool and stuff like that. Had you done much singing in Korn? I did some screams and I did a couple backups live but I didn't do a lot on the records except for the early records like the first two. You knew you wanted to be the singer on your album? Yeah, the reason being I wanted to speak about stuff I went through and I didn't want another person to do that. It would be weird so yeah, I wanted to try it. I always admired vocalists and it was a cool thing for me to try and do. It was awesome. Flush was the first single from Save Me From Myself. Was that song chosen specifically to sort of introduce Head musically post-Korn? Yeah, and some of the other songs were more spiritual sounding you know. I wanted to release one that was more like just rockin' and just talkin' about getting sick of being sick. Steven Tyler said once, I'm sick and tired of being sick and tired. That's kinda what the song's about and so I thought it would be a good choice to come out with. The video was pretty heavy. Were you concerned about alienating some of your fans? I wanted to do somethin' visual; I wanted to do a video but I didn't have my band picked out yet so it was just me. We just did what we could with it. It was pretty heavy but that's the life. We did interviews with some ex-drug addicts and strippers and all these messed up lives so we just built the video around that. We got some actresses and it was a little heavy but I think it was meant to be for the time. Bob Clearmountain mixed Save Me From Myself. How did you come to work with him? Again that was a manager call. He's very like well known and everything but I'd never heard of him. My manager was a fan of him and I heard of the artists he'd worked with [Bruce Springsteen; The Rolling Stones; Bon Jovi] and I said, Heck, yeah, let's go get him. He only mixed four songs and then a friend of mine did the others. How did you feel about your guitar sounds on Save Me From Myself? They're good and I liked em. I think I'm getting better sounds now on my new stuff. I like the sound of the new song Paralyzed that I put out. The Save Me From Myself record was cool and I had a lot of cool pedal effects and stuff that reminded me of some of the Korn stuff we used to do. But as far as rhythms and stuff I really like the tones we're getting right now. Washed By Blood was the nine-minute song you mentioned earlier. That had synth strings and big walls of guitars and was a really different-sounding track. Yeah, totally. I just loved the melody and the strings and stuff and that's how I was feeling back then. I was feeling like peace and I was feelin' really good about the future. So that's what came out and it was really good for the time. Is there a fine line between writing songs about your own life and having a lyric come across as too preachy or artificial? Yeah, totally and the new stuff is more about life. Not totally but you've got to live and learn. You know what I mean? Everybody warned me too and I was, I don't care. I'm doing what I want. But I had to do everything in my time. You talked about getting better guitar sounds on the upcoming recorddid you also want to go a bit heavier than Save Me From Myself? Yeah, the producer Jasen Rauch wanted to pull that out of me. That song just came so quickly and he came to me with the idea and then we both worked on it. I'm really stoked on it; it's really a lot of energy comes when we play live. I've been playing it live for a month and I'm really stoked on it. How did you come to work with Jasen Rauch? I signed on with Union Management, the Union Entertainment Group actually, and he's one of their clients and I liked the band, Red. I liked their stuff so it was just a natural progress that we hooked up. Once we did it it just clicked and we had two songs in three days that I'm really just stoked on. So I'm hitting the studio and looking to finish an EP or an album by November 7th. Who are the musicians on the album? The guys in my band are Michael Valentine playing bass; Dan Johnson on the drums and J.R. is playing guitar too.

"I just want the best-sounding product so it's all working better and it's gonna be the best thing."

Is this record taking a more band approach than the Save Me From Myself record where you tended to do a lot of it by yourself? Uh, yeah, we'll track it all separately but it's all different now because my solo album was all me and that's how I wanted it to sound and I did that and it was cool and I'm glad. But this time I'm givin' it to the producer and allowing him to produce me and write with other people. I just want the best-sounding product so it's all working better and it's gonna be the best thing. The writing has been going smoothly? Yeah, we'll have a few done before this year is done; we'll have like six or seven. Would you mind commenting on some of the Korn stuff? Yeah, no problem. The first Korn record was pretty important in the development of that type of music. When you were making Korn, did you have any idea of what you were creating? A little bit but there was no way no one could predict the impact it had. We knew that it was special and there was a couple people that came to the studio like this guy named McG who is a movie producer now who did Charlie's Angels. He hadn't done nothin' when we met him and he was just a friend of one of the guys that we hooked up with through the record. He came and listened to it while we were recording and he was like, Dude, this stuff is gonna be huge and we're like, What? You're crazy. He said, It doesn't sound like nothin' out there and sure enough he was right. He did our videos and later on he blew up too and he's doin' movies now. Yeah, we knew we had something unique but we didn't know it was gonna impact that hard. What was it like playing guitar with Munky on that first record? That was always when we were jammin' in the studio. That was always live and we'd write the songs live. Nowadays it's differentyou write it on computer and do that but back then it was just get in a room with a bunch of friends, get some beers and jam out. So that was how we did it and it was really fun back then. The first time an audience really heard Korn was with Blind, the first single. Was that a good representation of who the band were at that time? I think it's really cool; it's so different. Even now I play Blind in my set. I love some of the stuff we did and I play two or three songs in my set of Korn's just because I like it and I'm proud of it. So that was a really cool song because it had a fat riff and the verses were really melodic and everything and a chorus that grooved. So I think it was a good introduction song to Korn fans. When you look at the Greatest Hits, Vol. 1 album, how does that collection of songs stand up for you today? Yeah, it's a trip and it's humbling. Just really stoked because there's a lot of musicians out there that are better than us that are just rippers and are just so good. And for us to make it so successful it's almost a crime. But we did have a unique sound and stuff like that but it's just funny how we were just these dudes partying, having fun and making music and we just made it so big. I'm pretty thankful to be part of it. What do you remember about recording A.D.I.D.A.S.? Actually it's funny cause I called in sick that day and they all wrote it without me. There's like that one and Y'All Want A Single off a later record [Untouchables] and two others off later records that I wasn't a part of cause I was sick and I didn't come in. It was a drug sicknessI did drugs the night before and stuff like that so I lied to them at the time cause I didn't want to feel like a loser [laughs]. I wasn't a part of that song but I remember they wrote it and A.D.I.D.A.S. stands for all day I dream about sex and they were all reminiscing about their childhood and how they used to say that in school. So everybody was excited about that and I liked it and it was a really cool melody and the guitar part was pretty catchy. The nrr nrr nrr nrr nrr, that thing was catchy. Look In the Mirror album was your last record with Korn. As your final statement with them what do you think about the album? I was on drugs that whole recordI was on crystal methamphetamine. You asked earlier about the studio and I was really havin' hard time in the studio then. I think that it shows. I think it's lacking the production and I think it's not good at all. It's one of our least-selling records. There are a couple of okay songs but I just really don't like the drum sounds. It wasn't horrible or nothin' but it's just one of my least favorites and it was in my darkest times so I don't think it held up as much. I wrote some stuff but I just wasn't in my primeI was definitely lacking then. So eventually the drugs really did impact on the band. Yeah, totally. In the beginning it didn't with the alcohol but the drugs took us all down later on in one way or another. It's strange that bands don't get into drugs until after they've become successful. You'd think that when a band is fighting to become successful is when the drugs and drinking would happen. It's just a party and everyone wants to party with the band after the show. And everybody wants to go hang out with the girls and stuff and it's a cycle that most bands go through. It's pretty jacked up.

"There was no way no one could predict the impact the first Korn record had."

If Korn hadn't been pulled apart by drugs and you stayed with them, what kind of music do you think you'd be making now? I think everything happened the way it was meant to be so I don't really think about that. I'm glad it happened actually because I got humbled by it and it taught me about what life is really aboutabout drugs and mistakes. Do you talk to any of the guys in Korn? Yeah, totally. Jonathan and Fieldy came and visited us at a solo show about a month ago but I haven't seen the guitar player, Munky, though. I haven't seen him or talked to him since '05. I think there's some bitterness on his part about that still but we got nothin' but good vibes towards each other and we're just doing our own thing. Did you hear any of the last Korn album? Yeah, there's a couple songs I liked. They're still doin' it and I'm proud of em. I interviewed Munky a while ago and he really had nothing but positive things to say about you. Oh, that's cool. He's up and down you know. I went and hung out with Jonathan and stuff like that and I just heard about some comments he made because they were talking about us getting back together and stuff. I don't wanna do thatI'm doin' my solo stuff and I'm happy doin' the smaller things that I'm doing. And I have no desire but I heard the comments saying that, I don't wanna talk to him. We made four records without him. So he's up and down a little but I think overall we've got nothin' but love for each other. His bitterness about you leaving was probably because he was really hurt when you left. I totally agree with you. You're finishing up your tour now? Yeah, we have one more show with the band, Red, and then we're off into the studio for the next three months. I'll be glad to get home. I'm so stokedI've got some good ideas and I'm just really excited to get some new stuff done. Dude, I'm like done playing these songs liveI need new material. I mean it's '08 and I'm tourin' on these songs. I've got one single out, Paralyzed a month ago so I'm at my wits end. But I've been building up the fanbase and stuff like that so it's a good time to get some new music. Interview by Steven Rosen Ultimate-Guitar.Com 2011
More Brian Welch interviews:
+ Brian Welch: 'I Was Completely Out Of Energy Before I Found Christ' Interviews 01/17/2009
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