Korn has sold millions of albums worldwide and earned two Grammy Awards as they continue to top Billboard charts and break new ground, but something has been missing for almost a decade now.
Founding guitarist Brian “Head” Welch left the popular metal act in 2005 after becoming a Christian, releasing an autobiography and a solo album called “Save Me from Myself,” chronicling his struggles with addiction and need to get away from the decadent rock star lifestyle. Now clean and sober, he and his bandmates have made amends are touring together once again, stopping at the Sands Bethlehem Event Center (77 Sands Blvd., Bethlehem) on Thursday, May 23, with his new band, Love and Death, opening the show.
The Weekender picked Head’s brain about what has changed, why he rejoined, the making of a new album to be released later this year, and how his time away solidified his future with Korn.
THE WEEKENDER: For years, you’ve been asked by Korn’s management to rejoin the band. What finally convinced you to give it a shot?
HEAD: It was the timing. I feel like I have a sense of feeling when things are right now, because I was just making bad decisions before. As far as like how things fall into place in life, I feel like I’ve got a lot of wisdom with that. It was a heart thing. I hooked up with Korn in 2012, and I ended up jamming with them on stage at a big concert, and it was all about friendship rather than money and business. That’s the short answer right there. All this happened because of friendship rather than the business aspect of it. And so once we connected as friends again, it just fell into place.
W: What was it like reuniting with Korn at Carolina Rebellion in 2012? What was going through your mind at the time?
H: It was really trippy. It’s crazy because as it was happening, it felt like it was a lifetime ago that I was doing that with Korn, you know? I didn’t expect it at all. I was trying to kind of lay low at that concert, so some people wouldn’t try to make it happen or something because I just wanted to chill with my daughter. I was there hanging out with my daughter, but when it happened, I was like, “Oh man, this is supposed to happen.”
Last time I was on a big stage, I was wasted, so I was like, “Whoa, this is what it’s like being sober.” It was just surreal. But now that I’ve been hanging out with Korn and stuff, it’s all come back and it feels like I’ve only been gone like a year rather than eight years.
W: What is the band dynamic like now?
H: Oh my gosh, it’s so great. It’s so positive. There’s no negative energy – zero negative energy in the room. Everyone is friends. Everyone is just happy, and it’s crazy. It was all negative before. Everything was negative, like almost everything, because there had to be some kind of a drama or drug or something going on that was sneaky and just not good. That was just going on all the time, but now, there’s nothing that’s going on that’s sneaky or negative. I don’t mean to sound like it’s all perfect or nothing, but it really feels like everybody and everything has been healed and just set back stronger than ever.
W: You were concerned about everyone’s drug use and way of life in the past. Have things changed since the old days?
H: 100 percent, yeah. Everybody has put everything behind them, and everyone just wants to be happy. The biggest thing is that everybody is so grateful now for Korn and the music that they’ve been able to do and the traveling and the fans that they have. Everyone is so thankful for it, and they don’t take it for granted anymore, and that’s one thing that’s really powerful for me to see because there were a lot of egos floating around before, 10 years ago.
W: As you guys work on the new album together, what is the sound or vibe that’s coming out so far?
H: It’s heavy on guitar. I think there’s a lot of mixture because it sounds very familiar, like me and Munky doing guitars and stuff like that, but then there’s a new sound too that’s 2013 Korn. Jonathan Davis’ vocals have never sounded better in his life, I don’t think, in his entire life. Something is just going on with his voice, how he’s putting lyrics together, and the words are just way more – I don’t know – just thought out. I’m tripping on what he’s doing. This is my favorite Korn album just from the choruses and the heart; the words that he’s putting together are revealing his heart and what he’s been going through the last two years. I think the Korn fans are really going to relate to it.
W: What do you think has inspired the writing?
H: Well Jonathan will always be Jonathan. He doesn’t write about happy things. Life is hard, and there’re a lot of pressures, and he tackles that stuff head-on. I do that a lot in my solo band, too. I sing a lot about overcoming things that are coming against us because there seems to be something trying to smack you around in life. On some of the songs, I feel like he’s wanting to get out of a dark place he’s at, you know? And other songs are just kind of Jonathan’s twisted mind going off.
W: What do you feel you’re personally bringing to this album?
H: Munky always says that I’m like the melody guy, the chorus guy, and so I’d probably say that, mainly the choruses and the melody and the heart. The melody comes through the music; that’s my thing. I love it. To hear the power come from Jonathan mixed in with the melodies that I bring and stuff, and then the crazy stuff Munky brings, then Ray and Fieldy with the bass and drums just all blends together well. It’s all blending together so great.
W: How does writing with them differ from your solo work with Love and Death, and has your other band had an affect on the way you write now?
H: That’s totally what happened. You know what it is? I left Korn, I focused on raising my daughter, I focused on getting rid of all the anger and rage that I was dealing with, and then I went back into music and I relearned how to write, how to sharpen my skills musically. In every way, I relearned how to do it. I just polished it up and I came back to Korn, and I just feel like I have a new bag of tricks, and they have them too because everyone is sober and everything.
It was all meant to be. That’s all I can say. I look back at the last eight years – every year that I went through was meant to be because it was like adding something positive on my life every year, whether it’s with family, emotionally, mentally, musically, and professionally. It was like I was being rebuilt every year in all those ways.