Brian “Head” Welch was born June 19, 1970 and grew up in Bakersfield, California. At the tender age of 11, Head picked up a guitar and found his original calling. Barely out of high school, he helped found the nu-metal band Korn. The band quickly became a Grammy® award-winning, multi-Platinum selling band, and quickly rose to the top of the music world while selling some 40 million records internationally.
In early 2005, Head rocked the music world by announcing his resignation from Korn. At the time, Head was committed to moving away from the crazy Korn life to continue to care for his daughter Jennea, as a single father. Additionally, Head committed his life to Christ with the goal of touching people’s lives and giving back to those most desperately in need.
His debut solo album, Save Me From Myself, finally surfaced back in September. The album was produced by Head, who recorded the music off and on for the past two years in Phoenix, Arizona. It also featured renowned musicians Tony Levin (Peter Gabriel, David Bowie) and Josh Freese (A Perfect Circle, Nine Inch Nails), and was mixed by Ralph Patlan and Bob Clearmountain. In this exclusive interview, Joe Matera caught up with Head to discuss his solo album, guitars and Korn.
UG: In what ways did the writing and recording process for Save Me From Myself differ from the approach you used writing and recording the Korn albums?
Brian Welch: I did everything differently when I recorded my solo album. When I recorded while I was in Korn, I drank beer, did my tracks and drove home drunk. On my solo album, I prayed a lot, did my tracks and drove home sober. Another thing I did was take my time on the recording of Save Me From Myself. I was in a great place financially and it was cool to not have a deadline at all. I started recording the album in the summer of 2005, took a break in 2006 to write my book also titled Save Me From Myself, then I finished recording in 2007, mixed it and released it in 2008. Now that’s taking your sweet ass time! The writing process was a lot different too. Instead of writing my songs on my guitar, I wrote them on a keyboard that had all these nasty cool synth sounds that sounded like distorted guitars. I demo-ed the songs all electronically and then brought them in the studio to lay the real tracks.
Was it hard to dig deep inside during the creative process now that you’re clean and sober whereas previously you may have found the creative process enhanced by the environment you found yourself in and were surrounded by?
It was actually easy to dig deep inside because I spent years covering up the real me and I needed to let everything out. I went through a lot of crap in my life and this was a way for me to pour out the pain into my songs.
Obviously your new found faith in God and spirituality, has brought a sense of renewed energy and musical growth?
Yeah, definitely man, I was completely out of energy before I found Christ. I was sick, tired, confused, depressed and literally going insane from drugs. Before I found Christ, I was the type of guy that would want to stay as far away from Christians as possible. To me, they were boring, but when I was desperate for help, I had to at least try to pray and see if it worked. I swear to God after I prayed a few times, I felt the power to want to totally change my life for the better and I did. When I prayed to Jesus for Him to come and live inside of me, a crazy thing happened–He actually did and my changed life is proof of that. I haven’t done drugs since and I never will. Everything in my life is better.
|“I did everything differently when I recorded my solo album.“|
You produced the album as well, so was it hard to be objective in the studio when it came to wearing both hats such as that of musician and producer?
Yeah sometimes it was a train wreck! Especially in the beginning, but I had a lot of support from my friends and engineers that lent me their ears for second opinions. I couldn’t have done it without them. My emotions were all out of control in the beginning, but I started to mellow out later on.
When it came to gear, what did you use for Save Me From Myself?
I used mainly Ibanez baritone guitars for all the rhythm tracks. I used a Les Paul, G&L and a Strat for the lead guitar melodies. For the amps we used Mesa Boogie, Orange, Marshall and a Bognar. We recorded tons of rhythm tracks and combined the amps to get a phat tone. For my pedals, I used anything and everything. That’s probably my most favorite part of recording. Every time I record a new record, I go pedal shopping at all the cool guitar stores and buy everything that sounds crazy. I only end up using a few of the pedals that I buy, but its fun to shop and good to have the collection. Anyway, the pedals I used the most are Boss Digital Chorus and Digital Reverb, Digitech Whammy Wah, Boss Flange, Big Muff, Small stone, and a few others that I don’t remember.
You have a collection of custom guitars, so what do you look for when it comes to a guitar?
I look for guitars that have a great sound for sure. With the low tuning that I use in my music, the guitars I use got to have a meaty sound, but clear so you can hear the Chord progressions good. Sometimes it’s a guess though. You just plug them in and see what they sound like, and sometimes the guitars you think are going to sound the best, end up not sounding so great and vise versa.
So going back to your guitar collection, what is it like these days?
I actually only have a few guitars right now. I have a couple Ibanez Baritones, a couple 7-strings and a double neck 7 string/14 string. When I left Korn, I didn’t go and pick up my gear at our studio because there was some tension between me and the guys, so they still have a bunch of my guitars, but I don’t need them anymore because I’ve switched to 6-string baritone guitars. Plus, after I left Korn, I sold my house in Bakersfield CA, and some really expensive jazz guitars came up missing during the move…oh well.
You’ve become associated with the Ibanez 7-string guitar, in what ways did playing a 7-string bring a different perspective and approach to the way you approached music?
It really helped Korn come up with heavy grooves that people could bounce to and the low 7-string helped to bring out a deepness in Korn’s choruses that not a lot of bands had at the time. Fieldy, the bass player in Korn, played a 5-string bass, so we were sometimes fighting over the low end, but most of the time it worked out.
In what ways, do you think your playing have evolved over the years?
I kind of think that I’ve come back to the basics on Save Me From Myself. In the early days of Korn, we focused on the songs rather than over playing our instruments and that’s what I tried to do on my new album. It goes back to the old saying, “why reinvent the wheel?”
Do you think that you could switch to playing a 6-string guitar exclusively one day?
I actually have switched to play 6-string guitars. I used 6 string Baritones on my entire CD. Not one 7 string was used. It seems to me that I could get a cleaner, less muddy, guitar tone with the baritone compared to the 7 string. That’s my opinion anyway.
|“If you’re an unstable person when you’re a nobody, you’ll be an unstable person when you’re at the top of the charts.“|
So what is the secret to getting Head’s guitar tone?
It’s a secret, I can’t tell you….no, I just try anything and everything and I try not to do anything by the book. You got to keep an open mind if you want to keep improving your tones. There are no rules in making music. We are all free to try anything and everything with music, and nobody can tell you that you’re wrong because it’s just a matter of opinion.
When you made the first Korn album, did you realize at the time that the band were in effect creating what became “nu-metal” and a sound that would influence all the bands that came in Korn’s wake?
No way, we knew we had something different, but we had no idea the impact that Korn would have on the metal scene. Nobody predicted that. It was just something that happened and none of us were complaining. It was definitely a rollercoaster ride that we weren’t prepared for though. I think all of us thought that if we made it to the top, everything would be perfect and we would feel content with life because our dreams came true. But that wasn’t the case. We found that there are a lot of pressures at the top and it can mess with your mind being in a band that big. If you’re an unstable person when you’re a nobody, you’ll be an unstable person when you’re at the top of the charts.
Are you proud of what you contributed, musically, whilst in Korn?
Yeah, I grew up with all those guys and it was a trip to make it big with all of my childhood best friends. That kind of stuff just didn’t happen in Bakersfield, CA, but dreams do come true. When I was a kid, I used to rack my brain trying to come up with a guitar sound and style that didn’t sound like anything or anyone else out there. When I couldn’t find that unique sound I was looking for, I gave up and then a few years later, I joined Korn and the unique sound just kind of found us. It was crazy.
Do you think the day will come when you and Korn will be reconciled and maybe make music together again?
I’m really looking forward to playing with other musicians right now. I started my life over, so I don’t feel that I want to go back to the familiar. That’s where I’m at today.
What have you got planned for 2009?
I want to get out on the road and do some live shows. We are working on putting my touring band together so we should be rockin’ really soon here. I’m also very close with my daughter Jennea. I’m a single father and that takes a lot of my time. I bought her a new puppy so I’ll be busy with that in 2009 as well. She’s been asking me for a puppy for five years, but first I talked her into a fish, then a hamster, and now I finally gave her a puppy.
And are there any plans for another solo album?
Yes, I have a butt load of songs that I look forward to recording soon so we’ll see what happens.
Interview by Joe Matera
Ultimate-Guitar.Com © 2008
I saw this article 28 hours after it was published, and there were already over 200 comments on the article. What is very interesting to me is how so many people have such strong opinions about whether or not a person should share their religious views, even if that is a primary focus of thier lives. Even though he did not say that anyone should follow his religion, people take offence at what he has to say. It’s a sad commentary on the present state of western culture, that you can’t even share your life with people without being judged.