Korn’s Brian ‘Head’ Welch Talks 20th Anniversary Photo Book, Ozzy Osbourne + Love and Death
We recently had a chance to sit down with Korn's Brian "Head" Welch at Knotfest in San Bernardino, Calif., for a chat. Welch spoke about the band's 20th anniversary of their self-titled debut disc, the new photo book commemorating the occasion, his thoughts on how his two eras of Korn compare and some discussion on the status of his other band Love and Death. Check out the chat below.
We're here at Knotfest and obviously Korn have had things to do with putting together festivals in the past. Can you tell me about the preparation that goes into doing something like this and how cool it is to be a part of it as opposed to someone trying to run it?
Man, it's cool to be the big shot and to run it and everything, but it's so much less stressful to just be a band on it. And I prefer that, because we've already done all that stuff, you know. So, we'll leave it to the ones that want to take on the load. And I like coming in, having my friends come out, hanging out, no stress -- or, little stress, it's not zero -- just coming in and playing the damn show, having a blast and getting out, you know?
You've been on the 20th Anniversary tour of the debut disc. Are you noticing any different reaction from the crowds because of what you're doing? Any moments that stand out with talking to fans and people getting into it?
It's just a trip to see the different age groups. There's young kids there, you know? All the way up to older, gray-haired people. So it's a wide range, because Korn's definitely stood the test of time, you know? And it's really cool to see, because I was gone eight years. And just seeing the youngsters come out, you know? The bands that I loved, it was kind of embarrassing to say that you like them when Nirvana came along. So, just to see all these people give a s--t still, it's really cool, you know? I'm thankful for it. Yeah, the 20-year anniversary tour has really made me more thankful that we stood the test of time. We can play with these young bands and not be an embarrassment because we're so different, and we're so older. It's really cool how it just sticks together with everything still, you know?
You have a unique perspective with taking some time away from the band and then coming back to it. Is there any big revelation or anything that surprised you from the second era of Korn's career of how things are different from what it was the first time around?
Just that people are more conscious to just be happy, and not ... it's not about the big ego, it's not about the party, it's not about any of that. It's about the fans. It's about the music. And it's about all of us being happy. And so, just to see it all run properly now is really a ... you know, because I came back and there's a few issues that I saw, because I was basically tour managing myself for my solo stuff, so I was booking hotels, flights, etc. I came back and I felt like I was seeing thousands of dollars wasted. And I was just like (resigned grunt). So seeing that and since I've been back everything's been cleaned up and it's just cool to see it all. Everybody's focused on happiness, friendship, making the band happy, and making ... you know what I mean, it's all positive. There's no negative, at all. And if negative creeps in, it seems like we just deal with it quick.
Now we get the photo book. How cool is it to see the photos Sebastien Paquet has put together of Korn over the years? Anything stand out in seeing what he has done?
He's a great photographer, so he's got all kinds of different, really rad pictures. But the really key thing was to go and get the classic photos. So for him to put so much effort and go hunt down all the old photographers and get permissions and get all that stuff worked out was awesome. And it took a long time. And it's his baby. Sometimes, we had to sign 650 of them the other night, and it was all five band members until like three in the morning. And so I was like, "Man, I can't, I have to meet my daughter and yada yada," and I go, "I don't care about signing them right now," and I just watched his face go (sad), because he worked so hard on it, it's like his baby. So I was like, "Alright, whatever." But we ended up signing them. But yeah, we're thankful for him to push through for it because it was definitely a process that got delayed, and made some fans upset and everything, but it's FINALLY here! And, just to look at that, we're so proud to look at them, to see the legacy of everything we've done in the last 20 years. So look at the book and just, wow. And we still - we're still going. Maybe we'll do another book in ten more years.
One of the things in Sebastien's videos over the last few years is that we've seen the humanity of the band. Meeting fans around the world and seeing their dedication, you see different things, tattoos and other tributes to the band. Are there any moments that stand out to you?
There's just so many. I can't remember them all. I'm not good on the spot like that. What gets me, are the people who say, "You guys saved my life." People were literally going to take their own lives, it happens every day. So many people are just, you stopped me from doing that. That's saving lives. There's nothing more powerful than that. I tell each and everyone of them that the world is so much better with you being here. I mean that, sincerely.
The tattoos are just crazy, too. It seems like every day when we do meet and greets, someone is getting my name tattooed on them. Now that I'm a good example and a good human being, I feel better about that. It still makes me feel weird. Some of the portraits are amazing. With what they can do nowadays with tattoos, to see my face on someone. There's a few of them. There's one that I saved online that blows me away, it looks so realistic. It might be someone in Russia.
Religion has played a big part in your life. Do you see it affecting your music and the way you approach things in any way? Or is just a part of who you are?
I always like to say I'm not religious, but I'm spiritual. I don't want to get lumped into a box with those idiot Christians or organized religion. But yes, spirituality. I have a relationship with God. He communicates with me in ways that only I can understand. What it is, is unconditional love. In a few decades, we're all going to be gone. Every single person in a few decades is going to be gone from this planet. All new people are going to be here running it. Why would be put on this Earth just to disappear in a few decades? It's played a big role in everything. I'm a better person. We can't recreate the past but I feel like I'm more clear. What I do is, I have a tremendous amount of love inside of me now. For myself, for others and most of all God.
It's like marriage. You love the person and you give love to the person it's the same way with God. That affects everything. That love pours out into the music, family and friends, fans, Korn -- everything. It grows year after year too. I see it affecting people.
Some people would say that the older Korn is better than the new Korn so they might not like the newer music better but as far as me as a person and love spreading? I'm still a freakin' nut. I'm the biggest jokester and I mess with all my friends but to see all that come from a place of love, it's infecting people like drugs infect a generation. Divine love is infecting the generation for me.
Putting you on the spot again, but you say you're a big jokester. What's one of your best pranks?
Oh God, I'm not good on the spot. I gotta write things down. Not really a prankster, but for instance. A Korn fan proposes onstage, this guy Sean we've known and hung out with for years. I grabbed the mic after he proposed, he was crying, "I was like will you marry me instead?" Just joking around, always goofing off.
He'll remember that.
Right? I can see her thinking about it too. I could marry you [laughs].
You guys are working on some music, probably early in the process. Just an update on where things are at with Korn.
We're poking away, me and Munky and Ray. We got an electric drum kit and some amps and just started tracking with Ray's friend, this guy by Magic Mountain -- just throwing riff ideas. We write like, half a song and it can get thrown out in two weeks by Jonathan but [laughs] because if the singers not vibing, what do you got? Nothing. We just put a bunch of ideas together and now the next step is getting the touring done so we can go in.
The management asked me, what can we do to speed up the process and make you guys more comfortable? I said, "Stop booking things. Don't book anything and we'll get the thing done." That's our focus. We've got Asia in a few weeks, Ozzfest and then done. We're going to work maybe three weeks, split up the rest of the this year and January it's full on. That's all we're doing and we don't got nothing for months.
Ozzy's an icon in the industry and you're playing Ozzfest. Your thoughts on doing stuff for him, Sharon and the Osbourne family over the years?
[Head does a killer Ozzy impersonation] Dude, his posters were all over my walls when I was a kid. Him with the midgets, he had the fangs with the blood coming out. Randy Rhoads, with Ozzy holding him up. Dude, Randy was my biggest guitar influence. George Lynch was in my dressing room a second ago. He was second. Then just when we did our first tour we hit the road with Ozzy so it was like, that guy is just a legend. I haven't played anything with Ozzy in over ten years ago so I'm really looking forward to it.
Sharon, she said when our first record came out and we went gold on the tour, she came in the room with Ozzy and she brought us champagne and said, "Congratulations, you guys went gold." She said, "I'm telling you, you're gonna do big things in the industry." I was like, "That's Ozzy's wife, Sharon Osbourne, telling me that we're going to do big things in the industry." She spoke it into existence and here we are. We did massive things. So we're very thankful for them.
Was that a moment when you realized, hey this Korn thing is actually taking off?
When we went gold and Ozzy gave me champagne. I was like, "We're doing something. I have to call my dad." My dad was always supportive but he's like, "Dude, have a backup plan. Not many people make it." So to call him and tell him my record went gold and Ozzy just brought me champagne? Yeah. I was like, but still, we were so dark. I didn't see the future with the third album going to No. 1 and being on MTV every day. I didn't see that happening. Crazy. You never know.
You're back with Korn now and it's taking a fair share of your time, but curious, what's up with your other band Love and Death?
When I quit Korn I had this desire to learn how to do vocals. When I learned and started touring I realized that I don't like to do vocals [laughs]. I love creating music and I want to do another album and I want my guitar player, I want to do more of a trading vocals. Singing together, so we're going to do it. It's just finding the time. One of the reasons I quit Korn, it was for my daughter and I found God and got my life together and everything but another reason was this damn train doesn't stop. Korn just goes and goes. It's hard to get Love and Death finished.
I'm planning on, I want to do it within 8-12 months after Korn drops the next record. The last record, I made a mistake and put it out around the same time Korn was coming out, so people ... I feel like people appreciated it and liked it but I think we may be able to get some more attention. Any radio would be like, "We're playing Korn, why would we play your side project?" So I think I'll have a little bit better of a shot. But you know, side projects are always hard anyway. But I want to try doing it 8-12 months after Korn's next album. That's my goal.
Many thanks to Korn's Brian "Head" Welch for the interview. The band has a handful of November shows that can be seen here. Korn's 20th Anniversary Photo Book is currently available at this location. Stay tuned for more from Korn and Love and Death.
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