Overcoming industry typecast is not an easy task, even if one member of the band is a metal icon in his own right! Brian “Head” Welch’s solo project turned mainstream metal band Love & Death has all the makings to overcome such a typecast. Signed by Tooth & Nail Records, this quartet has been hitting the road with Korn to give fans a 20 minute set that no one will soon forget.
Before hitting the stage at The Filmore Detroit last week (October 1), we sat down and spoke with drummer Dan Johnson. During our chat, we covered overcoming the odds of a side project band, how he came to audition for the band via YouTube, the “Christian” typecast that sees almost no mainstream radio willing to play them, and even the return of their lead singer’s return to his former band.
I’m going to go right to the beginning. Open auditions! YouTube!
Ya, something like that.
So what made you jump into that audition? What made you say “I want to do this?”
I knew the guy who produced his first record, Ralph Patlan. He was one of my best friends at the time, so he approached me about it while I was on tour with another band. And I remember being in Houston, Texas, and he called me up and was like, “I need you to come home right now and make a video.” So I had to get home in 48 hours to make a video in time to get it in before the deadline. I made a video playing one of his tunes, and then a week later I got a call, “They like what you’re doing, so come and jam with us.” So I went down and played in a rehearsal room with them. It was me, Head, and that guy from Marilyn Manson, Andy Gerold… he’s a touring bassist so at the time it was just us.
You tied right into my next question, Live audition with Brian Welch? What was that like?
Because, going from okay, “I’m making a video” to “I’m actually in a room and doing it?”
It’s kind of funny, because I was sitting at the kit, and he wasn’t even in the room yet. And then he comes walking in, and he’s dressed like a cholo, all gangstered out and everything. He has his pants hanging down, a Steelers hat on. I was like, “WOW! That’s him.” Because, Korn was huge for me! All those bands, Korn, Limp Bizkit, Staind, those were my bands, so it was just a trip. I was totally nervous, but once we got through one song I was comfortable. I remembered, someone gave me good advice one time, he said ‘Go and do an audition like you’re already in the band. And it will go better.’
Being a drummer, who were your idols growing up? Who made you go “That’s me! That’s who I want to be!”?
I’m really big into 80’s rock. So I like flash, I like stick tricks. So I was into Tommy Lee, Blas Elias from Slaughter, those kinds of guys. I loved the hard hitting flashy kind of guys.
You guys started off as the solo project for Brian “Head” Welch. So how did you guys transition into Love & Death. What or who made the decision to become a band?
It was his [Head’s] decision, he wanted to me more like a band, more of a unit. Head’s used to being in a band, and he really doesn’t like the hired gun idea. He just tried it out, because he thought that’s what he was supposed to do with a solo project. But he really didn’t want to do that anymore, he wanted input equally from four guys, not just him making all the decisions. Even though he does make all the decisions. [Jokingly] He came to us, and said ‘I want to rename the band,’ so he ran some names by us. He picked Love & Death, and for me it was an acquired taste. It grew on me.
Love & Death, obviously if it was an acquired taste, what does the name mean to you?
It represents the two most significant instances in your life. They’re Love… and Death!
How did things evolve going from the solo project to Love & Death. Is it still all him, or do you each have a voice?
When we did the album, everyone had input into it. We noticed, during the writing process, when all of us were in a room putting that album together. Jasen Rauch, from RED, he produced Breaking Benjamin, he helped out a lot, and wrote a lot.
You guys are signed by Tooth and Nail, that’s a pretty heavy Christian label. With a name like Brian Welch as part of the band, I wouldn’t be surprised if labels were kicking down the door. Why Tooth and Nail?
Well, they really weren’t kicking down the door. That was one thing I noticed, and I was really surprised. They really weren’t. We get a lot of stigma. Someone once asked me if we were a Christian band. And no, we’re not a Christian Band. We got labeled as that, and I’m trying to get us out of that. We’re a mainstream band. A mainstream band, with Christian guys in it. We play with everybody. We were overseas playing with Behemoth, Slayer groups like that. And that’s what we want to be doing. Tooth and Nail offered us a good deal, and that’s what really mattered to us.
The album, Between Here & Lost, has been out for almost a year. How’s the reception been with the fans?
It seems to be good. The deluxe version will be dropping soon. I’m waiting for radio to pick it up. Some stations have picked it up, and Sirius shows. Kayla on Octane is great to us. But we’re trying to get the local radio stations to pick it up.
Do you think that goes back to the whole Tooth & Nail label?
Totally! That’s all it is.
Personal Favorite Track?
It’s either “By The Way,” or “Fading Away.” Simply because I love that 4 on the floor beginning, and I love the chorus.
Anything that stands out from the fans reactions?
They loved it! The solo record was cool, but the songs were over 8 minutes long. I mean, he had all star players, but we really needed some radio songs, so I pushed hard for that.
So with Brian going back to Korn, how is that transition going? Do you guys find it harder that he’s doing a double show every night?
Brian’s handling it pretty well actually. Especially because we only play a 20 minute set. For us, it’s been a game changer. Honestly, if he wouldn’t have went back this band probably wouldn’t have survived. To be honest, we just weren’t getting the exposure we needed. We had a few great tours, but it didn’t seem like many more were going to come in.
What do you think is going to happen with Love & Death now?
For now, we just got more Korn dates lined up. We have stuff without them lined up. We’re just going to hit it hard. I have to keep motivated. We have to bang on the radio, do more tours… just WORK!
Speaking of Korn, how’s the tour been so far?
Obviously AWESOME! Some crowds, like Europe, we had to win them over. Some people just don’t want to see us out there. A side project isn’t always welcome. I actually had one guy, when I walked on stage by myself, at the beginning of the set, scream “Get the f*** off stage! I’m here to see Korn” I thought, I’m right here, I mean, we play 20 mins, he couldn’t have went and got a drink or something?
Last question… You come out after the show, to find the tour bus gone. There’s a note on an iPod telling you to walk to the next city. What album is on the IPod, and why?
As Daylight Dies by Killswitch Engage, they’re one of my favorite bands, and I think that album is perfect from beginning to end. Hell, I listen to it now almost every day. Or, Homesick by A Day To Remember, they’re another one of my favorite bands.