Brian “Head” Welch reaches into his toolbox and works his Ibanez signature with a wrench during a Korn concert in Holmdel, New Jersey, in September 2016. Photo by Annie Atlasman
The very subtle tempo changes help things breathe.
Munky: Yeah, it’s a natural push, but we can still do edits and all the things we needed to do, and then the verse comes back and it slows back to 104 (bpms). Then the bridge comes in and it’s a completely different tempo.
Sounds pretty tricky to pull off live. Like if one person doesn’t nail the tempo change right, the whole thing’s done.
Head: Yeah, totally. Ray is good at following the tempo though, even when it changes and everything.
Let’s talk gear. Has technology changed the way you write, compared to when you first started?
Munky: It’s become easier to record and listen back to it and critique yourself, instead of rolling tape and spending money on recording something. You can listen to high-quality playback and listen to the details and find something that maybe you want to change or adjust. Technology has made it easier for everybody.
Head: We kept it old school. I messed around with the Axe-Fx and the Kemper, which we used a lot on the last record. On this one, we were just keeping it real and keeping it live. Like on my pedalboard, I have maybe four or five pedals: a Boss chorus, Boss digital reverb, DigiTech Whammy pedal, Uni-Vibe—they don’t make those anymore—and that’s about it.
Munky: We got into things like the Axe-Fx, but just a little bit because there’s a sound that we have that, if we get too far away from, it starts to not sound like Korn. It’s fun to experiment with, but if I were to dig out three or four pedals and chain them together and create a sound that way, it would feel more organic. Building a patch in a computer is great for getting creative, but for us to record with something like that is a little different.
When I was in Europe I used the Kemper for my clean stuff and switched between that and my Mesa for dirty. But the Kemper needs to be repaired, and so we were able to dial up one of the Mesa Triple Rectifiers for the clean sound. It’s a little bit heavy—I like the clean sound to be a little thinner—but it does the job. We’re not really picky live. Again, that theory of, as long as we’re in time and hitting the right notes, and the energy’s there, if you miss an effect it doesn’t matter; it’s live.
That’s the tricky thing with the amp modelers.
If they go down, it’s not so easy to get them repaired when time is of the essence.
Munky: I don’t even know what to do with it. It’s one of the toaster-style ones and I’m like, “Help? Somebody?” You can’t take it to just any guitar shop. It’ll be like, “It looks like you’re going to have to send this back to Germany or wherever.”
Munky, why do you use a bass wah?
Munky: I don’t know [laughs]. A dude from Dunlop, Scott Uchida, sent me one, and my guitar tech Jim Otell put it on the floor and said, “Check this out.” But it makes sense because we tune low. Maybe it gets a deeper sweep and pulls out some of those lower notes, because I’m usually in the lower register anyway. The stranger sounds come when I’m in the higher register, and then I don’t use the wah that much. But when I’m low, it feels like maybe it’s the right thing to do. The bass wah
adds a little bit more grit to the sound as well because it breaks up the sound.
Head, you’re a reverb junkie. How do you maintain definition on riffs with it?
Head: I definitely only use it when there’s space
for it. It’s mainly always on verses. Like the guitars cut out and there’s drums and bass going, maybe a little keys, and so when there’s room for it to breathe, I use it there, mainly for melodies. I don’t use it on chords or anything.
So not on the super low, detuned riffs?
Head: Right, that would not work at all.
Recently you played your first album in its entirety live. Did revisiting that have any
impact on the writing of The Serenity of Suffering?
Head: I think it helped. We were talking about writing songs with the live show in mind before we did that tour, but I think it helped remind us of where we came from and what the vibe was like back then.
Munky: I think it had to subconsciously have an effect on us. Nick came out for a couple of the shows and was watching from the side, rocking out. I looked over and Nick’s, like, fuckin’ headbanging. There was so much energy, and we could see the fans react to it. We were like, “We have to make some shit that’s gonna make the people go crazy like that.” Not necessarily the songs, because on that first record there was an innocence and naïveté where we didn’t know what we were doing. It came from not knowing, and not thinking too much. Just like pouring our hearts out. Nick was really the voice of the band throughout the whole record. If there was a section or part, he’d be like, “I just don’t think your fans are going to connect with this or that,” and we were like, “Yeah, I guess you’re right. It’s like too left field.” We rewrote some things. But once in a while he was like, “Ugh, this fuckin’ sucks.” [Laughs.]
Thanks for your time. I really enjoyed the record.
Munky: I’m glad you like it. I hope everybody else does. But if they don’t, I like it.
You can blame Nick if they don’t.
Munky: Yeah, we’ll tell Nick, “Wait motherfucker, you said they were gonna like it.” [Laughs.]