Love and Death, sharing the name of a comedic war film of the 70’s, is actually the brainchild of former Korn guitarist Brian “Head” Welch after an evolution from his solo act into a four piece ensemble. The similarities end there, as Love and Death is an Alternative / Nu Metal band made up of the aforementioned Welch as Lead Vocalist, Bassist, Michael Valentine, Lead Guitarist, J.R. Bareis, and Drummer, Dan Johnson. Since the initial name change in February 2012, and a try-out for a spot in the band, Love and Death has moved forward in full force, already releasing a five-song EP called, Chemicals with a music video for the title track. To talk about the new music video, the direction the band is headed in, and to answer questions about the band itself, I spoke with Dan Johnson and got his opinion of the music he provides percussion for.
Where did you first meet Brian Welch?
I first met Brian after 2009, I knew the guy who produced the first record, Save Me From Myself, and when it came time to put a band together I sent in a video playing one of his songs. A week later I went in and jammed with him (Welch) in South Phoenix and that was it from there, got the part.
Was The Chemicals EP, planned out from the start or was it an idea that evolved?
Brian wrote most of the songs and came to me with some ideas. I came out and threw the drums on, Brian’s the main song writer.
Is the album being released in October going to build on the EP?
Yeah, the EP is just a teaser. “Chemicals,” “Whip It,” and “Paralyzed” will be on there and there will probably be like seven or eight more songs on there. There are some songs already in the works and were getting ready to go back into the study soon.
After talking about the EP and the album it precursors, I focused on the video for Love and Death’s first single, “Chemicals.” Released in early May, the video is a mash-up of live action and animation that plays out about past struggles with temptation and coming to terms with lost time. Alongside Dan Johnson’s drums, Welch’s vocals, and Valentines bass lines, is J.R. Bareis, who was only 17 during the making of the video. Before getting into the details of the music video I asked what working with a younger musician was like.
Do you see the potential in J.R.?
Yeah, you know the thing is that when he first came on board, we definitely didn’t want to make it easy on him. I wanted to let him know that this isn’t all fun and games; there are hard times. It takes precision and persistence, you’re going to be working at it for a while. He’s learning that it’s a lot of work but he’s doing well and for seventeen he plays great.
Where did the ideas behind the “Chemicals” video come from?
He (Welch) wanted the animation in it to show how chemicals can “transform” you. The video is about not losing yourself, how you don’t need any of that artificial stuff.
What were the most fun/challenging parts of the video?
Destroying stuff in the video was fun. There was one scene where our hands were tied up to the wall and we had to hold that position for almost fifteen or twenty minutes to catch different angles, which doesn’t sound like a lot but… (Laughs). The whole video took about three or four days to get the whole thing shot. We would start at like seven in the morning and we wouldn’t be done until one or two A.M.
One of the songs on Chemicals is a cover of Devo’s “Whip It,” which I found as an interesting choice for the EP. At first I was skeptical of the song but soon found that the band did an exceptional job of giving the original a different identity with their influence. By the time the first chorus hits, this version of “Whip It” is easily recognizable, even with Love and Death’s intense and heavy sound. After he explained how “Whip It” came to be on Chemicals, I asked Dan what the name-altering process was for Love and Death. For roughly three years Brian toured under his own name before deciding to create a full band experience and I wanted to know why Welch sought the change.
Where did the cover of “Whip It,” by DEVO, come from?
Brian was looking at how The Used did Talking Heads “Burning Down The House,” and he told me how he kind of wanted to do a “cheesy” (laughs) 80’s song, and wanted to make it heavy and everything. He sent me his ideas, and then I went to Phoenix and laid down the drums in an afternoon. Now it’s become one of our favorite songs to play live, it’s one of our crowd favorites for sure.
Since you were with Welch when he toured under his name, could you tell us what prompted the name change to Love and Death?
We went through so many changes, Mike Valentine and I were with him from the very beginning, and Brian wanted to get away from it just being about him and “the guys behind him.” He wanted to be a band again, part of a team again. Love and Death kind of describes two major parts of your life and we all felt it worked. It kind of lays off some of the pressure on him too (Laughs).
Dan also said that the name change made him somewhat nervous as well, acknowledging that Welch’s name was a big draw for them. Since then he has been at ease; the name Love and Death has been working out well for everyone.
Do you have anything you wanted to say to the fans?
I know it’s been taking a long time for our album to come out, I feel like it’s Chinese Democracy from Guns N Roses (laughs), but it’s not going to be like that with us. It’s coming out this October and there’s big tours coming up, big shows, lots of stuff coming up. Welch is still going for that Korn feel that he has, I really hope people like the album, I think they will. Stay on board, the new album will hit in October for sure, keep a look out (Laughs).
It was great talking with Dan about his band and finding out some of the inner workings of it, but what is becoming a custom with my interviews is that I like to wrap them up with a “What if” or “Who would win” question.
Since Dan is a drummer I asked him who he thought would win in a drumming competition against the other, John Bonham or Neil Peart?
“In my personal opinion, they’re both amazing and they’ve both had big influences on me in my life. Neil Peart is amazing, he’s a legend, but for my personal taste I’m going to have to go with John Bonham. I like hard hitting rock drummers, and that’s just my kind of style, something that I’m into. John Bonham was one of the forefathers of that kind of playing, that aggressive, animalistic kind of drumming style. Neil Peart is very technical; I feel like there’s not much room for animation and I’m more into the visual aspect, feeling the energy coming off the stage, you know?”
There you have it from, from Love and Death’s Dan Johnson. Look out for their first album to drop in October and check out their Chemicals EP, available on iTunes.
Interviewed by Paul Marino