Brian “Head” Welch of Korn has certainly made waves in the music world, and not just for his songwriting and guitar skills or the success of the band he helped form. In 2005, he made headlines when he decided to leave the massively successful Korn after having found God. MTV covered the story when he was baptized in the Jordan River and Welch took on the life of a single father of his daughter Jennea and kicked his meth and alcohol habits to the curb. Die-hard fans found the news that their favorite guitar player had walked out on Korn hard to swallow and a war of words ensued in the media between the Korn camp and Welch.
Welch shared his experiences from that time frame in the bestselling book Save Me from Myself: How I Found God, Quit Korn, Kicked Drugs and Lived to Tell My Story. He continued to make music though, with his solo project, Love and Death, putting out an album entitled Between Here and Lost in 2013. After cleaning up his life, one might think that it was going to be smooth sailing for Welch, but that was not the case. In his newest book, released May 17th, With My Eyes Wide Open:Miracles and Mistakes on my Way Back to Korn, Welch shares in candid detail the problems he has faced in the years since leaving the band, including bankruptcy, a move to Nashville, and heartbreaking issues with his daughter, such as self-mutilation and depression. Oh, and if you hadn’t figured it out yet, he has been back with Korn since 2013, causing another ruckus among those who believed this was the wrong choice for him to make as a Christian. With that characteristic openness and honesty, Welch took the time out from tour preparations to talk about it all with Screamer.
While he now practically has his own section at the bookstore, Welch definitely had no intentions of becoming an author. “Not at all man!” he said with a laugh. “Both books that I wrote- well, I wrote three books- two of them were management coming to me and saying, ‘Hey, you should really write a book. Your decision to leave Korn and your decision to go back to Korn was really controversial. You need to share your heart and everything.’ So I did not plan to do it and I wasn’t seeking it out. It just kind of fell in my lap.” Welch admits that it was difficult to be so honest about his personal life, sharing, “I look back and I’m like, ‘What an idiot,’ you know? But I just think people can relate a lot more to me, and I think when we share our struggles, that it helps other people. So yeah, it was hard- some parts- but I poked fun at myself. I was a little nutty in the beginning, after I left Korn and I was coming off of meth and had this spiritual awakening. I was trying to figure out the balance of who I used to be and who I am now and how to walk in faith, but how to be smart with things too.”
It’s one thing to share your personal struggles, but how did his teenage daughter, Jennea feel about her story now becoming so public? “I actually got permission from her to share her struggles and if she wouldn’t have been good with it, I would not have done it,” admitted Welch. “It’s not the easiest thing, to share all that stuff, but she’s really brave, man, and she allowed me to do it. She trusted me and she read it all and approved it or had me cut out stuff that she didn’t want in. But for the most part, it’s all there.” Thankfully, she is doing quite well, and preparing to head off to college, as the proud father shared: “Oh my gosh! She’s doing so good. She’s eighteen in July and she’s graduating and I’m freaking out! It’s so weird that she’s graduating high school! But I’m proud of her, but it’s so weird too, you know?”
We all have read stories about celebrities declaring bankruptcy, but somehow they still seem to have plenty of money around. When asked if he thinks people might find his financial difficulties, which he describes in the book, hard to believe, having been a member of huge band, he answered, “Well, whatever I said in that book was 100% true, so if they don’t believe it, it doesn’t matter to me. I walked through it and I’m strong because of it. It was hard at the time, but I’m glad that I lost all that. And there was a time that I was trying to look for change because I didn’t have any cash in the bank, and I didn’t have anything. My manager hit me up during that time and he was like, ‘Dude, there was a Korn check for you, out of the blue.’ And I was like ‘Ahhh!’ You know, it was like ‘Hallelujah!’ [to the tune of Handel’s Messiah] He continued: “Perfect timing- because it taught me the provision of God. We’re always trying to scrounge around, trying to make it in this life, but that’s not how faith is- that’s not how God, his relationship, is. He’s like ‘I’m God. I’m your Father and I will take care of you.’ And so he taught me that, you know, after I went broke. So I’m glad that I went through it and it was a big lesson for me. So yeah, it was true.”
Now, if you were worried that with multiple books now under his belt, Welch might once again leave the music world and begin making his living as a full-time writer, rest assured that is not the case. “Oh man! Well, my books are so difficult, so I hope they’re not gonna be like the ones that I’ve been writing! I want to write about something else if I do. But I think if I do, it’s gonna be another ten years, I bet. So, we’ll see.”
While his book shares the story of his return to Korn in much more detail, for those wondering how and when he made the decision, Welch shared a synopsis of the events that unfolded: “I was raising my kid, and in her teen years, probably about thirteen or fourteen, she started getting into rock music and she asked me to go to a rock festival once. She was visiting some friends in Phoenix and I told her no, but I made it up to her, because when I was on tour with P.O.D. with my solo band, P.O.D. was playing a big rock festival when we had a break. So they let us come on their bus, me and my daughter. We went to that festival and Korn actually was headlining. They asked me to come on stage and play a song with them. And I did, and it was a really emotional thing. It just exploded on the internet and went viral and people never thought they would see that day, so it made people really emotional. And I was blown away by that, and then I got the call a couple of weeks later to see if that might be something I’d be interested in- to come and do, like, a reunion with them. And you know, I thought about it, prayed about it and I realized that it was time. So that’s how it happened.”
After being an active participant in the Christian music world during the years he was not playing with Korn, some naysayers disapproved of Welch’s choice to rejoin and some have been quite vocal. What does he say to those that criticize his decision? “Well, what do I want to say or what should I say? On one side, I understand them because people have been following me and they were really inspired by me leaving all that. But the other side is- people attack me sometimes, you know? And not a lot. I think I have way more supporters than I do attackers. But the people that attack me, it’s just like, why do they care so much, that they have to go bash me online? It’s just crazy. But I would just say to everybody that it’s my journey and I’m gonna live it. So I don’t have to answer to anybody. But I appreciate the ones that are concerned and all that. And I understand the nice ones that are concerned or whatever. Those are the ones that I respect and I love that… but the ones that just go bashing me, I hate the fact that they do that.”
Another rocker who famously became a Christian and continued to rock, Alice Cooper, shared this in the opening to With My Eyes Wide Open, which may sum it up best: “The Lord said that His people would be a peculiar people. Hardcore rock’n’rollers becoming Christian would certainly fall under that category…So it is a true miracle when your whole life on every level is turned around. It doesn’t mean that you don’t rock anymore. It doesn’t mean that you don’t rebel. Jesus Christ was the biggest rebel that ever lived. We don’t walk on the dark side anymore. We walk in the light. So… rock on brother Brian!”
Thankfully for Welch, he is not the only Christian in Korn, as bassist Reginald “Fieldy” Arvizu was saved after losing his father. The rest of the band has also cleaned up their lives in many ways and Welch described what relations are like within the band these days. “Oh, it’s like night and day, really,” he said. “I mean, I’ve got nothing but positive things to say. It’s like everybody is so humble, and it’s all about the music and the fans, and just brotherhood, you know what I mean? All that stuff is out of the way and everyone compromises- everyone gives up something to make someone else happy. We all just want everybody to be happy. We all think alike anyway, so it makes it easier like that. It’s weird that it’s so good right now. It’s just really weird. Because you hear so many horror stories with bands and everything. I’m not even blowing this out of proportion. It’s just how it is. No one argues ever, and if we get on each other’s nerves once in a while, that’s about it, you know? We just take a break and then everything is back to good again.”
Shortly after his return to Korn, Welch was part of a Christian documentary entitled Holy Ghost, which is now available on Netflix. The documentary crew followed Head and Fieldy, along with evangelist Todd White (who also rocks the dreads) as they went out into the crowd before and after a Korn show in Cedar Rapids, Iowa and prayed for fans and shared with anyone willing to listen. Welch remembers that night fondly, sharing, “Yeah, that was a crazy night. I was like, how do you minister to rockers, you know? I didn’t even do it except for a few people backstage- prayed for them. The guys came in and they were like, ‘Let’s go out in the crowd and just see what happens’. And I’m like, ‘What?! Ok!’ And we did it and it was amazing. There were people in tears, there were people telling us their lives- how broken they were. It was amazing man.” In the film, we see the three guys wandering around backstage, trying to find a way to get to where people are, and wondering if this is their “Spinal Tap Moment.” With a laugh, Welch said, “Yeah, that thing is a maze! But yeah, it was amazing. We were led to the perfect spot, where everybody was and it was like, ‘Oh, ok!’”
For those that have knowledge of the Christian music industry, Michael W. Smith is a name that is quite well-known. Smith also appears in the Holy Ghost film and shares a blurb at the beginning of Welch’s book, saying, “I love this brother, who turned his life over to Christ and has let Him work in him ever since…May we all live for Jesus like Brian.” After Welch made a move to Nashville, the daughter of Christian music superstar Michael W. Smith ended up babysitting the daughter of Korn’s Welch. “It was so funny! And it’s just crazy how it happened,” said Welch.” Because when I moved there, that’s the only people I connected with, was these people in the Christian music industry. It was Matthew West, Michael W. Smith and his wife, and then some other people that weren’t in the industry too. But I had a friend, Angie Clawson- I wrote about her in the book. Her ex-husband was in the music industry, and she has all this publishing she owns, so she’s just connected with people in Nashville so much, and that’s how it happened. But yeah, I was trippin’ too, because when I became a Christian, I used to listen to Michael W. Smith, so I was like, ‘Michael W. Smith’s daughter is watching [my daughter]. It was just a trip.” What was even more trippy, he said, was when his daughter called and told him that the actor Jim Caviezel, who played Jesus in the film The Passion of the Christ was over cooking dinner for them. “ That was like, ‘What?! What’s going on right now?’” he shared with a laugh.
In addition to having a new book on the market, Welch also has a full plate of other projects, starting with a Korn tour which first hits Europe for three weeks before reaching the U.S. “Once we hit May 28th, it’s on for the rest of the year pretty much. We’ve got a big fall tour announcement coming up pretty soon, too.” There has also been talk of a new Korn album in the works, which Welch has said will be a heavy, back-to basics album that many fans are sure to love. When will we finally get the chance to hear for ourselves? “We’re still trying to finish the touches and all of that on it,” said Welch. “We’re really close to being done. I’m letting the management-the label- work on stuff and we’re just waiting to hear from them about when and all that. We just do the art, and they do the business, you know?”
Welch has not abandoned his solo project, Love and Death, and says they are continuing to work on new music. “We’re gonna finish the record this year. And we’re gonna put it out hopefully in November. If not, it’s going to be early next year. We’re going to put something and maybe even get a tour in next year with that band. So we’re hoping! We’ll see.”
And that’s not all there is to look forward to. Welch shared the news of a new project that will be happening perhaps in 2017. “There is something really cool. I just saw, for the first time, a feature film and it’s the documentary feature film about Korn, about my life, about my daughter. There’s all this old footage of me and my kid when she was young, and Korn when we were just starting out. It’s just really a work of art and that’s such a gift that these guys gave me. I Am Second Films are putting it out with a company called Ditore Mayo Productions. They did a killer job, so that’s going to be coming out probably next year sometime. We’re going to take meetings with distribution and all that. It’s really awesome. We might take it to film festivals and everything. So, we’ll see.”
While the music that he performs is definitely hard rock, you might be surprised by what Welch listens to in his spare time. “I’m listening to a lot of instrumental music,” he shared. “There’s this place called Bethel Music and I listen to their series of CD’s called Without Words. It’s all instrumental and I listen to that. There’s another band called Hammock, and that’s instrumental too, and it’s just awesome. It takes me to another place. But as far as rock music, I love A Day to Remember. I love of Mice and Men.” And for those who might wonder if he has to use any product to maintain his fantastic dreads, Welch shared with a laugh, “I have one. It’s Loreal Anti Frizz. And it goes on top of my head so the dreadlocks don’t get frizzy.”
Though he has been inspiring people with his music for many years, Welch is now able to inspire people at a level through his faith, and he shares, “It makes life so much more satisfying. I feel like my heart got purified, and it’s a real thing when I’m thinking about others more than myself. And it’s not that I’m always perfect like that, because we all have the root of pride that comes up and tries to grab us. But it’s a really satisfying feeling, just doing what I’m doing and it’s all motivated by love for people. And only God can do that to a heart, because it was all about me before. And that’s another proof of the miracle that transpires in the inner life of a human being with Jesus.”
So, now that Welch is both a Grammy award winner and a bestselling author, what is next on the list for him? An Oscar? Pulitzer? Nobel Peace Prize? Welch chuckled and said, “I don’t know. I just really look forward to getting older, you know? I enjoy it. I enjoy time ticking by and really experiencing this life to the fullest and everything. And trying to help people and gaining wisdom. And I think my dreads are going to turn white one day, and I’m going to look like Gandalf. I am.”