Former Korn Band Guitarist Brian Welch
Life After Korn: Brian “Head” Welch
Written by Shelley Barski
Before he could catch his high school graduation cap in the air, Brian Welch (also known as Head) found himself with a record deal and a whirlwind of success before him. As the lead guitarist in the multi-platinum, Grammy-winning, metal band, Korn, Welch had all the houses, cars and girls he wanted. His dream of becoming a successful musician had come true. But instead of finding true contentment, he found himself living out his worst nightmare: depressed, addicted to drugs and struggling to find the will to live. In one life-changing night, God met him in his pain and spun his life in a new direction. Now, seven years after leaving Korn, Welch talks about the power of forgiveness, his faith journey, and touring with his new band, Love and Death.
Interviewed Exclusively for Risen Magazine
Risen Magazine: What were you like as a child?
Brian “Head” Welch: I was a clown, but I was always kind of shy too. I was very dedicated to music. I practiced a lot and made passing grades in school. My first guitar was a star shaped Peavy Mystic. [Laughs] It was amazing. I sold it to the one of the guys in Korn actually.
Risen Magazine: Do you have a favorite childhood memory?
Brian “Head” Welch: Yeah. When I got picked up by my dad at school in eighth grade, which never happened… I thought someone had died or something. But he had great news… he told me he wanted to go buy me a new motorcycle. I was really into riding and was so excited!
Risen Magazine: What was the defining moment for you when you knew you needed the Lord?
Brian “Head” Welch: I didn’t know it was all real. I asked Jesus into my heart the first time at age 12. My friend who was in motocross with me was a Christian and invited me to church. After awhile I stopped hanging out with that kid though and started getting into drugs. I graduated high school and did more drugs. When Korn got a record deal, we signed up for a non-stop party. Eventually, I realized I needed help. I went to a doctor for help and couldn’t get sober. As a last resort I ended up in the church. It was then that the Lord became real and I stepped out and got prayed for. That night I came home and did more meth [methamphetamine] because I was addicted. But then I prayed and asked God if he was real and to help me quit. As I was praying, I felt him so strongly and it was the most amazing thing ever. It felt way better than a fantasy—like too good to be true. A fantasy couldn’t even compare. It was much better than any of that—eternity filled my heart.
Risen Magazine: What was it like to get baptized in the Jordan River?
Brian “Head” Welch: It was pretty amazing. My pastor came to Israel with me and baptized me. I just wanted to take time off and chill—for a couple of years. We did some site seeing in Jerusalem, but I didn’t really understand a lot of it because I hadn’t read the Bible yet. I want to go back and tour now that I understand it better.
Risen Magazine: Because you’ve spent a significant part of your life at the center of metal culture, what advice would you give kids worshipping that type of music now?
Brian “Head” Welch: You gotta know who you are, you know what I mean? I was just into metal—the whole lifestyle. But you have to be careful where you go. There are so many temptations in that world, so be careful to pick the bands that you’re listening to. Now, my band is all positive. Some people can listen to songs and it doesn’t get to them, and others it really affects their mood and outlook on life, so it just depends on the person.
The closer you get to God, the more hell you go through.
Risen Magazine: It takes such courage to stand up for your beliefs. What tools are important for people to learn about where they should place their identity?
Brian “Head” Welch: For me, you’ve got to spend time with God. Everything comes through his Spirit. You get courage and strength from him. He changed me from the inside out and continues to do so daily.
Risen Magazine: What was the band’s reaction when you decided to quit Korn?
Brian “Head” Welch: The band was shocked. They were like, “What’s going on?” There was a lot of hurt and betrayal because we were just about to record a new CD. I didn’t care though, I had to leave and get out of there. I don’t regret leaving at all, but I kind of regret how I did it.
Risen Magazine: What affect did it have on you mentally to not be Brian “Head” Welch from Korn, but to be the independent Brian “Head” Welch? Are you enjoying this type of success more?
Brian “Head” Welch: I think it has all been for a purpose. I am thankful to be able to have the platform. Rock music is different and we are still figuring it out. I’ve been touring with my new band Love and Death all over the East Coast and Midwest. We get along well [laughs]… we just mess with each other all day. We tour in a van and it’s rough – you really get to know your band. My daughter Jennae also tours with us. She likes metal too and wants to sing and play bass in a band someday.
Risen Magazine: You have such a distinct look with guy-liner and white hair bands… where does that style come from?
Brian “Head” Welch: I started doing the eyeliner thing when I was 14 and my dad definitely didn’t like it. The style just came to me. I’ve always loved long hair. I don’t have the white hair bands anymore, now it’s dreadlocked.
Risen Magazine: Who are your top musical influencers currently?
Brian “Head” Welch: I would say my band – we influence each other. With songwriting, I pray a lot before I write because I want to make sure the songs come from him [God]. We go into the studio and start writing and everyone contributes something.
Risen Magazine: Tell me about Love and Death’s new CD releasing in October.
Brian “Head” Welch: The CD is untitled right now. The EP just came out called Chemicals. The CD isn’t around just one theme; it’s a bunch of different stuff. We really wanted to get some good quality, catchy songs on this one. Right now we are really concentrating on writing.
Risen Magazine: Tell me how you became a part of the Hardflip movie soundtrack. How much do you think a movie like this could make an impact on today’s youth and beyond?
Brian “Head” Welch: I think it’s a good idea. My friends, [pro skateboarders] Christian Hosoi and Brian Sumner contacted me about putting that song in the movie. It’s a cool movie. I think when churches get involved, a movie like this can make a difference. It gets kids thinking about what’s really important in life. I met Brian and Christian at Sanctuary HP Church just a few months after I got saved. They’re awesome guys and I love our church. Their heart is all about touching the lives of the youth and they really put their all into it.
Risen Magazine: You played with Korn a few weeks ago for the first time since you quit the band. Why did you decide to play with them after all these years? What was their reaction?
Brian “Head” Welch: I just went to hang out at the show they were playing at with my daughter. Evanescence was playing, which is one of my daughter’s favorite bands, and many other bands were playing so we were just walking around watching the bands together. Five minutes before Korn went on stage, they asked me to play a song with them. I was like, “Oh, I’m not prepared,” at first, but then I agreed and we played “Blind,” the first song Korn ever put out on the radio. It’s a clean song; it’s just about being lost. I play it with Love and Death and sometimes I put a spin on it at the end saying, “but now I’m found.” When I played this song with Korn, I felt healing and felt like God’s presence was there. It was emotional for a lot of people in the crowd. You know, we’re all just people on this earth, fighting for life. Korn is family, and I missed them. It was cool to play with them, I felt really good inside.
What’s funny is afterwards, fans were saying how much they loved us… some hadn’t even realized I had left the band. I guess some people just don’t pay attention [laughs].
Risen Magazine: What does forgiveness look like to you? How do you walk that out?
Brian “Head” Welch: I know it’s really important to God, so I try to walk that out. When I got saved, I went to everyone’s house that I had beef with and said I was sorry. And if I get into a riff with someone, I do that now. Even some past band members for Love and Death have left on bad terms, but because I talk to them and forgive, we are good now. It says in the Bible that Satan has something on us if we don’t forgive. Even when it hurts, I make sure to be good with everyone. When you realize what God likes, and you’ve been feeling bad for so long, you want to do whatever he says to do – whatever it takes. You just feel so thankful for being saved.
Risen Magazine: You are also involved in a few non-musical projects. Tell me about your book, Save Me From Myself. Was it challenging to write? And do you think it’s made the impact you wanted it to make?
Brian “Head” Welch: It was exciting to write, because I’ve had a wild life. I think it touched a lot of people. Every night that I go out, I have someone come up to me and say they’ve read my book and it’s changed their life. It’s really cool. I also wrote Stronger, a 40-day devotional that’s pretty deep. In my life, I often feel like Paul just without the beatings. Christianity is a hard road. This devotional is a meaty book if someone wants to go deeper and overcome hard trials. A lot of it is also about loving God. The closer you get to God, the more Hell you go through. But I think it’s more accepted and not as weird to be open about your faith nowadays. Christians are opening up more and that makes it easier to start talking.
Risen Magazine: How has being apart of The Whosoevers ministry, impacted your life?
Brian “Head” Welch: It was really cool to get with a bunch of people who are passionate about the same things I am. We get with these kids, hang out with them, and put on free events for them. It’s cool to get a bunch of people who want to make a difference. We do events like in Downtown East L.A. and Las Vegas. But mainly, we do concerts and visit churches and rehab centers. Ryan Ries [co-founder, The Whosoevers] even did a whole rehab tour. It’s hard doing what we do. We’re in the world and around people who need Christ. But God has us where he wants us. He doesn’t want us to be overly religious. We can relax in the fact that we’re not perfect.
One story that stuck out with The Whosoevers was when we were in Vegas. We did a concert for an audience of 15,000 and the next night, did a follow-up service with people who had accepted the Lord and we got to pray for some people. This guy came in our prayer meeting from the street. He was just walking by and decided to see what we were doing. Later we learned he was actually on his way to kill someone over drugs or a girlfriend or something. We prayed for him and he totally felt God. There was another guy there that was just saying that he didn’t know if God was real. He was like, “You guys are cool and I respect you and all, but I just don’t think God is real.” The guy who had just walked in said, “How can you say that? I was just about to go kill someone and got led into here. God is real!”
Risen Magazine: Where would you like to see yourself in 10 years?
Brian “Head” Welch: In Heaven [pauses and then laughs]. No I’m joking, that’s too soon. I want to see myself more like Christ and advancing the platform I have. I hope that my love grows. I would love my soul to be more purged, to walk in more peace and to continue to love people more in the Spirit. To not have people get on my nerves so easily, to not be selfish, and to not have anxiety. And yeah I get social anxiety, not when I’m on stage, but when I get off and start meeting and talking to people. I even have a prescription for it. After every show we go and talk to tons of people – hundreds of people a week. It’s so awesome and you want some kind of personal contact with each person, but your brain just can’t handle it. People will ask, “Do you remember me?” And honestly I can’t. But it’s all good, God’s got that covered and he loves them all.
Exclusive interview originally published in Risen Magazine, Summer 2012