From Korn to Christ

Guitarist Brian 'Head' Welch talks about kicking drugs and leaving the rock star life behind for his daughter and God.

BY: Interview by Dena Ross

 

Brian "Head" Welch with daughter, Jennea.

On the outside, things seemed great for guitarist Brian "Head" Welch. He was a member of one of the most popular heavy metal bands of the '90s, Korn, he had lots of money, and he was partying with some of the biggest names in the music industry. But behind the fame, Grammy Awards, and Billboard hits, Welch was battling many demons--an addiction to crystal meth, depression, and what he described as evil of a spiritual kind. It was only after hitting rock bottom that he found what he believed was missing in his life--God.

Welch became a Christian, quit drugs, and dedicated his life to his faith and his young daughter, Jennea. And then he did the unthinkable--he left one of the most successful bands in music history. Currently recording a "God-inspired" album, and now out with a New York Times best-selling book, "Save Me from Myself"--at the same time that Korn's new self-titled album is raking in poor reviews--Welch spoke to Beliefnet about expressing his Christian faith through his tattoos, how he privately prays in tongues, and why he really left the band.

Listen to Brian 'Head' Welch:
Finding the Courage to Leave Korn
Describing His Christian Tattoos
On Life Being Easier Now


You had a pretty unique rock-star experience. You had full custody of your daughter and would sometimes take her on the road with you. What was that like?

 

Taking my daughter on the road was not good most of the time. Everybody was drinking, smoking, and cussing. It was hard to have her out there. Everyone tried to be good around her, but it was just too hard. All of us guys were living together and being pigs, you know? So, having a little girl out there was crazy.

 

We tried to start a thing where anybody who cussed would give her a dollar. But she started making, like, $30 to $40 a day and was getting excited about it. So I just said to cut that off.

 

And I was on drugs a lot when she was out with us. I was addicted to methamphetamines. It just was not a good place for a kid to be.

 

How difficult was it to quit Korn?

 

I really felt God helped me have the courage to quit. I wasn't happy with Korn for the last few years because my heart was with my kid. She was with her nanny most of the time at home. I was always worried about her and wondering if she felt she was unloved because her mother left her [when she was a baby], and I was never home. It was just a constant battle.

 

But when I gave my life to God, I felt like He gave me the courage to say no to my rock-star dream, to say no to my own desires, and to look at her and say, "Yes, I'm going to be home, and I'm going to take care of you. It's about you now." So, it wasn't that hard. People think, "What about all that money and fame?"  Well, I had that for 10 years, and it wasn't making me satisfied. It was cool and everything, but it wasn't what I thought it was going to be. It was like freedom when I quit Korn.

 

How did the band take your leaving?

 

They were upset. I didn't have the strength to look them in the eyes and say, "I'm leaving, [but] I love you guys." So I went home and wrote an email saying, "I love you, I'm quitting. There's nothing to talk about. Best of luck to you. Goodbye."

 

A couple of them wrote back. One of them said, "You know, everyone's going to laugh at you because you're saying you're a Christian now." I said I didn't care. They wanted to talk. They thought it was just a phase. They weren't that happy.

 

Do you think they might have been more accepting of your leaving if religion didn't play a part?

 

Yeah. As far as me being wanting to be a good dad and staying with my kid, they were all down for that. The singer [Jonathan Davis] even gave me a proposition. He told me if I wanted to stay in the band, then I would still write the records with them, and they would just hire a guitar player to tour my spot. They were cool with that. But, as far as me leaving just totally, they weren't happy about it.

 

What about your fans? Did you get a lot of negative feedback from them about leaving?

 

A lot of them were mad. A lot of them thought it was a joke. A lot of them didn't know what to think. I was getting hate mail on my website. There were some die-hard fans who were really connected to us, and [there was a] family vibe to some of them. They felt like I was leaving the family and felt rejected. I got a lot of stuff from it, but I wasn't trying to please anybody but my daughter and myself. It was time, and I needed to do it.

 

But since I wrote my book, I've had a lot of Korn fans come up to me and say, "Thank you for writing the book. I understand now what's going on, what went on with you, and why you made the decision."

 

After you made your announcement, Maynard James Keenan [lead singer for the rock band Tool] came out publicly and said he was a Christian--but it turned out to be a big hoax. How did that make you feel?

 

I was so high from my new life, so excited, that I didn't even realize it was April Fool's Day. It just made me feel stupid. MTV got a hold of me right away and were like, "What do you think about this?" They all set me up to make me look stupid. I was embarrassed, and I just wanted to go away in seclusion for a while.

 

Do you think MTV was in on the joke?

 

I don't think so, but they could have been. I don't know. It just was too weird.

 

Why couldn't you have been a Christian and still stayed in the band?

Well, it was more than being a Christian. I wasn't happy with Korn. I wasn't happy with the musical direction we were going, and I wasn't happy being away from my daughter. It wasn't working with her on the road. On top of that, I wanted to lay down everything in my life and just lift it up to God and say, "God, take my music, take my talent, take everything. I want to use them all for You." And I just don't feel like that was where he wanted me to use them anymore.

 

I didn't like being in Korn. I didn't like the guys. I loved them, but I didn't like what they were turning into. I didn't like what I was turning into. It was just time to leave.  I was trapped in a bad relationship that I didn't want to be in anymore, and I wanted to leave. And God gave me the courage to leave.

 

Do you think one can still be a good Christian while listening to mainstream music?

 

I think that's between [the person] and God. It was very healthy for me to separate myself from that stuff for a couple of years and to get built up in the spirit with God.  And now, when I hear that stuff, [I'm] a different person when [I] listen to it. But, I think that it's between each person and God.

 

Do you listen to mainstream music now, or do you focus more on Christian music?

 

I like to focus on positive stuff. I listen to a softer, even instrumental, classical-sounding music. I just like that. But I listen to a lot of other stuff, too. I don't listen to all Christian, no.

 

What bands do you like?

 

It's weird. I play really heavy music, but I like listening to [softer] bands like Coldplay and U2. I like listening to instrumental Christian worship music a lot.

 

When you were in Korn, you didn't have many tattoos, but when you became a Christian, you felt like God was telling you to use your body as an expression of your faith--and you have a lot of them now. Which means the most to you?

 

I've got Matthew 11:28 on my neck: "Come to Me all who are weary and heavy burdened and I will give you rest." That was the tattoo that saved my life. There's a principle in the Bible, in Second Corinthians 12:10, where suffering is actually taken as [though you are] suffering with Christ. And after you go through the suffering, then more of Christ's power gets to rest on you to do things for Him. People will get saved and become Christian like you. So I got tattooed with the words from that Scripture on my arm: "Life for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, insults, hardships, difficulties, and persecutions; for when I am weak, then I am strong." That one means a lot.

 

I have a Korn album cover tattoo on me with all these kids' faces [with] bloody noses and black eyes, and it [symbolizes] rejected kids. That's where my heart is.

 

I got Matthew 19:14 tattooed on top of that. That verse says, "Let the little children come to Me, for the Kingdom of Heaven is such as theirs." I [also] have a Jesus tattoo. They all mean something to me.

 

Do you have a favorite Bible verse? I'd imagine all of the ones that you have tattooed on your body mean a lot to you.

 

My favorite one is First Corinthians 6:17:  "He who unites himself with the Lord is one spirit with Him." I take that as that we are never, ever alone. That when we unite ourselves, we become one with Him. It's a profound, deep spiritual fact that I like to really meditate on.

 

I read that you and Stephen Baldwin have partnered to form a record label, Livin It. But I haven't heard too much about it.

 

No, we've separated. We're not doing that. That was just something that we thought we might do because he was from Hollywood, I was from Hollywood. I was saved [for about] two or three months and I was just so excited to do something for God. But that wasn't God. So we separated. He's doing his thing; I'm doing mine.

 

Continued on page 2: Welch's experience with a demon... »

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