Listen: Brian Head Welch chats to Laura Bennett.
In this extended episode, Korn guitarist Brian ‘Head’ Welch talks about his new documentary, ‘Loud Krazy Love’. The film tracks the rise of Korn, and how Welch stepped out of a lifestyle of drug and alcohol abuse to mend his relationship with his daughter, and pursue faith in Jesus.
- Watch the video and read the full interview transcript below.
- Read the full article: Korn Guitarist Brian Welch, How God Restored His Shattered Soul
Above: Brian Welch chats to Laura Bennett about his new film.
Laura: What was it you wanted to achieve when you started out with Korn?
Brian: It was all ego. Just wanted to be a famous rock star, you know. It was like, I wanted to write music, there was a little bit of art in there – I wanted to create something that people could enjoy and everything – but it just got twisted. Because all I did was stare at albums, and watch videos of all these rock stars like Motley Crue, Kiss, all these bands that were just known for being all about partying, you know.
So I was given that job… in my early 20s. It was like, “Here you go, every dream you had, you can have”, which was very surreal.
What was it about that life and what [other bands] had that you really wanted?
I don’t know, it was just in my DNA, you know, the distorted guitars, and the melodies and just the singing about… a lot of it was pain or whatnot. You know a lot of it was party, but, I don’t know, it was just something that I was drawn to, and I couldn’t shake it. It started at 10 years old, and by the time I was 18, it was still just pounded into me. It was an obsession.
What were you like as an 18 year old? Who you were [in the movie] looks so different to [what people saw] in Korn.
Obviously I was drop dead gorgeous, so I had that going. No, I’m just joking. At 18 I was a clown, I was like the joke guy. I was a drinker, I’d drink beer every day, usually 40 ounces. We were into rap music. We were into gangster rap and then hard core, like metal music and all that, and so it was a crazy combination. I was kind of shy, and never had confidence with girls or whatever back then. I had a root of self-hatred that I carried around because I didn’t like what I saw in the mirror. A lot of my friends were better looking, easier with the women and all that stuff, and I was like the awkward guy, awkward looking, awkward with girls and everything. That’s how I was back then.
Hope 103.2 is proudly supported by
What was the source of that feeling of unrest, and of looking in the mirror and hating what you see? Did you work out where it came from?
Oh yeah totally. It was the great bullies that picked out every flaw in me and told me and reminded me of the flaws that I had. You know, it’s pretty common, and then so I carried that into my adulthood. That’s the crazy thing. To me, like, without God really showing you who you are, it’s a thing that you can carry into your life for decades. And it’s really dangerous. Because you can waste years being unhappy, and even when you are happy, there’s this voice in the back of you saying “you’re not good enough”, and, “boy, if they really got to know you they wouldn’t like you”, or, “they’re just acting like they like you because you’re ugly” or something like that. All those lies. I was just a mess, internally.
With Korn, you had the success, you had the freedom. How did it feel to be able to kind of say “I made it” to all those people?
It was pretty cool, you know, it was a good feeling, but I still felt like I still had that root of self-hatred. And I’ll tell you man, without the spirit of God, the beer and the drugs and stuff kind of helped me as far as [making me] numb, you know. And so I just felt like that ugly guy always, on stage, so if I just drank beer I wouldn’t even think about it. And even when I had like obsessed groupies, [I thought] “If they get a little bit closer, they’ll be like, ‘ew’”. So I had these lies, all this crazy stuff going on. It was a crazy time.
When ‘Success’ Becomes a Nightmare
You say in the movie that having it all – the money, the groupies, everything – felt more like a nightmare. What was it that didn’t sit right with you?
It was just really dark, you know. We had many friends in the porn industry, and so just the weight of that, the atmosphere in that. I mean the poor girls, most of them were just abused growing up, and you get to know that, when you get to know people like that. So just those type of friends, and then all the other [people]. If we were open to doing drugs, then you attract those people. It was just this atmosphere of, “We want to party with Korn”. And we were like, “We want to party with you. You bring the stuff, and we’ll party with you”. And so it was a horrible nightmare, and we just kinda laughed about it. [We’d say], “Okay, when I get home I’m gonna [go easy] on the [cocaine] and just be a normal boyfriend, husband, dad”. But [that becomes], “Oh I shouldn’t do this, but there’s a pile of coke right there”. I always had the Xanax or Vicodin in big bottles, so people at the end of the night, if they were all ‘coked out’, they’d come to me, to try to get a come-down. And I’d just hand them out. I look back and I’m just so thankful nobody died on me passing [prescription drugs] out, ‘cos you can’t come down like that. You know, hearts explode physically, and people die from that. So it was just really a nightmare.
Why is it that drinking and drugs seem to go hand in hand with the rock / pop star / celebrity lifestyle?
I don’t know – I was talking to someone yesterday and it’s like, you don’t have to get up early ever, and – we wrote our first record in ‘94 and we hit the road, some of those songs just are timeless and people love them to this day – and so when you play them over and over, it’s a thing where you don’t really have to use your skills as a human being. It’s like you go through the motions, every day you’re doing the same things. Same moves, same songs. And so it’s really out of boredom, a lot of it. And then maybe the crowds – the “Yeah, we love you, we love you”, coming off the stage [feeling] “Oh that was awesome”, and so you just want to celebrate. I think it’s a combination of those [things], and also the heaviness of the mental and emotional things that go on inside of you.
“Some of those songs just are timeless and people love them to this day – and so when you play them over and over… you don’t really have to use your skills as a human being.”
We’re not meant, we’re not created, to get in a bus and tour and go to a different city every day. Look what everybody does: they start a family, they get a house, and they get a stable life. So I think just touring – I don’t care who you are – it affects you. And depression comes sometimes from just travelling so much. And all of those combinations helped lead us into that horrible life.
When your daughter Jennea was born that becomes a real catalyst for change for you. What was it about fatherhood that started a shift in your life?
Well she was sent into this world, I believe, as an angel to me, you know from God, and I had to get my mind off of myself, so I could raise her. But the crazy thing is, that her coming into the world actually raised me, too, because it got my mind off of me. There was a tug of war, though, because I was like, “Okay, I need to be a good dad, I need to do the right thing here”, and I wanted to, and I loved her…I had this desire to become this better person… and I tried, but all those issues in my mind, I just I couldn’t do it in my own strength. So I ran from that new person that I started to want to [be]… I ran from it and went the other way, and went deep dark into drugs and just hired nannies. When I’d come home I’d kind of put on the role, I’d be on drugs but I’d be like, [the] goofy dad, makin’ breakfast – and meanwhile, I’m up all night. Oh, it was so dark.
…Finally the drugs got to the point where I was, like, gonna kill myself, or I was gonna die from the drugs or something, or end up in a psych ward. Something really dramatic. I was on the Gold Coast in 2004 and I almost ran out of meth…and after that we went straight to Europe, and I had my dealer send me like eight “balls” to Europe. I was waiting for my 8 balls to come from FedEx… [in a] nice hotel… [thinking] “There’s gonna be cops”… The package came, and I broke it open, and I was like, “This is it. I have to stop this, I’ve gone too far.” And so that’s when the church conversation came up, after that tour.
An Encounter With the Love of God
At this point who did you think God was at this point? What was your perspective of God?
I had two perspectives. If there was a God, he was way past the stars and everything, so nobody could prove he was real. And then the other perspective was “Ned Flanders” from the Simpsons – where, like, people say they know God, but they’re so awkward and unrealistic that you don’t even want to [be part of it]… you know what I mean? That was a decade and a half ago. So that was my two perspectives. But this guy that invited me to come to church, he actually built hot rods and monster trucks and would win all the car shows that he put them in.
I bought his Hummer, it was lifted 12 inches. I bought a Hummer from him. And he was a Christian, and his family were Christians and they were happy and they were just positive, and they were everything that I wanted to be. And so he was like, “Come to Church with me”, and I was like, “Why?”, you know, I’m trying to be cool. And he’s like, “Just come to church with me, it’s good for the soul, come on”. And I’m like, “Alright”, and in my mind I’m thinking, “I need to hang out with these guys and church would probably be good for me”. I’m thinking, “They just don’t party, and so if I hang out with people that don’t party, maybe that’s good”.
“Woah, if this is true – which I don’t think it is – I need that. But it sounds like nonsense. But if it is true, I’ll take it.”
And I go there, and I hear about the living Christ that will come to you and prove He’s real, and come and put His Spirit in you, and I’m listening to it, going, “Woah, if this is true – which I don’t think it is – I need that. But it sounds like nonsense. But if it is true, I’ll take it”. So I raised my hand and I received Christ, and I just went home and I was like [praying], “That guy said you’re real. If you’re real you’d better change me, because I’m good as dead if I don’t change,” you know… I prayed like I had been a pro.
Having been on drugs and had out-of-body experiences, what was it that made Jesus real to you? Couldn’t it have just seemed like another high?
It was the love… The love that I’ve never felt before with a romantic relationship, family, even to children. It was like a love from another dimension came into the room. A peace that was, like, heavy, and just weighty. Jesus says that “he’s given to his people the glory that the Father gave him”. And so I felt that, the glory, just in my life. And I couldn’t see angels or Jesus, but they were there, and I was convinced of it. Because I had been calling out, and then I was like, ”I’ve never felt nothing like it”, and I’m like, “This is it. This is the revealing of God in my life, and everything changes, right now.”
How did you know in 2013 that going back to Korn was the right choice to make?
Oh my gosh, it was so hard, ‘cos I was like the youth group hero. [People would think], “Look at that guy, he left the world to follow Christ”, and then Christ is like, “Hey, I want you to go back”, and I’m like, “Wait, it’s gonna ruin my testimony Jesus, what are you talking about?” [Laughs] I didn’t want to get on the train. I had the money, I lost the money, I didn’t care. I had learned the secret of “having plenty and having nothing”, “I can do all things through Christ” [from Philippians 4 in the Bible], all that. And then I got asked to come back.
And I saw the emotion. I played one song with the band, just running into them on a tour, and I saw their show [for the] first time in eight years. And they just asked me to play a song. I played a song, the singer broke down in tears, the fans cried, my dad cries the next day, he was like “Man, that’s your family, it’s so good to see you back with them”, and Jonathan our singer’s like, “If that was just all I have, thank you for that memory”. And I saw his heart, and I saw that they weren’t doing hard drugs any more, then we just were talking after that and they just asked me, “You wanna come check it out?” But it was hard. It was very clear, though, and also I had good advice from people I trusted, and so that helped.
The guys in the band acted pretty aggressively when you said you were leaving [in 2005]…and some of them wrestled with the idea of you becoming a Christian. What’s your relationship with them like now?
They had to come to terms [with me saying], “I’m a Christian and I love Christ”. The bass player’s a Christian too, so that was good. But our singer (Jonathan) was spiritually abused when he was a kid… he went to church and everything. He does not like the Christian religion, but like he said in the movie, I’m not a “preachy M-F’er”, so I’m ok in his eyes. You know, there’s different people in our lives that don’t believe the same way as us, and I just want to love, them you know?
What’s your advice to parents who have kids walking that walk [of depression, alcohol and drug abuse], and what they can do to help their kids through those hard times?
Oh man… Mum always told me she saw the signs, but I would just joke it away, you know, [saying] “I’m fine”, you know. Listen to the signs. Listen to your gut. Follow your gut, because mums know best. And [use] tough love. Look, we only have our kids so long, until they’re adults.
“Listen to the signs. Listen to your gut. Follow your gut, because mums know best.”
I had to make a crazy decision to put my daughter in a boarding school against her will, and she ended up saying, “I’m glad I’m here” two months later – but that was a decision that was scary. I’m like, “Is this gonna push me away from her the rest of her life, or is this gonna help her?” So, you know, just love them. Communication is huge. Communication, that’s a problem in families sometimes.
Knowing that God has forgiven you is one thing, but forgiving ourselves, that’s a whole other thing. How have you come to that place where you have forgiven yourself for some of [the things you used to do]?
It’s completely supernatural. Because we don’t have it in ourselves to forgive ourselves. So when His forgiveness comes and His love comes, it just goes through us, and it transfers. Like, the love transfers. It transferred into my daughter, [so I could] become a better father, it transferred into me to forgive [myself]. And so I can talk about all these things with you, and I don’t feel the sting of the pain or the guilt, because Jesus took it all, you know. And it’s just simply amazing you know. It’s supernatural, it really is.
On Sharing God’s Love with Fans
Your faith has changed your relationship with fans on the road. People come up to you wanting you to pray for them… hoping you will speak encouragement into them. How do you balance giving out and helping, but also making sure that you’re okay?
Hm, great question. I’ve been taught very intimately by Christ through 2 Corinthians 12 [in the Bible], that there’s power manifested in weakness, so when I start to feel weak in a healthy way, you know, where I’m not gonna burn out, I’m like, “Oh this is awesome”, because [Paul the writer of Corinthians] was like, “I rejoice in my sufferings, so that Christ’s power may rest on me more”. So I always remember that, and I’m like, “Alright Lord, Paul said it, so give me more of your power”, and I see more results.
And then when it’s time though, I get alone. I’m a contemplator, and I meditate… in that union, relationship, with Christ, and I get filled up “like that” (snap of fingers). I go back to that word, it’s all “supernatural”. That’s really important.
Jennea had her own journey as she grew up on the road with you. What have you learned from her in the way she lived through that season and has now made it out the other side? How does she inspire you?
Oh my gosh… she blows my mind. Just the fact that she let us, I mean she was 15 years old and she let us film her counselling sessions when she’s in tears and everything, and it’s in the movie. And just her overcoming her issues with me, with the church; oh my gosh, the church… people were just so rude and would say the craziest things to her. So just her supernatural forgiveness that she went through… she blows my mind and I’m so proud of her, and I think that she’s gonna just do amazing things that are unique. She’s got a unique calling like her dad. but in a different way. She doesn’t want nothing to do with music. Like, it’s her hobby, but she’s like, “I don’t want your life, it looks extreme”… ‘cos it’s not easy man. If she did I would back her, but touring as a musician is just not the easiest life.
Telling this story is a pretty brave thing to do. Why did you feel it needed to come out and be documented on screen like this?
Because there’s so many broken families out there, and so much guilt, and so much unforgiveness, bitterness. Like, our family was a wreck, you know, it was just a mess. And we had a little family, it was just me and her for a few years.
One of the number one battles with men is anger and rage and everything… and so I just want the men to see they can overcome themselves and get better. I want them to see forgiveness in the family. I want the teenagers to see that they can get past their issues and not give up. And I want everyone to see that God is real. He’s very, very real, and… He restores all things. He restored everything in my life, all the drama in the movie, all the difficult things. I can honestly say me and my daughter, we don’t have anger outbursts any more, we have mature relationship, and it’s loving, and I just want everyone to see they can have that, too.