Kate Nesta reports on the intriguing musical and spiritual journey of Korn's BRIAN 'HEAD' WELCH
When you hear the name Korn you think of brutal hip-hop, anti-establishment lyrics and the quirky undertaker-turned-frontman Jonathan Davis. The undisputed leaders of turn of the century rap-metal have been on the scene for over 20 years now with two Grammy awards, two Kerrang awards and three MTV awards under their belts. Their musical success stemmed from their first four albums 'Korn', 'Life Is Peachy', 'Follow The Leader' and 'Issues' and the Californian rockers made many more after that. It's no surprise their music was the siren song of the angst ridden '90s and beyond. Korn's music was dangerous, controversial and rebellious. Prior to the release of 1998's 'Follow The Leader', a high school student in Michigan was suspended for wearing a Korn t-shirt. The incident made the national headlines and the high school Principal said that their music was "indecent, vulgar, obscene and intends to be insulting." Their music is famous for being controversial with songs such as "A.D.I.D.A.S." and "Last Legal Drug" showcasing that there's no limit to what Korn will sing about.
However when you think of the success Korn has had, and the controversial music that's earned them that success, Brian 'Head' Welch's story doesn't seem to fit. Korn guitarist Brian Welch left the fame and fortune in 2005 and came to Jesus instead to pursue his musical career and fight his own personal demons alone. During his time in Korn he'd experienced the highs and the lows of the rock and roll lifestyle, however by 2003 Welch had begun to sink further and further into a series of drug habits. In 2005, he admitted to CNN News that during his time in Korn he was addicted to alcohol, methamphetamine, Xanax, and sleeping pills before being introduced to the Christian faith. Towards the end of Welch's time in the band he was severely depressed. "You travel, you get to another town, you play a show and you do it again. You try to just be at peace but even a big, huge band like Korn, playing in front of thousands of people, it can get lonely. You can't connect with people except for the ones that you're with because the ones you party with after the show, you don't know them and then you're gone," he told the Great Falls Tribune in 2009. In an interview with Guitar World's James Wood in February this year, Wood commended Welch on the success of Korn and achieving the rock-star dream, to which Brian responded, "But if you have all of that and you're still empty inside, what does it matter? It all means nothing. Everywhere we went, we were able to take whatever we wanted; getting the free alcohol and sometimes free drugs. Wherever we went, there were no laws, and it was killing us. You can call it 'fun', that is until you realise it's tearing you down, and it tore all of us down."
On 22nd February 2005, Korn's management announced that after almost 12 years Welch had left Korn and that he had "...chosen the Lord Jesus Christ as his Saviour, and will be dedicating his musical pursuits to that end." When asked by Full Armour Radio in 2009 for more details of his conversion he said, "I was walking one day, just doing my rock and roll thing making millions of bucks, you know, success and everything, addicted to drugs and then the next day I had revelation of Christ and I was like, everything changes right now!"
Welch had also said that it was not only having found Christ that influenced his decision to leave the band but as a single father he didn't want to raise his daughter, Jennea, in an environment filled with drugs, sexual immorality and explicit language. In an interview with the Las Vegas Review Journal in 2009 Welch recalled being high in his house one day and hearing his daughter sing the lyrics to the Korn hit 'A.D.I.D.A.S.' (short for "All Day I Dream About Sex"). After hearing his daughter sing the lyrics to such a vulgar song he said he seriously began to question the direction of his life and what kind of father he was being. After experiencing the beginning of his religious conversion, Welch eventually quit drugs, left Korn in 2005 and embraced a newfound faith.
After leaving Korn Welch commenced a solo music career and, a mere week after departing from Korn, announced a solo album was close to completion despite not yet signing to a record label. During his stay in Israel in 2005 with members of the Valley Bible Fellowship of Bakersfield, California, Welch worked hard on his solo career, confident that the music would speak for itself. He said, "I want to make music that will help people. My life now is about helping." A number of demos from these early sessions surfaced online and in 2008 he announced he had founded a record company called Driven Music Group. Later that year he released his debut Christian album 'Save Me From Myself' under the name Head. His autobiography was also published in 2008. The New York Times bestseller discussed the chaotic end to his time in Korn and how his newfound faith had influenced his life and his music. In it Welch described the challenging but rewarding events of the last few years of his life, exposing the truth about how his moments of doubt had only deepened his faith.
His debut album was a great success. Wrote All Knowing Force about the album, "The lyrics were a departure from the often adolescent themes that plague his former band. Welch's lyrics were uplifting, even motivating, and thankfully devoid of magniloquent preachings." Welch told the Las Vegas Review Journal, "I just want to do what I feel that I'm supposed to be doing. The music that I'm doing, it's sharing my experiences with people and not being preachy. I think that we're all made to be unique. I'm just trying to follow my path." 'Save Me From Myself' peaked at 63 on the Billboard 200 while also peaking at 13 and 21 on the Hard Rock and Rock charts.
In 2008 Welch teamed up with Sonny Sandoval of P.O.D., Ryan Ries, son of Pastor Raul Ries of Calvary Chapel Golden Springs, and Lacey Sturm formerly of Flyleaf and created a ministry with freestyle motocross aerialist Ronnie Faisst. Taking the name The Whosoevers (from John 3:16), the ministry "seek to impact those whose pain has previously driven them to addictive or self-destructive behaviours." He told the Great Falls Tribune, "I feel like I was created to do what I'm doing right now. Everything I learned in my life before I changed it all over, it set me up for what I'm doing now. That's the satisfaction. That's the peace in knowing, without a doubt, that you're on the road you're supposed to be on. There's nothing more content than that."
Welch continued to make music and in early 2012 released the EP 'Chemicals' produced by Jasen Ruach. Brian surprised the entire music industry by re-branding himself and his music. Generously giving credit to the musicians who had been touring with him - guitarist JR Bareis, bassist Michael Valentine and drummer Dan Johnson - Welch explained that future live appearances and recordings would be under the name Love And Death. He told Guitar World, "When I left Korn I did a solo record, which was very personal and experimental. I hired a few guys and went on the road, and a few of them have stayed with me over the years. We've all become good friends. Love And Death is really a group effort that shows you what can happen when you let other people in to distribute their gifts on a project." He told Gauntlet News, "The name Love And Death symbolizes everything we've been through as a band over the last few years. We love this band so much and we'll go through hell to connect with our fans." The lead single "Paralyzed" was released in October and All Knowing Force wrote, "I was listening to Brian Welch jam on the best Korn single in a decade. Korn was busy doing dub-step, and Welch is doing Korn better than Korn does Korn!"
In January 2013 Love And Death released their debut album 'Between Here And Lost'. Rock Revolt magazine praised Welch's new musical effort saying that "Brian's vocals on this album are second to none. With songs like 'I W8 4 U', 'Fading Away', 'Paralyzed' and 'Chemicals', this album is a must-have in any and all music collections." When Rock Revolt asked Love And Death's drummer Dan Johnson if anything had changed since the renaming of the band and since Welch's first album he replied, "Brian had just found God and everything and the songs were like nine minutes long. We were more inclined this time to produce a more mainstream rock album. With the new album it's the same kind of messages but you can apply them to anything and you don't necessarily have to apply them to God. We wanted to make an album that was relatable to everyone. It really is like telling a story with this album and bands don't really do that much anymore. Brian and producer Jason Rauch were the ones that worked on that. I really like how the whole story flows together. Not many bands tell the story from start to finish anymore."
Speaking of his latest project Welch told Jesus Freak Hideout, "We worked hard on it, and this gift, I believe comes from above because I wasn't able to do some of the stuff I'm doing. So, hopefully people get touched by it." Welch also commented on leaving Korn and separating himself from certain people in order to get away from the life he used to lead, "It's really good for people to do that and it was really good for me to do that. It was for a time period, and once that work was finished inside of me that needed to be finished, then I felt like the door was open to go back because all of the old stuff was taken away. There's a process when you go away from people and you become a new person and, in order to be that new person, you can't be staring at the people from your past every day. I'm a new bloomin' person and people are going to see that it's going to be good. To whatever degree it's meant to be, God loves everyone. That's all I know. He wants us to go where the people he loves are and not be all hung up on the issues of their lives. So what if they're not living like I am, you know? There's a lot of unconditional love from God for those people."
Welch told Guitar World that his fulfilment comes from "my spiritual life and raising my daughter and steering her in the right direction. I also know that the music itself is a gift that I have to give." His work with Korn has resulted in over 50 million albums sold worldwide and his solo career and time with Love And Death continues to inspire. He officially announced on 2nd May 2013 he would be rejoining Korn whilst continuing to work with Love And Death. He told Guitar World that he regrets nothing, "Everything is meant to be in life, and I love the person I've become. I'm still growing into the person I really want to be in the future. Now that I've found myself, it means a lot. I know it's a gift." He also told Jesus Freak Hideout, "I like to tell people I had the chance to test drive this world and no matter what I do, no matter what Korn connects, no matter what Love And Death connects, no matter what I do in this life - the only thing that meant anything and means anything and will always mean the most to me, no matter what I do, fail or succeed - that's what life is about, and I just encourage anybody who is seeking meaning for their life to give Christ a chance."The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.