Jonathan Hanley caught up with Brian 'Head' Welch of best-selling metal band KORN
As any lover of metal and rock will know, Korn are one of the biggest bands in the world (by 2012 they'd sold 35 million records). As any reader of Cross Rhythms will know, Korn now contain in their lineup two Christians, guitarist Brian 'Head' Welch and bassist Reginald 'Fieldy' Arvizu. Jonathan Hanley took the opportunity to interview Brian at Freedom Church, Cardiff, to talk about music and faith.
Jonathan: How's the UK tour been going?
Brian 'Head' Welch: Incredible. Playing with Limp Bizkit brings back memories. Great big crowds - just excited people. It feels like we're back. We got a new record, new energy to the band, new excitement from the fans for the new record because it's got the passion of the old days but a new, fresh sound. This whole UK tour I've been meeting with about 40 people a night and I share my heart with them, pray for them. There was only one night that was bad and it was because 40 people got kicked out.
Jonathan: By the venue people?
Brian: Yep. My friend was there with them, and when it was all ready to go he said, "OK, stay here - I'm going to go get Brian." And when we got there there was three people there because they got kicked out. Bad night. That was Birmingham.
Jonathan: Are you playing many of the new songs from 'Serenity Of Suffering'?
Brian: We've played two as of right now, because we know people are still getting familiar with the album. On a big tour like this you want to play a lot of your well-known songs. So two now, and I believe in 2017 we're going to start adding three or four into the set, which is a big ratio. If you're playing four new songs, and it's an hour, that's a big chunk. But the reaction has been so great that we feel we need to put these new songs in there. You can only play so many of the old songs for so many decades. Everyone wants to hear them always, but it's fun for us to add these new ones.
Jonathan: The general feeling is that the album is the heaviest thing you've done in a long time. Was that the intention as you went into the studio?
Brian: That was our intention. I remember on the Slipknot tour in America we had a meeting about what was our hopes for the next record. I said, "I'm back together with you guys. We did this one record and the songs are good, but I don't feel this fire alive. We want to go really heavy so we can feel this." If you've got talent you can write a good song, but is the fire there, is the passion there, and will the audience feel it? So that's what we went in to do, and Nick Raskulinecz was the perfect choice to produce the record. He came to meet us and he said, 'I used to flip burgers and listen to you guys - bang my head while I was flipping burgers. I know what the fans want because I'm a fan." We wanted the same thing as him so we just go together. He is actually my number one favourite Korn producer to work with.
Jonathan: Christians were hugely encouraged by your testimony of deliverance back in 2005. Listening to the lyrics of 'Serenity Of Suffering' they're pretty hard and tormented. Are you comfortable with the lyrical content of the new album?
Brian: I am, because that's where a lot of the fans are. If they're in that position in life, how perfect for me to be right there and have the solution. I get to talk about my faith all the time; people know about my faith, and person-by-person ends up grabbing my book, slowly but surely. Maybe the hardcore fans at first, then the other ones will start one day, because God's doing this for a purpose. What a perfect place to be to reach out to people. The album is real: Jonathan Davis went through a lot of stuff and there's real emotional, relational damage and pain that he lives through. He lets people torture him a bit because he loves them - he lets people walk over him a little bit - and I think that album has a lot to do with that. It's not where I'm at in life, but I understand it, I understand people are there. It's real, and I think that's what God likes about Korn - it's real and passionate and raw and it's like "open our souls, get real." I think church people often put on the fake smile and lose their passion for life and God and everything. The fire burning in Korn, maybe it's a strange fire and it's not like what it should be, but at least it's something real and passionate.
Jonathan: Some people object to the f-bombs in Korn lyrics. How do you answer when people ask about that?
Brian: Jesus wants to reach people's hearts. If Jesus was offended by things that humans do. . . God became man and was born from a woman - actual God from heaven. God's son came. He humbled himself so much that he became human and dealt with and lived with humans. If we're going to get hung up on little things like curse words then we're not going to reach people; we're just going to push them away. They look at it like we're too good to be around people that have foul language. The thing is, if you really read the gospels, you're going to find out that Jesus is very controversial at times. He is not a man-pleaser. I don't think he likes to cause controversy, but he stirs things up; he'll do things against our minds to reveal out hearts. Where I am is where I was placed by him. He does it only because he loves people; just like in the Bible he loves sinners, he loves them today. I was one of the worst, just like Paul said. Why wouldn't he be exactly where they are in every aspect of life? I understand Christians grow up in that their whole lives, they raise their kids and maybe their kids want to listen to Korn. "That guy's a Christian!" Sorry about that. I'm not called to be a youth leader at this time in my life; I'm called to reach lost people, hurting, broken people, and that's where they are.
Jonathan: Your new autobiographical book, With My Eyes Wide Open, intimates you have made some mistakes. What were they?
Brian: Just plenty of stuff. I had a lot of anger and rage - acting out of anger instead of love.
Jonathan: As a Christian?
Brian: Oh yeah. I'm growing; I continue to grow and grow and grow. Things come against me that I don't react correctly to. I would just say that and a lot of money mistakes. I was pretty stupid with my money, giving it to people that weren't very trustworthy. My biggest mistake of all was the mistakes I made with my daughter. I wasn't all fixed up when I was raising her. I tried my best - I went to church and everything - but I battled with anger. Normal life mistakes that everybody makes.
Jonathan: Many believers were impressed by the bold healing ministry you showed on the Holy Spirit DVD, the film. Do you still walk among Korn fans and offer prayer for them?
Brian: That's my whole life; that's why I'm here. I'm more comfortable speaking to big audiences. The one-on-one thing is harder for me because we're right here, face-to-face. What did Jesus do? He spoke to big crowds and he spoke one-on-one. I want him to be formed in me as much as possible, so I just follow him. He's helped me so much by sending amazing people I now call friends from all over the world that come to the shows and help me gather the fans. So I get personal, like a spiritual father or pastor type of thing. I share my heart and I pray for them. That's what I love to do; that's my new high - intimacy with God, my number one way to escape, to feel his love, because the earth is a hard place to live sometimes. My other way is to hang out with the fans and pray for them. I absolutely love it even though it's not easy. It's very hard to come off stage sweaty and wanting to take a shower, but I go and hang out with them for an hour and a half and do pictures. That's what I'm going to do tonight. To whom much is given, much is required. I take this salvation very seriously. He saved my life: I could've died from drugs. I take it very seriously what he's given me, and I show my thankfulness to follow him into the hard places.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.