Brian "Head" Welch Interview: Guitarist Recounts 8-Year Absence from Korn, Says Band's Upcoming Album Should Wow Fans
Image attributed to Sebastian Paquet
New York Times bestselling author and nu metal band Korn lead guitarist, Brian “Head” Welch, released his latest book, With My Eyes Wide Open: Miracles and Mistakes on My Way Back to Korn, on May 17, 2016. Welch made headlines in 2005 when he became a born-again Christian and abandoned the band. This book is his account of the brutal, eye-opening eight years he spent as a single dad between leaving Korn to his controversial decision to rejoin the band years later.
Korn was formed in 1993, and the band’s current lineup includes founding members Welch (guitar, backing vocals), Jonathan Davis (vocals, bagpipes), James “Munky” Shafffer (guitar) and Reginald “Fieldy” Arvizu (bass), with the addition of Ray Luzier (drums), who replaced the band’s original member, David Silveria, in 2007. The band is working on their 12th studio album, which will be out later in 2016.
"My management came to me with the idea, and I was like, 'I don’t want to write a book. I want to do music.' Then I thought about it and decided it was a good way to explain the controversial move. The same thing happened with this book. I got a new manager. I went back to Korn, and the rock world was going, 'Yea!' And the Christians were going, 'Boo! How can you go back to that?' It was just a good way to explain my heart."
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Brian, you are getting to be quite the author!
Brian “Head” Welch: I chuckle because I never thought it would be possible to be called an “author.” I wasn’t good in school or in writing or anything. I’ve basically done three books. With My Eyes Wide Open is my third. All of the ideas were brought to me by my management at the time. I have different management now. The first one was because I had such a controversial life change that people in the rock world were freaking out, asking why I would leave the band. Then the Christians were like, “Oh. This guy is a Christian now. Yea!” (laughs)
My management came to me with the idea, and I was like, “I don’t want to write a book. I want to do music.” Then I thought about it and decided it was a good way to explain the controversial move. The same thing happened with this book. I got a new manager. I went back to Korn, and the rock world was going, “Yea!” And the Christians were going, “Boo! How can you go back to that?” It was just a good way to explain my heart.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Well, you can’t please everyone all the time.
Brian “Head” Welch: No, man. It’s like they love me one day and hate me the next.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Were you surprised at all of the furor surrounding your departure in 2005 from Korn?
Brian “Head” Welch: I was surprised quite a bit actually. I knew there was going to be some type of controversy, but I didn’t think it was going to be like that. I can’t believe CNN, FOX, MTV and everybody was saying, “We want to know what’s going on.” They all flew to come to the church. It was just way out of proportion to me. I was like, “Okay. It’s not that big a deal. I’m just a Christian, and I’m trying to get my life together.” I don’t know. I guess it was just a thing where the two things were so extreme. It was a little weird.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): I’m sure the fact that a born-again Christian was leaving a mega-successful metal band, was quite the story.
Brian “Head” Welch: Yeah. I could see a few stories in the news. But I think it was all meant to be because people were talking about it, and that’s good. It’s good when people are talking about stuff like that.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): I would think it’s also pretty rare for a successful musician to leave his job to become a single dad. You and your daughter, Jennea, went through some very turbulent years. What lessons did you learn from those experiences of financial hardships during that time?
Brian “Head” Welch: It’s funny to say, but both Jennea and I grew up together because I never had to grow up. I left high school and just wandered around Hollywood trying to do some stuff. I eventually just ended up in music. I never had any real growing up responsibilities at first, then I joined the band. We didn’t have to do anything in our careers to grow up. We just acted like little hoodlums (laughs). We partied and all that.
When we got to be successful, we had people to pay our bills. There was nothing. All we did was hang out and try to enjoy life … to the extreme, though. The partying was enjoying life. Then it started getting stale. When I got sober in ’05 and left the band, I felt like I was starting my growth right then. So yeah, unfortunately for my daughter, she had kind of a brother a lot of the time instead of a dad, so both of us matured over the years. She taught me a lot.
My story is her story in a lot of ways. I left the band for her, and I raised her. This book is about my life as I matured, but it’s about what happened to this little girl. Her parents were gone all the time. Finally, one of the parents took responsibility. It’s about what happened to her. I’m really proud of her. She graduates next week from high school. I’m so proud of her getting through her struggles. Nothing’s perfect, but she’s a happy person.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): That’s really great!
Brian “Head” Welch: Thank God!
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): You describe yourself as a “born-again Christian,” so were you raised by your parents in a Christian environment?
Brian “Head” Welch: Not at all. I went to an Episcopal church with my mom a couple of times. I did a Christian summer school one summer. My brother and I just hated to go to church. We’d just scream, “We don’t want to go!” My dad never went, so my mom just gave up. She was like, “Screw it! I’m not going to deal with you kids screaming at me every time about going to church.” That was it. We didn’t pray at meals or anything. Nothing.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): I understand that you’ve been criticized all over the spectrum, first for being too Christian and then for not being Christian enough. What does that mean, being too Christian?
Brian “Head” Welch: I know. Right? What the heck? All I know is I felt like my life was changing. I wondered if it was real when I was on drugs and was first going to the church. I was like, “How do they know this is real?” Then I had an encounter in my house with the love of God that just made me feel forgiven. I felt accepted and felt this love from another place that was so pure. It woke me up inside to actually love myself and not try to kill myself with all that poison.
I was really excited that God would unlock heaven for me in a little way and show me how pure and real the next life is going to be, so I could live this life. People did think I was a little extreme. To be honest, I was pretty out there. I think I poked fun at myself in the book a little bit about how I wasn’t the brightest bulb in the cabinet (laughs). I was pretty ignorant with finances, but I was excited. I had faith in God, and I didn’t trust them with my money anymore. I made some stupid decisions.
All I know is that it’s about the heart. It’s about love, and it’s about surrender. I’m just trying to follow that path in my life because I’ve given my life to Christ. I’ve given it to him. I felt like I was led back to Korn, and some people think I’m not Christian “enough” anymore. So yeah, it goes back and forth. I just don’t know really. All I can do is focus on me, my walk and my calling and where I’m supposed to be. I have peace with that.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Since you’ve rejoined Korn, have you felt those old temptations with drugs and alcohol trying to creep back in and take hold of you?
Brian “Head” Welch: Well, the good thing is that it’s not around anymore. I mean, drugs. People drink a little bit. I went back to Korn in 2012. At the end of 2014, I figured that I was not an alcoholic and that I could drink some wine with people once in a while. I did that for a few months. I would drink some wine, and then a month later would have another couple of glasses, then a couple of months later, I’d have a couple more.
It was fine at first. I thought, “Cool. I’m not an alcoholic anymore.” In 2015, the wine drinking went up to a full bottle (laughs). In the summer of 2015, I found myself in bars drinking whiskey and just getting really drunk. I’m like, “Wow. Okay. I guess I’m not healed of that, and I can’t drink.” The funny thing was I drank a couple of times on the road with a crew member or band member, but mostly it was just at home on breaks. I found it wasn’t for me. I can’t drink.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Have the band members read this book yet?
Brian “Head” Welch: That’s funny you should ask. The night before last I gave them their copy, so I think they’re reading it this week.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Comments to follow?
Brian “Head” Welch: Yeah. I told Jonathan, “The only things I shared of you and your life were things that you shared in interviews before.” I didn’t want to get personal with the other guys. He said, “Man, I’m just really proud of you and your daughter. You’ve been through a lot.”
We all go through stuff in life. He’s just proud of us. It’s all good. Everyone is mature now, and they’re like, “If you think Jesus is what made you have a better life, then great!” Maybe they don’t believe it like I do, but they’re all for whatever makes me happy.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Do you have a tentative release date yet for the new Korn album?
Brian “Head” Welch: We don’t have a date yet. We still have to finish up the album, so we’re trying to do that.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): What can you tell me about it?
Brian “Head” Welch: We’re really excited about the album. I was back in the band in 2012 when we went straight into the studio and recorded an album, so we didn’t really have time to just be reconnected. It was like, “Hey! Good to see you. Let’s do a record!” So, to me, after playing together on the road, we’ve come back to what Korn is. This new record is really down to the core of who Korn is. It’s really intense, and it’s really energetic.
It has a vibe of being like the classic Korn as well as a fresh, new sound to it. I think we’ve accomplished everything we needed to do, and I think that the fans are going to feel that, “Oh wow! This is Korn! This is the Korn I remember.” We’re really excited about it. We’re going to be announcing the date sometime in June, I believe … or maybe sooner.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): I was hoping it would be today (laughs).
Brian “Head” Welch: Oh man, I wish (laughs).
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): You had some vocal fears prior to 2008 singing with the band Love and Death. Do you have any of those problems now?
Brian “Head” Welch: I’m good now because I’ve got my friends to do the main vocals. The biggest thing for me was doing the choruses and singing the whole song. I have my guitar player in Love and Death doing a lot of the main vocals, so that’s a load off. He’s got a great voice. If I can stick to the screaming and singing some quiet verses once in a while, I’m good. We released a new song called “Lo Lamento,” about a month ago. We’re going to put another album out with that band, too, at the end of this year or early next year.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Will Love and Death be heading out on tour with Korn this time?
Brian “Head” Welch: We’re doing something starting in July with Rob Zombie, but I won’t be touring with Love and Death. That’s going to be the tricky thing, figuring out when I can tour with Love and Death. Maybe Korn will have lighter touring next year, and I can go out with Love and Death. We’ll see what happens.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Jonathan Davis said, in an interview last year, that he didn’t ever want to stop making music. How about you?
Brian “Head” Welch: Yeah. I think I’ll be making some kind of music the rest of my life. I don’t know what that would look like, but I think we’ve got some good years left in Korn. After that, I don’t know. I really love instrumental music. I know it’s not the most popular, but I really love it. Maybe I’ll do some of that in the future. We shall see.
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