KoRn is a Grammy Award winning, Multi-platinum metal band that has sold over 35 million albums and is sometimes known for their escapades and internal band strife as much as they are for their “in your face” music style. They truthfully had no connection at all to Christianity or Christian music except for picketers at some of their concerts. No connection, that is, until Brian “Head” Welch found God as he was looking for a way to get off of the drugs, clean up his life, and create a more stable atmosphere for his daughter. And, like similar stories in the bible, his journey reflects victories, pitfalls, downturns, redemption, and in the end, peace. After leaving KoRn in 2005 Welch released a solo album with his side project band “Love and Death” and wrote two books, one a New York Times best seller and another a devotional. Brian’s latest book “With Eyes Wide Open: Miracles and Mistakes On My Way Back to KoRn” is set to release on May 17th, and in March he released a song “Lo Lamento (which means “I’m Sorry” in Spanish). Fans that purchase his new book from his webstore will receive the track as a free download. I had the opportunity to speak with Brian recently, and it was not at all what I had expected. It helped me to realize that no matter how big or small each of us feels, we are all travelers on similar roads.
CM: How old were you when you started playing guitar?
Brian “Head” Welch: I started getting into music when I was 9 years old with the family 8-track. I was mesmerized by the Queen 8 track, and by the time I was 10 years old I talked my dad into a guitar. My first guitar was an acoustic and I learned the basics, but once I got a hold of the record player and bought AC/DC “Back in Black” I got an electric since Angus (Young, lead guitarist for AC/DC) was so awesome. I’ve never stopped being a fan. Now I’ve had Ibanez signature model guitars, with the most recent being the KOMRAD guitar.
The Ibanez KOMRAD20 Head signature 7-string guitar was specifically designed for Brian and features a custom splattered paint finish on the basswood body and a pair of DiMarzio PAF-7 humbucker pickups.
CM: Does anybody else in your family play music? Was it around the house when you were growing up?
Brian: No, no one else in my family can play or sing. I was like an anomaly even then in my own family!
CM: How long have you been in KoRn?
Brian: I’ve been in KoRn for 11 years. I was out for 8 years and then returned in 2013. I had a vision and a dream and always loved vocalists and I wanted to conquer that. Since I wasn’t a natural singer I had to work at it when I left KoRn. I’m good at mimicking other singers, but I needed to create my own sound. I would work at singing on key every night. I also really enjoy talking to the crowds, and all that led me back to KoRn. I know I was supposed to go through challenging times of my heart, life, and soul.
Brian: Rock ‘n’ Roll and Christianity is a tough one. As I have tried to provide a Christian message, I have not found much radio support and I’ve been accused of the music being too dark. There are a lot of kids in pain that are Christians, as well as non-Christians. I wanted to create music people would come see and then share my heart. I didn’t want to get bitter.
CM: Your first book “Save Me from Myself” was an autobiography and a New York Times Best Seller. What direction has your new book taken?
Brian: My gift is sharing my journey. I do best at being real. It’s a multi-leveled story. I left it all to raise my little girl. Going through challenges, losing friends, houses, cars, and my money. Is this being with God? I knew underneath that I was being built up with the adversity. I would gain momentum and get smashed back down, but never gave up. That is the key!
CM: Do you see yourself writing another book in the future?
Brian: Yes, Lord willing. I will do more books. “Stronger” was my devotional book that came out after “Save Me from Myself.” I drank from that well. It may not be for a while though.
CM: Is it easier or harder playing music clean and sober?
Brian: The writing is easier. On the last couple of KoRn albums creativity was at a low; it had tapped out. It made Munky (KoRn guitarist James Shaffer) better while I was gone (in reference to the 8 years he left the band) which is good. I need to be alone, get with God, and pray. Jesus came so that we can be one with God – living water – it’s powerful! It’s all about love. God is called the husband of the church. Everything flows from that and makes everything better for more people.
CM: Do you believe that fans get the message fans through your music?
Brian: Yes, because when they see you are real then they connect. It is about unity through music; everyone gets involved… really powerful. Then speak your heart!
Brian: Right now I’m teaching my daughter how to drive. She goes to school in Indiana and I spend a week a month with her. I’m thinking of buying a condo close to her school so I spend even more time with her. She comes on the road a few times a year. We are also getting into this new thing called “floating”, where you float in water that is the same temperature as your body. Contemplation with the Lord.
CM: How is your new solo band “Love and Death” doing?
Brian: The focus has really been on KoRn the last few years. No one from “Love and Death” could just sit around and wait. I’m hoping we can get things back together when there is time. JR, our vocalist, has an incredible voice!
CM: What is your goal in sharing these tribulations in the book and your new music?
Brian: It’s a roller coaster. After losing my home, car, being sued, and bankruptcy – all of this negativity… God revitalized me and led me back to KoRn and my daughter. I grew wings.
Brian: She helped connect all of my stories to make them flow better instead of just my random thoughts. She helped with story arc, and has a great sense of humor. She was very sensitive through the process of the book and she helped rearranged things.
CM: How was your relationship with Munky after you left the band?
Brian: He reached out to me a few times in those 8 years. When I was first touched by God I thought I could convince everyone. I got messages and signs to leave everything. I left it all. KoRn had ruined our lives and what was there to be proud of? I wanted more powerful lyrics. Didn’t know that I was proud of the music. God loves passion.
CM: What advice do you have for young musicians going through what you have been through?
Brian: Basically, when you start touring your life becomes a traveler like being in a circus. It is not the “all in all”. I wish I had a normal life; I miss my bed. Like you, for example; you get to go home to your bed and family. But I get to see the world.
Be prepared; be open to change. If it is in your heart, then go for it. Give more than 100%; give it your all. See if it’s for you. Look at Solomon; he had it all and lost it all. Have a relationship with your Creator… a deep one, not just church. Humanity has a union through Christ. It’s like stepping into the ocean and just putting our toes in. He deserves our seeking!
“Head”, as fans of KoRn call him, is a deep, sensitive, and highly articulate believer. After listening to a recent sermon at the church I attend I would classify Brian as an authentic Christian striving for the balance and peace that we all seek through our faith, families, work, and music. “With My Eyes Wide Open: Miracles & Mistakes on My Way Back to KoRn” depicts real life trials, but it also shows that having it all can sometimes be the worst of times, and he had to let go of material things to find himself and his daughter. Welch gives us a glimpse into his journey through his humorous and honest memories of the path that brought him to where he is today and how God led him through his personal desert. Much of the humor is poked at himself, or how other parents and the public in general look at him for his hair, clothes, and tattoos – but once they find out he is a Jesus loving rock star, it’s all okay! It sounds cliché but Brian is a perfect example of how you can’t judge a book by its cover. Welch, like many of us, has been judged by a world on how he looks, the music he plays, and the company he has kept. But what people see is not indicative of what is in the heart or the message he wants to share with anyone that will listen. This isn’t your typical garden-variety Christian book, and it’s not meant to be, and it won’t appeal to everyone due to its raw frankness. But if one fan of KoRn reads Brian’s book and it changes their life then not only did it save him, but it saved another. I suggest you pick up a copy of “With Eyes Wide Open” and give it a read for yourself. As if the life stories from the book weren’t enough, at the end of it Brian’s daughter Jennea pens a heartfelt note to the readers hoping that we will learn some of the same lessons that she and her father did from their life of lessons. Welch provides a one on one note after hers challenging us to think about the last five years of our lives and concluding with a prayer to Jesus. In the front of the book some of Brian’s friends like Nikki Sixx, Alice Cooper, Josh Turner, and Scott Hamilton (yes the Olympic Gold Medalist) all offer praise for this written testimonial. There is also a video trailer for the book on YouTube titled “With My Eyes Wide Open” Official Trailer, where Welch discusses his restoration. You can order the book at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Christianbooks.com or at Head’s personal site http://www.brianheadwelch.net/2016/. We would all be better served to approach our faith and our lives with our eyes wide open and to remember Brian’s words, “Never give up. That is the Key!”