From Korn To Salvation: The Interview With Brian "Head" Welch
Brian "Head" Welch, the former guitarist of the multi-platinum mainstream hard-rock group Korn, speaks with NRT's senior editor Angel about his powerful and inspirational path to Christ.
To everyone else, Brian "Head" Welch looked like he was living a dream. As one of the founding members of the multi-platinum, Grammy Award-winning metal band Korn, Headís rock 'n' roll journey eventually led him down a path of drug addiction that he could not break on his own. Despite his many attempts to free himself from meth, not even the birth of his daughter, Jennea, could help him kick it for good. Finally, after hitting rock bottom, he found the answer he was searching foróa relationship with God.
After an intense spiritual awakening, Head shocked the music world when he resigned from Korn in February 2005 to re-dedicate his life to Christ and focus on raising his daughter, Jennea, as a single father. The event set off a media frenzy as observers around the world sought out to understand what led this rock star out of the darkness and into the light.
Brian recently spent some time speaking with NewReleaseTuesday.com's senior editor, Angel, about walking away from a multimillion-dollar recording contract, breaking free from his addictions, releasing his debut solo album, Save Me From Myself, and finding true success in Christ.
Hi, Brian. Welcome to NewReleaseTuesday.com. Weíre delighted and honored to be interviewing you. Why donít you take us back to when Korn got its start, and tell us how your childhood dream of becoming a rock star came true.
I was 10 years old when I first started playing guitar back in the 5th grade, and when I was a teenager I met the guys in Korn. Since all of us wanted to become rock stars, we formed a couple of bands together, but when we graduated high school, we moved and went our separate ways for a while. After a while we regrouped and hooked-up with Jonathan, our singer. Not only did we come up with a new sound, but we also had a unique singer, which was cool. Even when we formed the band we knew we were going to get signed, but we didnít know Korn was going to get that big. Somehow, things just fell into place.
You guys definitely pioneered the nu-metal movement with two Ibanez 7-string guitars and a 5-string bass. While you were revolutionizing the music world, you also explored its dark side which resulted in an addiction to methamphetamines. How old were you when you started getting high?
I tried marijuana when I was 7 or 8 years old, but I just took a couple of puffs. Iím not sure I knew what I was doing; I donít even think I inhaled. When I was a freshman in high school, I tried marijuana again, but I didnít like it, so I started drinking. I drank every weekendófrom when I was 15 until I was in my 20só-and then I started to drink a lot more than that. When Korn got signed I started using crystal meth, and by the time I hit the road and was getting paid to play music, I drank every day. So the alcohol and drug use just kept escalating. Now there were times when I tried to clean my life up, but I just couldnít do it on my own.
I understand your ex-wife, Rebekah, got hooked on crystal meth before you became addicted. Then she left you and your daughter, Jennea, and you became a single dad. Shortly afterward, you ended up taking Jennea on tour with you. What was that experience like? Did she see any of the crazy things that go on at a rock show?
While I was working I had these big security guards and a nanny taking care of her, and everybody liked having her around. Of course, we wouldnít do drugs in front of her. We just pounded beer when Jennea was around us, but she saw the craziness in the crowd when some of the women would lift up their shirts. She was just a little girl; it wasnít a good place for her.
Your book, Save Me From Myself, quickly became a New York Times bestseller, and you gave your debut solo album the same title. What brought you to the point where you felt that you needed to be saved from yourself?
Well, I lost my wife, I lost my family-óI lost everything! Eventually, after Rebekah split, I got custody of Jennea, but since I was touring all the time, I had to hire nannies to take care of her. I wanted to quit Korn then-óthat was back in 2000-2001-óbut I couldnít because Iíd been with these guys for 20 years, ever since I was a kid. That was my career; I couldnít quit. So, because of all the pressure I was under, I started doing meth every day. I just kept turning to meth, and it took over my life. I ended up using methamphetamines every day for two years. As a result, I quit eating well. I even tried checking myself into the best rehabs, but that didnít help. I couldnít get past the depression, and the anxiety associated with methamphetamine withdrawal was overwhelming.
Tell us how you ultimately found the power to break free from the cycle of drug addiction.
I really wanted God to take away my addiction to drugs. I was like, "Oh, man this is crazy! Who am I talking to? How do you know He hears you? Jesus, if youíre real, take away my addiction!" and God kept showing up in my life. Wherever I went, everyone I came in contact with started talking about Jesus. Then I went to a church with some friends and just asked Jesus into my heart. Shortly after that I had a spiritual encounter with God, and He took away my desire to do drugs. I felt Him come into my life, and thatís when everything changed.
Yeah, I had eight balls of meth, and I got rid of it!
Years ago, when I prayed and asked Jesus into my life, God did the same thing for me and instantly took away my desire to get high. I also flushed everything I had down the toilet. God is so amazing! Only He has the power and loving-kindness to instantly deliver two people who had been addicted for so long!
Itís only by the grace of God that we can live our lives drug-free!
Iím sure parents who have overcome drug addiction desperately want to keep their children from following in their footsteps. How will you raise your daughter, Jennea, to live a life free of drugs and alcohol?
Iím going to teach her about Jesus and how real He is, and Iíll help her to develop a relationship with God. Iíll let her know that Jesus can fill that hole inside of her that drugs and alcohol just canít fill.
When God was calling you, the Scripture verse that says, ďCome to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you restĒ (Matthew 11:28) came to your attention repeatedly. Why did these words speak to you in such a profound way?
When I was in Korn, just lost and on drugs, I was like a guy who was stranded in a desert and needed a drink of water. That Scripture was like a big glass of water to me [spiritually]. I needed it to be real-óand it is real!
As the lead guitarist of Korn, you lived a lifestyle that most people can only imagine; however, you left the band in 2005, just as they were getting ready to sign another multimillion-dollar recording contract. Why did you walk away from it all?
I quit the band right before Korn ended up signing a 23-million-dollar recording contract, and that was a struggle for me because thatís a lot of money. I was so confused and unhappy-óthatís all Iíd ever searched for my whole life. One day I just turned my back on it and walked away from everything.
I felt like God wanted to take me in a direction that wasnít easy. I had it easy the last ten years of my life, but God wanted to teach me the real wayó-the faith way! If I got millions of dollars doing music that I really didnít feel connected with anymore, then how is that walking in faith? Thatís not faith in God, thatís faith in money and faith in selling my gifts for money. It also goes against the core of my being because I felt I didnít belong there for one reason or another.
I know people whoíve searched for fame and fortune their whole life, and no matter how much they acquire, they only come up empty-handed. The Scripture says, ďWhat good is it if someone gains the whole world but loses his soul?Ē (Matthew 16:26). Now your dream of becoming a rock star came true. What was it like to live out that dream, and whatís going on in your life now?
Even though I was living my dream, I was miserable while I was in Korn. In fact, I never felt like I belonged there. I felt like a fish out of water all the time, just living my dream. It was definitely cool and exciting to play in front of all those peopleóI certainly appreciate all the fansóbut when I got saved I felt like I was at home. Things were cool when I got saved, but itís not always easy walking with God because He takes you through seasons. Right now, Iím getting challenged in every area of my life, but if I look at all the fruit, I see that so many people are being touched by my story. Life for me is way better now, but everything isnít perfect. Itís just that now I donít do drugs, and I love God.
Can you share any stories from fans who have been impacted by your testimony?
A lot of kids came up to me and said they were going to kill themselves, but because of my story, they changed their minds. Then there were other kids who didnít believe in God, but now they believe and theyíre Christians-óand thatís awesome! I know Godís doing it all, but itís cool to be used like that.
Letís talk about a few tracks off your debut solo album, Save Me From Myself, which was released in September 2008. Tell us about the song "Die Religion Die."
This song encourages Christians, who go around judging and persecuting other Christians, to change their mindset. You see it all the time, but they justify their behavior by saying, "Well, God showed me this guy is this and that..." and "It says in the bible...!" They use Scriptures to give them the green light to judge others. Some of these people just sit in church and gather together every weekend like itís their own little cult or club, but they donít reach out to anyone with the love of Godóand thatís what this song is about. Itís time to see religion die. Weíve got to judge ourselves instead of judging others, and most importantly, we have to walk in love.
I've noticed that they do manage to twist Scriptures, but it doesnít really represent who Jesus is and what Heís about!
They find Scriptures to give them the O.K. to argue.
"Die Religion Die" is one of my favorite songs on the album, as well as the title track "Save Me From Myself."
"Save Me From Myself" is very special to me. The lyrics talk about my battle with drug addiction and suicide, how I cried out to God to save me from myself, and how I kicked all of my bad habits. When this song came to me, I felt a supernatural touch to write it. Actually, I felt like I was empowered by God to write all the songs. Iím really pleased with the results.
What message did you want to communicate through the song "Money"?
Thatís a personal song about me and how I bowed down to money because it was my number one thing in life. I thought I could buy my wifeís happiness, but eventually I lost my family. "Money" is kind of a degrading song. Itís like get on your knees and bow down to your money because thatís what you look to for comfort and support. This song could crossover to a lot of people since so many people do that. You see people freaking out right now over the economic crisis here in America, and thatís proof right there. I feel for them because Iím pressed financially, too, but now Iím looking to God to provide for me.
Are you going on tour to support your solo album, Save Me From Myself?
You achieved an incredible amount of success while you were in Korn. You scored two Grammys, you won several MTV awards and sold over 30 million albums worldwide. Can you define what success meant to you while you were in Korn, and then define what success means to you now?
To me, success meant getting a record deal when I started out in Korn. After that happened, I started making a lot of money and the success just went through the roof: I got a gold record, a platinum record, and then we hit No. 1 on the Billboard chart. You canít get any higher than that! It was cool, but then I thought: "Is this it? Iíve reached my goal. I climbed the mountain of success, I reached the top and I hit the bell. Ding! I made it! Now the only way to go is down because I already made it to the top." It was like, O.K., I rang the bell at the top, but it just didnít satisfy me.
Now success is watching what God is doing through me. Jesus already won! Heís the success. He died on the cross, and itís finished. He said, ďIt is finished.Ē So once I came to Christ, I reached the ultimate success! Now itís both of us completing the work that we have together on earth, but that just flows and happens. [Sometimes I battle] with depression, but I donít freak out because God is faithful. Heíll get me out of it, and itís already done. Jesus did everything; thatís successóHeís my success!
Brian, thatís an amazing answer! Before we go, do you have any words of encouragement you would like to offer to anyone who is in the middle of a hopeless situation and feels like thereís no way out?
I want to give everyone hope and encourage them not to give up. There is a way out and that way is Christó-just come to Him.
Watch A Video PodCast Featuring A Portion Of Angel's Audio Interview With Brian "Head" Welch
Angel, a concert photographer and writer, frequently conducts artist interviews for NRT. She loves Christian music and currently lives in FL with her husband.
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