Brian Head Welch of Korn Journeys From Lead Guitarist to Best Selling Author (INTERVIEW)

Last week, the guitar player known for his dreads, his tattoos, his penetrating stare, his aggressive guitar style and for finding God amidst rock & roll debauchery, published his new book, With My Eyes Wide Open. It’s not the first time Brian Welch, better known as Head of the band Korn, has taken pen to paper. He documented mental, physical, musical and spiritual erosions in a previous memoir, Save Me From Myself, in 2007. This time out, Welch had another tale to tell, several in fact, where his life was knocked off it’s axis and this time it would involve his beloved young daughter Jennea. “A big part of the reason I left Korn back in 2005 was because I wanted to spend more time with Jennea,” Welch wrote in the prologue to the new book. “Now that I was rescued and clean, I wanted to make up for lost time and, for once, give her a little stability.”

It is a goal all parents have when it comes to their children and rock stars are no different. Now that Welch and Jennea have made it through their earthshaking journey together, their story is ready to come out; although Welch was a little hesitant at first. But as Jennea writes at the end of the book: “The goal for my dad and me through this book was to show people that they are not alone in their sufferings.” “I lost Jennea for a while to self-harm and suicidal issues,” wrote Welch. “I also went through some health issues I wouldn’t wish on anyone and suffered emotional anguish so intense it was almost crippling. Did I complain a lot? Oh yeah. But I never quit. And today I am stronger than I’ve ever been.”


When Welch left Korn in 2005, it shocked many of the band’s fans. After being such a leading entity in the so-called Nu-Metal movement with such fire-breathing albums as Issues, Follow The Leader and Life Is Peachy, the guitarist was living as a meth addict, in a crumbling relationship with a baby daughter, touring nonstop, overwhelmed by life as a rock & roll musician. “The thing about addictions is they take over your soul. They turn you into someone else, and they make you do things the unaddicted you wouldn’t do in a million years,” wrote Welch. So he stopped, broke the cycle, found faith, changed. What he didn’t expect was life taking a downward spiral following all that. And Welch chronicles it all in With My Eyes Wide Open – the good, the bad, the traumatic decisions and overwhelming satisfactions.

Not one to be anyone but himself in the way he writes his book, it is approachable, immediately connectable and satisfyingly truthful. Welch does not bog you down in too many details yet paints a crystal clear image in your head while reading. He does not beg you to turn your life over to God, instead giving examples of how his transformation has enhanced his everyday living. He can still rock & roll, tour, play guitar, get tattoos, tour with Korn and go crazy onstage. He just doesn’t have to walk down the alternate paths that once took his life and crushed it almost to irreparable pieces.

Along with the publication of With My Eyes Wide Open, Welch has released a single called “Lo Lamento” with his band Love & Death and there are some big plans coming up for Korn. So with all this swirling around in his universe, Glide spoke to Welch last week about the past and the present.

head welch bookSo how is everything going today?

I’m awesome. I just got done watching a documentary about my life.

That could be considered a little egotistical

(laughs) Yep but it’s emotional cause it’s the good, the bad and the ugly. It’s all right there on the screen. But it’s a good day. I leave town tomorrow though. I live in Nashville.

Wow, what is it with you guys? All the rockers are moving there now.

I know! It’s crazy what’s happening with this town. It’s like they don’t have enough roads for people moving in here (laughs).

So why was it important for you to write another book?

Well, it all started from my management, just like my first book started. My first book, you know, was basically when I left Korn, got free from drugs, found my faith. It was all controversial, cause it being such a dark band and all this crazy stuff. So my manager came to me and said, “You need to write a book.” And I was like, “I don’t want to write a book. I want to do music.” And he was like, “You need to write a book cause your fans are confused and all this and they’re hurt.”

So what happened was, I reunited with Korn and years passed and that caused controversy as well. So my new manager came to me and said, “Hey, you need to write a book.” And I’m like, “What’s with all the books?” (laughs) So after thinking about it, I knew it was a good idea. And it was cool cause I got to share my story of what I did after I left Korn, raising my daughter and all the joys and struggles of raising a child alone and into the teenage years.

And that’s a very powerful part of the book. How can you sum up the fear you felt when you noticed that change in your daughter?

Oh total hopelessness. I mean, there was a deep underneath feeling knowing that I could trust in God to do something but it was like, I felt like everything had failed. I left the band, I was gone for eight years, I tried to do the right thing, put my daughter around a more pure atmosphere and it felt like it was going out the window. Like, all that stuff I did and THIS is happening? It was really traumatic for me because it was the exact opposite of what I thought would happen because of the choices, the right choices, I made for her.

Do you feel regret and guilt free at this moment in your life?

I look back, and I wrote about a lot of it, most of it, that I wish I hadn’t done things. But especially with my daughter, I feel sad about some of the things I’ve done with my daughter and how it’s affected her. So that I regret. But the guilt is gone and if there’s any trace of it, it’s going to BE gone; especially seeing her grow into a lovely, awesome young woman. The more free she gets and the more peace I see in her face, the more guilt gets healed off of me and taken away.

When you were writing this book, what is something you realized that maybe you hadn’t noticed before about yourself or your life?

That’s a hard question but I think that I’m a perseverer and with fortitude I went and got through things. I like that I don’t give up.


You also have some new music coming out with Love & Death. What can you tell us about that?

You know, it’s hard because I really felt called back to Korn and I went back to Korn and I’ve been there; and Love & Death kind of got pushed to the background quite a bit. The other guys in the band, the bass player quit and went into business and the guitar player went and joined another band and the drummer is in another band. But we’re all good friends still. We don’t have a huge fanbase but there is a good-sized fanbase. We like creating music, with Love & Death, with all the members that are still there and it’s cool. I like it. It’s different from Korn. So we released a new song called “Lo Lamento” just recently. It’s Spanish for being deeply, deeply repentant and to me it’s a story about infidelity, broken relationships and mistakes made. But we’re finishing a new album this year and we’re going to release it as soon as we can. I stepped back from the lead vocals and I shared the vocals with the guitar player, JR Bareis. We wanted to release that song to give the fans a taste of what the music will sound like with the new vocals. And it was kind of a promo to the book. So it was pretty fun.

Are you okay with your voice and your vocals now? That’s something you talked about in your book.

Yes I am because, you know why, because I shared the duty with JR and so I’m totally fine in not doing it all myself (laughs). A little bit is fine with me.

Do you have anything going on with Korn that we can know about?

Yes, we’ve been working on music all last year and into this year and it’s really a special album to me because me and the guitar player, James Munky Shaffer, we got back together and he was a key role in getting me back into Korn. So right when he got me back into Korn and we decided to do it, we did an album pretty quick and that album was good and everything but I think that we found out, after playing for three years we kind of remembered what is Korn, what is Korn about.

So we had to go in there and really work on the guitars on this record and for the first time ever recording any albums with Korn in twenty-one years, me and him played our guitars on the record together. We were facing each other and playing all the songs together and I think people are going to feel that unity between me and him. It’s really cool. I grew up with these guys, you know, so that was something special to me, and for James. So yeah, we’re going to make a big announcement really soon about the producer, new management and the new record.

When you first started playing guitar what was the most difficult thing for you to get the hang of?

Probably just the solos, doing lead guitar. So I practiced. I knew some people that were so good and I wanted to be up there with them and I wanted to learn how to play some of these technical things that were on the radio or some of my favorite bands. I just couldn’t do it at first and sometimes I would bang my guitar against the wall (laughs). Why won’t my fingers do what I want them to do! So that was challenging to me. But pretty soon I was learning the riffs, like the AC/DC riffs, Journey, some Queen, Motley Crue, Ozzy, stuff like that. I was learning the riffs pretty good but the lead was difficult for me definitely.

What was your first “I can’t believe I’m here” moment?

Oh wow, I think it was the Ozzy Osbourne tour in 1994 or 1995; I think it was 1995. We went on the road with them and we were opening for him and direct support playing arenas. And some of the fans were like older Black Sabbath fans so they didn’t like us, some of them. But there was people in the back, the younger ones that could afford the seats in the back, they started to like us. I also remember on that tour we went gold, which is 500,000 records sold, and Ozzy came in our dressing room with his wife Sharon and presented us with a bottle of wine and said congratulations to us. And that was a “I can’t believe I’m here moment;” that was the first one.

What was your most painful injury onstage?

It was in London at a big rock festival and I started banging my head so hard that I hit the body of my guitar and split my eye wide open and blood went all down my face, all over my guitar and my strings were sticky cause of the blood and it was not good. And then once the pain went away, I was like, Oh I bet this looks kind of cool and rock & roll, you know (laughs).


Did you keep playing?

I kept playing until the end of the song and then that was it. I was like, “Give me a new guitar, my hands are sticky.” (laughs)

What song in the Korn catalog do you think should have gotten more attention than it did?

Wow, there’s one on the album called Issues, a song called “Dead,” and it’s just about the agony of soul type of thing, going through that stuff. It’s got kind of like a Queen feel to it cause there’s all these multiple harmonies on the second verse, on the vocals that Jonathan [Davis, singer] does. But it’s got like an old Queen/Nine Inch Nails/Korn sound and I wish that would have gotten more recognition. And that’s just the one off the top of my head. When we hang up I’ll probably go, oh man (laughs)

What do you think is the biggest misconception about you?

I think it’s that I’m scary or mean or something cause when I walk into airports people don’t look at me with nice looks (laughs). But what am I supposed to do? I mean, I’m the one that got all the tattoos and did the hair like this so it’s not like poor me type of thing. But I’m really a loving, loving person and I’m learning to be real selfless. So I think it’s just the outer appearance, judging it, that misconception that I’m angry and mean and whatever.

Are you at peace with yourself and your life?

Yes, but you know what I’m coming to grips with right now? My little mistakes that I keep making over and over. Just recently I’m like, you know what, I choose to accept myself with my flaws and that’s okay that I have them. So I think, and what good timing of the question, because I just came to realize that in my life. I’ve been trying to be this perfect person and I don’t know how to be. I don’t want to be unhappy about it and put too much pressure on myself so I’m going to lighten up and accept myself with my flaws and do the best I can. So I’m at peace with myself, yeah.


Photographs by Dan DeSlover & Sebastian Paquet


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