Brian "Head" Welch of Korn in his natural environment.
Brian "Head" Welch of Korn in his natural environment.
Jim Louvau

Korn's Brian "Head" Welch Left Band, Found Jesus, and Almost Lost Everything

In 2005, Brian “Head” Welch shocked the metal world when he left nu-metal pioneers Korn at the height of the band’s career.

The surprise wasn’t so much that Welch was departing from the band he helped create but his reasoning. The guitarist quit the band because he had found Jesus and was dedicating his life to his faith. It stunned his bandmates and fans, but for Welch, quitting was the right thing to do at the time. He was battling an addiction to methamphetamine, Xanax, sleeping pills, and alcohol, and it was clear he needed a change. Welch chronicled these struggles in his first book, 2008’s Save Me from Myself: How I Found God, Quit Korn, Kicked Drugs, and Lived to Tell My Story.

He also quickly learned that life without Korn would be different, and his days of packing arenas, being famous, and making bank were long gone. Not only would he have to deal with the struggles of starting a fresh solo career, he would have to navigate fatherhood as a single parent to a young daughter. Welch has again documented his pitfalls and re-joining the band that put him on the map in his new book, With My Eyes Wide Open: Miracles and Mistakes on My Way Back to Korn.

The book isn’t your typical rock-star autobiography, with stories of excess, partying, and drugs. It’s a passageway into the dark world of deception, depression, and faith. The prologue starts at Christmas 2012 at his parents’ house in Bakersfield, California. Welch confronts his daughter, Jennea, after spotting self-harm slashes on her arms. Not only did Welch feel like a failure as a parent after seeing what his daughter had done to herself, it also came at the time he had just rejoined Korn. He wondered if her cry for help was a result of his decision to reunite with the band.

One of the major factors in Welch leaving the band in the first place was to spend more time with his daughter, and after he decided to relocate to Phoenix and start fresh, the two got along wonderfully — initially. Then, the depression that has played such a role in his life slowly became a part of his daughter’s life.

Life for Jennea had been much different than most of the kids she went to school with. Her mother and Welch divorced when she was a baby, and Welch’s daughter never had a relationship with her mother. When Welch would pick his daughter up from grade school, other parents were wary of his appearance — the dreadlocked, tattoo-covered musician.

Welch was trying to balance being a parent and starting a solo career when he got a phone call from an old weed-dealer friend from the Korn days. He’d heard Welch’s story, and, like Welch, was also a Christian. The dealer also suggested that Welch should reach out to another friend of his that owned a couple of recording studios in Phoenix and Burbank, California. This friend of the weed dealer turned out to be the man that would take Welch for hundreds of thousands of dollars through shady business deals. In the book, the conman is referred to as Edgar, which is not his real name, as most of the names in the book have been changed to protect their identities and for fear of lawsuits.

Edgar planned exotic “business trips” around the world in hopes of finishing deals that never seemed to pan out. When a deal fell through, Edgar would explain to Welch that God was closing one door so another could open. Welch eventually realized that he was the one paying for these expensive trips out of the budget for recording his solo record at the studio. He took Edgar’s word on finances, even as he became wary of what was going on.

“At the time, he had two studios, one in Burbank, and it looked like he had shit going on,” Head says. “It started to dwindle down, and each year it dwindled down until it crashed. There were plenty of signs for me to see, and there’s no excuse. But my eyes were just shut. I’d partied for so long in the past that my mind wasn’t back to normal yet.”

Brian "Head" Welch performs with Korn at the 2012 Pot of Gold Festival in Tempe.
Brian "Head" Welch performs with Korn at the 2012 Pot of Gold Festival in Tempe.
Jim Louvau

Eventually, Edgar was served with several lawsuits, and Welch even appeared in court with him in solidarity. Even after hearing lawyers and judges hammer Edgar with penalties, the guitarist stood by his side. However, one day, Edgar just disappeared after one of his business was raided for hiring for hiring illegal immigrants. It was all over the local news, as protesters picketed outside the meatpacking business holding signs with Edgar’s name on them. Besides one final phone call, that was the last Welch ever saw of him.

“I was an idiot. I mean it’s pretty clear,” Welch says, admitting the painful reality that he was conned. “I was like, ‘Screw the money. I don’t care; it’s not going to rule my life anymore. I walk by faith now.’ When I look back, it’s like, ‘Whoa, why’d I do that? I can’t believe I did that.’”

Though his days with Edgar were over, Welch’s ties to his questionable business operations still lingered. The lawsuits were piling up, and Welch was broke. At one point it got so bad that Welch and his daughter had to dig through their couch cushions to gather change.

“That was the low point, and my biggest fear was possible — having to move back home with my parents until I got my royalties situated,” Welch says. “I just didn’t know how far I was going to fall.”

Welch would eventually regroup with some friends to finish his solo record and start his own label, but life on the road this time around wasn’t what he’d hope it would be. Being a vocalist was not an easy task, and sometimes there would only be 30 to 40 people at his gigs. In order to stay close to his daughter, he would often bring her on the road with him. She asked him to take her to a festival in Rockingham, North Carolina, in 2012 to catch some of her favorite bands. It just so happened that Korn was also on the same bill, and after visiting with the guys they invited him onstage to perform the band’s early hit “Blind” at the end of their set. This would eventually lead to Welch returning to the band full time.

You might think that Welch returned to the band because he was broke, but he says it wasn’t about the money.

“That was definitely a plus, but I could have also sold my royalties. I was pretty low, but I still had value. I owned this catalog. So money wasn’t the motive at all, because I could have just done a deal. I don’t think I would have gotten millions, but I could have gotten out of debt in a heartbeat with what I own. I love that I can earn money now and be smart with it and invest it, and I’ve been giving another chance financially. “

As excited as he was about getting a second chance with the band, the situation with his daughter had worsened. If the self-harming weren’t enough, Jennea and Welch were barely speaking to each other. When he confronted her about spending all of her time on Facebook talking to kids that Welch didn’t approve of, she fired back and told him that her friends were the only ones who made her feel like she didn’t want to kill herself. He took drastic action.

Welch eventually enrolled his daughter into a program at a Christian boarding school in Lafayette, Indiana, called Awakening Youth Academy. He didn’t tell her that’s what they were doing, though. As expected, the surprised teenager resisted her new environment. Welch left her there with tears streaming down his face. He hoped it’d be the hardest thing he’d ever have to do in his life.

Jennea eventually opted to stay in the program and recently graduated high school there.

“I got to hand her high school graduation diploma to her, and I was bawling,” Welch says. “Since then, she’s entered into the college program at the academy. The people are like our family over there. It’s not like a normal boarding school; it’s like a family-oriented type thing.”

The story seems to have had a happy ending, but did Welch really just pawn his daughter off on a boarding school so he could go back out on tour with Korn?

“It was a season where it all just fell together, and if I didn’t go back on the road I wouldn’t have been able to handle her anyway,” Welch says. “Even if I didn’t go back to Korn, I didn’t have the tools to be able to take care of her by myself. Maybe if I had a wife or something, but I was a single dad and I couldn’t do it. If anyone was critical of that, I would invite them to meet my daughter and see how she turned out.”

Welch’s own demons and addictions still exist. In 2015, he started drinking wine with friends. The wine led to Fireball whiskey shots. Part of his brain didn’t enjoy getting drunk anymore, but there was a darker side to deal with.

“For some reason, my addictive personality made me think, ‘I’m gonna keep getting wasted and I’ll quit next week. I’m only going to do it a couple more times, even though I didn’t like it that much.’ That was pretty dark,” Welch says.

He went into counseling and tried to quit, but it was short-lived.

“A month [later], and the next thing I know I was at a hotel bar doing shots and drinking beer. I was like, ‘Am I back as an addict?’ I was scared because I had just gotten counseling ... but I’m back at the bar.”
Now that’s he’s back in Korn, he is around alcohol on a daily basis, and it’s not always easy.

“I kind of get anxious because I see the personality change right away,” he says. “People become nicer and then they just want to talk. Guys in my band will go from silent or small talk and then they’ll just want to talk about everything, and I’m like, ‘You’re so annoying right now.’”

He laughs. He knows he’s in a tough situation for someone trying to stay sober.

“Every night, I’m around people that drink because I’m at a rock concert. We have wine and beer backstage but no hard liquor, and everyone drinks every night while I’m on the road,” he says. “No one gets sloshed around me, except maybe the fans I meet. I don’t go to bars often, because what’s the point? It’s a little anxious and annoying being around it, but it’s fine.”

Korn is scheduled to play Ak-Chin Pavilion on Saturday, July 23.

Newsletters

All-access pass to the top stories, events and offers around town.

  • Top Stories
    Send:

Newsletters

All-access pass to top stories, events and offers around town.

Sign Up >

No Thanks!

Remind Me Later >