Korn's Head Sees the Light

Guitarist opens up about finding Jesus, helping kids and his solo debut

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Storming onto the scene in the mid-Nineties, Korn changed the face of metal with their fierce infusion of rap and alternative rock. After non-stop touring with the likes of Ozzy and Marilyn Manson, the four-piece from Bakersfield, California, steadily built up a hardcore following that eventually earned them six Top Ten albums -- from 1996's Life Is Peachy to 2003's Take a Look in the Mirror -- and ten Top Twenty rock singles.

But last year, while Korn were working on a new record, guitarist Brian "Head" Welch quit, announcing that he had been born again in Jesus Christ. Now Head -- currently at work on his solo debut, Invitations Have Been Sent to All, due next spring, at his new studio in Arizona -- talks about the split with Korn, his battle with drugs and depression, and his reinvention as the "Christian Eminem."

Why did you leave Korn?
When we first started, Korn had power over all of our music and what we said -- the songs are pretty outspoken. Then with the last record, it seemed like everybody shifted from being down with the fans to wanting to make money, and our managers started getting really involved. They were telling us what songs to play -- and, I mean, they manage the Backstreet Boys! They started talking about hiring writers for the new record. I don't know if they did. And I was going, "Dude, this is stupid." I was a part of a band that's known for not selling out, that's written every album with the most heartfelt lyrics -- and now they're changing into a machine. We had a bunch of battles -- three people got kicked out at one time or another -- and my friends weren't even my friends anymore. So I left.

At the same time, I was hooked on drugs so bad -- everybody knows -- and I just didn't care, the last couple of years. I was really into my depression. And I heard my daughter, at five years old, at home singing, "All day I dream about sex" [from the Korn song 'A.D.I.D.A.S.'], and I was like, "I don't want to do this anymore!" I wanted to be a better person.

I found Jesus, and I'm totally healed from drug abuse and alcoholism. I was in my closet doing lines, and I had a bill rolled up, and I stopped and looked at myself. And I said, "Jesus, if you're real, please take this addiction from me. My child lost her mother to drugs -- please give her one parent who's free of this. Please make me want to live." I had a bunch of eightballs, and I threw them away. Rehab didn't work; looking at my daughter didn't help me kick drugs. But I felt like I could do it finally. Miraculously, [the addiction] fell away from me within a week. I started having hope.

What was your relationship to Christianity before?
I wasn't the happiest kid in the world. But when I was thirteen, I was hanging around with this family that was very peaceful -- they hardly ever fought. They told me about Jesus -- and I didn't know who that was, but I knew I wanted what they had. Then I drifted away from them. Puberty hit, and I got into trouble. I started really drinking and partying when I was sixteen.

I have a scripture, Matthew 11:28, on my neck now. It says, basically, "Dump all your problems on me -- your band, your addictions -- and I'm not going to put any guilt on you, or condemn you for your past."

Have your friends in the rock world been supportive? Were some alienated by the change?
I wanted to go and tell the media that I found Christ, and that I'm switching my life from crazy, evil darkness to light. I felt the spirit of God tell me, "You're going to be ridiculed. But never be afraid to claim my name." But I'm so happy, it doesn't matter what people think.

I'm really into learning about the Word and what it says in the Bible. I'd thought that church was just a manmade thing to get people to be goodie-goodies. But it's not about a bunch of rules; it's about the relationships God has with people, and reading about these people doing great things. I said, "I want to walk with You like these Bible heroes." This is like a roller coaster, better than any drug I've ever felt.

How has this affected your day-to-day life?
The first thing that I do when I get up is say "hi" to God. People will think I'm a little out there, because I talk to Him all day, wherever I am. If I go into a grocery store, it's "All right, God, help me pick out the right food so I can be healthy." I just sold my house and moved out of town because I thought God wanted me to move. I sold all my stuff, and I'm home-schooling my daughter with a nice lady. I'm kind of floating around right now.

I heard you went to India recently, to the state of Orissa, to open up an orphanage . . .
My new manager [and producer] Steve Delaportas -- we became partners in Fortitude Entertainment, which has, like, forty-two ministries. We take a salary, but all the profits -- from our film studio, our recording studio, our animation studio -- goes to building orphanages. We're calling them "Head Homes." And we just opened the first one in India. I feel a burden in my heart for the kids -- kids sleeping on the street, kids who we had to save from the brothels.

There's a tribe near there, the Lodha tribe, just a few miles from where we opened the orphanage. They're a cannibal tribe -- the government won't let anyone go out there -- and they asked us to take their kids, too. We went out there, got out of our car, and there were, like, 1,500 cannibals. I just looked right up to the sky and said, "What am I doing here?" But we sent them $7,000 worth of food and started making plans to build them an orphanage. We're going to open homes in Egypt and Iraq and China, too.

Aside from opening these homes for kids, you decided you would continue making music, right?
At first, I thought I would just fade away and find myself for a few years. But then I felt like He told me, "Go out and use every trick you used with Korn. And not everyone is going to like what you're saying -- especially a lot of church people." I'll probably be, like, the Christian Eminem when the album comes out. My music is melodic and intense and euphoric. A lot of people think I'm going to be all soft, like, [sings in high-pitched choir voice], "Laaaa!" -- but a lot of Christians might think I'm straight from the devil with this music.

What are some of the tracks that might end up on the album?
I got a song, "Loyalty," which is about those [last] days with Korn: "Where did all the loyalty go?" I've got a song about a baby getting aborted, and my voice is the baby's voice, singing to the mommy and asking why she doesn't want to be his mom no more. The chorus is, "Jesus said my soul isn't dead/I'm waiting for you up in heaven." Right now, I'm writing one called "Time to See Religion Die," which is really heavy, and another song about India.

There's an exit from the anger tunnel that I was caught in for all those years in Korn. There's just so much hope in the music, but it's not lacking the heaviness that I've had in the past. Korn is about screaming out for love, about being an outcast -- but anger just beats you down into the ground. What we're missing is God, and He's not who we think He is. I used to believe that [God] was all those people pointing their fingers, saying, "You're going to hell!" Now I think those guys are in trouble. [God] loves us, and He's there to say, "Man, it's OK, no matter what you've done." It's cool to be able to tell kids that. That's what the title of the album's about: Invitations Have Been Sent to All.

You know, man, all the money that's gonna come from the music is going to help these kids all over the world. I don't need a Bentley anymore. I don't want stuff; I want the world to change. I've lived for me for too long.

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