A little over a decade ago, Korn guitarist Brian “Head” Welch was addicted to methamphetamine and didn’t know how to stop using. So he turned to Christianity, quit the pioneering nu-metal band and eventually got sober, all the while learning how to be a dad to his daughter Jennea, who is now 17. He chronicled his downward spiral in the 2007 confessional memoir Save Me From Myself.
Welch returned to Korn in 2013 and performed on their most recent album, that year’s The Paradigm Shift. The guitarist has since authored a new book, With My Eyes Wide Open: Miracles & Mistakes on My Way Back to Korn, which tells the story of his time away from the band in often-gritty detail. It’s a sequel of sorts to his first book, 2008’s Save Me From Myself, and it presents a story of how he tackled a different set of tribulations.
From discovering that his daughter was a cutter to his heartbreaking financial difficulties, Welch details how difficult it was living a “normal” life and how he came to terms with his daughter’s turbulent adolescence and discovered the inner peace he needed to return to Korn. The guitarist stopped by Rolling Stone‘s office earlier this week to discuss his personal transformation.
Why did you want to write another book?
I wanted to explain what led to my return. Also, a lot of the new book is also about my daughter. I’d written about her in my first book, so in this one I showed what happened to her. I share a lot of intimate details about watching her struggle with depression and self-harm as she became a teenager.
Some parts of the book are gutting. How did you push yourself to be so open when you were writing?
I learned how to do that with my first book, when I wrote about my hidden meth addiction and all the crazy stuff with my ex-wife. Every time I shared something that was personal, people came out of the woodwork and would say, “Thank you for sharing that. You have no idea how similar our lives are.” So I feel like it’s what I’m supposed to do.
How did you decide to write about your daughter’s cutting?
I asked my daughter if she was OK with me sharing some of the intimate details of her struggles. It was two years later, and she was doing better. If she wasn’t going to be OK with it, I wouldn’t have done it. She and her counselor and I all were in agreement with what I shared in the book. My daughter wrote a bit for the end of the book, too. She’s still in process, but she’s over the hump. She’s a brave kid and I’m proud of her for allowing this.
Self-harm is an epidemic among teenagers. At the time, she was going through all these emotions and threatening to hurt herself or worse. We wanted to help others and make them feel like they’re not alone. The whole point of the book is to show that no matter how bad things get, you’ll get through it if you push and don’t give up. My daughter graduates next week from high school.
It’s so weird.
“When I was writing, I was afraid the tears were gonna mess up my computer.”
Why is it weird?
Unfortunately for her, our relationship was like we grew up together. When I was in the rock band, I got to do whatever I wanted, I had people paying my bills and I didn’t have time to grow up. When I got sober and left Korn, it was like, “OK, now I can mature.” She says it’s like we matured together, like brother and sister. It was kind of weird.
How hard was it for you to relive all of this while writing it?
I was afraid the tears were gonna mess up my computer. I was actually crying when I was typing her stuff.
What did you learn about yourself in writing this book?
I learned that I’m really good with perseverance. I’m stronger than I thought I was inside. I also learned that I don’t give up easily and that I trust and believe that things are going to be OK. When I was on the drugs, everything was hopeless. If I didn’t have that little girl, I would have killed myself, I think. But seeing her pure little face every day and knowing that I was responsible for her made me want to live again.
This book was more painful than my first book, because I was seeing my daughter go through agony of the soul, but there was no hopelessness because I knew everything was going to be OK. I just had that deep peace of knowing that everything was going to be OK because that’s the promise of God.
What did you learn about your daughter from writing this book?
I learned that she’s just so brave, like me. I’m just so proud of her. I’m watching this loving, selfless person turn into an adult. She’s so funny, too. She’s a nut-job like me. We’re always making faces and dancing like goofballs. Let me put it this way: Jim Carrey is her favorite comedian.
What advice do you have for parents going through similar situations with their kids?
Tough love. It kills you. They might hate you for it, but you have to do it because when they’re 18, you don’t have any power of them. So just do anything in your control to give them the help that they need, no matter what it is.
When things got really bad, you made the decision to enroll your daughter in a school where she’d live and receive treatment. Was that easy?
It was gut wrenching. I watched her just shatter in front of me when I dropped her off. She was just panicking. After I filled out the paperwork, I started breaking down. She was bawling and I was crushed. I could not talk for about two hours. They tried to talk to me at the school, and I was waving my hands. I just drove off with tears streaming down my face for the two-hour drive to the airport. When I got home, I just sat in my dark house. Because of the program, I wasn’t allowed to talk to her for a month. It was brutal.
Was it worth it?
So worth it. When I finally saw her two months later, she said, “Dad, I’m supposed to be here.” And I was like whew. It was just such a relief.
One of the most interesting sections in the book is when you ask her permission to return to Korn, but you went through it really quick. Would you expound on that?
When I wasn’t in the band, Korn management hit me up every year or two asking me to rejoin. I would do book signings, and they would send someone to say, “Hey, it would be cool to have you back one day.” My daughter would be here, and at 8, 9, 10 years old, she would say, “No way, Dad. You can’t go back to that band.”
So when I did talk to her about it, it wasn’t like, “Jennea, can I go back to Korn?” It was like, “How do you feel about this?” She was like, “I think it’s awesome. Those are your brothers, and you grew up with them. I think that the fans would need you,” because a lot of them are stuck back in this crazy life that I wrote about in the first book. Maybe I could go help some of them. It was just time. She knew it, and I knew it.
“A lot of Korn fans have changed along with me.”
Have Korn fans accepted how you’ve changed?
Yeah. A lot of them have changed along with me. But everything has changed. Now there are athletes and all kinds of musicians, from Iron Maiden to Alice Cooper, who are Christian. It’s more accepting now. I’m not the only weirdo.
How is the new Korn album coming along?
We’re trying to finish it. It’s been about a year in the works. We’ve been saying, “What is Korn? What did we start out to do?” And it was all about the live shows. I feel like we’ve got the Korn sound and vibe, but we’ve also captured the intensity of what Korn always has been. We have 11 songs. It’s the most intense, energetic Korn record in 10 years or more. It’ll be out late summer.
I’m also going to be putting out solo music with my band Love and Death later this year. We released a song called “Lo Lamento” about a month ago.
So are you working on another book?
I’m done with books for a while. They take a lot of time and they take a lot out of you. Maybe I’ll write another in the future when my hair starts turning white and I’m, like, that Gandalf-looking dude with white dreads and a white beard.