BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (BP)–Former Korn lead guitarist Brian “Head” Welch wanted to die.
Until he found something to live for.
“Now I’m living a fairytale,” said Welch, 34, who was a founding member of the hard-rock band Korn. “I swear this is real.”
Before a crowd of 10,000, in three services at Valley Bible Fellowship in Bakersfield, Calif., Welch recounted how his life was changed.
And how desperate he was just a few weeks ago.
“I was addicted to methamphetamines and tried everything … rehab, stuff on the Internet, but nothing helped me kick it,” said Welch, sitting on stage with pastor Ron Vietti before fans, media and church members Feb. 27.
“I was trying on my own to quit and couldn’t do it. I wanted to die. No one knew what I was going through. I could not quit. Church was my last shot,” said Welch, who wore a black T-shirt, torn jeans and two braids in his hair.
“I would sit in church high [on drugs],” he said. “I would wonder why people would go up to the front after the service. But one day it was for me. I said [to God], ‘Show me how to quit.’”
Vietti remembers a man wearing a hooded sweatshirt nodding his head at the altar call.
“He always wore the hood,” the pastor said. “Now I’m mentoring him.”
After surrendering his life to Jesus six weeks ago, Welch has not been the same person.
“Just like that I was able to quit drugs,” he said, illustrating with a snap of his fingers. “I realized God will do whatever it takes to make Himself real. I swear this is real.”
In the world’s eyes, Welch said, he had it all.
“I had money, women, drugs of choice,” he said. “But none of it brings happiness. You’ll never find fulfillment in those things. I did it. I was so low. I told God, ‘Just kill me, please.’”
He remembers crying on a daily basis in his misery.
“Instead He’s made me the happiest man in the world,” said Welch, who recently had “Jesus” tattooed across the knuckles of his left hand and Matthew 11:28 on his neck.
He explained that he is thankful for everything now.
“I drive down the street in my Hummer and I look at the sky and say, ‘Thank You, Jesus’,” said Welch, the single father of a 6-year-old daughter.
On Feb. 28, Welch and Vietti joined the church’s Holy Land tour to Israel where Welch plans to be baptized in the Jordan River by Vietti, a pastor for 25 years.
“He used to tell me he would cry every day because he was so sad and now he cries every day out of joy,” Vietti said.
Welch explained why he had Jesus tattooed on his knuckles.
“I was so low I owe it to God that everything I touch I see Jesus,” the guitarist said. “I don’t want to sin at all anymore.”
In each service, Welch invited others to surrender to Jesus.
“If you are nervous or your heart is pounding, just do it,” he encouraged the audience. “Just give in. It’s the coolest thing in the world.”
Carlos Flores, who calls himself the number one Korn fan, accepted the challenge.
With tears streaming down his face, Flores, a high school senior in Bakersfield, recounted, “I worked at a music store and would come in high on drugs. I know what he’s going through. I did drugs, sold drugs and tried to quit. Today I prayed and it feels good. It’s weird.”
Welch spoke with the groups of nearly 200 who gave their hearts to Christ at the end of the three services.
He told them to e-mail him at the church website and he’d answer them all personally.
Not all his fans were so quick to follow his example.
Jody Gutierrez and Stephanie Alvarez, both of Visalia, Calif., waited after each service to catch a glimpse of the guitarist.
“It’s cool he’s changed,” said Alvarez, 22, who had Korn tattoed on her arm. “We’re happy for him and wish him the best. We respect his decision.”
Although the girls did not commit themselves to God, they both agreed they would be in the church service more often because Welch was there.
Another big change has come in Welch’s career. He has left Korn to go solo.
On Feb. 8, he forwarded a “letter of resignation” to the band’s management, according to a CNN report. In the note, Welch detailed a long list of reasons for leaving the band, including increased moral objections to Korn’s music and videos. In particular, he was upset over how he was portrayed in the clip for their cover of Cameo’s “Word Up” off their recently released “Greatest Hits, Vol. 1” album. In the video, Welch’s face is superimposed on a dog patrolling a strip club.
Formed in 1992 as the Bakersfield metal act LAPD, the band renamed themselves Korn in 1993, according to MTV’s news website. Their self-titled 1994 debut went double platinum and was hailed as a landmark album in the burgeoning “nu-metal” scene. The group released six studio albums with Welch, sales of which have topped the 11-million mark in the United States alone. Their final album with Welch, “Take a Look in the Mirror,” was released in 2003.
“Every dime I make [from my solos] is going to help build skateparks, rehab centers that are affordable or whatever is positive,” said Welch, a Bakersfield native. “I don’t want the money. We’re here because God picked us up, not for personal gain. I want to do things that are positive or die trying.”
He said he hopes to help Valley Bible Fellowship fulfill their dream of creating churches that reach into the rock ’n’ roll culture.
“I love everybody in the band — I was afraid to leave,” he said, according to an MTV report.
“It made me sad to think that I would be hurting the band if I left. For the last year and a half, I wanted to leave, but someone would always talk to me and convince me to stay,” Welch said. “But I’ve had a problem with the way things were going since the second record. I mean, we would do things, and I would be like, ‘Oh, this is metal! This is the rock ’n’ roll life!’ But inside, I thought they took it too far. It was a little too crude for me.
“I have a 6-year-old daughter, and I want her to be able to look me in the eye. I’m a single dad, that’s what it comes down to,” he said, in an interview with MTV. “And the guys were really accommodating when I would tell them that. They’d be like, ‘Bring your daughter on tour! We’ll work the tour around you.’ But that’s not the place for a 6-year-old.
“She would be sitting backstage sometimes, just counting dollars. Because [Korn member] Fieldy would tell her, ‘Every time you hear a curse word, you’ll get a dollar. It will help us stop cursing.’ And at the end of the day, she’d turn to me and be like, ‘Look at all my money, Daddy!'”
To hear Welch’s testimony, visit his new website, www.HeadToChrist.com.