Brian Welch (nickname ‘Head’) is the former guitarist and co-founder of the nu-metal rock group Korn. Along with fellow Korn guitarist ‘Munky’ Shaffer, he patented Korn’s siren-like guitar sound which became distinctive of the nu-metal bands which had their beginning in the mid 1990s.
Raised in Bakersfield, California, Brian was different different from the majority of kids at school and was subsequently bullied. His musical taste was rooted in the original heavy rock sounds of the 1970’s and he was particularly fond of Ozzy Osbourne. Initially, when Brian was ten, he wanted to be a drummer, but his father persuaded him to take up the guitar. He says that his nickname came when “Guys said my head looked like it was too big for my body, and so they started calling me ‘Head.’ I guess it stuck”
Brian and his schoolfriend Reginald ‘Fieldy’ Arvizu formed their first band LAPD (‘Love and Peace, Dude’) after leaving school. Following limited success, they hired singer Jonathan Davis and changed their name to Korn (written as KoЯn for originality). The band’s debut album ‘Neidermayer’s Mind’ was released in 1993 but it was with ‘Follow the Leader’ (1998) and ‘Issues’ (1999) that the band had huge success with both albums entering the US rock chart at number one. The band have been incredibly successful selling 19 million albums in the US and 35 million albums worldwide.
The success of Korn came with its own demons. Brian says that most of the band members were verging on addiction, “We were only sober for just a couple of hours a day in Korn – every day! And then when you come home and you’ve got to deal with real life and your wife isn’t having that, crap goes down.” Brian and his bandmates experienced the kind of success that mort bands can only dream of, but it came at a price Brian was unable to put up with. “You travel, you get to another town, you play a show and you do it again. You try to just be at peace but even a big, huge band like Korn, playing in front of thousands of people, it can get lonely. You feel like you’re a trucker and you’re traveling with a bunch of truckers. You can’t connect with people except for the ones that you’re with because the ones you party with after the show, you don’t know them and then you’re gone. When everyone’s drunk, you’re like ‘Alright. Later.'”
In July 2005, Brian was interviewed on CNN’s ‘People in the News’ programme, where he told of his previous addictions to alcohol, meth and sleeping pills. He also told an audience of millions that he had become a Christian and that Jesus Christ had set him free! Brian did not feel able to continue with the band and left Korn that same year.
Brian’s Christian experience changed his values in many areas. He decided to tour some of the more poverty-stricken areas of India and financed the building of orphanages which came to be known as ‘Head Homes’. In late 2008, Brian appeared with celebrities Josh Hamilton and Greg Ellis in testimonial videos I Am Second where he shared his story of how Jesus helped him to recover from drug and alcohol abuse.
Brian’s first solo project following Korn was ‘Save Me From Myself’. I was expected by many critics to be Christian ‘soft-rock’, but he surprised them with some powerful rock. “I knew it was going to be nothing near as big as Korn, but I was proud of it. It’s got some heavy riffs and it’s got a lot more emotion than I’ve ever put in music… It was cool how people were surprised by it. A lot of people thought I was gonna come out with some ‘Kumbaya,’ Jesus music.”
Although not quite in the league of the Korn albums for chart success, ‘Save Me From Myself’ peaked at a respectable number 63 on the US Billboard chart and number 13 on the Hard Rock charts.
In 2012, Brian announced the ‘Love and Death’ project. He was forming a new band. He said, “The name ‘Love and Death’ symbolizes everything we’ve been through as a band over the last few years. We love this band so much and we’ll go through hell to connect with our fans. Many people have confused my speaking dates and our band dates because they were both being booked as Brian Head Welch. I have wanted to use a band name for branding my music for a few years. Now with the new music coming out, its time to really separate the things I do. I want the music to be about music. I will still be doing public speaking under Brian Head Welch. I am happy that all the confusion will be over.”
The band released their first album ‘Between Here and Lost’ in January 2013.
Story by Ralph Burden
photo: Brian Welch photo attribution: Creative Commons Share-Alike 3.0 Unported