Korn's Brian 'Head' Welch: "I hated everything I became"

Last night, Head from Korn gave an eye-opening interview about his drug addiction and faith on the Metal Hammer Radio Show. And now you can check it out in full!

What’s the reaction to the Paradigm Shift been like for you?

“It’s been pretty good! I think a lot of fans have been really encouraging, telling us that it’s a step in the right direction and it’s the best album since Issues. I think we would have wanted it to do a little bit better, but it’s still doing really good. We had a number one single from it so we can’t complain, but record sales these days are rough.”

We had Jonathan on the show not too long ago, and he said you were one who wanted to make the record as heavy and as metal as it is.

“Yeah, with me and Jon I say I want to go in a heavy direction and he wants to go in the ‘new sound’. So we decided to marry the two and that’s what happened. It’s a great balance of something fresh and the old school guitar stuff. When you have two guitar players it’s going to have to sound like there’s guitars on it.”

What was the atmosphere like in the studio? Did it click back into place?

“It clicked right back into place. There were a couple of days where there was a disagreement, there was a couple of stress days, but most of the time we just had fun. And our producer kept saying ‘Best song wins’ so it’s about doing the best that you can with the gifts that you’ve got.”

Describe your journey back to music and back to metal. It’s quite something to reconcile with your spirituality and the trajectory your life took for some time.

“It’s overwhelmingly good right now. There’s a lot of peace. It’s not like every day is perfect but I’m just laying in the goodness right now because I don’t have stressful days that are too heavy for me – when the stress comes I can handle it now. I’m pretty much ready for anything – I’m stronger than I’ve ever been and everything is flowing together.”

Were you scared to make the return to your previous ways as a musician and the touring lifestyle?

“No, because I found out that these guys have their heads on straight. Most people on the road with us don’t drink, some do and we don’t mind it, but no-one is killing themselves with it and that’s what I couldn’t be around. If people can casually drink and not get too crazy then I’m fine with that.”

How’s your relationship with Jonathan changed over the years? Are you different people now?

“Jon’s the same, he’s always been pretty mellow and he’s a nice guy. He’d have his moments and because he had the leader role he’d blow up at people sometimes, but that was rare. He’s always a nice guy. I think everyone else has changed – me, Munky and Fieldy. There’s a lot of unity now but before we didn’t care, we just wanted to go and get wasted.”

There was a posting on the Korn website a few days ago about I Am Second – can you tell us about it?

“It’s a movement about making Christ first in your life. It’s not about religion, it’s not about these big fancy churches and these politicians that’re trying to run everything – it’s all about you and your relationship with God. And God is love. Basically it’s a bunch of stories of people’s lives that were messed up and broken then put back together again – and I’m one of the stories in there. When I put out my book I had to go on some cheesy TV shows with fake plants and ugly chairs and I didn’t want to do it any more, but when this organisation came to me they showed me how authentic the film was going to look, I did mine and I loved it. I’m friends with many of them and it’s a great tool.”

How hard was it to face the judgement of the metal community when your lifestyle choices are foreign and alien to them?

“At first it poked me, there were some jokes and some t-shirts came out that were saying crazy stuff like ‘Korn gave Head to God’. So it stung a little bit, but on the other side I was just laughing. Some of the comments were so out there it was crazy. Over the years people have been much more supportive and people’s view is changing on the whole thing and that’s what I want to do. I want to change the mindset of who God is, he’s not stuffy with a stick up his butt, he’s not that. Jesus was going after those people in the Bible. I want to change the perspective that it’s not about judgement, come as you are.”

Describe the moment of your epiphany.

“People will call you crazy but the fact is that if you read the New Testament, Jesus walked the Earth and he died for everything then rose again. And since then until now he appears to people in some form, whether it’s a vision or a dream or the Holy Spirit – and that’s what happened to me. I went to church and I didn’t trust them, how do I know they’re not brainwashing people? So I went home and started talking and looking at a wall and I asked God to help me and a couple of weeks later I had a visitation of what I believe was the lord through the holy spirit. It was unlike any feeling I’ve had from this world. It felt angelic and eternal and heavenly. For the first time in my life, on the inside, I felt like I was home. And I wanted it forever. It’s a real thing that happened and I got a little weird at the beginning, but I’m a normal person now. I have my faith and when people ask me about it, I’ll talk about it. But I can still hang out with my friends, family and fans.”

Was it your relationship with your daughter that made you want to change?

“My beautiful angel is so pure and innocent. I was a single dad, so I’d hire nannies and so on, then here I was addicted to all these drugs – meth, vicadin, xanex, coke… I was addicted to porn on the internet and that was my hidden life. I was the opposite of what my daughter was. Inside of me it felt like those worlds couldn’t co-exist. And she was a huge part of getting off drugs and I knew all the other stuff would stop if I quit drugs. But I couldn’t do it until I felt that love in my life. I hated myself, I hated everything I became, that’s why I had drugs to escape from my reality.”

How do you fill your time now? How do you keep your hands busy when you have those temptations around you?

“I haven’t seen a pile of coke or a pile of meth in ten years. It’s like if you had a cheesburger everyday for a year, after that you probably wouldn’t want a cheeseburger again. I’ve drank tens of thousands of beers and I just don’t want that any more. I’m over it.”

Listen to the interview in full here

Alexander Milas

Alexander Milas is an erstwhile archaeologist, broadcaster, music journalist and award-winning decade-long ex-editor-in-chief of Metal Hammer magazine. In 2017 he founded Twin V, a creative solutions and production company.  In 2019 he launched the World Metal Congress, a celebration of heavy metal’s global impact and an exploration of the issues affecting its community. His other projects include Space Rocks, a festival space exploration in partnership with the European Space Agency and the Heavy Metal Truants, a charity cycle ride which has raised over a million pounds for four children's charities which he co-founded with Iron Maiden manager Rod Smallwood. He is Eddietor of the official Iron Maiden Fan Club, head of the Heavy Metal Cycling Club, and works closely with Earth Percent, a climate action group. He has a cat named Angus.