Drugs, porn: Korn legend’s rock bottom confessions

"I'm totally a normal person," Brian Welch explains over the phone.

"I tried to drink two or three years ago. I'm really good at drinking. Because I drink so much, I'm just really good at it," he joked.

Brian Welch, founding member and guitarist of the nu metal band Korn, says while his life seems normal today, it didn't always look that way.

A new documentary shows the story of Welch, aka "Head", as he tries to come to terms with a two year drug binge and porn addiction before transforming into a born-again Christian.

Korn released their debut album in 1994 and quickly became one of the biggest-earning and most successful nu-metal groups in the world.

In the midst of a peaking teen-pop musical craze, Korn were in the mix of chart toppers, fighting for a spot in the top of the Billboard charts alongside Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Backstreet Boys, and *NSYNC.

"I was like, 'is this a conspiracy? are we getting punked or something?'," Jonathon Davis, the band's singer, asks in the documentary.

But with the band's runaway success came an unbridled amount of rock star excess. As a band, Welch and his co-members drank heavily and took drugs. Footage shows them trashing green rooms, throwing furniture and hanging backstage with girls in bras.

Welch also began using, finding his drug of choice to be methamphetamine. Over the years, as his drug addiction developed, he found other behaviours grew alongside it, including a perversion linked to obsessive watching of pornography. It was this particular addiction that filled Welch with sadness and shame as he tried to be a good father.

His daughter Jennea Welch was born in 1998.

Brian told news.com.au that his touring days gave him an abnormal tolerance for alcohol, saying after some experimentation, he's learned he has to be completely sober.

"I'm totally a normal person," Welch explained, of his day-to-day life.

"I tried to drink two or three years ago. I'm really good at drinking. Because I drink so much, I'm just really good at it," he joked.

"But I can't stop. In that light, I'm bad at it. Today, I just got up with my dad. I went to Starbucks, I talked with some guys about life. You know?"

He described first hitting rock bottom when the band was hitting its peak.

Lead singer Jonathan Davis with members of band
Lead singer Jonathan Davis with members of band "Korn". Davis/Singer Korn/Band

Korn performed at Woodstock 1999, a massive 400,000 person festival held to recreate the original event in 1969.

While the festival was marred by fires, a gang rape and crowd violence, Welch describes the experience of performing on stage to the massive crowd as being hugely positive. He'd spent some time away from drugs, and said he felt, on stage, clear in his head.

But after the show, Welch and his wife at the time partied to excess. After flying in a private jet with rapper Ice Cube, the couple went back their hotel, drank, took ecstasy, snorted pharmaceuticals. According to his account in the documentary, Welch's wife then became psychotic and she attacked him.

He ended up punching her and breaking her nose, while their baby Jennea slept in the other room.

Both Welch and his parents claim Jennea's mother had started sleeping with two skinheads while he was on tour, and they'd been living at the house.

Soon afterwards, their relationship ended as his wife left and Welch assumed custody of Jennea.

Welch began taking young Jennea on tour when he could, and in the documentary, Jennea says she remembers seeing naked women in the crowd and in the house when she was young.

Welch, second from left, in a press shot for Korn.
Welch, second from left, in a press shot for Korn.

"She is very proud of (the documentary). She has got a lot of healing out of it," Welch explains, of his daughter's role in Loud Krazy Love.

The documentary tracks his daughter's life from birth to adulthood, as she struggles, at times, to grow in a shifting environment with a complicated rock star dad.

Jennea, well spoken, and articulate, bravely recounts her difficult teenage years, where she struggled with loneliness, feeling suicidal and self harm.

"Being brave, she can talk about her issues, and I think she got that from me, you know?" Welch told news.com.au.

Indeed, after a horrendously difficult formative period, where Welch struggled to overcome his drug addiction and Jennea struggled through extremely dark periods of depression, the pair now seem incredibly close.

"When I started sharing in my books, I just noticed a reaction. It's just very healing for people to know that they can actually get past their issues, and be forgiven. And forgive themselves. And be better." Welch explained.

As he tried to balance his addiction, being a father and touring, Welch's addiction continued to spiral. He described getting drugs delivered to his house and his concerts.

For a period, his daughter went to live with his parents, as he descended into a horrific, spiralling, two year drug binge. He described this period as giving him "pure" musical inspiration, but said he developed an obsessive sexual perversion and "unimaginable" addiction to pornography.

During his binge, Welch described a group of kids coming to visit him in his hotel with their parents, one of them turning on the TV, and seeing the porno he'd been watching.

As the parents around him scrambled to turn off the depraved image on the screen, Welch said he felt riddled with shame.

By the end of the two year period, Welch said all the good feelings he'd associated with the drug were gone.

Welch travelled to Israel and was baptised in the Jordan River, in a trip where he showered his daughter Jennea with love and affection. Picture: Lefteris Pitarakis
Welch travelled to Israel and was baptised in the Jordan River, in a trip where he showered his daughter Jennea with love and affection. Picture: Lefteris Pitarakis

In 2005, after 12 years in the band, Welch dramatically and suddenly announced that he was leaving Korn.

He contacted the band, sending them a "long" email, explaining he had to leave for his own reasons.

"I was walking one day, just doing my rock'n'roll thing making millions of bucks, you know success and everything, addicted to drugs and then the next day I had Revelation of Christ and I was like, everything changes right now," he said at the time.

Documentary footage shows him getting on stage and tearfully confessing in an interview that he was addicted to methamphetamines.

The documentary then recounts Welch's long, difficult road to sobriety.

As Welch tried to navigate life as a born-again Christian, he faltered, struggling with anger, and questioning his faith.

His daughter speaks about seeing him punching walls and saying he hated God.

"I remember thinking, 'what is wrong with my life that I can't have it together?'" he says at one point in the documentary.

Jennea recounted struggling with the same kind of anger when she felt frustrated. As a teen, she struggled to find her own normality as her reality constantly shifted while she was growing up. When Welch and her moved to a rural area, she was bullied and became isolated and deeply unhappy.

As Jennea's depression worsened and became clinical, she was sent to get professional help. After this, she slowly begins to flourish.

One thing Welch said he's learned is that sobriety teaches you who you really are. He explained that alcohol, and other things, used regularly, can be masks, concealing our identities.

"I think some people in this life make their 'normal' as drunk. Everything in life involves drinking," he told news.com.au.

"If you want to do that, and you have it under control, then that's fine. Go for it.

"But who are we, really? Me sober was just me not wearing any masks. Not trying to cover up, or hide, or medicate because I was so unfulfilled."

"I feel totally content in life now, and fulfilled, and I don't need that.

"I think even people that drink responsibly should take times away from it so they can really get to know themselves and not lose who they are."

 

REJOINING KORN

Welch told news.com.au the documentary was originally intended to focus on his journey rejoining the band after being gone for so long.

"It was initially a story about my return to the band Korn after being gone almost a decade. And so while that is in there, it's just a small section of it."

After years of avoiding one another and simmering resentment and bad blood, Welch found himself at the same festival as Korn, playing with another band, Red, in 2012.

With Jennea, he boldly went to visit his old bandmates backstage.

But the reconciliation, after so much time, is surprisingly casual, and kind.

After meeting with the band, singer Jonathan Davis asked Welch to join the band on stage again for their final song, seven years after he'd quit the band in 2005.

The next year, Welch formally rejoined the band, eight years after he'd originally left.

"It just really felt like it was meant to be. The timing was great. It's about waiting for the right moments. You can't come back, you know, to a situation when the atmosphere isn't ready," Welch said.

"So it was just a cool thing to see God work on my friends, you know, apart from me. It's like he prepared them to come back.

"He prepared me to go back to them, and vice versa."

Ray Luzier of Korn, James Shaffer of Korn, son D'Angelo Draxon Shaffer and Brian Welch of Korn attend The 59th Grammy Awards. Picture: Alberto E. Rodriguez
Ray Luzier of Korn, James Shaffer of Korn, son D'Angelo Draxon Shaffer and Brian Welch of Korn attend The 59th Grammy Awards. Picture: Alberto E. Rodriguez

Loud Krazy Love releases nationally at Event Cinemas May 15.

If you or someone you know needs help, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.

If you need help with depression, see Beyond Blue for a list of organisations that can help.

 

He told his bandmates he was leaving via email. Picture: Lefteris Pitarakis
He told his bandmates he was leaving via email. Picture: Lefteris Pitarakis


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