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From Korn to Jesus

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Brian 'Head' Welch is back with new band, Love and Death

In 2005, after 15 years and more than 30 million albums sold, Korn, one of the most popular metal bands in the world, was about to sign a new deal with Virgin Records worth $25 million. Their lead guitarist, Brian 'Head' Welch, says he was living his dream, but inside, he was dying.

Welch says he started drinking on weekends when he was 15, and once Korn was firmly established, alcohol became a daily escape from the band's punishing tour schedule. After Korn signed to Epic Records in 1994, hard drugs entered Brian's life, leading to an all-consuming addiction to crystal meth that took his family (his wife was addicted as well; Brian later gained custody of his daughter, Jennea) and nearly cost him his life.

Welch says he used methamphetamines every day for two years before finally staggering to a hotel and checking in for a body, mind and soul rehab with Jesus. There, he sat and prayed for hours. 'I said, 'God, I'm weak. I'm going to die if I keep this up,'' Welch told me. ''Please be strong for me. Be real. Send people to help me. Get me out of this.'

'What I found was that God is real and all I had to do was ask Christ to help me,' Welch said. 'When I did that, everything bad that I didn't want fell out of my life.' Welch says he ran from Korn in February, 2005 and began a walk with Jesus that is even stronger today. His 2007 memoir 'Save Me From Myself' (also the title of his 2008 debut solo album) became a New York Times bestseller and led to two further books.

In February 2012, Welch announced Love and Death as the new name for his band, formed three years ago. Welch's band rocks as hard as Korn ever did, but the message in the lyrics is decidedly different.

Love and Death's EP 'Chemicals' is due to be released on April 24, two weeks after the title track is issued as a single and video. Last week, I spoke with Love and Death bassist Michael 'Valentine' about joining Brian's band, his battle with addiction and his faith. In the extended version of this Q&A (on The Maine Edge website), Brian Welch, in an earlier interview on The Mike & Mike Show, discusses his departure from Korn, his transformation and subsequent recovery from addiction.

Valentine told me the band's single 'Chemicals' 'is about addiction and the fact that you can kick it.' Valentine wrote the song with Welch and says that the lyrics come from a place that both of them know too well.

Valentine: I was heavily addicted to cocaine for almost four years. I've tried every drug in the book. My story differs from Brian's in that he found God after living without Him. I grew up in the church, so there was never a point in my life where God wasn't in the back of my head. When drugs tried to destroy my life, I turned back to God and said, 'You've got to help me with this,' and he absolutely did. I've been clean for over 10 years.

Dow: When you were using, did you separate yourself from the church?

Valentine: I did, but the church didn't separate from me. My friends who had the faith were still there for me. I have a lot of preachers in my family so the church was never far away.

Dow: Is your family totally on board with the music you're doing with Brian and the guys?

Valentine: Absolutely. My grandfather was a pioneer in a church here in Nashville and we always had great music. There is a Pentecostal Church where the women can't cut their hair, no makeup, no TV, no radio no anything. My grandfather came along and said, 'These rules are man-made.' He was a preacher in a non-denominational church that retained 'Pentecostal' in their title. I'm not saying those other churches are wrong if it gets them closer to God, I'm all for it.

Dow: Do you have people come up to you and ask 'How can you walk with Jesus when you look so scary?'

Valentine: When I was a kid, I went to a friend's house and saw a movie called 'Night of the Living Dead,' and it scared me I mean really scared me. I went home and told my dad, who then went out and got this movie called 'Scream Greats' about makeup artist Tom Savini and all of the special effects he did. After that, we watched all of the scary movies together ('Friday the 13th,' 'Halloween,' etc) and he would pause them and say, 'OK, how did they do that?' and I would explain to him how they did it. From there, I fell in love with theatrics and how people came up with all of these ideas.

Dow: You're the guy wearing the white contacts, right?

Valentine: Yeah, that's me (laughing).

Dow: Man, that freaks me out. Do they hurt?

Valentine: (laughing) No, everybody asks me that. I actually forget that I have them in. I'll wear them on stage and then forget about them. Then, we'll go out to eat after the show and people will be staring at me and I'm like 'Why is everybody looking at me funny?' Then I remember, 'Oh that's right! I look like a zombie right now.' (laughs).

Dow: If you don't mind, I'd like to ask you about your transformation. Brian, when you prayed to be delivered from meth and say 'It fell away,' are you saying that you no longer had a desire to do drugs?

Welch: The urge went away over a couple of weeks. After I first asked Christ to help me, I went home and started talking to Jesus while I was doing drugs. I said, 'You know I don't want to do this. You know in my heart I've been trying to quit. If you're real, please make that urge go away and give my daughter a good father. Within a couple of weeks, I was free.

Dow: Was that that the moment when your drug life ended and your new life began?

Welch: A couple of days later, I had a friend come to my house, and that was the first time I had admitted to anyone that I had been a meth addict. I hid it very well. I opened up the safe where I kept all of my drugs literally piles and piles of drugs, and I said to my friend, 'Please throw this away for me.' He started crying and said, 'What are you doing, man?' I said, 'Just help me out here don't tell anybody.' He said, 'I'm going tell anybody. I don't want you to die. How do I know you're not going to hide it from us again?'

Dow: Did he get rid of the drugs?

Welch: He did. But four days later, I found some drugs in my closet and I fell. I did them. Something inside me told me that it was going to be the last time I did drugs and it was. A week later, I had an encounter with God when I was in my house reading the Bible one night. I just felt overwhelming love and peace. It was higher than any drug I've ever done or any feeling I've ever felt in the world. I've been changed ever since.

Valentine: I went to rehab a couple of times. I had reached a point where I said to myself, 'There's nothing I can do except die. Either I die or I fix what I'm doing.' Sometimes rehab doesn't work, but I believe it can work if you have the foundation and support on the outside. You have to really want to quit, and that's where God can help you. He can take away the desire to do drugs to the point where you're actually standing firm and saying, 'Alright, I can do this but He still loves me no matter what.'

Dow: Brian, when you told the guys in Korn that you were leaving, what was their reaction?

Welch: One of them sent me an email saying, 'Let's get together and talk' they just didn't get it. I expected somebody would get in a car and drive an hour and a half, sit me down and say 'Dude, what's going on?' but nobody reached out like that. They took my note seriously and stayed away. At the time, I took that as confirmation from God too. How are you best friends with someone for 15 years and you tell them you're leaving and they don't come to see you?

Dow: Did that hurt you at the time?

Welch: Yeah, it did. I was very confused. I was like 'I want to leave I don't want them to come and get me,' but then I found out they really didn't want me to leave but they still couldn't come to talk to me.

Dow: Brian, your baptism was very public. More than 10,000 people were there when you were baptized in the Jordan River in Israel (March 10, 2005). What did that feel like?

Welch: I had instant faith. I knew it was God. Once I was delivered from drugs, I felt God talking to me and I felt him leading me. I just felt his presence. I knew I was where I was supposed to be. I saw all of the cameras there. I didn't say, 'Hey, CNN, come and film me in the Jordan' it just happened, and I knew it was God setting it all up. He wanted to display what he does for a person who doesn't deserve anything.

Dow: What does it feel like when you guys are on stage and really connecting with an audience?

Valentine: When I'm on stage, I'm praying a lot. I go into almost an unworthy state when I'm doing my thing. I'm up there praying hard, playing hard and saying 'Thank you' when I'm on stage. We're living in a time when we have to remember what we're here for. Life is a gift by God. This is His planet, this is His universe, this is His everything.

Dow: Is everybody in Love and Death a Christian?

Valentine: Yes. We follow God and we believe in Jesus Christ. Whenever somebody brings up the word 'Christian' in some circles, a red flag goes up saying, 'Oh my God, they're Christians! They're about to whip some Bibles out and throw them at us (laughing). It isn't like that.'

I dress the way I dress and I walk my faith with Jesus. I'm here to help kids who feel embarrassed or ashamed. They'll ask 'Am I going to Hell because I listen to Iron Maiden?' I don't think so.

Dow: When you meet somebody new and they ask you to define Love and Death, what do you tell them?

Valentine: We're a positive band and we've all been through a lot of stuff - heartache, trials and tribulations. I don't really want to put a title on it (the music) but what we have is a walk with God a walk with Jesus. Brian says this all the time, 'If he can do it, anyone can do it.'

We'll go to a town and do a show and if somebody wants to talk to me after a show, I'm here. If they just want to talk music, that's great but if they need help and they want to talk about Jesus or just ask questions, I love that. It's amazing to see when they realize, 'Hey, I have a chance. There IS somebody who loves me.'

We say that with the help of God with the help of Jesus Christ, you can do anything. If somebody comes up to me and says, 'Hey, I don't believe in God, my family is broken and I'm addicted to meth,' I don't say, 'OK, open a Bible and read this chapter.' I tell them, 'God CAN help you, but there's also rehab. If you want to get clean, you can get through it and it will be hard. But I promise you - you will get through it. This is not the end no matter how heavy it gets.' At the same time, we also point them towards God. He gave us brains he gave us people who designed treatment programs that work. He gave us doctors who can help us.

Dow: What are Love and Death's immediate plans after 'Chemicals' is released on April 24?

Valentine: On April 10, we head to South America for some shows there. Then we come back and go out on tour with P.O.D., Red and Icon for Hire. After that, we're on another tour with Sent By Ravens. We're also hitting a bunch of festivals this summer.

Dow: Are you happy with the new EP?

Valentine: It's great! The EP contains the title song, a remix of 'Paralyzed' (released last fall), and we also did a really cool cover of 'Whip It' by Devo (laughing). It's a great cover. We're very happy with how it came out.

Dow: Look ahead 10 years. It's April, 2022 that totally sounds like science fiction but where do you see yourself at that time?

Valentine: I want to be married with kids by that point. As far as music and the band, it would be awesome if we're still together. God put me in this band. I had quit music before I joined these guys. I didn't know that Brian was trying to put the band together. I got an email saying, 'Hey, Brian is doing auditions right now.' I had almost given it up. All my friends had regular jobs and were doing their thing and I was broke. Don't get me wrong, I'm still broke (laughing) but at least I'm where God wants me. Musicians it's a hard thing to go through. I wanted to be a musician when I was 5 I always knew. But it isn't like, 'OK, I'm going to go to college now, then give me my band and my stage and I'll rock it out.' There is no formula to being a paid musician or else everyone would do it. I had reached the point where I thought I had missed my window of opportunity. I hadn't thought about music in six months. I had actually sold my bass gear. For the audition video that I sent to Brian, I had to borrow a bass and amp. I said, 'God, you've got to help me with it. Just put me where you want me.' He did.

Mike Dow is part of The Mike and Mike Show, heard each morning on Kiss 94.5. Catch up with him at and

Last modified on Thursday, 05 April 2012 19:32

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