Tell me this doesn’t sound like a train wreck: Guitarist for a world-famous nu metal band, with custody of his 3-year-old daughter, tries to raise her in a mosh pit of drugs, dissolution and general dishevelment while he himself is wrestling with almost every demon known to man and the underworld.
This was Brian “Head” Welch, one of the founding members of the Bakersfield band Korn.
This was his daughter, Jennea.
This was their life together chronicled recently in the 86-minute documentary "Loud Krazy Love," which won the Audience Choice Award at the Dallas International Film Festival.
The film has a happy ending, or a happy middle, because who can sure when an ending is an ending. Neither party is dead, in prison or has an addiction problem. Welch and his daughter are family enough to have recently spent a vacation together at Disneyland.
A band — and chaos — builds
It’s easy to forget how big Korn was. “Was” and is (they still play up to 80 shows a year in front of 10,000 people). Formed in 1993 in Huntington Beach with a Bakersfield crew consisting of Welch, Jonathan Davis, Reginald “Fieldy” Arvizu, James Munky” Shaffer and David Silveria, Korn has sold more than 35 million records, won two Grammys and two MTV awards, produced seven platinum records and played in front of 275,000 at Woodstock ‘99.
Korn’s music has been described as heavy metal, grunge, hard rock, rap metal, funk metal, groove metal, industrial metal or the kind of music that makes many people reading this article cover their ears, turn off and pray that their school-age children (or grandchildren) aren’t listening to it.
“The band was mad at everybody including themselves,” wrote Jon Pareles of the New York Times about Korn’s album “Life is Peachy.”
“Look in the Mirror” was about “love, hate and my hate of people and just losing my mind,” said lead singer Jonathan Davis, not to be outdone in the general madfest.
When they weren’t losing their minds, fighting or ingesting Xanax, Vicodin and meth like they were Smarties, Korn was entertaining millions. That aside, the rock 'n' roll life can be tough on families (all five original members got divorced). However this story comes with a twist. Dedication to family and their children may have eventually saved the band and given Korn a chance at rebirth.
Family and faith
Jennea Marie Welch was born to Brian and wife Rebekah on July 6, 1998, in Long Beach, with her birth announced on MTV. Besides having parents who both used drugs and living in a house full of skinheads when Welch was on tour, Jennea had a pretty normal childhood.
“When we got home from the hospital and I realized I was responsible for this person, I went into the bathroom and started bawling,” Welch said. “I thought, ‘I’m going to screw up this kid like I’ve screwed up myself.’”
Although Welch quit drinking and smoking two months before Jennea was born, he started again when he went on tour. Within three years, Welch and his wife had divorced and he had custody of Jennea, who went on the road with the band. Child care could be random: One night included one of Britney Spears' dancers who was dating Welch’s tour manager.
In 2005, in despair, in trouble and in conflict about the life to which he was exposing his 6-year-old daughter (Jennea may have been the only first-grader doing her homework at 3 in the morning), Welch turned to Christ. He became a Christian at Valley Bible Fellowship Church in Bakersfield in front of thousands of people — as well as anybody watching MTV or CNN — quit Korn, checked into a motel and self-detoxed, then fell off the wagon more times than a bag of flour on a rocky trail heading west.
“I didn’t know if it was too late for me,” Welch said.
“One of the first things God told me was to clean out my house. I went home and found an eight ball of meth in my first-aid kit and snorted it.”
That’s one way to clean out your house.
“I’d quit Korn to raise Jennea but I hired a nanny,” Welch said. “At least I became sober but I hadn’t learned how to be a father yet."
Welch moved to Phoenix where he lost a couple of million dollars in a sheisty recording studio deal, produced a Christian record (even Christians didn’t like it because it was heavy and sounded like Korn), and went so broke that he found himself scrounging for quarters for Jennea’s lunch money.
Quarters weren’t adding up to dollars so Welch moved to Nashville in 2009 and started a band called Love and Death. Jennea, then 13, started acting out, posting destructive things online, was suicidal and cutting herself. Her life could have been lyrics to a Korn song.
“I didn’t know what family was,” Jennea said. “Dad was always gone. All the other kids had their mommies and daddies come to graduations. Dad never came.”
Dad never came because Dad was busy. Dad was gone. However, Dad knew enough to know that he needed help.
“I was lost again,” Welch said. “Watching Jennea go through it was the hardest thing I’ve ever went through.”
Teenagers. Most people can relate. If it lasted forever, parents would leave home.
Welch found a school in Lafayette, Ind., called Awakening Youth where Jennea started to heal, grow up and like herself again.
In 2012, Love and Death opened for Welch's old band, Korn, in a festival in North Carolina. His former band members invited him on stage for a song and the crowd went crazy. A year later Welch rejoined the band after being away for eight years and "Paradigm Shift," Korn's 11th album, produced their first No. 1 single since the band had formed.
Welch and his bandmates were changing, conquering their addictions and having families of their own. Gradually Jennea and Welch became close again, too.
“Dad and I have a respect and love for one another that will always be the heartbeat of our relationship,” said Jennea, a 20-year-old sophomore at Full Sail University in Florida, who is interested in mental wellness, especially in youth and is keen on having a family someday.
Her family might be different.
“Ultimately, I wanna be a stay-at-home mom,” Jennea says, half-kidding.