A life-changing spiritual awakening freed Brian “Head” Welch from a stranglehold of drugs and alcohol and prompted him to leave the highly successful nu-metal band KoRn in 2005. What followed was a decade-long trial by fire, from the perils of fathering a teen lost in depression and self-mutilation to the harsh realities of playing solo and surviving the shattering betrayal of a trusted friend. In this intensely inspiring redemption saga, perhaps most inspiring is Brian’s radical decision to rejoin KoRn and reconcile with the tribe of people he once considered family in the metal music scene.
Brian returned to his musical roots with a clear head and a devoted heart. Though his story is wild, hilarious, and deeply poignant, the message is simple: God will love you into the freedom of being yourself, as long as you keep the relationship going and never, ever quit.
|Publisher:||Nelson, Thomas, Inc.|
|Product dimensions:||6.10(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.10(d)|
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With My Eyes Wide Open
Miracles and Mistakes On My Way Back To Korn
By Brian Welch
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2016 Brian Welch
All rights reserved.
THE SUITE LIFE AND "THE CULT"
I've often wondered why there isn't some kind of system in place that decides who can and can't have kids. Think about it. Any moron can have a child. Take me for example. I was an alcoholic meth-head with a train wreck of a marriage who spent more time on the road partying with his band than he did at home playing with his kid. Not exactly what you'd call father- of- the- year material.
Granted, I wasn't a complete idiot. I did help form a successful band, and we did go on to sell almost 40 million albums and win two Grammys. For more than a decade, we were at the top of the music scene. Sold-out concerts. World tours. Award shows. Money. Fame. Professionally speaking, we had it all. Our personal lives, however, were pathetic — especially mine.
But even morons can change. In 2005, after years of living the typical rock- star lifestyle plagued by substance abuse, serious domestic issues, and eventually divorce, I decided to accept an invitation from my friends Eric, Doug, and Sandy to go to church.
I had just moved back to my hometown of Bakersfield, California, to be close to my family. A single dad, I was trying to raise six-year-old Jennea by myself, and I needed help — a lot of help. Thank God my parents were, and still are, amazing. They loved Jennea to death and were extremely supportive, but I was still struggling. And I was tired. Tired of being a meth-head. Of living a double life. Tired of fighting with depressing, suicidal thoughts. I had tried willpower and doctors to help me get clean, but I always ended up with less than impressive results. So when Doug said, "Hey, Brian, why don't you come to church with us on Sunday?" I decided to go ahead and give church — and God — a try.
That's when it happened. I had an encounter with Christ that changed my life forever. I didn't see him with my physical eyes — it was much deeper than that. I saw him with the eyes of my heart, and my spirit knew the exact moment he walked into the room and actually touched me. I was suddenly and completely consumed by a love from another dimension as Christ literally came to live inside of me that very moment. I had heard people talk about Christ residing in a person's heart, but this was a reality being powerfully demonstrated in my life right then.
It's pretty impossible to describe heavenly things with earthly language, so just know that what I'm attempting to describe is way better than these words.
Earthly language can only symbolize what the beauty of the heavenly reality actually is.
Everything changed for me in that moment.
I felt God's divine love flow through me, and that love infused me with an incredible power. It gave me the power to break free from meth and every other addiction I had, and it gave me the strength to walk away from a wildly successful music career so I could focus all my energy on the one thing that mattered more to me than anything else in the world — raising my daughter.
God, in his infinite mercy, had pushed the reset button on my life, and I was determined to make things right. I was clean. I was eating better. I was exercising. I was going to church and developing my relationship with Christ. I had officially left KoRn (very publicly, I might add), and now I was about to spring the huge surprise on Jennea.
You see, the thing Jennea needed the most in her life at that time was stability. Her mother, Rebekah, had fallen into drugs (along with me) and disappeared out of our lives back when my little girl was just a baby, and all Jennea really knew about me was that I wasn't around very much.
Well, all that was about to change.
One morning, while Jennea was playing with her toys, I crouched down in front of her and said, "Jennea, guess what?"
"I'm going to quit work so I can be at home with you full time."
Jennea's eyes lit up, and she broke into a huge smile.
"Really?!" she squealed.
"Yeah. I love you, and I want to take care of you all the time from now on. What do you think?"
"Cool!" she shouted, wrapping her arms around my neck in a hug.
I was on top of the world. The look on her little face was worth more to me than all the gold and platinum albums on earth. I was loving every second of it.
This was it. I was going to create a whole new life for us.
So what did I do? I did what all morons do. I did the complete opposite of what I should have done.
When you've been a rock star for eleven years and are fresh off of a two-year meth addiction, even when God opens your eyes to experience his love, you don't automatically gain the ability to always make good decisions. And let's be honest, I wasn't the best at making good decisions to begin with. Some of my intentions were good, but even then my timing and execution were horrible.
My first idiotic move was yanking Jennea out of the school she had been attending because I wanted her to go to school at our new church, Valley Bible Fellowship. Then a few months later, I pulled her out of that school and hired a friend to be her nanny and homeschool her. Why? So I could eventually go out on tour later that year. That's right. The ink in the magazine articles about me quitting KoRn to become a clean-living, Jesus- following, stay- at- home dad had barely even dried, and already I had yanked my daughter out of two different schools and hired a nanny so I could hit the road again.
Yep ... I was doin' great.
I'm what you might call an all-or-nothing type of guy. Whatever I do, I do it big — 100 percent — even when it completely contradicts something else I've committed to doing 100 percent. Yeah, I know. It doesn't make a lot of sense. Like I said, sound, logical decision making wasn't exactly my strongest trait back then.
After I left KoRn, I became convinced that my new calling was to become a solo artist and change lives through my music. So I started working on new songs and basically ran around like a chicken with its head cut off, making plans to record my solo album and prepare for a big tour. I was running on pure spirit- driven adrenaline. Passion pushed logic and common sense right out the window, and for a few short weeks, I was convinced that by year's end I would start touring full time again — and be there for Jennea at the same time. Then one day I woke up and realized I was being an idiot.
I had made a promise to my daughter, and I needed to keep my word. I still felt called to reach out to people through my music, but for now anyway, the world would have to wait. There was one little girl who had already been waiting for me long enough.
So later that summer I let the nanny go, along with the solo- tour plans, and Jennea and I packed up and moved to Phoenix, Arizona. It was a fresh start. Just the two of us. I bought us a beautiful little three- bedroom house right at the base of a rocky, Arizona desert–looking mountain. It was a great neighborhood with nice families and close to a solid school system. Typical suburbia. Very stable and very normal. In fact, the only weird thing in the whole neighborhood was me.
The first time I took Jennea to her new school, I dropped her off in my humongous Hummer. It was all decked out with a crazy paint job, red flames on the sides, and a lift kit that raised it up twelve inches.
That thing was a beast.
When I pulled up in the parking lot, the kids all screamed, "Look at that truck! That thing is soooo cool!" One kid even asked me, "Are you a rock star or something?" Elementary- school kids are so easy to impress.
Still, we were trying to keep a low profile, so I eventually donated the Hummer to the Dream Center in Los Angeles and got myself a slightly more sensible Ford Magnum. I tinted the windows and the thing had really cool rims, so it was a modest-yet-still-very-cool-looking new ride.
After our flashy entrance that first day, though, I decided it might be a good idea to meet with Jennea's principal and explain our situation. And to my surprise, it turned out that this was by far the coolest principal I'd ever met, which also turned out to be helpful because we quickly ran into a few bumps with some of the other parents.
One day, shortly after meeting the principal, something rather odd yet comical happened after I picked Jennea up from school. It turns out a very troubled mother came into the principal's office to voice a serious concern. Apparently, there was "a strange man in the parking lot with long hair and lots of tattoos." Needless to say, she was extremely worried for the children's safety.
"Was he skinny with long, straight black hair?" the principal asked.
"Yes, exactly!" the woman answered excitedly, thinking she was doing her civic duty by calling out the scary loser in the parking lot.
"Oh, no, that's only Brian Welch, Jennea's dad. He's a sweetheart. Loves Jesus. He's harmless," said the principal with a laugh.
Sadly, I think she had that conversation a lot that semester.
It's funny. In my past life, I fit right in. But as a single dad trying to walk the straight- and- narrow, I stood out like a sore thumb. No matter how hard I tried to fit into life in suburbia, I would never look the part.
If I tried to be discreet and play it cool, I became the weird-child-molester guy. People would give me strange looks, and women would hold their purses a little tighter when I was around. But as soon as they found out I used to be in a huge rock band, I became the hero who left the evil rock- star life because I became a Christian and wanted to be a better dad. But I have to admit, that's a way better label than weird- child- molester guy.
Anyway, as soon as we got Jennea settled into school and the principal had successfully reassured the PTA that I wasn't going to kidnap and eat their children, the next order of business was to get Jennea a pet.
Naturally, she wanted a dog. What kid doesn't? But I just couldn't do it. Think about it. Who was going to have to take care of it all day while Jennea was at school? Exactly. No dog. End of story. So we drove to the nearest pet store to pick up one of the easiest pets in the world to care for — a hamster. I wanted to give the thing a typical hamster name like Whiskers, but Jennea overruled me and named him Cody after the kid on Disney's The Suite Life of Zack and Cody.
Since I had vetoed the whole puppy idea, I decided to go above and beyond with this hamster situation. That hamster had a full- on, two- story hamster mansion with a network of plastic tubes to crawl in, multicolored bedding, and every chew toy on the market. It was the tricked- out Hummer of hamster houses. I even got one of those see- through plastic balls that it could roll around the house in. Unfortunately every time that little rat got in that ball, it took a leak. Every. Time. And because the ball had holes in it, the pee leaked out all over the floor. It was disgusting. And this from a guy who used to be the king of all things disgusting!
Urine-soaked floors aside, Jennea and I were adjusting well to life in Phoenix. Jennea was doing great in school and was making some really good friends. And for a guy who had no idea what he was doing, I was doing a pretty good job of being a full-time, stay-at-home dad. After a while, though, I started to get a little antsy. I loved spending time with Jennea, but I also missed making music — which brings me to one of the reasons I decided to settle specifically in Phoenix ... despite my best intentions.
Back when I was with KoRn, one of our personal security guards had a friend who used to come out to our shows in Arizona and bring our guys weed. He was a charismatic character, and everyone really liked him. After I quit the band, the media exploded. Everyone wanted to hear about the meth-head rocker who was walking away from a multimillion- dollar career to follow Jesus and spend time with his little girl. A few months later, my old weed- dealer friend called to tell me he'd heard about my story and that he was also a Christian.
A Christian weed dealer? Hmmm. That sounds ... yeah ... well, he must be done dealing weed, I thought.
Anyway, he told me about a friend of his in Arizona named Edgar, who owned a couple of recording and film studios in Phoenix and Burbank and had a similar conversion story to mine. Because we had so much in common, he insisted that I meet his friend. So I agreed.
It turns out the holy weed dealer was right. Edgar and I did have a lot in common. He'd had a rough childhood, and by the time he was in his twenties, he had gotten involved in organized crime on the East Coast. But he had found Jesus a few years before me and supposedly turned his life around. Before long we started hanging out together at his studio in Burbank and going to different churches in the LA/ Orange County area together.
For the most part, I really liked Edgar. He was smart, personable, funny, charismatic, and he seemed genuinely interested in helping people figure out their calling in life. And yet the more I got to know him, the more I started to sense that something about him was a little off. It was almost as though he had a couple of different personalities all competing for space inside his head. He'd be a humble man one day and an underhanded businessman the next — though I didn't find that part out until much later. But hey, I had once gone to Israel dressed up like Jesus with a beard and a flowing white robe. And another time I went to hang out with a bunch of cannibalistic headhunters in India, so who was I to judge?
Right about the time I was looking to make a fresh start with Jennea, Edgar and I figured the best option was for me to move down to Phoenix and join him and a few other musicians who were forming a community focused on music. Even though there was something a little off about this dude, I loved the thought of being able to work on my music during the day, while still being home for Jennea in the evenings and on weekends. It was the best of both worlds.
I had started writing songs for my first solo record immediately after I left KoRn, but once I connected with Edgar and his friends down in Phoenix, my writing really amped up.
Figuring out my style of music and lyrics came relatively easy. I knew I wanted to do music that sounded similar to KoRn, but I wanted it to be more spiritual and uplifting in nature. I wanted that same heavy, dirty- edge sound of the guitars, but I also wanted that aggression to go somewhere — for the songs to go to a melodic place that could lift a soul to a reality of peaceful release. As for the lyrics, I just wanted them to be real. Real about my life. My addictions. My pain. My depression. And most of all, real about the freedom in Christ from all those heavy weights that I had carried around with me for so many years.
There were three projects all going on around the same time at Edgar's studio: mine and two others. And Edgar was running point on all of them. There was also an assistant who helped with reception, two engineers named Fernando and Rodrigo, a handful of editors, and a few other artists like me who had followed Edgar to Phoenix. Together, we made up a unique little musical community, and most of us were Christian. The funny thing is, we all used to joke around and say we were like a little cult, with Edgar being our leader. So I still like to refer to our little community as "the cult" for my own amusement.
Edgar did a great job of convincing everyone that he was gonna lead us all into great success with all our different projects. He would meet with different people and excitedly convince them that he felt God was leading him to manage their projects, whether it was music, movies, food stores, or whatever else came across his path. And he really believed he was called to do it. The other musicians and I believed it, too, and from the day we first met, I would have followed Edgar anywhere. In fact, I did.
Case in point: One day some people from Croatia came by one of Edgar's film- editing studios to talk about forming a possible partnership. They had massive movie studios in Croatia that had suffered through some kind of creative or financial drought and were looking for American partners with connections to Hollywood to help breathe life into the entertainment business in their country again. How they stumbled upon Edgar, I have no idea, but once he worked his charm, they were hooked. And so was I. Before any of us knew what happened, Edgar had arranged for the two of us to fly out to Croatia to see their studios and finalize the deal.
On the one hand I was stoked. As part of the deal, Edgar had arranged to use their studios to do my first professional photo shoot since leaving KoRn. That meant we'd be able to send new music and photos to record labels in hopes of inking a deal for my first solo album. It also meant I'd be away from home for about a week.
Enter the guilt.
Excerpted from With My Eyes Wide Open by Brian Welch. Copyright © 2016 Brian Welch. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
Note to Readers xv
1 The Suite Life and "the Cult" 5
2 High School Musical, Hannah Montana, and Meltdowns 21
3 The Kiss of Failure, the Light of Hope 35
4 Heaven and Hell 59
5 It's a Dog-Eat-Dog World 77
6 Chapter 11 101
7 Just Like Old Times 119
8 Back Where I Belong 131
9 Going Nuclear 151
10 What Goes Down, Must Come Up 175
A Note from Jennea 205
A Note from Brian 207
About the Author 213