I remember when my teenage sons first played Korn’s music for me. I found it really disturbing. It just wasn’t my kind of music. I had grown up playing blues, rock and reggae on my guitar.
I found the music very dark. The discordant riffs were off-putting as were Jonathan Davis growling, sometimes screaming, lyrics. The New York Times said in 1996 that the band was “mad at everyone including themselves”. Their clever nu-metal riffs and Jonathan Davis’ screams conveyed their anger well.
In the late nineties and early two thousand’s Korn were incredibly popular and yet their popularity with young people was puzzling – at least for a time.
To understand Korn you have to understand Jonathan Davies. He grew up in a broken home. Tortured by his stepmother and sexually abused as well.
This Guardian article describes his on stage antics well:
“The tantrum is violent and unexpected. The rock star snaps suddenly and throws himself onto the floor, screaming like a spoiled kid who’s been grounded for a month. He kicks his legs in the air and slams his fist into his frail body, howling louder and louder each time a punch hits home.
And everyone just stands there, mouths open. His fellow band members have seen it a thousand times before, and his fans … well, they pause for a second. And then they go mental. All 10,000 of them.
Jonathan Davis, Korn’s kilted singer, doesn’t hear a single scream, he’s too far entrenched in his own private world of pain to notice the outside world. He’s got a childhood of hatred, an adolescence of abuse, and an adulthood of insecurity and excess to deal with, and he has to go beyond language to articulate the rage and despair he has pent up inside.
Jonathan Davis yells, he kicks, he even breaks into a guttural gibberish that makes him sound like a caveman, and then, finally, he stands. Triumphant. Adored”.
It was when watching the first Korn documentary with my teenage sons that I suddenly realized why Jonathan Davis, Brian Welch and the Korn band were so popular. They were playing the songs of a heartbroken and fatherless generation.
As you can see from the above photo, I had the pleasure of meeting Brian Welsh at the Australian, Sydney debut for ‘Loud Crazy Love’, a documentary about Brian Welch as a musician, but more importantly as a father and a man of faith.
The following words from the Courier Mail website are very illuminating:
“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…
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…
He described first hitting rock bottom when the band was hitting its peak.
Korn performed at Woodstock 1999, a massive 400,000 person festival held to recreate the original event in 1969…
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.
“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.”
I won’t give you the full story of the documentary. Suffice to say it is incredibly hard to watch and yet amazingly inspiring, all at the same time. More information about seeing the full documentary here:
Loud Crazy Love is essentially a story of a broken father’s attempt to bring up his daughter amidst the chaos of life, in a very hard-core band in the middle of Brian’s the sex, drugs and rock and roll existence. In the middle of this time he came to faith, but it was too late to save his daughter’s subsequent heartbreak.
The good news is found in the film and Brian’s daughter’s story is as remarkable as her dads. She too finds healing in her own journey of love and acceptance. It is riveting watching but certainly not for the faint of heart. Watch it if you dare!
The Dads4Kids Board under our new Chairman, Ryan Milne’s leadership, is going through our Vision/Mission, Values Statement. We are still working on it but we have unanimously decided on our Dads4Kids new Values statement.
Our values are encapsulated in five important words in this order. Courage, Compassion, Integrity, Humility and Faith. When it comes to excellence in fathering, we are all of the opinion that you cannot have one without the other. I think the documentary Loud Crazy Love confirms the importance of these five foundational values.
When it comes down to it, we are all broken men and the miracle is that our children survive and often thrive in spite of us. That is why help from our father in heaven is so important to us all. Brian sure needed a lot of help from above and I need it too, especially when I look at all my imperfections.
PS:IF you would like to get the Dads4Kids Newsletter deliverd to your inbox every week. Register Here:
[…] better fathers ourselves, for the sake of our children. ‘Rage against the Machine’ or ‘Korn’ is not the kind of music I will ever get excited about, but it is a genuine sound that was and […]
[…] At last, our conversation landed on a point of commonality. My boys really liked Korn. Fortuitously, I had also met the guitarist from Korn, Brian Welch, when he visited Sydney. (I wrote about this experience and about Welch’s biographical movie Loud Krazy Love here). […]