Just as everyone knows the rock star life can offer riches and pampering, we're all acquainted with the story of the fall that often follows the whirlwind of excess and indulgence.
Korn guitarist Brian “Head” Welch learned that lesson after his addiction to alcohol and drugs, particularly meth amphetamines, resulted in his departure from the multi-platinum, Grammy-winning metal band in 2005. Battling his demons as well as needing to stay sober as a young single father, Welch found faith and strength first in his conversion to Christianity, and then by strongly embracing his responsibility to his daughter Jennea, who struggled with depression, anger, and suicidal impulses during her formative years.
The new documentary Loud Krazy Love, which premieres on Showtime Friday (Dec. 14) at 10 p.m. ET, chronicles the odyssey of father and daughter as they fiercely battle to maintain their bond even as their lives diverge at times. Over the course of the film, Brian’s life takes many bad turns as he tackles addiction, business failures and a struggling solo career. Jennea, meanwhile, coped with isolation from her peers and a developing penchant for self-harm that eventually lead her to a Christian boarding school called Awakening Youth Academy in Indiana.
“Is it hard to watch at some points? Was it emotionally too heavy?” inquires Brian of the film when we sit down to chat in the packed lounge of the Marriott Marquis in Times Square. He seems sincerely concerned that the film touches people in the right way.
Co-directors Trey Hill and Scott Mayo have noted that Christian storytelling generally climaxes with the salvation moment. Part rock doc, part faith testimonial, part family drama, their Loud Krazy Love film operates differently. Brian reaches his conversion about a third of the way into the film’s trajectory, and then when life does not go the way he expects he struggles with his faith and purpose in life. Ultimately, repairing his relationship with his daughter and returning to music under different terms become important cornerstones of the narrative.
“I love how it gets there,” says the guitarist who – sporting a slim figure, black guy liner, and long dreadlocks snaking down his torso, his extensive tattoos hidden beneath winter clothing – still exudes a rock star vibe at age 48. “There's a quick recap of that [my life] with footage, and then it goes on to, ‘What now? How do you live it out?’ Life is not perfect.”
The film affirms that sentiment. Although Brian enjoyed the out of control circus playing and touring in a massively successful metal band that sold millions of albums and played arenas and festivals worldwide, he descended into a haze of addiction. Then he became a father at age 28 and had to take over the parental reins when his wife Rebekah, who was struggling with her own issues, departed their marriage early on. His new parental role scared him at the beginning, and once he was left on his own, he quickly became aware that having to shepherd Jennea through life was going to require stronger personal discipline and greater moral fortitude. That concept was cemented when he heard his then five-year-old daughter singing the lyrics to “A.D.I.D.A.S.” (which stands for All Day I Dream About Sex), oblivious to their salacious meaning. Not to mention her bearing witness to some rock star decadence, although evidently she was unaware of his drug use when she was a child. After quitting Korn in 2005, Brian went through a religious conversion and struggled through detox, anger, and trying to be a good (and full time) parent, which did not go smoothly.
A fair amount of footage featuring Brian partying and touring in his late twenties and Jennea on the road with a variety of characters surrounding her in her single digit years surfaces in Loud Krazy Love, taking the audience (and them) back to a very different time.
“There were some really hard moments, honestly,” confesses Jennea, who has joined her father on the press tour and carries herself as a very down to earth individual and views her father’s occupation as just that. Throughout the course of the documentary, she opens up about having a father who was out on the road a lot and a troubled mother who left when she was young. “When we were filming and watching the film, there was a lot of emotional healing, counseling therapy. A lot of it was hard, and me and my mentor Tiffany had to sit down and talk through a lot of things. But overall it was good. It was fun.”
“We had to stop it and cry,” adds Brian. “It brought up a lot of stuff. She agreed to it, but watching it back…”
“It was really good for both of us, I think,” she adds.
“It was healing for her to watch,” concludes Brian. “It’s weird because some aspects of my personality are still here. I'm just not destructive anymore. And then [with] other aspects, I was like, Wow, that's a different guy. All the stuff that had to die and fall away did, and the best version of me is here now.”
The father and daughter are clearly very comfortable with each other, trading jokes and eagerly discussing their film.
The documentary project initially commenced after Brian left Korn and he sought to document changes in his life. Due to various reasons the project was shelved, and filming began anew in 2013 through the non-profit, faith-based multimedia company I Am Second. It was initially meant to chronicle, ironically enough, the rocker's return to Korn, but as interviews and footage accumulated, the more resonant father-daughter story emerged. Production continued at different points for another three years, followed by editing and refinements. Between original interviews, concert clips, home video footage from the past, and acquired television and music video footage, the producers amassed 20 terabytes of material to sift through.
“Then you're running a therapeutic program with her in the midst of all of it and all those ages from 15 to 20,” says Tiffany Claywell, Jennea’s mentor at Awakening Youth in Lafayette, Indiana, for which she is director and co-founder. “It's an authentic story. It's not fake and just on that screen that they really have this relationship. They really made it through that. It's real.”
The film's ultimate storyline was cemented when the directors captured footage at Jennea’s graduation from Awakening Youth. The original cut of the film was two hours and fifteen minutes long, but once the father-daughter relationship became the centerpiece, cuts needed to be made, including concert clips and longer band member interviews. “There's a lot of footage of them playing that's gold that we had to let go in the final version,” says producer John Humphrey, who is also VP for I Am Second.
Jennea’s mother Rebekah appears through footage in the film, but her own struggles and her estranged relationship with her young daughter are kept to a minimum as she was not interviewed. “I tried to get her involved, and schedules didn't line up,” says Brian. “It shows us both, all the mistakes we made. It shows her [Jennea] reconnecting with her [mother] at 6 or 7, and it shows some of the counseling sessions that are about her mom. I think it ended in a way where they're still working on it. But she has not seen it yet.”
Claywell, who appears in the film, sits quietly along the sidelines of the interview. But when asked about working with Brian on his family issues, she eagerly opens up. “He was compliant,” she says. “He did every single thing that we wanted, everything that we asked. He was really in it the whole way as a single parent, both mom and dad. It's awesome.”
“I’m like, anything you want, what should I do?” recalls Brian, who brought Jennea to Awakening Youth after he found evidence of cutting on her arms around the time he rejoined Korn in late 2012. “I just want her to be healthy and happy.” He was even willing to leave Korn again if the situation would negatively impact his relationship with Jennea, who was supportive of his return to the band if it would be good for him. (For the record, she is a big fan of Korn's music. Claywell adds that whenever Jennea is on tour with the band she is still very enthusiastic at each concert.)
In describing the growth process that he and his daughter experienced throughout the course of their lives, Brian says, “We were changing together. From when she was six, I had to step up and be like a normal person. I had to learn how to do my bills at 34. They were being paid for by management [before]. I had to learn online banking and all this stuff, so that all came late. As far as her, she went through different stages in life.”
Throughout it all, “it's solidly been me and him,” Jennea chimes in.
When asked why the two of them have managed to strengthen their bonds, overcome their differences, and maintain a positive relationship when others might have failed, Brian replies, “I think that a lot of that has to do with my family. There's drama in every family, but everybody works everything out. Everyone humbles themselves. Like all my relatives and everything. There's been a little bit of drama there. But everyone loves each other and humbles themselves and knows that we're all imperfect people. You just work at it. I think my parents, even though they had a lot of issues raising us [me and my brother], taught us what good family is all about.” (Brian’s brother does not appear in the film.)
What gives Loud Krazy Love a greater air of authenticity is the integration of band member interviews and their candidness about their own wild behavior. Guitarist James “Munky” Shaffer even notes that their collective situation spiraled downward at one point from “Do you remember that show?” to “Do you remember that tour?” Frontman Jonathan Davis is particularly blunt about his feelings toward religion. While he is happy that religion has helped Brian come to terms with his issues, the singer criticizes what he views as the assimilation tactics of Christian recruiters.
“I love that,” declares Brian. “He just was honest, whether it offended me or the guys doing the movie. We just wanted him to share his feelings on everything. When he talked about me going back and all these things that I was saying, he's like, ‘Man, that's not God telling you, that's your head telling you.’ I think it's good because that's a lot of what people think, and it was good to have his opinion. And you know what? Family can have different beliefs and different things going on. And what do you do? Do you leave your family because they believe something different? No, you stick it out and you stick together and you work out life.”
Loud Krazy Love actually spends little time on Brian’s own childhood, discussing his love for music and his parents’ inevitable confusion over his heavy musical leanings, but nothing about him being bullied, which he has discussed in the past. The guitarist does not mind that a basic portrait of his youth is presented, including being raised by non-religious parents who come off as very normal.
Other aspects of his and Korn’s story did not get squeezed into the film’s framework. As she was not able to be interviewed, Rebekah’s story is mentioned without going in-depth into her past or her marriage with Brian. The story of how one unscrupulous individual fleeced the musician out of hundreds of thousands of dollars is only quickly referenced. The religious conversion of his bandmate, Korn bassist Fieldy, is not mentioned. The two books that Brian wrote about his own journey are also not discussed. However, these gaps do not make the film less enjoyable, although they do make you wonder what went on. It is interesting to note that Brian himself does not come off as preachy in terms of religion. He seems more concerned about people gaining insights through the journey he and Jennea have taken to healing their relationship and working on themselves as people.
Humphrey reports that strong fan interest inspired many of them to drive from four or five states away to attend film festival screenings. Regardless of their religious affiliation, he says, fans were moved by the story, and by Brian and Jennea's devotion to overcoming their troubles and sticking together.
“It's an example for parents, it's an example for teenagers, it's an example for people who have hit rock bottom and are looking for a way out,” says Humphrey. “It's the hope that they provide.”
While Brian has been enjoying his return to Korn and been immersed in music again, Jennea obtained her associate’s degree in creative writing this past March and wants to go for her bachelor’s next fall. She is not yet sure what her ultimate path is, but she has some ideas. “I tell her [Tiffany] all the time I love helping people,” remarks Jennea. “I love kids and teenagers and self-help type stuff. But I just want a house and some dogs and some acres and just to have some normalcy.”
She and her father hope that people get some solid takeaways from the film. “Teen depression, suicide, anxiety — those kinds of things are super important,” stresses Jennea. “That's really prevalent. Female empowerment. It has a lot of feminist themes in it, and family connection, especially father-daughter. Family connection, even if it's not blood —I think that's really important.”
Brian wants people to understand that “it's never too late,” he says. “Just stick with it. Things do get better. There's a lot of controversy with religion out there, and the media covers a lot of the horrible things like the Catholic Church and the priests. I would just love for people to keep an open heart about it. Everyone's got their own journey, that's it. And we just got to respect each other's journey, you know?”