Danielle C. Belton of The Bakersfield Californian has issued the following report:
Brian "Head" Welch, founding guitarist of the Bakersfield-based metal act KORN for 13 years, is leaving the platinum-selling group for God.
"KORN has parted ways with guitarist Brian "Head" Welch, who has chosen Jesus Christ as his savior, and will be dedicating his musical pursuits to that end," reads a statement posted Tuesday on the band's Web site.
Welch told The Californian Tuesday that his decision to leave KORN, a band that has sold millions of records, may be seen as surprising to many.
"My old friend called today and said he was called up by another friend of mine who said, 'Who brainwashed Brian?'" the rocker laughed. "Man, you guys don't even know.
"A lot of people think I'm crazy. I don't care."
Welch said he quit the band the first week of January, although he didn't go public with the decision until a radio interview Sunday.
A representative from The Firm, the band's managing agency, said remaining band members were not available for comment.
In the band's statement, Welch's former bandmates say, "KORN respects Brian's wishes and hopes he finds the happiness he's searching for." The band is currently working on its eighth album, which is set for a September release, according to the statement.
Welch said he will go into more detail about his reasons for leaving the band during Valley Bible Fellowship's three Sunday services this weekend.
"He just wanted to share a little bit about what's going on in his life and we said OK," said Josh Vietti, office administrator for Valley Bible Fellowship on East Brundage Lane.
Vietti said Welch, who owns a home in Rosedale, had started attending the church recently.
Welch had been with KORN since 1992 when it was Bakersfield metal act LAPD, featuring Welch, guitarist James "Munky" Shaffer, bassist Reggie "Fieldy" Arvizu and drummer David Silveria. A year later, lead singer Jonathan Davis joined the band, which took the name KORN.
The band went on to sell more than 2 million copies of its 1994 self-titled debut.
Welch said he became more and more disenchanted with the image he saw of himself in KORN's music and videos, versus how he actually felt about himself.
The band has a dark, morbid image and Welch noted that on KORN's Web site it says "kill, die, murder," and added, "I don't kill, die or murder anyone."
"Those guys in the band, they're not bad guys. They're just a bunch of kids getting marketed how these guys in the big corporate firms want to do," Welch said. "It makes us look like bad people, but we're really just a bunch of kids who never had a chance to grow up.
"You're shut in a (tour) bus with your best friends with as much beer as you can handle. Drug dealers come to the show. I'm growing up right now. I didn't have a chance to (before) with all the free beer I got."
And as a father of a 6-year-old daughter, Welch said he knew he needed to set a better example.
"I just grew up a little bit," he said. "I've got a daughter. I've got to think of my kid. I just want to do the right thing."
To keep him on, Welch said management offered to try to accommodate his daughter coming with him on tour, but he wasn't interested.
"What parents would want their kids to go on a rock 'n' roll tour, a heavy metal tour?"
Welch was also unhappy with the music video for the band's recent hit, a remake of funk band CAMEO's 1985 hit "Word Up", where the band members' faces are superimposed over the faces of dogs and go to a strip club.
Welch said the video was "so dumb that it's not even funny" and added it was "horrible, horrible. It's just not me."
Welch said he debated leaving the band over the past year-and-a-half and that he has upset a lot of people with his decision.
The guitarist said he further strained his relationship with management when he announced his departure on KRAB radio in Bakersfield on Sunday.
Welch said he went on air to set the record straight after so many rumors had been floating about.
"I made some big mistakes. I apologize to them. But whatever happens happens," Welch said.
Welch added that he isn't trying to hurt the band, nor did he think his departure would.
"They're KORN," he said, pointing out how well-established the group is musically.
Downtown Records owner Jake Chavez, who went to East Bakersfield High School with Welch, said his friend called him Saturday and told him that he "quit his job."
"'Wow, that's heavy.' That's all I said," Chavez said. "I was surprised, but maybe I could see it coming with him. If I saw anyone leaving first it would be Brian. I'm surprised but I'd like to see him do what he wants to do. I'd love to see him flourish."
Drummer Kris Kohls of Bakersfield's other famous hard rock act, ADEMA, has known Welch for 15 years. Kohls said he, too, was shocked when he learned Welch was leaving KORN.
"I'm kind of curious to see who they're going to get (to replace him) or what they're going to do from here," Kohls said.
Local Christian musician Mike Llewellyn, 24, of the band JOHNNY COME LATELY, said he hoped that KORN fans would continue to support Welch.
"I think he made a personal decision based on whatever event in his life (prompted it)," Llewellyn said. "And if that reflects on his music, I hope his fans won't shut him down for that."