BAKERSFIELD, California — Kids in Korn T-shirts crowded around a stage for what looked like a hometown concert but was actually quite the opposite: This was not the return of the Family Values Tour, but rather a gathering of families hearing a lesson on values.
Two months after his first visit to the Valley Bible Fellowship, Brian "Head" Welch, who announced his departure from Korn last week (see "Brian 'Head' Welch Explains Why He Left Korn"), held a sort of Christian coming-out party here Sunday in front of an estimated 10,000 churchgoers in three separate services. (Check out photos of Welch at the event.)
"Brian has found out that God's real, and he's stoked," Pastor Ron Vietti told the third service.
Welch — wearing jeans and a T-shirt, with his signature long, curly hair in his face — sat down with Vietti for discussions that found the guitarist displaying a mix of emotions, from stoked to somber.
"I thought I had it all, everything I thought was important when I was a kid — money, fame, pretty women — but I came to a point where I didn't want to live," he told the congregation.
Welch confessed to coming to the church as a last-ditch effort to kick a drug addiction. "When I came here I was hooked on meth," he said, stopping to wipe the tears gathered in his eyes.
"We love you, buddy," Vietti responded, followed by a loud cheer from the audience, a group of all ages that seemed enthralled in everything Welch had to say.
The guitarist, who showed off new tattoos on his neck ("Matthew 11:28") and fist ("JESUS"), took the stage after a 20-minute set of Christian worship songs from a rock band, as well as a 20-minute sermon from Vietti, who talked about his coming to God and surviving leukemia after being told he would die from the disease.
Welch said he now works for the Lord and announced that he would be joining Vietti on a trip to Israel this week, where the pastor plans to "dunk me in the Jordan River" — meaning to baptize the new Christian.
"This is the book of life right here," he said, pulling a Bible from his back pocket. "It's not about religion, it's not about this church, it's not about me. It's about the book of life and everybody needs to be taught this. It's crazy, it's gonna do stuff like this, like change a guy in a rock band."
At the end of their discussion, Vietti asked non-Christians interested in "being saved" to come forward, and at least 40 mostly young people followed suit. In the end, the pastor said more than 200 people came to Christianity throughout the services, including members of the media there to cover Welch's talk.
"More people came up and gave their lives to God than I anticipated, but that's good," Welch said after the services — and after signing hundreds of autographs. "I'm tripping out a little bit, but it's cool. This is the best thing that's ever happened to me."
"Do you guys think I'm crazy?" he added, gesturing to reporters. "Everything on MTV is 50 Cent, Eminem, dis this, dis that. This is something positive."
When he returns from Israel, Welch plans to launch a solo career, with music about his experiences as a new Christian, and then give the money to charities and to Valley Bible Fellowship's plan to build "rock and roll churches" across America.
"Every dime I make is going back to the people in a positive way," he said. "I'm gonna change the world or die trying."
Welch said he tried to convince the other members of Korn to come to the church but had no luck. However, he stills considers them his best friends. "I love them so much," he said. "I'm happy. I just want to do good. I'm not doing nothing wrong. I don't want to hurt the band Korn. I don't want to hurt anyone. My music is about love; it's love without saying it.
"With Korn, I got the money, all kinds of drugs of choice, everything, but this is my life now," he added. "I'm never gonna change. That drug [meth] is known for making people crazy, but I'm in my right mind. This was all His plan. You were supposed to be here talking to me."