WILMORE — Brian "Head" Welch rolled into the press and fan tent at the Ichthus Festival during late June to take cover from a broiling sun and constant dusty breeze.
Life used to be more luxurious than this, he admitted, while finding a quiet corner to chat.
"I was always the headliner in Korn," Welch says, referring to the mainstream hard-core metal band he co-founded in 1993 and then famously left in 2005 after converting to Christianity. "So, I went from riding in a tour bus to riding in a van. That rich, spoiled guy was in me that needed to get cut out, brought out by the trials of life."
He compares himself to the Israelites grumbling in the wilderness after being freed from Pharaoh in Egypt.
"I said, 'God, change me,'" Welch says, "and he changes you by fire, he changes you by burning, by trials. He says, 'I'm changing you right now. You're walking through a miserable season because I'm changing you.'
"We've got to be humbled. It's good to walk through hard things because it's not about us."
Welch thinks he is in a better place now and has graduated from the trials that followed the breakup with his former band, a switch that seemed remarkable to many considering that Korn seemed to epitomize the sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll lifestyle.
While there were immediate rumors and recordings indicating Welch was going to pursue a solo career in the Christian market, Welch says that was not an immediate decision.
Recalling that time, Welch says he thought, "I'll walk away and do whatever, 'cause I ain't married to nothing but the Lord. If he wants me to do music, I'll do music. If he wants me to do speaking, I'll do that."
He looked at working with troubled people, particular those addicted to drugs, through churches, he said. But music was his calling, and in 2008 he released his debut album, Save Me From Myself, also the title of his 2007 autobiography.
This summer, he is touring behind a new EP and new band name, Chemicals by Love and Death.
In the Christian market, Welch acknowledges there has been skepticism, from his tattooed and dreadlocked appearance to his music style, which has a hard time gaining acceptance in some Christian circles, to his continued relationship with his old band.
From the Deep End stage at the Ichthus Festival, Welch told fans at a late night performance that he had just seen his former bandmates, and that everything was good.
That some people would be judgmental about that "is why the world hates Christians," Welch said. He then screamed, "Religion's gotta die!"
Back at the fan tent, Welch has a calmer assessment.
"All you have to do is look at Jesus, who hung out with prostitutes, who hung out with the worst of the worst," says Welch, whose tear tattoos are hard to ignore when making eye contact with him.
"If you're calling that music bad, if you're saying those people are going to hell, you've got to take a look at yourself because Jesus hung out with those people, and he went for them. And the Pharisees got mad at him.
"If they don't like the music, that's fine, because we've all got our tastes. But pray for us because we're going for the lost. Jesus loves my heart, even though my body's filled with tattoos. He loves my heart, just like he loves the conservative church, and that's so awesome. And I love them, too, and I don't want them to be judging, because they'll get in trouble with Papa, you know — do not judge or you'll get judged."
Backstage, Welch's persona belies his harsh appearance. Posing for photos with fans, he puts his arms around them and says, "Come on in here, family." And after that picture, he gamely poses in a lawn chair for a wire service photographer.
It might not be the luxurious world of mainstream arena headliners, but Welch says he is enjoying the summer festival circuit, which started for him at Ichthus on June 21.
"It's a rigorous schedule," he says. "Usually there's very little sleep and a lot of heat. But you know, we get to see a lot of the bands that we like, so it's a lot of fun."