HeAd’s KoRner: Brian ‘Head’ Welch Remembers Deftones Bassist Chi Cheng
Brian ‘Head’ Welch, guitarist for Korn and frontman of Love and Death, is a guest columnist for Loudwire. In his latest ‘HeAd’s KoRner’ column, Welch honors late Deftones bassist Chi Cheng, who passed away on Saturday, April 13, after spending four-plus years in a coma or semi-concious state following a 2008 car accident. Read Head’s touching account in which he remembers Chi and recalls a 2009 visit to the hospital to see his ailing friend:
One Love for Chi
My heart goes out to the close family and friends of Chi from Deftones. Even though his suffering has ended and he’s now in a better place, it is still completely devastating — especially for Chi’s family & friends.
Sonny Sandoval (who sings for the band P.O.D.) and I flew to visit Chi in 2009, a few months after his accident. I’d like to share my memories of that visit with you guys in this month’s ‘Head’s KoRner’ to honor Chi. Pray and keep on praying for strength to be given to Chi’s family and friends for the rest of 2013 please.
KoRn and Deftones met and became good friends back in 1993-94. We started out by playing together in each other’s hometowns. After both bands finally inked our record deals, we hooked up a few times throughout the years to tour together again. Chi and I were a lot alike. We didn’t fall into the whole “rock star” frame of mind, at all. We loved our beer and we loved our girls back home. We didn’t mess around with the hoochies on the road; we were the “good boys.” And we treated our fans with the respect they deserved. Chi just might be the nicest person I’ve ever met on the planet, too. Seriously. When I’d talk to him, it sometimes felt like he was a regular nice guy trapped in a rock star’s body. But then when he’d hit the stage, the nice guy left and all you saw was a rockin’ mad man!
Even though I hadn’t seen Chi in many years, I knew I had to do something to support him after I heard about his accident. When Sonny asked me to go with him to visit Chi, I enthusiastically agreed. I flew from Arizona and Sonny flew from Southern California. We met up in Northern California, where Chi was staying at a hospital. My flight was very early in the morning, and I’d only slept about three hours the night before, so I was way tired by the time my plane landed. I pretty much woke right up when I saw the rental car that was given to me though: a brand new 2010 Camaro! That thing was sick! I didn’t even mean to rent it, but there it was waiting for Sonny and I. At first, driving that car was fun, but knowing that we were going to visit Chi, who almost died in the car accident he was in, brought me back to the hard reality we were going to face; our old friend was in critical condition, and it sucked bad.
We arrived at Chi’s mom’s home, which was near the hospital, and we received a great welcome. His mom, Jeanne, greeted us at the door while his sister, Mae, was cooking us breakfast. Their two dogs took a liking to us right away. They jumped all over us so much that Jeanne had to put them in a cage. The breakfast was awesome and we just hung out for a while and talked before we went to visit Chi.
After we arrived at the hospital and I saw Chi for the first time, my heart felt like it had shattered. I was hoping for a miracle, but just seeing the state he was in was incredibly hard. It had been a while since Chi and I had hung out. The last time we connected was in 2004 at a radio festival KoRn was playing at Madison Square Garden in New York City. I was only an old friend of Chi, but I still felt so crushed and hopeless. I couldn’t imagine what his family had been going through.
As Jeanne and Mae talked to Chi and tried to get him to open his eyes, I started pacing around the room. I was so upset and emotional that instead of crying, I got mad. I couldn’t understand how someone so nice and loved could be going through something like that. I saw a tattoo of Jesus Christ on Chi’s hand, and at that moment I thought about how Jesus must’ve had a strong connection with him. Sonny and I started talking to Chi, but all we could do was hope that he heard us. Chi was incoherent because of his semi-conscious state and all the pain medication he was on. Still, we just kept talking to him, telling him we loved him and that we wanted him to wake up and come back to his family.
We hung with Chi at the hospital most of the day and then went out to dinner with Jeanne and her granddaughter. During dinner, I realized where Chi got his good nature from because Jeanne is such a sweetheart. We hung out at the restaurant for a while and then went back to the hospital to say goodbye to Chi. Man, I don’t know if I’ll ever hear a more heartfelt prayer than the one Sonny prayed for Chi before we left. We both just laid and cried on Chi’s chest as Sonny softly prayed and begged God to bring our brother back.
It didn’t turn out the way we had hoped, but I trust 100 percent Chi has entered into a real and tangible place that has no more tears and no more pain or suffering. I truly believe he has entered the realm of Divine love where there is no such thing as death and decay, and we will be with him again one day.
R.I.P. our brother Chi,
Brian ‘Head’ Welch is a founding member of the multiplatinum band Korn and frontman of Love and Death. He is the New York Times best-selling author of the book ‘Save Me From Myself.’ Brian has won multiple Grammys and MTV Music Awards and is currently touring with both Korn and Love and Death, as well as traveling the country speaking. Follow Brian ‘Head’ Welch’s schedule at www.loveanddeathmusic.com and pick up Love and Death’s debut album, ‘Between Here & Lost,’ at iTunes.