As the 2nd Annual Rock To Recovery Concert & Fundraiser approaches on September 16, 2017, it could not happen at a more profound time. Unfortunately, through the years, we have lost many iconic musical artists to drugs, alcohol and suicide. Most recently, Chris Cornell and Chester Bennington, who were influential to so many people not only for their music but for the way they connected with their fans. There are also those who conquered their demons and are still with us today, with a sober and positive outlook on life.
Wes Geer, who is the founder of Rock To Recovery, ex-guitarist for the band Korn and Hed PE, took some time to share his thoughts about the cause, his own sobriety and the ups and downs of his long career. “The Rock To Recovery program was the effort to bring the feeling of lifting elements of playing music to non musicians. And once we had it going for a few years with a great number a great deal of success working with many treatment programs like Wounded Warriors we decided we wanted to have a fundraiser,” says Geer. “Rock Recovery has a non-profit segment of the business where we had been self funded so we could take our music programs to State funded treatment programs, indigent Rehab centers, Wounded Warriors or any other place that could not afford the program. We wanted to be able to grow that portion of our business. So the idea was to do what every non-profit organization does and hold an event and we booked The Fonda Theater with my friend Billy Morrison who plays for Billy Idol and helped me put the first band together. Mark McGrath was a surprise guest last year as were Chester Bennington and Fred Durst. We had no idea how it was all going to turn out but the Universe really Blessed us.”
Rock To Recovery 2, is scheduled for September 16, 2017, at The Fonda Theatre and features another incredible line-up with Matt Sorum (Guns n Roses, The Cult, Velvet Revolver), Franky Perez (Apocalyptica, Scars On Broadway), Steve Stevens (Billy Idol), Robert Deleo (Stone Temple Pilots) and we will be honoring Corey Taylor (Slipknot, Stone Sour) and Wayne Kramer (MCS). “Franky is an amazing singer and he is also on our advisory board. He was really the key for us this year in helping with the line-up and he is an incredible singer. He may not be as famous as some of the others but his talent seems effortless. The the first year, there’s always a bit of a tentative nature because people don’t understand that these shows have a lot to do with all the people you don’t hear about behind the scenes. So the first year you know it’s hard to really get everybody to buy in they’re going to be a little bit cautious. The event was a huge success so people were eager to jump on board and support us this time around” Geer concludes.
Last year, Rock To Recovery honored singer Mike Ness (Social Distortion) and the response was unbelievable because had he not made drastic changes to his life, Social Distortion would have failed and at one point Ness had given a testimonial that the band was only successful because he decided to get clean. So, this year, Geer wanted to achieve the same goal with whom they chose to honor and it also depends on availability. For Geer, Corey Taylor was his first choice for this year because we wanted someone who fit in with what they are trying to represent along with the connection and brotherhood they share after Slipknot toured with Geer’s old band Hed PE and having gone through the same thing.
One thing that everyone can expect is that there will also be a tribute to the recent losses in the music industry. “A lot of people have been asking me about what we will be doing to pay respect to Chester Bennington,” Geer stated. “We haven’t completely decided what we are going to do yet because we want to give everyone time to process it. Especially, those of us who were close to him. We feel differently now than we felt when it first happened so it depends on what we feel and no matter what we do it will be heartfelt, but, for now, let’s just keep it as a surprise.”
“When you give something a name, it really helps to unite under that cause. We aren’t the ones who created the music to help people but we did create a new way of doing it. We wanted to brand if and really push to help get the music into more treatment programs so we can continue to help people to find other ways to cope,” Geer tells us. “Our dream is to help more hurting people with the uplifting and powerful force of music. We have become part of the treatment curriculum in over 80 treatment programs and doing 450 sessions a month. We touch on music that if we weren’t there it would happen. The Rock To Recovery events are to support the recovery community and a lot of people come who are newly sober or battling depression or mental health can and it’s a safe environment for them. So a lot of people get to see that. We see people go from being physically ill and crying to smiling and the pain is gone because music is totally transformative. We say that music is the medicine and people should be prescribed more music and less drugs.”
Being that Geer had faced his own journey from drugs and alcohol to sobriety, he knows what people are going through and implicitly understands the pain and struggle they face. He knows firsthand how addiction can affect someone and how music helped him. “My sobriety happened in a similar way to how a lot of things happen. When you grow up your perspective changes. I used to use you know–drugs and alcohol to the point of almost killing myself” Geer confesses. “The music at the time was very dark and moody and angry and I was processing a lot of very intense emotions with what I was doing so when I got sober music took on a new meaning although it was doing the same thing and processing emotions. But it just seemed to be such a more beautiful way because I started learning on my own but I could do it in a group setting with other people. I started getting turned on to the power of music as it affects people more. It’s hard to explain but it changes them. When you’re 20 years old and you just want people to buy these shirts and come to your concert and shop around at the show, it’s a little different from walking in with a guitar and write a song with some people who are really hurting and it transforms you and you gain a deeper understanding of the role music can play in life.”
In 1994, Geer founded Huntington Beach based band Hed PE, along with singer Jared Gomez and left the band in 2004. “You hear all the early albums with the high keyboard sounds and that’s my guitar. When I left though of course rumors started and there has been different speculations as to who really started the band. I left because it was a very dysfunctional band but we functioned just enough to make music” Geer discloses. “I am very proud of the great successes we had but we were young. There was a lot of drugs involved and a lot of immature behavior with guys that did have a healthy way to process conflict and issues and there were some issues and drama that wasn’t able to be smoothed out. It became not only a lifestyle but I reached the point where I felt like I was really killing myself out there. I kept asking God what am I supposed to do? And if I felt like I got the answer when somebody got really aggressive and that was when I knew it was time to leave. So it was tough because that was my identity.”
“I worked my whole life always thinking I was going to be a part of the band.” Geer continues, “and that was my baby. I produced the records and wrote the music. It felt like a part of me was ripped away you know and I didn’t realize it so that sent me into like a really depressed phase. I didn’t anticipate. And so when I had my drinking kind of under control I was all depressed. I went back to the drugs and I just didn’t know how to deal with it and it got really bad that that’s how I ended up in rehab. Now, I do what I love with people I love and I’m not tied to the drama anymore. So it’s a good learning experience that sometimes stuff happens in life that you think sucks and will never be good. But looking back I wouldn’t change it for the world. I’m glad I’m not in that situation anymore. Don’t miss it one bit!”
After Geer completed his rehab, he joined the band Korn, replacing Brian “Head” Welch for a short time. Describing the difference between being in Hed PE as opposed to Korn; is that Korn have their act together. It was a totally different experience according to Geer. “I was close to 40 years old and having the urge to play music again. I started praying and meditating and asking the universe for guidance. I started doing these meditations for manifestations. And I asked the universe to get me back into music and within days of that meditation and making that decision I got a call from Korn asking me to come play with them. My recovery taught me about humility and that I shouldn’t go in there with a big ego and I was there to play songs with the guys with Korn and try to help carry the musical vision and it wasn’t about me. So it’s very different. I’m really proud of the work I did. Do I wish that I was still part of that band? Absolutely, but I am just eternally grateful for that gig because without it my life wouldn’t be what it is today. Yeah. It was a big big deal because without that gig when I went to start pitching my idea of Rock For Recovery, I don’t think people would have given me the chance. The fact is when you play with a band like Korn or if you have any level of success that’s substantial–people respect you and they listen to you more because coming out of Hed PE there wasn’t any level of respect for me.”
As time goes on, Geer will persevere using his own experiences as both a recovering addict and a musician. He is living proof that music saves lives as well as being around the right people and being willing to accept change. This can be the difference between life, death and recovery. Putting his heart into helping others through Rock Recovery and expanding their programs to more and more facilities will help to bring music to those who cannot afford instruments. Rock Recovery is the first step to the evolution of healing, saving the world through music and hopefully, people will realize they have options for support.
Please visit the website for more information, tickets and donations.