Korn's Wes Geer Discusses Upcoming All-Star Recovery Concert

By Paul Fuhr 09/05/17

"We want people to come out and say, 'I’m in recovery and I didn’t think I could feel that good again, but I just had an amazing time.’"

Rock 2 Recovery's artists poster, featuring the Kings of Chaos which includes band members from Guns n Roses, Billy Idol.
Rock to Recovery is a non-profit program that uses music as therapy to help people in recovery from addiction. Image via YouTube

All rock songs have a familiar architecture to them: intro, verse, chorus, bridge, verse, bridge, outro. This pattern is usually an undeniable hook. There’s comfort and complexity in its simplicity. But any great rock song is a little messy, rough around the edges and doesn’t always go according to plan. The very same could be said about recovery. There’s a definite path and direction, but it’s never perfect. There’s some scribbling in the margins, coloring outside the lines. That’s where all the character is found. A great rock song sounds effortless, but just like recovery, it’s hard-fought and oftentimes painful.

Wes Geer knows this all too well. In fact, the former Korn guitarist doesn’t simply understand the similarities between music and addiction recovery—he’s dedicated his entire life to that connection. Over the last five years, Geer has spearheaded Rock to Recovery, an innovative music therapy non-profit that helps people struggling with addiction express themselves through songwriting. In each treatment-center session, groups of recovering people come together to compose, start to finish, an entire song.

Geer’s commitment to creative hope and healing doesn’t stop there, though. On September 16, he’s helping to carry that same message to a much larger audience—literally. The Rock to Recovery 2 benefit concert, to be held at Los Angeles’ Fonda Theater, will celebrate sobriety as much as it brings together an eclectic lineup of bands including the Kings of Chaos, an all-star band that features members of Guns N’ Roses and Stone Temple Pilots. The event will also honor Slipknot and Stone Sour singer Corey Taylor (whom Geer describes as “a super-neat guy with an amazing voice and a big heart”) and guitarist Wayne Kramer of the pre-punk, anti-establishment MC5, which Geer believes paved the way for bands like The Ramones and the New York Dolls.

“There’s a big lie that your head tells you when you’re in recovery, whether you’re a wounded vet or suffering from depression, anxiety, or an eating disorder,” Geer said. “You feel hopeless and feel like life is never going to be fun again. We want people to come out and say, ‘I’m in recovery and I didn’t think I could feel that good again, but I just had an amazing time.’”

And according to Geer, the second concert has big expectations to meet, given the success of the 2016 show: “I’ve played some amazing shows, but my phone never blew up like it did after last year’s event,” he said. “I knew we’d done something really good, but people were tripping out to the point where I couldn’t believe how much they were going on and on about it.” (The inaugural show honored Social Distortion frontman Mike Ness and also featured a performance from Linkin Park’s Chester Bennington, who passed away in July.)

“That show was ours. It belonged to the recovery community,” Geer noted. “And it wasn’t some lesser event. It wasn’t like you could have one show for ‘normal people’ and another show for ‘our people,’ where we got some cool barbecue and some garage band. It was as good and as rad and as special as any show. As a matter of fact, it was very exclusive with all the performances that happened and the intimate setting.” Overall, he feels the first Rock to Recovery concert sent a “very loud emotional message” to the people in recovery as much as it did to the people who aren’t. “It was as high-level and as A-list as a show could be.”

This year, Geer is pushing himself even further to deliver a memorable show, claiming that he’d felt his way to success with the first one, renting the venue with his own money and enlisting some of his friends to help. “It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I was working these 16-hour days and I had a girlfriend at the time who was saying ‘Let’s go to dinner’ and I was like ‘I literally can’t,'” he laughed. He described the months-long road to the event as one fraught with a million details—both large and small (logo design approvals, sidewalk permits for red carpets, securing sponsors). With one event behind him and an event team on board for Rock to Recovery 2, Geer is heading toward the event with equal parts confidence and excitement.

“Look,” he admitted, “I’m a musician, so I want it sold out. That’s a milestone. I want it to be such a success that all the tickets are gone.” And yet, one of Geer’s most endearing qualities is how genuine he is about the event’s meaning: “If it can anywhere touch the magic and response from last year, which came from a place of hope and the shared joy of music, then we’ll be very happy.”

Geer knows that the benefit concert will have an impact that can be, at once, unknown and far-reaching, which he likens to landing a record deal: “When you actually get it, you can’t believe it. You don’t realize all the people you could be touching and helping, so when you find out, you can’t believe it. It’s mind-blowing. But it’s the difference between intellectually comprehending something and spiritually experiencing it.”

As Geer prepares to pack out the Fonda Theater and puts the finishing touches on the show, he knows the music and the message will carry on long after. In just a few months, Rock to Recovery will celebrate the fifth anniversary of its inception (“It’s 12/12/12”)—a milestone that’s every bit as significant as selling out a venue, if not more so. And Geer is as proud of his team as he is comfortable on the stage. “There’s an iPhone thread of all 11 of us who work together and we’re texting all day. The stories and the love that we share on there, with all these musicians who are so stoked to do this job—it’s just humbling, gratifying and inspiring,” he said. “I feel like the luckiest guy in the world.”

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Paul Fuhr lives in Columbus, Ohio with his family and two cats, Vesper and Dr. No. He's written for AfterParty MagazineThe Literary Review and The Live Oak Review, among others. He's also the host of "Drop the Needle," a podcast about music and addiction recovery. More at paulfuhr.com. You can also find Paul on Linkedin and Twitter.