“Using Music to Help People Has Been More Dream-like Than Living Out My Rockstar Dreams” With Wesley Geer of Korn
I had the pleasure to interview Wes Geer former Korn guitarist and rockstar. He shares how he got crushed by the music lifestyle. But in his unexpected return to music it becomes his greatest healer. He wouldn’t change a thing about his past, but he is sure glad everything changed 180 degrees. Life using music to help people has been more dream-like than living out his rockstar dreams.
What is your “backstory”?
I was a good kid who struggled a bit in school, smart had friends, but the whole process was really hard to buy into. Felt a bit like an outsider. Starting playing guitar, and soon after smoking lots of weed, which got me kicked out of high school. I had moments of doing well, but truly lost for direction, other than wanting to be a recording artist. Finally landed a good corporate job after multiple bouts of being homeless, jobless, and lots of heavy drinking of course. I did well, eight years of corporate, moving up the ladder with barely a high school diploma, all the while pursuing my dream, the record deal. Finally it landed as my newest band became a massive success on the local scene, with me at the helm, and fully loaded non-stop. The deal with Jive Records (Tribe Called Quest, Justin Timberlake, Britney Spears, Too Short) had us on the road non-stop, for years. We grew popular ever so slowly grinding out on rock and metal tours. We shared the stage with our peers: System Of a Down, Slipknot, Korn, Deftones, Linkin Park, Papa Roach, Incubus, all our friends. Meanwhile, my using was a problem, and relationships in the band were disintegrating. I knew something had to give, but didn’t know what. So, I left the band Hed P.E., in 2003. I started back into ‘normal’ life working w my brother for his independent rep firm that rep’d Music Gear Manufactures. Great job. Hated it. Felt like I lost who I was. Fell deep into depression, drugs and booze got worse. My world crumbled and I ended up in rehab. Was taught about the disease of addiction, and tools for recovery. Thinking music was over as a career, I was looking for answers. I was taught to go for the spiritual solution, always, first, and that would lead me to where I should be. It was a dark place I started, but there was a glimmer of light, hope. I stopped working my recovery program, got engaged, and after nearly three years of sobriety, broke up with celebrity stylist fiancé, Joey Tierney, and was getting loaded again. So I went back to what I knew, the recovery program and vowed to stay on the beam. Prayer and meditation felt like my only hope to get anywhere as I was really lost, but believed the Teachers. So I decided I wanted back into music and started to meditate to manifest it, within Days Korn asked me to come play with them. It took a lot of hustle to land that gig, finally I did. I toured to world for several years totally sober, all the while thinking the gig wouldn’t last forever, and I need something else to do. I also considered my legacy as a guitar player, mostly. I thought there were certainly plenty of those in our human history, and felt I need to elevate my story, so when I left this place I had left a mark, by creating something that could help people long after I was gone. Where did this concept come from, if not from Higher Self, God.
So in asking how to proceed prayer and meditation were the key, daily. And it came to me in a series of events, Rock to Recovery. Remembering my time in rehab when we’d draw pictures as therapy, I could recall times we played my guitar, wrote silly songs, and our problems disappeared, the milieu was unified and uplifted under this disarming art. On 12/12/12 I founded Rock to Recovery, after having pitched the idea since late 2011, I finally got a bite in May of 2013. The rest, history.
Which person or which company do you most admire and why?
Elon Musk! The guy is an innovator, using creativity to solve problems, and defy industry, national standards, empowering people, and benefitting humanity, and the planet. And he could stop, but he just keeps going, taking HUGE risks, putting his dreams before his own better interests, often times. Many people get success and just kind of idle there, but he keeps striking out at areas he deems weak, with even more ambitious endeavors. Privatized space program! Cheaper Solar! The raddest electric car ever –when the antiquated auto-industry was playing to fossil fuels. This guy is incredible.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
Honestly, had I not got the Korn gig, I don’t know that I ever could have launched Rock to Recovery. Having the, clout, respect of those prestigious gigs really opens doors. I knew it too. And while I never want to exploit the name, their name the founded members created, I certainly want to use it to open doors for me, and our org so I can help people. When Rock to Recovery was really firing on all cylinders and I had hired a number of other rad, sober, musicians to help grow and scale our mission, we wanted to work with the military. I think we all know stories of how cumbersome some of our government agencies can be, to make decisions, get things approved, and I know that when they heard ‘the guitarist from Korn’ wanted to bring this successful music program to the Wounded Warriors of the Air Force, that wow factor (assumingly) got that door open really fast. As a result we have a contract with the department of defense, and have been writing songs, and performing them with vets from the Army, Navy, and Air Force. It’s the greatest honor and privilege to do what we get to do. When you see these wounded warriors open up, cry, laugh, dance, sing for the first time in years, and have joy brought back into their hearts doing something they thought they couldn’t do, nothing is more beautiful and profound. I know my past success, and current triumphs will continue to fuel the growth of our reach so we can help more people. There’s really no limit to how far this can go.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
1. Don’t design too long, don’t sit in meetings creating concepts too long, get out there and do it. I know in some ways this contradicts some business teachings, and I would never deny the absolute importance of a business model, and a business plan, but I’ve had endeavors where I sat with a partner, and created doc after doc, explaining what we wanted to do, refining outlines, researching models, etc etc. I think at some point, hopefully very early on, you need to just get out there and do what it is you want to do. Maybe it’s a small test version, a free version, a raw, not so attractive version, but testing the market early, and refining as you go are invaluable. No matter how long you spend in R&D, design and marketing, it’s still going to be really raw when you launch, and develop in time. Every company does it. SO I say start raw, get busy and see where the consumer market drives and develops your business. Real consumption and necessity are more powerful and creative than imaginary.
2. I always wanted to help others in my work, but I didn’t really realize how much it would transform me. It seemed more a novel idea. Keep in mind, I was a gnarly drug addict, eternally in survival mode, aka really selfish, self centered. I wish someone told me how fulfilling having a purpose filled career would be. It’s beyond measure to wake up everyday and know you have a purpose in life; you can help change/save lives. It’s better than any high. Just, wow.
3. We all want to grow, change, be better. I wish someone could have explained to me just how empowering this process would be, to elevate my Self on a soul level. That the internal growth and gratification I would get by working through these challenges would be better than any fame or outside recognition, recognition I had wanted for so long. It’s an inside job.
4. The human connections I get to make are profound, powerful, and intoxicating in the best way. When I learned to stop looking for approval and started giving love without expectations, my whole world opened up. My entire life had been a struggle to Connect when all along all I needed to do was to learn to more freely and deeply give love, and I would get all the love I ever wanted back a million-fold.
5. Struggling with dark thoughts was long a challenge: fear frustration, self-doubt, worry, self loathing, feeling the victim, insecurity. All those thing caused me to create struggle in my life, not just in career but in relationship.. Had I known the power of meditation and the absolute Magic and Guidance it brings me, long ago, life would have been much easier, and much more serene and beautifully connected. Everything blossoms from the place we are energetically.
6. In my younger years it often seemed a struggle to make head way, to get help from people, or I felt like a nuisance. I found that when you are doing good things, good people will go out of their way to help you. The number of incredible humans in my life these days is staggering. Conversely in my early days as a band guy, living for getting loaded and chasing women, fame, money, I was surrounded by the same. It bred a dark circle of friends that were all searching for what, they knew not. Now I sometimes scroll thru my phone marveling at how many incredible people I text in a day, who are brilliant, talented, inspired, humans with their hearts in the right place. MY tribe. What a beautiful, powerful thing to be a part of a Greater Whole
7. When you are a kid dreaming of being a rockstar, you think playing music, fame, riches, accolades will solve every answer, but it doesn’t. Many of your favorite stars are spiritually sick ***holes and life on the road, while surreal, incredibly beautiful and magical in many ways, is also super dark, lonely (even after playing to a huge crowd) and isolating. I wouldn’t never trade those days for anything, but they were hardly the Ferraris and Rainbows I thought theyd be.