What inspired Rock to Recovery, and bringing music and the creative process into addiction treatment centers and sober living facilities?
I asked myself, “How can I be a musician and a drug addict, be sober, empower myself to help people, and make a living.” Seeds were planted when I realized the powerful effect of music in treatment. I brought my guitar, I played on breaks, we’d write these silly songs, and everybody would dance. We had these silly lyrics and I thought, “Look at how stoked people get on that live music element, when we write our own songs.” Rock to Recovery came to me like a bolt of lightning, I saw the whole brand. Then, I pitched it to people at treatment centers around town.
How many rehabs is Rock to Recovery functioning in at the moment?
We are entrenched as part of the weekly treatment curriculum of 80 treatment programs. We do 425+ sessions monthly with ten guys. I started at one men’s rehab. It’s exciting to watch Rock to Recovery grow.
Who is the main force behind Rock to Recovery?
If there is a main force, I’m it, in terms of being the visionary. The real force now are the incredible humans who deliver Rock to Recovery every day. These guys have record deals or acting careers or professional performers. They carry the message of hope, recovery, and also inspire people to play music.
What’s a Rock to Recovery Award, and who wins them?
It’s a music award based around recovery. Showing that you can be in the music industry, you can be a rock star, you can get sober, and also be a voice and active person in your community to spread the message, and destigmatize addiction and recovery. We awarded our first Rock to Recovery Award last year to Mike Ness the iconic rock n’ roll legend of Social Distortion.
In your opinion, music is vital to recovery?
Yeah, I think it’s a vital element of recovery. It’s about what it does to your body and spirit energetically. It transforms the energy throughout your whole being into positivity, love, hope, and connection. And that’s really what recovery is trying to do to you, for you.
What reaction do our brains have to music?
We know scientifically that listening to music lights up a large portion of the brain. But playing music actually lights up the entire brain, because you have emotional and motor functions. It works like mood stabilizers, anti-anxiety, anti-depressant meds releasing oxytocin, the love molecule. It also helps repair neural pathways that make us feel positive things like love and self-esteem.
Could you describe your relationship with music when you hit bottom? And compare it to your relationship with music right now?
Music was my best friend when I was lonely as a kid. Then, I got into drugs and I got a record deal on a lot of drugs. By the end, music had no meaning. Through getting sober, my perspective has changed, understanding how it affects people, and how it’s so spiritual for many people. Now I feel like music and songwriting are a spiritual experience. It comes from a deeper part of the soul. Before, we used drugs to get to that deep part of our soul and now I think it happens organically because we’re more in tune.
What’s Bridging the Gap?
Duke Collins was in and out of sobriety, and he OD’d. One of Duke’s issues was that he didn’t want to go into treatment because he thought his life would fall apart, and that’s why we lost him. I got in touch with Duke’s Mom and Bridging the Gap is the result of that meeting. The fund provides financial assistance to people who need to leave their job for a minute, so they can get into treatment and not have any excuses.
Where do the donations come from?
Bridging the Gap is just getting started. There are various fundraising mechanisms; biker rallies, and auctioning items from rock stars; Avenged Sevenfold donated a signed guitar. David from Korn has a new band who played a show at Huntington Beach, and those proceeds went to Bridging the Gap. Also, anyone can donate online through the website.
Do you have any plans to repeat the concert you did at the Founder Theater last year?
Saturday, September 16th will be Rock to Recovery 2. It was such a hit last year because it was a sober event, and people who normally drink didn’t even realize they weren’t drinking. We really feel like we’re one of the few—if not the first—to do a really cool sober event. We had Chester from Linkin Park and Mark McGrath from Sugar Ray, and Fred Durst from Limp Bizkit, Steve Stevens, Erik Eldenius, and there was Billy Morrison from Billy Idol’s Band, Chris Chaney from Jane’s Addiction, we had David from Korn and Zac from Korn and all my Rock to Recovery guys have also been in a bunch of bands, so all of them played. We also had Tara O’Connor, who was the Miss America and Jamie Presley Golden Globe winner, and also Tito Ortiz the UFC champ, and Tony Alva and Christian Hosoi, some world famous skaters there. We had a real who’s who of some rad famous people, supporting our cause.
If you could perform with the musician/band of your dreams alive or dead who would it be?
John Bonham on drums, Jimi Hendrix on guitar, Freddie Mercury on vocals. Can I have two singers? Maybe Freddie and Amy Winehouse. Yeah, her! Hendrix, Winehouse, Bonham. This band is sick! And Jaco Pastorius on bass. That would be my dream
band for now.
How did you feel after the concert last October?
I cried. I’ve played with Korn at festivals, and done so many shows. It was unique because my phone was blowing up, with this unique thing of how moved people were. “Wes, that was incredible. I’ve never seen anything like that.” It wasn’t the praise, it was all our hard work. And it was knowing that I walked in to be sober when my life was in a shit-hole and my credit was bad and I had no idea what the hell I’d do, and then I did that concert with all of my friends. People got high off that. I felt so in touch with God or the universe, I just cried. You know it was being proud, being humble, and emotional.
You used to manage stage fright with Jägermeister, how do you do it now?
Big long deep breaths. In serenity, out fear.