Rock Musicians & Singers In Recovery Share Their Stories About Addiction & Their Recovery Journey

Richard Jankovich of Big Mother Gig pens an ode to sobriety on ‘Gusto’

March 1, 2021
Richard Jankovich

Big Mother Gig is, from left, Micah Lopez, Albert Kurniawan, Michael Datz and Richard Jankovich. (Courtesy of the artist) The first Noble Truth of Recovery Dharma, the program that helped Richard Jankovich find a new way to live on the other side of a drinking problem, puts it plainly: “There is suffering.” Life as a flawed, fallible human being is accompanied by suffering, which can take many forms. The Recovery Dharma literature describes it thus: “There’s suffering any time we want things to be different than they are.” As the creative mastermind behind a number of different music projects – Burnside Project, Pocket, Mon Draggor and Big Mother Gig, which will release a new full-length album, “Gusto,” on April 30 – Jankovich has always viewed the world as it could be rather than the way it is. He’s a humble guy, so he would never presume to declare that life…

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Soraia’s ZouZou Mansour makes the most of her ‘gift of desperation’

February 22, 2021
ZouZou Mansour

It took getting sober for ZouZou Mansour to realize that the unending perils of a predestined destiny could be sidestepped by something as simple as the power of choice. It seems so simple, at least on the surface: Make new decisions. Choose different paths. Break free from the crushing weight of generational trauma, self-inflicted pain and the grim resignation that life is the unkindest cut of all. It seems so simple … unless that’s all you’ve ever known. When that’s the blueprint, life is assembled according to those plans, at least until the right people and the right circumstances come along and tell you that those plans can be discarded. Ripped. Shredded. Set on fire, even. And that a different path can be chosen. “I didn’t know I had a choice until people told me and I was ready to hear it,” Mansour told The Ties That Bind Us recently.…

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Waylon Reavis of A Killer’s Confession: ‘I live every day proud’ because of recovery

February 15, 2021
Waylon Reavis

For Waylon Reavis, recovery from his addiction didn’t come through 12 Step meetings or on a therapist’s couch. It came down to a simple choice: Did he want to get clean for himself and the love of his life, or was he ready to give up and surrender to the cold siren song of abyss? Fortunately, he chose the former, he told The Ties That Bind Us this week, and every day since has been a blessing. The former vocalist for the metal band Mushroomhead, and now frontman for the band A Killer’s Confession, has been delivered. Life still shows up – it always does, but then again, it kept showing up even while he was addicted to drugs, he added. Being clean and sober, however, means that he’s able to accept the bad, celebrate the good and build a career for himself that’s the most rewarding thing he’s ever…

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Recovery rocks: Thursday’s Geoff Rickly celebrates a life free of heroin’s shackles

February 8, 2021
Geoff Rickly

Courtesy of Carly Hoskins Those bitter ends: Oh, how Geoff Rickly remembers them well. There was a time when his band, Thursday, was considered one of the pioneers of the post-hardcore/emo boom of the 2000s. Throughout the 1990s, Rickly had worked toward that dream, playing in basements and seedy clubs and wherever else would have him as he hammered away at the doors of an often fickle industry. He didn’t wake up with a heroin habit, and while the fame Thursday found might have made access to substances easier, he doesn’t blame his drug problem on music. But that’s the thing about addiction: It knows no distinction between a Jersey boy in a rock band or a kid growing up in Chicago gang culture or a Southern sorority girl or an airline pilot. It took him to the same bitter ends, and once there, he indeed faced that dilemma, he…

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Surrender to win: Musician, producer Steve Drizos embraces the ‘Axiom’ of sobriety

January 18, 2021
Steve Drizos

Courtesy of Bill McAlaine For the bulk of his career, Steve Drizos has used his own musical talents to propel the careers of others, from his role as a drummer of both power and complexity, and his work as a producer at his Portland, Oregon, studio, The Panther. On Friday, however, he’ll release “Axiom,” the debut full-length album under his own name. That’s a pretty special occasion for any artist, but given the seeds from which the record germinated, it’s even more so for Drizos. After all, “Axiom” is a direct result of his sobriety, and when he quit drinking in 2016, he wasn’t sure what effect his new way of life might have on his creativity, he told The Ties That Bind Us recently. “I would say probably three or four months into my sobriety, I picked up a guitar and thought, ‘Let’s see what’s there,’” Drizos said. “I…

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The Happys: A band name and more for recovering indie rocker Nick Petty

December 14, 2020
Nick Petty

Courtesy of Michael Artega Nick Petty was still on probation after having spent a year in jail in San Francisco, but he was doing well. Living in a sober house. Attending drug court classes and showing up for regular check-ins before the judge. Taking part in medication assisted treatment that kept his cravings for opioids managed through a combination of Suboxone and counseling. And playing open mic nights as he found the musical creativity that always eluded him when he was high. “I really didn’t get creative until I stopped using drugs,” Petty told The Ties That Bind Us recently. “That was really amazing for me to realize, because as an addict, these psychotropic drugs fuck with the chemistry of your brain and everything about you – your self-esteem, how much you value yourself, what you think you need to be successful. “To me, playing music gave me the positivity…

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Free, Bad Company drummer Simon Kirke makes the most of his new life

December 7, 2020
Simon Kirke

By 1980, drummer Simon Kirke had topped the charts with not one, but two legendary rock ‘n’ roll bands: Free, whose seminal hit “All Right Now” has been a go-to feel-good hit since its release in 1970, and Bad Company, the greatest hits of which are burned into the brains of anyone who came of age during the classic rock era. He’d seen addiction derail the former, and as the ringer on the Swan Song label — set up by and around Led Zeppelin — Bad Company had a ringside seat to the voracious appetites of two of rock’s legendary hedonists, John Bonham and Jimmy Page. Despite those cautionary tales, however, Kirke wasn’t able to avoid the tar pit trap of chemical excess, and when he finally shuffled into his doctor’s office that year, he was in bad shape, he told The Ties That Bind Us recently. “I was sweating,…

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From Heart to a ‘Revolution,’ Ann Wilson lives her best life in sobriety

November 30, 2020
Ann Wilson

Courtesy of Kimberly Adamis As half of the sister duo fronting the band Heart, there were few obstacles that Ann Wilson couldn’t overcome. Even the band’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame recognition is a nod to the ceilings the Wilson sisters shattered on their way to the top of the charts: “At their point of entry in the mid-seventies, Ann and Nancy Wilson found themselves swimming against the current of a male-dominated music business that was rife with bias and sexism,” Parke Puterbaugh writes. During his speech that welcomed the band into the Hall, the late Chris Cornell of Soundgarden recognized their indomitable will to succeed in an industry that long relegated women to backup singers or showgirl crooners, describing Ann and her sister, Nancy, as “two Joan of Arcs standing up front, kicking total ass.” Despite her monster vocal prowess, however … despite the determination to succeed no…

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Guitarist Ricky Byrd unveils a soundtrack for some ‘Sobering Times’

November 23, 2020
Ricky Byrd

All photos courtesy of Kayos Productions Although he was on the cusp of 30 back in the late summer of 1987, guitarist Ricky Byrd felt more like he was about to turn 80. By that point, the drugs and the booze were breaking down his body as much as they were his mind, he told The Ties That Bind Us recently. Four years earlier, while on tour with Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, he flirted with death after severely collapsing a lung from too many long nights of doing too much of everything, and as the band — which Byrd joined for the “I Love Rock ‘n Roll” album and subsequent superstardom — continued to dominate the charts, Byrd found himself slowly slipping away. “I was 128 pounds, doing a lot of blow, not in good physical shape, and I couldn’t stop — but then, I never really tried to,”…

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Through his music, Forrest Eaglespeaker of The North Sound celebrates heritage and healing

September 28, 2020
Forrest Eaglespeaker

The North Sound is Nevada Freistadt (left) and Forrest Eaglespeaker. As an indigenous Canadian growing up in a white man’s world, Forrest Eaglespeaker felt rootless, like one of the old growth trees of the great northern forests that had fallen to earth. Life around him continued, but Eaglespeaker — now the principle songwriter, singer and instrumentalist for the Canadian rock band The North Sound — was paralyzed, in a sense. His mother was Blackfoot but had retreated from her people and her culture after mistreatment from Native men, including Eaglespeaker’s biological father. His white stepfather provided for the family in the northeastern part of Calgary, the largest city in the Canadian provide of Alberta. “It was a part of the city where if you meet someone from a different part, and you tell them you’re from the northeast, they say, ‘Oh, I don’t go over there!’” Eaglespeaker told The Ties…

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Johnny Solomon of Communist Daughter is stone-cold sober (literally)

September 14, 2020
Johnny Solomon of Communist Daughter

Winter is coming for Johnny Solomon of Communist Daughter, and it’s going to be brutal. That’s not an addiction metaphor, although given Solomon’s past, it might have been, had he not found recovery. But Solomon — Johnny to his friends and to the fans who have adored his band for a decade now; John as the addiction treatment professional he’s become in recent years — will celebrate 10 years of sobriety on Dec. 12 … and he’ll do so from Kotzebue, Alaska, where the sun will rise at 12:44 p.m., set at 2:45 p.m. and the temperature typically hovers around 2 or 3 degrees. It’s a strange and wondrous place the indie rock musician finds himself, closer to the Siberian village of Naukan (205 miles) than to the nearest large American city, Fairbanks (442 miles). In the spring of 2019, Solomon received his degree in clinical counseling from the Hazelden…

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From Britpop heights to addiction’s lows, Simon Mason sails on with the Hightown Pirates

July 27, 2020
Simon Mason

It’s criminal, in a sense, just how far below the radar of popular culture that “All of the Above,” the new album by Hightown Pirates, has cruised. If there were any justice in the world of rock ‘n’ roll, Simon Mason and his band of merry recovering misfits would be stomping holes through the wooden floorboards of stages from Barcelona to Bangkok, anthemic power chords cutting through heavy-hanging cigarette smoke that mixes with the sweat of Pete Townshend levels of exertion to swallow the assembled masses like the yawning maw of a beast that feeds on celebration. Justice, however, is something Mason is all too familiar with — or rather, the lack of it even when it was deserved. There’s a saying in recovery he and so many others who have clawed their way out of addiction keep close to heart: Justice is when you get what you deserve. Mercy…

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Redlight King’s Mark ‘Kaz’ Kasprzyk: ‘It’s brighter on the other side’

June 22, 2020
Mark "Kaz" Kasprzyk

Redlight King is (from left) Brian Weever, Mark “Kaz” Kasprzyk, Mark Goodwin and Julian Tomarin. (Courtesy of Parts + Labor Records) Mark “Kaz” Kasprzyk, the Canadian who found a home in Southern California and fame with his band, Redlight King, never set out to be a role model for addiction recovery. If anything, he told The Ties That Bind Us recently, his journey is often an example of what not to do. He’s being facetious, of course, because therein lies the heartbeat of sobriety: sharing experience, strength and hope. To those on the outside looking in, that may appear to be failure. To those who walk alongside Kasprzyk — his immediate network of recovering brothers and sisters, as well as the unseen faces of thousands who work toward a better way of life on the other side of addiction — it’s something else entirely. It’s learning to live life on…

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Surrender to win: Dramarama’s John Easdale quits keeping score

June 15, 2020
John Easdale

Dramarama, from left: Mike Davis, John Easdale, Tony Snow, Peter Wood and Mark Englert. (Photo courtesy of Amy Martin) There’s a saying in recovery circles that John Easdale, the founder and singing, songwriting force behind the power-pop ensemble Dramarama, clings to all the harder the older he gets: It’s about the journey, not the destination. Often, the collection of chips or keytags marking accumulated periods of sobriety is a point of pride for those who have emerged from the darkness of addiction and alcoholism. He doesn’t fault those individuals, nor does he discourage them from picking them up. But for himself, he told The Ties That Bind Us recently, they eventually became an albatross. Easdale, like a great many other recovering addicts and alcoholics, found that the darkness of his disease was a creeping thing, always on his heels. And when it overtook him, the guilt and shame of surrendering…

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Duane Betts: ‘It’s really all about love, and spreading love instead of fear’

May 11, 2020
Duane Betts

With his old man’s surname and a first name taken from a guy considered one of the greatest guitarists of all time, you couldn’t be faulted for thinking that of course Duane Betts is in recovery from addiction. After all, his father is Dickey Betts — the iconic voice of “Ramblin’ Man” and a founding member of the Allman Brothers Band, which left behind a legacy of iconic music and a reputation as a collective of hard-partying road dogs. Dickey’s old friend and band co-founder, Duane Allman — Duane Betts’ namesake — was known to partake of a great many substances before his death in 1971, as did many of his peers in those halcyon times. Despite his rock ‘n’ roll lineage, however, Duane Betts wasn’t weaned on Jack Daniels and coke. Even though his father was one of the stewards of the ABB for many years, Betts had a…

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Letters to Cleo’s Kay Hanley: ‘I work on my recovery every single day of my life’

April 13, 2020
Kay Hanley

Courtesy of Joshua Pickering You can take the girl out of Boston, but you can’t take Boston out of the girl, and when Kay Hanley gets tickled, she subconsciously pulls the R’s out of some words and tacks them onto the ends of others. And the thought that someone from her rock ‘n’ roll past, who knew her back when Letters to Cleo was part of a wave of alternative bands that took over the collective consciousness of popular culture in the early 1990s, might be surprised to learn she’s now clean and sober … well, that’s a good one, she told The Ties That Bind Us recently. “There’s no one in the world who would be like, ‘Kay got sober? I can’t believe that!’” she said, laughing. “No one who knew me would say that. But even if they did, part of the (sobriety) is helping another alcoholic. That’s…

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Kevin Bowe: Songwriter, producer, rocker and 40 years sober

March 2, 2020
Kevin Bowe

Growing up in the 1970s, Kevin Bowe — recording artist, producer, engineer and a fixture of the Minneapolis scene for four decades — operated under the assumption of the American dream. His mother’s family came to this country after escaping the horrors of the Holocaust. His father was a nose-to-the-grindstone upper middle class worker bee who came from stock that believed if you labored hard and long enough, the best you could hope for was not going to bed hungry. Together, they built a nice little life, and as a kid born into white, upper middle class privilege, Bowe started out his teenage years a few rungs up the ladder from his folks. It didn’t take long, however, for drugs and alcohol to yank him back down to reality, he told The Ties That Bind Us recently. “I think the first thing I had working for me was that I…

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On ‘CONSUME,’ The JAB weaponizes rock against stigma, suffering

January 27, 2020
The JAB

Courtesy of Karen Rettig Beloved broadcaster Paul Harvey once regaled millions of listeners with his touching, poignant tales of humanity, delivered in the measured cadence of his soothing Midwestern drawl. Often, key parts of his stories were withheld until the end of the broadcast, at which point Harvey would sign off with the signature phrase that gave his program it’s title: “And now you know the rest of the story.” For Chicago-based musician Jam Alker, the rest of the story has yet to reveal itself, and what happens after Feb. 4 — the day his band, The JAB, releases “CONSUME,” its new album on the Sony imprint The Orchard — is anyone’s guess. But just as Harvey’s soothing voice let listeners know that everything would be alright, so too does Alker have that same sense of conviction, thanks to his recovery from addiction. “It’s insane right now,” Alker told The…

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10 Years vet Ryan ‘Tater’ Johnson gets high on life, music, God

December 9, 2019
Ryan "Tater" Johnson

J-Birds: Kris Watkins (drums), Aaron Zecchini (guitars/sax) Ryan “Tater” Johnson (guitars/vocals), Cody Hensley (keys, trumpet) and Steve J. Young (guitars/vocals). Don’t try to tell Ryan “Tater” Johnson that God isn’t real. He might not fight you over it, but he’ll certainly laugh in your face. The man upstairs, after all, has been looking out for the former guitarist for the rock band 10 Years since before he got sober, and during the roughest patches of his sobriety, God has always been there. The formation of his latest band, J-Birds … the house in which he lives and records other musicians … the community he calls home — all of it was an answered prayer, Johnson told The Ties That Bind Us recently. “It wasn’t long ago that I was going through a divorce and had nowhere to go, and I didn’t know what to do,” Johnson said. “I didn’t have…

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Art Alexakis of Everclear: ‘The ability to be present and aware … is the best drug I ever had’

December 2, 2019
Art Alexakis

Everclear is, from left, Dave French, Art Alexakis and Freddy Herrera. (Not pictured: drummer Brian Nolan.) Photo courtesy of Paul Brown. Dope had its hooks in Art Alexakis’ life long before he became an addict. As the founder and frontman of Everclear, a band whose ’90s heyday produced several staples of alternative radio, he found sobriety early on. He stopped his IV drug use in 1984 and quit drinking entirely in 1989, and ever since, recovery has been one of the most important things in his life. Because he remembers well, he told The Ties That Bind Us recently, the darkness that drove him to leap from the Santa Monica Pier when he was 12 years old, consumed by grief and spiritual pain and a weariness that would have crippled people four times his age. “My brother had died of an overdose two months before, and my older girlfriend had…

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Tommy Vext of Bad Wolves: Recovery is the road map out of the mouth of madness

November 11, 2019

Courtesy of Josh Adams It’s mid-afternoon on the West Coast, and Bad Wolves frontman Tommy Vext is hurting. He’s just left Gold’s Gym, where his personal trainer put him through the ringer. The trainer, Vext tells The Ties That Bind Us, is the same guy who helped actor Josh Brolin get into shape for his role as Cable in “Deadpool 2.” Vext is working on endurance, so that when his band, Bad Wolves, primes the pump for Five Finger Death Punch and Three Days Grace on the trifecta’s current arena tour, he can go the distance. “My whole body hurts all the time,” Vext says via phone. “I’m working on mobility. I’m actually pretty strong; I don’t have a problem moving weights around, but as I’m getting older, a lot of the bodybuilding techniques that worked in my 20s are counter-intuitive to my live performance. I’m working on core strength…

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Christopher Tait of Electric Six uses sobriety as a springboard to recovery activism

October 28, 2019
Christopher Tait sobriety

Electric Six, chilling poolside. Keyboardist Christopher “Tait Nucleus?” Tait, far right, joined in 2003 and got sober eight years later. When Christopher Tait came to after an Electric Six show at Nashville’s Exit/In, the willingness to do something about a problem that was about to cost him his band lasted roughly three days. Tait had joined the eclectic Detroit-based rock ensemble, which combines elements of disco, punk, metal and New Wave, in 2002. Adopting the moniker of Tait Nucleus?, he brought a hefty dose of danceable firepower to the band, which has enjoyed a small-but-loyal following across the country since its inception in 2001 and the guest appearance of Detroit son Jack White, before the White Stripes became famous, on the song “Danger! High Voltage” helped put Electric Six on the map. Yet when the group rolled into the Exit/In in April 2011, Tait’s run was almost at an end.…

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Great White’s Jack Russell: ‘It’s a miracle some of us made it through’

September 9, 2019
Jack Russell Great White recovery

Jack Russell’s Great White: Tony Cardenas (from left), Dicki Fliszar, Russell, Dan McNay and Robby Lochner. Once the hunted, Jack Russell is now the hunter. In his addiction, the frontman of ’80s rock outfit Great White — who still tours with his band Jack Russell’s Great White — was always one step ahead of that metaphorical beast that stalked him. Occasionally, it caught up, and he’s fortunate, he told The Ties That Bind Us recently, that he escaped with his life. There was the time before Great White took off that he shot someone during a drug robbery and spent 18 months in jail. There was the chemical tailspin he threw himself into after a fatal 2012 nightclub fire that killed 100 people, including his bandmate, the late Ty Longley. There were two comas, the most recent of which lasted five days and ended with a doctor’s warning: “The doctor…

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Chicago’s Jam Alker finds a second life as a recovery evangelist through music

July 29, 2019
Jam Alker musician in recovery

Courtesy of Karen Rettig Play guitar, get girls — at some point, every guy who imprints on a rock ‘n’ roll record and sets out to be a part of that lineage recognizes the allure. Jam Alker was no different, he told The Ties That Bind Us recently. But that potential for physical attraction was undercut with a gnawing need for it, a longing to fill an internal pit of emptiness that’s oh-so-familiar to recovering addicts and alcoholics. “Looking back in recovery, I see that for what that was, and I talk about it a lot now,” Alker said. “I’ve done a lot of work on myself in my recovery, and I realize that a lot of the issues of my addiction — the numbing behavior, the sedation, the distraction — are the result of my childhood trauma. I never felt wanted; I had an alcoholic, violent father; and a…

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Recovery gives Greg Antista a second chance in the storied SoCal scene: ‘Everything I’m getting is more than I deserve’

July 22, 2019
Greg Antista musician in recovery

Courtesy of Harmony Gerber For Greg Antista, the halcyon days of the 1980s resonate with the nostalgia and innocence of youth. Back then, Antista, who now fronts his own project the Lonely Streets, was part of a crowd of second wave punk musicians who softened the rage of bands like Black Flag with the melodic freight-train boogie of ’50s rockabilly and surf music. It was a scene that included guys like Mike Ness, frontman of Social Distortion, whose initial club gigs and backyard parties counted Antista as one of the attendees … Tony Cadena (now known as Tony Reflex), who started The Adolescents as a 16-year-old in 1980 … Casey Royer, a veteran of both groups who would go on to found D.I. … and the late Steve Soto, Antista’s closest friend who established Agent Orange and helped Cadena get The Adolescents off the ground. In promotional photos, videos and…

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Now more than two decades sober, Foreigner’s Lou Gramm reflects on the dark days of his addiction

July 9, 2019

Courtesy of RIT Production Services During the 1980s, Lou Gramm was the singer for one of the biggest rock bands on the planet, but success still wasn’t enough to buy him happiness. Today, Foreigner remains one of the most successful groups of all time, with worldwide record sales in excess of 80 million — much of that a credit to the strength of Gramm’s powerhouse vocals and band founder Mick Jones’ penchant for melodic guitar hooks that dominated the airwaves during the late 1970s and throughout the 1980s. The band’s first six albums, from 1977’s self-titled debut through 1987’s “Inside Information,” all achieved platinum sales status, selling at least 1 million copies, and the first four of those did at least five times that number. Still, Gramm told The Ties That Bind Us recently, there was something fundamentally broken within him that money and fame and drugs and alcohol could…

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Rich People frontman Rob Rich: With recovery, ‘the drugs don’t even matter anymore’

May 28, 2019

Courtesy of Ian Bell Despite the degradation, dereliction and desperation that accompany active addiction, life in recovery isn’t without its pitfalls. Life still shows up, and while those in a recovery program aren’t struggling with the day-in, day-out siege of maintaining a habit, they still face challenges. Life is … well, life. Sometimes it’s the elation of winning the Super Bowl; other times, it’s a darkness that seems to permeate everything. “I’m always talking to people about that year of my recovery,” said Robert Rich, founder and guitarist/vocalist for the Philadelphia-based “introspective Americana” band Rich People. “Most people know me as even-keeled and joyous and things like that, but that year that I wrote (“Jacob’s Ladder,” his band’s 2015 release), I went through some of the deepest depression I ever felt in my life, pretty much for that entire year. I think ‘Jacob’s Ladder’ reflects that, and when I go…

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Phil Bogard’s beautiful sobriety: Ingram Hill guitarist helps others return from the brink of death by alcoholism

May 13, 2019

Music aficionados would be hard pressed to put Ingram Hill side by side with The Doors in terms of rock ‘n’ roll similarities, but guitarist Phil Bogard, at the height of his alcoholism, nevertheless saw himself following the same life-and-death arc as Jim Morrison. “I had definitely resigned myself to the fact of dying an alcoholic death, and I had this glorious imagery of an Oliver Stone movie, of falling asleep in a bathtub in Paris and not waking up,” he told The Ties That Bind Us recently. “Unfortunately, that’s not how an alcoholic death works, and I found that out the hard way.” At the height of its popularity, Ingram Hill was signed to Hollywood Records, getting airplay on MTV2, opening for bands like Maroon 5 and Hanson and playing on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” As the business paradigm shifted, Hollywood began to focus more on grooming Disney stars as…

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There and back again: Sister Hazel’s Ken Block finds life in recovery is always a ‘Beautiful Thing’

April 22, 2019

Sister Hazel is Ryan Newell (from left), Mark Trojanowski, Ken Block, Drew Copeland and Jett Beres. “Many people think that recovery is simply a matter of not using drugs. They consider a relapse a sign of complete failure, and long periods of abstinence a sign of complete success. We in the recovery program … have found that this perception is too simplistic …” — Basic Text of Narcotics Anonymous, p. 74 Somewhere between complete success and complete failure, Ken Block is figuring out how to do this thing again. Block, the lead vocalist and acoustic guitarist for the alt-rock outfit Sister Hazel, put together more than a decade and a half of sobriety before stumbling over the past year. It’s not something he’s proud of, but the spiritual principles that have provided him guidance since his band and his wife, Tracy, first pushed him to get sober in his early…

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Snot/Sevendust/Hed PE vet Sonny Mayo finds renewal in ‘the mighty purpose and rhythm’ of recovery from addiction

April 2, 2019

For proof of the fulfillment of recovery’s promises, Sonny Mayo needs only to look at the 17 years he’s been clean and sober. It doesn’t matter which of the two main tomes those promises come from: “We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness,” according to one; “the message is hope, the promise is freedom,” says another. Across the board, Mayo — a veteran of such metal projects as Snot, Hed PE and Sevendust — has seen them materialize in his own life. Rehearsing for a world tour with Ugly Kid Joe, he played “Cats in the Cradle” at his dying father’s bedside, watching the old man’s spirit linger at the threshold before moving on. A couple of months later, he played the song for 600,000 people in Poland, and he felt his father’s presence. After his second heart attack, he thought there would be no…

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Beyond the Blowfish: Drummer Jim ‘Soni’ Sonefeld finds a beautiful life in the light of recovery

March 11, 2019

  It’s an invocation that opens recovery meetings the world over, but for Jim “Soni” Sonefeld, the Serenity Prayer is so much more. It is, in the grand scheme of his life, the filter through which every decision is made. It, more than anything else, is his North Star these days. His band has been a constant in his life; his bandmates are still considered family; and the debut album they released as Hootie and the Blowfish — 1994’s “Cracked Rear View” — changed his life in incalculable ways. The Serenity Prayer, however, is the key to the freedom from addiction he’s enjoyed since 2005. Life as a recovering addict and alcoholic isn’t smooth sailing for anyone delivered from the darkness, and Sonefeld is no exception. Suffering, as the first Noble Truth of Buddhism indicates, is unavoidable. Misery, however, is optional. And the Serenity Prayer, Sonefeld told The Ties That…

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After 40 years in the wilderness, Hunt Sales gets his life and his music together

February 18, 2019

After 40 years in the wilderness, Hunt Sales gets his life and his music together When Hunt Sales finally got sober after 40 years of hardcore addiction, doors began to open. The drummer whose iconic beats kick off the Iggy Pop classic “Lust for Life,” as well as half of the rhythm section of David Bowie’s 1990s project Tin Machine, is by no means a made man. He works daily and is struggling to scrape together the cash necessary to mount a small tour behind his new record, “Get Your Shit Together,” credited to the Hunt Sales Memorial. Much of his contributions to a number of artists over the past four decades — from Pop and Bowie to Todd Rundgren to the ’70s power trio Paris to Charlie Sexton — make for an impressive resume but have yielded little in the way of financial dividends. Despite all of that, however,…

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Through recovery, the guys in 500 Miles to Memphis ‘lift each other up’

January 21, 2019

Through recovery, the guys in 500 Miles to Memphis ‘lift each other up’ When the boys in the alt-country outfit 500 Miles to Memphis decided to christen their new release “Blessed Be the Damned,” it was a nod to their tribe. The misfits and outcasts. The down-and-out and trodden upon. The street survivors and bare-knuckle brawlers. And most importantly, the guys told The Ties That Behind Us recently, it’s a collection of 11 anthems dedicated to their fellow travelers: The men and women who have walked through the darkness of addiction and emerged into the light of recovery. “It’s actually a recovery record, dressed up in analogies and other parallel stories, and the title itself means a lot to me,” said Ryan Malott, the band’s vocalist and multi-instrumentalist. “I feel most connected to people who have had addiction problems in the past and have come out the other side. I…

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Addiction serves as a catalyst for the beautiful darkness of Nocturnal Blonde

January 7, 2019

Addiction serves as a catalyst for the beautiful darkness of Nocturnal Blonde Richie Williams was 17 years old when he first noticed his brother’s descent into the depths of addiction. Since their childhood in Jacksonville, Fla., the two had been thick as thieves; best friends then and now, but Dave’s drug use began to steal Richie’s older sibling, with the slow assuredness of guaranteed destruction. Looking back, Richie — who now leads the Athens, Ga.-based band Nocturnal Blonde, which draws on music the two brothers created to tell Dave’s story and light a beacon of hope for those who might similarly struggle — sees that his brother’s path was, in some ways, no surprise. “He’s incredibly intelligent in a lot of ways, and in the ’80s, they had a gifted program where they would really just lay it all out for you,” Richie told The Ties That Bind Us recently.…

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ROCK TO RECOVERY: Founder Wesley Geer pushes back against addiction’s darkness with rock ‘n’ roll

December 31, 2018

ROCK TO RECOVERY: Founder Wesley Geer pushes back against addiction’s darkness with rock ‘n’ roll In six years, Rock to Recovery has grown into an organization with 12 full-time employees conducting 450 music therapy sessions a month in roughly 100 treatment programs, mostly around Southern California. And it all started when Wesley Geer, the founder of the cross-genre rock fusion outfit Hed PE and a touring member of the nu-metal group Korn, started playing some “silly country riffs” as a patient in a drug and alcohol treatment center. “Looking back to my time in rehab, there was no music,” Geer told The Ties That Bind Us recently. “We were doing yoga and drawing pictures, but I had my acoustic guitar in the treatment center, and I would play these silly grooves — boom-chaka-boom-chaka — and we would get silly and dance around, and that stuck with me. “With 22 guys…

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Drummer Bogie Bowles: ‘Recovery is about finding empowerment’

September 17, 2018

Drummer Bogie Bowles: ‘Recovery is about finding empowerment’ For drummer Bogie Bowles, recovery didn’t give him the tools needed to reassemble a life shattered by rock ‘n’ roll excess. Instead, it opened the doors for rock ‘n’ roll success, courtesy of an early start to a journey that began in 1990. Since his first trip through a residential addiction treatment center 28 years ago, Bowles has become one of the most respected sidemen behind the kit for artists like Kenny Wayne Shepherd and Joe Bonamassa, two contemporary blues guitarists that travel the world. These days, he hangs his hat in Nashville, content to play in a cover outfit that does weekend runs throughout the Southeast, which gives him time during the week to pursue his other passion: sharing the message of sobriety through work at Cumberland Heights, a Nashville-based treatment facility. “The thing about it is, my recovery allowed me…

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Good Old War’s Tim Arnold: ‘It took … the truth to get me back in’

September 10, 2018

Good Old War’s Tim Arnold: ‘It took … the truth to get me back in’ Like a lot of addicts, Tim Arnold went to treatment for the first time to make the pain stop. The thought of giving up everything, however, wasn’t on his radar, he told The Ties That Bind Us recently. Waking up every day and having to get high just to feel some semblance of normality — that had to stop, he thought. But the rest of it? “I went to treatment thinking I was still going to drink,” he said with a laugh. “I went in thinking, ‘Cool; I’ll get clean, because I could lose my family, my child, but I’ll come out and just drink beer.’ But then I got to treatment, and they were reading in the Big Book these examples of an alcoholic, and I was like, ‘Oh, wow — every single one…

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Vibraphone visionary Mike Dillon: ‘My life has gotten 100 percent better’

July 23, 2018

Vibraphone visionary Mike Dillon: ‘My life has gotten 100 percent better’ Mike Dillon, a guy who made his bones playing an instrument that’s often viewed as obsolete in the world of rock ‘n’ roll, is grateful that his brain works differently than those of many of his peers. For one thing, it allows him a freedom in music that’s earned him creative spots alongside titular bassist Les Claypool of Primus and guitarist Mickey “Dean Ween” Melchiondo — just to name a couple of marquee players on a long list of Dillon collaborators over the years. For another, it’s allowed him to evaluate a future with and without drugs, and the capability to choose the latter as means of both musical advancement and literal salvation. “The bottom line is, I play better sober,” he tells The Ties That Bind Us. “I know I do because other musicians tell me: ‘There’s a…

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DevilDriver’s Dez Fafara: ‘I had to show people who follow me the proper way to do life’

June 25, 2018
Devil Driver Dez Fafara

DevilDriver’s Dez Fafara: ‘I had to show people who follow me the proper way to do life’ Dez Fafara cuts a menacing figure when he’s on stage with the metal band DevilDriver, prowling the stage like a panther and delivering vocals that sound somewhere between an F250 in a car crusher and the swinging hinges of the doorway to hell. Few frontmen in rock can pull off that sort of swagger — a combination of self-assuredness and raw power that draws on a lifetime of pain and the serenity he’s found in the presence. Much of that, he told The Ties That Bind Us recently, stems from his decision to get sober several years ago. “I think I was just a casual drinker, like everybody in America — ‘Hey, let’s party on the weekends!,’ at least at first,” he says during a recent phone interview, pausing on occasion to scold…

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Sevendust guitarist Clint Lowery’s moment of clarity: ‘I knew I was ready’

May 31, 2018
Clint Lowery

Sevendust guitarist Clint Lowery’s moment of clarity: ‘I knew I was ready’ Guitarist Clint Lowery left the heavy rock band Sevendust in 2004, but it would take another three years before he hit bottom. Actually, he told The Ties That Bind recently, it was an “assortment of bottoms” that piled on in 2007 that sent him to rehab and a program that gave him his last white chip on Oct. 24 of that year. “I was touring with Korn, and I had a bunch of things happen to me,” Lowery says. “I was arrested in Slovakia; I was going through a divorce; I was living a very unmanageable life. The guys in Korn asked me to please slow down, but I couldn’t, so they sent me home. I woke up after a blackout, and my manager said, ‘Hey, man, they want you to go home.’ “I had lost everything, and…

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