To understand this story, you have to go back 15 years to the days when
Christopher Thorn was living the life of a rock star.
He bristles at that description. He was, and is, a musician, a
songwriter, a fine guitarist. It's always about the music, as far as
he's concerned. It didn't matter that his band, Blind Melon, had hit the
jackpot, a big-label deal and a big-time tour. He would play whether it
was to a screaming mob in an arena or a few stragglers at last call in a
bar. He just wanted to make music.
It was his dream, growing up in Dover, to make a living making music. He
dropped out of college before his sophomore year and packed up a U-Haul
and moved to L.A. After playing with a few bands -- an eclectic mix
including a metal band and a folk group -- he hooked up with bassist
Brad Smith, guitarist Rogers Stevens, drummer Glen Graham and singer
The guy who produced Pearl Jam recorded the band's first record. It was a
hit. The single "Bee Girl" was a commercial success, and the record
went on to achieve quadruple-platinum status.
Shortly after the band recorded its second album, the New Orleans-tinged
"Soup," it set out on tour despite concerns about Hoon's struggles with
a cocaine addiction.
The tour did not end well. On Oct. 12, 1995, in New Orleans, Hoon was
found dead on the band's tour bus. The cause of death was a heart attack
brought on by a cocaine overdose.
The band released a record in tribute to Hoon -- "Nico," named for
Hoon's daughter -- donating some of the proceeds to
the Musicians' Assistance Program, which helps musicians deal with
Then, the band broke up and Thorn moved on, performing with just about
anybody, producing records and writing songs -- making music.
Over the years, Thorn has worked with a lot of musicians who succumbed
to the occupational hazard posed by addiction.
"The music business lends itself to people abusing alcohol and drugs.
You can drink on the job as a musician," Thorn, 42, said from his home
in Silver Lake, California. "It seems there is a higher percentage of people
fighting drug addiction in the music business, and I don't think the
music business has been great in handling this problem in the past."
And Hoon was never far from his mind.
So, fast forward to a little more than four years ago.
Thorn's brother-in-law, Justin Daniels, was struggling with alcohol
addiction. He had been through rehab, but it didn't work for him. He
believed there had to be a better way.
So Daniels and his wife, Robin, started up Clarity Way, a rehab facility
outside of Hanover that takes a different approach to helping addicts
overcome addiction. Part of that therapy was allowing recovering addicts
to remain connected to their families and their work as they tried to
change their ways.
Not long ago, Robin was talking to her brother, Thorn, who mentioned
that a musician friend of his had been in rehab, but was frustrated
because he couldn't work on his music while receiving treatment.
So Robin asked him, "What do you think about building a studio here?"
Thorn thought it was a great idea. It's something he knows about. He has
three studios, including one in his house, which allows him to work at
home while spending time with his 4-1/2-year-old son.
The studio he built for Clarity Way is a fully equipped professional
studio, with a digital Pro Tools rig and everything a musician would
need to produce a record. It was a labor of love, something close to his
heart, a way to help musicians who fall into the trap of addiction.
The studio is not just for professional musicians. Robin said a
70-year-old woman who had been in the program and who had never made
music before recorded some rap songs in the studio as a part of her
Thorn likes to hear stories like that. Music is his life, and it got him
through the dark days after Hoon's death. It has provided him with his
livelihood. It has allowed him to live his dream.
"I play music because I love music," Thorn said. "I feel very, very
lucky. I love what I do and I never, ever forget about that. Making
records for a living is beyond my dreams. I never, ever lost sight of
And if he can pass that on to others and help them, well, that's what
it's all about.
Mike Argento's column appears Mondays and Fridays in Living and
Sundays in Viewpoints.
Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org
or 771-2046. Read more Argento columns at www.ydr.com/mike or visit his blog at