The year was 1994 and it brought us one of the first (and best) Gangsta Rap/Punk Rock/Reggae/Nu-Metal-infused bands from the OC, Huntington Beach to be exact. The band was (Hed) P.E.
The band got its start with vocalist Jahred Gomes (M.C.U.D.), guitarist Wes Geer (Wesstyle), guitarist Chad Benekos (Chizad), bassist Mark Young (Mawk), drummer B.C. Vaught and DJ Product. Their unique and memorable name, (Hed) stands for higher education. They later had to change their name for legal reasons adding, “P.E.” for Planet Earth, which only added to their experimental, mind-expanding revolutionary sound.
The Sonic Journey Continues
Many of their fans started rocking out to their music back when they blew up the OC music scene when their self-titled album was released in 1997 on Jive Records (a predominately Hip Hop and R&B lead label) with the revolutionary cover art drawn by the bands accomplished turntablist, DJ Product.
The Making of their Uber-Hit “Bartender“
What brought them even more notoriety was the album, “Broke”, released in August of 2000. Their first single from that album, “Bartender” peaked at No. 23 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock chart and No. 27 on the Modern Rock chart. Their second single, “Killing Time” was on the Kevin Costner/Kurt Russell movie soundtrack, “3000 Miles to Graceland.”
Depending on who you talk to, the band is known as (Hed) P.E. or (hed)pe or (Hed) planet Earth or HED. The names stands for Higher Education – Planet Earth.
If you ever had a chance to see (Hed) P.E. in the late 90’s, consider yourself lucky. The monumental talent of their songs and lyrical writing and stage performance of each member from beginning to end was something beyond extraordinary.
DJ product would use a Makita grinding tool on his turn tables to create a lightshow of sparks flying through the air landing on the stage while the band played phenomenally behind him. Chad would shout out the surprise background vocals, Mark would play near BC, Wes would play (often shirtless but the ladies never minded) as though he could feel the music coming out of his fingertips, and Jahred would work one end of the stage to the other like the ring leader of a circus, keeping everyone entertained. Dripping in sweat, playing in venues sold well over legal capacity, each member made fatigue their bitch and played every note with the same energy as though it was the first song of their set… at every show.
The 2000 seminal album, Broke
With the 20-year anniversary of Broke now approaching, this August former guitarist Chad Benekos is releasing a documentary video with behind the scenes footage of what it was like for members of (Hed) P.E. on stage and on the road. Never before seen footage put to the soundtrack of Broke and edited perfectly to sync up to live playing in a multitude of shows in front of massive crowds will keep you completely glued to your device!
I first interviewed the band in 1997 for an old local black and white ‘zine after one of their shows. Sadly, I’ve since lost the tape recording of the interview and time has taken its toll on my memory of the dialogue. Somehow, through the amazing powers of modern technology and social media, I was able to reach out to some of the OG members and ask them about their time in (Hed) P.E. during their first 3 albums which featured the original line-up.
(Hed) P.E. live (Circa 1997) | Photo by Rachael Contreras
Unfortunately, not all the members wanted to drudge up the past but they were very polite about it. I’m massively humbled and eternally grateful that through their busy schedules they were all more than generous with their time and for the participation I received for this article.
I first spoke with original guitarist, Chad Benekos and here’s what he shared with me:
“As far as fun band stories there’s just way too many to even start. Something that comes to mind is one of Jahreds lyrics from the Broke album when he says “you heard about the sex and the drugs and the violence… it’s all true”. -And it was true. But the original band was more than our crazy reputation. We really did take the music seriously and I’ve always maintained that each one of those guys including Jared was a super talent.
The Original Lineup of (Hed) P.E. | Circa 1997
As far as my part goes, I was the first to leave the band. That was shortly after we finished recording the third album, Blackout. I had another band called Humanlab with guitarist Scott Holiday from Rival Sons. We were signed to Atlantic Records but our album never got released and the band broke up after a few years. After Humanlab I did another band called Duress for which I sang and played guitar. We made two independent albums and won the People’s Choice Award two years in a row at the Orange County Music Awards. After that I focused mostly on solo acoustic shows and writing and performing in a duo called The Pharmacy Keys. The Pharmacy Keys are now currently working on new material.”
When asked about the documentary and its purpose, “As far as the Hed documentary is concerned, it’s really just that I wanted to finally release some of the footage I shot while touring the Broke album. Since the 20-year anniversary is coming up this year I figured it would be a cool time to make something as a gift to the fans. I have too much film to release it all and it would be boring to just post all the home movies so I’ve ended up editing it down to something fun to watch and I’m also making new music videos with the footage to go along with it. It’s a work in progress so I’m releasing the music videos once a month up until the anniversary of the Broke album release which was August 22, 2000.
Reunion rumors: I think DJ Product and I are the only ones who are in contact with all the original members. I don’t think it would be too difficult to get the band into a room and work the songs up to where they sound good but I doubt it would happen unless the money was right and I personally wonder what the interest would actually be from fans. I think it would fun but I don’t see Jared and Wes getting along. Never say never, though right? Just this week I’ve talked to Jahred, DJ, and BC so you never know.”(*As I wave both hands wildly to show an absurd amount of interest in seeing this happen someday!)
For Information on Chad
For those amazing (hed)PE music videos mentioned and stay up to date on the release of the documentary, click here (you will NOT be disappointed):
DJ Product was kind enough to give me a rundown on all 6 original members. Here’s what he had to say: “I frequently get hit up on how all the original members are doing. Everyone is doing well. Everyone has moved on successfully with their lives. Jahred M.C.U.D. continues to tour the current (hed)PE band internationally keeping the torch lit with some talented musicians and is a family man. BC went on tour for a while with the platinum rock band Breaking Benjamin, he is now in sports management and has a grown son.”
“Chad was the first to go solo and formulate and lead his own band, Duress and is a proud father. Mark toured the states with a well-known rock band, Smile Empty Soul and recently founded and developed a drink company called Brew Loka. I, myself have enjoyed working in a kitchen of a great restaurant the last few years and DJ locally, and recently have been the touring DJ for the popular group Kottonmouth Kings on the weekends. Wes went on to tour the world with the multi-platinum rock group Korn and has founded Rock to Recovery that focuses on installing music programs in rehab centers. There you have it…”
To follow DJ Product and see his impressive graffiti art
Lastly, I spoke with original guitarist Wes Geer. He laid it all out for us here:
“Since the (Hed) P.E. days, I left the band because Jahred and I had a fight over a girl, that could not be reconciled no matter how hard we all tried at the time. It destroyed the band. Fueled largely by a toxic drunk and drug induced culture, we were young and ill equipped to fix what was happening. Just like I was a key component in creating the band from the ground up, I was also a main ingredient in destroying it.”
He went on to say… “When the lonely misery of touring in such a dark camp was too much, I left. I couldn’t take it anymore. At first, I did it out of spite, like ‘fuck you let’s see what happens after I leave…’ And as we now know history has shown us pretty much any member of any band is replaceable. I’m not saying they are as good as the original, but fans wanna hear the songs, and the remaining members wanna keep playing. Though I’d argue (hed) was never the same. It wasn’t the same after Chad left, as rad as Sonny Mayo is, he was no Chad, and OG.“
“So, I fell into a depression. (hed) was my baby. I lost who I was and fell again into heavy drugs and somehow did not die, and made it into rehab. Rehab saved my life.“
“I got sober, and eventually decided I wanted to get back into music, six years after leaving (Hed). I started getting really into meditation, and was truly led to Korn. It was bizarre. I started meditating to manifest a GREAT music gig after years of not wanting one, and within days the Korn guys, well Munky, reached out to me via text to come play with them.“
“That was all because I was sober. I reinvented myself, my reputation. I got to tour the world with friends, in one of the most influential bands of our time, the legendary, Korn. I learned so much then. Surprisingly, Humility. How to play at a much higher level, sober. How to stay in tune with reality, and how to start using my powers for good.”
“When the Korn gig was going away, Brian ‘Head’ Welch was coming back to the band, writing was on the wall. I went back to mediation and asked the Universe ‘If I’m supposed to be sober (obviously) and a musician, how can I help people and make a living?“
“Remembering my time in rehab, there was no music, so I wanted to change that. I created a new form a music therapy, so I named it Rock to Recovery. This little idea of writing songs with people in rehab took off like crazy. We started plugging it in everywhere we could, with wounded warriors, at risk youth, mental health, all sorts or arenas. I started training my sober musician homie on my technique, and funny enough, gave Sonny Mayo a job. He was my first hire! Now we are 15 guys, and do 500 sessions a month, we have a contract with the Dept of Defense, and work internationally with wounded warriors. What a perfect way to transition out of the ‘business’ and still do music. It’s been the biggest blessing in my life; giving guys careers that fill their heart, pure fulfillment, while also helping so many people struggling.“
“Since I finally started writing again with a guy I met at a rehab. His name is Matt Bartosch. He was a staffer at a rehab and would help me out with vocals when noone else wanted to sing. He had an amazing voice! So of course, I hired him for Rock to Recovery and since we’ve started a band called HU3M3N. We’ve just begun to release music amidst the COVID lockdown era. Getting great responses. It’s nothing like (Hed) or Korn, but it’s still cool AF. On bass is Clinton Calton from D.I., and looks like Scott from Train will join us on drums.”
You can find HU3M3N anywhere @HU3M3N, IG, youtube, fb, tiktok
For more of Wes’s new bands music and videos
(Hed) P.E. Circa 2020
As for me, I remember seeing the band locally a few times… and it seemed like everyone in OC was there each time. The shows were always sold out. As quick as you heard tickets were on sale, everyone rushed to get them. What must have been a great feeling for the band, every single person at each show seemed to know every single word to every single song.
For now we can only cross our fingers that a reunion of the OG members will happen someday, hopefully one day the stars will align and we can all bask in the sparks from DJ products grinder together.
Personal note from the writer: This article is meant to be unbiased however, Broke is still one of my favorite albums ever. Since the band is still currently recording and touring with different members, it’s very important to note that this article doesn’t reflect my opinion of the current band or their musical abilities. Clearly, they continue to hold up the (Hed) P.E. name. The band remains a sonic power, simply electrifying to the core and an overall outstanding live experience.