[Editor's note: Weekly scribe Jeff Weiss's column, “Bizarre Ride,” appears on West Coast Sound every Wednesday. His archives are available here.]
Two years ago, Grant Korgan woke up in an intensive care unit in the Sierra Nevada with a broken back and no feeling below his stomach. A snowmobile jump had gone awry and doctors told the mechanical engineer and outdoorsman he'd never walk again. He rejected that prognosis.
Korgan's rehabilitation was immediate, intense and fueled by the Glitch Mob, the local electronic crew whose dubstep, glitch-hop and IDM helped popularize those genres throughout North America. Before his accident, the Mob's up-tempo beats and concussive bass had enhanced Korgan's marathon kayaking and snowmobile treks, which often started from his home bases in Palo Alto and Incline Village, Nev.
But after his injury, the Glitch Mob's compositions gained a profound resonance, particularly after one of Korgan's close friends wrote the group about his situation. When he returned home from the hospital, there was a care package of signed Glitch Mob drumsticks and T-shirts, plus their 2010 LP, Drink the Sea. It soon served as a constant companion on his grueling six- to eight-hour daily workouts.
“One day I was in a crowded gym, strapped onto the sit-down elliptical, hat superlow, ear buds in, bumping Glitch Mob. The music was digital and epic but grimy and motivating,” Korgan says from Kauai, where he's training for the 32-mile Kayak World Championships. “The drop hit and I started crying — pure emotional release. They pushed me to go as hard as humanly possible.”
Blessed with the equivalent of Lance Armstrong's spirit and work ethic, the 34-year-old regained control of his nervous system, one synapse at a time. Stepping back from the Silicon Valley nanotechnology company he'd co-founded, Korgan focused full-time on his recovery (weights, cardio, acupuncture, Pilates, yoga), aided by his wife, Shawna. When Glitch Mob performed at Red Rocks last June, he finally met his favorite group, with whom he'd been corresponding for the past year.
“He blew our minds. [Korgan] was on arm crutches and we all hugged. It was incredibly emotional,” says Edward Ma, better known as edIT, and an original resident DJ at Lincoln Heights beat mecca the Low End Theory. “We talk about making music in the hopes of just touching one person, but when we met [Korgan], it all came together. He inspired us.”
After regaining feeling to his knees, Korgan grew determined to return to competitive activity. In January, he sit-skied to the South Pole, thanks to an invite from the High Five Foundation, a nonprofit devoted to athletes injured in winter sports. The Shackleton-esque saga found Korgan braving 50-below weather on a 75-mile, 12-day trek atop 9,000 feet of snow. He almost lost his foot to the cold.
During the expedition, Korgan stayed amped off a mixtape that melded beats to inspirational messages from family and friends. For maximum effect, his wife's vocals were intentionally synced to the Glitch Mob instrumentals. When the group finally reached the pole, Korgan unfurled a Glitch Mob banner at the bottom of the earth.
“I went muscle by muscle, visualizing and reconnecting each one. From a wheelchair to a walker to arm crutches. Next it will be a cane and, finally, I'll walk again,” Korgan says.
His zeal for overcoming obstacles is contagious even via phone. It has helped him land a book deal for Two Feet Back, a memoir due next month. Also, the South Pole trip was filmed for a documentary that's currently in post-production.
“Music feeds the fire, fuels the foot and gets the legs jumping. Our generation has been given the gift to have powerful motivating music in our ears at all times,” he says.