Matt Sorum speaks through the drums.
Each hit or kick that Sorum has committed to tape or knocked out on stage can be felt by anyone within earshot. Whether it’s the epic percussive backdrop behind Guns N’ Roses’ “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” or the propulsive punked-out beat fueling Velvet Revolver’s “Dirty Little Thing,” Sorum’s playing remains unique, undeniable and unforgettable. Sorum’s presence extends far beyond the kit though. Currently, he’s producing The Darling Stilettos forthcoming debut and spearheading his unique Global Sound Lodge project. He never lets up…
Sorum was born in Long Beach, California in the rock ‘n’ roll heyday of the ’60s. There couldn’t be a more appropriate place for a future rocker to hail from. About 20 miles away from the cultural and musical explosion taking place in Los Angeles, he had no choice but to blaze a rock ‘n’ roll trail. After watching Ringo Starr of The Beatles on Ed Sullivan, Sorum became entranced by the drums and had to pick them up. The Beatles opened the door to Jimi Hendrix, Cream and The Doors and inspiration had completely taken hold of him.
At 14-years-old, Sorum was wailing with his band The Prophecy alongside the likes of Van Halen and Devo at The Whisky-A-Go-Go and Crazy Horse West. Rock ‘n’ roll had always called to him, but he embraced it with an unshakable grip. Over the next few years, Sorum honed his chops in numerous session gigs with artists such as Shaun Cassidy, Belinda Carlisle and King Solomon Burke, solidifying his reputation as a go-to studio drummer. In the midst of balancing 40 gigs at a time, Sorum crossed paths with Tori Amos while she was playing in a hotel piano bar. Immediately, they connected, forming Y Kant Tori Read. After rocking clubs for two years, Atlantic signed the band. Amos went solo shortly after, but opportunity came to Sorum. He joined The Jeff Paris band, recording for Polygram in 1987.
The next step skyrocketed him into the consciousness of music fans worldwide though. Hearing about auditions for The Cult, he tried out. Bashing out each track with unshakable conviction, he got the job. For two years, Sorum rocked all over the world in The Cult on tours with Metallica and Aerosmith. The jaunt brought Sorum back home in the summer of 1990. Duff McKagan and Slash of Guns N’ Roses caught that particular tour-ending gig and were blown away by Sorum, quickly asking him to join GN’R.
With a mere month of rehearsals, the band recorded the landmark—Use Your Illusion 1 & 2. A marathon of touring followed for three years, playing stadiums with sit-in guests such as Brian May, Jeff Beck, Ronnie Rood, Steven Tyler and Elton John. GN’R hit The Freddie Mercury Tribute at Wembley Stadium as well as four sold-out nights in Los Angeles at The Forum and Madison Square Garden. In the meantime, Matt’s inimitable playing continued to infiltrate the pop culture consciousness as GN’R songs popped up on soundtracks ranging from Terminator 2: Judgment Day and Days of Thunder to Interview with a Vampire and Gross Pointe Blank.
GN’R dropped The Spaghetti Incident? in 1993 and received two Grammy award nominations and two MTV Awards. Selling thirty-million records with Guns N’ Roses, Sorum joined forces with Steve Jones [The Sex Pistols], John Taylor [Duran Duran] and Duff for Neurotic Outsiders, recording an album for Maverick rocking star-studded weekly gigs at The Viper Room in 1996. While Guns went through various evolutions, Sorum crushed on solo tracks for Duff, Slash and Gilby Clarke.
Officially moving on from GN’R in 1997, Sorum brought his talents behind the board. He produced a Top 40 single for Poe entitled “Angry Johnny” as well as tracks “Hello” and “A Rose is a Rose” for Hollywood Records. Realizing he had a natural knack for bringing the best out of artists, he formed Orange Curtain productions with his partner Lanny Cordola. Together, they completed six film scores and produced platinum-selling artists including Candlebox, Sen Dog of Cypress Hill, Little Milton and Ronnie Spector.
However, drums always beckoned him back. Upon finishing a two-year stint rocking with The Cult, Sorum found himself in the studio with McKagan and Slash. The three shared a chemistry that could never be matched, and they founded Velvet Revolver. With Scott Weiland of Stone Temple Pilots singing, Sorum released two explosive albums with Velvet Revolver—Contraband in 2004 and Libertad in 2007. World tours saw the band etch a legacy of their own buttressed by the hits “Fall to Pieces” as well as “Set Me Free”—propelled by a riff Matt wrote. In addition, “Slither” garnered the band a Grammy for a “Best Hard Rock Performance” and the band received another three Grammy nominations. Contraband also debuted at number one on the Billboard Top 200, selling three-million copies.
Between the madness of touring with Velvet Revolver, Sorum recorded his first solo record, Hollywood Zen—a pensive, poignant and poetic offering that saw Matt singing as well as playing guitar and drums. As if that weren’t enough to keep him busy, he also joined Los Angeles’s coolest cover band Camp Freddy with Jane’s Addiction’s Dave Navarro. Camp Freddy’s Los Angeles shows have become legendary with guest appearances ranging from Ozzy Osbourne and Corey Taylor of Slipknot to Juliette Lewis and Chester Bennington of Linkin Park.
The future is most important to Sorum though. Right now, he’s producing The Darling Stilettos’ highly anticipated debut and working on Global Sound Lodge with Cordola as well as a host of non-profit and charity gigs on the horizon.
Drums still speak louder than words for Sorum and he’s using them to spearhead one rock ‘n’ roll revolution at a time in the studio and live…—Rick Florino