Matt Sorum has led a charmed life, at least for a musician, and especially for a drummer. He was initially recruited to back The Cult in 1988, just as the band embarked on a 185-date world tour in support of its most-successful effort "Sonic Temple." After a couple of years with The Cult, Sorum was tapped to man the sticks for Gun N' Roses during the group's massively-successful twin "Use Your Illusion" albums and globetrotting tour. Though GNR was universally praised for its stadium-ready rock, the band also fell prey to bloat, adding a veritable orchestra of additional players and backup singers to its increasingly behemoth stage production. Understandably, a few years working for Axl Rose would try anyone's patience, and Sorum soon found himself entrenched in GNR's gutter-glamour lifestyle, partying 'til dawn and playing less and less frequently.
After a fallout with Rose in 1997, Sorum was fired from GNR and bided his time pursuing eclectic musical interests, including
a stint playing jazz with The Buddy Rich Orchestra, a one-off Christmas performance with Billy Idol, a record with the super group Neurotic Outsiders, an album and tour with Slash's Snakepit and gigs as producer for Candlebox's platinum debut and Poe's two hits, "Angry Johnny" and "Trigger Happy Jack."
Sorum also completed the soundtrack (with GNR bandmates Slash and Duff McKagan and John Taylor of Duran Duran fame, all of whom played in Neurotic Outsiders) for a film called "Sound Man" which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival last year. The drummer quickly found that quirky show-biz types are found offstage about as often as they are on.
"There's personalities everywhere in the music business," he says, phoning from backstage at "The Tonight Show," where the reunited Cult (Sorum, vocalist Ian Astbury, guitarist Billy Duffy and new bassist Billy Morrison) is scheduled to appear.
most fortunate niche-filler.
Sorum recently spoke with The Mag at length about his remarkable past and raucous present, clearly delighted to still be in the game bashing the skins at this juncture in his career.
As we start to chat, Sorum is interrupted by a "Tonight Show" production assistant, bearing a brimming basket of goodies.
"I got a gift," he marvels.
What'd you get?
"'Tonight Show' T-shirts from Jay Leno. Ha ha! And we got a signed thing from Jay. It says, 'Thanks for coming.' Jay came in a little while ago; it was kind of trippy. I did the show one other time with Billy Idol. Jay always comes in; he's real nice and he goes around and says hi to all the talent."
How did you get back together with The Cult?
You spent a long time making the new Cult record. What did the band do during that time?
"We took a year and a half to make the record because we were searching for the new sound of the band. We wanted to be viable now. We didn't want to be the retro-Cult. We didn't want to be a band reforming for the sake of getting back together. Ian refers to it as unfinished business. It's modern, you know? It'll compete against anything that's out there -- any Limp Bizkit, but we don't want to be Limp Bizkit, we never were. It's heavy and it's a rock 'n' roll album, and I think what I sense from people out on the street is that there's a lack of it. There's a lot of attitude-rock and a lot of soft (expletive), but there's nothing in the middle. Aerosmith is more of a pop band now. There's Stone Temple Pilots, but their new album is even a bit soft. There's not that many."
What happened with Guns N' Roses?
"There was so much time going by. We ended the tour in the summer of '93. Me, Slash, Gilby (Clarke, another GNR guitarist) and Duff spent some time writing some music, and Axl didn't like it. Then me and Slash went and did the Snakepit album and all this political (expletive) started happening. And years and years were going by, like three years. And I was just hanging out in Hollywood and partying. Finally, me and Duff put another band together called Neurotic Outsiders, and as soon as we did that Axl called us back into the studio. So we started rehearsing with Guns -- we'd show up every night and Axl would come in at like midnight and we'd rehearse until six in the morning, seven, eight o'clock in the morning. It was ridiculous. My drug use
I went back to my six-level palatial estate, where I was producing a band called Candlebox, they were in my house. And I said, 'I've just been fired from Guns N' Roses.' And we sat down and we celebrated."
Did you think the band had gotten sort of bloated toward the end?
of him. I don't know WHAT he's thinking right now. I don't know where his head's gone, I can't get inside his head. He's created some sort of mystique for himself that's actually legendary now."
What kind of differences do you see between The Cult and Guns N' Roses?
hair and comb it straight, put that headband on. Because all those other bands in L.A. were doing it. If you watch the 'Welcome to the Jungle' video, you can see the difference in Axl's hair between that and 'Sweet Child of Mine.'"
How has the music business changed since you started out?
Was that sort of debauchery -- the "rock 'n' roll" life -- par for the course in GNR?
"Yeah. I guess I was destined to do it. I grew up with that sort of mindset. I arrived in this band that was the modern version of Led Zeppelin. I remember riding in a limo up the back way through Madison Square Garden and going, 'Man, this is exactly like "Song Remains the Same."' I was in the limo, driving up the ramp, getting on the private 747 jet and doing it, being there and living everything I'd dreamed. Luckily, I didn't die at an early age. It's all sort of surreal and trippy, but I was really lucky to have done all those great things and experience all those great experiences. And they're still happening. Here I am at 'Jay Leno,' you know?"
-- Assistant Mag editor can be reached at 832-7178.