APPETITE FOR DISCUSSION
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SoulMonster
APPETITE FOR DISCUSSION
Welcome to Appetite for Discussion -- a Guns N' Roses fan forum!

Please feel free to look around the forum as a guest, I hope you will find something of interest. If you want to join the discussions or contribute in other ways then you need to become a member. We especially welcome anyone who wants to share documents for our archive or would be interested in translating or transcribing articles and interviews.

Registering is free and easy.

Cheers!
SoulMonster

2002.04.DD - Rhythm Magazine - Raising Hell (Matt)

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2002.04.DD - Rhythm Magazine - Raising Hell (Matt) Empty 2002.04.DD - Rhythm Magazine - Raising Hell (Matt)

Post by Blackstar Thu Feb 04, 2021 12:16 pm

RAISING HELL

WORDS: JONNY CRAGG
PHOTOGRAPHY: EBET ROBERTS


A non-surfing Californian, MATT SORUM turned to the drums for peer acceptance. His journey took him from open night at The Viper Room to the hot seat with Guns N' Roses. We caught up with him on tour with The Cult.

The venue is New York's Paramount hotel, our host is rock 'n' roll drummer extraordinaire, Matt Sorum, his craggy features opening up to an infectious smile. He’s just been to Barneys (upscale department store) and is wearing the spoils of a shopping spree. Decked out in black designer jeans, matching zip up sweater and cap, he looks every bit the successful rocker. His band The Cult play Madison Square Garden tonight in support of Aerosmith. He is looking happy.

The creative partnership of Ian Astbury (vocals) and Billy Duffy (guitar) has utilised some formidable and diverse percussive talents in the past, and it is The Cult that gave Matt his first big break way back in 1988. Eleven years later, as a mission statement of unfinished business, they asked Matt back to record a brand new album, Beyond Good And Evil.

Matt grew up in Mission Viejo, California, just inland from Laguna beach: "I grew up in a surfing community and if you weren't a surfer, you weren't one of the cool guys. When I started playing drums, I got some attention, so it made me wanna play all the more."

Matt cites Ringo Starr's appearance with The Beatles on the Ed Sullivan show and his first concert - metal legends Black Sabbath - as watershed moments in shaping his destiny. After graduating from high school, he packed his bags and headed for Hollywood, living with two other drummers and hanging out at The Central, now known as The Viper Room. “In those days they would do celebrity jams, I would wait to get a turn.  There’d be great people there - John Entwistle, Stanley Clarke, Al Kooper, John Bulushi, Angie Bowie…”

When Matt finally got his chance, he was approached by a guitar player named Greg Reich, who offered him his first professional gig with his touring band. On his return he became a drummer for hire on the Hollywood club scene before getting the nod to audition for The Cult.

Cult of personality

Matt was suddenly faced with the task of taking on the styles of five very different players from previous Cult incarnations and recording sessions - the tribal polyrhythms of Ray Mondo, the pounding pop sensibilities of Nigel Preston, Mark Brzezicki's Copeland-esque syncopation, the garage thrash of Les Warner and the deep pocket that is Micky Curry. "It actually helped me with my playing, took me to the next step."

Interestingly Matt sees his style as having emerged from the requirements placed on him during his extensive tenure with The Cult. He describes it in his inimitable way: "A little technical ability mixed with some attitude, with a real sense of a pocket, although sometimes the guys get on at me to loosen up a bit!”

Matt was told not to smile so much after being initiated into The Cult - a tough call when you observe Ian Asthury's hilarious onstage dancing. The Garden show is a 40-minute whistle-stop tour of the band’s achievements to date, with a few choice cuts from their new album thrown in for good measure. Matt piles through the set with the energy of an 18 year-old and the finesse of the seasoned pro that he is. I ask, almost redundantly, why he left the band to join the mighty Guns N' Roses.

"Any drummer in my position at the time would have been kicking themselves had they not done it. At the time, GNR were the biggest band in the world! The fact that I got the call to do the gig was such an honor. They came to the show and liked the way I played. So I went back to Billy and told him I'd just been offered the GNR gig, not as a sideman, but as a band member (Matt was a waged session player while in The Cult). Billy told me that if it was him then he'd do it - at the time it was like winning the rock 'n' roll lottery."

However, one senses that Matt struggled with the direction that his new bandmates were taking, musically and otherwise.

“I can't say that it was exactly where I was coming from. I never quite understood why they were such a big band. But, I mean, these guys are the real deal - an eat, sleep and drink rock ‘n’ roll band. I became part of that, too - I bought into the whole attitude, drinking and druggin' thing. And I'm glad I did. For the kind of music I was playing, I needed to feel that edge. I wanted to be one of the guys. I mean, I couldn't say 'Oh, 'scuse me, I can't go to the bar tonight I'm gonna take a nap'. I didn't want to be the odd one out, but eventually it caught up with all of us. At the time it was a great party, touring, flying a private jet, doing everything you dreamed of as a kid, living the high life..."

I ask Matt to recount his best experiences with Guns N’ Roses: “The whole mystique of rock ‘n’ roll stardom, traveling the world, meeting beautiful people, playing Wembley stadium three times - once as part of the Freddie Mercury tribute concert, performing with Elton John and Jeff Beck. As a kid I used to see all the big shows at the LA Forum, that's where I saw Led Zeppelin. Guns ended up playing four nights there, sold out - that was a big moment."

And the worst experiences? "Watchin' it fall apart at the end. Seeing the ego and the money get in the way of music. Luckily, I was able to get away from all that and say, 'Y'know, I'm a musician'. Now I feel good about it, but at the time I was scared. Although I was in the biggest band in the world, it became a bad place to be, probably the worst point in my life."

The humour and taste for outrage, however, lingers on in Matt’s recollections of his time with the band. I probe for some rock 'n roll stories.

"Well, I was the audition boy for Heidi Fleiss," he laughs, referring to the notorious 'madame' who provided call girls to the stars. 'She'd send ‘em on the bus and I'd give her a report…”

Slash ’n' burn

Gradually, however, Matt reveals more believable details of his life with the Gunners. "We were rehearsing in Mobile, Alabama for a time, and me and Slash would drive to New Orleans every night to party. We'd ride home, usually cradling a bottle of Jagermeister each. One night we arrived at the hotel lobby, and Slash decides he's gonna climb the Christmas tree. He's just about at the top of this huge tree and I've somehow managed to get a lamp on my head, and I hear this scream. The receptionist has clocked all this goin' on just as Slash loses his balance and tumbles outta the tree, bringing the whole thing crashing to the floor. By this time, the receptionist is hysterically trying to reach security on the phone, so we decide to chase her round the back of reception. The poor woman was terrified!"

So what of Axl? I ask if Matt has any tales to tell of the flame-haired mega star recluse from before the time when he started making all his drummers sign confidentiality agreements. "Axl would keep us waiting for everything, man, and one day he had us delayed for three hours before he turned up and we could fly this private jet to the next show in Canada. We set off, started partying and Axl falls asleep.

"So having waited all this time for him to arrive, we're now arguing over who's gonna wake him up at the other end. Me and Duff wind up brawling on the tarmac, the customs people get involved, the whole nine yards.”

So is it fair to say that they all became afraid of Axl and his unpredictable moods? “No, but he had a certain way of doin’ things and you just couldn’t do anything about it.  He had his dressing room and we had ours.  We only knew when we were gonna play when he was ready and it was nearly always when I had decided to take a dump. We never had set lists and I’d always get the nod from Axl which song we were about to play, and I’d relay it to the rest of the guys.

“Axl’s security chief would always tell me which songs he wanted to start with and I’d oblige as the lights went up. One night we're playing Giants Stadium, New York, riding a golf cart to the stage and his guy tells me ‘Jungle’/Night Train'/ 'Brownstone', but I don't hear 'Night Train'. So I start the intro to 'Brownstone' outta Jungle, and Axl's lookin' at me and I'm like, 'just play the song, man'. Then Axl blows his whistle and says. 'Stop the song' on the mic. We stop, I ram my stick through the bass drum skin and flip Axl the bird. I was mad for the rest of the night. When Billy moans about Ian, I'm like, 'Ian's a walk in the park after what I've been through!"'

As the band fragmented, Matt collaborated with Slash's rejected GNR demos which became Slash's Snakepit, but distanced himself from the finished record. "It sounded a bit dated to me”, he says. Matt stepped aside and was replaced by another drummer for the live shows.

The Neurotic Outsiders also formed during quieter times in the GNR camp. "It was put together as a fun thing so that we could go down to The Viper Room on Monday nights and jam."

The band included Steve Jones from the Sex Pistols and john Taylor of Duran Duran. They released an album on Maverick records in 1996, and their aforementioned LA performances included guests such as Iggy Pop and Simon LeBon. So when the Guns N' Roses machine finally ground to a halt, what did Matt do?

"I paused for thought, dabbled in production (including the first Poe album). I felt I'd had enough of being in a band, but soon realised that production is a lot like babysitting and I'm not a babysitter."

Matt went on to form a production company and has made six film scores to date. "Then I really started to express myself in areas other than what people know me for."

Now Matt exchanges drum workouts for the occasional tom hit or brush track to augment hours of painstaking ProTools sessions and the odd guitar track. One can sense a new awareness of music growing from this more recent adventure into the world of film scores. "I'm looking at music as a diversified thing, I'm growing, I'm back playing in The Cult and that's cool, but I've got to learn and gain more knowledge about, say tablas or Latin percussion, that you can apply back to the drum kit."

Some months later I call Matt at his home in LA. He is hard at work producing Minneapolis band Like Hell. With a stadium tour completed, The Cult are now 'on hiatus', their hopes of revival with Beyond Good And Evil somewhat compromised through disappointing sales. Lava/Atlantic's Jason Flom has dropped the band and anyone else not selling more than two million albums this year in a gargantuan act of spring cleaning.

"Getting dropped is part of life as a musician," Matt says, waxing philosophical. "We could see the whole thing coming. Ian and Billy put themselves under a lot of pressure to resist external meddling and write the album themselves, but ultimately they came up with more of a dark, trippy record than a pop record."

How was it playing with The Cult again long? "Ian and Billy are the same old guys, really, maybe a bit lazier. Some of the old issues came back to me and there was a bit of patchin’ up to do. There was some ego adjustment to being a drummer in a rock 'n' roll band from the drummer in the world's biggest rock 'n' roll band. It started out as, 'Let's get the best Cult lineup together’ and ended up being just about Ian and Billy. I found the whole corporate thing hard to deal with, too. It was a more personal journey for me this time. I mean, it's okay not to get hammered your bandmates every night, as I used to, and do more stuff during the day."

Matt now returns to his pet project, the band he fronts and plays guitar for, Aztec Circus.  I wonder if Matt has a touch of the Dave Grohls? “The new record is coming out through Earthlink and cost $20,000 to record.  If we can sell 20,000 copies then we are laughing, and we did it without anyone telling us what to do, which is cool.”

Finally, I ask out of curiosity if The Cult had any brushes with their hosts Aerosmith on the last tour. “There was one time after Ian had been asked by production not to go on the ‘ego ramps’ (referring to the catwalks protruding from the stage). Of course he did, and the next thing I know we’re getting thrown off the tour. So I got into Steven’s dressing room and he’s annoyed.  So I’m like, ‘You know these limey guys, he thought the ramps were those things going up the first tier, not the walkways as he calls them’.”

Terminology now clarified and US/UK relations restored, drumming’s very own master of diplomacy returned to his now-relieved dressing room.  The Cult may have ground to a halt for now, but Matt Sorum has plenty to be getting on with.  And that’s just how he likes it…
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Post by Soulmonster Thu Feb 04, 2021 1:07 pm

We were rehearsing in Mobile, Alabama for a time, and me and Slash would drive to New Orleans every night to party. We'd ride home, usually cradling a bottle of Jagermeister each. One night we arrived at the hotel
lobby, and Slash decides he's gonna climb the Christmas tree. He's just about at the top of this huge tree and I've somehow managed to get a lamp on my head, and I hear this scream. The receptionist has clocked all this goin' on just as Slash loses his balance and tumbles outta the tree, bringing the whole thing crashing to the floor. By this time, the receptionist is hysterically trying to reach security on the phone, so we decide to chase her round the back of reception. The poor woman was terrified!


When could this have been? Mobile, Alabama, rehearsing "for a time"?
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Post by Blackstar Thu Feb 04, 2021 2:14 pm

Since it was apparently around Christmas, the only possibility I can think of is that it was at the time of the late 1991 - early 1992 shows.
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