Matt Sorum: In His Own Words
Ever since Velvet Revolver went on hiatus in 2008, drummer Matt Sorum has been busy with a half dozen side projects including cover band Camp Freddy, high-end fashion line Sorum Noce, and contributed parts for beat software DrumCore. With Diamond Baby, fronted by his girlfriend, Ace, the 50-year-old drummer has another project to which he lends his songwriting and big-beat savvy. A flight delay threatened to cancel our interview but at the last minute the one-time Guns N’ Roses basher rang to chat about his new baby, the pitfalls of fame and, um, Gregg Bissonette. In case that’s not enough, he’s also shooting hyper-stylized action-shot self-portraits. Behind the kit! Those you’ve got to see: mattsorumart.com.
The ’80s Will Never Die
I got the notice from Slash that he wasn’t going to be available for a couple of years, so instead of going out to try to do a rock band, which is virtually impossible, I thought, What could I do that would be completely off the charts? You know, I used to listen to all this weird ’80s electronic music: Ultravox, Kraftwerk, Depeche Mode. For this Diamond Baby project, basically a lot of it started with programming the beat. I got the new Yamaha [DTX900 electronic] drums — they’re killer. What I did was I started to layer the live drums in a way that was more modern and more technical. I've got three or four samples running on my live snare, and I’ve got each song in sequence. I’ve got 808s and bitching sub-low kick sounds. It sounds deep and then I got loops going too. It’s different for me because I’ve always been primarily a live drummer.
From Drum Corps to DrumCore
Paul Allen from Microsoft — he’s one of the richest guys in the world — Paul had this idea that he was going to record all these drummers. This studio he has in the Hollywood Hills is one of the best in the world. There’s a 128-channel digital SSL console, an incredible drum room with 30' ceilings and beautiful wood floors. I spent about three days in there on different samples and at different bpm intervals. The system works pretty cool. It drops right into Pro Tools. I started the [DrumCore] library for Paul as a personal project but then he’s like, “This is pretty cool, I’m gonna put it out,” being the computer guy he is, right? The thing is I should have got more money. I’ve turned on the TV and heard my s__t. Yeah, I’d be watching a football game or something and I’m like, “Hey, that sounds like me.” Well, it is me.
All That Jazz
When I got the call from Kathy Rich to play on the Burning For Buddy album, I got a little bit petrified for a moment. I go, “Who’s on the record?” She’s like “Omar Hakim, Dave Weckl …” I’m like, “What are you calling me for?” When she sent me the tracks, I said I’d be interested in some of the early ’60s Buddy stuff, where he kind of started dabbling in rock and funk, and when I heard the track “Beulah Witch,” I thought, I can sink my teeth into that. I asked Kathy if there was a chart for the song. She said, “My dad doesn’t read music.” [laughs] Yeah, Buddy didn’t read a note, he just played. I read a bit, but I’m no Gregg Bissonette. That guy could read chicken scratch off the wall and make it sound like something.
Drum stars only
What I love about Camp Freddy is I’ve gotten to play with all my heroes: Ozzy Osbourne, Billy Gibbons, Lou Reed, Iggy Pop. Steven Tyler came with Mick Fleetwood and Tyler got on drums and him and Mick played “Wipeout” on two drum kits. I played tambourine. I’m getting to play with all these drummers, too. Chad Smith’s come to play with me, Travis Barker, Sugarfoot Moffett, Tré Cool, Stephen Perkins, Fab from The Strokes. I played on “Billion Dollar Babies” for Alice Cooper and he turned around and he said, “I haven’t heard it played that way since we recorded it [with original drummer Neal Smith],” and that was a big compliment.
With the Epic Canvas series I was, Why couldn’t a drummer play the sticks in a way like a composer? So these two really creative dudes came to me and said “We’re going to try to do this with light‚” and we got these really groovy nightsticks, like red, blue, green, purple. I was in pitch black. The idea was we didn’t want to see the drums, just see what was created by the rhythm. The photos are printed onto art canvas so the process is pretty heavy. We spent six months doing this. And I just had a gallery opening in Beverly Hills. My stuff is hanging at the Andrew Weiss Gallery about 5' away from Marc Chagall.