MATT SORUM – Jive Talkin’

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The Cult. Guns N’ Roses. Velvet Revolver. Kings of Chaos. Grammy Award winner Matt Sorum has been gracing the stage as a member of major bands for the last several decades. In more recent years, Sorum has also been a part of many entrepreneurial and philanthropic ventures, and fans have been eagerly awaiting the release of his auto-biography Double Talkin’ Jive for more than two years. Oh, and throw a baby in the mix as well and it is clear that Mr. Sorum has a full plate. But it seems that place is where he thrives, and thankfully he was also able to share some time with Screamer Magazine in the midst of all the chaos. 

The pandemic put a hold on many things, especially those scheduled to happen at the beginning of 2020. And that was definitely the case with Double Talkin’ Jive. “Well, you know, I was supposed to go out on a pretty big book tour, it feels like so long ago now, around April. And then the pandemic hit in March. We were like, ‘Ok, what’s happening?’ We were going to go into publication,” shared Sorum. “I had a  book tour in New York; I was going to go over to Europe. I had a deal in Sweden; I had a deal in Italy. And then everything got called off and then the publisher ended up having some issues and that was quite a big ordeal. A lot of little mom and pop bookstores went out of business. I mean, so many people went out of business. A lot of people buy their books on Amazon and stuff like that now, but we had a really big plan as far as mom and pop stores and traveling and all that stuff. We ended up rebooting the whole thing now and so now we’re coming out on Rare Bird, which is a great publisher. We ended up doing a final teaser where I went and recorded a song and I do kind of a voiceover over the top of the soundtrack I created with my old friend from the band Blind Melon, Christopher Thorn and my co-producer Chad Schlosser. So you’ll be able to buy the book and then you get this sampler vinyl record. It’s kind of a cool idea, you know?” And for those audio-book listeners, Sorum added,  “There’ll be an audio book. It’s not going to be read by me just based on the timing with my kid coming and everything. I was planning to do it. It’s quite an ordeal to put together an audio book. It’s time-consuming. It can take a month to do it, just to get it right. So I just ran out of time and I wanted to do it, so instead I did the sampler, which I think is really cool.”

The book doesn’t miss any chapter in the life story of the drummer, starting with his childhood.

“My family, you know, I mean they’re my family,” said Sorum. “So you tell about your childhood. That’s a tough thing to do. If you read the beginning of the book, mine wasn’t that pretty, but if you don’t tell your childhood, you kind of wonder why the guy ends up in the certain way that he is. Obviously, like so many others in my business it’s drugs and alcohol issues, and where does that come from? What is it? Well, it’s wrapped up in the fact that you’re in a rock n’ roll band. Probably one of the most notorious drugging rock n’ roll bands ever, which is Guns N’ Roses. And then you come from a bit of a turbulent upbringing. So that wrapped together is a recipe for disaster.” 

Photo Credit: Mark Maryanovich

” I came to Hollywood in the 70’s. I had a lot of friends that came to Hollywood to try to make it in rock n’ roll and a lot of them went home. They gave up. They couldn’t persevere, push through and make it in a band. It’s not easy. Like a one percent bracket of guys that actually have success in ANY field, let alone music, or acting. Probably less than one percent. One hundredth of one percent. My thing was, I don’t really know what else I would do with my life, so what do I have to lose? And my whole push in my career was, what am I going to lose? I don’t know what else I’m gonna do because I don’t have any other real talents or aspirations. So that’s just what I did.”

Writing a no-holds barred book that includes the lives of others, it could be possible that someone out there might be upset about having their part of the story being shared with the world. But Sorum stated, “I don’t think I said anything to piss anybody off. I don’t feel like I’m saying anything disparaging about anybody. I was just basically telling the story the way I lived it and I have a lot of respect for everybody who I’ve played with in bands and I give everybody accolades. But of course, the book would be really boring if I was just telling a really smooth story and it didn’t go down that way. So I tell my trials and tribulations, what it’s like to be in a rock and roll band, to give people light on the subject. I think there’s a mystique around being in a band; that we all just wake up and everything magically appears and you’re just onstage. So I try to give people a sense of behind the scenes and what happens with personalities. And obviously the business itself of music is a lot more difficult to navigate than people think. I think people might look on stage and see a band, but that’s the easy part. The easy part is playing and being a musician.”

Photo Credit: Mark Maryanovich

Sorum is very honest in the book regarding his struggles with drug and alcohol addiction, especially during the Guns N’ Roses years. “I think in that band, we were all the same way. We were young, rebellious. We felt like we were on a mission. Like, well, this is what we’re supposed to be doing. We’re in a band. We drink. We drug. This is who we are. And at the time it just all felt right. And looking back in retrospect, I’m like, well, what would I have done? Finished playing, go back to my hotel room, watch a movie and go right to sleep? No. It wouldn’t be a book, you know?” he added with a laugh.

 “I always looked at it like that. I always looked at it like I was on this wild adventure. And I always thought, well, I’m going to take every piece of it in and I’m not going to miss one moment. Because I talk about that in the book, where I try to go to sleep one night and I missed something that happened and I never missed another night again. I was like, I’m not going to miss out on whatever happens. So that’s what we did. We just partied in every town across the world. And had probably one of the greatest historic rock n’ roll tours of all time, the Use Your Illusion tour, which was like three and a half years long, played four times around the world. Every night was a stadium.”

But the GNR story is not the only period of time covered in Double Talkin’ Jive. “So that’s just a part of the book, and obviously coming up to Hollywood, trying to make it. Sleeping on couches and all that stuff, then finally getting a big break with The Cult. And then after Guns N’Roses having another lull, like ’What am I going to do now?’ The band broke up. I left in ‘97. I ended up getting fired from the band, but at that point, Slash and Duff were gone. Obviously, quite a few years later, we formed Velvet Revolver, based on the three of us wanting to play together again. And that was six, seven, eight years after everyone had left Guns N’ Roses me, Slash and Duff reunited. We remained friends and played in various circumstances, but the time wasn’t right to form a band again. And when we formed Velvet Revolver, it was probably one of the highlights of my career because there we were. I was in my early forties, trying to come back with a new band. Obviously it was a supergroup, but we were very successful. We were nominated for three Grammys, we sold three million records. All of a sudden, here we were. We had another hit and we had a successful album. We’re on tour again. Me and Duff, we’re going to the gym to work out! We’re not doing what we did back in the Guns N’ Roses day. We’re cleaned up. We’re a little bit older, a little bit wiser. We’ve got success and we’re not going to fuck it up. We’re not going to go down the same rabbit hole.”

And during his time in Velvet Revolver, Sorum discovered a whole new realm of fans, as he shared, “So me and Duff were coming out of the subway and some guy yells, ‘Hey, you’re Matt and Duff from Velvet Revolver!’ Slither took off. It was on MTV like every hour. And then we looked at each other and were like, ‘Holy shit! That’s the first time I’ve heard that!’ Which is really cool. It was like we had renewed energy to be able to move and obviously Guns N’ Roses will always be the moniker for all of us, especially Duff and Slash. Myself, I’ve had a lot more bands, so I have people come up to me that loved me from The Cult. I’ll have some maybe a little bit younger fans that love Velvet Revolver. Obviously they know Guns N’ Roses but they might like Velvet Revolver, and based on that it was their introduction to Slash, Duff and me, or Scott Weiland. I mean, I remember when we did–when Slash did–Guitar Hero. Slash did one and then we did one for Velvet Revolver, and we had a lot of younger kids in the audience based on Guitar Hero. We’d meet them backstage and they’d be like 15, 16-year-old kids. We’re like, they would have been five years old when that stuff came out, you know what I mean? So the fact that they were introduced to rock n’ roll through Velvet Revolver was cool. They went back and discovered GNR and other shit that came before that. It was interesting to have that ride. People are saying, ‘Matt, you’ve been in three great rock n’ roll bands’ and I’m like, ‘Well, yeah. And outside of that I’ve done a bunch of other shit.’”

Photo Credit: Enzo Mazzeo

And he continues to do a bunch of other shit, including co-writing and co-producing Billy Gibbons’ solo album, Hardware, released in June 2021. Sorum shared about the experience:  “Well, that’s interesting because me and Billy have been friends for quite a while. You know, I have this thing called Kings of Chaos that I do. It’s like my fun band. We go on tour occasionally. We did a tour of the East Coast. I took Billy to Africa with me. And when it came time to do his solo stuff, he was produced by Joe Hardy on The Big Bad Blues record and then Joe passed away. So he was sort of in a place where he had worked with this guy for almost 25, 30 years, or actually longer–since the 80s. So he came to me and we were talking and I said, ‘Hey, why don’t you come over to my studio to record something?’ and he’s like, ‘Well, ok.’ But he was a little nervous because he hadn’t done anything without Joe for a long time. And he felt really comfortable at my studio.” 

Photo Credit: Zack Whitford

However, with the pandemic, the process took a little extra planning, according to Matt, “So I moved to Palm Springs and we have a studio up in a little town called Pioneertown, about a hundred acres up there with a couple of houses, a recording studio. I kept telling Billy, I said, ‘Billy, you’ve got to come out here and check this out.’ And he’d go, ‘Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah,’ Finally I talked him into it. He drove up there and he’s like, ‘Wow, this is cool.’  Basically with the pandemic happening, nobody was on tour that summer. I said, well, let’s go up there. We’ll take a few of us. We’ll be safe about it, we don’t have to have a bunch of people around. Just three of us. We’ll all get tested and just go in and just kind of hunker down. So we lived up in this hundred-acre ranch that summer. We cut the whole record in this–it wasn’t anything fancy. It’s basically the garage. If you watch the West Coast Junkie video, that’s where we recorded the whole album. We slept there. We woke up in the morning, Billy’d make Mexican breakfast. And then I think, I said, ‘Hey, let’s shoot some videos,’ and Billy said, ‘What do you mean, videos?’ So I called this friend of ours, Harry Reese, who’d been on tour with me and Billy and did the Missin’ Yo’ Kissin’ video. We shot that for like three hundred bucks with one camera and five GoPros. And I said, ‘Harry, come out with your camera and your GoPros and we’re going to shoot four videos.’ He’s like, ‘What?’ And, you know, we had a little bit of a budget, but to be honest with you, it’s not about making fancy videos anymore. I mean, Guns N’ Roses, we’d spend a million dollars making a video. I think we spent a thousand bucks each on these. It’s nothing. And we had a camera, we had a drone. We bought a drone you can hook a camera on. We had a bunch of GoPros. No crew.” 

Photo Credit: Zack Whitford

And somehow in addition to all of his musical ventures, he still had time to develop his own beer as well, “Well, I spend a lot of time down in Brazil,” said Sorum. “I work with a couple of companies down there in tech and entrepreneurial stuff that I’m into. I was down there and I get approached by some guys in a little town about two hours from Sao Paolo and we drove out and I said, ‘Wow, that’d be really cool,’ because for years I’ve always wanted to something with Brazil. There’s a drink there called Cachaca, which when I first went with Guns N’ Roses to Brazil, we were drinking this, it’s kind of like tequila, but it’s made from sugarcane. That’s the Brazilian tequila. So we’d drink that and I always wanted to do it and it ended up being something I just couldn’t get the U.S. to grab on to, based on the name Cachaca, which is kind of a hard thing to say and it didn’t really register. It’s a great alcohol. So anyway, I had this name, O Baterista, which means the drummer in Portuguese. And I kept thinking of that name. I wanted to do a brand with it. And then I met these guys and I said, ‘What about O Baterista?’ They said, ‘No, it needs to be in English.’ I said, ‘You mean, The Drummer?’ They’re like, ‘Yeah, The Drummer!’  So that’s what we called the beer. It’s called The Drummer. And it’s coming out in I believe over twenty stores in the U.S. You know, it’s just something I’m having fun with. It’s an American lager. We’re going to come out with an IPA-two different flavors. So we’re going to launch with the American lager, but it’s a Belgian-style brewery. And I don’t know if you know this, but the Brazilians own AmBev, which is Budweiser. It’s one of the largest beer owners and distributors in the world. A lot of people don’t know that about Brazil, but they’re very, very savvy. They’re very micro-brewery. They know all about flavors when it comes to food, dessert, beer, alcohol, wine.”

And throw in on top of that charity work, entrepreneurial ventures and, oh yeah, a baby! Matt and his wife Ace Harper welcomed their daughter Lou Ellington Sorum on June 11, 2021. Sorum was gushing about his new role as father, “It’s great. I love it. You know, we’re here just doing the family thing; my wife and the kid. Not having too much disruption, just getting acclimated.” Matt and Ace spent last summer spending as much time as they could with their baby girl. “She grows every day. I look at her every day and it’s like, Oh, my God! We’ve got to take it all in, you know?”

Although this is his first child, Matt has always been an encouragement to young aspiring musicians: “Younger people come up to me and say, ‘Hey, I want to be a professional musician,’ and I say, ‘Well, there’s two aspects to that. Learn how to play your instrument great and then learn about the music business because playing in a band is one thing and the business is completely another.’ That’s part of the book, where I kind of learn along way, how am I going to survive in this business of entertainment and music and rock n’ roll and all the characters along the way. And sort of the unforgiving thing that Hollywood has to offer. I had a lot of hills and valleys in my career, ups and downs and clawing your way back up and then having super lows. I feel like I kind of try to spell it out, like, well, you just keep getting up and just keep trying.”

So now it’s time to grab a copy of the book, sit down and soak it all in!  Double Talkin’ Jive is available May 10, 2022.

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