Matt Sorum is a musician, songwriter and producer who has worked with Axl Rose, Elton, Billy Idol, and many others. Now he's an author as well, and took time to tell EJW about his career as well as his autobiography, Double Talkin' Jive: True Rock 'n' Roll Stories from the Drummer of Guns N' Roses, The Cult, and Velvet Revolver.
EJW: You've got a new book out and it includes a bit about one of your favourite engagements: the Freddie Mercury Tribute AIDS Awareness Concert in 1992 at Wembley Stadium. You met Elizabeth Taylor, and got on really well. Did you also meet Elton at that time?
MS: Meeting Elizabeth Taylor was incredible. We were side stage standing together with Spinal Tap who were ready to play. It was an interesting scene, this beautiful, iconic actress mixed in with the guys from the greatest parody rock group of all time. We engaged in conversation; I believe I said I loved her and she asked what group I was in. When I said Guns N' Roses, she responded, 'I love you too.' She had an incredible aura which has captivated me to this day. I remember that moment with her.
As far as Elton, he was with Queen that night playing Bohemian Rhapsody with Axl joining in after the middle section of 'Mamma mias.' I bumped into him backstage, which was crazy. I would turn a corner and there was David Bowie, Robert Plant, George Michael--to name a few. It is still very high on my list as one of my greatest musical gigs and experiences ever.
EJW: Later that year, you and your Guns N' Roses bandmates performed November Rain at the MTV Video Music Awards, accompanied by Elton. What do you recall about the event and rehearsal?
MS: I just remember how incredible Elton was. We did one run through at rehearsal. Axl and Elton had two pianos facing each other and Elton nailed it on the first take. We were backstage with him and walked to the stage together. It was a very heavy moment for a kid growing up with 'Goodbye Yellow Brick Road' on repeat, and then to be playing with him.
EJW: It's been reported that Nigel Olsson influenced the way you've played on November Rain. How so?
MS: That's right, Axl loved Elton and over some chilled vodka and caviar, we listened to Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me at A&M studios late one night while recording Use Your Illusions 1 & 2. Axl said, 'Listen to those tom fills.' Nigel had big epic tom fills throughout that song and inspired my fills on November Rain.
EJW: Phil Spector was one of your fans, and even talked about producing a Guns N' Roses album. That never happened, but you did wind up playing on a session for him, right?
MS: I met Phil at Ocean Way studios after a session I did for an artist named Poe. It was already late from my memory, close to midnight.
I was introduced to Phil in the hallway as the drummer from Guns N' Roses and Phil asked if I've played on a Celine Dion track he was recording across the hall. He made me an offer I couldn't refuse and I stayed up recording with him for sixteen hours straight. Celine was there until 10 a.m. It was the Phil you heard about: A very crazy story that's detailed in my book.
EJW: Another of your bands, Velvet Revolver, won a Grammy for Best Hard Rock Performance. The award was for Slither, which you co-wrote. Also in 2005, the group covered Eric Clapton's Tears in Heaven to aid victims of the Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami. Elton was among the other participants. Did you record together?
MS: Yes, we recorded with him in London. VR was the backing band and another incredible story of Elton's talent. We were told by the producer, Mark Hudson, that Elton was arriving at 8 p.m. We were just finishing the basic track at 7:50ish and at the strike of eight, Elton walked through the door.
You could almost hear trumpets. Even the entry was next level. A true star, on time and professional. Elton asked to get right to work as he had a gallery opening to attend to. He moved into the vocal booth to sing.
We were there as a band along with our wives and girlfriends and were floored as we sat in the control room hearing that epic voice come through the big speakers. He knocked it out in 10 minutes and asked if it needed his piano. Of course there was a Bosendorfer ready to go. It was one take with one punch in the bridge. Elton said his goodbyes and was out of the building by 8:30 and off to the gallery. We all sat in amazement of what we just witnessed.
EJW: There's a new art show, Remix: The Art of Music, at Gabba Gallery in Los Angeles. It features imagined album covers, paintings inspired by songs, and portraits of personalities like Amy Winehouse, Dolly Parton, and Snoop Dogg. A portion of the sales benefit Adopt The Arts, which you started in order to donate instruments to schools, provide music and art classes, and raise awareness about the need for funding such education. Weren't you one of the artists at last year's ''Remix?''
MS: I am co-founder of Adopt The Arts and the wonderful folks at Gabba Gallery have been huge supporters. We've done art collabs with Yoko Ono and John Lennon's art as well as the animal charity IFAW along with our good friend Shephard Fairey, who sits on our board.
EJW: Billy F Gibbons wrote Double Talkin' Jive's foreword. Have you done a lot of work with him? And what's been happening with your own group, Kings of Chaos, which you've described as being a celebration of the music and friendships you have made throughout your career?
MS: Billy is a great friend. We just released an album I co-wrote and co-produced called Hardware on Concord Records. It came out June 4th, and has gotten some great reviews and is doing quite well.
Kings of Chaos is my rock outfit and I invite my friends to play different gigs around the world. We've played everywhere from Australia, South Africa, South America, and of course North America. Guests have included Billy Idol, Steven Tyler, Robin Zander, Corey Taylor, Brian May, and more.
There's an album in the works set for late 2022.