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INTERVIEW: MATT SORUM of Hollywood Vampires – June 2016

Often interview opportunities pop up and you take the call because you feel obligated or want to help push a bands new disc, tour, project, etc.  Every once in a while someone offers to ring you up and discuss a project and you leap at the chance because of the imprint the performer has left on you and your musical tapestry.  In one form or another, drummer Matt Sorum has been a part of various bands, projects, groups, etc. through the years that help make up my music collection.  Toss in the fact that this guy has become quite the Humanitarian over the last few years with his various charitable efforts, and I am being offered an awesome shot at interviewing a great guy… and the timekeeper for one of the hottest bands out on tour this summer – The Hollywood Vampires.

PHOTO CREDIT Zack WhitfordHVamps NY Show-17

Toddstar: Mr. Sorum.

Matt: How are you?

Toddstar: Good, yourself?

Matt: I’m good, thank you.

Toddstar: Excellent. Thank you so much for taking time off for us, we really appreciate it.

Matt: No problem.

Toddstar: Let’s talk about the big news, man. The Hollywood Vampires kicking off their US tour in a couple of days.

Matt: Yeah, man. We did a bit of a warm-up tour in Europe, so we’re ready to rock, and got a good set put together. We just adjusted it a little bit last couple of days, made a couple of little tweaks. Think we’re going to add one other track that we all wanted to play. We’re heading out tomorrow, rehearse a little bit, and then jump up there and do it.

Toddstar: Awesome. I know the fans can’t wait for this.

Matt: Oh, yeah. Playing with these guys is so cool, and everyone’s fun, and really it’s fun. We don’t have to do these long, super-long tours that last forever. I wouldn’t mind going a little longer, but it’s sort of a once-in-a-lifetime thing for us now. We don’t really know what’s coming next. You know what I mean? We’re going to do this one month out on the road and then hopefully we’ll get to do it again next year, or whenever everyone’s available. For now we’re just going to live in the moment, and do it, and enjoy it. I urge people to come out and see it, because we don’t know exactly when it’s going to happen again or any of that kind of thing.

Toddstar: Matt, you seem to be able to pop in and out of these – I hate to use the term “super group” because it’s so overused these days – but you seem to find yourself in the right spot. I myself have been lucky enough to see a Kings of Chaos show…

Matt: Oh yeah? Where’d you see us?

Toddstar: In Windsor last year, at Caesar’s.

Matt: Cool. That was fun, right? That was a fun show.

Toddstar: Oh god, it was over the top. You find yourself now sharing the stage with a whole other set of people who are just legendary in the music business. What’s it like for you every night to look around and think, “It’s not Steve Stevens tonight,” or, “It’s not Gilby, instead I’ve got Joe Perry, or I’ve got Tommy Henriksen.” What’s that like for you, from your position on stage, to be able to look around and just see a different star-studded cast around you from month to month?

Hollywood Vampires - Album Cover (Final)

Matt: For me it’s like being a kid again. Here I am playing the greatest songs, right, of rock and roll. It’s almost like studying my craft again in a way. Because I was always in bands, coming through my 20’s all the way up through Velvet Revolver, it was always a band situation, playing original material. Now I’ve gone back and I’m playing with Alice Cooper playing Alice Cooper songs, and I’m playing with Robin Zander in the Kings of Chaos, or I’m playing with Joe Perry and I’m doing Aerosmith songs. I’m playing with the guys that wrote the material, and wrote the songs, and that’s bucket list stuff. Then it’s like, “I have to play it right. I’ve got to go and study it again, and make sure…” In a way it’s like going back to the University of Rock and Roll for me. It’s made me a better drummer. I think I’m a better drummer than I was maybe 10 or 15 years ago. I go into the nuances of the music and I go, “Wow, listen to that, I forgot about that.” Or, “Listen to what Joey Kramer’s doing on the hi-hat right there, I forgot about that.” I learn it again, you know what I mean?

Toddstar: That’s got to be cool.

Matt: I’m relearning all this great music that, obviously we’ve all heard on the air waves forever, but songs like “Manic Depression” by Jimmy Hendrix. I’m playing with Joe Perry and Alice Cooper’s singing it, because we’re paying tribute to Jimmy Hendrix in the set. It’s a little bit difficult of a drum beat; it’s a weird drum beat, so here I am taking the challenge to play it. I’ve played it many times before. I think the last time I played it, I played it with Steve Stevens and Seal at the opening of the Hard Rock in Las Vegas. It’s like that. I go, “Oh yeah, I know that, but I’ve got to pull it out of my repertoire.” The thing about me is, I’m not afraid to take the challenges. There are a lot of great drummers out there, just certain drummers just want to stay in their band, and certain guys want to be journeymen and jump around. I consider myself a journeyman, I consider myself a guy that likes to take a challenge, and I like to throw myself into the fire and just go, “I got to learn 22, 24 new songs, quickly.”

Toddstar: When you jumped into the whole Hollywood Vampires project, looking at what they had recorded before you got there, what songs just lit you up and you thought, “Yes, finally, I get to play these,” or, “These are ones that I’m finally going to get to showcase?”

Matt: Like I said, I love the Who stuff. “My Generation” is… Keith Moon was an unbridled drummer though. You couldn’t really get the same version out of him twice. He was just an energy. He was a painter; he was an artist, on the drum kit. I try to do my best representation of, how would I play it? I put a little bit more of a wilder aspect in my drumming that people might not have seen from me, to play a little bit more and go a little crazy. I’m not always allowed to be that drummer in certain bands. I’ve got to play the beat; I’ve got to keep it together. I love that one, and then like I said, “Manic Depression.” Of course Zeppelin, “Whole Lotta Love.” The version on the Vampires is a little bit different. That album’s got Brian Johnson on vocals. We play it a little bit different, Alice does a harmonica solo, we did our own little take on “Whole Lotta Love,” which is famous Zeppelin. Then, we recently added stuff that’s not on the record. Obviously everyone knows we’ve lost so many great artists in the last couple of years. We lost Bowie at the beginning of the year, so we added a couple Bowie songs that we’re going to play in the set, and then we added a Motörhead song after Lemmy passed. We played that on the Grammys.  “Ace of Spades” is the most representative hit, I guess you could call it. I don’t know if it was a hit, except for it’s the most well-known song probably. You know what I mean. People say “You could play ‘Overkill,’ you could play ‘Bomber,'” there are plenty of Motörhead songs, but the reality is, that song is probably the most… We play that one. On the album there’s a track by T Rex called “Jeepster,” and we were like, “Well we played it a few times, sounded great on the record, but it didn’t really go down live.” Certain things don’t go down live, you know what I mean? The audience kind of goes, “I liked it, but it didn’t blow my mind.” We really gauge a lot of the set off the audience. We go, “It felt like the audience got a little slow there.” We watch the audience. Alice is really good at that, he goes, “I think we need to remove that song. It was too slow.” Alice likes to pump through the set. There’s not a lot of dilly-dallying around. He doesn’t talk too much … So we’re moving. We actually play a lot more songs than a regular band would play, because there’s not a lot of gabbing time and talking in between songs. We just do it. It’s like, “Go, go, go!” I barely get to go down and get a sip of water. I got to remember to take a drink of water or I’m going to pass out. Seriously, because Alice just wants to keep moving fast, and keep the audience pumped. The audience wants to be pumped, we want to be pumped. So we added a couple of other T Rex songs that seem to work better. The new set is going to be, I think, really cool, and then we feature Joe Perry on some stuff, and obviously he’s Joe Perry, so you’ve got to feature him.


Toddstar: Sure. Again, going back, you’ve been able to play with some of the biggest out there, and especially some of the biggest front men. Scott Weiland, you played behind him, you did the gig with Motörhead, and you did the gig with The Cult. I don’t want to say as a kid, but as a youngster in the business so to speak, a guy like Alice Cooper… when you’re presented with that opportunity, does the little kid in you say, “Oh my God”?

Matt: Of course, yeah. I grew up with that band. I grew up with Alice Cooper. That was part of my repertoire. It’s a real honor to be equal with him on stage now, which before I was a fan. I still look up to them in a way that, I’m like a fan of theirs, but now I’m on the same stage. It’s a real honor, it’s a bucket list, it’s a feather in my cap, it’s all that stuff. It’s like, “Wow, I can put that notch on the bed post. I did that.” That’s something I can always take with me, and I’m like, “I played with that guy.” I played with Joe. I got to know these guys. I got to hear… geez, I thought I had stories. Sit down and talk to Alice Cooper for a few minutes, and you’re in awe of what he’s seen and where he’s been and what he’s done. The man, he’s a saint. He’s the greatest guy, and he’s been through so much, and he’s so genuine. He’s a real leader of rock and roll for me, and he’s given me a lot of lessons in rock and roll. Every time I play with these real tried-and-true characters… Like Lemmy, when I was in Motörhead I learned a lot from watching him, and the way he represented rock and roll, and how he acted to people. Alice is the same way. He’s just a great guy. The other guy that is an amazing guy is Johnny Depp. Just a really generous guy. He’s a real giver, he wants to be there and give everything. He’s not just walking in and thinking he’s the guy. He’s putting everything into this. The other day we went down and did a radio show together, and we were talking about the set, and he was like, “What I few tried this song, and what if we try this one?” Because he’s studied his craft, he’s done the research. He reads the Encyclopedia of Rock and Roll just like the rest of us. He knows his stuff. That I like about him. The other thing I really like about him is how he treats people. He’s very cool to the crew, he’s a good guy. It’s good to be around that. Then, to be able to see him on stage and watch him play, and see that he’s having a lot of fun. That’s really cool to see. Because this has been a dream for him his whole life, he’s wanted to be… he just got a little caught up in that other career of his.

Toddstar: You keep talking about all these nice guys Matt, and this is what’s cool about you, is you don’t like to toot your own horn, but you’re a nice guy. You founded Adopt The Arts. Tell us about some of these programs that are near and dear to you, and helped mold who Matt Sorum, the human…

Matt: I’ve had a very illustrious career. As you’re in your career, I think a lot of people can relate to this, when you’re just trying to figure out what you’re doing with your life, sometimes you just work, and you work, and you work, and you work, and you’ve got stuff you’ve got to take care of. After Velvet Revolver I just sort of organically started falling into things that came to me, naturally. I had some extra time, I wasn’t going to jump right into a band after that, and I developed this charity, and built this charity, called Adopt The Arts. It’s out here in LA. I realized that kids weren’t getting music and art in these public schools here, so I ended up starting a program for kids. Right now I have probably about 700 kids that get music and art because of my program. I basically bring them instruments, and I have teachers, and they get to play music every day during school. I know what it did for me as a kid, and I’m dealing with a lot of, I want to say, under-the-line, underprivileged, lower-income. Most of our kids out here in Los Angeles that are in the public school system are Latino or African-American, and they aren’t getting everything that I believe they need to excel. I go and do it, you know what, it’s such a great feeling to do. I just did a massive gig, I don’t know if you saw it, but I just did a huge fundraiser and I raised like $200,000, and all my rock and roll buddies came to the table, man. On that gig I had Steve Lukather, the DeLeo brothers from STP, Corey Taylor from Slipknot, Chad Smith from the Chili Peppers, Glenn Hughes, Robin Zander, Gilby Clarke, Billy Duffy from The Cult. We all got up and played, and they all came for free. Joe Perry, Will Lee from David Letterman Band, Geezer Butler, it was insane! Then we played all night to a packed house. Everyone left there just beaming, and they didn’t care about how much money they donated. Brian May sent a guitar, Sammy Hagar, Dave Grohl, Slash sent me two guitars. We had so much stuff; we raised over 100 grand in the auction alone. All that money goes back to these schools. I’m working with some really big companies, Coffee Bean; I’m talking to a lot of big companies like Hot Topic, about getting involved. We’re going to build this thing, we’re going to come across the country, and we’re going to do it all. It’s going to be amazing, because it’s really the future man. It’s like, what are these kids going to do with this country? I look at it like that, and I get really passionate about it. Because I kind of look at myself in that, and I go, “Where would I have been if I didn’t have music in school? Where would I be right now? Who would I be?” I’m not saying that they’re all going to be rock stars. They’re going to be kids that are going to contribute in a creative and innovative way to make this a better world. That’s what I want from them when I view that.

Photo credit ROSS HALFIN2977

Toddstar: Definitely. I totally understand that. I’m an accountant, yet all these people you’ve talked about that, at some point in time, and even yourself, you’ve been a thumbprint of a specific date and time in my life that’s helped mold who I am.

Matt: Thank you for saying that. We are all connected, right, obviously. Somewhere or another there’s always a weird link. You go, “Wow, that guy knows that…” Especially now, with social media and everything else, and “I’m on this thing, I’m on this Twitter, I’m following…” Now that we’re more connected people always ask me, “What can I do to help with this, and what can I do to help with that?” I say, “You’re on social media right? Just tell somebody about it.” Information. Information and knowledge is valuable. I got involved with Dolphin Project and Ric O’Barry, the guy who was in The Cove. I’m on the board of Dolphin Project as well. It’s another very passionate charity I’m involved in that has to do with the captivity of whales and dolphins. Mainly orcas and bottlenose dolphins, and dolphins in captivity. The idea of the circus in America is just so barbaric and outdated. Let’s think about just the thought of that in a modern age that people are going to an amusement park to watch dolphins play tricks in a swimming pool. Or, similar to what happened with Barnum and Bailey Circus. Why are we paying money to watch elephants do tricks when we know good and well that they’re not from this? They’re from Africa, or they’re from Asia, and they come from the wild. As human beings we have to address these things, because it’s not natural for these animals to be treated like this, and it’s abusive. That reflects, comes back on us, as human beings. Who are we, why are we doing it, and why do we think that we need animal entertainment? It’s the principle of the thing, if you get my drift. That’s kind of where I’m at now. I think people who might have known me in the early 90’s and see me now would be like, “Who are you, dude?” The reality is we change. I think for me, I’m liking that I’m given the opportunity to have these opportunities to change. There was a time there when maybe I just wanted to play in a rock and roll band, and I wanted to party with my friends. That’s okay too, and that’s part of life. You go through life, and you want to do this, and you want to do that, and you’re young, you just want to go watch EDM concerts. People go, “What do you think of that music?” I go, “You know what, I’m not 20 years old dancing around in a dance club. Would I do it right now? No, but maybe when I was 20 I would’ve loved it.” I get why those kids go to an EDM concert, because it’s complete escape from all the stuff that’s going on in the world. All it is is music. You don’t even have to listen to the lyrics most of the time, because that’s too much. I don’t want to have to listen to the lyrics. I just want to go in there and escape. That’s what music does for us. It takes us away from all the crazy stuff that’s going on in the world. That’s why we all love it, and we all connect to it.

Toddstar: That’s why I go see Kings of Chaos, and Hollywood Vampires, and The Cult. That’s why I’ve done what I’ve done, to see guys like you who step up and do this.

Matt: When people go see a band that they like, or they’ve followed throughout the years, that reminds them of the good times in their life. That’s why they do it. They go and they connect, and they go and see Alice Cooper or Joe Perry. That’s a part of who they are in their life, and it’s a thread that’s a good feeling in their life. That’s why we play rock and roll for people, and people come to see us.

Toddstar: So true, and thank you for being part of that escape, and that thumbprint, like I said, of my life, Matt. Thank you for being part of my musical life. We wish you well with the start of the tour in a couple of days, and we can’t wait to see you at Soaring Eagle in Mt. Pleasant. July 13th, man.

Matt: Beautiful. See you man.

Toddstar: All right brother.

Matt: Bye.


The Hollywood Vampires 2016 US Tour Dates:

July 1 – Bethlehem, PA @ Sands Bethlehem Event Center

July 2 – Mashantucket, CT @ The Grand Theater at Foxwoods Casino

July 3 – Atlantic City, NJ @ Borgata Resort Spas and Casino Event Center

July 5 – Milwaukee, WI @ Summerfest BMO Harris Pavilion

July 7 – Aurora, IL @ River Edge Park

July 8 – Orillia, ONT @ Casino Rama Entertainment Center

July 9 – Niagara Falls, NY @ Stage at Seneca Niagara Resort & Casino

July 10 – Brooklyn, NY @ Coney Island Amphitheater

July 12 – Kettering, OH @ Fraze Pavilion

July 13 – Mt. Pleasant, MI @ Soaring Eagle Casino & Resort

July 14 – Cadott, WI @ Rock Fest

July 16 – Clarkston, MI @ DTE Energy Music Theatre

July 18 – Fargo, North Dakota @ Scheels Arena

July 22 – Rohnert Park, CA @ Weill Hall

July 23 – Jacksonville, OR @ Britt Pavilion

July 24 – Saratoga, CA @ The Mountain Winery

July 25 – Paso Robles, CA @ Mid State Fair

For more information:









Photo Credit #1 / #2 / #4

: Zak Whitford

Photo Credit #3: Ross Halfin

Category: Interviews

About the Author ()

ToddStar - that's me... just a rocking accountant who had dreams of being a rock star. I get to do the next best thing to rocking the globe - I get to take pictures of the lucky ones that do. I love to shoot all genres of music and different types of performers. If it is related to music, I love to photograph it. I get to shoot and hang with not only some of my friends and idols, but some of the coolest people around today.

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