/ Music

TEXT BY STEPHANIE JANSSEN. PORTRAIT BY SCOTT LIPPS. 11/20/2017

MATT SORUM

“In 1966, I saw the Beatles on TV. I was 6 years old and I saw Ringo [Starr] on the drums, and all the girls were screaming. I remember looking at it and going that’s what I want to do: I want to be a drummer. I told my mom and she got me a little drum set for Christmas the following year.”

With a resume that includes drumming for The Cult, Motorhead, Guns N’ Roses, Velvet Revolver and today alongside Johnny Depp and Alice Cooper in the Hollywood Vampires, Matt Sorum’s place in rock ‘n’ roll history is cemented.

At 19, Sorum made the move to Los Angeles. It was the 80s and Hollywood’s Sunset Blvd was the epicenter of rock ‘n’ roll. Musicians would ride their Harleys up and down the strip, pick up girls, and pass out flyers for their shows at The Roxy, Whisky A Go Go or the other venues that called the strip home. With no Internet or paparazzi at the time, rock stars like Billy Idol would just be hanging out. Everyone was connected—so connected that Sorum casually met The Sex Pistols’ Steve Jones while on the hunt for drugs. A couple years later it was Jones that helped him get a full-time role with The Cult, his first break.

As soon as Sorum joined, The Cult went on tour with Metallica, and soon after they were headlining their own 20-thousand-seat shows. One night at the Gibson Amphitheatre, he remembers seeing a limo pull up with Slash and Duff McKagan: “They poured out of it, like fell out out. Slash had three or four girls with him. They were very rock ‘n’ roll…” As luck would have it, Guns N’ Roses was in the market for a new drummer. Metallica’s Lars Ulrich passed along Sorum’s number, and two weeks later Slash offered Sorum the gig, but he would only accept on condition that they make him a full member of the band. The deal was done and before he knew it, he was on a private plane doing a global stadium tour. “It was next level… My first show was 150 thousand people in Brazil, and then it got out of control. We would go to a town and the town would come to us, all the prettiest girls, all the craziest shit. That was their night to have Guns N’ Roses in town! And then on stage, getting up in front of 30, 40, 50 thousand people, the energy penetrates you and lifts you up.”

As a musician who has experienced and accomplished so much, Sorum is now focused on helping young people find music by working with the public school system to keep their music programs. By taking advantage of his rock ‘n’ roll past, he’s raised over a million dollars, fully funded two schools, and worked with over 25 other public schools all through his charity, Adopt the Arts. “I was that kid. I grew up in public schools and if I didn’t have music I don’t know where I’d be right now. To come to Hollywood with no money and do everything that I’ve done and still be in the game is a blessing. Now it’s time for me to turn it around, and I do that.”

 

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