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His resume is one of the most impressive in rock. He brought the world Green Day and gave the word “Dookie” new meaning. His records have sold nearly 200 million copies and Eric Clapton, Dave Matthews, My Chemical Romance, Kid Rock, Avril Lavigne, Fleetwood Mac, The Goo Goo Dolls, David Cook, Paramore, Hot Hot Heat, [...]

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Matt Sorum

Matt Sorum


"I'm not sure if I found drumming or if it found me," says Sorum, spending his morning at Guitar Center West LA. "When I was a kid, I saw The Beatles on television, and that was pretty much it-something made me gravitate towards Ringo, and I just felt that that was my destiny somehow," he laughs. "As I always say-some kids see a fire engine and want to be a fireman, some see a train and want to be a conductor-I saw Ringo."


Born in Long Beach, CA, Sorum grew up in the golden era of the American explosion of rock 'n' roll. "It was a great time to grow up as a kid-I grew up in the late sixties, early seventies-and there was so much cool stuff going on musically," he says, adding Cream, Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple and Jimi Hendrix to his list of major influences in addition to The Beatles. "I actually met Ringo, and I think Ringo's the kind of drummer that doesn't get enough credit. I prefer to be a band player, rather than a shredder of a drummer-that's always been my thing. I'm really into songs and being a songwriter-even in my drumming."


As any professional gigging drummer knows, too often songwriting just isn't in the job description. Admittedly, Sorum has been fortunate enough to be a part of several groups where he feels like he has had equal share and input when it comes to songwriting and song structure. "I'm very grateful-I'm probably one of the very few drummers that's been treated equally in a band. A lot of the times when you're a drummer, you kind of just pick up gigs. But I've always wanted to be a part of a band and be a voice in a band," he says. Coinciding with his lifelong desire to be a part of a band, Sorum is very much driven by the power of an incredible live rock show. "For me, when I see these young bands in this alternative realm, it's not very entertaining to me. I get that they're getting satisfaction from it, but for me, rock 'n' roll is an energy that should make me go, 'Wow. That's powerful.'"


Having spent his youth in Hollywood during the heyday of the legendary Sunset Strip, Sorum has seen plenty of powerful rock acts up close and personal. But in his opinion, the intimacy and personal touch that the scene used to have is sadly fading away. "I think the Sunset Strip has fallen a bit, because of the pay-to-play thing, and I don't feel as much of a connection between musicians as there used to be," he says. "Sure, there was rivalry, but everyone knew each other and there was more comradery-it was a really cool time." He goes on to describe how the Internet has removed some of that personality, "Now people say, 'Hey, come to my gig' on Facebook," he laughs, "It used to be, you had to walk up to somebody with messed up hair, hand them a flyer, and say, 'Hey dude! Come to my show.' Now you look at their Facebook picture-I guess that's the difference."


With over 30 years of experience under his belt behind the kit, playing for a myriad of artists and bands, Sorum has spent his fair share of time in the studio-a place where drummers have a huge opportunity to shine. "I think that people don't realize really what goes on behind the scenes. They only know that there's certain members of the band that are at the forefront or whatever," says Sorum. "I think one thing about me-the reason I've gotten as many gigs as I have, and why people say 'Matt gets all the gigs'-I'm a professional. I always show up on time, I'm very organized, I learn the songs before everybody else, and I've got a really good sense of arrangement. And I think there's a lot of drummers out there-obviously a guy like Dave Grohl or Phil Collins-who become great producers. We're great organizers because the drummer is the foundation of the band."


Diamond Baby, a band with a unique blend of rock, pop and electronica is just the latest of Sorum's many successful musical endeavors. And according to Sorum, as much as any musician or artist loves the creative element of making music, to be a successful musician, one must be acutely aware of the business side as well. "Being in a band is like being in a corporation-and unfortunately, once you get successful, you spend more time on the business than you do playing," says Sorum. "I think for a lot of young musicians it can be scary-I've produced a lot of young bands and they always think I'm gonna rip them off- they're more paranoid about it, and that's okay," he assures. "You're going to go into the business not knowing much." Sadly though, in Sorum's experience, quarrels over business-related aspects in a band are too often detrimental to their success. "That's the stuff that gets kinda wacky. I think every band getting together should have that conversation right away- before they even write one note together. Like Diamond Baby-I put together this band, and we sat down and I said, 'Here's what I want to do: we're gonna record the album, we're gonna go get a record deal, we're gonna tour, and we're gonna split it this way.'"


As much as Sorum loves being a band member and making himself heard from behind the kit, recently he's taken on more and more projects as a producer. "As a producer, you're in charge of the whole picture," he says. "I really like doing it-and I think it's a lot more work, because I'm in the studio the whole time and I gotta see it through to the end. It's tough, because everyone's got their concept of how they want it to sound, so as a producer you almost have to be hard-lined, and take a stance." He goes on to say, "I've worked with great producers-Brendan O'Brien, Bob Rock, Rick Rubin-and as an artist, you can say a few things, but they're the producer, and you have to respect that. The only thing I run into is balancing the artist's perspective-because when I'm producing, it's not my album, it's their album."


As a seasoned producer and player who experiments with many different styles, Sorum certainly has the need for a quality instrument that can deliver versatility. That's why Sorum prefers the Yamaha DTX, especially for the ability to customize his own sounds. "I drop in mostly all my own sounds," he says. "On a rock gig, I'll trigger my kick and snare, but with Diamond Baby, I've taken all of the stems off of my recordings and dropped them into the DTX-the thing I love is the USB port on the back which makes it so easy-plus it's got great sounding kits already built in." He continues, "A lot of the drummers that I talk to are really getting into the DTX for its capabilities and sampling, which they didn't really have up until now. A lot of guys want to take sounds that they've created and make the DTX their own. That's why I got into it.


In addition to the time he spends as a player, Sorum also loves to opportunity to give back to the community and help aspiring musicians achieve their dreams. "Global Sound Lodge is a musical instrument therapy program, as I call it, and right now I'm working with the Wounded Warrior Project-it really gives these guys with injuries and PTSD such a positive outlook. They're able to pour their heart and lyrics into their music." He adds, "My other big charity is Adopt the Arts, and it's to raise funds for public elementary schools in LA. I've partnered with many celebrities, and each of us are adopting schools, and individually funding their music programs. I really feel strongly about it-for kids K through 6 not to have music in their everyday curriculum is a real shame-it can't happen. I love working with kids, it keeps me grounded-cuz I can't say that I was always grounded when I was in Guns N' Roses," he laughs, "But now I'm getting to a point in my life where I want to give back. It's a nice cycle."


 
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