Re: Matt Sorum interview, Hard Rock Magazine, France, 1996
Matt Sorum - 1996
Thanks to Oliver
I have a French magazine from 1996 in which there's an interview with Matt. I always wanted to translate it, but I never had the time since it's very long. But I did it tonight. I did it very quickly, so please disregard the mistakes/typo. You will see that he said nice things about Axl. Enjoy!
Hard Rock: According to what Duff explained, you are the one who started the Neurotic Outsiders'¦
Matt: Yes, it was 1 year and a half ago. This guy, Sal, called me et asked me if I could help him for that charity concert. He called me because he knows me. I like to hang out in L.A., I go to parties, I like to have a drink with everybody. So I called all the musicians that I knew. John Taylor and Steve Jones agreed immediately. Then I called a lot of people, Dave Gahan (Depeche Mode), Shannon Hoon (he was still alive), Ian Astbury (The Cult), but they weren't interested. The last I called was Duff. We already had a bassist, John, and I was uncomfortable to ask him to play guitar. He was enthusiastic when I told him he was going to play with Steve Jones. For this concert, there was Duff, John, Steve and me. Izzy Stradlin, West Arkeen and Steve Stevens (ex-Billy Idol) were also there. So we made $10,000.
H.R.: Cool. What happened then?
Matt: Two weeks later, John called me from London. He said: "It was so cool. We must do it again!". At this time, Guns N' Roses was in stand-by and it was before the Sex Pistols reunion, so we didn't had much things to do, so we said OK. During 2 months, we did the Mondays Nights at the Viper Room. It then started to be great. A lot of people wanted to play with us. We had Billy Idol, Iggy Pop, Brian Setzer (Stray Cats), a great musician, Simon LeBon (Duran Duran). Billy Idol even wanted to be a member of the band!
H.R.: Before you knew John, what do you thought about Duran Duran?
Matt: In the beginning of the 80's, they had a big influence on the rock and new wave scenes. At this time, I had very strange haircut, very Duran Duran! I played in a lot of different bands. You know I played with Tori Amos?
Matt: Yes, on her first album. Anyway, John is a great bassist (laugh)!
H.R.: What are you looking for with the Neurotic Outsiders?
Matt: A release. Guns N' Roses is so big, with the journalists, the travels with 100 people, we all have bodyguards. My bodyguard found it difficult to follow me! With the Neurotic, I come back to my roots, something simple and fun. It's really cool for the fans who want to see us close.
H.R.: You never wanted to do a solo project like Slash and Duff?
Matt: Not really, I like the concept of a band, the feeling of being in a team. When I was hired in GNR, it was hell in the band and I patched things up. When Izzy left, I wasn't happy. I spent hours on the phone with him, asking him not to leave us. And when he did the 5 shows with us to replace Gilby, I said: "Wow, this guy is a part of the chemistry, when he plays, it sounds totally like Guns N' Roses." I replaced Steven Adler and many people said Use your Illusion is very different from Appetite For Destruction. It wouldn't have been constructive to do Appetite 2. Many people also said I'm better than Steven. No, I only play in a different way.
H.R.: Talking about solo projects, do you feel a bit of jealousy from Axl because of the success of your projects? We heard he was supposed to work with Trent Reznor from Nine Inch Nails'¦
Matt: I don't really know'¦
H.R.: Guns N' Roses is supposed to be in rehearsal and you're in Paris. Not really convenient'¦
Matt: Axl is real cool with the Neurotic, he loves the album and he doesn't say it to be polite. He criticized solo projects from other members : he hates Snakepit (laugh). It was hard for me to deal with it. Axl asked me not to go on tour with Slash.
H.R.: Hard decision?
Matt: Not too much. I didn't want to endanger Guns N' Roses. If I toured with Snakepit, it could have cause serious consequences. It could have divide GNR. And I have to be honest, the Snakepit album won't change the music world! So, if a band as important as GNR would have broke up because I toured with Snakepit, I would have flagellate myself! I was in between, there was Slash "Come on , man, tour with us", but I told him "Slash, for 4 months, we will fuck GNR up". So I stayed at home and I work a bit with Axl and Duff. I'm sure I took the good decision.
H.R.: Honestly, what do you think about Axl?
Matt: I had very difficult moments with Axl, but he's extremely intelligent, he's a very emotive guy who writes great songs. Sometimes, I have the feeling he's a genius. Right now, he's playing guitar and it's like he plays that instrument for 10 years. He had very difficult moments, when we toured in stadiums, sold millions of albums, when everybody wanted to tell us how great we were. Axl, as the leader of the band, had a lot of responsibilities. I told him many times: "Relax Axl, don't take things to heart like that". But he can't. You can feel those difficulties in his music. What he's doing is eating him, he's living it too intensively. That's why the new album is not done yet, he doesn't want to make a shitty record. The Snakepit album could have been the new GNR album, but Axl didn't thought it was good enough.
H.R.: What do you think about this album?
Matt: There was some good songs, but it wasn't a band effort, it was Slash's songs. It had nothing to do with 5 guys working hard in a studio, what we are doing with Guns right now. When Slash says "I'd like to work on that riff" and Duff answers "Yeah, let's work on it", it's really GNR. This has nothing to do with "This is a Slash song, you will play like that and Axl will sing like that".
H.R.: What do you think Axl is thinking about you?
Matt: I think he has respect for me, he thinks I'm a good drummer et it's cool. I heard him say that and I was happy. You know, humm, he fired me 2 or 3 times and he called me back'¦
H.R.: What do you mean by "He fired me 2 or 3 times"?
Matt: (Laugh) You never heard the rumors? Yes, we all have been fired at least 1 time! You never heard about it (laugh)? Seriously, it's true that he sometimes goes too far. Sometime I open my mouth and I say "Ok, Axl, fuck off!", then he fires me. So? I know he will call me the next day. I feel I'm in security and I know I will be the GNR drummer for a long time.
H.R.: How would you react if you received a fax saying that Slash is fired?
Matt: It would be difficult. When it was Gilby, humm, when I learned that he was fired, it was difficult. There was Slash, Duff and Axl, the 3 original members of the band and they said they had to tell me. I didn't knew what to say. It's their band and I didn't knew how to react. I said OK.
H.R.: You didn't care?
Matt: Absolutely not! He's a great guy. But I don't know if he was the good guy to write the new album with us. We did some songs together, but Axl thought it was not good enough. And Axl is really intelligent and he always make the good choices. I must agree with him, because he's a visionary. He knows what GNR should be 2 or 3 years in advance. When we got out of the plane, he said: "Guys, we'll see us again in 96". It was 3 years ago. And now, we work together and an album will be released in 97.
H.R.: You never saw Axl during 3 years?
Matt: Yeah, I saw him! But we didn't really work. You know, when he does something, when he present it to us, I say "This guy is crazy!". But he's always right! Like when we did Use your Illusion 1 & 2'¦ When I heard this idea, I said to myself "He's carzy! We will release 30 songs on 2 albums? I would never buy 2 albums of the same band." Result? We made history with those 2 albums. Nobody did it before.
H.R.: And you have been imitated. By Springsteen'¦
Matt: Yeah. And the Smashing Pumpkins also'¦ But it's different because it's a double album. You know, the first time I heard November Rain, I thought: "What is this shit?, What does Axl is doing behind the piano? I want rock!" But I was new in GNR and I thought "Matt, you leave The Cult and now you're in the greatest hard rock band of the world'¦" He sat at the piano and I was thinking "This is shit". Then the song came out, and it's the biggest thing we've aver done! That's why I have this attitude: "OK Axl, you think we should do that? I'm with you". You know what I mean? He knows what he's doing and I know we'll do a great album.
H.R.: Since Axl is playing guitar does that mean there won't be any replacement for Gilby?
Matt: No, there's someone, but I can't tell you his name.
H.R.: Is he well-known?
Matt: No. He's unknown. But I can't tell you his name because I don't know if he will tour with us. There will probably be several guitarists on this album, a lot of guests. We are working on rock songs that last only 4 minutes (laugh). We already did 7 songs and we will write 7 others.
H.R.: Will it be a normal CD or something strange again?
Matt: No, it will be a single album with 10 or 12 songs.
H.R.: Duff told us that the deadline is for Spring 97'¦
Matt: Absolutely! We want to tour next summer. Once we will be in the studio, it won't be long. The only problem is to find a way to get together.
H.R.: Why is it so hard?
Matt: I don't know, there are so many people in this project. There's the friend of the friend of the friend. 3 years ago, I had a real role to play. Now it's between Axl and Slash. It' working well, so it's cool.
H.R.: Do you have the feeling you missed a part of the history of Guns N' Roses? Like when they played in the bars?
Matt: Not at all. I was in L.A. for more than 10 years, trying to live in playing music. I was a session-man. I played with a lot of bands that never did anything. I even worked on Tori Amos' first album. Do you believe in it (laugh)? It became really frustrating. Then I did an audition for The Cult. I thought: "Cool, this is a great opportunity, it's a good band, I will do a tour". I lived in a shitty place, I slept on a sofa, I had no shower, I had a shitty car, then I'm with The Cult and for the first show, we opened for Metallica in front of 25,000 people. "Cool, now it's true!" So I stayed with The Cure for 2 years. Then Guns N' Roses came in my life. It was so great! Can you imagine this? My friends called me and said "Hey, Matt, you're in The Cult, I know this band". But Guns N' Roses! Even my grandmother knew them! It's a big name! In USA, you can ask a 80 years old woman and she knows the band! On the other side, I don't think she knows The Cult. But this thing completely changed my life, I had to ask myself who were my true friends. I evolved a lot. I was on a roller-coaster.
H.R.: Was it hard to deal with it?
Matt: Yeah, for some years, it was hard. There was a lot of problems in the band, the drugs. I never took drugs before I was in GNR, but I learned real fast (laugh)! And to drink a lot also, every night. But it was a part of the trip. We were on the top of the world, it was a permanent party: girls everywhere, and I was in the middle of all this, and I thought: "Wow, THAT's rock'n'roll". Limousines and all that'¦
H.R.: And how do you see the fact that GNR is one of the most uncool band right now?
Matt: What do you mean?
H.R.: When people say that Guns N' Roses sucks, things like that'¦
Matt: What is the band of the month right now? Smashing Pumpkins?
H.R.: Yeah, something like that. Guns N' Roses represents hard rock of the 80's, but since Nirvana'¦
Matt: I think that if Guns N' Roses never existed, there would never have been Nirvana. Alternative bands are spitting on us, but at this time it was Guns N' Roses that was an alternative band and opened the doors. There would never have been the Smashing Pumpkins too. I think there's a lot of similarities between this guy and'¦ what is the name of this guy from the Smashing Pumpkins?
H.R.: Billy Corgan?
Matt: Yeah. If you asked him, I don't think he would admit it, but I'm sure we had a big influence on him. That's really what I think. They opened for us in Chicago in 1991, and at this time, they were nothing at all. Today, I think they are a great band, even if they fired their drummer, who was one of my favorites. Is Guns N' Roses cool or not? I don't know and I don't care. We did a lot more than what all those bands did and I'm proud of it. Even if we don't sell any copy of the next album, I will be very proud of what we did. But I don't worry about it, I know that what we are doing right now is great.
H.R.: What style of music will it be? More like Appetite or Illusion?
Matt: I would say that it's in between. This is not as sophisticated as Illusion, but not as wild as Appetite. It's in the middle. Maybe more groovy. Musically, we are all better. I never heard Duff play like that.
H.R.: Why it is so hard to have an interview from GNR?
Matt: Because right now, we are not ready for promotion. If we had something to say, we would say it. I'm speaking about Guns, but I should be talking about the Neurotic Outsiders. But it's true that the half of the Neurotic is the rhythm of GNR.
H.R.: And if we go to L.A., would we have a chance to have an interview?
Matt: Good luck! Guns is my priority, but there's decisions I can't take.