Rewind: Interview with Rock’n’Roll Drummer Matt Sorum
Matt Sorum is one of the founding members of the rock band “Velvet Revolver”, Matt has also recorded and toured with The Cult, Guns’n’Roses, Camp Freddie and many other bands. He is a rock and roll drumming icon, K9 Magazine managed to squeeze itself into his busy schedule to talk about his life with Drac, his Labrador who passed away in August 2005.
Not long afterwards, Matt spoke with Kim O'Meara to reveal some of Drac's most rock'n'roll moments. Take a step back in time with us and read all about them in our latest rewind feature.
Hello Matt, thank you so much for taking our 20 questions!
Tell us a little about Drac, your Labrador who sadly passed away not long ago.
Drac was a black Labrador, he was probably the best thing that ever happened in my life. We got him in Malibu, my ex got him outside an apartment store in a box, someone was giving him away. I first looked at him, I didn’t want a dog, things were just crazy - we were redecorating and I was on tour and I just looked at his face and he gave me a look and I was just like, awww, it was right around the time of Halloween, and I remember, I picked him up and at this point he had no name, and he bit me on the hand and I was bleeding and I thought I’ve got the name for you, Dracula, and we called him Drac for short.
He got me through a very difficult period, the Guns’n’Roses period, animals are very receptive to how you’re feeling, they know when you’re feeling very low, when you need extra attention, when you’re sick. Not long after that I split up with my then wife and it was pretty much just me and Drac, you know, he was always there.
What projects are you currently working on which our readers can expect to hear about in the near future?
(In 2005) I recently finished touring with Velvet Revolver, we’ve started work on the next album and so that’ll be out this Spring and I’m working on some other projects you know, in my own recording studio which is called Drac Studios.
Would you agree that dogs are the most rock 'n' roll of all animals?
Yeah, I would think so, you know I ran into Ozzy and Sharon Osbourne, that was a classic moment, I was in isle two at Petco and Ozzy and Sharon were buying bags and bags of stuff, I don’t know how many dogs they have and I could hear Ozzy trying to find this brush. He really wanted this particular brush and so I helped him find it and he said “my dog loves it”. You know, everyone I know in rock and roll have had dogs, Izzy a guitarist I played with in Guns had a dog, Duff had Labradors, Slash had two Rottweilers.
Do you have any stories of Drac living up to his “greatest rock and roll dog of all times” title which you would like to tell our readers, perhaps about parties he hosted or places he went?
For a while I used to bring Drac on the road with me and he also came along to rehearsals and I remember this one time I brought him to the Guns’n’Roses rehearsal – we used to have real nice food, you know real cuisine, really exotic, sushi that type of thing and it was all lined up for us. We were in the other room and I went into the room where the food had been laid out and Drac was on the sixth plates of food he had eaten pretty much everything and I thought, I must get Drac, so I started shouting, “Drac, Drac, Drac” - Axl walked in and started screaming , I grabbed Drac and we just ran and at that point, Axl started chasing us with a chair – we just ran and so we jumped in my car, Drac always drove up front, so we just drove and I didn’t dare go back that night. A few days later I heard from management that Drac couldn’t go into rehearsals anymore, he’d been banned.
Another time we had a huge party you know, lots of naked girls and Drac was chasing them, jumping in the pool and trying to save them and this one time I bought a blow-up shark and Drac just freaked out, he wouldn’t go near the pool then one time, he walked in with the shark in his mouth, he’d killed the shark – ha, ha! There was also another time when we were having this party and it was pretty late, well early morning and the party was closing down and Drac was hyperventilating, we thought he’d maybe gotten into someone’s stash, you know, he was maybe on ecstacy, he was over the top, but then we realised he had been running around for like 10 hours straight – he was always in the mix – he was a big socialiser, always loved to be the centre of attention.
He got into a lot of things, he saw a lot of things, I’d say he’s seen 10 times more than the average guy!
My other dog Anya, a German Shepherd has outlived Drac, she is 14 ½ years old, Drac died at 11 years old, pretty much 11 years to the day. I was in Berlin on tour with Velvet Revolver when he died. Barbara, a friend of mine who is like the dog lover of the century, normally looks after my dogs when I am not around, and we played our show and as I came off stage, I’m sure everyone must have known before we went on but didn’t say anything to me as they didn’t know if I’d still be able to play, so when we came off, Duff took me to one side and told me my dog had died, I assumed he meant Anya, because she was the older of the two, but he said “no, it’s Drac” and I just, I couldn’t believe it and I couldn’t even come home.
I ended up having Drac cremated and so he went in style I had a Limo come and pick him up and Barbara travelled with him. The driver of the Limo asked Barbara “Is the dog deceased”, she replied yes, the driver then said we’ll put him in the boot, Barbara said, “No, put him in the front”, so he had his final ride in a Limo, he was royalty to me so it was really fitting – pretty cool.
Alongside Ringo Starr, were there any other drummers or musicians who inspired you to follow the career path you have chosen?
For sure, Ringo was the first, shows such as The Ed Sullivan Show were around and I saw the Beatles on this show when they first arrived from Europe. I was only 5 years old when I saw it and something just struck a chord, I couldn’t figure it out, something just caught my attention. Bands like Cream, Jimmy Hendrix, Black Sabbath. I was just a kid from California and I wasn’t really a surfer – I was looking for something else and music became the forefront of it. People like Ginger Baker and Jon Bonham also – my mother and grandfather were in music so it was always all around.
In your opinion, what is the best dog related song - Hound Dog (Elvis), I wanna be your dog (Iggy Pop), Black Dog (Led Zep), Peace Dog (The Cult), Hair of The Dog (GnR) or one of your choice?
Ha, ha, good ones! I’d have to say “I wanna be your dog” by Iggy Pop. “Black Dog” by Led Zepplin always makes me thing of Black Labs – that’s a bitchin’ song.
“Peace Dog”, I got to play that one!
There’s also a Soundgarden song about a dog, quite a good one.
Looking back on your amazing career to date, what would you say has been the highlight so far and do you feel Velvet Revolver is the super-predator band of the current era?
Velvet Revolver is a highlight for me, you know I think because I’m a founding member not someone replacing a member. Accepting the Grammy this year – that was a highlight. Velvet Revolver is definitely the best experience and the best thing you know, after Guns’n’Roses, I didn’t think I’d have that success again, Guns was probably a bigger band, but this is just as good.
You’ve been lucky enough to sit behind three frontmen who are widely regarded as the best of the modern era - on their best day who was the best - Astbury, Rose, Weiland and on their worse day who's biggest nightmare to deal with?
Ha, ha, all of them! All of the above! Everyone has a bad day, that’s the thing I’ve learned from my career, everyone has demons – some just have more than most. Sometimes it can be a blessing and sometimes a curse, but that’s what can make someone a great front-man and when they get on stage and that’s all part of their make-up, they are who they are.
For this question, we ask our celebs to match up the following people’s personality to a breed of dog, for example, Winston Churchill = Bulldog or J.Lo = Afghan Hound, Frank Bruno = Boxer etc.
(editor’s note :- some of our celebrity subjects ‘wimp out’ on some breed comparisons, we give extra credits for celebs who are brave enough to answer ALL of our questions! If you feel the need to qualify why you think Tony Blair should be compared to a Poodle with a written explanation, that’s fine, we will publish your comments.)
Britney Spears – A Poodle I guess, no, a Yorkshire Terrier.
Alice Cooper - Definitely a Doberman.
Dave Navarro – Ha, ha, Chihuahua!
George Bush – I don’t want to give a dog to that guy.
Slash – A large brute, maybe a Newfoundland?
Sharon Osbourne – A Pitbull.
Which do you prefer and why?
Big dogs or little dogs – I’m a big dog guy! I grew up with dogs, my mum always had little dogs, Poodles and a Yorkshire Terrier. My first dog was Rocky, a Dalmation and I loved him. Then, Drac and Anya. If I had a little dog, it’d probably be a Jack Russell, I like those ones and also English Bull Terriers.
Pedigree dogs or x breeds – It doesn’t matter to me, I don’t really mind, its all about their personality.
Days off or days at work – Days off!
The quickest route or the scenic route – I’d go for the scenic route for sure.
What is you earliest memory of dogs?
Well I grew up with dogs, my grandmother also used to have a large dog, a Norweigen Elkhound - a lovely dog, my mum would never allow large dogs, so I had to wait until I got my own home.
My dogs sleep on my bed, I think they make you feel very secure, very safe – they sleep at the foot of the bed – if someone broke in they’d be very sorry, they’re very protective and Anya is Schutzhund trained.
Let us in on a secret, perhaps a secret vice, that many people might not know about Matt Sorum.
Well, a lot of people know a lot about me, but well I guess something not a lot of people know is that I love to cook, BBQ is probably my speciality, I do a mean rosemary chicken!
You have toured so many countries, where is your favourite place to play and why?
I think I’d have to say South America, people down there are so passionate, about their family, dancing, celebrating the way they live life. Rio de Janeiro and Argentina have the best crowds.
What two pieces of advice would you offer to any aspiring rock stars which you received yourself or wish you knew then what you know now?
I’d say try to get to know the business, knowing all of the ins’ and outs’, so you don’t get taken advantage of, things such as publishing royalties, touring royalties, merchandise royalties. So if you have the opportunity to make a living out of music, you can.
What is your current favourite…?
TV show – I don’t really watch a lot of TV.
CD – The current U2 one I think I’d have to say.
Book – I’m reading “Moon” the auto-biography of Keith Moon, its very well written, it’s a large novel, it has his whole background, his parents, where he grew up – the lot. Timbuktu by Paul Auster is a book about mans life through a dogs eyes, that’s one I’d recommend!
Restaurant – It’s a restaurant in LA, run by an Italian guy from Tuscany, great food.
Finish the following sentence. My dog...had the happiest face I’ve ever seen.
What was Drac’s favourite…?
Toy – Tennis balls! He loved his tennis balls.
Bad habit – He used to get in the garbage can, he’d eat too much!
Activity / Game – Swimming, he loved swimming.
Do you have a motto in life?
Stay close to your family! Love your friends and pets and be happy. Life is short. Have Fun!
Do you think you would be tempted to rescue/adopt another dog?
Not now, its not the right time, Anya’s getting my full attention and because of her age and her joints, she’s getting acupuncture which is really good, but she’s getting my full attention at the moment.
This is always a tough question and often requires a fair degree of thinking time but….if Drac had the ability to speak and answer one question and one question only, what would you ask them and what do you think that they would say?
We used to talk all of the time, but I guess I’d ask him, “Did you have a good life and was I a good friend?” And Drac would say, “I had an amazing life and you were my best friend.”
Many thanks Matt!