PERFORMS WITH: Kings Of Chaos
About the ArtistAfter a lifetime fueling some of the most volatile bands in hard rock history, Matt Sorum is stepping out from behind the drums with a candid and versatile solo project. The Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, who has manned the kit for Guns N’ Roses, Velvet Revolver and the Cult, is unveiling sophomore solo album Stratosphere under the moniker Matt Sorum’s Fierce Joy, and the name couldn’t be more appropriate. Coined by none other than close friend and Motörhead legend Lemmy Kilmister, “fierce joy” is an intentional oxymoron, representing not only Sorum’s newfound contentment, but his insatiable fire to build positive things on and off the stage.
That contentment is palpable on Stratosphere opener “The Sea,” a lush tale of spiritual awakening in which Sorum—who wrote the entire record and played acoustic guitar and piano—sings, “and the music here is so good / I’d live with orcas if I could / they all sing like Billie Holiday / to make all the bad things go away.” But the record’s often relaxed Americana vibe belies Sorum’s intense passion for animal and human rights. He’s the driving force behind nonprofits Global Sound Lodge and Adopt the Arts, which are respectively responsible for generous musical instrument donations and keeping the arts vital in school curriculums worldwide.
“I think music is the greatest healing force in the world,” Sorum says. “Most artists try to find a place of release or peace. With Adopt the Arts, I said, ‘We’re gonna get different celebrities and make them get involved—they can’t just show up.’” Indeed, ATA has amassed an impressive board of powerful, likeminded souls, from former bandmate Slash to actors John Stamos, Jane Lynch and Juliette Lewis.
The compulsion to give back has heavily influenced Sorum’s music, especially mournful environmental dirge “Lady of the Stone” (“My take on it was Mother Nature looking down [on us]. Why are all these hurricanes and tornados and birds falling out of the sky happening? I looked at it like signs.”) But Stratosphere also allowed Sorum to address his past with startling insight and maturity. “Gone,” “What Ziggy Says” and “Josephine” all revolve around family. The latter details the love story between his grandparents in dance terminology—Sorum gave it to his grandmother on her 100th birthday. But he’s just as thoughtful coming to terms with his rock star past in “Goodbye to You.” “Being in a band like GN’R, you wear the uniform all the time,” he says. “It’s about stamping out that image and coming back to your old, true self.”
“I’ve always wanted to do sort of an orchestrated acoustic record,” Sorum adds. “I got into scoring movies after Guns N’ Roses. So, when I went in to do this record, I just let the music unfold naturally.”
As for how such a departure came to pass, consider Sorum’s history. He started as an avant garde/esoteric musician who was “all over the place,” a Roxy Music/Peter Gabriel fan who played with Tori Amos, King Solomon Burke and Gladys Knight and the Pips. Solo debut Hollywood Zen found Sorum struggling to pinpoint his lyrical voice, but with patience and practice (“If I’m gonna play this stuff live, I’m not gonna jump up like Dave Grohl and front a rock band,” he laughs. “I like to be a little more relaxed in my presentation.”), he’s settled into a productive—and prolific—approach. Expect an onslaught of new videos, providing striking visual complements for the record’s evocative narratives. It’s all part of the master plan that will launch Sorum’s developing identity as a storyteller, musician and philanthropist into the Stratosphere.