The ex-Guns N' Roses drummer returns with a new solo album... says Velvet Revolver is talking about a return. "We don't want to throw it away, 'cause it's something we built"
When it comes to solo albums, Matt Sorum seems to be on the every 10 years plan. But he doesn't want to repeat that decade-long gap between his new "Stratosphere" and its predecessor, "Hollywood Zen."
"I hope that maybe I can sell enough of this one to make another one, to make my investors say, 'OK, let's do it again,' " the drummer of Guns N' Roses, Velvet Revolver and The Cult fame tells Billboard. "I'm actually going to take the time to push this album. When I did 'Hollywood Zen,' I never did any press, never put a band together. We just did that (Velvet Revolver) 'Contraband' record right after. Now I'm focused on taking this all the way -- as far as I can, anyway -- and see how it unfolds and hope people gravitate towards it and hopefully just listen to it for the music, number one, instead of having a preconceived notion of this guy from all these rock bands."
"Stratosphere," which comes out Tuesday and is credited to Matt Sorum's Fierce Joy, is markedly more diverse than his previous band work. The 14-song set certainly has moments that rock, such as "For the Wild Ones" and the glammy "What Ziggy Says," but it also explores earthy, Americana singer-songwriter styles on "The Sea" and "Ode to Nick Drake," bluesy ambience in "Killers N Lovers," Middle Eastern textures for "Land of the Pure" and noir, orchestrated pieces such as "Lady of the Stone" and "Goodbye To You."
"The idea was, 'Let's just go in and make a record and see how it comes out," explains Sorum, who sings all the lead vocals and plays acoustic guitar and piano but no drums on "Stratosphere." "It really shows my love of different styles of music. I'm a huge Tom Petty guy. I'm really into Neil Young, (Bob) Dylan, (David) Bowie, early Beatles. I said, 'I'm gonna base the album on how I write the songs.' A lot of it was written on acoustic (guitar). I wrote a few of them on piano, and I've always wanted to do an album with live strings, so I did that on about three or four of the tracks. I dabbled in some time signatures that were super different than what I can do in my rock world -- 6/8, 5/4, some cool time changes, some crazy string arrangements. It was a lot of fun."
Sorum feels that approach also helped him with his singing on the album. "I thought it really worked for my voice," he says. "I could sing in a lower register, be relaxed. Some of them I sing a little bit harder. I like where my voice sat on the record, what I was feeling vocally. I'm very happy with it."
Sorum plans to put together a live version of Fierce Joy to go on the road. "Everybody that's on the album is interested in going out and playing live with me," he reports. "I've got my guitar collection together, an old A-30 amp, some cool hats, so I can stand up there with my hat on and be cool and sing. I could probably play a couple songs off ('Hollywood Zen') and maybe I could do a cover or something. I just want to get the band tuned up and then go show (the music) to people that way, too."
But even as he focuses on his solo project, Sorum hasn't given up on one of his bands -- Velvet Revolver. It's been six years since the group -- which he formed with GNR mates Slash and Duff McKagen and guitarist Dave Kushner -- was active, but Sorum promises that, "We haven't put it to bed, no. We had a conversation about it a couple weeks ago. It's definitely in the wheelhouse, something we still want to do. We don't want to throw it away, 'cause it's something we built. We've still got the energy to play rock 'n' roll."
The impediment, he says, is finding a new singer to replace Scott Weiland, who split with the group in 2008 though he did return for a one-off reunion show in 2012.
"We've definitely gone out on the path and searched around, tried to find the guy," Sorum says. "And we've had some pretty good little bites and little leads, people we thought would be great for the project. But nothing really came to fruition. So we'll see."