Appetite for Creation: An Interview with Matt Sorum of Guns N' Roses

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Quick! Name a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame who's played with Celine Dion, Guns N' Roses and Gladys Knight and the Pips.

If you guessed Matt Sorum, you'd be right. He's also performed and recorded with Solomon Burke, The Cult, Tori Amos and Velvet Revolver. He has primarily worked as a drummer. Yet his new solo album, Stratosphere, from his band Matt Sorum's Fierce Joy, is a departure from all that.

Matt wrote and arranged Stratosphere, and provided lead vocals, guitar and keyboards. And he uses his stardom to shine a light on injustice.

Forget about that Dos Equis guy. Matt Sorum is the most interesting man in the world.

This is a transcript of an interview with Matt.

Ed Ponsi: With the release of Stratosphere, fans are going to be surprised at your diverse musical tastes and abilities. What was your inspiration for this album?

Matt Sorum: I'm known as a rock guy, but I've always loved so many diverse artists. I was a huge Joni Mitchell fan; I remember listening to a lot of her records back to back. Neil Young, Tom Petty, the Beatles of course, and I was a huge Bowie fan. I was also into progressive stuff, like early Genesis, Peter Gabriel era. You can hear that influence on the new album; there are a couple of songs that have some interesting time changes.

I've always dabbled on the acoustic guitar, and I wrote a couple songs for Velvet Revolver. In Guns N' Roses, Axl and Slash looked to me for arrangements. I wasn't the predominant songwriter, but I've always been involved in the process. When I put Stratosphere together, I actually had a lot of it on cassette. I'd been writing the songs over the years, and I wanted to do an album that was just coming from me, regardless of anyone's expectations.

EP: You're in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of Guns N' Roses. You've played for The Cult and Velvet Revolver. But not many people realize you also played for Gladys Knight and the Pips.

MS: I came to Hollywood right out of high school around '79. When I started, I was getting $25 per rehearsal, and $50 per gig. I was playing in seven or eight bands at the same time. I loved playing in bands, and I didn't want to get a real job. I developed a good instinct for finding the right guys, learning to deal with all the different personalities.

I had a buddy who was working for a famous producer, Michael Lloyd. My first session was working with Gladys Knight and the Pips. I was in my early twenties, Orange County kid, blond hair. As a drummer, I listened to everything: Stevie Wonder, Earth Wind and Fire, the Average White Band. I had a background in funk, believe it or not.

So I nailed the gig and ended up playing on a lot of stuff for them. Out of that I did sessions for Belinda Carlisle; I played with the famous gospel singer "King" Solomon Burke. I worked with Ronnie Spector, Celine Dion. I did tons of stuff that people don't know about. I did Tori Amos's first album.

And then I got a little burnt out on studio work. I got tired of being everyone else's drummer. I wanted to be a known guy. My dream was to be like John Bonham, Keith Moon or Ginger Baker in terms of drumming ability and notoriety. I wanted to be recognized, so I started auditioning for bands.

I joined Jeff Paris. We got signed to Polygram Records. Then I joined The Cult in the late '80s. I went through this metamorphosis, all these different styles. And it made me into a guy who can morph into anything. In order to have a career, sometimes you have to do that. You have to be able to walk into any situation and be that guy.