Matt's new record, Stratosphere, coming out under the name of Matt Sorum's Fierce Joy, will hit shelves on March 11 and I'm here to tell you that it is a gorgeous, fantastic, engaging piece of work. Matt steps out from behind the kit to play guitar and piano and handle lead vocals on 13 songs that will take you on a real journey.
The songs (all written by him) are all quite different from each other and Matt's voice is the real buried treasure here. It emanates a lush, soothing feeling that is like having a Starbucks Caramel Macchiato poured in your ears (OK, that's kind of stupid but you get what I'm trying to describe).
The highlights are aplenty here. "The Wild Ones", the one up-tempo cut has a chorus that has stayed stuck in my head since I first heard it. Just absolutely top-shelf this one! The somber "Lady in Stone" is a head's up about environmental concerns and starkly beautiful. "Goodbye to You" is positively riveting with Matt's voice up front and centre. "Josephine" is a tremendously touching track about his grandparents. "Killers N Lovers" is….OK, I'll shut up now. You can tell I love this record. Suffice to say that every song is a winner.
I couldn't wait to talk to Matt to find out more about the record. Here is our conversation:
antiMusic: Most people have more than one side to them. When putting this record together, since most people know the hard rock side of Matt Sorum, did you want to show the other side of you or was it just that the nature of the songs that were coming to you demanded this sort of framework?
Matt:Well, I had been writing songs for a couple of years. I was really getting into a different headspace than with some of the stuff I had been playing for most of my career. I've always written songs although I didn't contribute a great deal of writing for Guns N' Roses. I did help with arrangements and then wrote a couple of things for Velvet Revolver. So for this, some songs started to come together and I started thinking about putting together a solo thing. For a couple of months I went off to the desert to Joshua Tree to do some writing and took my acoustic and things started coming out. I recorded things on my little cassette recorder, believe it or not (laugh).
Then for a change, I went down to the ocean and started getting into a whole other vibe there. I've played a lot of hard rock in my career but I've also done a bunch of other stuff and I've always been a big fan of singer-songwriters like Joni Mitchell. Considering the subject matter of a lot of these songs, I wanted the framework to better reflect what I was feeling and let you really hear what I'm talking about. So the songs are really diverse but generally they're a lot different to what most people have heard from the stuff I've been most famously connected with.
antiMusic: What sort of mindset were you in when you were in pre-production?
Matt:I've become increasingly more aware of world events and in particular a lot of the challenges facing animals around the world. I went to Japan last year to help protest against the annual dolphin hunt which I think is just crazy. Animals are becoming hunted around the globe as trophies and many species are getting close to becoming wiped out. This is just madness.
Also, I've been with my wife who I married last fall for awhile now and I've just become more aware of what kind of world kids are being brought into. Climate change is no joke and it's definitely been affected on a world-wide level by our society, both from industries and us as individuals. All these things definitely affected the mindset while I was writing and influenced the subject matter.
I think I knew from the beginning that I wanted to sing this one myself. It's been a few years since my last record and I've gotten more comfortable with my voice. And since I was talking about more personal subject matter this time, I wanted it to come directly from me.
antiMusic: Tell us about the band title, Matt Sorum's Fierce Joy. Where does the happiness angle come from?
Matt:I was the drummer for Motorhead a few years ago on a tour when Mikkey wasn't able to tour. It was so much fun to hang out with my good buddy Lemmy Kilmister. We were talking one night and he was just so appreciative about getting to play music for a living. One night he says to me (adopts British accent), "I have such a fierce joy about playing. I mean, I could be digging ditches. But instead I'm able to do this." (laughs) That phrase really struck me so later when I was thinking of names, I called him up and said "Remember when you said that "fierce joy" thing when we were on tour? I was thinking of using that for a name. Is that cool with you?" And he says, "Yeah, you can use that." So the name actually came from Lemmy.
antiMusic: Let's talk about some of the songs. The first one sort of sets the tone for the record. Tell us about "The Sea". It's got a real tranquil kind of vibe.
Matt:The water has always had a real calming effect on me. I had a spiritual awakening a couple of years ago and the ocean really reinforces that every time I'm able to just sit and watch the water.
antiMusic: "What Ziggy Says" sounds like it could fit right onto Ziggy Stardust. How did this one come about?
Matt:Well, I like a lot of different music and I was always a big David Bowie fan. When I was writing this one, I had a lot of fun with it. I put in the names of some of my pets and other people I know in here. It was fun to do something different.
antiMusic: One of my favorite tracks is "Lady of the Stone". What can you tell us about that?
Matt: "Lady of the Stone" definitely talks about some of the environmental concerns that I mentioned before. People should really start to pay attention to their surroundings and get involved with things that affect the air we breathe and the various things that adversely affect us all over the world.
antiMusic: "Josephine" is just a beautiful song. I've heard that it has something to do with your grandmother. Is that correct?
Matt:Yes, that is correct. My grandfather was in an orchestra in the 1920s and he met my grandmother who was a ballerina. So this song is their story. My grandmother is 101 and I played this song for her last year on her birthday.
antiMusic: The only rocker on the record is one of the most striking songs as well, "For the Wild Ones". Absolutely love this one. How did this end up making the record since it's not in the same vein as the other songs?
Matt:I've always loved animals and owned pets. In the last few years I've become more aware of things that have been happening around the world. "The Wild Ones" is about hunting of animals for sport and some of the barbaric practices that happen.
antiMusic: I know you've done at least one show or a couple of songs at events already. How weird does it feel to be out front and the centre of attention?
Matt:I made a decision while writing this record that I wasn't going to play drums this time. Actually I play drums on one track. But I wanted to give this a try. I'm used to singing…I've always sung backup but this is a bit different. It does feel a little weird but I guess it's a role that I'll grow into (laughs).
antiMusic: Who else played on the record with you?
Matt:Everybody thought I was going to call all of my famous friends to appear on the record with me. But I didn't want to go that route. All of the people I have are all people that I have really admired for a long time and they're all just amazing at what they do. Paul Ill is one of my favorite bass players and he's played with a lot of people. Cameron Stone plays cello and he also put together a small string section for me. Lilli Haydn who has worked with Jimmy Page and Robert Plant plays violin. Randy Ray Mitchell does a great slide guitar on the record as well. Really tasty stuff. Damon Fox plays keyboards and he has all these vintage instruments that I really like such as mellotron and the like. In fact, most of the instruments on the record are classic instruments from the '60s and '70s. And I play guitar and piano and the vocals.
antiMusic: So what are your plans to promote this record?
Matt:Well, I'm going to see what the reaction to it will be first. There's no sense of lining up shows when nobody is going to be there. In the meantime, I'll probably be putting together some local shows. I'm really looking forward to doing these songs live.
antiMusic: Before I let you go, what's happening with Kings of Chaos?
Matt:Well things are going to get done hopefully later this year. We came back from a great tour of South America last fall and had a great time. We've got some big plans that I don't want to get into right now. There are just so many busy people involved that it takes some planning to get everybody in the same place at that same time. But we're really looking forward to this. It's a blast to play with all these great people.