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Velvet Revolver’s Matt Sorum Remembers Early Days, Looks Forward

Alexander Tamargo, Getty Images

In 2008, the ex-Guns N’ Roses/Stone Temple Pilots spin-off band Velvet Revolver spun out of control when vocalist Scott Weiland left the group after just two albums. Considering more than two years have passed and not much seems to have happened in that time, drummer Matt Sorum is in pretty good spirits. He wasn’t even troubled when guitarist Slash skipped off to do a solo album and tour before a replacement for Weiland could be found. Instead of moping or griping, Sorum has been getting down to business, putting the pieces in place for Velvet Revolver Mach II.

Velvet Revolver have already auditioned several singers and are close to announcing Weiland’s replacement, according to Sorum. Once that happens, they’ll hit the studio to work on the follow-up to 2007′s ‘Libertad.’ But before then, he and his bandmates want to remind fans about the recently-released DVD ‘Velvet Revolver Live in Houston,’ which captures a show from 2005 when VR were new and had something to prove.

Noisecreep talked to Sorum about the decision to release a DVD of a five-year-old show, his disappointment with ‘Libertad,’ how the band fell out with Weiland, what he’s gunning for on the next Velvet Revolver album and how hard it is to choose a new vocalist when you’ve already worked with three of the best in the business.

What do you remember from the Houston show you recorded in 2005 for the new DVD?

The thing I remember most about that period of the band is we were fresh into our touring. We were just starting a theater run before we started playing bigger venues. The album was out; it had already entered the charts at number one. It went platinum. We were really firing on all cylinders. There was a lot of excitement in the air. We were all in really good physical and mental shape. We were all in good spirits and we definitely had a chemistry. And you can see that. It jumps off the screen on that DVD.

Why did you wait so long to put out the DVD?

We never had the idea to put it out ourselves. Someone from Eagle Rock came to us and asked us if we wanted to put this show out on a DVD. All we were thinking about was coming back out with a new version of the band. But then we figured it would be good to put out something that represented that era of the band at its best.

Where did the video come from?

We filmed it for some TV special or something, and Eagle Rock came to us and said, “Can we release this?” And we decided that would be totally cool becaue, like I said, we don’t want to wipe away the slate we already created with Scott Weiland. So We contacted Scott and asked, “Are you into it?” And he said, “Yeah, let’s do it.”

So, you’re still in contact with Weiland?

We have a business relationship regarding old Velvet Revolver matters, but that’s about it.

Was there friction between you and Scott before he left the band?

Not really. Scott just kind of came in and wanted to do his thing, and I don’t think we all kind of understood it at the time. We did have a bit of push-pull. We’d come off of a whirlwind tour. We spent too long getting into the second album. There were some conflicts in the band. And unfortunately, that whole old negative behavior crept back in.

It’s sort of like when you’re in a relationship and you think, “Ah, I’m gonna break up with this person because I don’t like the way I’m feeling.” And then you get in another relationship, and the same s— comes up. You’re like, “Oh, maybe it’s me. Maybe I’m the one that’s gotta deal with some s—.” That’s the kind of stuff that was really happening at the end. There were substances involved, but also personalities and egos on everybody’s part.

I’m not taking myself out of that equation. You get pumped up like that by the outside world, and you start to feel a little bit invincible and you remember how good it feels to feel that way. Being in a rock ‘n’ roll band, you can do no wrong. That’s the beauty of it. An actor crashes his car, his career is over. A musician crashes his car, he sells a million records. I mean Scott, being busted and going into rehab as many times as he has, I’m kind of like, “Enough already. We get it. OK, you’ve proven yourself.” I’m kind of like, “Dude, the best thing you could be now is that guy that comes out shining. Then you’d be the underdog that actually proves everybody wrong.”

And that was the moment we had at the beginning of Velvet Revolver. We had Scott Weiland at the top of his game. And you look at that and go, “I wish he could realize how great he can be with a little bit of focus. Because he can be one of the greatest.” But it’s that lack of focus focus that f— artists like him up.

What led to the downfall of the relationship?

I said something over the Internet about how some people don’t realize how good they have it when they have it, because being in a band is so in the moment and it’s a fleeting moment. Here it is, you’re on top of your game — like that DVD from Houston. You’re there, everyone’s loving you, and then you’re not. You’re gone.

And we’ve all felt that in this business, especially living in Hollywood. This is the town of what have you done yesterday. And they don’t care. I don’t care how many times you’ve come around like a cockroach. They’ll step on you, and you won’t die, but you’ve still got to come back and fight your way back up. But I like that fight, and most people can’t fight that fight. They can’t win it. They’d rather sit on the Internet and diss on everybody from the basement of their mom’s house.

So now the focus is Velvet Revolver 2011 full steam ahead?

Yeah, we’re really gonna make 2011 a new period for Velvet Revolver.

How has the audition process been going?

We tried out a lot of new guys, and basically it’s quite a process. Scott Weiland is one of the best frontmen out there. And I’ve been in bands with Axl Rose and Ian Astbury. Those are big shoes to fill. So we’re looking for a tried and true individual that can mesh with guys like us that have been out there doing this for a long time.

It hasn’t been an easy task, and that’s why it’s taking a long time. But we don’t want to come out half-cocked. We want to create something that people are gonna go, “Wow, that’s awesome.” We’ve had a couple situations where we’ve been with some singers, and we’ve pulled out of because we didn’t feel completely secure in the fact that going forward the the guy was the right move.

We tried out some fairly unknown guys and some guys that have been out there a little bit. But the guy we’re really excited about now is a pretty known guy. I don’t want to say anything yet because we’re still in the dating phase. We haven’t consummated the relationship or made a gentleman’s agreement. So I can’t let the cat out of the bag until there’s an official stamp of approval on the deal.

Have you and Slash already written material for the next album?

Yeah, we’ve got some tunes. We’ve got some great riffs. We’re trying to strip it down a little bit. There’s some good stuff. I would say we’ve probably got about four or five pretty good contenders with lyrics for stuff I’d be happy on a record. It’s definitely rocking. But overall, we don’t have too much music yet, because we’re gonna just get in there and do it.

The beauty about being in a band with these guys for so many years is we know what we’ve all got to offer on that front. So we don’t have to pre-think things a whole lot. Even though we can dabble in ballads and play in other styles, we’re pretty much comfortable being in a rock ‘n’ roll unit. We don’t have to make ourselves something that we aren’t. We’re traditional in that sense.

How will the next record be different than ‘Contraband’ or ‘Libertad’?

‘Contraband’ had sort of a punk rock element to it. When I listen to it, I feel like it’s got a lot of angst to it. When I was making that record, I wasn’t newly sober, but I had been sober a little bit. I remember I was still trying to feel comfortable in my own skin. And that angst came off useful for us.

There’s an energy that says, “Man, these guys still have a lot of vitality in them.” And when I listen to ‘Libertad,’ I feel like that album’s something that we sort of weren’t [into] at the time. It took a turn more for the singer in the band. Scott wanted to make a certain kind of record, so that became more his thing. ‘Contraband’ was already written before Scott came into play. He just gravitated towards the songs and wrote the lyrics and the melody. ‘Libertad’ was more an album based around what his lyrics and vision was, and it came off a little lightweight.

It sounds like your next record might be more like ‘Contraband’?

Well, that’s the goal and I know we’re fired up about it and that’s the beauty about these guys in the band. I can look at all of them and know that they’re passionate enough about making the music and they have enough drive left in them. In a way, we’ve still got something to prove. It’s more about outdoing ourselves and trying to be the best we can be.

The goal now is to get right back together [this month] and make a call on the singer. Slash is going to finish out his tour through the beginning of the summer, and then hopefully by that time we’ll have a bunch of songs compiled. We all work on our own, and send each other ideas and work together when we got breaks. And maybe we’ll take a few more weeks to write, get in the studio and record an album by the end of the summer to get it out by the late part of 2011. I’m looking forward to that. We’ve all had enough time to go out and live other lives and have an adventure and organically come back as a unit that wants to do it again.

Was it healthy for the band for Slash to do his solo record, or were you frustrated because you would have preferred to work with him on Velvet Revolver?

At first I felt frustrated, but then I understood where he was coming from and I kind of put myself in his shoes. He’s always been a ring leader. As far as work ethic goes, Slash is one of the hardest working guys I know. Last year, you couldn’t turn on the TV without seeing him. It was actually, enough already. Did I want to be out there playing? Yeah, to be honest. But he needed to do the solo thing again and come back to a band and feel that environment, which is completely different. Now it’s not all riding on his shoulders anymore and I think that can only be good for us.

Watch Velvet Revolver’s ‘Slither’ Video

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