Interview: Matt Sorum on Adopt The Arts

Matt Sorum

2016 has blossomed into a nifty little year for Glenn Hughes and Robin Zander. In April, the pair of legendary vocalists were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with Deep Purple and Cheap Trick, and tonight the two are being honoured for their contributions to American art and culture by the Adopt the Arts Foundation.

Adopt the Arts is a Los Angeles-based charity co-founded by drummer Matt Sorum (Guns N’ Roses, Velvet Revolver, The Cult), dedicated to the preservation of arts and music programs in U.S. public schools. To raise both awareness and cash to keep these programs thriving, Adopt the Arts is honouring musicians who’ve influenced the course of music by throwing a proper glitzy, heavy-hitter-stacked benefit gig.

L.A. suffers no shortage of faces in rock’s great pantheon and tonight’s gig features Geezer Butler (Black Sabbath), Steve Jones (Sex Pistols), Corey Taylor (Slipknot, Stone Sour), Gilby Clarke (Guns N’ Roses), Billy Duffy (The Cult), Dean and Robert Deleo (Stone Temple Pilots), Steve Lukather (Toto), Chad Smith (Red Hot Chili Peppers) and others.

Classic Rock caught up with Matt during a quick break from the show’s last-minute preparations to talk about his involvement with Adopt the Arts and what the lucky bastards in attendance tonight can expect.

You were only fourteen when you played your first gig at the Whisky A Go-Go and you’ve been keeping time ever since. What happened along the way that inspired you to look back at your early days and co-found Adopt the Arts?

You know, I was truly inspired by my high school music teacher, who gave me the confidence to really go for it as a professional. After all the great successes that I’ve had in my career, it was just an organic progression that I started giving back. I had more time after Velvet Revolver and that allowed me to find new services in other areas of my life. Adopt the Arts is a real passion of mine — another goal, if you will — for pushing for real change and for getting the kids in my old schools not just a fair shake but everything we possibly can to help them to become well-rounded when they grow up

A lot of teenage musicians hone their chops in their basements and garages, but you actually played in the school marching band. How did that play into your odyssey as a drummer for outfits like GNR, Velvet Revolver and The Cult?

Well, when I was a kid, we had a lot more opportunities with the arts but then after Proposition 13, the State of California shut down a lot of arts programs due to lack of funding. That was a big deal. I took three music classes of music in high school — jazz band, orchestra and marching band and I was very lucky that I had those outlets. I honestly don’t know where I’d be without them. I feel the same way for these young kids that might not gravitate towards academics — they need an outlet as well and that’s something that these programs can provide.

You issued a public challenge to your rocker buddies to pony up some swag for the silent auction tonight. What was the response like?

You can see for yourself with the list of amazing things we’re auctioning off tonight [see list below]. It was a no-brainer, really. I’ve great support from my friends and more people are getting involved all the time . These projects need to grow organically but it still takes a lot of work to get the message out. Luckily there are a lot of generous musicians out there who believe in this cause. Steve Tyler just sent me the coolest hat and scarf and Joe Perry personally signed a guitar for me. Man, we’ve got so many cool items including stuff from Metallica to a fine art piece from Shepard Fairey

How ready are you to coordinate and play in tonight’s twenty-man celebrity ham?

I’m just honoured to be onstage with all these guys. It’s a bucket list thing for me and it will be another great highlight for the charity .

The red carpet kicks off at 6 p.m. in front of the Fonda Theater, with the concert starting at 7:30. Some seats are still available and tickets can be purchased at Adopt The Arts or via AXS.

Silent auction items donated by Adopt The Arts supporters

Adopt the Arts
Two Signed Concert Event Guitars (signed by all musicians above)

Shepard Fairy
Black Sabbath print on metal
Woody Guthrie: Signed Canvas Screen Print
Iggy Pop: Signed Raw Power Screen Print
Black Sabbath: Signed Silver Black Crescent Print

Signed guitar

Signed guitar

Joe Perry
Signed guitar

Brian May
Signed guitar

Dave Grohl
Signed guitar

Signed guitar

Maroon 5
Signed guitar

Davey Johnston
Signed guitar

Matt Sorum
Three signed Guns N’ Roses drumheads

Colour print photo of Prince signed by photographer Gene Kirkland

Joan Jett and Cheap Trick
VIP Meet & Greet package at Los Angeles concert, August 23 at The Forum.

Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
1974 box set.

Rage Against The Machine
Deluxe box set

African Safari
All-inclusive eco-luxury African safari trip.

Laguna Montage
Two-night luxury hotel stay, and lunch with Matt Sorum

Sammy Hagar
Signed cook book, two bottles of Bum Rum and two t-shirts

John Varvatos
Four bottles of cologne
One pair of Aviator sunglasses
Signed copy of John Varvatos’ limited edition book, Rock In Fashion
Weekender duffle bag

Kliptsch Designer Speaker System

Various sterling silver rings and bracelets

Joe Daly

Hailing from San Diego, California, Joe Daly is an award-winning music journalist with over thirty years experience. Since 2010, Joe has been a regular contributor for Metal Hammer, penning cover features, news stories, album reviews and other content. Joe also writes for Classic Rock, Bass Player, Men’s Health and Outburn magazines. He has served as Music Editor for several online outlets and he has been a contributor for SPIN, the BBC and a frequent guest on several podcasts. When he’s not serenading his neighbours with black metal, Joe enjoys playing hockey, beating on his bass and fawning over his dogs.