“How I Produced an Album with the Drummer (Matt Sorum) of Guns N’ Roses

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This is random.

When I was running my first record label, Conspiracy Music, way back in 2000, I got introduced to Guns N’ Roses drummer Matt Sorum, who was an interesting character, to say the least.  Guys like that can tell crazy stories all day long.

SorumMatt was amiable person and very talented, but his abilities as singer/songwriter were unknown. 

Regardless, we took the leap and agreed to finance Matt’s solo album debut, which he entitled “Hollywood Zen.” 

As I recall, Matt billed it as a “circus” and I came aboard as Executive Producer and to A&R manage the circus experience.

Stepping out into spotlight as front man is hard thing do to, especially when you’ve been starring at the behind of one of the most famous front men of all time, Axl Rose, while playing arenas – those are big shoes to fill.

The budget, as I recall, was about $20,000 dollars, which for an independent label was an large sum of money.   It was a big gamble, but all signs looked positive.

Unfortunately, 2001-2002 was turning out to be the worst years of not only my life, but also the music business.  Napster was just unleashed upon the world and within a year, the business of selling CDs in retail stores was about to get whacked. It would never recover.  The idea of people getting music for  ‘free’ online was introduced and it would never go away, not even to this day.   The old era was coming to close.

As a result, our entire business imploded, almost seemingly overnight.  Everybody we did business with starting ‘cutting’ back on advances on licensing in foreign territories, such as Japan and Europe, which was our bread and butter. 

Aside from all that, my older brother died unexpectedly.  Losing him was a big blow.  It was all to much for me to handle.  I had to make stark drastic choices about the direction of my life.

All of this happened simultaneously.  Matt was supposed to deliver the album in 2001, but it stretched into late 2002, almost a full year longer than expected. 

By the time Matt delivered the final album, things were looking bleak.  The sub-licensees in Japan and Germany we were hoping to sub-license the album from us (for large sums of money) declined to follow through as we discussed.  We should have easily made $100,000 dollars in licensing income, but it all fell apart.

Without foreign licensing income, that was it.  I didn’t see a path forward financially in the domestic market.   The music business was imploding right before my eyes.  Had we got the album delivered to us a year earlier, perhaps everything would have been fine.  

I didn’t see a positive future for the music business.  I didn’t grasp it entirely, but the entire idea of buying CDs in stores was going to become extinct in the coming years.  

When Matt finally delivered it (a year late), Matt’s album was brilliant.  Slash even guested on one track.  It was a eleven (11) track album and certain highlighted songs: Forgiving Kind, Hallucination Lullaby, and Circus of the Sun.  It was straight up modern rock with a Hollywood/Los Angeles edge.  I thought it was great.  Had it been released before 2001, it would have been successful and found an audience both here and abroad.

That all aside, as we were running out of money, I remember calling up Matt and telling him the bad news.  Our label didn’t have anymore money.  We were broke.  We couldn’t afford to release the album. 

Matt threw out the idea of having his friend, who was an investor in Netscape, buy the master rights from me and he would try to release it on his own.  I had no other choice.

We eventually struck a deal. I sold it the master rights back to Matt for the same amount we invested to produce it.  We parted ways on ok terms, although I know he was disappointed no record label was behind it, with me, his biggest champion, who helped him conceive the project int the first place.

Unfortunately, as far as I know, “Hollywood Zen” never got officially released widespread commercially.  I haven’t seen it online anywhere, but apparently a limited edition CD was released.  I’m sure Matt’s ego took a blow over it, too, and he retreated back behind the drum kit.

Without a champion label behind an album, working it to press and media, it was too difficult for an artist to release their own music in that old era before the Internet.  I think that reality perhaps fell upon Matt after he bought the rights – like, ok, now what?  

Hollywood Zen was also a victim of the transition from the old to the new music business, from traditional CDs to digital.  We just didn’t make it, a year too late.

That was fifteen years ago.  I left the music business and moved to Austin, Texas.  Conspiracy Music never, technically, went bankrupt – it just went into limbo.  Some of it’s copyrights were rolled over into my new label, Triple Pop.

Matt, apparently, finally released a solo project called Matt Sorum’s Fierce Joy in 2014 online.  Matt also was later involved as drummer in the bands Hollywood Vampires and Velvet Revolver, which won a GRAMMY in 2005.

Wikipedia has a brief entry about it, but not much else exists about it in the internet.

 

 

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