Guns N’ Roses Icon Humiliated By Van Halen Singer

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Matt Sorum has recently reminisced his experience of the audition for Van Halen singer David Lee Roth’s solo band in 1985. Sorum had replaced Steven Adler as the Guns N’ Roses drummer in 1990 and Matt Sorum’s time in Hollywood was marked by playing in a great number of local bands and auditioning for many more.

Matt Sorum talks about the audition

Sorum recently spoke on the Modern Drummer and noted that one audition that definitely stood out from his vast experience was when Steve Vai was trying him out for David Lee Roth’s solo band in 1985. Sorum went on to recall that he didn’t even know whom he was auditioning for at first, as he said it was Vai who called him to the audition and tried him out for the drummer’s role himself.

David Lee Roth eventually debuted as a solo artist later that year and the well-polished lineup of Vai, Greg Bissonette on drums, and Billy Sheehan on bass made it clear that the former Van Halen frontman wanted to have a cast of extremely well-versed musicians by his side. Sorum described the audition as adequately challenging, and recalls how he had an inkling that Bissonette might be chosen over him.

“Literally when I came out that door, there was Greg Bissonette and Mark Craney standing there. But no one knew [the audition] was for David Lee Roth. We all got called by Steve Vai. And we were, like, ‘Steve Vai? It’s that guy from [Frank] Zappa.’ So when I walked in… It was very clinical. We were playing crazy time signatures. It was very Zappa school. He was running me through the mill. Like, ‘Give me a 7/4. Play Genesis’s ‘The Cinema Show’.’ ‘I got that. Okay.’ And then he said something, like, ‘Play 26 over 8.’

“And I was kind of cocky, and I looked up and I went, ‘Why?’ And then I saw Billy Sheehan sitting on the couch. I go, ‘God, I’d love to jam. Can we jam?’ We didn’t jam. I played by myself. And it was probably the craziest audition I ever did. I never had a situation where I had to stand there and Steve Vai was reciting all these notes and running me through this whole school of… At that point in my life, I prided myself on being a pretty pure rock and roll guy. But I looked at Greg Bissonette, and I knew he had all those other elements of — he’s schooled, at North Texas State [University], and then Craney, the same thing.”

Sorum’s long-awaited autobiography, “Double Talkin’ Jive: True Rock ‘N’ Roll Stories From The Drummer Of Guns N’ Roses, The Cult, And Velvet Revolver” was delayed several times due to the pandemic but it was finally released on May 10 via Rare Bird Books.