Matt Sorum looked back on his audition for David Lee Roth’s solo band, noting that it was “probably the craziest audition I ever did.”
The former Guns N’ Roses member was recently a guest on Live From My Drum Room, a podcast for Modern Drummer hosted by Zildjian vice president, John DeChristopher. In the course of conversation, Sorum looked back at various points from throughout his long career, including a tryout in 1985, not long before Roth would exit Van Halen.
“No one knew it was for David Lee Roth,” Sorum recalled, noting that fellow drummers Greg Bissonette and Mark Craney were also on hand to audition.
“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.”
Vai proceeded to run the audition, and as Sorum recalled, the guitarist didn’t hold back. “He was running me through the mill,” Sorum admitted. “Like, ‘Give me a 7/4.’ And I’m like, ‘Okay, Genesis, ‘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?’”
At one point, the drummer tried to steer things in a different direction. “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 [drumming].”
Bissonette eventually secured the Roth gig. He’d go on to play on the albums Eat ‘Em and Smile (1986), Skyscraper (1988) and A Little Ain’t Enough (1991), as well as their corresponding tours.
Sorum, meanwhile, bounced around a few more bands before joining the Cult in 1989, followed by Guns N’ Roses in 1990.
Guns N’ Roses Lineup Changes: A Complete Guide (We Think)
Few bands have impacted rock ‘n’ roll the way they have, and even fewer have weathered as many changes.