Photo Credit: Zach Whitford

Interview by: Diane Fleischman


They only come out at night, and this Friday night, The Hollywood Vampires kick off their summer North American tour swooping into The Sands Event Center in Bethlehem. 

The Hollywood Vampires are Alice Cooper, Johnny Depp, Joe Perry, Matt Sorum, Tommy Henriksen (Alice Cooper Band), and Bruce Witkin (whose musical roots trace back to Johnny Depp’s first band, ‘The Kydz’).  While the novice may assume this is just a trite, edgy band name combining rock’s elite members, there’s more of a story behind it. 

We flash back to the early seventies to California.  The ‘Summer of Love’ ended a few years prior, and the movement and vibe shifted to partying to excess, with Hollywood set as party central. The Rainbow Room in Los Angeles is where The Hollywood Vampires drinking club was born.  The vision behind The Hollywood Vampires band is to pay tribute to these musicians who passed away due to their own excesses and addictions. 

Recently, The Valley Ledger had the opportunity to speak with Matt Sorum, drummer of The Hollywood Vampires, sharing the history, and what to expect in concert. 

MS:  “I was growing up in California at the time, but too young to be a part of this going on.  Alice was a member of The Hollywood Vampires, he was the one drinking with Keith Moon (drummer, The Who), Jim Morrison (The Doors), and Marc Bolan (T. Rex).  These legends were his friends.”

TVL: Also going on at that time was John Lennon’s  ‘Lost Weekend’, which spanned over a year and a half.  Was he also a member ? 

MS:  “Yes, John Lennon, Harry Nilsson, Mikey Dolenz (The Monkees), Ringo Starr, and Bernie Taupin were members.  There were a few sub groups going around, and this was one of the sub groups.  During the  set, you’ll hear Alice talk about all the different people and the stories of The Hollywood Vampires.” 

TVL:  What was the determining factor that made you jump on board with this band? 

MS:  “I first found out about this band on social media, and it looked like it was a lot of fun, something I would want to do.  I didn’t see a drummer.  So I called up Shep Gordon, who is Alice’s manager, and asked, who’s the drummer?  He said,  they don’t have one.  I said, you do now, I’m the drummer, I’m the drummer!  And that was that.  There wasn’t any lawyers or bullsh*t involved.  I joined the band over a phone call.” 

TVL:  Can you tell us a little about what it’s like performing with Johnny Depp and Joe Perry?

MS:  “You have to remember that when Johnny Depp came to California, he had rock star in his eyes, not acting.  He’s an incredible musician, who knows the history.  He’s not onstage performing any character.  What you see onstage is the real Johnny.  His style is like Keith Richards, no, more like Marc Bolan.  He’s got great swagger, and the clothes, and he plays dirty.

With Joe, you’re never know what you’re going to get.  He’s like a lost art form and his performance is always in the moment.” 

TVL:  Your set list is pure classic rock and roll.  I noticed that you sing lead vocals on “Ace of Spades” (Motorhead).  What has that experience been like for you? 

MS:  “Doing the Lemmy song is real special to me because I had the direct connection to Lemmy.  At first, I don’t know what got into me, but I offered to sing it (he laughed),  and they didn’t know if I could sing it.  I’ve got a voice if I want to.  Before I start that song, I think about Lemmy and I think about everything he meant to rock and roll.  I ask him to help me through it. 

I had that experience before, that if I can just sort of feel it, and look for it.  I played on this album called ‘Burning for Buddy’, for Buddy Rich, and Neil Peart (Rush) was producing it. I had been on tour, and I remember I hadn’t slept.  I got there and all these great drummers were there and fear struck me for a second.  There was a poster of Buddy Rich on the wall, and I looked over and I just said to him, Hey Buddy, I need you right now, I need you.  I went in, played the song, “Burning for Buddy” in one take.  Neil Peart came out and said, what just happened?  I said , well, I don’t know.  I felt that.  I try and do that when I get onstage.  I try to look over and I feel this incredible joy in the music and I try to summon the greats.” 

TVL:  Over a short period of time, we’ve lost a good deal of great musicians.  Scott Weiland, David Bowie,  Glenn Frey, and Prince.  Are there plans to add some of their songs to your performance? 

MS:  “We did throw out an idea about Prince, but it wasn’t directly connected to us.  There’s a lot of greats.  We tried to do something for Scott, but we weren’t able to put the music together to pay homage to it respectfully.  

TLV:  Is it the band’s mission to recreate these songs while also incorporating your own sound? 

MS:  “Even with the ‘Ace of Spades’ song, I really try to keep up with the guys and learn it as close to the original as possible.  There are certain songs you don’t want to go up and hack from.  I still have that direct link to the band and still talk to the guitar player, Phil Campbell, and he’s like, I don’t like the way you guys played that (laughing), so in a  lot of ways, you have to respect the music.” 

TVL:  What are some of your thoughts for the fans to take away from the Bethlehem show? 

MS:  “We’re all revved up to play this show, it’s the first one for the summer tour and we’re all ready to blow the roof off! Alice Cooper has the connection to these guys, and when we’re on stage, we’re paying homage. I hear Alice’s stories, and I’m fascinated.  His life, and everything he’s been through.  I gauge myself throughout the day, and think about Alice Cooper, because I see a guy who survived it all, and that is cool.   Alice, Joe, all the guys, they’re special guys, that aren’t going to be here forever.  I hope they live a long time, but these greats that we pay homage to, they’re gone now.  This is important, because it’s a real celebration of what they’ve given us.” 

On the band’s facebook page the excitement and countdown continues as this sold out concert is just five days away.  Whether you’re a fan of the music from this slice of rock and roll history, or a fan of the band members themselves,  this is one of the hottest concerts this summer you don’t want to miss!  Friday won’t come soon enough, here in the Lehigh Valley, we’re ready to welcome The Hollywood Vampires!