Former Guns N' Roses Drummer Matt Sorum Defends His 'November Rain' Performance

Matt Sorum insists that "drumming isn't all about fancy drum fills and splash cymbals".

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According to Blabbermouth, former Guns N' Roses drummer Matt Sorum has defended his performance in the classic GN'R track "November Rain", insisting that "drumming isn't all about fancy drum fills and splash cymbals."

Ex-Dream Theater and current Adrenaline Mob drummer Mike Portnoy, who normally doesn't shy away from his two cents on any music-related discussion, took to his Twitter account on August 4 to pose the question: "'November Rain' is an all-time classic song... but why on Earth did Matt Sorum play the same exact fill every 4 bars? (23 times, to be exact!)"

Two days later, Sorum finally replied to Portnoy, writing on Twitter, "That fill was Axl's [Rose, Guns N' Roses singer] idea as a musical phrase that carried on through the trilogy, "Don't Cry" and "Estranged". Those albums, "Use Your Illusion" [parts] 1 and 2 have sold 20 million combined."

He added, "Remember, kids, drumming isn't all about fancy drum fills and splash cymbals. Ask Charlie Watts, Ringo [Starr] and Phil Rudd."

In a 2009 interview with Music Radar, Sorum spoke in more detail about his drumming approach on "November Rain", explaining, "The track I get the most amount of grief for, from drummers, is "November Rain". The reason I did that tom fill so many times is I felt it was a musical part. A lot of drummers were like, 'Why'd you play the same fill so much?!'

"Me and Axl were sitting in the studio late one night, having a couple of drinks and listening to Elton John, a song called "Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me".

"Axl goes, 'Do you hear that?' I'm like, 'Yeah, I love Nigel Olson, man'. He says, "Do that on the song we're going to record tomorrow!' We'd rehearsed it but I didn't have all the fills and stuff, it was just a groove. In the end of "November Rain", I get into that whole marching band trip."

40 comments sorted by best / new / date

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    Maiden95
    As a drummer, I think that fill fit the song perfectly! I never actually noticed it being the only fill in the song but maybe that's part of why it's so cool. Remember Mike, November Rain isn't a "Drummer's Song".
    vikkyvik
    EyesWideOpen wrote: Wow. This guy sounds like a complete dick. Why is it relevant to bring how many copies it sold. Oh you think my playing was bad? Well we've sold millions of records so there. And "Remember, kids, drumming isn't all about fancy drum fills and splash cymbals." What a condescending douchebag.
    So someone knocks his drumming, he replies in defense, and he's the douchebag?? So strange. And he's right, drumming isn't all about fancy drum fills and splash cymbals. Frankly, if the drum parts in "November Rain" were any more flashy or less consistent, it would just detract from the song.
    gateway01
    Mike Portnoy is actually my favorite drummer of all time, but why does he care again? Shouldn't he be slamming every song released in the past 10 years for the same thing?
    MegadethFan18
    thechaostheory wrote: Dave Grohl is my favorite drummer! Btw, when did Adler leave GNR?!
    1990.
    jrodgers
    Portnoy is simply listening to a non drumming-centric song with the ears of a drummer. Even though the drum track is not a central focus of the song, as a drummer you still focus on it. Its just the same as myself (as a guitarist) listening to, say, "With a Little Help from my Friends", and complaining about George Harrison not playing more intricate guitar parts. In the same case as November Rain, it was just never the point from the beginning. Not every song calls for a shapeshifting Neil Peart-ish drum track, like not every song needs busy Satriani-ish guitar riffs
    zeek7pc
    I've been a drummer for 20 years and never noticed that song had the same fill over and over. Huh...
    Kiffa
    The fills aren't all the same, very similar with slight variations, fits the feel of the tune perfectly though.
    arnolddrummer
    The reason the songs is so good, is because the drummer gives some other instruments time to shine. If all instruments are going full out, it either sounds really great or it sounds like garbage and matt does the right things with letting slash and axl be the stars of the song.
    Irwin Navarro
    This is just me talking but I'm kinda a beginner drummer here. The last time I checked drumming is not only about "showing off". It is about keeping in time, dynamics,and connecting well with the band members which IMO, Sorum has done well in November Rain and all the other UYI songs. And besides simple drumming doesn't mean bad drumming.Sometimes it just means doing whats best to fit the song. Lets take the song Zombie by Cranberries as an example.The song requires simple drumming. Imagine if Portnoy was playing with them and doing his fills all over the place. I bet they would just stop and be like "WTF". Peace )
    the_modfather
    Mike is an extraordinary drummer, and at his level he must know he is very good. So if you're at that level don't criticise another successful drummer's playing. You wouldn't catch Steve Vai saying that about another guitarist, or any other virtuoso I can think of
    Prostheta
    I never noticed because the track works as a cohesive whole. Songwriting and playing for the song is becoming a lost art. Group knows how to do this. As do Lemmy, Elton and many writers far more competent than Portnoy.
    eatfresh1736
    EyesWideOpen wrote: What a condescending douchebag.
    Wait, how is he the condescending one?
    donstr888
    thechaostheory wrote: Dave Grohl is my favorite drummer! Btw, when did Adler leave GNR?!
    He didn't leave he got booted. It was stupid for them to fire Adler but i'd say Sorum was a good replacement
    Flibo
    WPtak wrote: Matt Sorum! Bands like Dream Theater should be banned. Why? Because they kill music. There is no soul, just counting. And there is growing generation of music players which don't have a feeling, soul in playing, they want just impress with mathematics on drums/guitar. It's preety annnoying when you have a drummer which doesn't have a groove.
    That's really pretentious when you think of it. Complexity and "soul" are not mutually exclusive. If you like the pentatonic minor scale repeated up and down all day long and call it the holy grail of "feeling" then be my guest. I appreciate creativity in music. I'm not saying Dream Theater has it, but many other bands that make complex music: Sikth, Behold... The Arctopus, Meshuggah and so on. You'd be surprised how much mathematics is involved in your favorite music. On topic, I always hear Mike Portnoy being called the dude who only has 2 fills.
    todd6138
    I dont believe the drummers questioning Sorum have any malice towards him. It seemed like just a reasonable question to ask when youre making conversation as drummers..
    l0ld4v3
    Sorum's playing in that song is tight and flawless, sometimes less is more.
    bloodshot206
    i dont know if mike has listened to acdc but every song almost has the same drum beat since they started
    kellynickels
    Portsomeone is a great Ahole. GN'R rocks when he skcks. He should build a world carrier for 5 years nad after that he can talk. Noone can make as fast sucess as GN'R reached.
    xwf
    Portnoy will never understand, because he is an egotistical douche. The job of a drummer is to not get in the way. As a drummer, I feel that fill is like a "Hook" in the song. It is a repeated musical phrase. Portnoy is just a butthurt retard who is sad that his awful band moved on without him, and that he didn't get to be in A7X full time.
    DaniArrow
    WPtak wrote: ...Because they kill music. There is no soul, just counting. And there is growing generation of music players which don't have a feeling, soul in playing, they want just impress with mathematics on drums/guitar...
    I totally agree!
    WPtak
    Matt Sorum! Bands like Dream Theater should be banned. Why? Because they kill music. There is no soul, just counting. And there is growing generation of music players which don't have a feeling, soul in playing, they want just impress with mathematics on drums/guitar. It's preety annnoying when you have a drummer which doesn't have a groove.
    EyesWideOpen
    Wow. This guy sounds like a complete dick. Why is it relevant to bring how many copies it sold. Oh you think my playing was bad? Well we've sold millions of records so there. And "Remember, kids, drumming isn't all about fancy drum fills and splash cymbals." What a condescending douchebag.
    Slash1337
    Matt Sorum! Bands like Dream Theater should be banned. Why? Because they kill music. There is no soul, just counting. And there is growing generation of music players which don't have a feeling, soul in playing, they want just impress with mathematics on drums/guitar. It's preety annnoying when you have a drummer which doesn't have a groove.
    **** you man, Dream Theater is the best band ever, they got more soul than any other band. If you ever give them a chance you will see that. I bet you dont know shit about music...
    Izzy-Sweet
    Why the hell do people ever think like this? I've honestly heard people turning down music because it's "too simple". How can music be too simple? It's ****ing music!
    Muck27
    Check it out, Portnoy saying dumb things again.. Courntey Love has rubbed off on him.
    jor_guitar
    kellynickels wrote: Portsomeone is a great Ahole. GN'R rocks when he skcks. He should build a world carrier for 5 years nad after that he can talk. Noone can make as fast sucess as GN'R reached.
    Yeah Portnoy is a douche after he left DT. And just because he wants to be news, trying to join again one day after.
    Irwin Navarro
    Okay here's my final take on this. Im just a beginner drummer so drum geeks out there take it easy. Both drummers are right in their own terms. I'm listening to the song right now and for some reason maybe it would have been better if Sorum did a little bit of variations in his fills but not to the extent that it would "eat up" the entire song. So Sorum is also right about what he said about drumming not being all about fills and splashes, etc. Sometimes its about simple dynamics, tempo, and connecting well with the band. Which IMO, Sorum was able to do so in November Rain and the rest of the UYI songs. Imagine this scenario. A GNR concert with MP on drums. First song, Chinese Democracy. A good song with simple drumming. Portnoy is doing his thing all over the place. I'm pretty sure Axl will throw his mic stand towards MP and be like "stop stop" and MP will just play on and on. And a fight will happen on stage (see the movie Rock Star :p).Peace
    grimhood
    M. Portnoy is a great drummer...it's a surprise to hear such a comment from him address to another guy of his profession..maybe it's a part of his genius..just keep ramblin and stop yappin!!! BTW I don't dig M. Sorum...I think he sucks..heh heh. Peace...
    travislausch
    Both of them are clearly douchebags in this matter. The song slays. The drum part fit perfectly.
    Irwin Navarro
    Just my 2 cents here but why not let Bryan Mantia( current GNR drummer) take a break for a while and let Portnoy step in. It would be interesting to see how he will interpret GNR's songs. Although Axl and MP being in the same band wouldnt be much of a good idea due to ego.
    Braykah
    It wasn't an insult from MP, it was a simple question out of curiosity. I've never questioned Matt's fill there, though, because I felt it went really nice with the rest of the song.
    EyesWideOpen
    vikkyvik wrote: EyesWideOpen wrote: Wow. This guy sounds like a complete dick. Why is it relevant to bring how many copies it sold. Oh you think my playing was bad? Well we've sold millions of records so there. And "Remember, kids, drumming isn't all about fancy drum fills and splash cymbals." What a condescending douchebag. So someone knocks his drumming, he replies in defense, and he's the douchebag?? So strange. And he's right, drumming isn't all about fancy drum fills and splash cymbals. Frankly, if the drum parts in "November Rain" were any more flashy or less consistent, it would just detract from the song.
    He's got the right to defend himself. It was the way he did it. And it wasn't the sentiment that drumming shouldn't be all fills and splashes that I was against. It was the use of "Remember kids". It's extremely condescending.
    Slash1337
    Because simple music gets boring after a while, cause its the same thing over and over again. Like most of the new so called "rock bands".