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Talking 'smack
January 23, 2007

Stories about musical heroes from humble beginnings can be as stale as they are unsurprising. Just watch "Rock Star" with Mark Wahlberg and Jennifer Aniston . It's a howler. So it was with some trepidation that Pop! picked up an advance copy of Godsmack singer Sully Erna's memoir about growing up on the seedy streets of Lawrence. Due out Feb. 7 -- Erna's 39th birthday -- "The Paths We Choose" is a blood-sweat-and-tears tale of life and how . . . not to live it. Stale? No. Unsurprising? Maybe. Entertaining? Absolutely. We talked to the heavily inked author on the phone.

MARK SHANAHAN

Q Your band is hugely successful. What possessed you to write a book?

A I'll tell you, it wasn't on my agenda in life. It kind of wrote itself. I'd get lonely and bored on the road -- you know, two-day bus rides to the next place -- and I'd just write this stuff down. I was kind of keeping a journal, and then I was, like, ' 'All right, I see what's going on here -- this is a book!"

Q You started doing drugs early.

A I smoked my first joint at 11 and I stopped at 21 . . . I still smoke a joint occasionally, but I stopped the hard stuff.

Q Probably a good idea. You did some crazy [expletive].

A I easily could have died or ended up in jail, but there's a bigger message here. Life's always going to be hard and you'll face tough situations, but you keep working. I wasn't born a rock star. You just have to prepare yourself and know there's a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

Q Well, there might be a pot of gold.

A OK, but what are you going to do, shrivel up and die? The reason we're able to get up on our wobbly knees and walk when we're babies is because we're born with determination.

Q You make your dad sound awful. Has he read the book?

A He remembers some things differently. . . . But I've forgiven him and we're moving on. We're doing great now.

Q And what about Lawrence? You write that it was "full of murderers, thieves, and rapists, and half the time those people were your next-door neighbors." They just give you the key to the city?

A [Laughs.] I said to them, "You're giving me the key and you haven't read the book yet." I don't portray it as the best place in the world, but there are Lawrences all over. You can't sugarcoat it.

Q You're not a big guy, but you were a fierce little fellow growing up. You fought constantly.

A Because I wasn't very big, I made myself tougher than I really was. I never remember leaving my house without a weapon of some kind. I was a kid from the streets.

Q You write about snorting strawberry foot powder while high on mescaline. What were you thinking?

A I was stupid.

Q Have you read "Hammer of the Gods" about Led Zeppelin? Or Motley Crue's excellent book, "The Dirt" ?

A That was exactly what I didn't want to write. If you think you're gonna read about all the women I slept with, this isn't that book. I loved those books, but I didn't want this to be that.

Q It must be a treat to meet rockers you idolized growing up.

A Yeah, bands like Korn and Limp Bizkit didn't respect us, but we were getting blessings from, like, Joe [Perry] and Steven [Tyler], and Black Sabbath, and Rush. We sat in a room with Rush and drank two bottles of wine and smoked a joint. Who needs those other guys.

Q So you're on tour again, but it's a book tour.

A Weird, right?