THE POST & COURIER, CHARLESTON

Back to Sully Erna

Erna's rock story follows different 'Paths'

By KEITH RYAN CARTWRIGHT
Special to The Post and Courier


"The day Vince's sentence was handed down I was home with Nicole. When I answered the phone, there was a needle in my arm. ? Then I shot up and nodded out."

Nikki Sixx, Motley Crue bassist

Nikki Sixx is a rock star, and so too are the other members of Motley Crue - Tommy Lee, Vince Neil and Mick Mars - for that matter. For anyone who's ever happened to read the band's biography, "The Dirt," there's no denying Motley's penchant for sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll.

The group's sordid tales of decadent debauchery have been so well documented over the years that they've become easily recalled yarns of rock 'n' roll legend and lore.

In fact, the critically heralded book, which was on the New York Times Bestseller list, has been so successful that other bands have penned their autobiographies as well. The most recent band to do so is Godsmack frontman Sully Erna.

"It's not an autobiography, really," said Erna, when talking about his book "The Paths We Choose."

"Not like the Motley Crue book, and there's not page after page about strippers and porn stars or anything like that, really.

"It's a memoir, and it only goes up to the beginning of when I started Godsmack, the first 30 years of my life. So it's really not a rock-star tell-all.

"This is about me and my mom and my sister and growing up on the streets as I did," he continued in an interview posted at the book's newly launched Web site, thepathswechoose.com, "and how I got here."

Here, if one doesn't already know, is the founding member of the multi-platinum, three times Grammy nominated singer of Godsmack.

There, however, is the rough and cagey Boston suburb of Lawrence, Mass., where Erna recalled in a Boston Globe interview, "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."

Like so many others who grew up in a dysfunctional family, Erna faced a life of drugs and crime. Unlike many others, however, he came to realize early on that his decisions - bad and good - lead to those aforementioned situations.

"We are not born rock stars," he said in another online interview. "I would never change my past for anything. I wouldn't change where I live, where I grew up (or) who I hung out with. It made me who I am today."

Formed in 1996, it took Erna roughly one year to put the original lineup of Robbie Merrill, Tony Rombola and Joe Darco together. The band self-funded its first album "All Wound Up," which was eventually remastered and re-released as the group's self-titled major label debut in '98 with all new artwork upon signing with Republic/Universal.

Darco had long since been replaced by Tommy Stewart by the time they released the hugely successful "Awake" (2000), which in addition to the radio success of its title track, also featured the Grammy nominated instrumental, "Vampires."

For the band's third release, "Faceless" (2003), Erna replaced Stewart with longtime friend Shannon Larkin (Wrathchild America, Ugly Kid Joe), embarked on a 23-month-long tour, and earned two more Grammy nominations.

In the waning years since, and with a lot less fanfare, the band has also released its first and only acoustic EP "The Other Side" (2004) and last year's "Godsmack IV," which only now brings the group to Charleston.

Godsmack will headline the North Charleston Performing Arts Center Wednesday.

"Bands like Korn and Limp Bizkit didn't respect us," Erna told the Globe, "but we were getting blessings from, like, Joe [Perry] and Steve [Tyler], and Black Sabbath, and Rush.

We sat in a room with Rush and drank two bottles of wine and smoked ...Who needs those other guys?"

In any case, Erna's recollections in "The Paths We Choose" are less about the trials and tribulations of being a rock star and more about the hope and inspiration of becoming such a figure in the landscape of rock 'n' roll.

"Everyone sees things a bit differently from how they happened," he admitted. "This is my version of things and I think it's pretty accurate."