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Godsmack

Interview by Johnpaul Mahofski

Godsmack’s new album IV hit record shelves on April 26, 2006. This newest project is unlike any other record the group has ever made. Shannon Larkin the groups drummer, describes the writing process, how it is to feel older, and lead singer Sully Erna’s battle with depression, which all played a major part in the new album.
Godsmack IV presents the listener with hard rock, different sounds, soft turns and when needed a metal edge. For the first time ever Erna let go of the reigns and let the band write. Here is 1340’s interview with Shannon Larkin.

Is it safe to say you have paid some dues in this industry?

(Laughing) It is over safe to say. Before I even got signed, I did six years in a band on a cross country tour in a little Dodge van with 4 other dudes in the band, and 5 in the crew. I think I started paying my dues before I even got signed and dropped a bunch of times. (laughs)

It has been reported that Sully had a really tough year going into the writing process was it different because of this?

What that did, man. Well Sully even said, “I’m going to let go of the reigns on this one. You guys write the songs, and let me deal with my personal problems.” His personal life was just in chaos, but it was kind of a good thing for the band in the end, as misery usually is. It brought us all closer together as a band. It allowed Rob, Tony, and myself to basically speak with each other for the first time writing wise. We had well over 3 albums worth of tracks when Sully came in with his stuff . Sully sifted through it all and picked selections; we had the new record. It just made you feel good. All 4 of us in the band being part of it. It just made the band more competent.

With the band playing such a large role in this, is this one special?

Certainly. When I think back, I would hear our songs on the radio, and I would think, “I didn’t have anything to do with that song.” Now, I can remember when a certain part comes up, us all saying, ‘chime in, chime in, that’s killer.’ The excitement that builds, it is climax for the band to hear the song on the radio.

I mean you hear the song on the radio now, and it is just much more special you are in amazement. I mean this whole record is a special record for everybody in Godsmack. Sully, he would come in and he had that black cloud hanging over him everyday, coming in with a frown, but he would break away from that and say “Man this is the best record we ever made.” I could not be happier, and that in itself is just straight up special.

Are you feeling older?

I definitely feel older. I turned 39 two days ago. I’m pushing 40 man. My bones just aren’t as resilient. I feel it in all kind of different ways. I mean, man, all those parties and debauchery, all that crap. I have definitely grown and matured. I don’t have room in my life now where I’m not mentally in control. I have shaken those demons.

Basically, us rock dudes are thrown into an environment where it is ok to party all the time, as long as you still got on stage and did the killer show for the crowd. All the other time you can do whatever you want. I spent many years like that. I mean, now I can have 3 or maybe even 10 beers (laughs), but I don’t have to drink a fifth of Jack anymore.

You seem to like the simpler life and really enjoy your family.

Having a kid; everything changes. I remember when we would get on a plane, you know people always think, ‘I hope it doesn’t crash’. It was the furthest thing from my mind. I never cared one way or the other. Then I had my daughter. The first plane I got on after she was born, I was like ‘man I hope the plane doesn’t crash’ for her, you know, so she has her daddy. It changes.

What do you think of all the media and fan attention you get?

It’s a double edged sword. I mean, of course it is great. I like going into like a rock bar and people saying “there’s the dude from Godsmack”. But, you know it can also be a drag. Your eating with your wife and daughter, and people come up to you. You got a mouthful of food. I can’t be mean. It isn’t in me. I’m nice. I can’t help it. My wife will say “Hey why didn’t you tell that person”. I cant do that. I mean I’m a fan. I wouldn’t run up to Steven Tyler if he was eating with family. If I was a big enough fan, I’d wait till he walked outside or something like that. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I understand it too. It is awesome too. I dreamed of seeing Zeppelin. I was a huge rock fan, Kiss, I mean I loved them all. Plus alot of guys are like, “I hate that being a rock star“. Not me. I love it. I mean just sometimes attention can be a drag like some of the stuff on the internet that simply isn’t true.

The internet can definitely be as you put it a double edged sword.

Sully made a rule no one can do the net chat alone. We do that as a band; because it is easy to get baited. People will say shit. One night I was on alone and I started arguing it was like a battle of words or whatever (laughs), but someone had said something and offended me. That is why we go on as a band. We take questions that way. Strength in numbers kind of things.

Well, I know this is where Godsmack is an interesting debate. Some people say ‘not hard enough’ , others say ‘to hard for me’ , where do you see Godsmack?

I know you have to categorize things. I mean there is definitely a metal edge to it. It can’t be called metal cause we do things like The Other Side and Serenity and Voodoo. I mean Sully hates for us to be called a metal band. I can accept it. I love metal. I still listen to metal. I get my metal fix every week. I can see where Sully is though, because Godsmack came out in 1998 and had a hit record. Nu-Metal had just come out, and Godsmack got lumped in with nu-metal, which was really rap rock. Sully has always hated that (rap-rock) shit. So, he is saying we aren’t nu-metal. If I was cornered and had to answer, is it metal? Is it rock? I’d say the hard rock outweighs the metal. Take the new album, 2-3 songs are metal everything else is hard rock.

What was it like to work with Glenn Tipton?

That man is the coolest guy my good friend, Whit Crane, Another Animal hooked me up cause he knew Robert Trujillo. He said, “dude you want to play a couple songs with Robert and Tipton?” I’m like, “count me in”.

I walked in and my jaw dropped. I mean JudasPriest was the first arena show I ever went too. Tipton is genuine. He’s funny. He’s smart. He’s witty. and he plays like- man look that album if it was Rob Halford singing, it would be a Priest album. Tipton has an incredible signature style of writing.

You got respect for the warriors in the business. You really believe in rock n roll, don‘t you?.

I do dude, it is in my veins. I’m lucky man. I am lucky. I knew from 10 years old. I got my first set on my 10th birthday. From the first time I ever had a stick in my hand, that is all I wanted to do. Starving or successful, or whatever is in between, this was going to be the rest of my life. I’ve been really lucky. I mean working around Trujillo, Tipton.

My devotion has paid off in spades. I mean, I got to work with Metallica. I played a show with Black Sabbath. I was in a leer jet with the man.

A year ago I ended up on stage playing Cat Scratch Fever with Ted Nugent. I am lucky and grateful. I mean man the only thing that could seal the deal for me, is if we could get ACDC; that is it. I love everything ACDC. Bon Scott was my idol. I got my first tattoo the week I turned 18 because of Bon Scott. He was my idol, as soon as I heard High Voltage, which is weird cause I’m a drummer.

What will happen next? I know you and the band minus Sully, got a side project because you had so much stuff written

Yeah it is called Another Animal my buddy Whit Crane (Ugly Kid Joe), my brother, and a guy named Lee Richards, he was Godsmack’s original guitar player, he plays on it. It is metal dude. We are not afraid to say it. We are proud of the songs we have written. These songs were passed over by Sully, because they were too heavy. Sully was like, “look we are trying to make this big rock record you know, Godsmack, and this one sounds too metal.” At the end of the day, we were like, “we gotta do a record, man”.

And Whit, he just worships at the throne of Bon Scott and Rob Halford, so man, Another Animal is a heavy Godsmack musically, with a cross of Bon Scott and Halford singing. It’s just sick. We are very proud of it. It will be out at the end of the summer; we got Dave Fortman mixing it. In a couple of days it will be done. He mixed the new Mudvayne album, which is pretty fargin metal, so we are excited about that. Storm Thorgerson doing the album cover, and that guy did The Dark Side of The Moon cover. I think we will have pretty good album cover too.

Did you play a role in Shine Down, and what is your belief in the idea of whether there something out there?

I played no role in Shine Down. Sully came in with that song. It is one of the ones on the album where he had it and brought it in. He simply said, “give me the When The Levy Breaks type drum beat”.

Then he played the riff, and we had the song and it was rock. We didn’t even know about the harmonica part. That came much later in the studio in L.A. We played that song for months without it.

When Sully writes his lyrics to a record a lot of the time I’m his sounding board. I’ll sit there on the couch while he is writing lyrics. He’ll say “uhh, I need a good word for perturbed. That fits in one syllable”, and I’ll sit there and beat the bricks and try to find the word. That is how I helped him with lyrics.

As far as all the, I don’t know what you would call them, religious type of themes, for instance Temptation, Shine Down, Living In Sin, we all started to see a pattern shaping with his lyrics, and honestly I have nothing to do with that.

Part 2- Beliefs

Sully is a Wiccan, which is like earth magic. I practice a kind of magick, well, it is what it is, it is the Tree of Life. It is a more disciplined magick. Yes, I believe in and practice a different kind of magick. It is based on Rushdie’s Tree of Life. One of the modern guys that describes it all in a great book called Modern Magick 11 Lessons in the High Magickal Arts, is Donald Michael Kraig.

In that book, it breaks it down where its not ridiculous at all. In fact it makes more sense than most. You know, I read the Koran and the Bible. I did lots of studying in my 20’s in trying to find myself. What do I really believe in? I was raised Roman Catholic. I went to church every Sunday until I was 16. I have wonderful parents. They are great.
They came to me when I was 16, and they said, “We have raised you Catholic. We feel you are old enough to make decisions in your life. You know longer have to go to church with us”. I never did again, not because I’m not a spiritual person, and not because I lost my faith in the Catholic Church, but because it didn’t seem real to me. I was always searching. I searched, and like a dumb ass, you get into well you know, like Venom and Slayer and your like “yeah black magic!”

But then you realize the real deal, and that stuff is stupid and immature. And a lot of misconception comes of that. People are like, “Oh magick, it’s just a joke.”
Well, you know it is more real to me than say Scientology. People can accept Scientology though. Well Scientology seems, I don’t want to say ridiculous, but it is stretching it, the beliefs. I could go on for hours about the religious state in America, but we are just talking about me here.

Where does a drummer fit into the process this time around?

It is a big part of it because Sully is a drummer. As far as the writing process Tony always comes in with the killer riffs. Usually 9 times out of 10, it will be me, him, and Robbie; or just me and Tony. He will have the killer riffs. He has thousands of them. He has a little Dictaphone thing, so he can prepare riffs at home. We don’t have to sit there watching him doodle for hours.

He’ll play the riffs and we listen to them. Once we hear one we like, I’ll be like “oh that’s cool”, and he will play it on the guitar loud for me. I’ll just start, you know, beating the drums, different tempos and beats, half-time or up beats, whatever. Until we feel it click. Once that happens the floodgates open, and ideas will come up. It’s pretty much normal band business, the 3 of us, or 4. If sully was in a good mood, he’d be there, you know to help write the song.

It is there in the room. If someone has an idea everyone will listen. Sully will try the idea and then we’ll go “nah” or “its great”.

We wanted to try to be spontaneous on this record. We didn’t over rehearse on this one. I mean on Faceless and The Other Side, I knew every drum I was going to hit every fill, everything, even how I was going to stick it. It was to the point it was robotic. This album we wanted to really keep the soul. Robots don’t have a soul. So we basically wrote a song, we’d record it, and then move onto the next one. By the time we got the 15-16 songs to do the record, then we went out to L.A. I listened again in L.A., but 50% of all the drum fills and everything excluding the beats, was off the cuff. I would do three takes on each song and then maybe Sully and myself would listen to it and try to get that magic take. It was an interesting process.