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Godsmack Interview
From Chad Bowar,
Your Guide to Heavy Metal.

A Conversation With Drummer Shannon Larkin
Godsmack's latest studio album, Godsmack IV was made a little differently than their previous ones. Frontman Sully Erna let his bandmates write most of the music this time around while he focused on the lyrics. The Boston band has had a lot of success on the metal and hard rock scene with several multi-platinum albums, a bunch of hit singles and four Grammy nominations. I spoke with drummer Shannon Larkin, who joined Godsmack for 2003's Faceless. He's a musical veteran, having been a member of Ugly Kid Joe in the '90s and was a much sought after session drummer who played with many different people including Glenn Tipton of Judas Priest. Larkin also plays with Casey Chaos' band Amen and has another project called Another Animal with Godsmack bandmates Tony Rombola and Robbie Merril. When I spoke to Larkin he was getting ready to play on The Tonight Show.

Chad Bowar: Are you guys excited to be on Jay Leno tonight?
Shannon Larkin: Yeah we are. I'm sitting in the green room right now. We just got done with sound check. It's exciting to play these shows.

We just turn on the TV and there you guys are performing a song. Take us through what actually happens when you perform on a show like that.
We got here at 10am and did the first sound check at 11:30. That's just for the sound, the audio. Then you take a break for an hour while they practice skits and Jay's gags and things like that. Then you go back and do a video soundcheck for the cameras to make sure they are working right for the performance. Then you go back into the dressing room and do phone interviews. About five minutes ago Jay came in and talked to us. It's surreal. This is the third time we've done Leno.

A lot of people are describing your new album Godsmack IV as more mature. Would you agree?
Yeah, I guess. Our band's been around for ten years, so hopefully we've matured. The sound of the band has changed and gotten better. Sully pulled back on the reins and let the three of us write a little more on this record, let us express ourselves a little bit more.

It sounds like the recording process was a little different this time around.
When I first joined the band it was weird, because Sully played the drums on the first two records. I came into a situation where he was used to playing the drums, so he really had his hands in the drum parts on the Faceless record. The acoustic thing let him open up a little bit and be more comfortable with me. And so this last record was even more so, letting me do my thing. It was because we wrote a lot of the songs. Before Sully wrote 90 percent of the music, so he already had a vision of what the drums should be. That didn't allow much freedom. When I'm coming up with the song it's my vision on what I should play. It's been a lot easier for me and a lot more fun for me. I listen back and feel like I'm more of a part of it.

You wrote nearly 40 songs for the album and cut it down to 11. How did that process work?
It's Sully's band and his vision. He sifted through all the music and picked the songs that he wanted on the album. We all said "all right." He's always had the vision of everything Godsmack from the artwork to the production to the engineer to the studio to what TV shows we play. Everything. When it comes time to pick the songs it's all Sully.

With "Speak" being the number one song on the rock charts for several weeks, does that increase your expectations for the success of the album?
Our expecations are that we have to sell platinum or better so we don't get dropped from our record label and have to go and build houses again. It all comes down to that. We would do backflips if it sold two or three million and would be bigger than any record, but in reality we just need to tour our asses of and work hard and make this thing go platinum so that we can make another record and do another tour and continue to live the life we dreamed about when we were kids growing up. We're living it now.

Does you experience in Ugly Kid Joe where you were a platinum band that ended up getting dropped by a record label affect your attitude today?
It certainly makes me nervous when a new record comes out by Godsmack, because I've been in a band that had a multi-platinum record and watched the next one flop and see how quickly the major label that we made millions of dollars for dropped our ass in a heartbeat without a second thought or second chance. I know how ruthless this business is. That's why when a new record comes out I want it to sell so I can continue to do this. I'm not getting any younger and I certainly have no other skills. I've been doing this since I was ten years old and I have never done anything except play drums.

Another Animal, Black Sabbath and Stone Sour

Chad Bowar: You have some foreign tour dates lined up this summer. When are you coming back to the U.S.?
Shannon Larkin: We're going out of the country for three months. We're coming back in September and we have a great co-headliner for the shows who unfortunately I can't mention right now. It's going to be a great bill and we're going to have a great production budget that we can bring the biggest show we've ever brought out with all the video and pyro and a really cool stage design. It's always exciting to go out and play when you have a new record because as much as you love your band's songs it still gets boring after 280 shows in a year playing the same songs. It's nice to have all this new stuff. It will be so much fun to play live for the first year.

In addition to Godsmack you're also in a project with your former Ugly Kid Joe bandmate Whitfield Crane called Another Animal along with your Godsmack bandmates Robbie and Tony and former Godsmack guitarist Lee Richards. Do you guys have an album coming out soon?
Yeah. They're finishing the mix right now. My old pal Dave Fortman, who was also in Ugly Kid Joe with us, is mixing it. He's had a lot of success with Evanesence and Mudvayne and a bunch of other bands. We're excited about that. It's going to drop by September. We want to give enough time for the Godsmack record to breathe. We don't want to step on it in any way. That's our bread and butter. It was nice to make a record with Whit again and for the three of us Godsmackers it was nice to go in and not have so much pressure and eyes looking at us. The label never once looked at us and said a word to us about it. It was a feeling of freedom. We said we were going to produce it ourselves and the label didn't care because it's a side project. It feels like back when I first started a band. It was just five dudes jamming together and making as much noise as we could make.

What record label will it be on?
It will be on Godsmack's label, Universal. We went to them first and told them we were doing it. It's cool because we played it for the president of Universal. He came out to L.A. and we played him some new Godsmack stuff and then played three songs by Another Animal. It was the coolest thing. He looked up at our manager and said "let's do this."

You've worked with some big names over the years, like Glenn Tipton. The album you worked on with him ten years ago was just re-released.
It came out when I did it and was on Atlantic. It probably sold 30,000 copies and they stopped printing it. It was called Baptizm Of Fire and has been re-released with some bonus tracks. One of my road crew guys from Godsmack did a show with Judas Priest when we were on break. He met Glenn Tipton and he told him to tell Shannon I said hi. I haven't spoken to him since the day I recorded. He had really nice things to say. That was a huge thing for me. The first band that I ever saw at an arena concert was Judas Priest in 1981. I also had the opportunity to play with my idols Black Sabbath and Ozzy. There was one show where Mike Bordin (who was the band's drummer during the 1997 Ozzfest) had to go play with Faith No More, which was his main band at the time. I got the call from Sharon Osbourne and got to be in Black Sabbath for one day. It was rad.

More recently Godsmack went and played at Camp Pendleton for the Marines. We got a call that Ted Nugent was doing the Star Spangled Banner and wanted to jam with us. He said he was going to play "Cat Scratch Fever" for sure, but asked us what else we wanted to play. We said "Stranglehold!" It's like a 7 minute song. I learned "Cat Scratch Fever" when I was ten years old. So I'm looking up playing and seeing Ted Nugent in front of me. It was so surreal.

Weren't you in Candlebox for a brief time as well?
I was never actually in the band. I was in Amen at the time. I actually just talked to Casey Chaos yesterday. When we finished the Godsmack record I went into the studio and recorded 40 songs for the new Amen record in three days. Getting back to the story, my manager at the time also managed Candlebox. We had just finished an Amen record and Candlebox's drummer quit. They had two legs of their tour left at the time. My manager asked me if I was interested, and it turned out to be two six week tours. I was never actually in the band, I just toured with them. They were a great band.

Not too long ago my buddies Corey and Jim from Stone Sour called me. Their drummer was having personal problems at the time. They found a new drummer, Roy Mayorga, who recorded ten songs with them, but then had to go on the road with Sepultura. They had two more they wanted to record and called me. Just two weeks I went into Dave Grohl's studio and did a couple of songs with Stone Sour. So I'm keeping really busy.