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Friday, September 22, 2006

Godsmack Leader Keeps Tight Rein on Group

By Dan Mayfield
Journal Staff Writer

Nobody would ever say that The Beatles were John Lennon's band, or that Led Zeppelin was Jimmy Page's band. Those bands were built on group creativity, a group bond.
But then you take Megadeth— run by Dave Mustaine— or Weezer— run by Rivers Cuomo— and you get a different funk.

The same thing goes for Godsmack, run by singer Sully Erna.

"Sully is Godsmack," said drummer Shannon Larkin. "He's the vision and he writes most of the songs, and at the end of the day, he picks all the songs. His is the vision for the band, and the leader, and it's his band."

So when you sign on to play in Godsmack, you sign on to play for Erna.

"Sometimes it's irritating because I'll have something written, something as little as a drum fill, and he'll come to me with something else, and in my mind I'm thinking that's not necessarily better than mine, it's just different," Larkin said.

But again, you're working for Erna.

"When Godsmack records, Sully goes in and tunes all the guitars, and tunes all the drums and mics the drums, and has me hit them," Larkin said. "I've been tuning and setting up drums for 27 years. I crush the ego and let the man do it."

Even though a musician's life is based on creativity, the free-flow of ideas, playing in Godsmack is good, Larkin said, for him and the rest of the band, guitarist Tony Rambola and bassist Robbie Merrill.

"Me and Tony and Robbie are basically faceless, believe me, I love that. I can have my cake and eat it, too. I'm this big famous rock-star guy who doesn't get recognized," he said. "I can go out and see Rob Zombie and Shinedown on tour. It's great.

"It's hard sometimes, but what we do is recognize the genius that Sully has for this band. And inevitably, we start a side project."

That side project, ironically, came out of a low spot Erna hit when the band was recording its latest record, "IV," Larkin said.

"At the end of the 'Faceless' tour, we took a few months off. Sully was in a bad spot . . . so he would never come to rehearsal days," Larkin said. "Tony, Robbie and I would be writing 10 or 15 songs a week. He would come in with this black-cloud over his head. After two months into it, after we'd written 40 songs— great stuff— we found our click finally.

"I'd been in the band for four years, and most of that time wasn't writing it was touring. Tony and I would go to the back of the bus and write. I'd play on my legs. I'd come up with a beat, and he'd come up with a guitar."

When the band got back to its hometown of Boston, it already had skeletons of 20 songs, he said.

The thing was, there were 36 other songs the band liked that the rest didn't know what to do with.

So, Larkin called his old Ugly Kid Joe bandmate, singer Whitfield Crane, and demo-ed some of the songs and Universal Music Group liked them, too.

The band, now called Another Animal, was signed.

"The Another Animal record will be out in January. It's going to be great," Larkin said. "It's the band Godsmack playing it, but you put a singer like Whit Crane on it and it's another animal, man."

But the real thrill, Larkin said, was doing it themselves.

"We self-produced it," he said. "We're all Sullys."