SUN JOURNAL (ME)

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PORTLAND - Members of Godsmack on tour promoting "Godsmack IV" - their latest CD which recently debuted at the No.1 spot on the Billboard Top 200 Albums chart - are looking forward to their stop in Maine this month.

They will bring their high-impact rock show to the Cumberland County Civic Center in Portland Saturday, Oct. 21. The concert is sold out.

"Of course, the lobster never fails," drummer Shannon Larkin said of Maine's lure in a phone interview. It's beautiful - cool, but not cold yet."

"Maine is cool," he continued. "The people there are cool, laid-back, it seems to me."

"Godsmack IV" is the Boston-based quartet's second #1 album debut. Riding the wave of their first single, "Speak," "Godsmack IV" is rapidly approaching platinum status.

Taking a break from nursing a cold ("It's hard to shake it, traveling on a bus all the time"), Larkin spoke enthusiastically about his time on the road. "We started with a coupla' weeks in Canada to get warmed up, get back in the groove."

Tour highlights include a side trip to Las Vegas, where Larkin and lead singer Sully Erna appeared on an episode of Criss Angel's "Mindfreak." Erna co-wrote and performs on the show's new theme song, and Larkin was especially impressed with some of the stunts he saw. "There were these stunt drivers on Japanese motorcycles and they'd get up to 60 miles per hour, jam on the front break and then balance on the front tire," he said.

Larkin especially likes two singles on "Godsmack IV": "Living in Sin" and "One Rainy Day."

"There's a blues jam on that one that really gets me," he said. With engineering help from legendary producer Andy Johns, "Godsmack IV" features an updated version of the muscular Godsmack sound. "Sully always has ideas and the vision," Larkin said. "We said, 'Why don't you produce and we'll get a killer engineer to mix it?'"

This opened the door for Johns, whose contribution goes a long way in allowing the band to maintain its bluesy-rock style without falling victim to the stagnation that sometimes cripples similarly established acts.

"Andy worked out great," Larkin said. "The drum sound on "Faceless" (released in 2003) "was militantly sterile and regimented, not enough valley compared to the peaks. That's why Andy came to mind. He worked with us on changes. He can mix the old and the new."

Larkin credits Johns' classic "distance miking" techniques - in which microphones are placed in a way that augment the drum sound - for much of the new CD's old-school feel.

On top of that, Johns is "a real sweet guy," Larkin noted. Besides all his mixing help, Johns had stories "that will make your jaw drop. He's partied with Hendrix, Keith Moon, John Bonham, Lou Reed back in the Velvet Underground days. He's seen a lot."

Besides the tour, Larkin and current and former band mates have teamed up to work on a side project. "Me, Tony and Robbie got some songs that didn't get used (on the current CD). We got together with Lee Richards (original Godsmack guitarist) and Whitfield Crane (lead singer of Ugly Kid Joe, Larkin's former band). We're calling it 'Another Animal' as in 'Is it like Godsmack?' 'No, it's another animal.' "

So, which story of the origin of the band's name is true? The one about a band member teasing another about a cold sore only to wake up the next morning with a cold sore himself (thus being "godsmacked")? Or, simply the one about the "Alice in Chains" song?

Actually, both stories are equally valid, according to Larkin. "We did choose our name from the 'Alice in Chains' song, but the cold sore story is true. After a while, it became its own thing, a term for sonic retribution."

By Chris Mendros , Special to Encore
Friday, October 6, 2006