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A Second Chance
Shannon Larkin Cheats Death, Finds God(smack)

By Rick Koster, Day Writer
Published on 10/19/2006

If the Lear jet had indeed crashed, killing the members of Black Sabbath, the band's drummer-for-a-day, Shannon Larkin, was cool with it. Smoke was shooting through the cabin from the air conditioning vents, vocalist Ozzy Osbourne was flipping out, calling out that they were all going to die — but Larkin was happily philosophical about the whole thing.

“I figured, if you've gotta go, it was a pretty cool way for it to happen,” says Larkin, now the drummer of the multi-platinum Boston band Godsmack. “I'd be, like, the answer to a trivia question: 'Who was that unknown guy who died when Sabbath's plane crashed?'”

Obviously, the jet landed safely. And Larkin, who'd been recommended by then-Osbourne bassist Robert Trujillo to fill on an Osbourne/Sabbath makeup date in 1997 when the original drummer had a scheduling conflict, got to fulfill one of those dream-come-true moments by playing exactly one gig with Black Sabbath.

“It was probably the highlight of my life until my first child was born,” Larkin says during a recent phone interview from Florida, shortly before Godsmack heads north on a junket that brings them to the Mohegan Sun Arena tonight. “Obviously, playing with Godsmack is amazing and I'm very lucky, but that single experience with Sabbath is something to remember.”

Larkin was no stranger to rock fame, even before Sabbath and Godsmack. He'd played for Ugly Kid Joe and Amen, and had been friends with Godsmack frontman Sully Erna for years. So when the 'smacks, whose brand of dark, alternative metal might be thought of an Eastern Seaboard Alice in Chains, called with an invitation to join the band in 2003, Larkin was excited to have a job with the band beyond radio faves “Voodoo,” “Keep Away” and the Grammy-nominated “Vampires.”

“At the time, Godsmack only had two records out, and though there were popular songs, they actually hadn't had a number one CD yet,” Larkins says. “So it was a tense time. There's no guarantee that the third album will do well, and all eyes are on you because it's the third one that has to sell or you'll get dropped from the label. That's pressure. But I thrive on that stuff. It was like walking onstage with Sabbath. And we all met the challenge.”

Indeed, that third CD, “Faceless,” with the smash “I Stand Alone,” went to the top of the Billboard charts.

“We freaked,” Larkin says. “Oh my God, we had to pinch ourselves. Someone pointed out that, at that time, even Prince hadn't had a number one album. It was a dream come true.”

Since then, Godsmack has utilized success as a springboard to grow as a band. Without abandoning the core sound that fueled its popularity, the band followed “Faceless” with “The Other Side,” an all-acoustic EP, then shifted to a bluesier, archival rock sound on the latest album, “IV,” as typified by the hit song “Shine Down.”

“In the past, it was more of a straight metal thing,” Larkin says. “Sully's voice has gotten a lot more mature and a lot better, and we've broadened our writing and influences.”

He says hardcore Godsmack followers would probably be surprised at the music the band listens to on the tour bus — Stevie Ray Vaughan, Steely Dan, the Beatles and Oasis are in heavy rotation.

“It'd probably freak fans outs,” Larkin laughs, “but there's a lot to be learned by listening to trippy old musicians. And based on how well the new CD's doing for us, I think we're doing OK with it.”