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Godsmack Interview
Interviewed: Sully Erna
By Jason Fisher

The Gauntlet: What's been going on?

Sully: You know, just hanging out.

The Gauntlet: Godsmack has always had a hard sound on all the albums. With the upcoming release of 'IV', you move to a more mature rock sound. Where did this new Godsmack sound come from?

Sully: It comes from spending a lot of time together and growing up as individuals. Also growing up through life and living and learning things. The trials and tribulations and life's obstacles and the things you grow out of. We also acknowledge our fans are growing as well. The same kids that listened to us in their late teens are now in their early thirty's and have kids of their own. For us it was a lot of experimentation. We love so many different kinds of music. We want to play something a little bluesier and more rock. We don't always want to write that metal edge, you know? That's what we tried to experiment with on this record. We didn't want to write the same record over and over again. We wanted it to be a little different and have people to listen and say 'woah, that's a Godsmack song?' Start building a broader catalogue.

The Gauntlet: One of the things I have always hated about this industry is the term sellout is used by fans and critics far too often. I think Godsmack sold out its fans with the 'Awake' album. It was the same album you put out two years prior. When I listen to a follow up album from any band, I want to hear some sort of evolution and progression from the band. With 'IV' the band does accomplish this.

Sully: Right. I don't know what a sellout is to me. Everyone says that Metallica sold out with the black album, yet it was their biggest selling album ever. I think it is just change. People are afraid of change. They want every album to be perfect like when they first heard it. It can't be like that. I was the same way with Janes Addiction and Zeppelin. Look how much experimentation Led Zeppelin did with their sound? No ones better at it than them. They are a legendary band. You gotta try new things and sometimes you're going to fail, and sometimes your going to succeed but your never going to grow and learn what is special unless you continue to experiment. If that's what selling out is, then whatever. I agree with you, selling out shouldn't be applied to a band trying to expand and try new sounds and different styles of music they enjoy. I know people will here certain songs on this record and say 'woah, that's Godsmack?' Like 'One Rainy Day' for instance. That's one of my favorite songs on the record. I love that track. I love that old style blues on that track. I love 'Shine Down' which has a really cool harmonica solo and bluesy vocals. Then theres other stuff like 'The Enemy' and 'Temptation' which are old school Godsmack sounding. And then 'Living In Sin' which is more epic sounding. It's just a little different sound than we are used to writing. Part of that came from us detaching a little bit. We took a lot of time off. The band went one way, I went the other. When we met in the middle it was interesting. It was like I was writing for a new band. I wasn't writing the music anymore. I was writing lyrics and melodies for different sounds that I would have never wrote which let me to write my melodies a different way. I think that's way it's a little more unique sounding than some of the stuff we had done in the past. In all honesty, we have never been a band that sat their and said we are Godsmack and we are changing the face of music. Nor have we ever tried to claim that. We are just a hard rock band making our way through the grime like everyone else and hoping people like our music and enjoy it. The second record was written while we were on tour for the first record. Shit, I didn't even see me bed for like four years. We were out their touring doing 11 shows, day off, ten shows, day off. We did that for years. I became a freak. I didn't even know who I was anymore. I was just on autopilot. We took six weeks off and recorded the second record, kept touring to finish the first tour. By the time 'Awake' came out in stores, we just kept touring. We just kept the same setlist. We were drinking a lot and it was a dark record. You are right though, it was kinda like the same record. Then we got Shannon in on the 'Faceless' album and he brought some new energy to the band. I really liked 'Faceless.' I don't think it sounded like the other records. But it was still a similar sound and we hadn't quite changed up. On 'IV', we changed up everything, instruments, amp sounds, guitars we were using. We really brought a new approach to the song writing. I really think people are going to find it an interesting listen.

The Gauntlet: One of the things I have noticed about 'IV' is you can listen to it over and over and hear new things in each song. This album has a timeless quality to it…

Sully: Oh, do you know how happy I am you said that? We have said over and over 'wouldn't it be nice to have a record that has a timeless vibe to it. Or maybe twenty years from now still be a cool record.' I really hope this is our special album. A few bands have that album where they were just in a zone when they wrote it. Whether it's Zeppelin's 'IV', AC/DC's 'Back in Black' or the 'Black' album by Metallica. I really hope that this is that album for us. It really feels like it.

The Gauntlet: The album struck me as one of those albums you listen to as an album. Not one of those you pop in and listen to tracks 1, 3, and 7.

Sully: Awesome man. I am so glad you said that. We wrote probably 40 songs over a year. It was hard to pick eleven. We felt like we picked eleven great tracks and didn't feel we picked any skip overs. I am glad it is being perceived as a great album and I can't wait til it's in the publics hands.

The Gauntlet: Have you heard back from anyone on the album?

Sully: We just started doing press for it. But everybody who has heard it so far have been giving it the same vibe. Some of our really good friends who have had no problem in the past saying 'what the fuck dude! This song sucks!' are saying this is up there with their favorite records. People really enjoy the songs and the different textures on the album. There is a lot on there for different kinds of people. I think this is going to translate into a lot of new people who may have not been into Godsmack.

The Gauntlet: Godsmack has been very successful with previous albums. Not a single album has not gone platinum. Why change something that has worked so well for the band?

Sully: There is always a brief concern. We have talked about it. We haven't like tapped into the bluesy edge and we have a lot of that in us. We can't go old-school blues or Aerosmith blues. We have wondered what it would sound like to put a blues kind of edge to a Godsmack song. Songs like 'Shine Down', 'One Rainy Day', and 'No Rest for the Wicked'. That's got an awesome blues riff but it is still loud and tough. So we talked about it. What were we going to do, write the same record over and over again? We have to step out over the boundaries sometime and take some chances. We learned a lot from our audience when we released that acoustic EP and having it so well recepted. They basically gave us our permission to go out and write whatever we want. We'll let them be the critics. That was a real big chance for us because we didn't know if people would start thinking we were selling out and following the path of the Goo-Goo Dolls and changing our sound so extremely. There were just some songs that were good songs that were never write for our heavier record and we just threw them out there and people went for them. It did really well. It gave us the opportunity to not have a ceiling over our head. If it's a good song, it's a good song. Zeppellin showed us that more than anybody. They did fucking reggae and all kinds of fucking shit.

The Gauntlet: Have you had the chance to perform anything in front of an audience yet?

Sully: No, no, we just finished the video for 'Speak'. That was as close as we came to performing in front of people, but we were lip-synching. We are looking to putting a show together. We are going to be starting really soon. June is when we start I think. We are going to do International first. Go to Canada, Mexico, Alaska, Japan, Australia, South America and stuff like that. Then in September we will start in the States.

The Gauntlet: I understand Kounts Customs chopper shop supplied the bikes and cars for the 'Speak' video.

Sully: It was filmed in Las Vegas on some backroad and we setup a dragstip. Kounts Customs supplied the rides for it.

The Gauntlet: I understand you are an avid motorcycle collector.

Sully: I have always rode motorcycles since I was young. It was my first vehicle. I will be on a bike before I am in a car. I am a big fan of muscle cars. That's why we came up with the video. We wanted to do a video that didn't have an intense concept where the l;yrical content matches the scene. Who cars if it matches. We wanted to put some awesome eye candy in it. So we went and got the baddest ass dragsters, muscle cars and motorcycles for it. We brought some guys from New England in that were sick. They were doing headstands on the motorcycles doing 60. We had lots of wheelies and 20 foot flames coming out of the dragsters. We just went off. Nothing was choreographed or planned. We just sat there and played all day. The cops came and blocked off the road and we just did the most insane burnouts. It was cool videotaping all of it. It was just a bunch of guys and girls hanging out watching people go off.

The Gauntlet: How many bikes do you have?

Sully: I have 3, 2 are customs, one isn't. I needed one comfy bike incase I go cross country. That's one of my goals in the near future. Just drive around the country on my bike by myself. The custom bike was made by Phil Boriello from a company called The Chopper Shop in Dairy, New Hampshire. I think the bike is on Ebay right now. I'm gonna sell that one cause we are going to build a dragster. That's the bike I ride the least, but it's in the video. We are gonna try to sell that one and take the money and build a hot-wheels dragster.

The Gauntlet: That's cool. Is there anything else you want to add?

Sully: I am just really happy you hear the record the way we hear it. The little things we put in there, the little ear candy. The amount of time we put into this one body of work, it is so awesome to hear someone say that. To know that maybe the rest of the world we get it. Like you said, this is an album people will enjoy all the way through. For people to say track 1 and 7 are the ones they like, I just want them to listen to it all from front to back. As slow as it is, it has a flow to it that is really special to us.

The Gauntlet: It is one of those albums you really need to listen to on a good system. There are so many little things in the album that seem hidden. Everytime I listen I hear something new.

Sully: That's killer. We snuck some things in. For instance, on the beginning of 'Voodoo Too' it starts were the old 'Voodoo' left off. At the end if you turn it way up, you'll hear the old 'Voodoo' end as it's fading out. There is a little hint of it. I snuck these things in. Some people may not hear things for like 5 years. There are little tricks and trinkets we put in. That was always my favorite thing about old Aerosmith. When the songs were fading out and you could hear this cool little squeal or hear something you never heard before. I always loved that shit.