By Daniel Robert Epstein, contributing editor
Godsmack is made up of Sully Erna, Tony Rombola, Robbie Merrill and Shannon Larkin. They made their bones with songs such as "I Stand Alone" and "Running Blind." Now they are releasing their most ambitious album yet, Godsmack IV. We caught up with frontman Sully Erna.
UGO: What was the inspiration for Godsmack IV?
Sully: The inspiration was that it was time to do a new record. We took a year off so we felt we had to do something bigger and badder than we've ever done and, luckily, we have the luxury of time to do that. We wanted to put on something special, something a little bit different, something like we hadn't written before, but also not have it lose the integrity and the toughness of Godsmack and what we've built our career on. This record really represents that. It's new, but it's familiar sounding. There's some stuff that you would listen to and go, "I can't believe that's a Godsmack song." I think we accomplished a lot with this record as far as trying to tap into a new sound without fucking with the integrity of the band.
UGO: Did you guys ever go, "Hey this doesn't really sound like a Godsmack song, maybe we shouldn't do that?"
Sully: Yeah, you know what we do? We go, "Wow, this doesn't sound like a Godsmack song. Cool, let's try it" [laughs]. Who wants to write the same record over and over again?
UGO: It seems like a lot of people do.
Sully: Yeah, and I don't want to be that kind of band. I want to be a band that's timeless. I want to listen to this record 20 years from now and go, "F*** that song's still cool." I'm hoping that everyone else sees it that way.
UGO: Did Faceless help you guys change and expand for this album?
Sully: Faceless was the first record where we brought [drummer] Shannon [Larkin] into the band on. He brought some new energy to the band which was really nice to have because we were getting pretty burnt out from touring for so long. From there, things started to expand for us, but I don't think it was until the acoustic record that we actually started blossoming and really taking a chance. To go from something like Faceless to this really soft acoustic album is risky, but the audience really accepted it. We're not trying to reinvent the face of music, we've never claimed that or we're not trying to. I had this guest singer named Lisa Guyer, who is a good friend of mine from New England that's probably one of the best female blues vocalists I've ever heard, and she sang on IV with me. We just took some chances on this record and it still holds that toughness of Godsmack, but yet it's a bit broader and more melodic than anything we've done before.
UGO: Would you guys do an acoustic version of any of the new songs?
Sully: Sure, if we figure out what's acoustic friendly. At some point we'll probably have the opportunity to do some of it acoustically.
UGO: When does the tour start?
Sully: We're going to start touring internationally in June. We won't touch the States until September. We really want people to live with this album a little bit and learn it because we worked so hard. It took us over a year to write about 40 songs and then [we] picked the best 11 that we could. We really think that if people have some time with this that they'll see that it could be a diamond in their collection. So we don't want to play the new stuff and set people against it. We're going to starve America just a little bit until we start touring the US.
UGO: I read that Tool was an influence on the album.
Sully: What we were saying was, there's, like, a song called "Living in Sin" that has Tool-ish kind of vibe to it, because it's a bit epic-sounding. I don't think it sounds anything like Tool. But then there are other songs, like "The Enemy," that sound like Bad Religion stuff, or whatever. There are a lot of different textures on this record.
UGO: What's the concept of the video for "Speak?"
Sully: We wanted to do a video that had nothing to do with the lyrics for once. We just wanted some killer eye candy and we wanted to do the white man's version of the rock and roll bling video. Instead of Escalades and Mercedes, we went and got, like, the most killer dragsters and muscle cars and choppers and bikes. We blocked off a street and I brought a bunch of my motorcycle buddies from New Hampshire to come down and do these insane motorcycle stunts. We shot the performance in Las Vegas. It was about rock and roll and fast cars and chicks and burnouts and cool f***ing shit.
UGO: Do you ride, too?
Sully: I've rode for my whole life, but I didn't do any stunts on this video. I left it up to these guys. One of the kids came in fifth in the whole world for best motorcycle stunts. It's cool to see someone pull a wheelie at f***ing ninety miles an hour.
UGO: What videogames do you guys have on the tour bus?
Sully: We always have a Playstation, but Tony [Rambola] plays it more than anybody. I'm into it a little, but not too much. I do more physical things, horseback riding, motorcycles and that kind of s***.
UGO: What movies do you guys have on the tour bus?
Sully: I usually bring classics with me. The Godfather, Scarface, A Bronx Tale. I love the gangster movies. I love comedies; I'm a huge Jim Carrey fan.