Interview: Shannon Larkin of Godsmack
June 23, 2006 09:50 AM
by Christina Fuoco
Massachusetts-based rockers Godsmack like to throw their fans for a loop. The tribal track "Voodoo" pushed the envelope on the band's aggressive, self-titled debut. On subsequent albums, the group delivered further surprises on songs like the Middle Eastern-inspired "Spiral" and the haunting "Serenity."
On its latest album, "IV," Godsmack shocks fans with singer Sully Erna's harmonica playing on the song "Shinedown."
"We threw in the harmonica solo because he would sit around the studio and jam on his harmonica," Godsmack drummer Shannon Larkin said. "I think it might have been Andy Johns' idea. He's a really, really famous engineer who did Zeppelin albums and engineered 'Stairway to Heaven.' He's 'Grandpa Andy.' He had stories out the a--. I think he's the one who said, 'You should put the harp in the song.' We're a hard rock band. You usually don't hear a harp solo."
This summer, Godsmack--which also includes guitarist Tony Rombola and bassist Robbie Merrill -- is teaming up with Rob Zombie and Shinedown for an amphitheater tour. Shinedown will play for about 45 minutes, while Zombie's set will last approximately an hour. Godsmack will perform for 90 minutes, Larkin said.
The group is currently touring Canada, with a couple of shows in Alaska to follow.
How's the Canadian tour going so far?
It's going amazing. Canada's cool. I can't believe how rad it is. We got to Quebec City, and you could just feel the energy in the air. It's been amazing. They're receptive to the Godsmack up here.
You've put together quite the tour with Rob Zombie.
And Shinedown. They're the opener. I love that singer. They're a great band. It rounds out the tour well. They're more Southern rock, kind of.
How did the tour come together?
The band's done Ozzfest and Zombie's been on it. He's a really cool, normal, nice guy, believe it or not. Our management came to us and said, "Here's who has a new recording coming out and here's who would possibly tour with the band." We'd get three or four names and they'd say, "Which one do you want?" Out of those names, we said we'd like to have Rob Zombie. His management goes, "Would you like to go out with Zombie?"
"IV" is the first album for which Sully is credited as the sole producer.
I must add, he really produced all the records.
I noticed he was listed on the records, but he was always listed with another producer like Mudrock.
Producing a record is mainly making sure everything is perfect--from the songs to the studio that you're recording in, to the microphone used on the drums, to using the right engineer. Sully's always been the guy. When you're first starting out, the label won't let you produce your own record, basically. They'll assign someone to you. You have to have a name. For instance, Dave Bottrill, we picked him because of some of the great work he did with Peter Gabriel to Tool. When you have a guy like Sully in the band that is a producer, it becomes what happened on this record. Sully didn't say I'm producing the new record. Tony and Robbie said produce the new record. Basically, we're paying someone $100,000 to $150,000 to come in and produce. If you can do it yourself and save that money, why not do it yourself? In the end, it's wasted money when you have a producer n the band.
Was it difficult for him to be objective?
No, he doesn't have a problem saying, "No [laughs], I don't like this." The band is definitely his vision. He's the leader. We all respect that. It's like a football team: you have to have a boss, or else everything would be chaos and nothing would ever get done. That's for sure. He's our fearless leader, and we're very happy to be his merry jesters in the circus we call a rock band. It's been pretty drama free. We're individuals. We came to the table with a lot of music that, of course, we wanted on the new record. He went through and picked out four songs that we had written, which was three more than had made any other Godsmack record. We were pretty stoked about that. This time, with all the leftover music we had, Tony, Robbie and I came into this clique [and] we started writing really great stuff. At the end of the day, we decided to start a side project. I got my buddy Whit Crane from Ugly Kid Joe, he sings, and the guitarist is Lee Richards, Godsmack's original guitar player. It's Me, Tony, Robbie, Lee and Whit. It's called Another Animal. We signed to Universal, and it comes out in September. What's cool about it, it's a side project. Of course Godsmack "IV" is our priority. We're going to tour the world, and do everything we have to do. Hopefully go out and throw some shows out with Another Animal.
You used to be in Ugly Kid Joe correct?
I was in Ugly Kid Joe for five years. It was a drunken five years. It was awesome. Those guys were so fun. That band was just about having fun all the time. Killer tours with Van Halen. My crazy life.
How do you feel your new album fits in with the catalog?
I think it's best one. I think it's the most rounded record the band has ever done. I think it has elements of the first album, with, like, "The Enemy" and "No Rest for the Wicked," but it gets dark. The second record was the darkest record, but then there's still "Serenity" on the third record, and "Hollow" on the new one--[it] let's the record breathe for a minute. If you're a fan of the band Godsmack, you'll probably dig the new record.
I have to admit: I was thrown by the harmonica.
It's cool if it throws you a little. That's what we try and do. We don't want to keep making the same record over and over again. We're not young men, by any stretch, anymore. We get bored playing the same s---. It's nice to spread our wings. Our fan base is so open-minded. Slayer couldn't put out an acoustic album.
Six albums into its career, Godsmack finds itself faced with the challenge of moving forward without betraying its roots. Although the veteran act manages to offer up a handful of convincing tunes on this hour-long affair, IV fails to hang together as a cohesive and convincing album. The opening "Living In Sin" and its follow-up "Speak" rock with conviction although neither breaks new ground; "The Enemy"––a reasonably good approximation of a latter-day Metallica tune––proves persuasive while "Shine Down" and "No Rest For The Wicked" are radio-ready distractions. As good as those and a number of the other songs are IV never locks into any particular groove and ultimately amounts to little more than a batch of songs placed end-to-end on a disc that's roughly 20 minutes too long. By the record's final moments––the passionate but decidedly dated angst-filled dirge "Mama," the meandering "One Rainy Day"––the listener grows weary of treading down an all-too-familiar path with a band that still has a promising future if only it could let go of its unyielding grip on its own past.