GODSMACK's SULLY ERNA: 'I Don't Think We Ever Try To Write For The Radio Or For The Commercial Aspect Of It'

March 17, 2019

Barbara Caserta of Linea Rock conducted an interview with GODSMACK frontman Sully Erna and drummer Shannon Larkin prior to the band's March 4 concert at Magazzini Generali in Milan, Italy. You can watch the entire chat below. A few excerpts follow (transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET).

On whether GODSMACK's spirit is still the same after seven studio albums and where they think they fit in today's music scene:

Shannon: "In 20 years, we've changed. Our spirit, I think, is better now because we've matured. As we've gotten older, we've started families, we have children. We're not angry young men anymore. We're trying to mature our sound as well as our home lives. Tony [Rombola, guitar] and I don't drink anymore, for instance. He [Sully] was never a problem drinker like I was, but we used to drink a lot. He barely drinks like that anymore. We understand what we have now, I think, which makes it more special and makes it more important to us to be great. With the spirit of the band and what I think about GODSMACK in our scene and coming up, well, if you look at all the bands that started making it and they were dubbed 'nu metal' in America in the '90s, not many of them are left but our old asses standing right here."

Sully: "We stand alone."

Shannon: "It's true."

On whether GODSMACK gets "stronger or more insecure" when they write new albums:

Sully: "I've learned that I go through the same process every record. I panic at first. I feel like I have no ideas. I feel like I have no melodies, I'm stuck. I don't know which way to go. I don't know what I'm going to write about. I don't know where I'm going lyrically. Yet somehow, once I immerse myself into the music and I just kind of give in to that, then magic happens. We've been really blessed over the years with finding what we feel is great material, stuff that's really helped us grow as a band, grow musically, individually, music that has helped me get through some of the hardest times of my life. Thank god it was there for me to have as an outlet to vent my emotions through, because there was some painful moments and I needed that music to carry me through it. But it's funny that I know when I get to the next record, I'll be doing the same thing. I'll be, 'I don't know what to do with this one. I don't know what to write about.' We always find a way to get to the other side, and, luckily for us, this record [2018's 'When Legends Rise'] was really something special for all of us. When it finally came together, I think we all felt this was probably the most well-written album that we've ever done together."

Shannon: "I would say something about the expectation part: the cool thing about GODSMACK by the time I joined, they sold seven million records. The first album came out and literally blew up in our home country. We never really had the labels and management all trying to tell us what to do and how to look and how to sound. We took control and so the expectations were all within us, like we just wanted to do well so we could continue on and spread music throughout the world. There's nobody looking over our shoulder, 'It'd better be number one again.' We never had that stigma that other bands had with a lot of strife in the beginning where labels are trying to form them into this or that."

Sully: "I don't think we ever try to write for the radio or for the commercial aspect of it. But we are certainly quick to identify a song if we feel, like, 'Wow, this could actually be really strong on the radio because it sounds like something that could be a hit single.' But I don't think, when we're doing the work, we ever think about that — like, 'Let's try to write a hit song.' We just write the stuff that moves us and that we feel we can represent well live onstage, and then it takes another form down the road and presents itself in another way when it gets into the public."

On whether they lose connection with a song if it goes to the top of mainstream rock radio:

Sully: "I don't see it that way. I see it as the opposite. When we write a song like 'When Legends Rise', I think the first thing we go to — I'll tell you this much, 'Legends' wasn't supposed to be a single. That was an accident. We wrote that to be an opening song. We felt like we needed a big, powerful song to open the show. We wanted to have something new. Over the years, we found ourselves getting stuck with opening with the same songs. There was only so many songs that would work as the first song in the show. As you know, when you go to see a show, that first song, you want it to be strong. We were really focusing on trying to create a big song for the beginning of the show. And, we were shooting for a different song to come out after 'Bulletproof'. There were some legal problems that got in the way and it's a long story — we don't have to get into that. But the bottom line, it made us shift our decision to another song. The label was getting some good reports from the people and just decided that 'Legends' was the better choice to go with. We just said, 'Okay. We usually make these decisions. We're going to let you make this decision, but you'd better deliver and you'd better be right at the end of the day.' They did a good job with it."

On the status of Larkin's THE APOCALYPSE BLUES REVUE side project, which recently called it quits:

Shannon: "The REVUE is done, yes. It's just a 'revival' is beginning: THE APOCALYPSE BLUES REVIVAL. We'll be back with a new face and a new voice. This is the first time anyone else has ever heard that. The revival has begun. I haven't released it in America as far as our web site. It's going to happen. We're going to find a new face and a new voice. It's nothing to do with our old singer [Ray 'Rafer John' Cerbone]. He's a wonderful human, has a great voice. It's just that I write music and I write the songs and, basically, he's two generations older than Tony and I. When I'm talking about, 'Make your voice a little airy like Perry Farrell [JANE'S ADDICTION]. Use a little more nasal on this one like Liam Gallagher [OASIS],' he doesn't know what I'm talking about. I realized when I was growing up watching 'Don Kirshner's Rock Concert' and 'The Midnight Special' on TV, when he was that age, he was watching 'The Lawrence Welk Show' with his parents. It was a generational gap. It was nothing personal."

"When Legends Rise" was recorded at GODSMACK's headquarters (GSHQ) in Derry, New Hampshire and produced by Erik Ron and Erna.

GODSMACK is currently on the road in Europe, to be followed by a North American headlining tour with VOLBEAT.

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