GODSMACK frontman Sully Erna says that he got "got in a little bit of trouble" after he discussed the passing of RUSH drummer Neil Peart in a recent radio interview.
This past January, Erna told the Boston radio station WAAF that he knew about Peart's battle with brain cancer "for a while," but was "asked, out of respect for Neil and the privacy he liked to live in, to just not say anything. But I knew, when they were ending the RUSH tour, that he was sick," Sully claimed. "And then I knew it, even up to a year ago or so, he was in a wheelchair and he couldn't speak. And it was just becoming more and more sad to me. And then I got the call [letting me know about his death]. And they weren't supposed to release [an official statement about it] till [a few days later], they told me, so I just chose to honor that request and keep my mouth shut."
During an appearance earlier this week on SiriusXM's "Trunk Nation", Erna once again talked about his relationship with Peart and the profound impact the legendary RUSH drummer had on his musical upbringing.
Asked if he was aware how sick Neil was prior to the drummer's passing, Erna let out a sigh and said: "You know, I can't comment on that. I did before, and I got myself in a little bit of trouble. I was close with him… I was close enough with him. He, actually, did the honor of giving us maybe his last on-camera interview ever in his life. And, of course, we had no information at that time. I just knew him, and he was a nice guy. And I reached out."
Erna continued: "We were doing this piece on me and Shannon's [Larkin, GODSMACK drummer] drum solo that we do live, and, of course, at the end of the solo, we do a montage of some of the best drum fills that were recorded — like we stick in some stuff from John Bonham and some stuff from Neil Peart and whoever. And he graciously reviewed our drum solo and then commented on it and talked about it on camera to the director for the documentary and all this stuff. I was just blown away that he even did it, 'cause you know him — he does not do meet-and-greets, he does not hang out, he's very internal and likes to be very private. So I was so excited to even be able to get the interview."
Three days after Erna's interview with WAAF made headlines on BLABBERMOUTH.NET, Donna Halper — the woman who is credited with discovering RUSH while working at an Ohio radio station back in 1974 — said it was "inaccurate" to say that Peart was unable to speak in the months leading up to his death. She went on to say that she was getting her information "from folks who were there."
Erna, who played drums in a few bands before stepping up to the mic for GODSMACK, told WAAF that Peart's death was a hard pill to swallow.
"When I got the call, man, it was like a big part of my life ended there too, because he was a tremendous influence [to me]," Erna said. "I can't even articulate how much this guy meant to me and how big of an inspiration he was and an influence on me being a musician. He was one of the 'everything' people in my life."
Erna told The Pulse Of Radio a while back that meeting the RUSH drummer was a highlight of his 20 years as a recording artist. "Being able to meet Neil Peart a couple of times, I didn't need to meet anyone else after that," he said. "As much as I love the Steven Tylers and the Joe Perrys and the James Hetfields, you know, I quit school because of RUSH. Really, that's all I did is I studied RUSH, you know. I sat home and strapped on headphones and played 'Moving Pictures' and 'Exit… Stage Left' and 'Signals' and all these great albums."
In 2018, Erna told Classic Rock magazine that RUSH's "Moving Pictures" was one of several albums that changed his life.