Godsmack are on a high energy trip around the world

Godsmack is one of those bands that have made it big in the US but haven’t really had their breakthrough anywhere else in the world. 20 million albums sold, Grammy nominations and three consecutive #1 albums are truly a remarkable record. With a new record (‘1000hp’) and the support of a new label (Spinefarm), the band is determined to take their music to other parts of the world. I had a chat with Shannon Larkin about the new album and their upcoming Soundwave Festival shows in Australia.

Marc: Hi Shannon. How are you going?

Shannon: It’s going good, man. I am sitting here in Idaho where we grow those potatoes over here. And it’s cold. It’s summer, but it’s like 50 degrees out. Crazy.

Marc: That’s sounds like a little bit of a crazy weather.

Shannon: But it’s cool, we got Rob Zombie today with us on the bill. We’re excited about that.

Marc: Yeah, that sounds excellent. These are exciting times for you guys at the moment anyways. Your new album ‘1000hp’ is another success, another huge success. Congratulations for that.  It did hit number 3 on the Billboard charts. You must be pretty excited about that.

Shannon: We are very excited. You know, you never take that for granted. Especially with the way the music industry has gone. You know, records sell less and less. Downloads become more and more. So we’re very excited to make the top five of the Billboard. That was big.

‘It’s all about the energy on that one.’

Marc: That’s fantastic. So for all those guys that haven’t grabbed a copy of ‘1000hp’ yet: What can you tell these guys about the new album?

Shannon: Well you know, if they know the band then I can say that we don’t try to change our sound too much because, you know, we try to play to our strength and we know our weaknesses. With that said, we are musicians. We don’t want to make the same album over and over and over again. So with ‘1000hp’ our main theme, when we sat down and talked about it before we started writing, was just high energy. We wanted to try and use our influences like we always have but this time go back even farther to when we were younger men and we were just starting out and we didn’t have shit. I don’t know if I can cuss . We didn’t have anything. So the energy we wanted to keep really high. High voltage, you know a thousand horsepower. It was all about energy on this one. Our obvious influences are Metallica, it’s our biggest one. This time we went more with our AC/DC and Ramones influences, trying to get that energy. The first, early AC/DC records and the early Ramones records that were just sixteenth on the hi-hat, just  4/4 beats, just big chords and singing about real stuff that we’ve gone through in fifteen years of the band.

Marc: You certainly have achieved that. The album really appears quite raw and it certainly has that energy. I think it is a great album. You have taken the album already to the road. You’ve been on the road for a few weeks now. Amongst others you have headlined the Rockstar Energy Uproar Festival. So how is that going for you on the road at the moment?

Shannon: It’s going great. Crowds have been great. You know the bands, they’re all killer. There is no drama backstage. All the bands have a great attitude and get along really well. We have played the Uproar Festival before and it’s a really well-oiled machine. The catering is awesome, the production has been great. There is really not a single complaint. I don’t have any juicy bits to give you or anything. It went really smoothly and the crowds have been awesome. And you know, people come out and I heard Gene Simmons say ‘Rock is dead.’ I can tell you in America rock is not dead.

‘There is no crap, so you can expect a real rock band playing real rock music with a lot of intensity and a lot of heart.’

Marc: I can certainly tell you that rock is not dead in Australia either. I have read that interview as well by Gene Simmons. Certainly in Australia rock is not dead. So you have a chance to get a proof of that first hand when you come over next year to play the Soundwave Festivals in February and March. So that’s going to be an exciting opportunity to take your music to this part of the world.

Shannon: Absolutely! You know in all those years we never made it down to Australia. I was in this band called ‘Amen’ and we got to play down there for Big Day Out and I have experienced the Australian Bands and it’s a rabid audience and I told the band  “Get ready for it. It’s gonna be great.” A beautiful country, it’s not like we never wanted to come there, it’s just that we’ve never really been able to. We’re just a band, you know one of these American bands that do well here and never really broke in the rest of the world for whatever reasons but we are really excited to come down there.

Marc:  Yeah, its gonna be an awesome show for you guys, just as you said. You are really in for a great few gigs here. It will be the height of the summer here in Australia so it’s gonna be sweltering heat and humidity. It’s an awesome festival. You already said that a major part of your success, and you really have been tremendously successful in the US, a major part of your success is in the US. It seems that now you are trying to take that success to other parts of the world like Australia and Europe. So what are your plans for 2015 beyond Soundwave Festival in Australia?

Shannon: After Australia we’re going to come back home and hit another tour in America. And then we’re going to go over to Europe and trying to hit every neck and cranny of Europe and hopefully go on to some summer festivals over there. And then come back to America and do a third tour in America. You know, America is a giant, hugely populated country. There are all kinds of different markets. There are the major cities, then there are the minor cities and then there is everything in between. So you could pretty much tour three or four times in America on one record cycle. Whatever we’re gonna do: We’re trying to spread the word on this record. We release our second single, I think, this fall and we look forward to that and we’re going to do a song called ‘Something Different’ which is indeed something different for this band. Trying to get this out and hitting in January we go out and present it live. All we can do, is play as best as we can and then cross our fingers. We love to tour, we love touring abroad. We have done Europe many times, ever since I joined the band in 2002 we went out with Metallica played a bunch of killer shows in Europe and did really well but then all kinds of things happened with management and everything you know how bands are. It is a business and sometimes it is not even our fault what happens, it just happens and you got to go with it. But we know that with this one everything is in place and it’s another thing. We signed with a label called Spinefarm and you know, before we were on Universal in America. It is a giant label. They have always done really well for us in America. But in the rest of the world, they have Universal Australia, Universal Britain, Universal Japan whatever and they are all different companies with different presidents. They’re like different labels and we never ever felt like any of them got us or gave us any kind of love. And so we negotiated a deal with Universal America with which we could stay on there for North America and then be free, free us up so we could find a label that we think really believes in this band. And Spinefarm is that label. So we are very excited to be there and obviously we are going to tour the world now with this new label. It’s very exciting and refreshing new times for Godsmack.

‘We always write 99 per cent of the music first.’

Marc:  Yeah, that sounds great and the whole album really is full of that energy and these are exciting times for you. You have been together for a long time now as that unit. So it is really a very tight unit, you know what you do. How does the song-writing process and the recording of an album, the studio work, how does that work for you as a team?

Shannon: So basically, you know, we take four years in between records. I know probably it seems weird, people are like ‘What do you do?’ but basically we tour for a good year and a half to two years on every record. It’s not total straight touring. We tour for six weeks and then we take two or three weeks off, go back out for ten weeks, take a month or two off. You know, so that we don’t burn ourselves out on this and so that we can still keep the same energy live. But typically there is a year or two gone and then we always take a year apart, you know we have wives and kids and dogs, you know what I mean. We go and take a year apart because usually after a couple of years on the road, in a bus together, in planes you’re sick of each other’s face after that time and that’s where a lot of bands implode and don’t have good relationships and friendships like the four of us have. They get so sick of everything and then it just implodes and the band breaks up. So we have been really careful to make sure we take some time off. However, in that time off, we are all still writing for Godsmack. So like after we tour for a couple of years and then take a year off, we get back together and it typically takes us like a year, that includes preproduction and recording. So Tony and I live in Florida and Sully and Robin live up in Boston. So when we take that year off, Tony and I have a studio here and Sully and Robin have a studio up in Boston, we all write. Then, everybody puts their stuff together and we get together. Usually Sully and Robin come down to Florida because it is beautiful and then we spend a couple of weeks together sitting through all the ideas that we have and come up with skeletons of songs. So those skeletons go on the board. We always write 99 per cent of the music first, we don’t have any kind of lyrics or vocal melodies yet. We are really guitar riff-oriented and then we pick out ten songs out of the thirty. Usually we have thirty-something songs between the four of us to put up on the board. So we pick out what we feel is the theme of what we want our new record to be. This one was the theme of high energy, get that raw, punk-rock like of feel. So we ended up with sixteen songs on the board and then we went up to where our real headquarters is, in Boston. So Tony and I fly up there and live out of a hotel, we flew in our producer Dave Fortman and started what is called the pre-production process. You know, which is going through these sixteen songs and try to widdle them down to those ten songs which we feel will be a record. And this time it was pretty easy. We were all on the same page. And having that year off really gave us the opportunity to really write some killer riffs. It’s all about riffs if you’re in a rock band. You get killer riffs, especially since we have been together so long, it was pretty easy and the thing was processed, the whole writing thing on ‘1000hp’.

Marc: Yes, you really are that tight unit that you appear to be. So that is great and it is great to listen to your albums. Every time they have an outstanding quality. So the final question for today. What can your fans in Australia expect from your Soundwave shows?

Shannon: You know it’s cool because one good thing is that in America we have to play a lot of songs that were hit songs on the radio. Fans expect us to do that. Whereas in Australia we don’t really have any hits that we know of so we can pretty much put together a monstrous set list of songs that we feel translates best live, kick the most ass live. We include songs from every record, we always try to have at least one song from every record in case somebody was a fan of the second record. So for our fans down there: Expect a little bit of every record and we will probably play at least three or four from the new one because that keeps us fresh. It’s what we as musicians live for: New music, you know. Expect a high energy show, we don’t run any click tracks, we don’t run any kind of tape. You know, everything that you hear is the four dudes on the stage doing it and even on our live records that we put out there is no overdubs there is no crap so you can expect a real rock band playing real rock music with a lot of intensity and a lot of heart.

Marc:  I’m really looking forward to seeing you at Sound Wave then next year. Thank you very much for your time. Have a great time on the road in the US. Thank you very much for your time, take care. See you next year.

Shannon: Thank you, I appreciate you taking your time to talk to me.

Marc:  No worries. Have a good day. Bye.

Shannon: Bye. Cheers.

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