By: James Wright
What do you do when your band debuts at #1, you have multi-platinum records, and youíre touring the world with Metallica? If your band is Godsmack then you step outside the genre your band is notorious for and record an acoustic EP.
The Other Side is an exploration in melody and beauty as the album trades Godsmackís trademark sonic assault for acoustics and harmony. Taking a cue from the late great Alice In Chains ala Jar Of Flies, Godsmack is determined to let the world know that there is more to their music than just aggression.
Just prior to The Other Side being certified Gold, Blistering.com spoke with drummer Shannon Larkin about the album, touring with Metallica and all things in-between.
Blistering.com: This EP, The Other Side, was recorded in Hawaii. Was this more of a working vacation for the band?
Shannon: Well, Sully had written these songs before we did Faceless but they didnít fit in with what we were trying to do on that record. The label really liked those songs and at the end of the first leg of the Faceless tour we were in Japan. On our way home, we stopped in Hawaii because it is halfway between Japan and the United States. We basically had a 17-day vacation that the label paid for but we did a record while we were there. Weíve been so surprised at the reaction to this record because itís just an EP. The intent of this whole record was just to put out something that we thought the longtime fans might like to hear and that was Godsmack stripped down. When you play the style of hard rock that we play itís just a wall of guitars and drums that donít really allow the vocals to shine through like an acoustic song can. We had no clue that it would come out and sell so well; it debuted at something like #4 on the Billboard Charts.
Blistering.com: Is it amazing to see that your band is up there on the charts with all the mega-pop superstars?
Shannon: Not only that but itís surreal. We come out and we know we have a huge fanbase because Faceless debuted at #1, but to have an acoustic EP do so well kinda threw us for a loop.
Blistering.com: Were you ever worried that long time fans may not embrace the softer elements of Godsmackís music?
Shannon: We figured that if we let people know that this was an acoustic thing and like the album says, this is ďthe other sideĒ of Godsmack, we figured as long as we let fans know that and that we werenít going to turn soft on them. The 4th record is gonna be a heavy record. We werenít worried about people going out buying this and thinking it was a heavy record. Even the album cover lets people know that itís more of an acoustic record. It is an acoustic record but itís still dark and creepy. Donít get me wrong because I love heavy music but an acoustic song like ĎAsleepí, the re-make of ĎAwakeí, that doesnít even have any drums on it, is so heavy and intense. That is the heaviest song on the record just because of the places it takes me. Heavy doesnít have to be fast and loud all the time.
Blistering.com: I heard someone in the past say that the true sign of a great song is one that can transcend genres or go from loud to acoustic. Do you think that holds true for this record?
Shannon: Wow, Iíve never heard that before - what an interesting little tidbit. Well I must say that that makes sense because a great song is a great song. Thatís funny because Iíve never heard that before. Letís think of a great song... Like ĎMountain Songí by Janeís Addiction and I bet you that the song would be every bit as awesome if they did it acoustically. Thatís actually a pretty profound statement.
Blistering.com: This record is very reminiscent of Alice In Chainsí Jar Of Flies album.
Shannon: Well, Alice In Chains is a huge Sully Erna influence and a lot of people compare Godsmack to Alice in Chains. I myself donít really see the comparison, maybe on the first record there are a couple of songs with a groove that may sound like Alice In Chains, but his voice definitely does not sound like Layne Staley. Now you listen to Dropbox and that kid sounds just like Layne!
Blistering.com: I had the chance to hear their record and itís pretty good. Definitely Alice In Chains influenced but I also hear old Soundgarden, even at times Mother Love Bone.
Shannon: You know what I hear in that shit? The guitars remind me of Southern rock kinda like a Black Label Society thing.
Blistering.com: So with them being out on the road with you is it like youíre looking out for them, showing them the ropes?
Shannon: Absolutely. Itís been like that since the very first time those guys came out with us. The guitar player for Dropbox, Lee Richards, was actually the first guitar player in Godsmack - he had some kids and had to quit the band to raise them. Godsmack got another guitar player and blew up and during that time Sully had met this singer John Koscko, who Sully thought had a great voice but hated his band at the time. He hooked Lee and Jon up together and they formed Dropbox, who are the first signing to Sullyís label Realign Records. Their first show was at a Godsmack Grammy party out in L.A and that was their first time on stage as a band and then the next time they performed was with us on out headlining dates. Metallica takes about 2-weeks off in between tours and we really didnít want to take off that much time so we threw together a headline tour with Dropbox on their first tour. Imagine being in a band and this famous singer signs your band and wants to take you out on tour! Weíre kind of experiencing that right now with Metallica because we were slated to do only 3-weeks in Europe with them, no American dates at all. Luckily they loved us and after 2-weeks they asked us to do the first leg of the U.S tour with them, so of course we said, ďHell yes!Ē Then after the first leg was over they asked us to do another leg with them because Lars came into our dressing room and was like, ďWhy donít you just finish this whole tour with us?Ē.
Blistering.com: It must be kind of hard to say no to that.
Shannon: We would tour anywhere with Metallica. We would do a tour of Pakistan with them! (Laughs) This is the biggest tour that Godsmack has done to date. They only other thing that can even compare is opening for Black Sabbath. Weíre probably averaging 17,000 a night and when we go on there are probably 12-14,000 already in their seats; the arenas are pretty much full when we go on. Itís pretty amazing because weíve had this huge band take us under their wing and itís helped so much because in this day and age to expand musically is hard enough without doing it in front of a huge crowd. Metallica has probably been the biggest influence on this band and Iím not just saying that because weíre friends with them now but they really changed my life when I was 16 years old - Iíd never heard anything that heavy. Weíve definitely been re-influenced by Metallica now in attitude if nothing else.
Blistering.com: What is it like adjusting to home life after being on the road virtually non-stop?
Shannon: Itís kind of like one giant decompression for like the first two or three days. Youíre always thinking that youíre going to miss something or that youíre missing an interview. It takes a couple days to adjust which in the grand scheme of things isnít so bad.
Blistering.com: By any chance would you do an acoustic tour?
Shannon: Well if thereís a demand for it then weíll do it but we really need some time off to focus on our 4th record. Weíre just starting to put riffs on tape now and lay down some rough ideas but before we even get together we all need some time off from one another. Not that thereís any turmoil or anything like that but after living in a tube together for over a year we all need to have some time off so we come back energized so we can create together. Weíre going to take the summer months of June/July off and then do a good 3-months again in the U.S with Metallica and after that weíll probably take off the winter months as well. If the demand is still there and The Other Side has sold enough copies, then weíll go out and do some shows where itís just an evening with Godsmack. No opening band, no pyro, just us, some candles, tapestries and us on some stools playing acoustically.
Blistering.com: I know you were previously in Amen with Casey Chaos, what are your thoughts on the new Amen record?
Shannon: Itís a brilliant record man! I tracked about 90% on the drums on that record because Casey and I remain friends even after I left Amen, so weíd head down to the Valley and record songs with him. The thing about Casey is that heís a songwriting machine and he never stops writing songs. We ended up recording about 30 odd songs together and they ended up being the songs he used on the record. I think itís great and Iíve always loved Amen. I wish them the best of luck and I know itís not designed to be this big commercial success; itís hardcore band. Everyone into intense music should buy Amen.
Blistering.com: So right now is the mindset in the group all about the 4th record?
Shannon: Well let me just say that our 4th record is going to be a heavy record, Iíll tell you that. The next record will be a bluesier, heavier record maybe even thanďFaceless was. We still want to continue in the same direction that we were going in with Faceless, with big lead guitars and I think Sully has pretty much found his niche vocally. I think with this acoustic thing Sully really found his voice. Our intent is to let our fans know that just because we put out an acoustic EP, that doesnít mean weíre going soft. [END]