After more than a decade at the top of the hard rock/metal heap, Godsmack still is going strong. Its most recent release, “The Oracle” (2010), was another solid addition to its catalog, while its live show remains one of the best in the business. This spring will celebrate that aspect of the band, with the release of its first live album, “Live and Inspired” (accompanied by four newly recorded cover songs), and co-headlining the Mass Chaos tour with Staind, with support from Halestorm. Frontman Sully Erna recently participated in a teleconference with journalists to discuss the tour and more.
On whether co-headlining tours have become a necessity to survive in the music business today:
SULLY ERNA: It’s really not that different than how it used to be back in the day anyways. I mean, there was always at least two strong bands that went out and obviously a third or a fourth, even back in the ‘80s when it was Def Leppard and Mötley Crüe or whatever. I mean, so I don’t think this is really that uncommon. I think that question is maybe more geared towards festivals where it takes seven, eight bands to fill up an amphitheater or whatever, maybe.
On crossing paths with Staind over the years:
Yeah, our paths cross way too often. I can’t stand any of these guys. It hasn’t been long enough. No, it’s good. Listen, we’re New England brothers, man, and we’ve been playing together since even before we were signed. So it’s been great, and then as both bands’ careers have started to take off, (we toured together in 2000) … and we had a great time. It was very cool. I mean, the guys get along great, and me and (Staind guitarist) Mike (Mushok) this time did a ton of press together, and we had a blast together. So I’m just anticipating it’s going to be a really fun tour. I don’t see any problems.
On what fans can expect on this tour:
Well, we’re not supporting, like, a new studio record, but … we’re doing this live CD. We’re also known to be a live band and to be able as—I think that’s what we’ve been known for is the live show. And so it’s nice to capture that finally and put together this CD, and I think we just have the mentality of going out for kind of the greatest hits tour (instead of) supporting new music. So we’re just going to put together a really fun set. Obviously, we’ll have the drum battle that me and (drummer) Shannon (Larkin) do, and we’re just going to try to put together the best songs we can, the most energetic songs that we can and stuff that we feel is going to be the most interactive for the audience. So this is actually kind of a vacation for us a lot in the sense there’s no real hard work behind prepping for a new record and all that stuff. This is kind of let loose and have fun with it.
On whether Staind or Godsmack will close the shows and the possibility of the bands performing together onstage:
I feel like either band could close. I mean, both bands are strong; all three bands are strong. The whole lineup is great. Any single one of these bands could go on first, second or third; it wouldn’t matter. I mean, the whole package is really strong, and I’m really excited about it. As far as collaborating, me and Mike have spoken about it. We’re going to try to figure out a handful of songs that a bunch of us could jump up and just have some fun with at the end of the night, which we’re all about. And so we don’t know what those are yet, but we’re definitely going to consider it, and we’re going to try to put something together that just tops the night off and becomes fun for everybody.
On preparing himself physically/vocally for the tour:
I do nothing. I swear to God. I’m not even saying that to be funny. I do nothing; I do nothing. I may sing along to the radio a little bit maybe, but then again, I don’t really qualify myself as some amazing singer, so whatever. I go up there and hack it up with everyone else. I do drink a lot of tequila before I go onstage, though. That’s not a lie. … It brings out all the phlegm. The vocal warm-ups (aren’t) good for me, so it’s either tequila or something, and then it brings out all the crap that’s in the throat, and then we’ll be good. Either that or you’re so drunk you think you’re great, but you stink and it doesn’t matter because you’re having so much fun. That’s OK, too.
On switching between emotional levels in his lyrics/vocals:
I don’t know. I haven’t really thought about that. I guess it depends if I’m going from Godsmack to the solo stuff, and it’s a completely different world. But within Godsmack’s genre, it’s all kind of the same. I don’t know. I mean, the band’s fairly aggressive and loud and raw, and so, I mean, it’s pretty easy to stay there, but, I mean, switching from Godsmack to the solo stuff, if that’s what you mean, yeah, I need to kind of separate the two for sure, because one’s very different from the other, but I need balance to both. … I think the stuff I do as Sully Erna is the more serene kind of humble stuff, and then Godsmack is obviously for Godsmack. And so, I mean, I don’t know. There’s really no set preparation I do. It is what it is. I just can’t blend the two together. I couldn’t do a bunch of Godsmack songs and then switch right into solo stuff; it wouldn’t work. But I don’t, like, sit Indian style and float in the air, if that’s what you mean.
On going back and forth between solo shows and Godsmack shows:
There’s three different things I’m doing. The “Avalon” thing was a lot more complicated because it’s an eight-piece ensemble and I had musicians from all over the world; the cello player is from Bulgaria, and one of my percussionists is from Ireland, and that’s a lot more complicated, a lot more work involved. But I haven’t been doing that. If anything, I’m just doing some solo shows by myself, just to keep my voice warm, and it’s one of those things that I enjoy doing, as well.
But there’s no competition with Godsmack or anything like that, and I enjoy doing both. So it’s really not that complicated to just go out and play a few side shows here and there, just to stay in tune, you know? But I’m really preparing for this tour. I mean, I’m looking forward to getting together with the guys and just firing up this show, because we haven’t really done anything in a little bit.
On drummer Shannon Larkin:
I’m probably his biggest cheerleader. I’ve known Shannon since 1986, ‘87, somewhere around there. We met when we were both drumming in different bands and we did a bunch of shows together, and probably he was the first and only guy since I’ve seen that made my jaw hit the floor when I watched him play. And if you’ve seen Shannon, you know what I mean. He’s the most animated—he’s just amazing. Like, to me, he’s probably the best showman drummer I’ve ever seen and watched. … He’s got a great energy about him. He’s a really super great guy. He’s got a great heart. He’s real considerate. But onstage he’s a monster; he’s so not what he is offstage than what he is onstage.
But he’s been one of my idols, and I’m really proud and grateful to have him in this band. He was my first choice, and he wasn’t available when I first reached out to him when I started the band. And then years later when we decided to let go of our drummer, I reached out to him just one more time, and he had just happened to leave his band and he was going to give it up. I mean, he was pretty much hanging it up. And so it was one of those things that was very, I don’t know, Shannon’s a great guy, man. He’s a great drummer and, I don’t know, I can’t say enough about him.
On the upcoming live album and the cover songs the band recorded:
It’s a live record from Detroit, Rock City, that we thought it was just kind of a very exceptional show for us. We had a really good show. We were recording a lot on that tour. We actually recorded the whole tour. We were going to do a compilation, so like this song was from Vegas, a song from Chicago, some from Dallas, but I don’t know, the more we looked at this Detroit show and the more we just kind of figured out that it was just, it was a really good show for us, and it’s always a great audience, as any rock band will tell you, playing there. It’s just a special kind of fan base that they have there. They live up to their reputation. They’re a great rock audience. And so that’s where the record has been recorded from. I think it was at, I think it was Joe Louis Arena. And the covers … no, I’m not saying anything. You’re going to have to wait.
On a new Godsmack studio album:
We’re hoping for 2013. We just started listening to some ideas. It’s very, very, very early in that stage, so we’re not sure yet. But we are going to shoot for 2013 sometime.
On musicians he’d like to meet:
Yeah, the guys from AC/DC I haven’t met yet. I think they would be fun. I met most of the people that I’ve been inspired by over the years, and we’ve toured with most of them, as well, but AC/DC is one of the bands I haven’t met—Brian Johnson or Angus Young—yet. I think that would be great to meet them. … Probably, like, one of the last bands that I would want to actually tour with, but I’m afraid of them. … I hear the guitar tech gets a bigger applause when he brings Angus’s guitar out and puts it on the stand than the opening acts do. It’s true.