Godsmack’s Shannon Larkin Talks ShipRocked, Uproar Fest + Sully Erna’s Vocal Cords
It’s good to be Godsmack! Shortly after the release of their latest live disc ‘Live & Inspired’ in May, the Boston rockers are gearing up to spend the rest of the summer as a co-headliner on this year’s Rockstar Energy Drink UPROAR Festival, sharing the bill with an all-star cast that includes Shinedown, Staind, and Papa Roach.
Following that, they’ll be trading in land for the high seas as they set out on ShipRocked 2012. Billed as the ‘Ultimate Rock Music Cruise Vacation,’ the rock ‘n’ roll destination provides a stellar lineup of on board entertainment from Godsmack to Korn, all while island hopping with your favorite rock stars.
We recently talked to Godsmack drummer Shannon Larkin, who filled is in on Uproar, ShipRocked, and how Sully Erna is feeling following some much needed vocal rest.
Godsmack will be heading out on ShipRocked in November. It’s kind of like a rock ‘n’ roll takeover of the high seas. Are you excited about being a part of it and what can fans expect from that kind of unique environment?
I’m very excited. Tony [Rombola], Robbie [Merrill] and I have a side project and we played it last year — Another Animal did the boat. It was fantastic; it was rock ‘n’ roll everywhere you looked. It’s not your normal cruise because everyone on it is pretty much rock and roll people.
What you can expect from Godsmack is we’re working on two completely different sets because it’s a five day cruise and we play two different shows. We figure, why play the same show twice so we’re going to give the fans a completely different show. We’re not really sure. We’re throwing around ideas right now on what to do, whether going deep into our b-songs or doing the complete first record, acoustic set maybe. We’re trying to think of something really cool and unique to do so the fans don’t have to sit through the same exact shows from us on the boat.
When we did it last year with Another Animal, it was so cool. You dock in these places, last year for instance it was Mexico, this year it’s the Bahamas, so you dock and you can get off the boat and cruise around the town or the beaches or go riding or snorkeling. There’s so much cool stuff to do. There are also things on the boat we get to do with the fans that allow them to interact with us rock dudes. You can have drummer dinners for instance with me and Morgan [Rose] and all these drummers get to have dinner with our fans, and that’s really cool.
You mentioned that the three of you were part of ShipRocked last year. In a recent interview, Robbie said that it took a little more convincing to get Sully [Erna] on board because he’s not a big fan of ships.
Yeah, he kept saying, ‘I’m not a boat guy.’ I said, ‘I’m not a boat guy either.’ I may live in Florida but I’m a bike guy, I’m not a boat guy. We convinced him basically by saying look man, we had a fantastic time, we’ve already been there and done that, and there wasn’t any kind of weirdness on the seas. On those boats it doesn’t even feel like you’re moving, it’s like you’re on land, so there’s no seasickness or anything like that.
As far as the fans go, it’s a more mature audience so it’s pretty chill. You can walk around the boat and people will just come up and say ‘Hey, what’s up.’ It’s like we’re all part of one big dysfunctional family out there on the boat. When we told him that, he started to come around, and then he came up with the idea of doing two completely different sets so he started to get excited. We knew we had him when he came up with that idea. So it wasn’t that hard of a sell for him, after we told him that we’d done it and it’s great, he was on board.
Before that, you’re heading out on the Rockstar Energy Drink UPROAR Festival, where you’ll be reuniting again with Staind in addition to a bunch of other great rock acts like Shinedown and Papa Roach. It seems like Uproar is quickly becoming the premiere rock tour of the summer?
The thing about the Rockstar Energy Drink UPROAR Festival is there’s Shinedown, Godsmack, Papa Roach, Staind – with just those four bands right there I think that everyone in the crowd will know pretty much every song over the four hours. There have just been so many great songs that have come out from all those bands, big radio hits. This tour to me seems really music generated. Sometimes it’s a drag when you’re going to a concert and you don’t really know many of the songs the bands are playing. I think on this one, with all the radio power that the four bands have, they should pretty much know every song that’s thrown at them. So that will be exciting for the fans and for the crowd. They’ll definitely get their money’s worth on this one.
You’ve mentioned that a key to the Rockstar Energy Drink UPROAR Festival’s success is that there’s no big star rock start attitudes on the tour – are you speaking from personal experience with that?
Not only do we know, but we’ve toured with both Shinedown and Staind. And Papa Roach, they’ve been around forever and we’ve probably played like a 100 shows with them even though we never toured with them, but they play so many festival shows that every time we see them it’s like one big band.
We’ve had instances before in which the bands on the bill had attitude problems as far as like ‘we’re the big stars.’ I’m not going to mention names, it’s trivial. The fact is, we’re from the old school, we’re a blue collar rock band. Less than one percent of us musicians get signed, less than one percent of us ever have a gold record, and once you get to that level, less than one percent of bands even carry on after two records. So all of these bands on the bill are pretty much veterans, Shinedown being the newest one of all of us, but they’ve still been around for almost ten years, we feel that it’s going to be a drama free tour.
Everyone is professional, that’s the thing. There’s none of that kind of ‘Here he comes, don’t look him in the eye’ stuff; there’s none of that sh–. The singers on this bill are just as normal as any drummer I’ve met – which is to say we’re all weirdos, but no rock star attitudes. None of these bands are afraid to get up there on that stage and get sweaty and get their hands dirty.
You recently had to cancel your European tour dates due to Sully needing some vocal cord rest, how is he feeling?
I haven’t spoken to him recently, I texted him when we got back. He went to his doctor and his doctor said he needed to wait a couple weeks. The problem was, at this point we’re not spring chickens anymore. The problem was he would have tried to sing the rest of the tour. We were afraid, and he was afraid that it could permanently damage his vocal cords to where his voice would change or he wouldn’t be able to hit notes that he hit before. That was probably the biggest bummer of the decade I’ve been in this band for all four of us to have to come home from a tour. We don’t cancel shows, let alone tours. But I guess sh—happens as they say. He’s doing fine and he only needed two weeks until they said that his voice would be completely back to normal and that was three weeks ago. We did a couple fly in shows last week, just two shows, and he sang great, and everyone was really excited and ready for this tour.
One of the highlights of a Godsmack show is the drum showdown in the middle of your set between you and Sully. How did that part of the show evolve into the monster that it is today?
Tommy Stewart, the first drummer of Godsmack, he played this piece of the song ‘Get Up, Get Out’ off of the first Godsmack record and Sully wanted a part in that song where they could break it down and fire the crowd up, and talk to the crowd. Sully typically isn’t a singer that in between the songs will sit there and talk to the crowd or give a ‘Storytellers’ vibe. We’re pretty much bang, bang, bang song after song. At some point in the set, we’ll break it down to just bass and drums and Sully can talk to the crowd and get personal with them.
In the very beginning, looking for a spot like that when they broke down the song ‘Get Up, Get Out’ he had the idea to fire up the crowd by bringing out just a pair of congos. They were on this little tiny stage with wheels and they’d roll out. He’d do his drum solo and get the crowd clapping and fired up, but it was all just hand drums.
But then when I joined the band, I flew into Boston and I flew in this drum kit I had and I set it up in the room. He had already had his drum kit set up because I guess when Tommy left Sully moved his drums into the rehearsal space because they were already writing songs before I even joined the band. So, long story short, I put my drum set up right in front of his set and we both sat down, both being drummers we started playing. We got a groove going and it was rad and we thought, we have to do this.
So then it was just a matter of taking the riff from ‘Get Up, Get Out,’ because I never call it a drum solo, it’s more like just pieces of music. Drum solos kind of went out in 1978. We didn’t want to be these guys with a big drum solo, unless you’re Neil Peart or something it’s kind of boring and that’s the time when people go get a beer. Once we started jamming on this piece we knew we wanted to keep Robbie and Tony on the stage and make it musical and so the rest of it just wrote itself within two weeks of me joining the band. We pretty much had the idea set in stone with a basic outline of how it would be presented with it changing a little bit every tour.
You know what else is interesting though, we’ve always tried to rewrite the thing, because we’re afraid people will say we’re doing the same thing every year, but every time we try to rewrite it, it’s never as good. We can’t top it, so we always go back to it. It’s never exactly the same every time but man we just can’t top that thing. We’ve tried. Every time we do a new record we try to write a piece that’s better than that but it always comes up short and we always end up going to the basic outline that we wrote 10 years ago.