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INTERVIEW: SHANNON LARKIN of GODSMACK – July 2018

| 17 July 2018 | Reply

According to a recent press release: “This summer, rock fans across the country should be prepared to be rocked hard when the GODSMACK/SHINEDOWN co-headlining tour comes their way. Produced by Live Nation, the six-week outdoor amphitheater tour stops locally in DETROIT on SUNDAY, JULY 22 at DTE ENERGY MUSIC THEATRE. The two multi-platinum rock groups are touring in support of their new chart-topping albums: Godsmack’s WHEN LEGENDS RISE and Shinedown’s ATTENTION ATTENTION. GODSMACK exploded onto the album charts with their latest release, WHEN LEGENDS RISE, the band’s seventh studio album and their first in four years. The 11-song collection, fueled by the Top 5 rock song and video “Bulletproof” plus the title track “When Legends Rise,” entered the Billboard Top 200 album chart in the top ten (#8), with four #1 placements on other charts: Top Rock Albums, Top Hard Music Albums, Top Independent Albums and Top Alternative Albums.” We got drummer Shannon Larkin on the phone to discuss the new disc, touring, and much more…

ToddStar: Hey, Shannon, thank you so much for taking time out, man. I appreciate it with you guys being so busy right now.

Shannon: Oh man, it’s my pleasure. I appreciate it because you’re helping, man, you know? Every interview helps, man. We’ve always believed that.

ToddStar: Cool, cool. You guys have always been one of those bands that are kind of ‘of the fans.’ You guys always kind of listen to the fans and take what they say to heart, and you roll it into your performances and your music and everything else. That said, what can you tell us? I mean, When Legends Rise has been out about two and a half months now. What’s the feedback been for you guys so far?

Shannon: It’s been amazing, man. This is obviously a different sounding record for us. It’s more melodic and the production is slick. We’ve always been more raw and metal-er. Sully’s our fearless leader. We trust and follow him. We put records out basically four years apart ever since I’ve joined the band in 2002. Faceless we put out in ’03. Anyway, it’s just worked out. It wasn’t really a plan, but every four years we’ll put a record out, and so it gives lots of time for Sully to come up with a vision because he doesn’t want to, obviously none of us want to keep making the same record over and over again. And so, like on the Faceless record, we got David Bottrill to produce and it was a very militant metal sounding record. Speak, the fourth record I mean, we went the complete opposite way and got Andy Johns to produce who’s worked with The Stones and The Who, and he’s a more bluesy producer, and so we wanted to do a more bluesy rock record, and on and on to the new one. He came to us and really wanted to make this one sound modern and slick, and have it really produced. He even explored with outside writers for the first time. He wanted to really just make a change, especially we’ve all turned 50 now, and so it was kind of “Man, we really got to make a change here and make a different record. I feel like I’m keep on making the same record over and over again.” It was a really different thing for us. The point, and back to your question, is we were anxious, a bit apprehensive about the response from our hardcore fan base that love us for what we do, and so you don’t want to alienate your fan base and change so much. We have a more produced sound now, but we tried to keep the essence of and the toughness of what the band is.

ToddStar: I think you guys did that. Some of the songs harken back to some of the earlier stuff like Faceless where you get some of the more tempo-driven drumming, especially from you. For example, on “Just One Time,” the drums totally take that song and run with it, things like that. What songs from the album, to you personally as the drummer, were the most fun to record?

Shannon: Well, the first song, “Legends Rise,” is the most fun for me. It’s very tribal. I love the tribal-sounding tom intro. After Kurt Russell says, “You going to do something about it or just stand there and bleed?” and then there’s that real heavy part, and we tried something different. It’s a beat, but I hit a cymbal on every hit, so like I’m just crashing throughout that whole middle eight there. It was really a fun one for me to record, ended up being the first song on the record. Believe it or not, as simple as the drums sound on this record to me, and comparing it to previous Godsmack records, but it was actually the most detailed recording I’ve ever made. The song “Under Your Scars,” which is the band’s first ballad we’ve ever written or released, and that was a two day thing where I mean we just put every single piece of that drum set under the microscope. Like hitting a crash cymbal that was an 18 inch medium crash, and we tried a 17 inch thin crash instead. That’s how anal we got on that track, mainly because we were going into territory also there that we’ve never explored, which was the rock ballad. Obviously, we’ve been doing this a long time. We understand the line you can cross and make a cheesy song, a cheesy ballad. And so, we really took time on that song and the arrangement. But, yeah, for the drums, man, it was such a detailed drum record for me and Sully. We just really thought about every single kick hit, every single snare hit. Every fill went under the microscope. It was really a really fun session for me, man.

ToddStar: You mentioned a specific song, but I know when I did my review there was more than a handful where I actually make reference to the tribal feel of the drums or the hard-hitting drums that were there. What’s it like for you to listen back to it now that you’ve had time to put it down? I mean, when you’re in the middle of recording it, you’re so intimate with the music and the parts, but what’s it like to go back and listen to it now for you? Are you just as happy today as you were when you finished putting these songs down?

Shannon: Well, that’s a good question because what happens, especially on this record, like since we did use other writers this time, I was getting demos with drum machine on them, right? And he’s like, “Look, this is the arrangements of the songs, and they’re going to change when we’re in the studio.” Well, so I would learn the arrangement and get the song in my head, and then go with the initial meat and potatoes that Sully did on the drum machine, and then I would be able to do my thing to it, right? But as each song would change so much from the demos. So like I would go in and he would tell me Tomorrow we’re going to do “Take It To The Edge.” I had the demo and I would go up to my hotel room and learn that and write my own parts for what I wanted to do fill-wise and beat-wise, and then come in the next day and realize that okay, now we’ve cut out this one part and we’ve elongated this next part, and I’ve written a new bridge going in. It’s changed so much that, and it all happened spur of the moment as I’m recording that day, right? That day, okay, we would spend a couple hours on the drum track, and then I’d be done and he’d give me the song for tomorrow. I’d go back to my room and with, say, “Say My Name,” and okay I got this one. I go back to my room, listen to the demo, learn it, do my thing to it, and come in the next day and, again, 10 changes happen, and then we go for that one. At the end of the whole record cycle of recording that album, then I didn’t really remember any of the songs. Then it went off to LA to get mixed and mastered and all that, and so I had a couple weeks before I heard it. When I heard it, it was like hearing a whole new album, and I had to relearn the whole thing, you know? It was super cool.

ToddStar: What songs from the new album do you think will hold up over time as part of the classic Godsmack set list?

Shannon: I think “Legends Rise.” I think “Under Your Scars.” I mean, we have not even played that yet live, but we’re looking really forward to it and we hope that that song is loved by our fans as much as it’s loved by us. Because, again, 20 years deep in this band, 16 of them I’ve been there, and it’s the most different thing we’ve ever done. We’ve never explored that territory. The lyric is really from the heart. The guy wears his heart on his sleeve in the lyrics. He doesn’t write fantasy lyrics and all that. It’s all really shit that happens to him. We hope that that one lands and we get to play that into our future as band. I think “Bulletproof” will. It was a big hit for us here in America, and we’ll probably play that one until the end. I don’t know if I should even be saying this. I don’t know when this article’s coming out. But we are going to add “Take It To The Edge” to our set list too for the Shinedown tour coming up. I think that one just feels like Godsmack to me. It’s still a little more melodic in the chorus and stuff, but it’s got the crunch and burst that our fans really seem to like when we do that stuff. That one will probably, hopefully end up being, have some longevity in our set list. Right now, “Unforgettable” is our favorite one to play live. It’s a different tempo for us. It’s got a more like, I don’t know, groovy beat, I guess, for us – like a more hip-bouncing beat, hip-hoppy kind of beat, you know? And so, hopefully that one will have some longevity. The funny thing is, we have what you call a great problem to have, but we have a lot of songs that were successful on the radio, and we have four number one singles that we aren’t even playing because, at the end of the day, there’s certain songs we have to play for our fan base. Those are songs like “Voodoo,” and “Keep Away,” and “Straight Out Of Line,” and, oh my God, “Cryin’ Like A Bitch.” The list goes on and on. We had to drop “Straight Out,” which it was tough because that thing, that was like number one on rock radio here in America for 14 weeks. It’s one of our biggest singles. But when you’re creating a set list, you have to do it kind of like you’re sequencing a record in which you want to take the crowd on a journey. You’ve got to have valleys and peaks, you know what I’m saying? We left “Straight Out Of Line,” and “Speak” was another number one single off the IV record that we just don’t have a place for in the set right now. Because we’re desperate to play new music too. Look, I’m a fan first and foremost. I went to see AC/DC on the Black Ice tour. I had Black Ice – as soon as that record came out, I bought it. But when I’m at the concert and I drank a 40 oz beer or whatever they sell there, and I had to pee so bad, but every time I got up they’d start this killer song, “Dirty Deeds” or something came up, and I’m like, “Shit, I can go now.” And then when a new song came up it was “War Machine,” and I love that song, but it was a new one so I’m like, “Okay, now I’ll go pee,” you know what I mean? We understand – too much new material and the fans will be turned off because they don’t know it as much. It doesn’t have a place in their history yet. Like you have that memory of when you were rocking out certain songs by certain bands, so we understand all that and we really try to please our fans. I mean, we also, in our 50’s now all of us, and we understand that we would not be doing this dream without our fans, as cliché as that sounds.

ToddStar: It’s so true, Shannon. I am glad to hear you guys are going to do “Take It To The Edge,” because even going back to my review of the disc, which was a 10 out of 10, but I even made reference to the song saying it will go over perfectly in a live situation should you add it to your repertoire. And it’s so true, because that song to me screams live show. That said, and talking about the live show, I’m very excited July 22nd, next Sunday, Detroit, Michigan. What can you tell us about Detroit and what Detroit means to Godsmack?

Shannon: Well, I can wrap it up in one sentence. We made our only live record live in Detroit, so there it is. Live and Inspired was recorded in Detroit, Michigan. So for whatever reason, man, that town, and even before I was in the band, the first two records, Sully was telling me that, “Man, Detroit for whatever reason…” They’re from Boston, you know? And Detroit’s always been there from the very, very beginning. Even when they started in the clubs on the first record, Detroit was always the town where they were moved to bigger venues before any other success in America. Whatever it is, it’s in the water or whatever, but they like Godsmack there and we love them.

ToddStar: Shannon, what’s next for Godsmack? What’s the next plateau you guys can hit? You guys have some number ones. You have millions of albums sold. You have sold out shows worldwide. You have toured for decades. What’s next for you guys? What do you still have to prove to yourselves?

Shannon: Well, we don’t really have to prove anything to ourselves. I mean, we’re still a blue collar rock band. You ask me what’s next for us, all we’re thinking about now is touring. It’s been a year and a half since we’ve been on the road. And we’re road dogs, man. We’ve got the gypsy blood. We love to be out there. What’s next for Godsmack? We’re going to tour our assess off all the way to the end of next summer, at least. If we do well at radio we’ll stay out there longer. We’ll stay out there until they say, “Yeah, you’ve played here too much. We don’t want you anymore.” And then we’ll go make another record, man. I mean, I’ll say this too about future and what’s next for us, you know? Obviously we’ve all sat down and discussed the end game because we’re not going to be some kind of band that’s going to get old and look like a bunch of old farts up on stage. This hard rock music that we play, I mean it’s different if you’re Metallica or AC/DC, you know what I mean? They’re like legends. And maybe someday, who knows what kind of status we can achieve in that respect? But I do know that the four of us have spoken. Like right now with the new record. People say, “Did you guys lose your edge? It sounds more melodic, commercial,” whatever they want to throw at us. We’re like, “We’re trying to age gracefully here.” We’re not young men full of piss and vinegar anymore, and anger, and angst, you know? We don’t have that angst in us, you know? We still play aggressive music because that’s our influences, but the truth is, we’re all happy dudes, man. We want to go out where we’re comfortable and where we feel like we’re not letting any of our old fans down by getting lame and looking old and whatever. There’s no date set or anything, but we do know that we’re going to take this record by record. I adore Cheap Trick. But they’re playing county fairs now – when I saw them headline arenas in the late 70’s, you know what I mean? And so, we don’t want to be that. We’re going to try and keep kicking ass as long as we can, man, and take the future one tour and one record at a time.

ToddStar: Awesome. Well again, Shannon, as a huge fan of the band, I cannot thank you enough for taking time out. It’s been an honor and pleasure for me. I’m going to be even more excited to be standing in that photo pit when you guys hit the stage in Detroit next Sunday.

Shannon: All right, man. I will see your camera and your face there.

ToddStar: All right, brother. Talk to you soon.

Shannon: Thanks, man. All right.

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Todd ‘ToddStar’ Jolicoeur

Category: Interviews

About the Author ()

ToddStar - that's me... just a rocking accountant who had dreams of being a rock star. I get to do the next best thing to rocking the globe - I get to take pictures of the lucky ones that do. I love to shoot all genres of music and different types of performers. If it is related to music, I love to photograph it. I get to shoot and hang with not only some of my friends and idols, but some of the coolest people around today.

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