Even in a post Spotify world where physical music sales are down across the board, Godsmack still sell a buttload of albums to everyone from hardcore Godsmack fans to casual metal fans. Their listenership is spread through all sorts of demographics, but the one thing they have in common is they respond to the crunchy guitars, aggressive vocals and an undeniable rhythmic groove. This groove is driven by Shannon Larkin, a powerhouse drummer who started his career with Ugly Kid Joe, a band unfairly lumped in with the last days of hair metal. Ugly Kid Joe is back, but Godsmack has never gone away. Their latest album, 1000hp, was released in August to critical acclaim. We caught up with Larkin in the leadup to Soundwave.
So. Soundwave, huh?
It’s a hell of a lineup! We’re blown away by all the other bands playing. We know a lot of them personally. Some of them for 15 years now. It’s going to be like a big family reunion backstage. Judas Priest is a band I’ve always looked up to. Getting to see these bands play every night, we’re going to really enjoy ourselves on this festival. It’s an amazing line-up.
I’ve gone back to the album after a few months to see if it still kicks ass after the ‘new album’ excitement, and it really holds up. How do you feel about it?
Well if you look at our history, we usually take three to four years between records. People always ask ‘why so long?’ Really, we’ll tour for up to two years all around the world, and then take six to eight months off just to get out of each others’ faces for a while so that when we get back together we’re still hungry and excited. That’s why it takes so long between records for us. We’re lucky to be able to afford that luxury, but this time it’s a different vibe altogether, because for the last twelve years I’ve been in the band we’d go to different cities to do the records. This time we found a big warehouse building and we converted it into a recording studio/storage room and rehearsal space. We took all our old staging and backdrops and really Godsmacked the place out and made it really comfortable. So we wrote the record in this place and we also had Dave Fortman, the producer, come in and set up the recording studio part. So for the first time in our lives we were able to write and record in the same spot, which was ours too.
Did you ever find it got to a point where it was like ‘Guys, we’ve got it, we should stop now,’ or did you take the time because you had it?
Usually it’s the managers and labels telling us to stop, begging us to stop! Once we began this writing mode it was like the floodgates got opened. Usually when we first get together it’s impossible, frustrating, and hard to get to the point where the creative juices start flowing, but the songs started coming out so fast that before we knew it we had 16 songs on the board and we weren’t done. Management said you have to start recording and turn something in.’ We’d say ‘but wait, there’s this new song we’re writing…’ In fact, the song ‘1000hp’ was one of the last songs written. The best two songs on the record are the last two written, and we wanted to keep writing.
Something I’ve always wanted to ask you about is the show you played with Black Sabbath.
That was the highlight of my life. One of the first albums I ever heard was a Black Sabbath album, and like 30 years later I got to play a show with them. Robert Trujillo, who’s Metallica’s bass player, at the time he was with Ozzy and I’d met him when he played with Suicidal Tendencies. I was in Ugly Kid Joe and he was really impressed with our singer Whitfield. Next thing you know, he’s playing with Ozzy and they had to do a makeup show. I was in the right place at the right time. Sharon Osbourne called and I was like “yes, yes is the answer!” Sharon’s plan was to come out on the Ozzfest tour and sit behind Mike Bordin and just watch him play the Ozzy and Sabbath sets for a week before the Sabbath show. He had to fly out to join Faith No More on tour and couldn’t play that show.
So I go out and Tony Iommi saw me and he said ‘that kid isn’t playing with us,’ and he went on the tour bus. They came to me and said ‘you can still play in the Ozzy thing, but you’re not playing with Sabbath. They’ll probably get Bobby Rondinelli.’ I told Robert and he was like ‘what?’ he grabbed me by the back of my neck, took me over to Tony Iommi and he said ‘you tell him now you can do this!’ I was tripping! So he dragged me over to Tony and I said ‘Hi, I’m Shannon and I can do this. I’ve been playing these songs since I was 12 years old. Just give me a shot.’ Tony looked me in the eye and said ‘wait here, mate.’ So I had to audition at sound check that day. So I’m in a hotel in LA. I had to be at the lobby at noon and there would be a car to take me to the airport to fly into Columbus, Ohio to take me to the show. I come down and there’s a limousine. Tony Iommi is in the limo and I’m such a fan, I’m tripping about it. I’m going to a private airport to a private jet. I’d never ridden on a private jet. So I get on and it’s Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler, Ozzy, Joe Holmes and Robert Trujillo. I’m sitting there with my headphones on, we take off and start flying towards Columbus, and all of a sudden it gets really hot. I take my headphones off and Ozzy gets up and goes ‘It’s fucking hot here, man,’ and smoke starts pouring out of the air conditioning. Then the plane starts to tilt and teeter. It’s turning around and the captain comes on and says ‘we have an electrical problem. We’re turning this plane around.’ Everybody’s looking out the window going ‘Holy fuck,’ and I’m looking out the window going ‘fuck it. If this plane is going down, I’m a legend. I’m the drummer for Black Sabbath.’
Godsmack play Soundwave Festival 2015. For more information visit www.soundwavefestival.com.