Recently Godsmack released their first all new single since 2011 when they released "1000hp", the title track from their forthcoming sixth album, which is out August 5.
The band took a two-year hiatus after 2010's The Oracle which allowed the members to pursue some side projects and front man, Sully Erna, released his solo album Avalon.
The tour kicks off in Clarkston, Michigan at DTE Energy Music Theatre on Friday, August 15.
Recently, I caught up with Erna who had a lot to say about the 1000hp album, the tour and the fact that the band is approaching their twentieth anniversary.
Q: You have the new album coming out. Can you tell us a little bit about it and what makes this one different for you? Was the process different after taking so much time off?
Sully: I don't know but I think every time that we get together to make an album we're never sure what we're going to bring to the table. In this case the guys were writing on the side in their downtime and I was writing so they brought in their batch and I brought in my batch so there was like a huge f*cking amount of songs to go through but it really wasn't until the end when we were together writing and just jamming that the songs really came out. I mean "1000hp" and "Something Different" were the last two songs we did, literally the last two songs we recorded and "1000hp" came out in like a half an hour. Both songs were done in under two hours. It was almost like the songs wrote themselves, which is really, really bizarre. Horsepower just flows and is just about the band and its history and I mean, sh*t, next year it'll be twenty years that we've been together. It's just fun to think about the band and the history and it's just really a cool moment for us. Then there's "Something Different", which I think is going to be the big single because I think it's just beautiful and big and awesome and it doesn't compromise the integrity of the band but it crosses into some places that the band hasn't seen yet so I'm interested in watching that one when it comes out.
Q: I'm sure being able to do that keeps things fresh for you guys as well.
Sully: Yeah. It's strange because when listening to this record it's like the first time that I've seen things paired up in groups. Like to me, "1000hp" and "FML' feel like the more punky kind of tracks. They're a little bit more oppressive and have this kind of punky rock influence to them. Then there's songs like "Locked and Loaded" that are the more quintessential Godsmack tracks, which serve the core audience, which I felt was really important. Then there's stuff like "Generation Day" that I feel is kind of an artsy song. There's a little bit of everything on here. I feel like the band was able to step out of the box a little but not too far that it's not Godsmack. Then there's "Something Different" which like I said I think is the stand out track. I personally haven't had this feeling about a track since we wrote "I Stand Alone". I remember when we did that I kept playing it for people because I was like I can't tell if this sounds like us or if it's a good fit for us. It was the first time that we started to do some new harmonies and things like that in the song and I couldn't quite put my finger on it and then I think it was because of that uniqueness that it ended up becoming our biggest single to date. It was like 17 weeks at number one on the charts. I get that same feeling about "Something Different". I just have a feeling that that song is going to do really well. I think people are going to really like it because it hits at the heart of people and their everyday relationships and how they aren't heard and are neglected and things like that. It has a beautiful melody in it and it's got a lot of power. Once in a great while the perfect storm happens where you come up with music where the melodies and lyrics really compliment itself so we'll see what happens.
Q: Well the first single, the title track, seems to already be doing pretty well.
Sully: Yeah so far, so good. It's awesome! I mean it's a thousand horsepower, right? It's cool and it's just fun to play and it was fun to f*cking write. I mean the haters are out there. God forbid you go on Blabbermouth, man! That's why I don't read my own articles. [laughs]
Q: Yeah that's one of my pet peeves, just hearing people complaining about this person sold out or this song sounds too much like this or doesn't have enough of that. Maybe it's just growing up in Detroit where you are surrounded by such a heavy mix of music but I like to see bands try new things.
Sully: Yeah you just can't please everybody, nor do we try to. You know, we've never claimed to be an innovative band that's gonna change the face of music. We just do what we do best and just hope people enjoy it as much as we do. We come from a really old school background of Black Sabbath and Aerosmith and Judas Priest and Metallica and all that so it's no wonder that we sound the way we sound. We're not even really a metal band. I mean we ride the line at times but we're really a hard rock band. We always have been. Even the singles that come close like "Keep Away" and "Cryin' Like a B*tch" or "I Stand Alone" are hard rock songs, not metal. People try to lump us into these categories that we just don't belong in. It's like how I feel that some bands don't belong in the rock category. I mean how did f*cking Imagine Dragons win Best Rock Album? Maybe in the alternative rock category!
Q: Have you played any of the new songs on stage yet?
Sully: No, we haven't played anything live yet. In fact, we're on a little break right now just trying to get the sound time to go gear up but in July we're definitely going to get together and start working on getting ready for the tour and settle on what we're going to do. Right now we just know we want to bring the best show we can; just a big fat, old school rock show with pyro and sh*t like that.
Q: And you're kicking the Uproar Tour off here in Michigan.
Sully: Yeah, Detroit! It's gonna be good because you guys are always awesome.
Q: Your live show has always been a huge aspect of your band. I mean I saw you back on the Anger Management Tour early on in your career and even then your stage show rivaled the rest of the bill. What is it about your live shows that keeps people coming back for more and what impression do you want your fans to leave with when they come out to see you?
Sully: Yeah, thanks. Ultimately we want people to have a great experience and a good time. We're not a competitive band. We don't have egos and we don't try to compete with other rock bands or try to outdo them. We want everybody to do well and bring a great show. That's something we learned from, once again, our childhood influence Metallica. A lot of times with these bands it's all about them and they want to talk sh*t or whatever and it's like listen man, it's not a competition, it's a universal language to be shared and loved by everybody. That's just how it is and Metallica was really great about that when we toured with them because they told us you can use all the lights and pyro that you want, we just want this tour to be great. It was such a great thing for us because we were in these arenas selling out everywhere and it was how a rock show should be. That's what we want to do; just put on a really great, entertaining rock show. I think because we grew up with big bands that did those kind of shows like Judas Priest and Metallica. I think you just need to make sure that everyone is getting what they paid for because people are spending their hard-earned money to come and see you and they don't want to just see you up there in a flannel shirt standing in one spot. They want to feel good and they want to have a fun time. We always try to give everyone a positive experience and we've been lucky to be around other bands that feel the exact same way.
Sully: Yeah, I mean we don't usually get much say in these package deals but all of these bands are great and everyone's going to have a good time. I'm sure everyone is going to go out there and put on their best and hopefully by the end of the night when we finish people will be exhausted and will go home and get a great night's sleep and be really satisfied.
Q: Looking back on your career, is there a song that you never get tired of playing live?
Sully: I don't know. There's so many songs that when I think about them I go, aww man, we've got to play that one again? Then I get up on stage and it takes on a new life. Some of that older stuff like "Voodoo" or "Keep Away" you maybe sometimes don't want to play, but you really have to because it's the fan favorites and they're the ones they've voiced that they want to hear. I mean they are really the ones who made them the hits so you want to play them but you're just thinking man, this is getting old, but then you get on stage and all of a sudden the experience of seeing people's passion and singing along and how much the song means to them that it just makes it all worth it and it turns each time into something unique. So I don't have an exact favorite but for whatever reason they're all special in their own way.
Q: Do you have a favorite place to play?
Sully: I don't know, you want me to say Detroit, right? [laughing] There's a lot of great places out in the world. I mean in America it is funny because Detroit is always top on the list and there's some other really, really strong places that always stick out in the States that are just always very consistently great shows. Detroit has just shown us over the years that you guys have really earned your nickname "Detroit Rock City" because you just have an audience that reminds me a bit of Europe in that you are so loyal and dedicated. You really love to go see live shows and you really get into it and that's how it is in Europe. They are just hardcore fans and they still go to live shows and are not f*cking obsessed with the Internet and watching shows on tv or whatever, they want to go to live events and experience that. There are several other states that are like that as well and are really strong.
Q: You guys took a hiatus from the band and did some side projects and you had your solo album but what keeps you guys coming back to the band?
Sully: Well I think it's just the band, you know? I mean over the years the band has gone through some hard times and there's been so many close calls where the band almost split up because you know, you don't realize it at the time but you're wondering why this thing is self-destructing. When you're on the run for ten years straight it just takes it's toll on you and you're exhausted and that's not a way to handle relationships when you're over medicating with alcohol and whatever and it just creates pain and it creates drama and just a lot of dark stuff and you have to just learn that as you go through the experience. Now I'm proud that the band has come over a lot of those mountains and are getting along better than we ever have and in hindsight we all realized that we just needed a break and time to just really reflect on this and miss each other and be able to come back to realizing that we have a really special brand here and we want to maintain it. We want to nurture it and do the right thing with it. You have to treat it delicately because it can break you down. The road is a tough place to be because you're constantly missing your children and your family and friends and you can become a machine. You forget sometimes how to be human out there. You've got to find that balance and you can't do that without breaks.
Q: You mentioned that you are coming up on celebrating your twentieth year together as a band. Is there a moment that you are most proud of looking back?
Sully: Well I think the moment that always sticks out the most for me is the day that the record label and our manager came into Boston where I think we were doing the Boston Music Awards and they handed us our first gold album. I think that's when it really hit me. Up until that point it didn't even feel like we were making it because we were still kind of playing the small venues and just doing a little bit better around the country but you're just working so hard and you're not really thinking that you're one of "those" bands yet. I remember that when we got that it really hit me like, wow if all else fails then at least we have that. We had a gold record and I was able to buy my mom a Cadillac. [laughs] That was really a big moment for me.
Q: Well we know that you are really into playing poker but what are some of your other favorite things to do outside of music right now?
Sully: Yeah I do love poker but I haven't been playing as much as I'd like to. You know, I like to do different things. I really love sports. I like to stay active and I love running because it clears my head and gives me peace of mind. I love all kind of sports though from volleyball to basketball to football. I like contact sports. I also love riding motorcycles and I love cooking. That's actually become my passion over the last couple of years. I love cooking and I mean it's no surprise because I was raised in a strict Italian family and I was raised around a stove. The older I get the more simple things I appreciate. You know, just staying home with my daughter and going to the movies. I don't need craziness anymore. I don't need to hang out at the strip clubs all the time. I enjoy being home with my family and friends and just enjoying what we've built over the years as a band. Sometimes it's just as simple as going out to dinner with great friends and a bottle of wine and just laughing and catching up that means the most to me.
Q: Finally, you obviously see fans everyday who are nervous to meet you but have you ever found yourself on the other side of that where you were the nervous one meeting someone you were a fan of and how was that experience?
Sully: Yeah, oh god dude, I'll tell you right now a quick story! My whole life I was raised behind the drums since I was three years old and I studied literally Neil Peart from Rush when I was twelve and thirteen years old til now and he was just the guy who made me the drummer that I am today. I just remember like skipping school to learn his records and I just f*cked with everything to try to like be as good as him. Everyday I'd be home stoned and strapping on my headphones and dissecting Rush albums. Back in 2002 or beginning of 2003, whatever it was, but we were recording the Faceless album and we were in north Miami and the head of their security reached out to us and knew we were a big fan and knew we were in town and was like hey you know the guys would love to have you come out and see their show. I was like f*ck yeah, we'll be there! So me and Shannon [Larkin, Godsmack drummer] went and we were standing at the sound board and all of a sudden halfway through the security team comes up and is like come with us and we're like what did we do wrong and he was like no, no Neil knows you're here and he wants you to come up on stage when he does his drum solo and I'm like f*ck you, this is huge! So we're up there me and Shannon sitting there like little kids like fifteen years old with a pair of drum sticks sitting indian style on the floor watching our idol do his famous drum solo and you know what they do is they do a show where it's like an hour and a half and then they do like another forty-five minutes, you know, an evening with Rush. So they have a break in the middle and during that break they took us back and I'm sitting in that trailer and the security guy says he'll be right back and so I'm sitting there and I start looking around the trailer and it's taking him awhile for him to come back so I look around and I see a pair of shoes here and a pair of drum sticks there and a little drum kit and it just dawned on me, oh f*ck I'm in Neil Peart's dressing room! Just as I thought that he walks in and I'm gonna tell you something right now I have never been f*cking geeked like that in my life! I have met some of the biggest actors and musicians and when that dude walked in it basically made me go back to be a fourteen year old boy and I just remember staring at him and he goes, "Hey Sully, good to meet you," and he puts out his hand to shake it and I'm just standing there and I couldn't even lift my arm. I remember going like in my head, Sully, really? You need to smarten up here and shake the guys hand! I think I just kind of twitched and looked at him and he goes are you alright? I was just like I'm so sorry. It's hard to put into words how you feel when something like that happens to you when someone who helped carve and shape your life is standing in front of you. You know when they come in the room, what do you say. I had no words, literally. Luckily, it didn't last too long and you know we're friends now and we laugh about it.
Q: But you get it now when fans do that to you!
Sully: Yeah now I get it you know but I just don't see me like that. I guess I can understand how like to other people it might mean that much to them to meet me. It's really emotional and it touches people. Holy sh*t man, that was my geek moment for sure!