Every single day, James Hetfield, the man, the legend, would walk into our dressing room and sit down and say ‘Hey, guys, how are you today?. This was amazing!”
Wikimetal (Nando Machado): Hello, Shannon.
Shannon Larkin: How are you?
W (NM): Fine. I’m Nando Machado, one of the hosts of Wikimetal, the number one heavy metal and hard rock podcast in Brazil. I’m here with Daniel Dystyler, one of our co-hosts.
W (Daniel Dystyler): Hi, Shannon. How are you?
SL: Hi, I’m good, I’m good. How are you?
W (DD): Excellent, it’s a pleasure and an honor to have you and Godsmack here on our show.
SL: Yeah, you know, I can’t wait to get to Brazil.
W (NM): How did you guys choose Detroit to be the city where you recorded your first live CD? Is Detroit still Detroit Rock City?
SL: Well, we had… We have recorded for the last nine years most of our concerts, and so we hired Dave Fortman, the producer of the last record, because he has great ideas. And we had him sit in a room for a week, going through all the concerts that we recorded for the last nine years to try and pick the magic. Because the intent was “let’s just get the best performance in a lead song, it doesn’t matter what city they were recorded in”. But, in reality, when we filmed that show in Detroit, it was a magical show, the band was on fire that night, the crowd was alive, and it just so happens that 90% of that album is recorded live in Detroit. There were a couple other songs, I’m not sure which couple, but the drums solo is actually from Washington D.C., but, like I said, it was just a magical night in Detroit Rock City.
W (DD): How was the process of working with the producer Dave Fortman like?
SL: That was amazing, I tell you. Dave Fortman played in a band called Ugly Kid Joe with me back in the day, and we got back together last year. And ironically, the band is going to tour Europe, we made a new record, with me, Klaus, Whitfield, Cordell and Dave Fortman, and we made a new record, it’s going to come out real soon, you can go to YouTube, “Devil’s Paradise” is the new video. And we’re coming to your country after this European run, the original band, we’re coming to Brazil, Argentina and Chile. And we’re stoked, man, we’re excited.
W (NM): After you joined Godsmack, you had three consecutive number one albums, which is a great achievement for any heavy metal band. Do you consider yourself being really lucky or do you think that Godsmack is getting better and better with time?
SL: Well yeah, we’re certainly getting more comfortable with the songwriting concept, it doesn’t take us quite as long… We were a band that would take three years to complete each record, you know, we tour a lot with live music, so it’s become better in the songwriting process as we got to know each other over the last decade, as musicians and as people. So, you know, as far as the number one thing, man, that’s just a blessing. We’re truly lucky that we’re in the position we’re in here in America, and we’d love to be able to bring that around the world, and that’s the intent with the live inspired records, we want to try and play all over the world now, rather than just in America.
W (DD): We have a classic question on our show, one that we ask every single person that we interview: imagine yourself listening to the ipod in shuffle mode, or listening to a rock radio station, and all of a sudden, a song starts that you can’t control yourself, you can’t refrain yourself, you can’t stop head banging, you feel like head banging immediately. Which song would that be so we can listen to it on our show, right now?
SL: Oh, man, from all the songs ever?
W (DD): Yeah, anyone that pops up into your mind.
SL: OK, then, we’ll go with “Montain Song”, by Jane’s Addiction. That’ll make you get up and shake your butt.
W (NM): Excellent, Jane’s Addiction on Wikimetal. What is the secret or strategy or whatever you want to call it that Godsmack has, that you guys achieved such a great commercial success being a heavy metal band, especially in the US?
SL: Well, you know, there’s really no secret, everybody in this business knows that it takes as much luck as it takes talent. And also, timing is very, very important. You know, I’ve heard lots of great, great bands with great albums that simply don’t have success, and it’s not because they’re not great, it’s because they’re unlucky, perhaps. So you’ve got to be change proof, you’ve got to be lucky 13, and you’ve got to have some kind of talent too. So, we’re blessed that everything is kind of… The stars are lining up for us, you know, once you get that under your belt, than the trick is to kind of keep the initial spark and the initial energy, and then perhaps you can have a long career.
It doesn’t matter what you look like, it doesn’t matter how many records you sold, it’s supposed to come down to how great the songs are… And there’s one band, where every song on every record is great – That band is The Beatles.”
W (DD): Excellent, Shannon. Who are your favorite drummers of all times?
SL: Neil Peart and John Bonham.
W (DD): And how was the period you played with Ugly Kid Joe?
SL: Well, we broke up for 15 years there, when everybody went and did their own thing, but it was just time to come back, and basically I started a couple songs with Klaus, and you know, we talked about getting back together many times, five years ago, but we never really thought we had something to do. But, now, you know how everything is circular, everything that goes around, comes around, it felt to us like it was time to do something again, and like I said, we’re coming to you beautiful country. So look out!
W (NM): What kind of memories do you have of the tours you guys did with Metallica? I think you guys did a few tours together, right? You also you recorded “Nothing Else Matters”. How is your relationship with the members Metallica in general?
SL: It’s fantastic. I’ve got nothing but pleasant memories, great memories… We started off in Europe and that was supposed to be the only part of the tour that we were on. And when we were at the European tour with James and Lars backstage, they said “Hey guys, you’re the first band that split across Europe with us and didn’t get booed off the stage at least once, do you want to do the rest of the world with us?” and we said “Hell, yeah!”. We would play anywhere with them. But the fondest memory I had was, every single day, James Hetfield, the man, the legend, would walk into our dressing room and sit down and say “Hey, guys, how are you today?”, and every single day was the same thing, so it was like “Oh my God, there he is, sitting… We’re in the presence of greatness, this is amazing!”. Obviously Metallica, to us, as a rock metal band, are the kings, they’re the new Led Zeppelin, I remember, and it was amazing to see this dude two feet away from me saying “Hey, bro, how is it? How are you?”. It was surreal.
W (DD): Excellent, Shannon, thanks for sharing that.
W (NM): At the moment there are many American bands being very successful commercially, like Godsmack, Disturbed, Lamb of God and other bands. How is the metal scene today, compared to the 90s and the 80s, in your opinion?
SL: Well, the 80s were a blur, so I can’t remember much of the 80s. I remember lots of hairspray and crap in America, but, you know, it also brought us Metallica, so a genre was created, as far as thrash metal, Metallica, so the 80s, you’ve got to it to that, I don’t know, the whole metal, thrash metal thing coming out and taking off, so… And then the 90s in America were about the grunge movement in America, and you know, Pearl Jam, and Alice in Chains, and Nirvana came out of Seattle and basically killed off all the other bands, like Poison and Mötlëy Crëw and all that, with the premise that the music is way more important than the way we look, so I really love that part. By the time Godsmack happened in 1998, the end of the 90s, it was back to the music has to be great and the image not so much. So we’re a blue collar rock band, we ride Harley Davidsons, you’ll never find pictures of Godsmack, you know, with the big hair and makeup, that never happened. That’s why we called the third record “Faceless”, because we’re all about music and not about some kind of image. But I think that, when it all comes down to it, each decade has had great breakthroughs in music, as far as genres being created, whether it’s thrash metal in the 80s or grunge music in the 90s. In the 2000s, I don’t know, it seems like everything’s been done. Country music is number one now in America, which, you know, say what you want, but it’s a fact. Country music.
W (DD): Shannon, we know you are a very experienced drummer, having played in other bands before Godsmack. What could you say was the highlight of your career so far?
SL: The highlight of my career was playing for Black Sabbath and Ozzy in the tour called “The Reunion Tour”. They had the drummer from Faith No More, and of course Ozzy wanted to do a show in Columbus, Ohio, and Mike Bordin had his schedule full after the Ozzy tour, the Sabbath tour, he was going to go on tour with Faith No More. So they needed a drummer, I got the call, next thing you know I’m in a rehearsal room with Ozzy, Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler, playing Black Sabbath songs and rehearsing for a concert that we ended up playing in Columbus, Ohio. You know, I’ve got to say that was like… It was like as big in my life as when I had my first child, you know. Being a kid, growing up with Black Sabbath and all that, there I was, playing with them. I have a picture of it too, for proof, you know, but Sharon Osbourne always said “Oh, they film the show, and someday I’ll give you the video.”, and it’s been like 15 years and she never gave me the video. But that’s definitely the biggest moment of my career, but then every moment… Like Godsmack, for instance, I got a gold record when I joined Godsmack and made “Faceless”, I got a gold record and my first number one record, so I’m hoping that it’ a work in progress.
W (NM): Now can you choose another song? I’d like you to choose a song from Godsmack that you are really proud of, so we can listen to it in our show right now.
SL: Oh, OK. One of my favorite drum beats that I ever wrote for Smack was “Straight out of line”. And that ended up being the number one single, the number one record, and the first song I ever wrote with the band Godsmack, so that one I’m really, really proud of, and again, that’s one of the most kick ass drum beats that I’ve ever written.
Next thing you know I’m in a rehearsal room with Ozzy, Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler, playing Black Sabbath songs and rehearsing for a concert. It was like as big in my life as when I had my first child, you know.”
W (DD): The new album comes with an EP with four cover songs. I personally loved the Pink Floyd version of “Time”. How was the process of electing the songs that you recorded?
SL: Well, basically, we all do a bunch of songs in the hat, and then, you know, come together and talk about them, the only cover songs we’d ever done in this band’s career are Black Sabbath songs and Led Zeppelin songs, so we figured, “if we’re going to put some covers on this new record, then we’ve got to reach for the stars”. So then we started doing the greatest band of all time, the best songwriters in the world: The Beatles. So there it is, you can’t reach higher than that. And being from Boston, Massachusetts, where the band is located, we have the Aerosmith “Come Together” cover also, and Aerosmith is a huge idol of ours, the original bad boys of Boston. So we figured we could do a cover o “Come Together” and do a Beatles/Aerosmith version, so that’s how that happened. And then Metallica, of course, our biggest influence, you can listen to the band, there it is, we sound like them, no band has influenced us more, on any level, then Metallica, and we knew we couldn’t take a Metallica song and make it heavier or something, so we did the complete opposite, we took out all the drums and basses and all the guitars, we just put a piano and voice, so that’s how the Metallica thing happened. Thirdly, Pink Floyd, what can we say? I think one of America’s favorite album of all time, ever, is “Dark Side of the Moon”, and I must say that I’m more of a “Wish you were here” metal guy, but Pink Floyd influenced every American band out there, so that’s why we picked “Time”, and it doesn’t get any better than that. And the Joe Walsh thing, that was the odd ball of it, because Joe Walsh, as you know, was the guitar player for The Eagles. We’re obviously not as influenced by The Eagles or whatever, but the fact is that Joe Walsh is one of those guys that writes songs that speak to the blue collar American middle class, and that’s what we think, we consider ourselves to be that band, that blue collar band. When we walk onstage, we’re in jeans and T-shirts just like our crowd, and you know, Joe Walsh just seems to speak to us. Not only that, but the first song I ever played when I was 11 years old was “Rocky Mountain Way”, by Joe Walsh, in this beautiful great state of West Virginia.
W (NM): If you could think of your three most loved and heard albums of all time, tell me the first three albums that pop in your head.
SL: My three favorite albums of all time?
W (NM): Yeah.
SL: I would have to say… I would have to put “Led Zeppelin II” as the first choice, because it changed my life instrumentally. And then I would have to say… You realize this is like an impossible question? But OK… Black Sabbath’s first album: “Black Sabbath”. That was another one that just changed my whole life, made me want to be a musician, made me want to play drums. And thirdly, I guess I’d have to put… I would have to say The Beatles’ “Abbey Road” album, simply because, when it all comes down to it, it doesn’t matter what you look like, it doesn’t matter how many records you sold, it’s supposed to come down to how great the songs are, and I just really believe that everyone could write a song… Every song on every record is great – that’s The Beatles. So it’s an impossible question, but Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and The Beatles.
W (DD): Excellent, excellent choice. Mr. Shannon Larkin, thank you so much for your time, for your patience. Before we finish, could you just leave and advice to a kid that is thinking of starting to play the drums, or starting to put up a band? What would your advice be to a 15 year old kid that’s thinking of starting a career now?
SL: Well, my first advice, you know, find the right band, guys. It’s all about chemistry within the band. And secondly, you have to create a web presence, because it’s all about being able to reach as many people as possible, so have a great band website. And thirdly, give your music away at first, on your website, let them get a taste of it for free, in the hopes that they’ll like and you can put something put to sell later. And lastly, you’ve got to take it to the people, you’ve got to play live and you’ve got to try and excel, and by that I mean: practice, practice, practice.
W (NM): Excellent. Shannon Larkin from Godsmack, we really, really thank you for your time, we hope to see you in Brazil very soon, and long live Godsmack, we’ll be supporting everything you guys do in the future.
SL: Well, thank you for having me, thanks for taking the time to talk to me, man. And thanks for playing our music on the radio, we love that. Thank you.
W (DD): Thank you, Shannon. Bye bye.
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