Interview: Shannon Larkin of Godsmack
Mon, 07 Jul 2014 09:58:13
Godsmack's 1000hp is another rhythmic tour de force from drummer Shannon Larkin. The iconic skinsman pounds out some of his most entrancing and pulverizing beats over the course of the record's eleven tracks. It's a truly a percussive marvel, and it'll undoubtedly blast to life on tour when the band hits the road for UPROAR.
In this exclusive interview with ARTISTdirect.com editor in chief Rick Florino, Shannon Larkin of Godsmack talks 1000hp [out August 5 via Republic Records] and so much more.
Did you approach 1000hp with one vision?
We definitely still make records as a body of work. Even though the sign of the times is a lot of kids will download certain songs and not buy a full record. We're old school, and we try to make a body of work that can flow one song into the next. Sully Erna spent a lot of time sequencing to give you that journey from start to finish.
What was this record like for you as a drummer? You show every side of yourself as a musician.
I play for the song, and I have a skeleton structure when I'm playing that. As we keep playing and rehearsing in pre-production, things blossom. I don't think too much about it. Again, I've got to give props to Sully for a lot of the drum ideas and pushing me in a direction I wouldn't have necessarily went with. He really pushed me on this record to bring the best out in me.
Dave Fortman captured how hard you hit!
Dude, you've got that right! I texted Dave as soon as I heard the mixes. I was like, "You outdid yourself even on this one, man!" [Laughs] He captured what it sounded like. Another thing I think had something to do with that is we turned our headquarters into our studio. We did three or four weeks of pre-production of putting the songs together. After a couple of weeks down here in Florida, we went up to our headquarters. It was brand new, by the way. All of our stage props were hanging on the walls around us. It was really our place. So, we were very comfortable right away. By the time we began in the studio after pre-production, I was sitting in the same exact spot I'd been sitting for the last month. It was basically recording those songs again, but we were actually recording our album. There was no red light fever or any weird shit going on. It was really organic. It felt like a band. All four of us could feel it. I think Dave Fortman certainly captured that on tape.
What was the story behind "Generation Day"?
Well, Sully had that killer riff. I threw that beat down. The verse happened. We wanted to basically create kind of a loop. I just repeated it. We didn't do anything fancy on those verses. We had the vocal shine. When we were recording that big middle eight, I just kept time on the ride. I was hitting quarter notes on the ride for that whole section until the very end. Later on, after that song was complete and the drum track was done, Sully and I went in. Sully was behind the kit, and I was playing the brass. We overdubbed that middle section. He got to do some big fills on there and swell. It turned out being really different. We'd love to play it live! We basically did what we were doing to the cymbals. Sully and I recorded those drums in the middle section.
Where did "Livin' In The Grey" come from?
That was great. It was pretty close to the original way it was written. There were a couple of drum changes Sully made. For instance, I'd be hitting the hi-hat on the one of every drum fill in the chorus. He was like, "That's a little tedious. Do the first half without hitting the hi-hat. Just play the tom and add the hi-hat on the second series of fills and second half of the chorus". It made everything climax well in the end bleeding into the second verse. It really was a group effort. It was the most "group effort" we've ever done as a band. Everybody was involved.
Are you Sully of the same mindset as drummers?
Our styles are very similar. I probably have better feet, but he might have better hands than I do. Stylistically, we're dead on. We're two separate humans though. If I play something on a crash ride, he might be like, "Try that on the bell of the big ride". He'll put his two cents in. I'll always try it. You usually know. We've played together for over a decade now, and we know. He's been a drummer for thirty years. When he gives me an idea, I'll try it. All four of us will vote in. Then, we go from there. I don't think we really butted heads on this one. Believe me, we butt heads [Laughs]. I'm a drummer, and I've got my ego. He's a drummer, but he's the singer [Laughs]. Sometimes, we would butt heads on shit. It didn't happen much on this record though. There might have been one or two tense moments, but they weren't like they've been in the past. There were cameras around us the whole time. We filmed every minute of it. I honestly can't remember any tension that did happen. It was such a great experience. It was the least bit of drama we've had making a record.
Did you and Tony work on "Turning To Stone" down in Florida?
Yeah, we completely wrote that whole song. When Sully came down here, I was playing the drum beat I had off a ride cymbal. He was like, "Dude, I want to create space". He wrote the drum beat that ended up being the verse to that. It's really tribal. He's very good at the hand drums and tribal sounds. He heard this beat, and I thought, "Oh my God, I never would've thought of that". After we played it a bunch of times at pre-production up in Boston, it came together. It created a lot of space. It's different. It has a "Voodoo" vibe to it. Shout out to my boy Sully Erna! He took a song Tony and I had written, put his stamp on it, and made it sound like this cool, dark Godsmack song.
What was your gateway movie into horror?
It was Jaws. That made me become a real horror fan. When I was young, there was this thing on Saturday night called Creature Feature. My dad was really into the Universal horror figures like Frankenstein, Dracula, The Wolfman, The Phantom of the Opera, The Creature from the Black Lagoon, and those kinds of movies. Creature Feature didn't come on until eleven at night. I was six- or seven-years-old, and I had to go to bed. I'd go to sleep at eight. My dad would wake me up at eleven to watch the Creature Feature with him. I've always been into it. When I saw the movie Jaws, it scared the shit out of me number one. Number two, it made me fall in love with being scared. That's entertainment. It's a thrill, and it stuck with me.
What was the last horror movie you dug?
I just saw Devil's Due. I thought it was amazing. It's shot in that new school way like Paranormal Activity. It wasn't the most original film, but it had everything I like in a horror film. It scared me. After watching however many thousands of horror movies, it's hard to get me creeped out now. I've almost become desensitized to blood and gore. I love Devil's Due. There's a movie called Inside you must see. That scared the shit out of me. I like the creature features. I liked Pacific Rim. It had a big budget. I like monster movies. The new Godzilla is great. I've been a critic for Bloody-Disgusting, but I'm not very critical. I like all horror movies. I love B-movies. I like the torture porn. I like all of that shit. It's hard for me to write a bad review [Laughs]. The only horror movies that irritate me are the ones that use too much of The Blair Witch Project shaky cam. It's a great effect, but it's been overused. I don't want to feel dizzy. Quit shaking the fucking camera. I'm trying to watch the movie.
If 1000hp were a movie, what would it be?
It would be something high action and high energy. It could be Conan the Barbarian or that new movie Hercules coming out. There's a lot of drama and emotion, but there's a lot of power. There are certainly violent moments that are punk rock in their energy. As far as horror movie, maybe it could be the remake of The Evil Dead. It could be the soundtrack to that.
Are you looking forward to UPROAR?
I love Seether! It's going to be exciting for us to get back out there. It's been a long time since we've been on a bus. There's something that happens after the first week of being on tour where the show just becomes dialed in. You feel like Superman and you can do anything.
What's your favorite Godsmack song?
See our "First Reaction" to 1000hp here!