DATE OF INTERVIEW:
1st June 2012
American alt-metal stalwarts Godsmack formed some seventeen years ago and after five studio albums, the last three of which hit the number one spot in their home country in the Billboard Top 200, have decided that 2012 is the year to unleash their first ever live CD. Named 'Live & Inspired', the latter part of that title refers not only to their dedicated fanbase who've provided steadfast support throughout their career and thus inspiration as such, but also to a bonus EP containing an eclectic collection of four cover versions, taking in tracks by Pink Floyd, The Beatles, Joe Walsh and Metallica, artists/bands who've influenced and inspired Sully Erna and co. over the years. A few days after the release of 'Live & Inspired', founding member and frontman Sully spoke to Metal Discovery about this latest offering from the band...
METAL DISCOVERY: Hi, how you doing?
SULLY: I’m doing great, how are you?
(Sully Erna on choosing Godsmack's 2007 Detroit show for the recently released 'Live & Inspired' album)
"There’s no overdubs; there’s no vocal touch-ups; there’s no Pro Tools…that’s the band playing live and so we were like, man, fuck, we were good that night!"
Godsmack - promo shot
Interview by Mark Holmes
Photograph copyright © 2010 Uncredited
MD: Yeah, I’m doing good, thanks very much. ‘Live & Inspired’ has just been released and that’s your first ever live CD, so why was it decided the time is right now?
SULLY: Well, first of all, we’ve been touring for fifteen years and never put out a live record and we felt that, before CDs go obsolete, it’d be nice to have it in the repertoire, for sure. But, more importantly, over the years, because we’re such a live band and have been known to be such a live band, we thought it’d be a good thing to give back to the fans. You know, they’re the ones who’ve made us a great live band over the years and these songs that have been selected on the record were songs selected by the fans.
We totally let them control and dictate this whole record. We told them what we wanted to do and then we let them submit what they considered to be their favourite songs over the years. And they submitted pictures of their favourite Godsmack tattoos and stuff like that so it was kind of a gift back to the fans to say thanks for being fans and thanks for supporting us over the years and here’s a live CD. And, along with that, that’s why we included the bonus CD to show them that we’re fans just like they are and here’s some of the songs that have inspired us along the way.
MD: That’s a cool attitude.
MD: The show’s from five years ago so there’s been quite a delay in getting it out there. Was it originally recorded with a view to releasing it a lot sooner?
SULLY: No, we happened to record that whole tour. We just figured we had a Pro Tools rig out there and it was just simple for them to…you know, since it’s all digital now and we didn’t have to keep track of tapes and all that, it was just easy to record every night, and we knew someday we’d find a use for it. Originally, what we were going to do was keep recording and put out a song from this city and a song from that city. We went back and decided that, well, you know, we’re not quite ready to release our sixth album yet so there’s gonna be a window of time that’s gonna happen in between ‘The Oracle’ and whatever we do next, so we thought this is a good opportunity to put out a specialty CD and that’s why we chose to do it now.
We didn’t really have any plans to release that concert. We recorded that whole tour and it just so happened when we went back and listened to that evening, the band happened to be playing really well that night and it was just a really special show. The crowd was really great and we decided we didn’t have to really keep looking around different cities for different songs. That whole show came out great. Plus, another thing we’re really proud of is that specific concert as well, we just mixed it and put it on a CD. There’s no overdubs; there’s no vocal touch-ups; there’s no Pro Tools…that’s the band playing live and so we were like, man, fuck, we were good that night!
MD: That makes it even more amazing.
SULLY: It’s really nice too because we’ve been so far behind on getting caught up with international touring, we thought, you know what, this is a good opportunity as well for people to get caught up to what this band is doing live and maybe get a feel for, when we come through your town, what the band’s gonna be playing and stuff like that. And caught up on the back catalogue of songs that they maybe have or haven’t heard yet. So, all in all, it seemed like a win/win situation.
MD: Definitely. So when you listen back to the recording now, what memories does it bring back of that particular show?
SULLY: Well, Detroit’s always been, at least in America, one of our favourite towns to play because they really do have a great audience there. They’re very much like an international audience in a sense where they just love their music; they love going to live shows still. A lot of people sometimes get a little bit lazy because the internet and digital world has really…you know, people just sit at home and don’t attend live shows anymore. But I’ve noticed internationally, it’s still like soccer games and concerts and all that, people still go. And Detroit’s one of those towns, they’re like that. They’re very into their rock music.
MD: You’ve said you listened back to that show and were like, wow, as to how good you were that night so do you think the energy of the live show translates well in just an audio format?
SULLY: I really do. I’m really…and I’m telling you man, and I’m not just saying this because this was my band, I’m very, very critical about stuff that we release and I will be the first one to say, “you know, I think the songs are great” or something like that, “but the energy wasn’t there, I know we’re better live.” But, I’ve gotta tell you man, I think we really captured this one live on this CD. I feel like it really represents the band well and, to me, it sounds exactly what we sound like live. I’m very proud of that and I think when people understand that this hasn’t been doctored up with a bunch of surgery and fixing things and whatever…this really was the band just playing…and I think if people enjoy what they hear, that’s pretty much what they’ll get when they come and see us live.
MD: Definitely, yeah. You said this release is for your fans so do you have quite a close relationship with your fans where possible and do you think that’s become easier in recent years to maintain that contact through online social networking?
SULLY: Yeah, we’d like to think so. We’re four guys trying to touch the world so it’s difficult to get to everybody, obviously, and statistics say that you maybe touch less than one per cent of your audience in person…which is crazy to me because I feel like I’ve met millions of people! [laughs] But, if that’s the case, then it is what it is. We do the best we can to really kind of be one-on-one with the fans and do everything we can to meet them after the shows or whatever it is we’re able to do in the window of time that we have. So, yeah, the band has always tried to do the right thing and get to as many people as we can but, then, four guys trying to touch the world is difficult to do.
MD: So when you do meet and greets, and signings and stuff like that, do you ever get any strange gifts from your fans or asked to sign anything unusual or weird?
SULLY: I’m not sure about weird but there’s definitely unusual stuff. They make a lot of stuff, homemade, you know. Someone made me a little wooden statue of me and I still have it in my basement, in the game room, on a shelf. It’s a great little statue and it’s funny looking but it’s me! They’ve done a really good job with the details and the tattoos and everything. You see weird things once in a while where they’ll show up and have a portrait of you tattooed on their leg or something and it’s just like… “Wow, that’s a commitment, man! What happens when you don’t like us in two more years?!”
MD: That must be quite weird to see, your face tattooed on someone else’s body...
SULLY: Yeah, well, it’s weird in the sense you go like, wow, that’s it, that’s it forever! What are you gonna think about that when you’re seventy years old?!
MD: ‘Live & Inspired’ has the bonus EP as well, as you mentioned, with the four cover tracks and I really, really like what you’ve done with ‘Time’. Are you all big Pink Floyd fans?
SULLY: I am a humongous Floyd fan and ‘Dark Side of the Moon’, today, is probably still my favourite record of all time. So it was such an honour to be able to cover that song and, again, I really felt like…I don’t want to sound egotistical, but I really feel like that’s the one, to me, that came out the best. I really feel like the band nailed it. I love Tony’s solo on it; he really did a great job. I’m not a really big, dynamic singer…I don’t consider myself a great vocalist but I know what my range is and that song happened to be right in the pocket for me. That was really strong for me to sing. So I really enjoyed playing that one and covering that song; I think it came out really special.
Plus it’s the one song we didn’t really change it up too much. We love Floyd so much and they’re such an amazing band with what they’ve done, it doesn’t really need to be changed. So we made a conscious decision to not fuck with the arrangement. We just wanted to just, almost, pay homage to it and just do it as authentic as we could. There are a couple of little things in there that switch it up just a pinch but, for the most part, it’s pretty authentic to the original.
MD: Definitely. Although you missed off the intro, of course, with the guitar harmonics and so forth. Did you try to work a version of the intro into the track or decided to go straight to the rock part?
SULLY: We have a version of the whole thing with clocks and everything but we couldn’t get licensing for the clocks.
MD: Oh really?
SULLY: Yeah, because we had a really cool way of putting the clocks on the intro and distorting it to make it a little bit trippy, and we had to use the original so they were just like “yeah, no, yeah, no…”. But the whole intro with the rototoms and all that stuff, we have that whole thing, I mean, identical to the tee. We were gonna do it but they were cutting it out for radio and stuff like that so we just kinda made a mistake. We should’ve at least put that version on the record and just let radio do their version without it.
MD: It’d be cool to hear the original. Maybe it could be a bonus track on something else in the future.
SULLY: Yeah, maybe we’ll just stick it out on the net, like on YouTube or something, just to get it out there so people can hear we did the whole thing. We really paid attention to the original, like all the stuff they used on the song; we really paid attention to all that stuff to really copy it the best we could.