DATE OF INTERVIEW:
1st June 2012
METAL DISCOVERY: It’s really interesting what you’ve done with ‘Nothing Else Matters’ as well. Vocally, I think it’s pretty spot on and faithful to the original but the music’s obviously different with the piano arrangement, although I think you’ve succeeded in giving the song even more emotional depth. Was that your aim with that song?
SULLY: Yeah, that was the one song…the other songs, we all got together and put about ten or fifteen songs on the table…whatever ones we felt we could play the best or we had a cooler version of or something, they’re the ones we chose to be on there. But that one was my idea and the guys just trusted me because they didn’t have anything to do with it. It was just something where I was sitting at the piano one day…I do some solo shows; this is how it started…
(Sully Erna on solidarity and a bright future for Godsmack)
"...we’ve gotten beyond all the more juvenile stuff that we used to deal with when we were a younger band, and stuff that almost broke us up a few times through drinking, and fighting, and egos, and that kinda stuff...I think the band will stay together for as long as we want to stay together."
Godsmack - promo shot
Interview by Mark Holmes
Photograph copyright © 2010 Uncredited
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Albums & EPs
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Thanks to Chris Hewlett for offering and arranging the interview.
The Oracle (2010)
Live & Inspired (2012)
The Other Side (2004)
Good Times, Bad Times...Ten Years of Godsmack (2007)
Sometimes I go out and I do solo shows, and I sit there with an acoustic or a piano and I do an almost Storyteller’s evening with the audience. I play a bunch of Godsmack songs, and some originals, and I talk to the people about the music and where I was in my life when I wrote it and stuff like that. But, along with the show, I do a couple of cover songs too and I happened to start doing ‘Nothing Else Matters’ on the acoustic. It was then that I started to realise…I mean, I’ve always been a big fan of Metallica and I think James is a great songwriter so when I started to play it on piano and figure it out on piano, I started to realise how beautiful the chord structures were and how pretty the melodies were. Just hearing it on piano, it sounds so composed and broad and I was like, wow, this is a really well written piece of music.
So I brought it to the guys and I was showing them a little bit and they were just like, “oh my god, it’s so powerful stripped down”. And so I told them, “listen, I’d rather do a version like this with some strings because you can’t dwarf Metallica.” There’s no way we could do it bigger and heavier than them. Do you know what I mean? It’s Metallica, and that’s what they do! So I was like, “we should go the other way and do a real stripped down version of it and just really show the music in it and showcase that.”
MD: It works to perfection, I think.
SULLY: They weren’t even in the studio; they trusted me to do it…and they were blown away.
MD: If the EP proves really popular amongst your fanbase, would you consider doing a whole album of covers in the future?
SULLY: Well, I don’t know. I guess, one day, for fun. I mean, even the label was trying to get us to do more, like six or seven songs. I was like, “listen, once you get into that, then you’re doing a whole record of covers and that’s a lot of work.” It’s like, why don’t we just write a record at that point?! Even though you already have the song, you’ve still got to twist it around and figure out how to make it your own. It takes a lot of time and effort and if I’m gonna put that kind of time and effort into music I’m gonna do it with my own stuff. This is why we only did a handful of songs.
We actually did a fifth song too and it’s finished but, for some reason, we just decided to hold back on it and maybe use it in the movie soundtrack or something because it’s a little bit more cinematic sounding. But we did a really cool, electronica version of ‘In the Air Tonight’ by Phil Collins.
MD: Oh right, yeah.
SULLY: Yeah, and we might throw that out there too and leak that out to see what people think of that…all these four fit together really well but that one was a little bit like, whoa. It almost sounds like something Nine Inch Nails would’ve done, you know.
MD: That sounds like it could be very interesting!
MD: I’d like to hear that! So when you head off on the road later this month, will you be including any of the covers in your live set? I noticed you’ve been doing ‘Rocky Mountain Way’ in the tour you’ve just done.
SULLY: Yeah. I, personally, want to start doing ‘Come Together’…I’d like to start doing any of ‘em actually. I don’t know about the Metallica one because when Godsmack play live, we just kinda made a decision to just kinda get out there and do a really powerhouse set and that one brings it down a little bit too much. With songs like ‘Voodoo’ and ‘Serenity’, those songs kinda give the set dynamics with some peaks and valleys but I don’t know if I wanna bring it down so cold into a piano version of Metallica.
So, with that being said, we’ll probably do some of the covers. We’re not sure which ones yet but maybe depending on what’s becoming popular in that city, we can pull out that song for that night…you know, if we feel like something’s responding well in London, Germany or wherever.
MD: See if you can spot a load of Pink Floyd t-shirts in the audience and then go, “ah, we’ll play ‘Time’ tonight”!
SULLY: Yeah, exactly!
MD: So what’s life like on the road these days for the band; do you pretty much have the same mentality for touring as back in the day?
SULLY: I wouldn’t say the same. We’ve toned it down a little bit because the older we get the more we realise that we have to do this in waves and not be out there ten/eleven months a year, you know, doing five or six shows a week. It’d just really start to kick our ass. But we still get along really great. We’ve gotten over all the problems. You know, we’ve gotten beyond all the more juvenile stuff that we used to deal with when we were a younger band, and stuff that almost broke us up a few times through drinking, and fighting, and egos, and that kinda stuff.
We really got over the mountain and we’re real proud of that too because now the band’s getting along even better than we did when we first started the band. I mean, we’ve really found each other…we know when to engage with each other and when to stay away from each other. We’ve learned how to just do our job and be professional but continue to care for each other and do the right thing and respect each other out there. I think the band will stay together for as long as we want to stay together. As long as we control the wear and tear and the fatigue on the road, I think we’ll be okay, you know.
MD: Cool. So, in terms of the next Godsmack studio album, has the writing process started yet and do you have any kind of deadline for yourselves to get something out there?
SULLY: We’ve not officially started but we’re always messing around writing riffs by ourselves and when we get together we’ll start going through all the recordings that we’ve saved and see what sounds special to us. It’s a little bit premature to say exactly when we’re gonna start getting into the studio to write another record because we just want to finish the touring this year. Right now, the end of September is when we’re done so we have a little way still to go. And I may do some solo stuff after that but maybe after a short break or something we’ll rest up and then start talking about getting back together. I don’t think it’ll be too long.
MD: Obviously you’ve had amazing chart success in your home country because you’ve hit number one in the Billboard Top 200 for your last three studio albums so does that add any pressure in any way to try and perpetuate that success?
SULLY: Do you mean to supersede what we did on the last record?
MD: Yeah, kind of…obviously you always want to do your best but because you’ve hit number one for the last three albums, do you think you’ve really got to keep that success up and get to number one again or do you just do what you do and see what happens?
SULLY: I honestly don’t think…I don’t think anybody really thinks that way. I’ve never heard the band talk that way as long as I’ve been around them and I know, for sure, I don’t think that way. We never really shot for a number one single on the radio or a number one album. We just get in there and we write the best stuff that we feel good about knowing that if we get extremely excited about it then hopefully there’s gonna be other people out there that enjoy it and are passionate about it as well. I think, sometimes, just really caring about the art and the music that you do is what helps it become as successful as it does. But I don’t think we ever do it in a premeditated way where we’re trying to purposefully have a number one record or a number one single on the radio.
MD: That’s a good answer! Okay, my final question – what three words best summarise how you feel where you’re at with Godsmack right now and your own career as a musician?
SULLY: Grateful, for sure. I’ve gotta tell you, it’s nice to know that people, after fifteen years of touring, still care about the band enough to wanna get our music and come see the band live. So grateful is definitely at the top. Powerful…I think the band has a great live show; I think we’re really solid live. And I would think humbled, if anything. I think the band really found a way to appreciate everything that we have but do it in a way where there were no egos and stuff like that. I also think that seeing the bands around us…you know, there’s been a lot of storms in the industry and there’s been a lot of bands that have gotten washed away over time that we started with from the beginning, and we’re very lucky to have weathered some of those storms and still be here standing and doing well. We could’ve easily been one of those bands who went away.
MD: A good three words! Okay, thanks so much for your time.
SULLY: Thank you, I appreciate it.