Godsmack’s vocalist discusses Uproar Fest, new album, worst tour experience

Posted on September 16, 2014

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By Rachael Mattice

OC Weekly

Although Godsmack just released their sixth full-length album over a 20-year career, the hard rock Boston, Mass. quartet remains heated amid the mainstream rock scene as they continue a packed year of touring, headlining the Rockstar Energy Drink’s Uproar Festival. OC and other southern California fans, including the diehards that tattooed the band’s signature flaming sun emblem around their navel, can see Godsmack, Seether, Skillet, Buckcherry, Pop Evil, Escape The Fate and more on two stages at the tour’s stop at Verizon Amphitheater in Irvine tonight.

Godsmack’s tough guy rawk hits such as “Keep Away,” “Voodoo” and “Stand Alone” are all extremely likely to make the band’s Uproar set, but fans can also expect to hear tracks from the band’s August, 5th release, “100hp” out via Republic Records.

Although the band’s four-year hush brought up discussion to discontinue future work as a group, the songwriting chemistry moved the brand of Godsmack back into the spotlight with 3.9 million Facebook followers of support and packed live show attendance during their previous tour Mass Chaos. The band’s celebrated album release and enduring music career was even recognized and applauded by the mayor of Boston, declaring August 6th “Godsmack Day.”

With only a few select dates left performing on Uproar Festival, vocalist Sully Erna spoke about the band’s breather, “1000hp,” Godsmack’s worst touring experience and more in an interview with the OC Weekly.

Question: I understand there were technical and production issues at one of the venues on Uproar in Pennsylvania. Was it problems at the venue itself; were other bands affected, were you able to turn around for the next performance after that date? Incorporating a lot of fire and pyrotechnics in your sets over the years has probably caused other issues where you’ve had to unfortunately cancel shows.

Answer: We had a lot of technical problems at the show. It was a struggle; it happens once and awhile, what can you do? They usually always get a perfect show so for them to get a f*cked up one; it is what it is.

We had some new crew guys in training, there were some pretty bad mistakes with the monitor system and the band couldn’t hear each other very well. There were a lot of problems with the pyro misfiring and almost burning me. There are some things that are a little more dangerous and some things that are a little more technical, but all and all it was just a run of problems that happened throughout the entire show. Finally, it just became impossible to hear the music.

Yeah this band has always used production. There was a run where we stripped it out to just some lights and a PA because we wanted to know that Godsmack can still hold an audience without any tricks.

For the most part, we like to put on a show and we like to add theatrics to it. We were raised on Judas Priest, Rush, Metallica and we like to put on a big show for the audience and make sure they get their moneys worth. It’s not always necessarily the pyro; it’s also not the first f*cked up show we’ve had and I’m sure it won’t be the last. When you’re doing hundreds a show a year, not every single show will be perfect; it’s just the nature of the beast.

Q: You just released “1000hp” and are headlining Uproar Festival. You’ve been on the other big U.S. rock and metal festivals like Mayhem and Rock on the Range, along with 3 previous number one consecutive debut albums. What’s kept you and your band alive and going so strong over 20 years?

A: It’s the music; that’s why we do this. There is a reason why when we rehearsed back in the day in garages with little bands and playing nightclubs. There is a certain warmth you get when you create something from inside of you in your living room and then perform it to a live audience and people are being affected by it emotionally.

There’s a real special connection between the artist and the music and the music and the fans. That’s the reward. For all the hard work we do and being away from our family and friends and traveling on planes and buses and battered hotel beds and whatever else we do to torture ourselves. The reward is stepping on stage every night and watching 17,000 people sing your songs; it’s a special moment.

Q: How would you describe your target audience in 2014? Has it changed since you formed in 1995?

A: I’m not sure; we’re still learning that as we go along. We certainly have diehards that have been with us the whole way. But every night I ask how many people have never been to a Godsmack show and thousands of hands go up. I’d like to think that we are continuously recruiting new fans as well.

I think there is a great mixture of younger and older audiences. The fans that were in there 20s and 30s when they were seeing us in the beginning are now in their 40s and 50s and have children of their own that are teenagers and in their 20s.

Q: Four years isn’t forever, but it’s a decent gap in between releasing new material. Especially with a band of your magnitude that has reached a lot of mainstream rock success for so many years. What’s been going on with Godsmack the past four years up until the release of “1000hp?”

A: We took a break, and it was crucial to do that. We needed time off after 14 years of touring and we were exhausted.

There was some discussion on if we wanted to continue as a band and we had a lot of internal problems with management and record labels. We had to flush this stuff all out. We were just spinning out wheels and not continuing to grow and do the things we were hoping to accomplish. The band was consistently out there performing and there was a group of people around us that were getting lazy and comfortable. We had to fix that. After so many years with a set company, you just have to flush it out and sometimes change it up to revive everything. That’s what we did after we took some time off.

I did a solo record and the band did a side project. We were all aware that we have a very important brand that we have to protect too.

Once we got back together, we started writing some new music and asked how it felt. We took some time and realized when we were writing that the band still has a great amount of chemistry left.

Once everyone fixed their internal problems financially and with everything else, we decided to work again. Here we are with a great new record and we’re ready to hit it. We’re going to do it until our bodies can’t anymore. The band is in a great place. Everyone is healthy and has a great state of mind. We’re going to grind out some albums back-to-back and see how we feel after that.

Q: I’m always interested to hear how bands describe the changes of what has developed from record to record. Maybe they feel more clear-cut for you compared to how the listener perceives the distinctions or similarities.What is at the soul of this release for you and the band?

A: It’s a combination of things; the band was off during the break and they were doing some writing, and I was off on my own doing some writing. We had a batch of songs.

It wasn’t until we got together to write songs collectively that we started producing the songs like “1000hp” and “Something Different.” Because the band was writing separately, there were a lot of different influences that came out on this record. Songs like “1000hp,” “Something Different” and “FML” have more of a punk feel to it. Songs like “What’s Next” and “Locked and Loaded” are quintessential Godsmack songs that serve the core audience. There are also songs like “Generation Day” and “Nothing Comes Easy” that are a little more epic and the artistic songs of the record.

I think people will really enjoy this record because it’s full of a lot of textures and colors and variety of inspiration. For some reason, they all work together and it’s a good Godsmack record – powerful with everlasting integrity.

Q: Scores of bands that have hit huge success have had multiple exceptional experiences throughout their music careers, but does having a day named after you in your home city stand above the rest?

A: Yeah! It was a great day. The mayor is a young guy and is a fan from when we were in our 20s. It was nice to have someone follow the band and be in a place of power where you can actually do something and acknowledge the decades of work we’ve put behind Boston; we’ve held the flag for Massachusetts. It was a very proud moment for us. We got a proclamation and it was announced August 6th is “Godsmack Day” in Boston.

Q: Godsmack’s had plenty of trips around the world and must’ve experienced elaborate and horrid travel experiences. You might have gone through more horrible experiences when you were just starting as a band. What’s one of the worst touring experiences that you can remember? Snag any bed bugs at a hotel?

A: Man there’s so many years behind the band. We’ve been on so many broken planes and buses and f*cked up hotel rooms, it just becomes one big blur after awhile and you become immune to it when it happens and think “another day on the road.”

One of the worst experiences we had was at the beginning stages of Godsmack when we were affected the most. Now, we’re kind of seasoned in whatever happens.

The worst was with our first tour bus in 1998 and our first driver we found out was a former Nascar driver; he had never driven a rock band around. We had never been on a tour bus either.

I remember we had a 15-hour drive for our first gig from where they picked us up at home, and there was nothing on the bus; it wasn’t stocked with anything.

Half way through the drive, we wanted to get something to eat. The driver said no, that we had to continue driving and was taking down plenty of coffee himself. We continued to tell him we were hungry. We drove even longer and he finally pulled over at a truck stop, so we all went in and grabbed a bunch of sandwiches and food because that’s how we thought this process went; you don’t stop.

As we were running back to the bus, he told us we couldn’t go on it with a bunch of food; we couldn’t eat on the bus and insisted on it. We sat outside and ate on the curb eating our burgers and finally called our manager to ask, “is this how it’s supposed to go?” He was an extreme. He was yelling at us. I was thinking, “this can’t be right, you’re not supposed to eat on a tour bus? Why is there a refrigerator on there then?” And our manager was like “who told you that?” The driver was so redneck and dropped the n-word left and right like “n*gger this” and “n*gger that.” I was like “wow, this is crazy.”

By the time we got to the gig, he was pretty much removed from the equation and we got a new driver. That was probably the most uncomfortable we’ve ever been on our own tour when we were told we couldn’t touch, eat or use anything. I guess he was unaware of the rules, but it seems like common sense when there is a dinner table, a microwave and a refrigerator that people eat on a tour bus. He wanted to get the drive over with and didn’t want to stop.

Maybe he thought he was going to have to clean up or that we were going to trash the place. That was an interesting experience and a wake up call for us.

Q: Are you and the rest of the band members working on any other projects or another solo album, or plan to after Uproar wraps up?

A: I’m always working. I’m always writing music and then I’ll just identify where it’s going to go. I have a bunch of solo stuff that I’ll probably record when this is done. We’ll also continue to chip away at songs for the next Godsmack album and see where that goes. It’s premature to say right now.

We do have more tour dates set after Uproar is finished, and that’s a continuation of what this festival is. We’ll continue to hit some more of the states and go into Canada. We’ll break at the beginning of October. We always look forward to the southern California shows though; you can’t beat the weather!

Tickets for Uproar Festival’s stop in Irvine can be purchased at http://www.rockstaruproar.com/, along with more information about Godsmack and the other bands performing at the festival.

To read the article on OC Weekly’s website, click HERE.

Mattice is a music journalist for the OC Weekly and Metal Insider. She can be reached at rmattice125@gmail.com or on Twitter @RachaelM_OC.

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