Godsmack’s Shannon Larkin on the Band’s Final Album, Touring Outlook, and More
All images courtesy of BMG Music/Rise Records/Image credit: Kamal Asar
For fans of Godsmack, news of a new record usually comes with excitement for a slate of new music. But this time, the word of Godsmack’s latest record, Lighting Up the Sky, came with the announcement that this new record would be Godsmack’s last.
For Shannon Larkin, Lighting Up the Sky is the veteran drummer’s sixth record with the Massachusetts metal outfit. But if you’re thinking that Larkin is lamenting the band’s end as a studio entity, you’d be sadly mistaken.
“We made this decision together, as a band,” Larkin insists. “Once we knew this record would be the last one, things freed up. The atmosphere in the studio was unlike anything we’ve ever experienced before, and for that reason – and many others – I honestly feel that this album is the band of Godsmack’s career. There’s no sadness here, just a ton of pride for what we’ve accomplished and excited for what’s next.”
Since entering the Godsmack fold in 2022, Larkin has brought the thunder for Sully Erna’s brainchild. A steady timekeeper and bringing of earth-shattering rain, Larkin elevated the music of Godsmack through his innate ability to play for the song while simultaneously adding intricate fills and skull-crushing flourishes.
“My approach has never changed,” Larkin muses. “Sully asked me to be in this band because he liked what I brought to the table. But he also has a vision and felt my style fit in with that. I wouldn’t be here if I weren’t a fit for what Godsmack stood for and still stands for. It’s funny, though; even though this is our last record, I’ve never felt more creative or invigorated as a drummer. The prospect of getting out there for quick runs to Europe or the US and doing a month of touring, bringing the fans the best of our songs, excites me most as the drummer for Godsmack.”
The word around the Godsmack camp is that the band is not breaking up. That choosing to end its time as a recording outfit is aimed at keeping Godsmack alive. Time will tell if that proves accurate, but for now, at least, fans of the nearly 28 years strong outfit have new music and an upcoming tour to relish.
“I know that the idea of not making records anymore confuses some people,” Larkin says. “But the truth is that it’s not easy being a recording artist. Fans can love a band, and people outside of the band can love what you do, but they will never understand the rigors of making a record and then having to support it.”
“But we’re not complaining; we love what we do and appreciate all we have,” Larkin continues. “But we’ve recognized that it’s time to bow out from that part of the business, with the idea that Godsmack will then be able to continue. We didn’t want to break up. This is us staying together, which is what we always wanted to do.”
As he prepares to face the unknown, Shannon Larkin dialed in with Metal Sucks to recount the origins of Lighting Up the Sky, the decision to cease recording new music, Godsmack’s future outlook on touring, and his thoughts on the rumors of an upcoming farewell tour.
Give me the origins of Godsmack’s new record, Lighting Up the Sky.
We started writing back in 2019 and 2020 while we were on tour, and then, of course, the pandemic hit, which stopped everything. But that time apart gave us some time to start coming up with ideas individually, and when we finally came back together in 2021, we could start working on it. But after all that sickness and tragedy, man, that had a huge impact on this record. And when we got together again, I could tell those themes were there. Plus, Sully [Erna] had gone through his tragedy, heartache, and heartbreak through some betrayal in his love life, which definitely bled into his songwriting, too.
There were some stops and starts from there, right?
Yeah, after writing probably 12 or 13 songs, Sully was like, “Man, I’m going away. Have a nice summer,” and he split and went home back to the Boston area. He had to deal with his personal life and all that was going on, so we took the summer off. And sure enough, once Sully returned, he was fully loaded with great material for this new record. It was such inspiring stuff that we scrapped all, but I think three of the songs from the initial three months of writing together. But man, when I tell you that Sully came back fully loaded, I do mean it. He was full of all this piss and vinegar, which manifested in some incredible songs.
How did the sessions develop from there?
After that, I have to say that making this record was pretty magical, fun, and easy for us to do. We got into a zone where we just started knocking these out, and before we knew it, we had 11 songs that we felt extremely good about. It was terrific; there was no drama, and probably the most fun record we’d ever done. Because we’ve always been a live band, we love playing live, so making records for us has always been more of a hardship. We love doing it, and the creative part is awesome, but the real reward for making records is getting out there and playing the songs live.
But with this record, everything started falling into place, and there was all this badass enthusiasm. Everybody was on the same page about the direction of the new songs, and I think that shows up across the album. The result is that this record ended up being like a love letter to our entire career. We weren’t trying to sound like an old version of Godsmack or reinvent the wheel. This record has songs that sound like every era of Godsmack, and that’s what I love most. You can be in a band for a lifetime and never make a record like this, so we’re very thankful and super proud to have it happen the way it did.
Godsmack seems to be firing on all cylinders. With that in mind, why is Lighting Up the Sky being tabbed as Godsmack’s final studio record?
Well, I think a lot of the good vibes surrounding this are because it’s the final one. But it’s not like we’re breaking up; we’re just not making studio albums anymore. And with that, people are asking, “Why not make records anymore?” Well, there are a ton of reasons why. We’re four different dudes, and we all agree on this for various reasons. But the big elephant in the room is age, you know? I’m 55, and sure, there are a lot of guys out there who are older than me, but how much longer can we expect to be able to make records the same way we did 20 or 25 years ago?
Honestly, man, we never wanted to be that band that did too much for too long. I guess it’s a matter of us being the guys who used to look at older bands and be like, “Wow. Look at those old dudes,” Now, we are suddenly becoming the old dudes. [Laughs]. But don’t get me wrong, I’ve got nothing but respect for bands like Judas Priest and Iron Maiden; they’re out there killing it. But we had to take a step back and have enough respect and love for each other to say when enough is enough with albums.
Considering age is a factor, how much longer does Godsmack hope to continue performing live?
Well, here’s the thing, age is a factor, but there’s more to this as well. We’ve always had a lot of respect for bands that never broke up. We never wanted to be a band that broke up; we wanted to keep going. So, a lot of this is removing ourselves from the machine, which will keep Godsmack from breaking up. We want to keep going and keep performing, but the stress of releasing records and being in this endless cycle will wear you out. If we keep making records, we’ll always have to worry about selling product to recoup costs, answering to a record label, and all of that. So, we just wanted to extract ourselves from that, stay together, and continue giving fans the live music they love.
Do you feel like you’re potentially leaving anything on the table?
No, I don’t think so. We honestly feel like we’ve achieved the plateau we all set out to do when we were kids wanting to be in a band. In terms of new music, after this record, where else is there to go, really? We got into this business to be rock stars, or whatever you call us, and we achieved that. So now, we want to be the band that stayed together and kept playing our music for as long as possible.
There have been so many bands that have done this, like Aerosmith or KISS, for example. Those bands don’t make new music because they reached a point where there was no longer any reason to. They reached the top of the mountain and went out from a studio perspective how they wanted to. And now they put on killer live shows. We’ve got a huge catalog, and we want to lean into that rather than trying to stay in the ray race.
I’ll give another example: take AC/DC, who are still making new music. I saw them on the Black Ice Tour, and while those songs were awesome, the truth is that when they played the new songs, I went to grab a drink and use the bathroom. They blew me away with “Hells Bells” and “Highway to Hell,” but the new stuff was my opportunity to take a break. That’s not to take away from those songs, but the truth is that your fans don’t care as much about the new music when you reach a certain level as a band. So, that’s just one of the many reasons why we feel it’s time to focus on our back catalog.
I’m sure it’s hard to believe, but 2022 marks the 20th anniversary of your joining Godsmack. What were your expectations as you entered the fold?
I tried not to have expectations, but it’s been a wild ride, dude. When I came on, it was because Sully didn’t want to be playing drums anymore in the studio. He wanted to move on from the drums and only be the singer and continue that way. A lot of people don’t know that Sully played all the drums on Godsmack’s first couple of records before I joined.
Not to take anything away from Tommy Stewart, he’s a great drummer, but for whatever reason, Sully played all of the drums on the first album [Godsmack] and about 95% of the drums on the second one [Awake]. And the reason was that while Tommy’s a great drummer, he plays way differently than Sully, and the vision of the band and the drums were always Sully’s. So, when I came on, Sully knew I would be able to fulfill that because we have very similar styles.
What’s funny is when Godsmack started in ’95, Sully called me and wanted me to come and join, but I was in another band at the time, and we had a record deal. So, I had to tell him, “Sully, I’m sorry, but I can’t. We’ve got this record done, and we’ve got shows to play. I can’t leave the guys.” But then, in 2002, I was free, Sully asked again, and I joined. So, my coming in to play drums freed Sully up to focus on other things that are more important, like the vocals and the riffs. It gave him the time to focus, and for whatever reason, Faceless was Godsmack’s first No.1 record, which I’m very proud of.
As Godsmack moves forward, is there any sadness over the decision to stop creating new music, or are you at peace with it?
We’re at peace with it. People outside the music business tend not to fully understand pressures and how creation is rewarded with expectations. Because once you’ve created a record, a tremendous amount of work goes into promoting the product you’re selling. And with that, you start to drift farther away from the actual magic of creating music in a room with three or four other dudes, you know? And, like I said, our reward has always been about getting out there and playing live.
I don’t know; maybe some bands are like, “Oh, that’s my favorite part, man. I love going into the studio and making the records,” but for us, it’s never been our favorite part. People don’t realize how hard it is to go through these promotion cycles. You spend years doing it, and you’re away from everything. You get to a place where things keep spinning, and you genuinely have to reintroduce yourself to your wife and kids.
So, stepping away from some of the madness that comes with being in a big band gives you enough time to reconnect with the earth, your roots, and the foundation of who you are. So, we feel this will keep us from burning out over the long haul. There’s no sadness or bad feelings. We’re as together as ever, and we can’t wait to get out there, play some shows, and let the fans hear this record. I honestly feel this is the best record we’ve ever done, and I couldn’t imagine going out on a better note from a studio perspective.
What are you most excited about as you move forward, Shannon?
Through the years, man, we’ve had our ups and downs as a band for sure. And it’s all the cliches you hear; it’s always money, ego, drugs, and alcohol, for sure. I’ve been sober for six and a half years and had my issues, so I own my part in that stuff. But the beautiful part of making a final record and not breaking up is that we feel it’s the perfect timing. We’re each going to continue doing creative things in studios around the world, making music without pressure and expectations.
I’m excited to make some music again with my friends outside of this and do some new things. And for our families and friends, this is huge because we have beaten the hell out of ourselves over the years. So, to be entering an era with no expectations, no labels, no managers, and all that, is freeing. But don’t get me wrong, we’ve had a great career in Godsmack, we’re not complaining, and we’re not quitting. But we feel like we’ve made records that we’re proud of and will stand the test of time.
We’ll never be the band in the studio or on the stage going through the motions, and doing this will keep us on a passionate path. So, to anyone who thinks this is a cash grab, you’re mistaken. When we wrapped up the record, we tore down the studio we had built. And that was emotional because it was the end of something but also the beginning of something new.
You’ve said that Godsmack doesn’t intend to break up, but some fans are speculating that there is a farewell tour in the works after this album cycle, is there any truth to that?
No, that’s not happening. Man, we’re gonna tour the hell out of this record. And then take a year off, and we’ll go from there. But we’re gonna play again somewhere, someday; I can’t say when or where, but this isn’t the end. And when the day comes that Godsmack is done, I can promise you that it’s not gonna be some big announcement cash grab where we say, “Hey, it’s final tour. Come pay $600 to see Godsmack because we’ll never tour again.”
I can promise that we’re never going to do that crap. We won’t ever do that because it’s an insult to the band and our fans. So, we’ll never say never about playing again or touring again. But I can say this: when we do it, it’ll be on our terms, and we won’t have a product to sell along with it. As far as what we call “cycle touring” and making full-length records, we’ve won, and we’re done. We’re at peace with it and couldn’t be happier to close the book on making albums.