Rock stars and rappers love partying at strip clubs — no surprise there, Captain Obvious. Even so, it seems fairly rare that a veteran rock drummer like Shannon Larkin of Godsmack could vividly recall strip-club escapades from two decades ago. And yet …
“Ah, that crazy strip-club era,” Larkin recalls of the time that he and the band spent renting a home in Miami to write their 2003 album “Faceless.” “One night we started the party somewhere else at the house or at the studio or wherever. By the time we get to the club — remember, in Miami, they’re open 24-7 — it’s like four in the morning and our security guard ‘DC’ is literally carrying me over his shoulder. Thankfully we knew the bouncer since we’d been there a few times already. The bouncer was like, ‘Oh man, your drummer doesn’t look so hot.’ I remember Sully (Erna, Godsmack’s lead singer and guitarist) saying to the guy, ‘Oh he’s just a little sloppy tonight. He’ll be alright.’ And they let us in. A lot of people have stories about being carried out of the strip, but I got carried in.”
It’s hard to believe, but Larkin, Sully and the rest of Godsmack (including bassist Robbie Merrill and lead guitarist Tony Rombola) are nearing the 25th anniversary of their self-titled debut album. The band will mark that occasion with the release of a brand-new, full-length studio album, “Lighting Up the Sky,” and its first single, “Surrender,” which is available for all adult club DJs via Bob Chiappardi and StripJointsMusic.com.
In conjunction with ExoticDancer.com, Ilan Fong and Danny Meyers of PANDA and the “What’s Hot in the Strip Clubs” podcast interviewed Larkin on the new song and album, whether or not rock is actually “dead,” and more memorable strip-club mischief!
ED: What inspires the band now musically compared to when it first started? Uh, and then they mentioned you’ve been in the band since 2002.
LARKIN: Sully has always been inspired by true life. Every song is pretty much about what he’s going through in his life. And that’s from “Keep Away” all the way up to the new song “Surrender.” Real-life experience is what inspires him to write the lyrics, and we just get together as four guys and try and make cool jams.
“The bouncer was like, ‘Oh man, your drummer doesn’t look so hot.’ I remember Sully (Erna, Godsmack’s lead singer and guitarist) saying to the guy, ‘Oh he’s just a little sloppy tonight. He’ll be alright.’ And they let us in. A lot of people have stories about being carried out of the strip, but I got carried in.” – Shannon Larkin
ED: Godsmack is set to release a brand-new, full-length album. But does the band believe that full-length albums are still the standard, or as have some suggested, will it be more about singles or EPs in the future?
LARKIN: Well, the unfortunate truth is that it is about singles and EPs now. Godsmack still makes full-length records, at least this final one (note: Sully Erna has suggested that this will be the last full-length studio album from Godsmack) is made to be played as a body of work in which you experience valleys and you experience peaks. And it should be a rollercoaster ride of a record. You know, my favorite records are albums like Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon.” You put it on and you wanna hear the whole thing, man.
ED: Aside from your time in Godsmack (note: Larkin joined Godsmack in 2002), what are some of your favorite memories of your times in bands like Amen, Candlebox, Ugly Kid Joe, Wrathchild America/Souls At Zero, etc. Obviously, there’s a big difference between playing clubs and arenas and you’ve done both throughout your career.
LARKIN: I am so grateful and appreciative to each band and each path that my career has taken because each one I felt has been necessary for my humility and just the way I wanna walk around and present myself as a drummer and as a human, as a father, you know, as a musician. You know what I mean? So every memory that I have is positive, even the negative ones, if that makes sense.
ED: What initially inspired you to be a musician, and specifically, why did you gravitate toward the drums?
LARKIN: My initial music inspiration was probably in about 1975 and it was Kiss. But I didn’t hear Kiss and wanna be a drummer. When I dressed up for Halloween I was (former Kiss lead guitarist) Ace Frehley. But what happened was, my older sister would hear me jamming music in my room and she came in one day and said, “You know, your music is weak. Listen to this — and she gave me Rush’s “Hemispheres.” When my young brain heard “Hemispheres,” I’m like, oh my God, listen to the drums! I wasn’t thinking, I wanna do that, I was just intrigued by what that man (Rush drummer, the late Neil Peart) was playing. I didn’t even know he wrote the lyrics, I just knew that that was something that caught my ear. And I still have that record by the way. I wore that red record out. And then I remember I went back to my sister and I said, you know you’re right, my music’s weak, this is the best thing I’ve ever heard — what else have you got? So she handed me Led Zeppelin II. And when I heard the drums on that (the late Led Zep drummer John Bonham) forget it, I was like, that’s it. I went to my parents and asked for my Christmas present to be a drum set. So when people ask about influences, and it’s probably the most repeated answer to that question, but it would have to be Neil Peart and John Bonham.
“You can move your butt to it! It’s got a funky beat and you can funk out to it. And I tell you what, from the very start when we heard this riff and we started playing it, it’s got a super-high-energy to it, you know, it definitely gets you going right away, you know what I mean?” – Shannon Larkin of the track “Surrender”
ED: Speaking of Kiss, we keep hearing from guys like Gene Simmons that rock is dead. That’s not true, right?
LARKIN: I do not believe rock is dead. But I do feel that rock, particularly hard rock and thrash metal, are a young person’s music. My record collection has every Venom, Sodom, Slayer, Metallica, Motorhead, Judas Priest album, you name it. I still have all my vinyl and that’s awesome. Some of it, particularly the black metal stuff, isn’t as … nice on my ears anymore. And like when I listen to Morbid Angel, I can still hear the beauty and the violence in it, but it doesn’t warm my heart and make me want to go kill like it used to (laughs). You know what I mean? That’s why when people say that Godsmack records aren’t as heavy as used to be, well guess what? We’re not angry young dudes full of piss and vinegar anymore, you know?
ED: StripJointsMusic.com is promoting the song “Surrender” to adult nightclub DJs across the US. Why should DJs add this track to their playlist?
LARKIN: Well, because you can move your butt to it! It’s got a funky beat and you can funk out to it. And I tell you what, from the very start when we heard this riff and we started playing it, it’s got a super-high-energy to it, you know, it definitely gets you going right away, you know what I mean? My verse beat is kind of eclectic, but as far as the breakdown, it’s got a nice breakdown for them to shake two. I think it’d be a great track in any club.
ED: We heard a great strip club story from you earlier in the interview, but you have to have at least one more good one from your time in Miami, right?
LARKIN: In fact I do! I’ve been sober for a long time, but I used to not be so sober. So one night Sully and I were in a strip club totally trashed. And we see Stone Gossard. And he plays in a little band called Pearl Jam, right? Yeah, he does (note: Gossard is the rhythm guitarist and a founding member of Pearl Jam). So here’s this dude and he’s a legend to us and to everybody. He should be, he’s Stone Gossard. I was really sloppy again that night. So the next day I remember it’s noon, and we’re waking up to go to the studio to write again. And Sully is making coffee and his cell phone rings and I hear him pick it up and go, “Hello?” And he’s hungover and he’s got the dark cloud around him and he’s like (yelling), “Hello?! Stone who?” And I immediately went, “Stone! Stone Gossard!” And then Sully says, “Oh hi Stone. My drummer? Oh he’s still alive, he’s fine.” The great Stone Gossard was calling to ask if I was okay.
I have one more for you from our time in Miami. So at the end of another night at the strip club, we end up parked in the driveway of our rental house. Sully had this giant Ford F150, basically, a monster truck where you gotta grab a hold of a handle to pull yourself up. When we got back to the house we were listening to Led Zeppelin, and we were sitting there watching the sunrise in the truck. For some reason one of the Zeppelin songs came on and I just went, “Ahhh!” and I punched his windshield. And just like that, I spiderwebbed the windshield of his truck. My hand didn’t have a mark on it, yet I smashed his windshield. That’s something I’ll never forget!
For more information, visit StripJointsMusic.com.