VerdamMnis conducted an interview with GODSMACK’s drummer, Shannon Larkin shortly after the band’s highly acclaimed performance at Hellfest (Clisson, FR). We used this opportunity to talk to him about performing at festivals, the project — a cause that GODSMACK members are firmly committed to — supported by the new single « What’s Next ? » from last year’s « 1000hp » album and more.
Hi Shannon ! What are your impressions of today’s show ?
Shannon : This show was FANTASTIC ! We didn’t expect to gather so many people together in front of us at 4 o’clock in the afternoon. The crowd was amazing, very energetic and enthusiastic. It actually made us get the goose-pumps and made the hair of our arms and back of our heads rise, seriously. Hellfest audience was absolutely incredible ! I hope you enjoyed it as much as we did.
I did. GODSMACK was one the bands I was most looking forward to seeing. When you play at festivals, how do you manage to stand-out among other bands, especially among big names ?
Shannon : All we can do is play our music the best as we can and enjoy it. Enjoyment is always catching and so is energy. We try to be as energetic as we can be. The key to make a lasting impression is to enjoy yourself on stage and try to play as perfect as you can. We don’t use any click track, any tape. Everything you hear is live, everything comes from the stage. There’s no fake stuff at all so we put 100 pourcent to offer something as perfect as it can be. This is how we like doing it ! You can only stand-out among others if you like what you do and put love and passion into your work. You know, every song is a feeling. The lyrics and the music come from our hearts. If you get that feeling across the crowd, they will brace it. People always feel the energy and give it back to you. Performing is all about communicating the emotion of a song. It’s all about communication with the audience. It’s about getting the energy across it in the most genuine way. Today we felt the energy coming back – from the crowd to us. Hellfest was really amazing !
It was. Do you have any ritual before coming on stage ?
Shannon : Not really. We do have habits though. Sully drinks some whiskey. Robbie drinks a glass of tequila. Tony doesn’t drink, he’d rather stay completely focused. I drink a beer and strecht my muscles. We usually sit around, look at each other in the eyes and say something like : « Let’s give ’em hell and play as best as we can ! » (smiles). But there’s no real ritual. We’re getting old, we’re in our fourties, so we stretch a lot (laughs). Other than that, we drink a little bit to loosen up.
How is it different as a musician to play at festivals compared to headlining shows ?
Shannon : There’s no difference at all — as far as our playing and mindset go. As a drummer, I accentuate my moves so the big giant crowd — from the sides to the back — can see. So if I usually raise up my arm to 4 inches in the air, I raise it to 6 inches at festivals. I’m just conscious that I have to make my moves bigger but other than that, there’s no difference.
You created a special online donation page for people to donate and receive a free download of the band’s new single, ‘What’s Next ?’ from last year’s ‘1000hp’ album. Can you tell us more about it ?
Shannon : Yes, sure. We send our troops over to messed-up countries like Afghanistan and Irak to help them and prevent the dangerous fanaticals bombing and attacking us. We send our people in order to hold those radicals back, in order to protect us — for one month, two months or even a year. When they come back, they’re messed-up. It’s called PTSD, post-traumatic stress disorder. These people who have developed this psychiatric disorder have stress reactions that don’t go away on their own, they may even get worse over time. They often re-live the atrocious crimes they experienced through nightmares and flashbacks, they have difficulty to sleep and feel detached. These symptoms can be severe enough and last long enough to significantly impair the person’s daily life. When they come back, they are destroyed. They are suddenly put back to a normal life, working at the gas station or wherever they were used to working before. These soldiors, these fighters and warriors don’t know what’s next in their lives. They end up being lost, some of them end up living on the streets. They go crazy. It’s not really of a physical thing, it’s more of a mental thing. This organization helps them with coping and dealing through psychiatric help. Help them get back to a normal life after being in a war zone. We send our people, our friends and families out there to protect us, to contain a problem that has no easy answers, no apparent solution. We — the band — have always felt blessed, especially since 9-11. We are so grateful to be able to make a living out of music, out of our passion. We travel the world, we see beautiful places, we meet amazing people… This way of life is a real blessing. Helping the veterans in return is the very least we can do for them. It’s really important to help people as much as we can. It’s in our power to help, then why wouldn’t we ? Every donation helps support the troops. You can make a difference, please support the project.
How did you get interested in raising awareness for the needs of military veterans ?
Shannon : We’ve done various programs over the years to help our troops. I don’t know how it all started — exactly. We’ve always been interested in helping military veterans for as long as I can remember. We come from Boston, Massachusetts, so we’re all very patriotic in the way that we love our country and the freedom we enjoy compared to other countries. We were raised Americans, though everyone in America is an immigrant. Sully and Tony are Italian-Americans, Robbie and I are Irish-Americans. But we feel united, Americans feel united. What we love so much about our country is freedom. As for us, America is synonymous with freedom. We can do whatever makes us happy as long as we hurt nobody. We are very lucky that we were born in America, just like you are lucky that you were born in France. Freedom should never be taken for granted. We are free to say what is on our mind. If you want to say « fuck the president », then you can say « fuck the president », no one will threat to kill you. We take these things for granted, but they aren’t for sure. We are free to vote and make our voices be heard. Education is available to both genders. Never take for granted that you can walk down the street every day freely. Whatever freedoms you have, never forget how we got them in the first place. Freedom is fragile, everyone should cherish it.
Why did you choose the song ‘What’s Next ?’ to support this project ?
Shannon : We thought that this song represented the story. It’s about the only things that are certain — life and death — but what’s next has always been the big mystery. For these brave people who put their lives on the line every day for us to allow us to live freely and fearlessly in the country of freedom, they don’t know what’s next when they get back home. They need our help. The chorus goes like this : « death, life, what’s next? ». Those words are meaningful for them. When Sully sings them, we always think of our troops over there. We try to put ourselves in their shoes, to see things from their perspectives, and what comes out of it is that we would feel probably lost, we would think « OK, what’s next ? What do I do now ? What am I supposed to become ? ». That feeling must be even more terrible for those who come back wounded and injured. In these societies, they’re pretty much put out of the game. For those who went to Iraq, Syria and other Middle East fucked-up places right after highschool graduation — they were only kids… What is there for them now ? What’s next at that point ?
It’s a great project to promote. Thank you for your time. It was a real pleasure to talk to you. I have to go as I have another interview scheduled, but before leaving you, I have one more question to ask you : Will we get to see you again soon in France, we never see you guys around here ?
Shannon : Thank you very much for having me. And, YES ! You’ll get to see us again, definitely. We’ll be back for sure. GODSMACK will play in France, I promise you guys (takes my hand). It will be around next year. Now, don’t be late , go go ! See you soon.