Shannon Larkin drummer of Godsmack
Pics and interview by Mark Schierholz
M: How did you manage through Covid?
S: We had put out this When Legends Rise record and it was our first record in four years. For whatever reason, it went into the commercial rock world and it was a success at radio. All of a sudden we had four number one hits in a row. The end of 2018 to the end of 2019, out of those 12 months we had 3 months off and not all at once. It was hectic but we were out there selling and having the best tour ever. So we worked our asses off for a year and 3 months and sold a lot of records. So by the time we got back and 2020 came, we were done. We were ready to stop. And then all of a sudden, agents called and had Metallica playing all these festivals, and we could go right before them, and so of course we said, “Okay, we’re not done yet.” Because we love Metallica. So that was an opportunity we were going to take and we booked all of these festivals and then Covid hit and all of the festivals got canceled. So Sully was like, “Man, fuck this shit. Let’s take this year off. Be safe, be home and write music.” And so that’s what we did, we took the rest of 2020 off and just sat home. Since I was 15, I professionally started touring and I’m 54 years old, and that was the first time that a year went by and I didn’t play a show or tour. It was craziness. I ended up adapting, I didn’t go crazy, the band now is laying low and writing music. We have new songs, that’s about all I can say. We try not to be political about it, it’s a virus. I knew this dude named Shannon who was a friend, one of the first people I met when I moved to Florida, and Covid killed him when the variant hit. I never met anyone who actually got it until then. I understand and I feel it could have been dealt with a different way and the way they’re still dealing with it. I don’t think mandates are the answer.
M: Could you talk about your album?
S: I do this band, The Apocalypse Blues Revival and it’s because Godsmack is the brain child of Sully. He picked all of us and he has a vision of what he wants the art to be like, sequencing, he produces the records, he directs the videos. He is a creative ball of energy and it’s his thing. He has that kind of energy and so do I. I give myself in Godsmack because I play all the drums. Before I was in a band, Sully ended up having to play most of the drums. We play stylistically the same. If I come up with a beat, 99% of the time that’s what he would have played. I can eject my fills and how I stick the drums and how hard I hit the cymbal or how dynamic I do a breakdown. This is how my elbow swings when I’m hitting the hihat to make a pulsing sound. That’s how I add myself. But the vision and the songs are him and he made that clear. He was a fan of my first band Rat Child. I love to write lyrics and I’ve always been a lyricist. I always had side projects and it was always a different genre. It’s not work to me, it’s play to me. I’m the most blessed human on the planet. We would do 5 days a week in Godsmack, January through April this year, then we took a break. Tony Rombola is the Apocalypse band too, And I’d be like, “you coming by on the weekends and we can write some Apocalypse songs?” and he’s like “We just did 5 days a week doing Godsmack.” He didn’t want to work on the weekends. I don’t look at it like work. I just want to come over and smoke pot and write songs and to me that’s fun and relaxing. I’m different like that.
M: Does having a lead singer/drummer in the same band work good?
S: I had never been in a band where the singer could play drums or where anyone questioned what I was doing behind the kit. Sully looked at me like the king. We met in 1986 or 1987 when his band opened for my band Rat Child. It was a cover band called Lex Luthor where he was the drummer. I knew Sully for 20 years before I joined Godsmack. Whenever my band hit Boston, I’d always call Sully to come out. He would take me to his house and do my laundry. We were friends. Reed Mullin was with Sully the first time I met him. When Lex Luthor broke up and he moved back to Boston, through Wrathchild I got a call and they asked if I knew any drummers. There was a band called Maliah Rage and they’re in Boston, they just signed a deal with Epic. So I said “I do know an awesome drummer.” And Sully got the gig. All the years later, I didn’t make it and Sully called me about Godsmack. They sold 20,000 records and he was talking about the deals with the record labels and asked me to come join the band. I was in a punk band called Amen in Los Angeles. I told Sully “I’m loyal to my band, been with them for 6 months.” Amen came out and sold 10,000 copies and Godsmack sold 5 million. I thought maybe it just wasn’t in the cards for me to ever make it in this business. I did some more records with Amen and 4 years passed and then I quit the band and 2 weeks later I got a call from Sully asking if I still wanted in. I could have been the drummer for the first two records but I stayed loyal to this punk band I was in. I’m proud of that. Sully and I are so much alike. There’s never an issue and the only issues in the past were because of alcohol or drinking at practices but I haven’t touched alcohol in over 5 years now.
M: What’s new now?
S: I just did this thing I’d like people to know about, Rick Allen, the legendary drummer from Def Leppard, just inspirational in so many ways, he’s doing the Raven Drum Foundation. His wife runs it with him. They reached out to me. Rick wanted me to be one of the 12 drummers drumming along with other drummers and donate a piece for this Christmas Auction for the Veterans. I said yes and I picked out this badass tom drum that has my name on it and it’s black with red sparkle flames. It was in my bedroom because I use all my old drum sets as furniture so there’s drums in all rooms of my house. They’re going to auction off the 12 items. I got the email and I was blown away and honored. It turns out Leppard had played with us and saw the double drum and thought it was rad and remembered it. So I do the video and take the pictures. I told my story of why I wanted to help the veterans and showed the drum on the video. The next day I got an email that the video was fantastic and they said Rick wanted to call me and thank me personally. I was 12 years old when I bought “All Through the Night”. It was a pretty big moment for a drummer to meet an inspirational idol like that, and he was super nice and I ended up going on a Modern Drummer podcast with him the next morning to help promote this. So if anyone hears this, the Raven Drum foundation is rad and the other drummers, Chad Smith, Joey Kramer, Tris from Chicago, Hamson brother, Matt Sorum, and some other guys.
M: My friend John Ollis from Biggy Drums and I are building a drum for you, we can auction it off for your causes.
S: That’s fantastic! How about for The Scars Foundation and veterans! Oh man, we can call around and get a guitar too!
M: Oh, magic words, I got a guitar, we will do both.
S: At Scars Foundation, we’ve raised lots of money, we can get lots of huge musicians on board with this!
M: Did Sully buy you a car?
S: Yes, my 64 Impala. It’s been in the shop. I was living in California and in a band called Ugly Kid Joe and I had been in the band Rat Child all my life since I started playing drums and I met this guy named Derek Carter and we were in Rat Child. We got dropped from Atlantic Records and I met Phil Krane who sang for Ugly Kid Joe and they had sold 5 million records with their giant hit. They were a big band. I went to Ugly Kid Joe right after Rat Child broke up. And he was like “What do you want to join the band? We want you to come out here.” I said, “a 64 Impala and an apartment.” And so they did. I had this 64 Impala for 10 years. When Sully called and I realized I had to move to the East Coast to be in Godsmack, I sold the Impala. I told Sully I was bummed out but I can’t afford it. It was a money pit but a hobby car. You have to be able to afford to have a car like that. Years later, I had gone through being an alcoholic so I quit drinking. No one thought I would actually stay sober and be happy and thrive. Sully felt so proud that he bought me a 64 Impala. I almost cried. He had cameras there, he surprised me, my daughter and my best friend John ? came. I looked in my driveway and here comes this 64 Impala with my best friend and daughter in it. Sully said, “Look man, I’m so proud of you.” It was just a moment. Since he gave me that car, I went ahead and put a new engine in it. Now it’s badass inside and out. Now that’s some rockstar shit! I’m eternally grateful to him for so many things and not just materialistic things like that car. By the time I quit Amen, the reason I quit the band was because it was a real punk rock band and I had just had my daughter. I was married and living in a one bedroom apartment in Santa Barbara and in Amen we never stopped touring because we had to make money and I was making between $30,000 and $40,000 a year. I was going to retire from music, by that time I had made 28 or 29 records, played with Black Sabbath and Ozzy, I had done everything except make money. My mom was a beautician and had a shop in our basement. I watched her get paid to make people happy. I said I’d be a rock and roll beautician. I went as far to call Sharron Osbornne and I said, “You think Ozzy would let me cut his hair if I open this shop in Hollywood?” and she says yeah. I know a lot of dudes who are famous rockstars who are friends with mine that I’d known for 20 years who wouldn’t let me cut their hair and take a picture of it and put it up in my shop. 2 weeks later, Sully called me, so if that’s not destiny then I don’t know what is.
M: What’s your favorite song to play?
S: I really like to play “Straight out of Line” that’s my favorite beat I’ve ever written. It’s always fun playing the new stuff like the first song of Legends Rise, we opened up with it and that song is just fun to play because it’s real tribal sounding and a heavy part and a groovy part and a side stick in the verse and it’s just a cool song to play on the drums.
M: You’re an animated drummer, very fun to watch!
S: When I started in the 70s, all the drummers I loved, even John Bonham, weren’t headbangers. And then I got really into AC/DC and I was like, “I want to be Angus Young on the drums.” I specifically said that at a young age. Keith Moon and Ginger Baker were animated, there were a couple of them. There’s an old saying that drummers should be heard and not seen, but I’m an entertainer, not just a drummer. Ironically, I broke my collarbone and this was in 1978 or 1979 and they put this hard cast around my torso to where my arm was pinned to my body and my wrist stuck out at my nipple, so I asked the doctor if I could play the drums and he said yeah. I raised my snare super high and put my hi-hat super low and put my left hand over my right hand. For 4 weeks I had to wear that thing, for 4 weeks I played drums with this hard cast around my torso while my collarbone healed and my left hand over my right. When I got the thing off, I had gotten so used to playing with my left hand over my right hand. I adjusted my hi-hat back up and my snare back down but after a roll I would still put my right hand under my left hand so I had to lean down so I didn’t hit my right arm with my left stick. I’m playing with my band in the garage, I’d hit the first note with the right hand and the second note with the left hand and the snare with the right, and then the right hand under and cross the left hand that is now on top to the hi-hat when you hit the snare drum. And now the right hand crosses to the right over to the hi-hat and my left hand is back to normal under my right arm. That simple move, which sounds much more complex spoken out loud, when I would cross from right to left, top to bottom over my right and left arms, it made a look and I was like “That looks cool.” My guys in the band Rat Child said it looked cool. So I started swinging my arms while doing that and that’s how the whole thing started. Sully started naming moves like the Swimmer? and all these different grooves I could hit. Roth Robinson? claimed when I did the Swimmer which is basically right on the one, left on the two, right on the one and left on the two on the crash and then on the opposite it’s the snare. It’s almost like a boxer hitting a punching bag. I do it at least once every show at some point, I don’t plan it out and do it the same every show but I do all my tricks when I feel like it. That all came from having a broken collarbone.