“Music touches people on an emotional level” – Interview with Sully Erna from Godsmack

We had the chance to talk to Sully Erna from Godsmack, who said several interesting things about his film career, his childhood, and his musicianship.

We really liked the album When Legends Rise from last year, even though it has to be said that it is a bit different from the Godsmack sound we are used to. There are some other bands that are trying out new styles, is this true for you as well?

We are just growing as people and as a band, and we feel it is important to continue to write the kind of music that we enjoy, and that there is some kind of evolution to the growth of the band. Because if we write the same record all the time it just feels like there is nothing special about that. So we want to continue to try to surprise people and give them something fresh that sounds news to them.

You are having a pretty intense career that is full of achievements, (e.g. you had many nominations on different music awards, you wrote soundtracks for movies, opened the stage before Metallica…) but what do you consider as your biggest achievement? And what makes you the most proud?

I think I am the proudest of the band being able to stay together for more than 20 years and finding peace and balance within the band because that is a very hard thing to achieve when you are four different guys from four different parts of the world. When you are stuck together as a band, there is a lot of obstacles to try to get over, a lot of challenges on the way. We were able to face those complicated times and get through them and not break up. I think that is the thing I’m the most proud of.

How is it possible to keep a band together for 25 years? Do you maintain a friendship?

Yes, we are friends, we are like brothers. We really care about each other, we stay in touch with each other. We get together, we tour, we do your job and we enjoy what we do, so there is a real business here, but there is also a real family. We also take pride in our road crew, because they are people that have been with us for a very long time, and we consider them family as well. These are all things that are very important to us.

Were you disappointed that you didn’t actually win a Grammy?

Well, yes, it was at that the time, because you get excited about it, you go there… It would be nice to know that you’re recognized by the industry for all the hard work you put into it. But even just getting nominated is an accomplishment for us. Especially now, that the Grammies have taken away some of the hard rock categories. We hope that they will put those back in, because there has been a lot of great music over the years that is historical and iconic, from AC/DC, to Led Zeppelin, to Aerosmith, all these bands that are considered hard rock bands, we feel it is unfair that the Grammy picks and chooses categories in music that should be, when an organization that services all genres of music. So if you are going to be an organization as the Grammies are known for, then you should honor all types of music. Music touches people on an emotional level, in all kinds of ways it is not necessarily just pop music or country music. In the end we don’t write music and we don’t tour and do what we do to win awards, we do it because we love it and we do it because it is a part of who we are, and we really enjoy recording and performing live. That is really why we do it.

During the noughties your music was one of the most popular in the genre. Was there any concept which was intentional and led you to the top? Or you just made music that you want and you love? Was it just luck that modern rock and nu metal had their golden age that time?

We come from a city that was a very difficult city to have a childhood in. Because of the surroundings was so rough and so tough and challenging, I think it is part of the reason why that kind of music, that hard, rock’n’roll kind of music was so attractive to me. It felt like it was an outlet for me to vent all my emotions, to be able to get through the hard times. There was a certain energy about it that was aggressive and edgy, and it was very similar to the surroundings we grew up in. I don’t think it surprises me that the kind of music we wrote when we started writing for this band, or even the stuff that I listened to and played with other bands before Godsmack was similar to that hard rock genre. We were just always writing what we enjoyed. As the years went on, there were new bands that came along, they were influential. Like Alice in Chains, Tool, Nine Inch Nails, Soundgarden, those kinds of things were all the kinds of bands we listened to when we were in our twenties. There is a combination of all kinds of influences in our music from the early days when we were listening to Led Zeppelin and Aerosmith to the days when we were listening to Judas Priest, Alice in Chains and those kinds of bands. I think our first album was just really an experiment of just collecting a bunch of songs that we enjoyed writing at that time. The other half of it, like you said, is just luck – being in the right place at the right time has a lot to do with it. There is a lot of talented people in this world that are never discovered because luck plays a big role in being successful.

Speaking about the 25th anniversary, what are your future plans?

1995 is when we put the band together, but we didn’t sign a deal until 1998. So the official 25th year of the band putting out records on a global level would be 2023. 2020 would be 25 years since we formed the band. I don’t know which one we are supposed to celebrate. Do we celebrate the day we put the band together or do we celebrate the day that we got signed? (laughs) I would think, personally, amongst us four we may do something in 2020, go out and have some dinner maybe just as the band and a couple of key crew members. But I don’t think we will do a 25th anniversary for the public until we celebrate 25 years of the public having Godsmack, which was 1998.

Did you dream of becoming this big and having the band for this long when you started?

No, I don’t think anyone could ever predict it was going to go this far. You just do what you do and you have fun, and every year that are still here, you just become very grateful for it. But I don’t think anyone of us could say when we started the band that we would be around 25 years later.

Almost two decades ago you wrote a soundtrack to the movie Scorpion king and then it also became a soundtrack for a Prince of Persia game. Do you still get similar requests or would you like to get them?

We love doing movie soundtracks and if we get more opportunities, of course we would do it. It is just a matter of when the right opportunity comes up. We had great success with that, and if we have another opportunity to do it, then we’ll do it!

Do you play video games yourself?

I don’t. I don’t have time! (laughs) I’m very busy.

Do you like being busy?

Well, yes, it is better than being bored. I enjoy being busy more than I enjoy being bored. So I try to stay busy.

You postponed a tour after Tony Rombola’s son died.  I wonder how hard is it to promise the fans that one day you all will be okay enough to continue playing shows, when such a personal tragedy happens…

Of course, it affected all of us, because we are like family and we knew his son very well. He was an amazing, amazing person. Ultimately this was Tony’s decision and he needed time to heal, he needed time to be with his family. I don’t think it was ever said in our conversation that him or his wife thought that we are never going to able to finish doing what we do and touring for the fans. I have a lot of respect for him for being able to deal what we had to deal with and still be able to keep the band in mind and honor all these dates and the tours we have to do.

You mentioned a rough childhood, do you want to disclose more about that?

As I said I was raised in a very challenging city that was loaded with crime, violence, gangs, and drugs. My dad left at a very young age and my mom got divorced, I was kind of raised myself to become whatever I thought a definition of a man was. It was difficult back in those days, but it also showed me a lot and taught me how to be strong and survive tough situations. I don’t have any regrets, I certainly can’t say that my childhood was easy and happy.

You had some minor and major cast in movies, but one of them that stands out, is your role in a Bulgarian movie called “Benzin”, how did this come?

The star of the movie, Assen Blatechki, happened to be a fan and we met and we liked each other. He wanted me to play a small part at the end. I don’t know, I just did it, it was fun, it was short, but it was fine.

You have a solo project which covers a more lyrical music comparing it to Godsmack’s. What is the background of making this project?  How does the songwriting process differ within the two styles?

It is very different. Godsmack has a formula that we use because we are based on hard rock music. The solo band has pretty much the freedom to do anything I want. I can explore jazz, blues, world music, it doesn’t really matter, that is just something I have permission to do whatever I want.

How different is the experience to perform these?

It is completely different. Godsmack is a highly energetic show and the solo stuff is more about the musicianship. It is two different animals.

If you have a gig with your solo project, is the audience mostly made of Godsmack fans, or a completely different set of people?

The two different band share audiences but there is a whole different kind of audience to come to the solo band than Godsmack. It is two different kinds of music, but there is a lot of people that enjoy both, who are fans of both bands.

Are there some familiar faces you see on shows over and over?

We see the same people sometimes, but see a lot of new people every day, too.

You are a multi instrumentalist. What would you be today if you weren’t a rock musician? Do you think you would still play one of these instruments or do something completely different?

I really don’t know the answer to that, I have no idea. You’re talking about decades and decades after – who knows what I would be doing.

You started playing music at the age of 3, who started you on this path, who gave you the first instrument?

My parents did. My father was a musician and he always had bands that rehearsed in the basement, so I was first introduced to music through him. We just always had music in our house.

You participate in charity yourself such as the program after the Haiti earthquake, buti n the whole of the metal scene we cannot really hear of many charity programs. Why do you think this is so, and can you imagine something ont he bigger scale, more metal bands giving charity shows or doing fundraisers?

I guess I can imagine it, but that is up to somebody else to put it together.

Around two thousand and seven you participated in professional poker. Do you still play or now it is just a hobby?

I play every once in a while, but not as much.

Why did you stop?

I didn’t quit, I’m just busy. (laughs)

What can the fans expect of the show in March?

They can always expect a very high energy show with Godsmack, we have a lot of fun on stage and we always bring a lot of energy and power. It is a really fun show, I think people are going to have a great time, even if you didn’t know our music. You could always bring someone to see Godsmack and they usually have a great time, because the show is very interactive with the audience. I think they are going to really enjoy this and we’re looking forward to coming there.

Are you looking forward to being in Hungary?

Of course, we love every country, they are all fun! Anything that is new is fun for us, so we are looking forward to it.

Thank you!


Made by: Vica

Thanks to Universal Music!

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