Mary Ouellette of They Will Rock You recently conducted an interview with GODSMACK frontman Sully Erna. A couple of excerpts from the chat follow below.
They Will Rock You: Your solo album has been many years in the making. How did you decide that now was the time? You embarked on a solo tour a few summers ago and I think that's the time that a lot of us started getting our hopes up about a possible solo album. Did that ignite the fire or were you planning on doing a solo album before that?
Erna: That's a good question because it was a little bit of both. Throughout the years I had already written some songs while out on tour, hanging around in the dressing room and noodling around on guitar or just sitting at home on my piano. Sometimes when you're messing around like that you end up with some cool songs and music you want to keep but not songs that would necessarily be good for GODSMACK. I would just tuck them away and over the last six or seven years I've collected a handful of songs like that that I knew I would one day record but probably not with the band. And then we took that break and I went out and did that solo tour. It really did inspire me to think that I had this spare time on my hands and songs I had been wanting to record. The more I thought about it, the more I considered what I wanted the sound to be like and the direction I wanted it to go. At that point it was very vague but I knew I wanted to do something that was tribal, with all hand drumming, acoustic with exotic instruments.
They Will Rock You: You brought together a really amazingly talented group of musicians to work with you on this. How did the players sort of fall into place for this project?
Erna: One day it just dawned on me that I knew this great girl back in New Hampshire named Lisa Guyer who's a really phenomenal singer. I called her up and said, "Hey let's get together. I have an idea I'd like to talk to you about." So she was aboard and I had taken her to see the band DEAD CAN DANCE at the Boston Orpheum and it turned out that one of the lead percussion players, Niall Gregory, was a fan of GODSMACK so we went backstage and said hi. We hit it off and he said that if we were ever looking for a percussionist to get in touch and that's where it all started snowballing. Lisa introduced me to a few more people and I brought Niall in and we found a really great cello player from Bulgaria, and the whole thing just fell into place. We got together and that's really when we started nailing down the different sounds and the different influences that they all brought in and creating this record. It was really great because I have a rock background, others had a blues background, Niall is from Ireland and he brings a lot of different drumming influences from Brazilian to African. It's kind of like the universe dropped all these special people in my lap to complete this and now we look at it and I'm just so proud of it. It's been the best thing I've ever done so far and I really mean that. I absolutely love the record and I'm so excited to play the songs live.
They Will Rock You: You've put yourself in a really vulnerable position with these songs. Are you worried that the GODSMACK fans won't accept it?
Erna: I didn't fear it as much as I wondered if they would embrace it but I can tell you that so far the reviews have been phenomenal and I'm really excited about it. They're using the exact words that I was hoping they would — that I was hoping the music would translate to — like epic and exotic and eclectic and intellectual. I really appreciate that because that's what this album is to me. It's very hypnotic and mystical , I want people to enjoy this experience because really it's a musical journey. It's unlike the tough and raw powerful in your face sound of GODSMACK. This is powerful in a different way and it takes you on a ride and is very pictorial. When you listen to the record you can paint the pictures in your mind. I think if it does well it could turn into something theatrical like "Tommy" or "The Wall" was. Not that I'm comparing myself to PINK FLOYD but just the experience side of it.
They Will Rock You: So for music fans who might hear that you're doing a solo album and expect it to be GODSMACK part two, what would you want to say to them?
Erna: It's real simple, I've told people not to expect this to be a rock record. It's not Sully trying to do a solo record as a rock band. This is a very distinct departure from GODSMACK and it has nothing to do with that. It's the other side of me and a whole different style of music that I really enjoy playing and writing that is completely separate from GODSMACK. It's one of those things that I want people to open their minds up and give it a chance and just experience it for what it is but don't expect it to be this big loud rock record because it's definitely not that. It's a record built of really beautiful melodies and great compositions with piano work and cellos and flutes, it's a whole different animal. It's something you want to put on when you're chilling out at home — light some incense, put it on, and enjoy it.
They Will Rock You: Have your band mates in GODSMACK heard the album? I'm wondering what their thoughts are on it?
Erna: They've heard some of it, not the whole thing. They're totally supportive. I think they're a little nervous and hoping that it doesn't get too big but they have nothing to worry about. I love my band and some of the best memories of my life are with them and its two totally different things that don't compete with each other. It's not like I'm out there releasing a rock record with Dave Navarro that would compete with what I do with GODSMACK, this is completely different. It has a modern edge to it and I think most GODSMACK fans will embrace it and help spread the word, and of course there will be some haters too. I just hope people get it, that's what I'm concerned about. This album is so important to me and I'm so vulnerable on this record and I really dumped it out. It's taken me a very long time to complete it — years of writing and a year of recording. It's my masterpiece. It might not be a masterpiece to the rest of the world but it's mine and I just want people to enjoy it.
Read the entire interview from They Will Rock You.