Gus Griesinger of Glam-Metal.com recently conducted an interview with GODSMACK frontman Sully Erna. A couple of excerpts from the chat follow.
Glam-Metal.com: You are doing a mini solo tour and have already done a couple of eastern cities including the first one that was in Niagara Falls. Can you tell us how you think the shows are going so far?
Sully: Well, there are two answers to that question. First, it was extremely nerve-wracking. It wasn't like I was planning on doing something like this. I was just sitting around after taking a break after a long 10-year tour with GODSMACK. I just wanted some time off, but, of course, being an artist, you want to work and you start getting antsy. I didn't quite want to do the big stages just yet. From just sitting around, playing, and writing a lot, sometimes songs just happen that aren't necessarily right for GODSMACK, but I feel are still good songs. With the releasing of my book, I felt it all just came together. This was a real good opportunity to go out and work a more intimate show. I can play some GODSMACK stuff, I can play some originals, mix in a couple covers, and talk about my life and how I was raised. Also, what these songs meant to me when I wrote them, you know that kind of stuff, information that I don't usually allow people into. I added a really powerful video component to it and open the mike up to the audience. I had the whole thing planned out but the one thing you can't plan out is what the audience is going to do. There are some things you have to rehearse but it's also an audience participation thing. It's kind of you just have to get out there at some point no matter how much you rehearse and do it. My first show, I was really, really nervous. Honestly, I haven't been that nervous since I was, I don't know, maybe 10 years old at a talent show or something.
Glam-Metal.com: The fans who are attending your shows are seeing more of a diversity by incorporating all kinds of styles of music from THE BEATLES to METALLICA to the love theme from the movie "Love Story". How did you go about selecting the material used for the show?
Sully: Well, again, sitting around I just noodle around on the acoustic and write some material. At first I was like; let's see how many GODSMACK songs I can pull off acoustically by myself that will translate well with just a vocal and a guitar. That's where the selection started. Then I added stuff from the acoustic record that obviously would work very well. The song "Hollow" off GODSMACK "IV" that was just done with an acoustic and a mandolin. I knew that one would translate well. Still, there wasn't enough material that I felt that you can throw a whole show in. I was short a couple of things. Instead of completely trying to stuff in every single GODSMACK song, I wanted to make it fun for the people too. I wanted to stick a couple of originals in and try them out because there was a couple of songs that were done on the piano or the guitar that I wrote that I don't think I would use on a GODSMACK record. For example, "Eyes of a Child" and "Until Then". It was a great opportunity to showcase that and see if I can hit home with the people on those two pieces. Those songs are the most emotional pieces of the evening. One song is about children born with or dying from AIDS and the other is about a tribute to the troops of the United States Armed Forces. I also really wanted to mix in a couple of covers that I like and enjoy playing. When I picked "Nutshell" [ALICE IN CHAINS], I was thinking what kind of video content I was going to use with it, since "Nutshell" was one of my favorite acoustical songs and by somebody I really admire (referring to Layne Staley). I started thinking and how sad it was how he went out. Then, I started thinking how sad it was for all these different people what they did to themselves or got dealt a bad hand in life. The Dimebag thing was just tragic. It made me pay tribute and homage to all the greats that left us with that kind of music. Then, of course, "Nothing Else Matters" [METALLICA] was just a perfect song to demonstrate the vibrations that music is based off of. That was a story I simply got from my book from just doing writing and conversation. I just stumbled onto that whole theory. The way that "Nothing Else Matters" is played is an open tuning kind of intro. It really allows you to pluck the strings without fretting the chords. It represents the frequencies of the vibrations we discussed during the show. Some of it kind of just fell in my lap and it was just a coincidence it worked out that way. Other stuff was just planned out that way. For the most part, nothing is scripted during the show. Every night it is a little bit different and it really is about the audience and the temperature of the room and how everyone is feeling.
Glam-Metal.com: Recently in the news and being from Boston I don't know if you heard that it was reported that Steven Tyler checked into a California-based rehab facility. During your solo show, you touched upon the subject of substance abuse and how it changed your life. Could you elaborate on that?
Sully: Well, there is a certain part of success that you can't wear as the industry takes you over. You don't fight it because you worked so hard your whole life to get there and when you get there, your trained to believe that is part of the routine... like work, work, work. You have this ridiculous schedule that allows you to do 7 or 9 shows in a row before you get a day off. You do that for so many years, you start to turn to other substances that keep you awake and keep you alive. Well, you may think they keep you alive (laughs.) You have to mask the pain and the fatigue and you have to get up there and perform. The old saying, "The show must go on," that may be from the 1920s or 1930s and they knew what they were talking about then. They were cabaret people and they were going seven nights a week with no days off. A lot of them turn to drugs and alcohol and things like that because you have to push through. You peek out of the curtains and there is 10,000 people staring at the curtain waiting for you to go on and you feel like absolute shit that day and what do you do? You have a drink to relax or do something to snap out of your mood because you have to put on a performance and you have to get into that state of mind. Because of that, sometimes that is the alternative solution, to keep drinking or whatever it is that you do to put you in that zone. After years of that, the buzz changes and what used to wake you up and put you in that great mood, kind of turns on you after a while and puts you in a depression. You go through some intense pain and a lot of isolation. That is the worst thing to feel when you're depressed and alone on the road having to perform every night. It's a Catch 22 situation. People want to cheer when you mention the word beer or pot or drugs or whatever. At the same time, they don't understand how intense it gets for some people who lose control of that when they try to just please the audience and do the right thing for the show. After a while I learned to say no. If I'm sick or something is going on with me that day, then the show will get rescheduled instead of me trying to muscle through it. For the most part I do and it's very rare that I would have to cancel by the way.
Read the entire interview at Glam-Metal.com.