In an interview with Mistress Carrie of the Boston radio station WAAF, Sully Erna of GODSMACK opened up about the recent passing of Neil Peart and the profound impact the legendary RUSH drummer had on his musical upbringing.
Sully said (hear audio below): "Growing up, I will say that [Neil] was probably the single most influential musician in my life. If it wasn't him and and John Bonham [LED ZEPPELIN] — and Shannon Larkin [GODSMACK], by the way — that's my 'big three' [of drum influences]… Honestly, [Peart's] technique, his hands, his amazing rhythms is really what kind of tuned me up to become the drummer I became. Between Bonham and Neil Peart, those were the guys."
Over the years, Erna got the "surreal" opportunity to meet Neil multiple times and become "friends" with him. "The song 'Serenity' [from GODSMACK's 2003 album 'Faceless'], most people might not even know, was about [Neil's] book 'Ghost Rider: [Travels On The Healing Road]' that came out in 2002, about his life," Sully said. "And that's when I first got to meet him. And since then, I became really good friends with his assistant and we've always kept in touch. I think we may have one of the last on-camera interviews with Neil, recently, when he agreed to do an interview for the director of this feature documentary we're doing on my life story. He sat down in his whole drumming warehouse place and talked about me and Shannon's playing and our drum solo and how impressed he was with the whole thing. And then soon after that, I heard he had gotten sick."
According to Erna, he knew about Peart's battle with brain cancer "for a while," but was "asked, out of respect for Neil and the privacy he liked to live in, to just not say anything. But I knew, when they were ending the RUSH tour, that he was sick," Sully claimed. "And then I knew it, even up to a year ago or so, he was in a wheelchair and he couldn't speak. And it was just becoming more and more sad to me. And then I got the call a few days ago [letting me know about his death]. And they weren't supposed to release [an official statement about it] till [Friday], they told me, so I just chose to honor that request and keep my mouth shut.
"When I got the call, man, it was like a big part of my life ended there too, because he was a tremendous influence [to me]," Erna added. "I can't even articulate how much this guy meant to me and how big of an inspiration he was and an influence on me being a musician. He was one of the 'everything' people in my life."
Erna told The Pulse Of Radio a while back that meeting the RUSH drummer was a highlight of his 20 years as a recording artist. "Being able to meet Neil Peart a couple of times, I didn't need to meet anyone else after that," he said. "As much as I love the Steven Tylers and the Joe Perrys and the James Hetfields, you know, I quit school because of RUSH. Really, that's all I did is I studied RUSH, you know. I sat home and strapped on headphones and played 'Moving Pictures' and 'Exit… Stage Left' and 'Signals' and all these great albums."
In 2018, Erna told Classic Rock magazine that RUSH's "Moving Pictures" was one of several albums that changed his life.
GODSMACK is continuing to tour in support of its latest album, "When Legends Rise", which was released in April 2018. The disc follows up 2014's "1000hp" and is the band's first release through BMG after splitting with its longtime home, Republic/Universal.