Shannon Larkin

How I Got The Godsmack Gig

It only seems like Shannon Larkin has been in a ton of bands. In fact, the fierce new smacker of dark metal leaders Godsmack has really only officially been in three other groups throughout his career. The difference is that this tough, quietly influential drummer always sticks with his band mates until the bitter end, no matter what it takes.

“Every band I’ve been in is tattooed on my body somewhere, and I truly believed it would be the band that got huge,” Larkin says, lighting up a cigarette inside the New York headquarters of Universal Records. “I don’t jump around from band to band. As a kid, you want to make it with your band, and you have to become a family. When you’re on tour, you’re on a very small bus and you see these people just like you’d see your brother and sister around the house. So am I a journeyman? No. Am I a lifer? Yes.”

Before he got the choice gig to join Godsmack and play on their aggressive album, Faceless, Larkin traveled a long road that was often as frustrating as it was rewarding. Reared in a loving West Virginia family that actually thought music was more interesting than TV, he first started serious touring at age 16 with his father’s blessing. “He said, ’You get a ’B’ or higher on your GED, I’ll let you drop out and pursue your life’s dream,’” Larkin recalls. “My band, Wrathchild America, ended up going to California and back. It took us six years, but we got signed to Atlantic in 1989 and put out two records. We were thrash metal, but the record didn’t sell, and we got dropped.”

Larkin would soon become familiar with the feeling. Soon after that, he met Ugly Kid Joe vocalist Whitfield Crane, who sold Larkin on both the band and its home base of Santa Barbara, California. “We did a record for Polygram (Menace To Sobriety) and got dropped,” he says. “Then we did another record for a label in London that gave us $1,000,000 for one record, and a month later the label folded. We said, ’What good is it to have money in our pockets? The trick is to keep playing.’ So we broke up. I was in a town where I didn’t know anyone and bandless, but I was close to L.A. One thing drummers are blessed with is that bands are always looking for drummers. If you’re a drummer, you can basically get a gig.”

Hard work in the L.A. scene eventually got him into the metal act Amen, which put out a record on Roadrunner only to be ignored by the label. A lawsuit got them out of the deal and onto Virgin, where surely everything would turn out hunky-dory. “We toured the world and made a great record called We Have Come Yor Your Parents, with the most aggressive drums I’ve ever played,” says Larkin. “Then, alas, we got dropped.”

Bloodied and bowed, Larkin decided in 2002 that he was done with the music business – for two weeks. That’s when the phone rang, and Godsmack’s fearsome singer Sully was on the other end with a great question. “He said, ’I want you to play drums for Godsmack. Can you learn some songs?’” Larkin says. “I said, ’Is your drummer still in the band?’ and he said, ’Yeah, Tommy [Stewart] is still in the band.’ I said, ’Just call me when you’re serious.’ He called two days later and said, ’We fired Tommy. Is that serious enough?’”

Finally in the fold of a band with momentum (including Grammy nominations for the song “I Stand Alone”), Larkin joined Godsmack to write and record Faceless with producer David Bottrill. Sneak previews to the album revealed explosive drum performances by Larkin that take what’s expected of a studio recording and turns it up a couple of notches. “I treat recording just like I’m walking onstage,” Larkin explains. “I stretch out, get psyched, and pace back and forth. Then I put the headphones on, tie a piece of cloth on my head, and pretend I’m in front of 20,000 people. I’ll toss my sticks, do everything in the studio I’d do onstage. Bottrill said that when I did the first song, he stopped twiddling the knobs and just watched me. He’s never done that with a drummer, but he said it was very easy to capture the energy from the drums on tape.”

Although Faceless sees him pulling off tons of lightning-fast fills, Larkin protests that showing off is not the point. “Most of the grip is between my first finger and thumb. I use the three fingers as a lever, kind of, which isn’t good for power, but doing fast rolls you can’t do power anyway,” he says. “You really have to think about the song, and what the fill will do for the song. John Bonham is known for his slow groove fills, but he could go fast if he wanted to, like on ’Song Remains the Same.’ In a punk band like Amen, I would do lots of fast snare work, whereas in Godsmack I’m fitting the heaviness of the band with something more tribal, less straight. Plus, having Sully there, who’s an awesome drummer himself, makes me want to stop and do something tasteful.”

While Shannon Larkin claims that allegiance to his bands is his top priority, his ultimate loyalties actually lay with the drums themselves, and the unique high that they can bring. “Anything physical that’s strenuous – which drumming is – makes you feel stronger. If you play drums for an hour and you’re sweat-soaked from head to toe, really breathing deep, really letting it out: You feel strong, man. It’s power, and you’re beating the hell out of something that wants to be beat. Anyone will tell you that if you throw a glass and it breaks, or if you just fired off 50 rounds, afterwards you feel like you’ve just screamed. All you’ve got to do is play the drums.”

For more information about Shannon Larkin, check out these articles on DRUMmagazine.com:

How To Play Shannon Larkin’s Drum Part From Godsmack’s “Speak”
The Rebirth Of Shannon Larkin