In writing and recording their third album, Faceless, Godsmack opted to leave their New England digs for Miami. “We took a year off, and everyone at home got used to us hanging around,” says Boston-bred singer Sully Erna. “Friends and family were becoming distractions. Your mother, girlfriends, wives, whatever, they just don’t get it if you have to work late. So we just said, ‘We need to get the fuck out of here.”‘ The Florida sun may seem like a strange inspiration for the brooding metal of Godsmack, but it worked: Faceless sold more than 250,000 copies in its first week of release and debuted at Number One. “We’re returning to our roots,” Erna says. “Big riffs and big solos. I think that rock is making a U-turn right now and coming back.”
When did you fall in love with rock & roll?
When I was fourteen I bought Aerosmith’s Live Bootleg, and inside the record there’s a collage of pictures. One of them changed my life. It’s Joe Perry. He’s standing on a stadium stage or something — it’s kind of a small picture — but he’s holding up this guitar, and his hair’s in his face, and he just looked so fuckin’ cool. I remember going, “That’s what I wanna do!” And they were from Boston. I remember thinking, “Wow, these guys walked these streets and played these clubs.” That’s when I grew my hair out and started smoking pot.
What was your first song called?
“Eat the Sky.” Godsmack was originally called the Scam, and we had a six-song demo. One song was rock, one was kinda funky with horns, one was a ballad — it was all over the place. “Eat the Sky” was heavy with stop-and-go riffs — it had that Godsmack stamp. We’d play people the demo, and they’d all say we should do more of that shit. So that’s what got us writing more aggressively.
Why isn’t it on a Godsmack record?
It wasn’t very good, and I was fuckin’ terrible. The first time we recorded a demo, I was in the vocal booth and I look over and see [bassist] Robbie [Merrill] shaking his head. He walked out of the studio. He was disgusted.
You were on tour for five years. Do you remember the worst moment out there?
Every time I went through New Orleans I’d get really depressed. One time at the House of Blues there, I had this panic attack. My fingertips started sweating, and it felt like I was having a heart attack. I couldn’t do the show. They had to shuttle me out in the van. Once I got out of the city limits, I was fine.
What’s the darkest song ever?
“Black Sabbath,” by Black Sabbath. I remember being in my basement when I was thirteen. I had this little black-light room, and I scared the shit out of myself listening to that song.
What’s the best music to have on before, during and after sex?
OK, to warm up I’ll go with Dead Can Dance’s Into the Labyrinth. It’s the kind of stuff that makes you wanna sip wine and burn incense and start feeling bodies. You know, rubbing and grinding, that kind of thing. During, I’d have to go with Jane’s Addiction’s Nothing’s Shocking. It’s just aggressive enough where you can get freaky, but it’s not like Pantera, where you’re just a jackhammer. Afterwards, I think I would have to go with Frank Sinatra. With the old robe and the pipe in the mouth.
You have a baby; what music do you play her?
She listens to Godsmack.
Oh, yeah, she loves it. When Jen was pregnant, the whole time she would put the headphones on her belly and play “Voodoo” over and over again. Our daughter’s one and a half now; her name’s Skyler. Every time Godsmack comes on, she goes, “Dada, dada.” She gets really girly, too, because Jen will put on Justin Timberlake and she’ll start dancing. I’m like, “Nooo. Don’t like that!”
What do you think are the most over-hyped bands in America?
Creed [laughs]. And there was a scare for a minute when it looked like the White Stripes, the Hives and the Vines were all gonna come through. Some people hate opera or country, and for me it’s that shit. That White Stripes song. [Sings “Fell in Love With a Girl”] Oh, my God! I wanna throw myself in front of a bus.
What music would people be surprised to know that you like?
I love certain hip-hop acts, like Nelly. And I have a lot of respect for Eminem. Alicia Keys, she’s fucking amazing. I love Christina Aguilera. I really do. I don’t wanna poke the girl — ahem, Fred Durst — or anything, but her talent is amazing. She’s like a little Whitney Houston, ya know?
So why does her image have to be so skanky?
You say that like it’s a bad thing.