Posted April, 2012
Metal fans across the fruited plains are amped up over the recent announcement by Staind, Godsmack and Halestorm that they have joined forces for a tour labeled Mass Chaos 2012. In the spirit of the band’s constant efforts to stay close to their legions of fans, the name of the tour is the result of the bands engaging the help those fans.
As the intensity of interest in the tour increased in the fan and press communities, there came with it an overwhelming number of interview requests with various members of the bands. So much so that there management couldn’t possibly accommodate them all individually. With the Solomon-like wisdom, they set up a conference call between various members of the rock journalist community and Mike Mushok of Staind (see the earlier Boomerocity interview with Mike here), Sully Erna of Godsmack and Lzzy Hale of Halestorm.
Because I like to think of myself as a gentleman, I’ll share with you the questions that were asked of the always beautiful Lzzy Hale. Though she has the least seniority when it comes to the music business, she is quite comfortable with handling boneheaded journalists like me. I was quite impressed with the ease in which she handled the questioning.
For instance, Ms. Hale was asked what is a girl to do with a male dominated band and yet another tour dominated by males.
“What's a girl to do? Well, I kind of have a different view of all of that than I think many of my female counterparts. I freaking love being a girl on an all guy bill! It's an honor to be on a bill like this. I mean, it's great. You feel like a little sister in rock almost. You've got these big brothers around you. You learn a helluva lot and you stick out like a sore thumb. I love it! I think I've always taken the positive route when it comes to being a lone woman on a tour dominated by dudes.”
When asked if she was star-struck while in the company of the choir boys from Staind and Godsmack, Lzzy was quite the skilled diplomat.
“You know, there definitely has been the occasion. I am a girl after all and being surrounded by such handsome men on nearly a daily basis, it's a great position to be in! Ha! Anyway, it's great, man. I mean, to think, I think that, again, you learn so much from all these people and the fact that both of these guys, Staind and Godsmack, have had such huge careers and have such experience on the road.
“I think that to me I'm really looking forward to just watching and listening, and just being completely put in my place, because it seems like every time I think, ‘Well, you know what? I've got this. I'm the boss.’ And then you play a tour like this and you're like, ‘Man, I've got to practice.’
“So, I am star struck. I’m amazed every night at what there is to learn from these great bands. I've also had the amazing privilege to open for some of my classic idol such as Megadeth, Black Sabbath with Dio, Alice Cooper. And they definitely leave me speechless. I'm going to be talking with Pat Benatar soon, too. It's like, ‘Man, what do I say to these people?’ Mike and I go way back, and today, I'm talkin’ to Sully on the phone! Ha! Hopefully, he likes me in person.”
Last year Halestorm released a CD of covers entitled ReAniMate and the question was asked if Lzzy planned on the band performing anything from the album during Mass Chaos.
“ As far as our cover EP, ReAniMate, goes . . . we loved running the gamut and covering Beatles, Skid Row, Guns and Roses, Temple of the Dog, and Heart to Lady Gaga. They all had reasons for being chosen. The Beatles cover was the first song that the guys in my band and I ever jammed to, just to kind of feel each other out when we first met. And the Heart one was my go-to karaoke song.
“We used to crash some karaoke bars every now and then. Now I don't voluntarily, but my guys will sometimes volunteer me and I'm like, ‘Really, guys?’ So, it was the deal, that if I did the song on the EP, they won’t make me do it twenty times at karaoke! Ha! Ha! But coming on this tour, we're probably not. We might throw in one or two depending on the show, but considering the new album is dropping, we're going to be playing most of our new stuff!”
While Lzzy was on the subject of Halestorm’s upcoming CD, Strange Case of (landing on May 1st), a few questions were thrown at her about it – starting with finding out what aspects of the new release Ms. Hale is most excited about.
“Everything! I'm so proud of this record. I mean, when we made our first record, it's our first record so we weren't really sure what we were doing and we weren't sure who would grab on to it and who we were actually going to be singing to. So, with this record, we had just a better concept of our fans and a lot of what we did was inspired by them and the feeling that we got during our live shows.
“Also, the music is bridging the gap between what we do live and what we can do in the studio. This was lost on our last record, so for the people that are geeks about this stuff, we recorded drums to two inch tape and we hashed out most of the stuff - just the four of us sitting in a room as a band. So, it's a nice step up from the last record! There more energy and also more intimacy. You're going to be hearing and tasting a lot of different sides of Halestorm on this record. I'm excited about what people are gonna think!”
Word is around that the first song written for Strange was the tune Love Bites. The question was asked if that song set the tone for the new record.
“Well, yes, Love Bites, our newest single, yes that was the first song that we wrote and the first song that we recorded for the new record. That particular song was directly inspired by the cover Slave to the Grind by Skid Row that we put out a couple months ago. When we recorded it we discovered that, wow, we can actually do a song at this tempo. We should write one like this. So, we ended recording Love Bites (So Do I).
“You have to realize that we literally got off tour, had 24 hours to pack, and then got on a plane to L.A., were in the studio the next day recording this song. We got to record drums for it at Sunset Sound in the Van Halen room! It sounds amazing, but I don't know, it definitely set the tone for the record because we were barely off tour. The amps were still ringing in our ears. So, there's a lot of energy that we captured while we were still kind of in that tour mode.
“So, really that one and then the first eight songs that we recorded to be considered for the record were very aggressive and probably the most aggressive that we've ever done and they're very risk heavy and I'm screaming my head off. It's funny because then what ended up happening halfway through was I ended up writing some of the most intimate and personal songs that I've ever written, and I was like, ‘Wow! What a turn!’
“So, the finished product ended up being this record that has a very strange duality to it and showing literally all sides of myself. But, yeah, definitely Loves Bites gave us the road map for keeping that sort of live, human element throughout this record.”
And how would Lzzy describe the sound of Strange?
“Wow! Well, this new record was a lot of fun to make and it kind of came together - it's us really not boxing ourselves in. On our last record, we paid so much attention - we were trying really hard to make sure everything is consistent, that there was like, a theme. Everything was on 10. With this new one, we just kind of let it be what it was going to be.
“It's extremely flattering that Revolver said it is the most anticipated or they consider it one of the most anticipated, because the anticipation is killing me, because I want it to be out there now! But, I mean, definitely the sound on this record is a lot more ‘human’ than the last record. I decided to be brave on this record and go to all extremes.”
Lzzy was asked if Strange contains musical leftovers from the previous album or even older tunes that were never recorded.
“It's kind of all of the above, because it's not necessarily the same songs from anything that was considered for last record. Basically that entire time is kind of cut off and we started anew. However, there were a lot of riffs and small parts that were written around that time that we were incorporating into some of these new songs.
“We were listening to a lot of Lamb of God at that time and my guitar player, Joe, had this amazing riff and I kind of turned to him like, ‘Do you want to do something strange?’ I wanted to kind of harness my inner James Hetfield for the bridge/breakdown, and ranted some crazy stuff over his riff.
“With Love Bites (So Do I) we're trying to do something different that would stick out and on the radio and by us playing it at that Alamo Dome show and on that tour gave us the confidence to go for it. So, you know what? We can thank you guys for enabling us to do get riskier!”
Shifting attention to Sully Erna, he was asked for his thoughts about Staind and working with them – especially Mushok - on the Mass Chaos tour. He quickly broke the ice with his characteristic humor.
“Yeah, our paths cross way too often. I can't stand any of these guys. It hasn't been long enough.” Then, immediately shifting into a relatively more serious mode, added, “No, it's good. Listen, we're New England brothers, man, and we've been playing together since even before we were signed.
“I know we were on album number two . . . but, yeah, and we had a great time. It was very cool. I mean, the guys get along great and me and Mike this time did a Town Press together and we had a blast together. So, I'm just anticipating it's going to a really fun tour. I don't see any problems.”
When asked how he shifts emotionally from one tune to the next, Sully replied, “I don't know. I haven't really thought about that. I guess it depends if I'm going from Godsmack to the solo stuff and it's a completely different world. But within Godsmack genre, it's all kind of the same. I don't know. I mean, the band's fairly aggressive and loud and raw and so, I mean, it's pretty easy to stay there. But switching from Godsmack to the solo stuff, if that's what you mean, yeah, I need to kind of separate the two for sure, because one's very different from the other, but I need balance to both.
“So, I mean, I need to be one to be the other and so I think the stuff I do as Sully Erna is the more serene kind of humble stuff and then Godsmack is obviously for Godsmack. And so, I don't know, there's really no set preparation I do. It is what it is. I just can't blend the two together. I couldn't do a bunch of Godsmack songs and then switch right into solo stuff; it wouldn't work. But I don't, like, sit Indian style and float in the air, if that's what you mean.”
May 15th will see the release of Godsmack’s live album, Live and Inspired, so Sully chatted up the album as well as what fans can expect from their lives shows during the Mass Chaos tour.
“Well, we're not supporting, like, a new studio record, but . . . we're doing this live CD. I think that's what we've been known for is the live show. And so it's nice to capture that finally and put together this CD.
“It's a live record from Detroit, Rock City, that we thought it was just kind of a very exceptional show for us. We had a really good show. We were recording a lot on that tour. We actually recorded the whole tour. We were going to do a compilation, so like this song was from Vegas, a song from Chicago, some from Dallas, but I don't know, the more we looked in this Detroit show and the more, we just kind of figured out that it was just, it was a really good show for us and it's always a great audience, as any rock band will tell you, playing there. It's just a special kind of fan base that they have there. They live up to their reputation. They're a great rock audience. And so that's where the record has been recorded from.”
About the tour shows, Erna adds, “I think we just have the mentality of going out for, like, kind of the greatest hits tour out of that supporting new music. So, we're just going to put together a really fun set. Obviously we'll have the drum battle that me and Shannon do and we're just going to try to put together the best songs we can, the most energetic songs that we can, and stuff that we feel is going to be the most interactive for the audience.
“So, this is actually kind of a vacation for us a lot in the sense there's no real hard work behind prepping for a new record and all that stuff. This is kind of ‘let loose and have fun with it’.”
While talking about what Godsmack fans can expect during the Mass Chaos tour, Sully shared what it’s like working with the band’s drummer, Shannon Larkin, and what he brings to the band.
“I'm probably his biggest cheerleader. I've known Shannon since 1986, '87, somewhere around there. We met when we were both drumming in different bands and we did a bunch of shows together and probably he was the first and only guy since I've seen that made my jaw hit the floor when I watched him play. And if you've seen Shannon, you know what I mean. He's the most animated - he's just amazing. Like, to me, he's probably the showman drummer I've ever seen and watched.
“He's got a great energy about him. He's a really super great guy. He's got a great heart. He's real considerate. But on stage he's a monster; he's so not what he is offstage than what he is onstage, but he's been one of my idols and I'm really proud and grateful to have him in this band. He was my first choice and he wasn't available when I first reached out to him when I started the band, and then years later when we decided to let go of our drummer (Tommy Stewart), I reached out to him just one more time, and he had just happened to leave his band and he was going to give it up. I mean, he was pretty much hanging it up. Shannon's a great guy, man. He's a great drummer and, I don't know, I can't say enough about him.”
Before Mike Mushok joins the conversation, Sully’s asked when a new Godsmack studio album will be coming out.
“We're hoping for 2013. We just started listening to some ideas. It's very, very, very early in that stage, so we're not sure yet, but we are going to shoot for 2013 sometime.”
Mushok and Erna were asked if a tour such as the Mass Chaos tour is an economic necessity in order to survive. Mike responded first by saying, “I mean, my opinion of it is it's something we've always tried to do. I know whenever we try to put through - we basically put through the best package we can. And I think in this economy it's tough for people to have extra money to be able to go to a show. It's kind of like a little bit of a luxury. So, I mean, the more bang for the buck you can give them, I think the more likely chance you have of getting people there and, hopefully, give them the most value for the dollars. So, that was really the idea for us and we had this record and we were looking to who we could play with and Godsmack was like, ‘That would be fantastic if those guys wanted to do it.’ So, we went and put it together.”
Sully injected, “Yeah. You know what? It's really not that different than how it used to be back in the day anyways. I mean, there was always at least two strong bands that went out and obviously a third or a fourth, even back in the '80's when it was Def Leppard and Mötley Crüe or whatever. So I don't think this is really that uncommon. I think that question is maybe more geared towards festivals where it takes seven, eight bands to fill up an amphitheater or whatever.”
When you put monster talent together like is being done for this tour, it’s not unusual for there to be hard-fought battles as to opens and closes the shows let alone any on-stage collaboration. Both men address both of these very forthrightly and their comments betray the true collaborative spirit that is the foundation of this tour.
Mike comments first by saying, “I mean there was talk about swapping back and forth, but I have no problem with Godsmack closing the show at the end of the night. I think, like you said, Sully, you guys do your drum thing and we kind of just go out there and play our songs. So, we'll play the same amount of time, the same productions, so as far as I'm concerned, it doesn't really matter to me. So, and I'd love to do a collaboration thing.”
Sully adds, “Yeah. I'm the same, man. I feel like either band could close. I mean, both bands are strong; all three bands are strong. The whole line-up is great. Any single one of these bands could go on first, second, or third; it wouldn't matter. I mean, the whole package is really strong and I'm really excited about it.
“As far as collaborating, me and Mike have spoken about it. We're going to try to figure out a handful of songs that a bunch of us could jump up and just have some fun with a band of the night, which we're all about. And so we don't know what those are yet, but we're definitely going to consider it and we're going to try to put something together that just tops the night off and becomes fun for everybody.”
Both Staind and Godsmack were formed in 1995. When Mike and Sully were asked what they think are the reasons for such longevity in such a brutal and fickle business, Sully deferred to Mike to provide the answer.
“You know, look, honestly I think that we, and obviously I think Godsmack is going to make this a great tour, Sully and Halestorm, too. I know you guys have some great fans. But, I mean, look, obviously I think all three of us know that if it wasn't for the fans, we wouldn't be here. They allow us to do this. Those are the ones that buy a ticket, come to the show, support the bands, and, I mean, that's why we're still around obviously. We do our best to write the best music we can. I know Lzzy and Sully do also and you try to put out the best product that you can and you hope that people like it and want to listen to it and be a part of it. So, we've been fortunate so far and, hopefully, we can continue.”
Mushok was asked his thoughts about playing with Godsmack. His answer reflected what are obviously pleasant memories and a long held respect for Sully and the boys that dates back to the late 90’s.
“I remember hearing those guys locally on the radio. We were trying to get our stuff played, like right around the same time, and, I mean, our first, I think we played a Warped tour, like on the local stage together. I think we did some show in Springfield together, and then kind of didn't really see each other until . . . we were just about to put out our second record. Theirs had just come out, and we did a tour together in 2000, and really kind of became good friends.
“In fact, Sully, we stayed in touch for a bunch of years after that and we kind of lost track of each other and I came to this opportunity again to play together. And as I said earlier, I mean, I just thought it was a great way to kind of reunite with these guys and, I mean, I think that between all the bands on there, you're definitely going to have heard some of the songs that are played during the evening before. So, it should be fun.”
Since Mike reached back to the band’s beginning, it begged the question of what the differences are between the Staind of 1995 and today’s band.
“Well, we have a drummer now; that's one big difference. Look, I think what we tried to do on this record is kind of come back to what Staind of '99 was. I mean, that was really the idea behind it, to kind of get a little more aggressive and really the reason why we started the band was kind of play more aggressive music. We kind of went on this journey and I think the last record you lose the progress; really kind of took us as far away from that and we could have gotten almost. And, look, I enjoy the journey. I love some of the songs on the last record, but I think after kind of completing that, we said, "Let's kind of come back to why we started the band," and that's really what the idea was behind the album.”
With a nod to the successful solo career of his band mate, Aaron Lewis, Mike adds, “And, look, obviously now Aaron has a solo thing going on, so that kind of ties up his time, so it makes it a little more difficult to get all the time we need for Staind. So, those are really the big differences.”
Mike mentioned drummers in the band. Coincidentally, one topic of recent interest to Staind fans has been the addition to the band of drummer, Sal Giancarelli, who took the place of Jon Wysocki. Mushok was asked for his view of Sal’s contribution to the band.
“Well, look, Sal has been with the band since '99 and previous to that he was in bands . . . that we played gigs with. So, we always knew he was a great drummer and even during his career as being a drum tech, there's been a few times along the way that he had other bands that he tried to pursue a career in music, which he always wanted to do, and used being able to be a drum tech as a way of getting out there and kind of getting some of his stuff out there.
“And even along the way, I mean, there was a couple shows where John was sick; I mean, it wasn't the first time Sal played with us. He's sat in before on one tour, I think, specifically that he played a couple of shows. So, look, we've always known that he was a great drummer and, when it came time, it just seemed like the perfect fit to go from behind the drums to playing them, because he knew all the material and we knew he could more than handle it.
“Personality-wise, I mean, he's the same guy. We had this thing that we joked about on our website, these webisodes, where we made him seem like this big egotistical guy and wanted to name the band after him, so it was all a joke. I mean, Sal's the most quiet, down-to-earth guy you'll ever meet, and he hasn't changed one bit. And that's another reason why, sometimes when you introduce someone else, it's a whole other personality. We knew his personality. He's been on the road with us for 12, 13 years so he was already part of the family.”
Mushok was asked about the reasoning and thought processes behind the naming of the recently released self-titled album.
“Yeah, what I was kind of alluding to early, we really wanted to kind of go back to where we started as far as a band, and I think with that was kind of why we ultimately decided on having it self-titled. I mean, there was talk about it being called, Seven, because this is the seventh record and that's what seven demons on the cover kind of represents is that. And so that's kind of how we incorporated it. But, no, it was really just about the fact that we kind of got back to playing with the music.”
As mentioned at the beginning of this article, the three bands have created the Mass Chaos tour with lots of direct involvement from the fans. When asked if the bands were going to be greeting fans at the gates or if the fans will be part of the show, Mushok jokingly said, “I think we're going to let the fans actually play the shows. I'm just going to be a lazy boy on the side actually and watch them play.” Then, shifting into the serious gear added, “I think it's kind of cool that the way things are nowadays. You know, you can put this stuff out there and let some of the fans who are creative be a part of it, and some of the poster submissions, especially some of them were great, I thought. As far as the tour goes, I think we're just going to go out there and do our thing.”
Then, jumping on the whole concept of fans taking over, Sully added with a laugh, “But I love that idea. I think we should find fans that look like every band and just have one night where we kick back in lawn chairs and watch them go. That would be awesome, man!”
With these innovative, forward thinking musical giants, don’t be surprised if you find yourself sitting next to Sully, Mike and Lzzy, watching fans play tribute to the real thing.
You just never know.
Check your favorite band’s website for details about the Mass Chaos tour.