Godsmack Goes Platinum: Chelsea Condos interviews the band that WAAF broke

"Hahaha!! Hey Robbie! Where’d ya get the cold sore, huh? That’s what you get for sucking cock!” Sully ripped into Joe (the ex-drummer) the minute he entered the room for band practice with the small, red sore on his upper lip.

Joe passed it off without reaction.

Tony piped in saying, “God is gonna smack ya for that one.”

Sure enough, the next day, Sully walked in with the same sore on his upper lip. “There ya go. There’s your Godsmack,” Tony spoke up.

Immediately, Sully knew that was a perfect band name and it didn’t take much convincing for the rest of the band to agree.

Godsmack formed in February of 1995, when Sully, formerly of the band Seka (aka Stripmind), started itching to write more music. “I had a really bad relationship that I fucked up... and so I really beat myself up over it.” From this relationship he drew most of his writing, “One girl was the right one, and then another entered my life who turned out to be the devil in disguise.” About a year after this relationship, he called his friend Robbie, a bass player, to start putting music to the songs. After several line changes on guitar and drums, it finally settled down with a line-up of Sully Erna on vocals, sometimes guitar (and conga drums on one song), Robbie Merrill on bass, Tommy Stewert on drums, and Tony Rambola on guitar.

When I walked into Higher Ground in Winooski the day of their recent show there, I first saw Tony sitting at the bar eating chicken fingers. He turned around, pulled out a chair and offered me one of the greasy pieces. I sat and talked to him for a little while before he had to start soundcheck. As the tedious on-stage preperations from the back of the club finished up, and when they were done Robbie and Tommy came over and sat next to me on the couch. I had the opportunity to talk to all of them for a few minutes , while we were waiting for Sully to come out of another interview. Judging by Sully’s insanely full, syrupy thick vocals, I had expected him to be at least six feet two and probably two hundred and fifty pounds. Wrong. I was shocked to see a small man about 5’2 come out and introduce himself as Sully.

There are a lot of influences coming into this band. Sully explained that they all like each other’s music, and what is played in the tour bus changes drastically from day to day. Alice In Chains is the obvious one to anyone who’s ever heard these two bands. In fact, the band has been accused of naming the band after an Alice In Chains song titled “Godsmack”. Sully denies this rumor saying that yes, they are AiC fans, and yes, they knew the song, but they didn’t name the band after it. Other bands they listen to range from Aerosmith, Led Zeppelin and Jimi Hendrix to Korn and Tool. Tony is a fan of the Doobie Brothers, and Sully admitted to having liked the Misfits as well.

Sully faithfully practices the Wicca religion. “In Wicca, God is the earth. God is everywhere; not a single being, but everything. He’s in the air, earth, people.” The power of the earth is what oversees everything. Many people have preconceived notions that Wicca, also known as witchcraft, is all about being evil and casting spells on people. However, Sully corrected me on this one. “Everything you do comes back on you three times over. So why would you cast an evil spell on someone else when it’ll hit you harder? Also, there is no Satan or devils. And a spell is the equivalent of a prayer. We write a spell on parchment paper, burn it in a cauldron and the smoke is what carries the message into the universe, the higher being.” Sully claims he writes his best stuff when he’s down, and the CD attests to the statement. “Keep Away” was him saying, “You’ve done enough already. I knew what was the right thing to do, but you blinded me. Please just stay away from me.” Similarly, “Whatever,” their first single, was a more after-the-fact scenario, “I’m doing really well now. I’ve moved on. Whatever. I’d just rather not have you in my life anymore.” I don’t need your shit today / You’re pathetic in your own way. “‘Bad Religion’ is anti-abortion. You don’t even know me, yet you’re deciding to kill me? Look, I’m here. I’m alive inside you. I can’t be ignored.” “Timebomb” is a song about dealing with the stresses of everyday life, and telling people not to try to force everybody to do what they think that person should be doing. Never have I seen your God, so why should I believe in faith?

The band was playing the Boston circuit fairly consistently, at clubs like the Axis, Rathskeller, the Middle East, Mama Kin, with a decent local following. However, they were unheard of outside of the Boston area. Then a DJ named Rocko at radio station WAAF, one of the largest stations in the Boston area, The only station that really rocks!!, started playing their song “Keep Away” in his free spin slot. Told by his bosses that he couldn’t play Godsmack because they were an unsigned band, he continued to play them anyway. Rocko wasn’t breaking the rules for long. In July of ‘98, Universal Records signed Godsmack, and then Paul Geary, ex-drummer for Extreme and long-time friend of Sully’s, picked them up and began his role as their manager. Newbury Comics, a record store in Boston was the only one to carry the first Godsmack release, All Wound Up..., recorded for a mere $2,500 dollars. Sales at the store went from fifty CDs a month to over a thousand a week. Once they were signed, Universal re-released All Wound Up..., as self-titled album Godsmack with “Whatever” picked as the first single.

When I asked about how Universal was treating them, there wasn’t a moment of hesitation. “They‘re awesome. They’ve been behind us heart and soul. Couldn’t think of a better record company. They give us the last say in every decision.” They’ve been touring heavily since the fall and selling out everywhere from Sacramento to Memphis to Orlando, and back home in Boston. They can no longer play clubs in Boston, now they have to play amphitheaters like the Fleet Center and The Tweeter Center, (formerly Great Woods).

The band has been getting more and more recognition by the day. They have a video being aired on MTV frequently on alternative rock shows and have and are often placed in categories with the likes of Korn, Tool, and Limp Bizkit. Their live show remains unparalleled against any I’ve ever seen. Strobe lights, interaction with the audience, and just the intensity of the music pulsing through the veins of every person in the room is amazing at the least. This summer they are playing on the main stage at Ozzfest all over the country, and at Woodstock ‘99 in Rome, New York. So if you get a chance to get out and see them, I highly recommend it.

I’m doing the best I ever did.

I’m doing the best that I can.

I’m doing the best I ever did.

Now go away!!

Chelsea Condos just graduated from South Burlington High School and she will attend Northeastern University in Boston in the fall.