There’s a famous video where Ringo Starr claims his only hope for The Beatles is to raise enough money to open a hair salon. It seems audacious to watch now, but at the time it was a best case scenario. Pop stars had little to no hopes for a true career from music, so a fallback plan such as this was smart planning.
Forty years later, current Godsmack drummer Shannon Larkin had similar thoughts for a secondary career. After flirting with success as a member of a number of bands, including Wrathchild, Souls At Zero, and Ugly Kid Joe, he decided to pack in his drum sticks. “I was around 25 or 26 years old. I had been on two major labels, and two independents, and had failed each time. I decided to quit the whole business.”
Larkin says he had no second thoughts about this decision. “I had seen and toured the whole world, and had played stadiums on tours with Bon Jovi and Van Halen. I had been in pretty much every situation I had ever dreamed of. I just figured that I’m good, but it’s not in the cards.”
His new career choice? “My mom was a hairdresser, so I enrolled in the Santa Barbara Community College for Hair Dressing. I was going to be the rock ‘n’ roll hairdresser.”
Larkin may have been ready to quit rock ‘n’ roll, but rock wasn’t ready for him to quit. “Two weeks after going in and filling out the paper work to go to college, (Godsmack lead singer) Sully Erna called. That fateful call came, and the next thing I know I’m on a Billboard number one album. The gods of rock ‘n’ roll shined on me.”
Larkin, who will appear with the rest of Godsmack at the Sioux Empire Fair on August 3, recently talked to Link about his lifelong passion for the drums.
Q: What came first, drums or rock ‘n’ roll?
A: It was the love of rock ‘n’ roll because of my parents. My parents were the type of people that after dinner they’d take my sister and I down into the basement…or the den, as they called it on the east coast…and listen to the stereo. My dad didn’t want to sit in front of the “boob tube” all night. He would take us down and play all of this great music for us. My dad was a 50’s guy with all of the Elvis and Johnny Cash. My mom was a rocker, so she turned us on to the Beatles, Rolling Stones, and Creedence Clearwater Revival. So I was constantly raised in this great atmosphere of no boob tube but lots of music.
Q: What were the bands that led to you taking up the drums?
A: My sister turned me onto Rush. The Hemisphere album. I was like nine or ten, and the drums spoke to me. I still didn’t really entertain the thought of being a drummer, but I noticed as I was listening to these records that it was the drums that I was focusing on. I wore that record out, and asked her what else she had for me. She gave me Led Zeppelin II, and that was it. It was the drums I wanted for Christmas. When I heard John Bonhan, I said “that is what I want to be”.
Q: Were you a natural at the instrument?
A: Yeah. I started really young, so there was never the “get rich, get drunk, get chicks” kind of vibe from me. It was more of the playing of Neal Peart and John Bonham became the catalyst of what I wanted to do with my life. I look at it like how kids play video games now. They keep playing the same game hoping to beat the game. For me, it was a game to try to learn the parts exactly like not only my idols, Peart and Bonham, but the songs I had grown up with. When the family would go downstairs, I would play along with these records by Creedence and The Beatles and all that. It was like a puzzle to me. I’d think to myself, “why doesn’t this sound like that? There’s something I’m missing.” Then I’d realize I didn’t have a high hat. As I started to learn, the pieces of the puzzle would come together. I never took a lesson, so there must have been something I inherited somewhere because my parents didn’t play instruments. Who knows? Maybe my great, great grandfather in Ireland was a kickass drummer or something.
Q: Actually, you were kind of learning from the best by playing along to the records.
A: Absolutely. There’s my teachers. Neal Peart and John Bonham taught me how to play. Ringo Starr, too.
Q: When your first band, Wratchchild, signed a major label deal did you think you had made it?
A: Oh yeah. We thought we were going to be the next Metallica, or whatever. And we were out there on tour with Pantera, and they were on the rise with the Cowboys From Hell tour. We were watching them make it, and we had nothing but confidence. The same four guys had been together for twelve years before we even got signed. We had been playing the clubs since I was thirteen, so by the time we got signed we were already honed professionals. We thought it was all going to happen for us. It didn’t, but that’s how this business is. But you know what, we had a lot of great tours. We toured the world. I got to see Europe before I was 21 years old. Looking back, those were the perks.
Q: You joined Godsmack in between two number one albums. How eye-opening is it to go from successful bands to mega-successful bands?
A: In this business, it takes as much luck as talent. Being in the right place at the right time when a particular song comes out that touches people, or the image touches people, takes a lot of luck. Of course, you have to also be talented. No matter how lucky, or how much push you have from the label at the right time, you had to be talented.
Q: It’s been three years since the last Godsmack album. Anything coming up soon?
A: Yes. We realize it’s been three years now, and we just had a meeting a couple of weeks ago to discuss our strategy on how to move forward. We always just cross our fingers and hope we still have a fanbase out there. We have two more albums to do for Universal, and while we didn’t set an actual date we know that next year we’re going to make a new album and tour. It may start this fall, or we may wait until next February to get together to write and record. In any event, we’re going to make new music and we’re going to tour our asses off!