In a couple of weeks you release your 7th studio album, When Legends Rise. Are you excited ahead of its release?
It`s something we`re extremely proud of. This album is more unique and explores a new side of Godsmack that we haven`t touched upon yet. We`re looking forward to trying to expand and grow the fanbase and take people along on the journey with us. It`s all done and finished now and ready to come out on April 27th. I couldn`t be more excited.
It`s been 4 years since your last record, 1000hp. What have you been up to in those intervening years?
We were touring for two of those years and we took about 12 months off and it took me about a year to write this record.
How have you approached your song writing this time around?
I stepped out of the box with this one and I wanted to explore working with some other writers to create a new sound, something more unique. Those writers brought a different approach and their ideas of the direction they`d like to see Godsmack going in. It really helped me think differently about the writing process musically, melodically and lyrically. I worked with Erik Ron, who I`d originally hired to produce the album and Clint Lowery from Sevendust. There were a few people along the way who I really enjoyed spending time with and collaborating with.
When you started work on the album, what were your aims? What were you hoping to create or do you have no preconceived ideas at the start of the writing process?
That`s the part I didn`t know but I did know that I wanted to step outside of my comfort zone and I wanted to challenge myself a little more vocally and I wanted to create something that pertained to a new generation as much as trying to hold onto the core audience. It was very challenging and tricky but we knew we may lose one Godsmack fan but we`d make 10 new ones.
What about recording? Where did you do the bulk of the recording?
We have our own studio North of Boston so we recorded the album there. I`d been writing the songs for a year but the recording was done over a period of six weeks. That was quite quick as we`d done a lot of pre-production work before we`d gone into the studio. We were all there in the studio together working as a team.
You`ve either produced or co-produced most of your albums. This time you`ve worked with Erik Ron who`s worked with Motionless In White amongst others. Why did you decide to work with him this time?
I wrote what became our lead single Bulletproof with him and went back to him to see if lightning could strike twice and it did and we wrote another great song called Take It To The Edge. I began noticing that he had great potential for production with the demos he was sending to me. I like giving people an opportunity when I can see potential. I like finding these hidden diamonds in the sand so he came on board as producer as well as a writer. The production value on this record is maybe some of the best we`ve done yet.
Is it a tricky position to be in being a main songwriter and performer and being producer as well?
I`ve learned over the years that my strength lies in arrangement and producing. I have a pretty good head for melody and I can write music but my biggest strength is in production. I think I`m always going to have my hands on that as I like to define a vision and then execute it and if I can find talented people along the way to help me sonically to make it sound good then that`s great but I also think they rely on me to steer the ship and guide them to where that vision is going.
How do you see When Legends Rise as a progression from 1000hp?
I think the proof is in the pudding. It`s one of those things that when you hear this record, you`ll know that Godsmack has headed into a different direction and expanded into a more mature style of writing.
Unforgettable features a kid’s choir. How did they get involved with the record?
I like to work with charities that work with inner city kids and keeping them out of trouble. When I wrote this track, I knew it needed a kid’s choir to finish it off so I reached out to an organisation I`d done some work with and invited about 20 elemental school kids to participate and they had a blast.
Under Your Scars is the albums big ballad. The string section really compliments the melody. Who`s idea was it to add the strings to this song?
I tried to bring some of the experience I`d had when creating my solo music and I felt that since the band was in the mood and ready to dive into a new sound then this was the perfect opportunity to introduce our first ballad. I originally wrote it acoustically but when I transposed it onto piano I really loved the way it sounded and when I started playing it on the piano I started hearing the orchestration of a string section. I called up a couple of close friends of mine from Bulgaria who play in an orchestra over there and they helped me chart the string parts out.
The first video from the album features Billy Ray Cyrus and Sebastian Bach. Are these old friends of yours?
I`ve known Sebastian for a long time but have only recently met Billy. He`s a cool guy.
Billy is a bit of a Rocker at heart. Would you like to work with him on some music together at some point?
Oh yeah, we`re both song writers and I think it`d be great to do a collaboration with Billy sometime.
You`ve had three Number 1 records in The States in a row. Is chart position important to you or is more something your label is more interested in?
It`s great when you get it but I try not to look for it as I don`t want to set myself up for disappointment. It`s more important to me that we write the best record that we can write and that we can deliver it live and entertain people.
You`ll be embarking on a 30-date tour with Shinedown in July and August. Are you looking forward to that?
I can`t wait. That`s the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. We took them out on one of their first tours and we`ve become good friends over the years and we`re both very excited about the tour. We`ll both do full sets and we`ll close the US dates and maybe when we get over to Europe we`ll flip flop and alternate who closes the show each night. We have a lot of mutual respect for each other and what to do this as long as we can. The promoters and fans are loving it so far.
It`s been a fair few years since you played in the UK. Do you have any plans to play some shows over here?
Without a doubt it`s our number one focus. We`ll do the tour in The States and we`ll be over to Europe after that. We have a plan to get over at least three times in the next 12 months.
It`s 20 years since you put the band together. Does it feel that long since you started together?
No, it doesn`t. It goes by very quickly but we have a lot of great memories.
Will you be marking your 20th anniversary in any special way?
Not really. We`re not focusing on 20 years as we`re focussing on a new beginning with our new record coming out. Maybe on our 25th anniversary we`ll do something special. Right now, we feel so good about the record we didn`t want the 20th anniversary overshadowing that.
With a new album out and a lot of touring ahead of you, do you have any time to fit anything else in this year, a follow up to your solo album Hometown Life perhaps, or is Godsmack going to be your priority?
When Godsmack takes a break I`ll continue to create music and I`ll probably do another solo record then but for now my focus is purely on Godsmack for the coming months. We might even do two records back to back. We don`t know yet so right now it`s all Godsmack.
Interview By Mick Burgess
When Legends Rise is out on 27th April
For more on Godsmack visit www.godsmack.com