GODSMACK Guitarist Teaches JAMES HETFIELD How To Play LED ZEPPELIN
Chris: How you doing, sir?
Chris: So I’ll just dive into some questions here. I was listening to some of your music today and it sort of hit me that you seem to make fewer concessions to the mainstream than many of your, sort of, new metal peers. I’m curious if you consciously avoid trends in radio-oriented metal?
Tony: You know what? I don’t even know who my peers are anymore.
Tony: We worked, I mean, we were on tour with Metallica for two years and then we were off for the year, and I didn’t listen to any music, and all I did was write music for this new record, and so I don’t really know even who my peers are anymore.
Chris: So you don’t really listen to any contemporary music?
Tony: I haven’t, no. Not in at least two years…. I have classic stuff in my iPod, you know, Zeppelin and Hendrix and Rush and, you know, that’s the type of stuff I listen to.
Chris: So that would be the particular era that you draw upon for inspiration?
Tony: Well, just for my mind…when I write music I don’t really, I don’t know. I just play guitar, and if I come up with stuff that sounds like something, and if it sounds catchy, I have my little recorder and I’ll record it…But I don’t consciously think of any other music. I’m just with the guitar in my hands and if I play something that sounds catchy or it sounds riffy, I’ll record it and then try to work on it.
Chris: Do you think there’s anything that you may listen to personally that would inspire you that your fans may find a bit surprising?
Tony: Yeah, I mean, I was a big Joe Satriani fan. I learned certain chords from him that you might hear in Godsmack songs…a certain lead style. I was into Gary Moore and Randy Rhodes, and you know what I mean, Hendrix. So, I mean, those are the guys that I always admired and kind of learned from, so I mean it’s, a little bit of all that is in my playing, you know.
Chris: I was listening to the Other Side today, and it definitely, obviously explores much, sort of quieter and more depressive themes than on your other albums. Were you expecting such a positive reaction from the fans and critics when you released that album?
Tony: You know, that album wasn’t…not that much thought was put into it, honestly. We went to a tour in Japan and our manager, Paul Geary used to be in a band himself, Extreme. And he told us that when you’re ever flying back from Japan, it’s a long flight, and that you should stop in Hawaii. And we figured we’d stop and record a record for three weeks. So it was half…we’ve always had acoustic stuff, and it was half we wanted to go to Hawaii for a little vacation. So it was really not a whole lot of thought really put into it.
Chris: Do you feel that it’s expanded your fan base, to sort of tread in those existing waters?
Tony: Sure, sure. I mean even some…we’ve dabbled. I mean “Voodoo,” and “Spiral,” and then “Serenity,” we’re all little bit of departures from the hard rock stuff, so I think we already had a little door there and we just kind of jumped in for a little EP.
Chris: So what can we expect from this forthcoming album?
Tony: A different-sounding record. We worked with Andy John, so sonically it sounds a lot different. We used a lot of different amplifiers. I used a lot of Marshall stuff instead of Boogie, what I used for years. So, I mean, tonally it’s a little different like that, and actually the band wrote a lot more of the music on this one. I wrote more than I have on the previous records. So on the previous records I would have a riff and Sully would get together with me and make it into a song and I’d, you know, it would be a collaboration thing. Where in this one, Sully was really busy, he wasn’t around for the writing a lot, and we wrote our own songs. So he used a lot more of our material as a whole.
Chris: Would you say then that the songwriting process in Godsmack is pretty democratic?
Tony: This time it was more democratic, let me put it that way.
Chris: OK. Are there any particular themes or topics when you’re writing a song?
Tony: Yeah, you know, I’m not even a lyric guy, but we’ve talked about this with Sully through the process and he…it was a lot of…in 2005 he went through a lot of changes and changed a lot of things in his life. He stopped drinking, he tried to just change his whole life…there was a song called “Living in Sin” he wrote, and it kind of opened the door to all the other songs. So the whole album overall is more of a positive vibe on his life being changed into something more positive from something that was kind of dark.
Chris: Do you think those changes have affected you as a group?
Chris: Interesting. Are there any topics that you’re simply just not allowed to tread in as a group?
Tony: You know, I don’t…he’s always written all the lyrics, so I mean, that’s always been his department. And as far as music goes, he’s open to anything we have as far as riffs or whatever. But lyrically it’s all him.
Chris: But musically?
Tony: Musically he’s open to anything that sounds cool, really. I mean, like, we wrote a lot of songs–he was gone a lot, so we wrote over 40 songs, the band, and he ended up listening through them all and picked the ones that he liked. And some of them were different sounding, like one of them is…I didn’t even think he would want to even use it, I just recorded it because we were jamming and it was actually a bluesy tune, kind of like Robin Trower old-school blues, dark blues, and he ended up writing a song to it and put it on the record, which I was really surprised with.
Chris: What do you do with all the material that you write that doesn’t get used for this band?
Tony: It’s funny that you mention that. I actually am doing a side project. I’m recording it in Boston with Robbie and Shannon from our band, Godsmack. And I don’t know if you know Lee Richards, the original guitar player from Godsmack?
Chris: I don’t, I’m sorry.
Tony: He was…well, I replaced him after they got together for like six months, and he just stayed around locally and kept writing music, and he’s still a friend of ours. And we got together with him and we got a singer, an old friend of Shannon’s, and we’re putting out a side project next year.
Chris: Oh, that’s great.
Tony: Actually this year.
Chris: Are there a lot of side projects that seem to be bubbling out of Godsmack?
Tony: No, this is it. This is the first one that spawned. I mean, Sully’s done a lot of other things. He wrote a book that’s going to be out, and he had his own label and he kind of had a band Drop Box that was on it. So he’s kind of expanded and done some things, and with all the extra songs we had, we just figured, why not, you know.
Tony: It’s a done deal, it’s called Another Animal.
Chris: But I assume Godsmack will be…well, first of all, when exactly can we expect the new Godsmack album?
Tony: That should be out, I believe in April.
Chris: OK. And then I assume you’ll be touring.
Tony: Yes, yes. You know, it’s all up in the air right now, we’re kind of hashing out what we’re going to do. But I think it looks like we’re going to be going to Europe for a little while, and then doing a tour in the States after that.
Chris: So you were saying that you tour with Metallica?
Chris: And you’re not really listening to any contemporary music, so how does, how do you decide who you want to play with on the road?
Tony: Oh, you know, a lot of that’s a business decision. Who’s available, who’s a compatible band, who we even want. You know what I mean? I’m really…they do all the work and then they tell us who’s available, and then we kind of like [say] “Oh, well, I like them,” or whatever. We have a little bit of a say in it, but it’s more of a business decision.
Chris: So you have the luxury of just creating the music.
Chris: Is there anybody that you would prefer to tour with, let’s say?
Tony: You know what? I don’t…I like System of a Down…I don’t even know really who’s out there anymore.
Chris: Yeah, it sounds like you’ve really got your head down.
Tony: I do…but that was one of the bands that I thought, at least they sound original and cool…I don’t know. Like I said, I don’t really know who’s even out there.
Chris: How was it touring with Metallica?
Tony: It was great. I like what they do and I admire [them], but I was never, I’ve never bought any of their material, you know. I wasn’t that kind of fan. But I grew up listening to the radio and I always knew their music, and I liked a lot of it. But after touring with them, you know, they were so nice. James Hatfield was a super guy, and I became a fan after we were on tour with them.
Chris: Did you see the documentary about them?
Tony: No, I haven’t seen it.
Chris: I recommend that you watch it…it’s a very strange film. I was just curious what you would think of it after being on the road with them.
Tony: They seemed really nice. I mean, they were all like, James Hatfield, I swear to god, every day he came in our dressing room at some point and just said, “Hey.” And it was funny, when I first met him it was in Europe and I was in the dressing room playing an acoustic guitar…I was playing this old song from Led Zeppelin called the “Rain Song.” And it’s got this really cool tuning to it, and he walked by our dressing room and it caught his ear and he came in, and he goes, “Hey, is that the Rain Song?” And I went, “Yeah.” And he goes, “Well, you got to show me that.” Next thing, you know, I’m sitting down teaching James Hatfield how to play the “Rain Song” from Led Zeppelin. So that’s how I kind of met him. And it was awesome. I was trying to keep my composure, but I was shaking in my boots.
Chris: Do you think fans are going to be fulfilled when they get this new Godsmack album?
Tony: Oh, yeah. Yup. It’s got everything. It’s got some old-school Godsmack, the heavy stuff, and it’s got some really different, different stuff on there. Like I said, there’s a blues song on there where Sully really sings really great–the music is awesome. It’s really a stretch. There’s a lot of different stuff. There’s a song called “Hollow,” which actually has guitar and mandolin on it and some strings that Sully and Andy Johns worked on.
Chris: What is it that really sort of motivates you outside of music?
Tony: You know, golf, I would say. I picked golf up. I used to ride dirt bikes and stuff, but as I got older I didn’t want to do it anymore, to get hurt and not be able to play guitar. But I love guitar. I play guitar when I’m at home, I play for hours every day still. I’m always trying to get better. I’m trying to learn new styles, and like, I’ve been spending a couple of years now learning slide guitar. And there’s actually a song on the record where I got to play it. So I’m just trying to be better at what I do.
Chris: Would you ever consider maybe doing a [straight up] Americana album? Something with a little bit of country to it?
Tony: You know, I’m not a huge country fan. I admire some of the players, but I’m more on the dark side than the country thing–a lot of it’s really major and it’s not my style.
Chris: We are obviously looking forward to the album and your fans certainly are, it’s been a while.
Tony: Yeah, it has, and it was a lot of fun doing it, and like I said, it’s different. Like I said, just the fact that the band wrote half the material, it’s going to be a twist on things.
Chris: Oh, great. OK.
Tony: All right, well thank you.
Chris: Yeah, thank you, Tony, and take care.
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