Guitarist Tony Rombola
....... Every so often, a band comes along whose
impact on the music scene is a can't miss proposition. Godsmack is one of those
bands. They slam with an intensity that never misses a beat, and deliver their
crushing musical blows with a callous irreverence reminiscent of early Alice in
Chains. The proof is in their self-titled debut (Republic/Universal Records), a
blast of aggravated fury that shreds with tribal tones and barbed-wire hooks
that burrow under the skin. With lead single "Whatever" taking
command at rock radio, sales well in excess of 100,000, Boston's Godsmack
confidently brought neo-metal rock into the technological age by seamlessly
incorporating noisy hooks into a tight framework of pulsing beats, processed
vocals, and a slew of programmed samples, edits and voiceovers. Singer/producer
Sully Erna unloads a barrage of in-your-face verbal assaults, lambasting the
often bumpy road of love relationships. These songs are caustic and
unapologetic, with ear-splitting guitars and energetic drumming. Both
"Moonbaby" and "Timebomb" are fraught with explosive guitar
riffs,of Tony Rombola while "Voodoo" does an about-face and confronts
the theme of obsessive love with full-bodied percussion.
INTERVIEW WITH Tony Rombola....11/14/99
Q: Where did you play
A: We played in L.A
last night at the Palace. It sold out. Crazy, loud, loud, loud, hit. It was
great. I've been having the best time of my life though. This is actually
better than Oz Fest. Oz Fest was bigger, but there was seats in the
amphitheaters with this pit in front of me and there was this cool light show.
Q: Is there is a
difference in playing a smaller venue with 1,000 fans that are going crazy in
front of the stage, versus everyone sitting in huge venues in their seats?
A: Of course,
definitely. That makes every difference in the world. Every gig of this tour
lit right up for us. We have had consistent good shows this
Q: Your songs are
getting some good air play at the local Radio Stations around here !
A: That's how it is
all over the nation. Radio likes us. It beats some records I've heard, as far
as whatever is on the top, no matter how many times they play, we'll beat some
record that's been on there for 20 weeks, or 38 weeks. People are familiar with
us because they've heard us on the radio.
Q: What kind of
amplifiers and guitars does the band use?
A: Les Pauls. We are
endorsed by them. And we use Mesa Boogie
Q: Is that how you
get that beefy sound?
A: Yeah, no pedals
or anything. It's just the pre-amp cranked up. It sounds nice with just the
guitar and the amp. It's all you really need. No reverb or anything. I use a
few effects, but for the most part 85% of the record is strictly guitar and
amp. Just where there's affects, its there, but I never use reverb. I try to
keep the music really punchy and tight. I only use reverb for a part that we
are trying to create.
Q: What about
A: Some are stock and
some are Seymour Duncan. But a lot of them aren't stock.
Q: Did you use to
A: Yeah. I used to
play blues. I play all kinds of music. I used to be into like Jimi Hendrix, Led
Zeppelin, and all that '70's stuff, Stevie Ray , Gary Moore I dig a lot. So, I
like that type of guitar playing, so any of my lead stuff is a mixture of blues
and like something that sounds sick, or blues from hell.
Q: Did you play
A: I still do at
home. I have a G&L and a Fender Strat. I like them for their own reason.
They have that twang, which is really good. I collect tube amps and a Strat to
the right tube amp sounds as good as this in it's own way. Blues tone, you know
what I mean.
Q: Did you used to
play in another band before Godsmack?
A: A cover band. When
I was in Lillian Axe Sully was in a band called Strip Mind and we toured
together 6-7 years ago, He plays drums as well, thats how we met
originally. Then in 95 he called and said he was putting a band together and I
went to Boston and I was there for nine months, left and came back last April.
(98) We had a few original songs, but it wasn't a really professional band. We
just wanted to play and have fun it was with my friends. We did cover songs at
Q: Is that where
Sully discovered you?
A: Yep. Actually,
Robbie (Merrill) was in another cover band in the area and he played bass and
we knew each other because we had done gigs together. So when Robbie joined his
band to hook up with them, they had another guitar player initially, this guy
Lee, he was with them for six months, he left - quit the band and when they
needed a guitar player, Robbie remembered me and asked me and when I heard the
demo, I dug it.
Q: When was that?
A: About 4 l/2 - 5
years ago. It was between l994 and l995 when we actually met.
Q: Your lead riffs
really does sound natural, are you trying to get your own style going there?
A: Like I said, I'm
not really trying to do anything. I don't really spend a lot of time making up
solos. I just do a feel thing. I do bluesy. I'm a blues type of player when it
comes to lead. The element of that is in me, and that's where it comes from.
I've learned things from other players. I was into George Lynch and Steve Vai
and Joe Satriani.
Q: Did you have a
chance to try out songs on the road like this?
A: Yes, that's what
we've been doing during sound checks. We've been working on them, but it's kind
of tough because we can't get in a room and sit there for 2 or 3 hours. We can
only do it on stage downstairs and we are pressed for time, the other band is
sitting there waiting to get up there, and you don't want to push it to much.
You're better off prepping it up here if you can by talking and tapping it on
your legs and then go down there and try to work it out. But, we've been
working towards it now, because we are doing a record in February, so we are
taking January off. It should be out in the beginning of the summer.
Q: You have some
songs down already?
A: Yeah, we have
probably 4 or 5 done, but we are still working on riffs. We want to be ready
and we still need at least another 7 or 8 songs. Plus we wouldn't mind a few
extras to be able to pick and choose.
Q: You really remind
me of what Korn did. Right after Woodstock, they went right in and recorded.
They must have done what you did - practice on the road. So you found time to
make songs on the road?
A: Yes we did. We
couldn't take time off. We could take time off, but right now we are new and
are up and coming so fast, if we go away for months at a time, it's almost like
you use your edge. We are better off staying right in people's faces. Keep
touring, keep doing this, keep putting out another record out. This record to
us is as old as hell. We've had these songs - we had a demo when I joined the
band, some of these songs were on the demo, you know what I mean. So, I learned
them off of a demo.
"Whatever" and "Keep Away"?
Away" was. "Whatever" came way later. "Whatever" is
the most recent song me and Sully have done.
Q: On this album,
what would you say is another one of your popular ones, that should be getting
just as much air play?
A: I liked "Moon
Baby" a lot. I think "Time Bomb" would probably work pretty
good. Because it has a hip hop section, which is kind of cool and is a little
different. "Voodoo" is different for us to. "Voodoo" is our
new release now. We just did a video about 5 l/2 weeks ago.
Q: Is your next album
going to be a little different? A: No, we are not striving to be anywhere. We
are just going to write more songs. I mean I can tell by the ones we written.
We've probably come a little ways, because we have been Godsmack for a while,
so we know what we are trying to do, we know what people like live, so we've
learned a little bit in the last few years. So I think what we are trying to
write now, is a lot of energy in the songs, but songs. That's the bottom line,
it has to be a song. Sully has a really great voice and it's unique and people
can hear it, they can hear the words, instead of just screaming, which is
usually the case with rock. So, he does his share of screaming to - don't get
me wrong, but when he sings, I think you can hear it. It's almost like
Metallica, you can hear it when he sings. That's a big part of it, because I
think people want to hear what they are singing.
Q: A lot of your
songs are very clear and precise and you playing is outstanding. You are really
a good guitar player.
A: Thank you. You
know when I joined this band, it was really funny because I was into Satriani
and I was in a cover band, and like every set, if I didn't have a Satriani or
Vai tune in there, for me to riff up, I would be bummed out. I was into
technically playing really good and I had to put all that away when I joined
this band. So, right from the beginning, that was the philosopy of the band to
write simple songs and try to keep it simple groove, Sully's a drummer and
writes almost all the beats the groove. He wrote all the songs. He is very
talented. All the songs come from beats with him. He walks around with this
little tape player and hums beats in there and that stems off into a song. I'll
have a riff and he's right there with a beat or something, because he's so
rythmic. He's an awesome drummer. He plays a little bit in the set, he does a
little percussion thing with Tommy. We have a song "Get Up and Get
Out" for the encore and they do a drum thing back and forth.
Q: When did you
realize that something was happening here?
A: There was all
different stages. I would say the initial spot when we felt lucky was when a
D.J. from WAF Rock called us at our studio. It was like, hey I dig you guys, I
got your C.D. and I want to help you guys out and started chumming up with us.
He started playing us on the radio. Right there was where I felt pretty good
and I felt like we had a wild card. You know what I mean. He started playing at
night relentlessly. We already had a little following, but he plugged the
shows, "Godsmack, you got to check these guys out - go to the show".
He played "Keep Away", the same disk as this. So he plays "Keep
Away" on the radio for 6 to 8 months and it grew. We were selling out our
CD at the local record store Newberry Comics and at the end, by the time the 6
or 8 months were up it got to be 2 or 3 songs. We were like their pet. They
took up under their wing. They had us play acoustically on the air, they had us
do interviews, they'd come to our shows. I believe that they are the reason
that everything happened the way it did. The record labels called us because we
were selling so many records. We were selling near to 2,000 a week. Near the
end, four record labels started calling.
Q: Boston seems a
spot for creating Heavy Metal Bands ! With Staind and Reveille anyone else
A: Powerman 5000,
they moved to L.A. and now they say they're from LA, but they spent all their
life in Boston. They got signed and everything, and you know what I mean. There
is a lot of rock bands from there. We used to play with a lot of them. I don't
know if they are still together, it's been a year and a half since we played
Q: What clubs did
bands play at in Boston?
A: Yeah, a few of
them like Mother Kenzies that we used to play a lot, Axis, Bill's Bar, all
Lansdown (sp?) Street we used to play all up and down there a lot and we played
Manchester, New Hampshire, Salem Bass. We hit around that area, but we tried
not to go to far. We have jobs to get up for, so we were kind of limited to
this area. But, we had a big buzz going and by the time we got signed, that
made more of a buzz and now it's like we are so hot in that area, it's like
people are proud of us. It's like a rock band that's on the radio. It's almost
like if you stayed faithful to your area, those fans are with you forever and
are true to you.
Q: How different is
it now than a couple a years ago?
A: It's a lot easier
than what I was doing. When I think about doing carpentry all day and then
taking a shower and then going to the studio till 10 or 11 at night and going
Q: And now you can
focus on one thing?
A: Being away is kind
of tough from home, but at this point we are at a level now we have our own bus
for the band, and the crew is on another bus. We have more privacy. We have
areas to practice and stuff. Where before you might have been stuffed on the
bus with the crew and everyone had to use a small rest room. Now we have space
and we can jam and write. So you get luxuries as it gets better and appreciate
By Randy Cohen
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