On a recent episode of Talkin’ Rock with Meltdown, Godsmack’s Sully Erna talked about how their famous drum battle started. In case you don’t know, in the middle of Godsmack’s set, the crew roll out another drum set onto the stage, as Sully and Shannon Larkin go back and forth, trading off beats. It’s really cool!

I asked Sully how that started. “It was back in 95′ or 96”. Many people may not know, but Sully played the drums on their first record because they didn’t have a drummer. He told me that then drummer Joe Darko would play a beat, and he would play the congos off to the side. As time went on they switched up drummers from Joe to Tommy Stewart, to finally Shannon Larkin.

He said they had a couple of solid drummers in the band. “Then when Shannon came in the band, we had two really strong drummers. We were like, why aren’t we utilizing this in the show? That’s when we built two full drum kits, came up with the rotating risers and all that stuff, and we really just went for it. And it just kind of developed from there.”

Sully Erna performs with Godsmack at Pine Knob.
Godmack’s Sully Erna and Shannon Larkin on stage at Pine Knob on August 23, 2023.

Godsmack’s Sully Erna Loves Their Drum Battle

It’s one of my favorite parts of the show, and apparently, I’m not alone. “Yeah, for sure, it’s our favorite part of the show because we love to play. There’s really no band out there that does what we do when it comes to this.”

I passed along a time I watched the show at Rock on the Range in Columbus, Ohio, from the side stage. Legendary drummer Scott Travis from Judas Priest walked up and stood next to me. He said he’d wanted to see this part of the show. “Wow, really? That’s awesome, man. And we’re fans of him too, so that’s pretty cool!”

Check out the drum battle below, and get your tickets to see it live when Godsmack headlines RIFF Fest on September 28th at Pine Knob.

  • godsmack - drum battle

    Here’s a drum battle from 14 years ago.

  • godsmack - drum battle 2023

    Here’s a drum battle from last year.

  • godsmack - drum battle Hellfest

    Here’s some video from the Hellfest show in 2019.


  • win your tickets for RIFF Fest

    This is how you can win tickets for RIFF Fest to see the drum battle in person.

    Riff Fest

  • the entire RIFF FEst lineup

    Here’s the entire lineup for RIFF Fest….so far.

    Riff Fest 2024

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