‘1000hp’: Guitarist Tony Rombola Talks New Godsmack Album and Side Project

Multi-platinum hard rock heroes Godsmack are revving their engines for their highly anticipated sixth studio album, 1000hp The album, which is set for an August 5 release, is the follow-up to 2010’s The Oracle, which debuted at Number 1 on Billboard's Top 200.

Co-produced by Sully Erna along with Dave Fortman (Slipknot, Evanescence), 1000hp returns the band to their Boston-based roots. Even the album’s title track pays homage to the band’s journey from playing tiny clubs to packed arenas worldwide.

With a new-found thrashed-up “punk” energy, 1000hp is really about going back to basics. It's old-school Godsmack, but with a new kind of twist.

Coinciding with the release of 1000hpwhich is available for pre-order at iTunes — Godsmack also will headline this year’s Rockstar Energy Drink UPROAR Festival, which kicks off August 14. Godsmack is Sully Erna (vocals), Tony Rombola (guitar), Robbie Merrill (bass) and Shannon Larkin (drums).

I recently spoke with Rombola about 1000hp, touring and his blues-based side project, the Blue Cross Band.

GUITAR WORLD: How would you describe the sound of 1000hp?

We wanted it to be straight forward and simple. I think that was the theme. There are elements of punk in some of the grooves that Sully brought in, and even in the selection of some of the riffs that I had as well. A lot of it is simpler, with some different feels.

What's the songwriting process for a Godsmack album?

For me, it all starts with riffs Shannon and I put together and arrange into a demo. We'll bring in a bunch of the material and Sully will go through it to get vibe for the record. He has great vision. He also brought in riffs for the songs "Something Different" and "Life Is Good". Sully's the one who picks the direction for the album and works on the lyrics. I'm more focused on the music. For me, it's all about the guitar.

What was it like working with producer Dave Fortman?

It was great. We had actually met Dave when we were working on our last album, The Oracle. He has a lot of ideas and was a lot of fun to work with. He's also a guitar player and plays drums, so he was able to give us input and bounce ideas off of us.

Do you feel any added pressure being the headlining band for a huge festival like UPROAR?

I actually feel less pressure. Whenever you do your own shows, there's always something to worry about because it's just you. With festival shows like this, each one has a similar feel and there are a lot more bands. It's outdoors and feels more like an event with a great crowd. I really enjoy doing them.

What's your live setup going to be like?

I'm with Diamond now, so I'll be bringing out a Diamond amp I really like, as well as a Diezel Herbert. I usually use two different amps at once for couple of different reasons. First, it gives me added tone and if one happens to crap out, I'll still have a solid amp going for me. I also have a couple McNaught guitars that I'll be bringing out, as well as a Les Paul or two. Not too many effects, though. I pretty much play dry all night.

Let's talk a little about your early years playing. What inspired you to first pick up the guitar?

Growing up, I had a friend whose mother had this really great record collection. Bands like Black Sabbath, Eric Clapton, Rush, Lynyrd Skynyrd. My buddy started playing guitar and taking lessons and within weeks I wanted to do the same. I didn’t take lessons, but I remember he would always show me whatever he had learned.

Eventually, he quit but I continued to play. And to this day I pretty much play all day, every day [laughs]. The more you play, the more you discover.

Who were some of your early influences?

In the beginning, it was guys like Jimmy Page, Jimi Hendrix and Tony Iommi. Then a little later on I got into all of the Eighties guitarists like Randy Rhoads and Gary Moore when he was doing the blues thing. Yngwie Malmsteen was another guy I looked up to and someone I tried to pick up from as much as could. His technique was much more advanced than mine so I could only learn certain things, but he was still inspiring.

How did your side project, the Blues Cross Band, come together?

Shannon and I have this jam room we like to go to whenever we're not on tour. Sometimes we'll go in there five days a week and just hang out and play music. He heard me playing the blues one day and thought it sounded cool. So we decided to write a few songs together. Then we wound up getting a bass player and a singer, and the next thing you know we were a band. We just recently did our first shows together. It was a really good experience being able to play with totally different gear and a whole different style of music. I'm having a lot of fun with it.

How would you describe the sound of this project?

It's more blues/rock. I'm trying to do more traditional stuff: using single coil and keeping the tones traditional and not do too much shredding. It's an even balance. We haven't recorded much so there's still an opportunity to find my voice and how I want to be heard.

Is there a particular moment in your career that stands out to you as a highlight?

I think it was when the local radio station, WAAF, made a connection with Sully and started playing our music on their own. That's what really got the ball rolling for us. Then there was the time when we got our first gold record. We were doing OzzFest and it was our first big tour playing for huge audiences. To get handed a gold record in the afternoon by record label was a big moment, and proof that we had made it!

James Wood is a writer, musician and self-proclaimed metalhead who maintains his own website, GoJimmyGo.net. His articles and interviews are written on a variety of topics with passion and humor. You can follow him on Twitter @JimEWood.

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James Wood

James is a guitarist and freelance writer who's interviewed some of the biggest names in music. He is the author of four books and his writing credits include work for Guitar World, AXS and Yahoo! as well as for his hometown newspaper where he writes on a variety of topics with both passion and humor. As a guitarist, he's performed everywhere from local bars and nightclubs to some of the biggest stages in front of thousands of music fans.