No Filler, All Classic: The Rods’ Carl Canedy Talks Latest Album
I remember when I first saw the name Carl Canedy. It was when pouring over the liner notes of some of the first vinyl I purchased as a burgeoning metalhead teenager. He was listed as a producer for Feel the Fire, the Overkill debut, as well as the first two Anthrax albums, Violence & Force by Exciter, and Beyond the Gates by Possessed, some of my favorite records at the time. I even had the Lone Rager EP Metal Rap, possibly the first rap-metal hybrid (two years before “I’m the Man”) that he played drums on.
He also played drums for a power trio from upstate New York called The Rods — actually, that was his original calling that led him to producing. I am not sure exactly when I discovered them. I think it was seeing the incredibly sexist cover for Let Them Eat Metal in record store bins (hey, it was the 1980s), but eventually I would discover their self-titled debut (essentially a reissue from their own independently-released album) and 1982’s Wild Dogs. The latter is a cult classic, considerably grittier than most American hard rock at a time when Van Halen and Kiss were selling out arenas.
After those two albums failed to sell enough to satisfy Arista Records, the band put out three more independently-released records before calling it a day in 1987. This could have been the end of the story; however, in 2008, organizers of Metal Rock Fest in Lillehammer, Norway contacted Canedy and asked if he would get the band back together for the show. The Rods were not only reformed the entire classic lineup of the band — Canedy, David “Rock” Feinstein (vocals and guitar), and Garry Bordonaro (bass) — they haven’t stopped since.
The band released Vengeance in 2011 on Ronnie James Dio’s Niji Entertainment Group and featured one of his final recordings on “The Code” (Feinstein and Dio were cousins and the two played together in the pre-Rainbow band Elf) as well as playing festivals with names like Defenders of the Old (2017 at Saint Vitus in Brooklyn) and Keep It True (2016 in Germany).
They then attracted the attention of Steamhammer who will release Brotherhood of Metal tomorrow.
The album is a celebration of all things metal, all of the iron and none of the irony. It manages to merge both Sad Wings of Destiny and Screaming for Vengeance eras of Judas Priest, existing in between commercial retro-metal and thrash metal thanks in no small part to Canedy’s double bass. By predating the dividing lines, they were once able to appeal to all metalheads and they continue to do so today. With as many great young bands churning out classic-sounding metal, it’s nice to see The Rods still can show them a thing or two.
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The Story of Anvil was released right about when you reformed The Rods. It helped take Anvil to a whole new level. Were you thinking to yourself, damn, we need a documentary!?
I love those guys. I think that Steve [“Lips” Kudlow] and Robb [Reiner] are great musicians. They’re the real deal. I don’t know that any band has worked any harder than Anvil. They are on the road constantly and they’re been doing it and they stay true to what they do. I have so much respect for them.
As far as a documentary for The Rods, I think there was one made. It was called Spinal Tap. So we’re good.
The coolest thing about The Rods is that the classic lineup of the band is intact. It’s hard to find groups that have been around for as long as you guys have and not have a replacement or three.
I’m thrilled that it’s us. David and I started the band, and we’ve had Craig Gruber on bass and we had Stephen Starmer, but Garry is the guy. Garry is the third piece of the puzzle. I felt like we could go on and do the album because Garry doesn’t write, but the bottom line is that for live shows, it’s not the same without Garry.
When you reformed did you even know everyone would be on board with new albums and touring?
That’s a really good question because I don’t think we really had a game plan. We never really broke up. I started producing, David bought a restaurant, and Garry started playing with some Savoy Brown. In the downtime, next thing we knew our kids were grown! So in reforming, I don’t think we really had a master plan. I think we just knew we’d be there.
Brotherhood of Metal is catchy but also quite fast with your patented drumming. The Rods overcame the whole 1980s with glam versus thrash fights, so maybe that’s why it still comes so easy to you to continue to appeal to both sides.
When we first started, we had been listening to Ted Nugent, we had been listening to Deep Purple. Those were our roots, including for me starting out young with Zeppelin and Hendrix and so on. Then as we started the band, we were a little bit heavier than those bands.
We didn’t really understand that. We didn’t know what we were doing. The first time we heard anything about the New Wave of British Heavy Metal was when Sounds got our first album, and they said we were the American Motörhead. We had no idea who Motörhead was! We picked up the album and thought, “Wow, these guys are badass,” but we had no idea who they were.
I think it was my style of playing and David’s style of playing just seem to mesh. Then you just move forward with songwriting. So I think that’s kind of how we made it heavier than our influences and moved on from there. I think this album is just a return to our original roots.
I definitely think it’s a return to the kind of attitude and spirit of the first couple of records. You have songs like”1982” that are pretty autobiographical. The whole record is basically just reveling in all things metal.
Having been playing these festivals since Norway, we’ve sort of learned what works for us live. With this album, we wanted to be able to play a recorded album in its entirety. With the exception of the addition of the keyboards, there’s no fluff, everything can be performed. We can do the full album live.
I was going to mention the keyboards. They give it a very classic Uriah Heep, Deep Purple feel, which definitely harkens back to your roots.
It does, and we’ve been talking about doing it. When we started recording David’s guitar we wanted to add some keyboards here and there and little by little, we wound up adding keyboards in a lot of places, and it sounded great. Lonnie Park did the keyboards; Lonnie also engineered a good portion of the album.
Is he going to be joining the band for touring?
Well, we hope. I don’t know if Lonnie will join us. Lonnie has a lot of things going on — he has his own band [Ten Man Push] and he plays with a musician from India [Ricky Kej] so he’s always going to India. Having Ronnie join us would be fantastic, but whether or not we can work out the schedules with him remains to be seen.
Given the prevalence of keyboard on Brotherhood of Metal, could you see adding a touring keyboardist or would you do your best to just replicate it without him?
I think all the songs can be played without the keyboards live. So it’s certainly nice to have that, it sounds great, it’s full. But there’s a lot of energy that comes from being a three-piece. So there’s sure to be a trade-off, you know?
I love the fact that the album is all about metal. Still, as an aging metalhead, I have to ask if you ever think, “I’m too old for this shit?” Or is there a kernel of truth to the concept of it keeping you young?
Well, I don’t want to say I never think about that, but it never bothers me. I think initially when we started again, when we started recording Vengeance, I started wondering, “What do I have to offer as a drummer with so many great, young drummers out there?” There was a lot of self-doubt. But I said to myself, “You have your own style.” So you bring whatever you bring to it, and don’t worry about it. I made peace with it.
I found there was a comradery, which is really how the initial concept of Brotherhood of Metal came about for me. There are all these young drummers who embrace my style and are so complimentary, and are like, “Wow that was like a clinic” and “I love the way you play,” and I was saying the same things to them because there is a reciprocal mutual respect.
We’re doing the music we love and we’re doing what we’ve always done, it comes natural to us. It’s not a contrived thing, so we don’t look at it as we’re old men trying to be young. I look at it as a continuation of what we started when we were young. There’s nothing pretentious or contrived about it. I just don’t feel it, in terms of the age, like I’m trying to do something that I probably shouldn’t be doing. I’m doing what I think we should be doing: cranking out loud music! We’re old but we don’t play like we’re old. The music is derivative from our roots, but in terms of our attitudes and how we play, we’re still kicking ass, and I’m really thrilled about that.
I mean zero disrespect asking about it. You have the song “Party All Night” on the record and frankly at 50 years old, I just don’t do that very much anymore!
That’s funny! No, I take no offense to that whatsoever. I think it’s a very valid question. I should be glad to be doing it at the level we’re doing it at our age. It’s amazing to see it at our age that we’re still doing that type of show. And that was one of the things in re-forming. I never wanted us to be a facsimile of what we were, a watered-down 1990s version of The Rods. I never wanted to come out and play a swing version of “Power Lover” or “Crank It Up.”
Since reforming the band has seen a lot of support overseas, in Europe and South America. These places are bastions of hard rock and traditional metal. Was it like that back in the day as well?
We had a manager, and that manager was not particularly great. As our attorney said he’s not very creative, along with some other very derogatory comments. Ultimately we parted ways with that manager, which was fortunate for us, but also unfortunate in that we worked with him for way too long.
For example, after the [1982 UK] Iron Maiden tour, AC/DC asked us to go back through with them and that was a very big tour. It would have been a huge shot in the arm for us in Europe. We had to borrow some money to do that. Arista UK put up half of it but Arista in the US wouldn’t do that — they had a meeting or something, and they wound up getting Air Supply Lava Rocks or something for Aretha Franklin! So we didn’t get that support. We wanted to do the tour. We knew it was huge for our career, and that it didn’t happen.
At the time he told us that nobody really cared about The Rods. So we were unaware that around the world we had a fanbase. We just didn’t know. It was with the advent of the internet where I started getting emails from people — I think we all did. That’s how we wound up going to Norway! We had been pen pals [with the festival organizer], and emailing each other for two years because he was a Rods fan. Then one day he asks us to come and play. Yeah, we’re on the plane!
So there may be an alternate universe out there where The Rods were able to capitalize on overseas interest and break big.
Absolutely right. We saw that with Krokus when we were on tour. Krokus had support in Switzerland. They were really not well known anywhere but they had tour support money that kept them going around the world. And that was huge for them, because they had a base. We didn’t have that base in America but we would have had it in Europe had we just gone back with AC/DC.
But anyway, the woulda, shoulda, couldas, people saying, “You guys should have been huge. You should have been way bigger than you were, does it bother you?” It never bothers me. I’ve had so many great experiences in the business that I have nothing to be upset about.
There’s a bit of a resurgence of traditional metal, relatively young bands such as Magic Circle, Haunt, Visigoth, and Sanhedrin who almost assuredly listened to the first few Rods albums.
I’m somewhat aware of it, yes. I first heard of Visigoth a while ago. I had produced a band from Utica, an album that was never released, by a band [named] Visigoth. When I first saw that, I was like, no way it can be the same band!
So I’m aware of it, I’m aware of what’s going on with that stuff. I have friends who whine and cry and bitch about Greta Van Fleet! I’m like, “Oh stop. Please.” Whining about how they rip off Led Zeppelin. Yeah, they kind of must have listened to it the other night just like Oasis listened to the Beatles. I take it for what it is, it’s cool.
People know about you because of The Rods, people know about you for your work as a producer. Not a lot of people know that you drummed on the first Manowar demo in 1981 [featuring the earliest versions of “Battle Hymn” and “Shell Shock”]. Were you a full member of the band?
I was asked to be part of the band, so I was working with them. I was with them when they got signed to EMI, and we did the demo. But The Rods got signed at the exact same time. We recorded two songs for The Rods album the night before we recorded the Manowar demo in the same studio. My drums were [still] set up from that session. So the drums that you hear on “Ace in the Hole” and “Nothing Going on in the City” were the same drum set, same sounds basically, as the first Manowar demo.
So what happened was both bands were signed, and I just had to choose. My allegiance was for The Rods because of songwriting — I wrote and had written a lot of songs. Besides, the world wouldn’t have had “Wild Dogs” if I had stayed with Manowar. And how can the world exist without a song like “Wild Dogs?” So I think I made the right decision for myself. I don’t want to say I saved the world because I wound up writing “Wild Dogs,” but I’m just putting it out there in case somebody else would agree with that.
The world is certainly a better place. That is inarguable.
A better place, there we go! I like that! It is a better place because I wrote that song [laughs].
I did a Google search — plus it’s on the e-mail signature you have — that you sell real estate. I’m just wondering if you ever sold a property to a metalhead using your metal cred to help you sell a house.
I’ve never been able to use any cred I’ve had to do anything. Sell a house, get laid — nothing! There’s never been anything with metal cred that’s worked for me. However, there have been a few people who recognized me and actually wanted to work with me because of my credentials. So things happened, but as I recall nobody actually bought a house.
Brotherhood of Metal releases tomorrow in CD and LP formats; pre-orders available now.