The Rods – Brotherhood in MusicTuesday, 25th June 2019
It’s not often in the music realm to find three musicians like guitarist/vocalist David Feinstein, bassist Garry Bordonaro, and drummer Carl Canedy who started a band together in 1980 still playing together in 2019. That’s the case with upstate New York trio The Rods. They had a run of albums in the early 80’s that gained decent attention in the metal landscape – as well as some upscale arena opportunities with bands like Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, and Ozzy Osbourne among others. They would break up in 1987 and consistently receive festival offers from Europe plus labels that would reissue that older material to a new audience. Reuniting for the 2011 Vengeance album, they haven’t rested on their laurels in between records – as you’ll discover in this talk with Carl.
Brotherhood of Metal is the newest album by The Rods – another record that doesn’t necessarily reinvent the wheel, but instead keeps it churning along for those who’ve always been fans of the band’s straightforward, down to earth style. You’ll learn more about the band’s approach to this album, favorite memories and missteps they’ve made, thoughts on the evolving digital music/ production landscape, and a bit of Ronnie James Dio and Randy Rhoads talk sprinkled in the mix.
Dead Rhetoric: It’s been eight years since the last studio album for The Rods – what keeps the creative juices following for the trio this deep into the band’s career?
Carl Canedy: I think that the bottom line is, we just haven’t stopped. It’s been something that we do on a regular basis. David has done solo albums, I did a solo album. I wrote a song that I put up recently on YouTube for my daughter, my friend Sarah Felicity sang it for me, it’s called “Say Your Prayers” and it’s a totally different song for me. I’ve been producing bands, at this point I have two projects. I just came back recently from Miami where we were working on the St. James album, and that’s almost done. I have a Canedy band project album, and that’s almost done- just ready to be mixed. Between that and producing bands, I produced something for Held Hostage which will benefit veterans, Joe Lynn Turner sang on this. I stay busy with music, plus I play in an eight-piece horn band for the last twenty-two years. I went to California, we opened for Metal Allegiance with Held Hostage, I was the guest drummer for that. David does the same – he writes, we have a great rehearsal hall so we get together and keep it going.
Dead Rhetoric: Are you striving for quality over quantity in terms of songwriting these days?
Canedy: I think our songwriting has matured- certainly our lyrics have matured. This album there was a conscious effort where David really focused on his vocals, and I think we concentrated on the songwriting a little bit differently. We had Olly Hahn who signed us to SPV, and his directive was to make a great Rods album. With that, we went off and started writing some material which came together very quickly. The process only took longer because we don’t live that close to each other – we have busy lives. David did the bulk of this material. There was a focus on that – and he left us alone. He never said another word to us, and I think we delivered a fairly good Rods album. I’m proud of it.
Dead Rhetoric: Were there any songs that maybe seemed a bit harder or more challenging than others?
Canedy: I would say… they always morph. A lot of times I get (the songs) with click tracks, and a rhythm guitar- and it’s up to me to be able to figure out what is actually going to be going on with the song. I don’t think we re-recorded anything, although I think I re-recorded a drum track at some point. The song “1982” definitely had transitions. I had written the music, put it together and gave it to David and Garry. I did a thirty-minute demo – I write the song with my guitar, record a click track, I have an arrangement, throw some bass on it, play my parts on drums and then I sing a crappy vocal they have to suffer through. I do that as fast as possible- and in that song I came back and did the guitar solos, which actually David copied them. That song took a little bit of developing. “Party All Night” for example, that song actually was a song that wound up being exactly the way David gave it to me wanting me to play. Every drum beat, every stroke was exactly the way he wanted me to play it- I didn’t vary it at all.
Dead Rhetoric: Do you believe it’s an advantage that all the members of The Rods can play multiple instruments when it comes to the songwriting, so you understand what the other people in the band want and need?
Canedy: I think it does. As a bass player, it’s a rhythmic instrument as well as a melodic instrument. Having started on drums for Garry, that definitely helps. For David, I think it helps him as well. If you notice, there are a lot of holes and places for drum fills. I don’t ask for that – listen to the songs I’ve written, I don’t have those. David does – he’s a drummer so he wants to hear that, so I get a little bit of a chance to show my chops. For me playing guitar and knowing how David plays the song for The Rods- I know where he’s comfortable and what will work for the three-piece. That helps me as well.
Dead Rhetoric: The title track “Brotherhood of Metal” espouses the band’s affinity and appreciation for the metal community – does it amaze you the power of the genre and the commitment of the followers/fans, who often carry the torch for a lifetime?
Canedy: It does. This is kind of a long story about the journey of how I came to all of this. When we first reformed for the Vengeance album, I was concerned that although I had been playing regularly, we hadn’t been recording anything really with The Rods. There are so many great drummers and so many people play at a different level now with great technique and high BPM’s. I was thinking what do I have to bring to the scene anymore? A friend of mine said I have a great style of my own- and that’s huge. Do what I do and leave it at that. That’s all I can do – I still try to learn all the time and I’m trying to do new things. It is what you can do. Once I made peace with it, I found that once we started gigging – in the drumming community there would be people at festivals and I loved the way they played. The reciprocal was there – they thought I was putting on a drum clinic, it was so different. That’s when I just started recognizing that it was just about the music.
And we played a festival in Sweden, we were the headliners at Muskelrock, and there was a surprise guest – The Crazy World of Arthur Brown. Nothing close to metal – he made us look young. It was one of the first singles I ever bought. When he came out, people loved him and they accepted him. It was amazing to see, playing in front of music fans. As we’ve done all these festivals over the last ten years, I’ve found and noticed that the other musicians are very supportive, and that’s there’s a strong bond there. They love the music, and it stays with them forever. I’ve experienced this in an evolving situation, discovering the pieces little by little.
Dead Rhetoric: When it comes to drumming, are you impressed by what a lot of younger musicians have been able to do as far as propelling their abilities and artform in heavy metal?
Canedy: I do. I’ve been working on the double bass drum techniques so that you can just play one stroke but having two strokes. I’ve been able to do that with my right foot for years, not so much with my left foot. I’m very impressed with what has happened, rhythmically there are a lot of cool grooves and I love that. It’s opened up the door for bass drum patterns and rhythmic patterns that we didn’t have prior.
Dead Rhetoric: Considering the changes in digital technology and production methods, would you say that for The Rods, you prefer to keep things basic, primal, and in your face – or do you embrace some of the advancement of recording techniques for the benefit of the final product?
Canedy: I’ve been recording digitally for probably twelve years. I find that, I prefer to have… I don’t like to have my drum track beat doctored, I don’t like to re-trigger anything except the kick drum and maybe the snare drum to be mixed in. It’s really a necessity in speed metal in a lot of cases. It’s not that the drummers can’t play it, it’s just to make it clean and a really strong recording sometimes you just program the drums. I didn’t want to do that for me, as it would take away any kind of style I’d bring to it as far as the production goes. Most of the drum tracks you hear from me are one take, if I need something to fix or don’t like one fill, it will be one little piece that I’ll re-do. In terms of that it’s old school.
As far as the other part of it goes, I love the opportunities that (technology) gives us. You can do so much with production. With The Rods we went back to keeping things simple, with the exception of the organ/piano. We went back to basics, didn’t overproduce it, and we can go play this album live which I’m very excited about.
Dead Rhetoric: Can you discuss the impressive Eric Philippe cover art for this record? How did the idea develop, as it’s very striking and hopefully will be a part of your merchandise campaign when you play out live…
Canedy: Eric Philippe has been with us since the release of the Vengeance album. He’s done everything for us since- including our solo projects. He’s a master- I call him Metalangelo because he’s amazing what he comes up with, he’s so versatile and so talented. Olly Hahn had this idea, our rep at SPV, that we needed to bring the Wild Dogs album to modern day, to update it. And so we all discussed it, I was thinking the dogs, having basically a metal version of the original Cerberus but having the smaller dogs, brotherhood thing, kind of tying it in. Eric did a great job on it. This is what he came up with, and it’s brilliant. It was probably the most iconic The Rods album.
Dead Rhetoric: When you look back at the first era of The Rods during the 1980’s, what are some of the standout moments – to the good – as well as possibly an error or two you may have made that could have set you up for bigger success in retrospect?
Canedy: There’s so many highlights. For me, the first arena show we ever did in Broome County Arena opening for Blue Oyster Cult. They had sold it out, “Godzilla” was the big hit that was on the charts at the time. I threw my drumsticks out into the audience after my drum solo, and I learned that you couldn’t do that. The reason I mention it is I was told not to do that ever again, as it was a lawsuit waiting to happen. I got shot down immediately. Playing with Judas Priest on tour, I used to sit and watch them every night. It was a lot of fun- Iron Maiden, those guys were great to us. The crowds were fantastic. Playing with Rainbow, the first show we played with Ozzy. We were in a dressing room and Randy Rhoads was warming up. We were way down the hall, he must have had a Marshall stack in there. We literally would see our lips move when we were trying to talk to each other, but it was a great thing as I heard him playing all these modes and scales, just ripping them and it was nothing like he was playing with Ozzy. It was the start of the Satriani-style, it was new to me and amazing to hear it.
As far as missteps go, and we certainly had many – Garry, Dave and I went to see Spinal Tap the movie, and Garry turned to me at one point in the movie, and you have to know Garry has a dry sense of humor like the Brits – he looked at me and said, ‘I didn’t know we made a movie’ (laughs). It was a classic line. AC/DC after the Iron Maiden tour asked us to tour with them, and our manager at the time said no, we aren’t doing it. We would have had to borrow $20,000 or so, and we were willing to do that, but he just nixed it. We lost the opportunity to go back to Europe with AC/DC, which would have been huge for us. From that point on, we lost momentum.
Dead Rhetoric: How has the band embraced the changing landscape of the music industry – where digital sales and streaming platforms plus social media seems very important, while there are still ardent collectors who love physical media like vinyl and CD’s?
Canedy: I think we are all good with it. I know for me, I’ve been very good with it for years because managing Young Turk and some other bands, but when I had them on Geffen and Virgin Records I ended up spending a lot of time in Los Angeles. I would spend time with A+R people and I could see the digital thing coming, I had my own 24-track recording studio at the time, a commercial studio. I knew that it was coming, we were using Sony Themes digital to do mixdowns. I could hear these A+R people talking shit about this not happening- it is happening. They had no clue what was coming, and the business was going to take a huge hit.
We knew that at some point, with the landscape changing, you needed to be on the road to make money. We made peace with that, we just wanted the music out there for our fans and then we would go play and sell merchandise. I know that I’m good with it, I feel like there need to be some fee structures that need to be changed and hopefully that will be brought forward. Sometimes you see the royalty statements as .01 cent- and why does anyone even bother sending out a check for that? I do love the fact that the fans have access to the music, and to me when I started playing, I would hear other musicians talk about the music business and they don’t want to record anymore. To which I always say- why did you start playing? You love music, but the music business beat you down because it’s such a blood sucking industry, but you love playing music and the fans love hearing you play your music. We are going to get the man- there’s no man. You may not make a lot of money, but if you can record digitally, it costs very little money, you can put out the music yourself and you can access your fans directly. It’s a win win to me.
Dead Rhetoric: What’s the secret to maintaining the power trio lineup of The Rods now for so long?
Canedy: I think that’s been… there’s something about that, we all really loved the trio aspect. David and I have done solo albums, because we write songs where we hear other instrumentation for. There’s something about the three-piece, you really have to play to carry that off. You can see it with Blue Cheer, The Police, certain trios there’s a sound that happens when the musicians mesh together as a trio. I think that’s been there with the Rods from the start. The way David plays guitar, his guitar tone, my drumming, it just works. We had talked about with the new album having keyboards of expanding at some point, but it changes the dynamic- and Garry and David still run around like their eighteen (laughs). It would inhibit that a little bit. We’ll see how things develop with the next album.
Dead Rhetoric: Where do you see the major differences between the bands you grew up with in the hard rock/metal genre and how things are going for the newer generation?
Canedy: Sometimes I don’t hear songs that are developed particularly well. It’s always been about the song – it always has been, it always will be. There may be a certain trendy thing in a style or sound will gain attention, in the long haul it’s about the song. If the song isn’t strong, it’s going to fall by the wayside. I don’t always hear great songwriting – I hear good musicianship and cool riffs, but I don’t hear great songwriting all the time.
I have friends that would differ with that and just tell me that everything new is crap, which I totally don’t agree with. I have some old school friends who tell me there is nothing new out there. I tell them to get a Sirius radio subscription and check out what is out there.
Dead Rhetoric: Does it frustrate you that there aren’t as many commercial rock radio outlets for these newer artists to gain exposure?
Canedy: When I first started playing I loved pop music, because that was what was popular on the radio. It was dictated to me. There weren’t very many options for me. Now it’s come down to radio being a format, it’s a playlist and you have to fit into that. If you are a can of tomato soup and they are playing tomato soup, you are going to get played. If not, you have to find it. If you can’t find your audience on radio, then you can find your audience playing live or through the internet. I’ve always understood the bottleneck of getting your music to the fans – and that’s the catch twenty-two of having the freedom with digital where anybody can get a download or a CD. The pitfall, now you are free of getting a deal with a record company or a publishing company, but there is so much music, how do you rise above that to get heard to the masses?
Dead Rhetoric: Fostering a good relationship with a legend like the late Ronnie James Dio because of his family relationship as a cousin of David Feinstein, what do you think you were able to learn the most from him that you could apply to your music/business activities?
Canedy: First for me, Ronnie singing a song that I had written, which was a great gift from David. He was going to sing them how David wanted them, and they easily could have been just David’s songs. He didn’t have to share that with me, but he felt “The Code” was the right song in our catalog for Ronnie to sing. I used to hear from David that Ronnie was a one take guy- I’ve done forty plus albums and worked with some really good singers. I just thought over time we look back at things and that they were better than they were. It was not the case with Ronnie- he came in and everything was one take, he did change one piece, but he would redo it not because it was bad, he would have another idea and treat my songwriting so well. He did this without any tyrannical ego. I come away with producing now with a hands-off approach until I need to come in with something where I guide things. It was a learning process to watch him work, and for me a highlight of my career.
Dead Rhetoric: What’s on the horizon for The Rods once the record comes out? Will you continue to be selective and smart about live show appearances here and abroad?
Canedy: We will. We had a couple of things that we turned down. We want to get the album out, and so far so good as far as the reviews. We are surprised, it’s easy to take shots at a group of guys that are older and our music is not reinventing the wheel. We are staying true to who we are, but that may not score high on certain reviewers’ lists. With live dates, we are discussing some and hopefully we can announce some things soon because I’m chopping at the bit to play these songs live.