After a brief exchange of time-zone related pleasantries we’re off and running with the latest in our Classics Track-by-Track Series, for which today I’m talking to American drummer/songwriter/producer Carl Canedy. Carl was and is drummer for US proto power metal outfit The Rods, and today we’re going to be dissecting their classic mid eighties album Let Them Eat Metal…
What was the feeling in the band coming into the recording of the album? “That’s a good question. I was thinking back on this, and… this album was done on the back of a lot of live performance. We had a lot of songs, and those songs we’d been playing live. Or I should say some of them we’d been playing live. One of the things I recall about all of this is that we recorded the album at Music America, in Rochester, New York. Where Metallica recorded their first album. They had a huge upstairs room, and I wanted a big sound. So we decided to move everything to that room, which was a monumental task! With today’s technology it wouldn’t have been such a big deal but back then it was a huge deal. We set up a video camera so the other guys could see me in the control room and I could speak with them… it took forever to link up all the cables but the room sounded great. I also remember that it was winter, and it was cold. Everyone else would be in the nice warm control room and I was up there in the live room, with this camera staring at me, freezing my ass off, playing my drum tracks’…
Who were you actually signed to at this point? I’m English, and over there the album came out on Music For Nations. But I’m almost certain that was just a licensing deal. “We were signed to Music for Nations and Combat”.
Okay, we’ve set the scene. Let’s get into the album itself. The first track was Let Them Eat Metal, what do you remember about the recording of that track? “That actually was a song that David (Feinstein, guitarist) and I were going to write together. But I was producing, so it was very difficult for me to get time to get together. David called me and he said ‘okay, song’s done!’. And I remember I loved the song, it was so great. Going into the recording I remember coming up with that little opening fill which was something I loved playing… the song had a great feel from day one. It was a blast to do, and it turned out well. We still play the song, the crowd loves it and it’s still fun to play for me after all these years”.
That’s the mark of a good song isn’t it? If you’re still happy thirty three years after the song was written. “I think when it comes to our catalogue, if we still like to play it and I’m not embarrassed by what I’ve written then it’s a good song!”
Second track up is White Lightning. “White Lightning was one of those songs that we’d been playing live. It was fun to play. As I mentioned, when we were recording it was very cold. That song for me was quite fast at the time. That’s funny because we’ve just been in Japan and had a request to play it… actually, an overwhelming number of fans asked for White Lightning. So we did it, and we hadn’t played it since the late eighties. But now I find it really easy to play it at the same tempo or faster, which cracks me up! We should be slowing down as opposed to speeding up! But I really struggled with the double bass during recording because it was so cold. My legs would start to cramp. I should’ve built a fire next to my kit!”
Track three is Nuclear Skies, which was my favourite track on the album at the time. “I thought Nuclear Skies was pretty timely as far as the topic went, and I thought it was a great song. It’s been covered by one or two bands, quite well actually. David plays a solo on one of them (the version by Finns Burning Point – Ed.). The song was a cool song. We did it live forever, and it always went over well. We were just talking about it recently, about bringing it back and doing it live again”.
You were playing live a lot – were you producing other bands as well as The Rods at the time or did that come later? “Yes I had already produced a slew of other bands by then”.
So playing live was obviously a very good place to get the songs into shape before recording them. “It was like that from day one for us. As we got further into our career we didn’t play live as often, we weren’t touring as much, and sometimes we would write songs and just do them in the studio. David or I would write a song, we’d put down a scratch track and then the first time we would actually play it would be in the studio. In the early days of the band we would write songs and take them out live to gauge audience response. As we got further along we lost that because you couldn’t gauge audience response until a song was already committed to vinyl. Sometimes that would be a bit frustrating. You could look back at songs and see that they weren’t going to be a good live track. And maybe with audience response we would have said ‘well we have a lot of material, let’s not put this song on the album’”.
The next track is Rock Warriors. “I thought this song David had written with harmony guitars was cool. We only had one guitar in the band, so as we started writing songs like this it was a little bit frustrating to do them live. Today, with the new technology, you have so many devices that can duplicate one guitar to double or triple track it that it’s not a problem. But then you really couldn’t. We did play it live, and it was cool, but it didn’t have the same effect. I love the song, I love the intro, and I like the chorus a lot”.
Next up is Bad Blood. “Bad Blood was in a similar vein to Rock Warriors. It was up tempo and another one that I really enjoyed playing. As I recall it actually went over better than Rock Warriors with audiences. That was a surprise to me – maybe the chorus is a little bit catchier. Very strong live”.
That little thing that an audience can hook onto makes all the difference sometimes. “Doing it in the studio you’re so tight; live you take a looser approach, more of a thrash approach, the guitars are heavier, it’s a whole different dynamic. I first discovered that aspect I think when I saw the Dan Reed Network. He was so great live but when I heard his first album it was so overproduced that it lost everything. The whole vibe of the live band that was so great was gone. Sometimes that happens in the studio unfortunately”.
The next track was She’s So Tight. “This song had been around for a while – I’d written it before the album was recorded and we played it a lot. It was a fun song. I’m listening to the lyrics now but you know… I don’t write those kind of lyrics any more but going back… it occurred to me that we were young. We were single. And there were inspirational women on the road. I don’t know what more I can say!”
But it’s still a great song, musically, isn’t it? “It is a good song. And you know, two years ago, in Sweden, at a great festival called Muskelrock, we did a little meet and greet. And these two young girls came up, and of course they were probably about twenty one but they seemed about twelve to me! They were dressed in their metal outfits, all giddy and laughing saying ‘we love The Rods!’ and they had things for us to sign. I said ‘seriously, you couldn’t be Rods fans! You’re doing this for your boyfriends or someone you know!’ They say again ‘no, we’re huge Rods fans!’. So I said, ‘OK, sing one Rods song for me!’ So they break into She’s So Tight and they sing the whole freakin’ thing! We were on the floor, flabbergasted, because of all the songs they could have picked from our catalogue the one song I didn’t expect them to sing was She’s So Tight… I guess it was a good song! Someone liked it!”
Track seven was Got the Fire Burning. “You don’t always go back and listen to your own songs, but going back and listening to this now… It was sung by Gary (Bordonaro, bass) although I wrote it. It has some good pieces to it but I remember it didn’t turn out the way I was hoping it would. A lot of the time I would write songs in an open ‘A’. And David would play my guitar parts, but he plays in a different style. It’s certainly much heavier when the strings are muted; So I would write songs ‘open’, and they often didn’t sound as heavy as I hoped they would. I remember really liking the song at the time, and I still like it on hearing it again. But I’m disappointed that in some ways it came out more ‘rock’ than ‘metal’”.
I’m interested you make the comment on going back and listening to tracks. When you’ve recorded an album, how soon is it for you before you can go back and listen? Have you had enough of an album once the recording process is finished? Do you need to leave the songs for a little while? “By the time you’ve gone through the process of writing, recording, then mastering, then worrying about the release, listening to it at release parties, you pretty much don’t want to hear it. But what’s really comical in asking that question is… we rehearse in a large building that David owns, a warehouse, in which he has a couple of rooms, one of which is a studio room. This room is covered in Rods memorabilia, and Elf and Dio too (Feinstein was in Elf with Ronnie James Dio prior to forming The Rods in 1979). All the Rods stuff is in there. Above the studio monitor speakers is a row of Rods CDs. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve peed myself laughing because we’ll suggest a song to do live and David scrambles in, opens up the CD that’s hanging on the wall to put it in the computer to play the song because none of us really remember it… it just cracks me up! Somebody needs to open up the CDs every once in a while to listen to the material!”
The penultimate track was I’m a Rocker. “We did this live for a long time and I’m going to suggest we bring it back. It’s a big mid-tempo chugger. Crowds loved it. And it sounded great during recording”.
The last track was She’s Such a Bitch. “What can I say? It was another track that I’d written! It was inspired by the woman who was a friend to all of us, Sherry, who appeared on the cover of Let Them Eat Metal… She and I were very close friends but Sherry could be… a bitch. So in her honour I wrote the song. We had a good laugh about it, but I’m sorry Sherry… there’s some truth in this! (laughs)”
That’s the album covered. Looking back, do you have a favourite track? Or is picking favourites too difficult? “I still love Let Them Eat Metal. It’s probably my favourite track. I’m a Rocker is great, Nuclear Skies is great. When we played White Lightning live I had a blast and really saw why the fans remembered it… I’m going to mention She’s So Tight again, maybe we’ll pull that out again! I was surprised listening back for this how strong some of the songs were. I think the production could have been better, but it’s been fun to go back and revisit them now”.
Overall, was it a happy time for the Rods at that point? “I would say no. I was thinking about this and this could be a long-winded answer but it wasn’t the best time. Although we had a record deal we didn’t have management – we’d had some typical band issues with management that left us on our own – so it wasn’t a great time. We were floundering. We had a direction musically, we were tight as a band, we were writing strong material, but there was no one championing the band out there. Not only did we not have a manager, we didn’t have a publicist, we didn’t have an agency, we were on our own, and that’s not a fun place to be, you know? But even though they were bad times we were always pretty tight, and that’s what made it easy for us to regroup and start playing again. We none of us had any major issues, we all liked hanging out, nobody was crazy, nobody was raging all the time or miserable to be around”.
So that was then, and this is now – you seem to be having quite a good time being in The Rods in 2017. What’s happening for the band at the moment? “We’re negotiating now for some things in Europe. I’d love to go back to Japan, we’d love to go back and the fans are so great! We’ve signed to work on a new album for SPV/Steamhammer. I’m doing the drum tracks now and I’ve already got a couple down. I’m excited about it. It’s been a while since we recorded an album, and I think it’s going to be a good one. David’s just released a solo album called Hail and Farewell, which is a concept album about his relationship with Ronnie Dio from the early days to the end, and I’ve just done a solo album with The Canedy Project, I’m really thrilled about that. But both of those albums are different musically to The Rods. For Rods fans our new album is kind of like a cross between the first two albums… If you like that. That’s what you’re going to get. We didn’t try to reinvent the wheel, we tried to stay true to what our strengths are, which was important for me. I’m sure it was for the other guys too but I don’t want to speak for them. So many times when bands get back together and they’re older, it’s such a deluded version of what they were… I would rather not do that. It’s always an embarrassment when a band’s out there and they’re a shadow of what they were”.