Back with a Vengeance
An exclusive interview with Rods drummer Carl Canedy
The Rods entered the eighties as a no-holds-barred power trio mixing biker rock with gargantuan metal riffs. The classic lineup consisted of guitarist/vocalist David ‘Rock’ Feinstein of ‘70s group Elf, drummer Carl Canedy and bassist/vocalist Garry Bordonaro. After releasing the independent, yet critically acclaimed Rock Hard, they were snatched up by Arista records, eager to enter the metal market. Their major-label debut, The Rods (1981) clicked immediately with the public striking a major chord in England where “Power Lover” and “Crank It Up” became fast selling singles. The band landed the opening slot for Ozzy Osbourne’s “Blizzard of Ozz” tour and enjoyed sellout shows with Judas Priest, Motörhead and Iron Maiden. Wild Dogs (1982) was recorded in London with producer/engineer Martin Pearson which yielded the band it’s best penned track, “Burned By Love.” The live In The Raw (1983) was hot on its heels with the killer anthem “Hurricane,” yet management and finance troubles caused them to cancel a career-defining tour with AC/DC.
The blow was devastating and the band went into complete meltdown. There were more records, Let Them Eat Metal (1984) with its Spinal Tap-like cover, Heavier Than Thou (1986) and the Hollywood Project (1986). But by 1987 the group fragmented with Bordonaro returning to college, Rock pursuing solo interests and Canedy moving more into production - working with Anthrax, Exciter, Overkill and Blue Cheer. As time passed, the underground scene that so fully embraced them resurfaced using the internet to stir up serious noise. “We were really surprised people even remembered us,” says Canedy over the phone. “I’ve always had a web presence with my production company and studio work so I knew there was still interest out there. But it was flattering to see there was so much…and from all over the world.” In 2008, after a couple false starts, The Rods finally reformed onstage at the Metal Rock festival in Lillehammer, Norway.
The demand refreshed and reenergized the trio. However, as with any marriage, there were some old wounds that needed to be healed before they could forge ahead and consider recording together. “There were some bumps that we needed to work out,” says Canedy. “Through face-to-face communications and a lot of long emails, Rock and I managed to sort things out. Even Garry weighed in with his opinion. Of course, hearing things from Garry’s perspective was quite shocking and funny. But we sorted it out and I think we’re closer because of it. We also stripped away the people surrounding the band that played us against each other. That was a lot of what was going on. Four years ago we started working on this record. In the end we realized The Rods only sound like The Rods when the three of us are together, unified and dedicating 100% to the music.”
It was during the recording of the record that Feinstein was commuting back and forth to LA visiting his cousin and Elf-vocalist Ronnie James Dio. “Ronnie and Rock were working on some material together as Ronnie had been talking about doing another Elf album,” says Canedy. “They had been very close the past five years or so of his life. I think they always felt there was more music to write together. Recording this record gave us the opportunity to involve Ronnie and he was more than willing to do it. We both consider the day Ronnie came in to cut the vocals for “The Code” to be magical. For me it was one of the best days of my life. Here was one of my favorite vocalist singing my lyrics.” Canedy describes the surreal experience, “I was into the books, The Da Vinci Code and Holy Blood, Holy Grail, both very profound reads. That’s where it started, but really the song speaks more of personal conviction than anything.”
“Usually Rods lyrics are pretty much self-explanatory,” continues Canedy, “but in this particular case I was speaking of self-belief. When Ronnie agreed to come in and record with us we felt ‘The Code’ was the perfect song for him to sing. Ronnie was a very busy guy. He was playing Radio City Music Hall in New York City with Heaven and Hell. He made the time to come over to our little studio. We played him the demo on an old boom box and he got into it right away. He ran through it a couple of times, made some slight adjustments and then we rolled tape. He nailed it, never once out of tune, what we got was the very best from him - his artistry, it’s very bittersweet. What a brilliant musician. Honestly it’s the highlight of my career.”
“We didn’t hear the song for quite a while when we pulled it up again and listened to it, it was very sad. We just sat there in complete silence and we relived the moment again.” As a writer, Canedy readily admits his past lyrics, “have not stood the test of time” (example: In Your Panties, She’s So Tight). “Speaking for my self, my songs are more political now,” he says. “I’m looking to bring something new to the table as far as my lyrics go. ‘Ride Free Or Die’ off the new record started as a song called ‘Politician.’ After struggling with the lyrics for three months, I finally faced the fact that this was a biker song. Once I came to that realization, I wrote the lyrics in ten-minutes.” Canedy is also taking his drumming more serious. “I’m playing more, I’m practicing more. I started taking lessons from a local guy I’ve always admired and he was gracious enough to consent. He doesn’t teach so much as he listens and offers suggestions - he's actually helping me with my reading. I’m more into the drums than I’ve ever been.”
The Rods have signed to Niji Entertainment, the company Ronnie James Dio created with his wife Wendy. The union has been a perfect family partnership. “Niji’s been incredibly good at taking a hands-off approach,” says Canedy. “They wanted us to hand them a great product and then let them do their job. We used Wyn Davis, who has mastered some of Ronnie’s projects. Bryan New, who mixed the album and did a great job, worked with Mutt Lange for years. He’s also worked with The Cure and a million other artists including Def Leopard with Mutt. We were very instrumental in controlling where we wanted to go with the mixing and mastering of the record. We each have a studio; Gary, Rock and myself, so we were able to pass it around and get it done (produced) ourselves. We’ve never really had a sonically strong album but this one hits the mark. It’s raw and it’s got warts, but that what makes it a Rods record. We could have noodled this thing forever but it has the energy that defines us.”
Vengeance follows David ‘Rock’ Feinstein’s solo record Bitten By The Beast by only a few months. Canedy claims the timing was “perfect” as it got “folks talking about The Rods again.” “It definitely brought an awareness,” he says. “From the tons of interviews David did, he was surprised how many people asked about The Rods. He was able to let them know a new Rods was coming. We’ve also been doing local shows playing the new songs live. We do “I Just Wanna Rock,” “Ride Free or Die,” “Raise Some Hell,” and “Running Wild” which Garry does a great job singing. We do some of Rock’s solo stuff too like “Metal Will Never Die,” “Evil In Me” and “Break Down The Walls.” Canedy is also ecstatic about new record’s cover art. “All the credit goes to Belgium artist Eric Philippe. He took our logo and really made it cool, updated it, brought it into the new millennium. He had very strong opinions as to how we should look, what our image should be and how to grow old gracefully.”
The Rods will be playing Download Festival (ye ‘ol Castle Donington) in England this summer and doing an extensive tour with the Dio Disciples which include former DIO members Rudy Sarzo (bass), Simon Wright (drums), Craig Goldy (guitar) and Scott Warren (keyboards). Singers will be Tim "Ripper" Owens, Toby Jepson and Doro.
Special thanks to our long-time friend Carl Canedy and Jen at ChipsterPR.
Website: The Rods