By Michael Lello
In the 1980s, heavy metal bands etched their names into history, some eventually earning legendary status. Their names are still prominent: Judas Priest. Iron Maiden. Metallica. Right there with all of them was The Rods, a New York state band that was at the forefront of the metal scene, but for whatever reason has been relegated to a less lofty status when compared to, say, the aforementioned Priest and Maiden — both of whom The Rods toured with, by the way, and you can add a “Blizzard Of Ozz”-era Ozzy Osbourne to the list as well.
Twenty-five years since their last album, “Heavier Than Thou,” The Rods – David “Rock” Feinstein (guitar, lead vocals), Garry Bordonaro (bass, vocals) and Carl Canedy (drums, vocals) – have launched a comeback, and today they release a brand new studio album, aptly titled “Vengeance.”
The album’s historical significance includes a bittersweet component as well, as it features one of the final recorded vocal performances by the late Ronnie James Dio, who sang on the track “The Code.” Dio was a cousin of Feinstein — and they were bandmates in Dio’s pre-Rainbow band Elf. There are other important connections between Dio and The Rods: “Vengeance” has been released by the Niji Entertainment Group, a new record label formed by Dio and his wife Wendy Dio in his final days, and what’s more, The Rods will tour Europe this summer with Dio Disciples, a group formed by veterans of the Dio band to pay tribute to the late metal master.
The Rods are gearing up for two Northeastern Pennsylvania events: an in-store appearance at the Gallery of Sound store on Mundy Street in Wilkes-Barre on Wednesday, May 25, and a full concert Friday June 3 at Brews Brothers West in Luzerne (the former Voodoo Lounge).
Last month, we caught up with Canedy — a longtime Northeastern Pa. resident who also boasts a production resume including the early classic Anthrax albums — who filled us in on The Rods plotting their “Vengeance.”
H81R: After such a long wait, how does it feel now that you’re about to release “Vengeance”?
CC: Ya know, we’ve been really eager to get this album out. I’ve been really concerned how it would be received by the fans and by critics, so we’re getting some reviews and getting some feedback on the advances, and ya know, so far so good.
H81R: Tell us a little bit about the writing and recording process for this album.
CC: David and I tend to write individually. We live an hour and 25 minutes apart now. We did write (the song) “Vengeance” together, and we collaborated a little bit on each other’s songs in terms of if there’s a solo section or he wants to change a part, or I may have some suggestions for some arrangements. Minor things. Generally we write separately.
But as far as the writing process goes, we know what works as The Rods. I have my solo album, it’s about two-thirds done, and that material is different. Heavy, just a little different. So we each know what works.
H81R: What works for The Rods now? Has that changed over the years?
CC: I don’t think so, but I think the one thing that is different now from those days, in those days you had A&R and management saying, “Do this, do that, you need a strong opening song, you need a song like this on the album.” We were constantly being fed these things that you need to do, and that tainted it. That’s gone now. If it’s a 2-minute song or a 5-minute song, the song goes where it’s going to go, stream of consciousness, let it go, and when it’s done, then I look back. We just don’t have that pressure anymore.
H81R: The lead single on “Vengeance” is “The Code.” Tell us how that track came together and how Ronnie James Dio came to sing on it.
CC: Ronnie was in Cortland (New York) one day and, (Ronnie and Feinstein) were having dinner, and we had actually worked on some material. David wanted to do another solo album but was having problems with a singer. Ronnie offered to do a song, and David said, “We’re deep into The Rods thing,” so he ended up singing on that. It’s sad that it became part of his legacy, because it was really a great event for us. Ronnie was the nicest, sweetest guy, courteous, polite and a flawless singer. Everything was perfect.
That song had been written, and we decided that’s a prefect song for Ronnie. For me it s a career highlight, and sadly it’s bittersweet because Ronnie was a great guy and I briefly reconnected with him. I’m so proud that he sang a song of mine. And I think the song turned out really well. I didn’t hear it for a long time — we just didn’t want to hear it. When we finally got back to hearing it, we were just sitting there in silence.
H81R: Another Dio connection is your record label, Niji Entertainment, which was started by Ronnie and his wife.
CC: Again, I think there could be the nepotism thing on that one, but initially. … It’s a long process and story, and one I probably don’t want to repeat. The reality is that Ronnie sang those songs without any idea that they’d be on a label that he and Wendy started. So the songs were recorded that way, and of course Wendy being part of David’s family was always there for us. Initially we talked about doing this on another label. … Wendy’s wonderful. We love Wendy. It just seemed like a home for us. And Dean (Schachtel), the GM, is a great guy.
H81R: Do you think Niji will help this album find the right audience?
CC: I would think they would, in terms of “The Code” for Ronnie’s fans. This was never a big cash-in thing. Ronnie and David were talking about doing an Elf thing. Ronnie had projects. They had been discussing an Elf reunion. I think that it was never meant to be what it turned into. I think it’s great for Dio fans, and I also have been concerned that certain people would be trying to cash in. I think the Ronnie fans will discover the song. By the same token, I want The Rods album to stand on its own.
H81R: And The Rods will be touring with Dio Disciples in Europe?
CC: It looks like it’s going to be great. All those guys are fantastic. They have two singers, Tim “Ripper” Owens being one of them. I think us in support of that, I think that’s a good addition to it, I think it’s a good fit, and we’re labelmates.
H81R: What’s the plan of attack in the U.S. for The Rods? Will there be a U.S. tour?
CC: We’re hoping to. We have nothing official to announce, and I know U.S. dates are being worked on.
H81R: Do you sense there is more interest in the band in Europe as opposed to the U.S.?
CC: More concentrated. I would say it’s a much more concentrated audience. The U.S. has a lot of metal fans, and they’re devoted fans. The problem is there are pockets across the country. In Europe it’s pretty focused as far as festivals. Here, metal, like so much of popular music, it comes in and out of vogue. You still have people that love metal here, but it’s pockets.
H81R: The Rods are one of the few trios in metal. Do you think that gives you a unique sound?
CC: Ya know, I wouldn’t say that I could speak to whether we have a different sound, but when David and I first started to work together we knew that our playing styles meshed. I came from that school of Keith Moon, Ginger Baker, that bombastic kind of Mitch Mitchell-style of playing, and it fit perfectly with Garry, when we found Garry it fit perfect. We all play that little bit extra. I think all three of us have always loved bands that are trios. Even if you think about Led Zeppelin, they were trio, they just had a singer.
H81R: Considering when the band started, the metal scene you were a part of and the other bands you played with, do you now look back and consider The Rods to be a part of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, even though The Rods are obviously not British?
CC: I have to say I do feel that way now. When we first started we were just doing what we did and alienating audiences in the Northeast (laughs). We’d play clubs and empty the clubs. I’d finally been accepted into the jazz “cool guy” musicians that wouldn’t talk to me now. So when we started The Rods, these people were saying, “What the hell are you doing? This sucks, this is horrible, you’re so much better than this.” But we were writing songs from day one. We didn’t know what it was part of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal. (English metal newspaper) Sounds did an article on us. That was the first point we realized there was a parallel of this going on in England. We were isolated and just doing what we love, but unknowingly.
H81R: Do you have anything else to add?
CC: I just can’t thank the fans enough. We had so many years of not realizing we had fans. I’m always grateful to find out that we do.