In the early-70s, there was a popular local band from Cortland, New York called Elf. Among its members were:
Gary Driscoll, drums
Craig Gruber, bass guitar
David “Rock” Feinstein, guitar
Mickey Lee Soule, keyboards
Ronnie James Dio, lead vocals
With the exception of Ronnie James Dio‘s cousin, David “Rock” Feinstein, who left Elf in 1973, all of the members would eventually become the first incarnation of Richie Blackmore’s Rainbow. In 1980, Feinstein formed The Rods with bassist, Garry Bordonaro and drummer, Carl Canedy. The Rods have eight studio albums and one live album in their catalog, and have toured with Judas Priest, Ozzy Osbourne, Motorhead, Metallica, and many others. Carl Canedy has also produced groundbreaking albums of many seminal metal bands that have since secured their own places in rock history, such as Anthrax, Overkill, Exciter and more.
GH: Ladies and Gentlemen, I introduce to you, Carl Canedy, drummer for the band, The Rods and producer extraordinaire! So Carl, you and I actually came up during the same era, although on opposite ends of the US. At the outset of the early 80s, you were living in New York State, and I was already in Los Angeles. The Rods were receiving a lot of press in Kerrang! Magazine and various European rock music publications, as was my, as yet unsigned group at the time, Great White. Regardless, we were all part of the same 80s scene…Twisted Sister, Tigers of Pan Tang, Girlschool, Anvil, Raven, Accept, Ratt, W.A.S.P.…, and we’re taking notice of all the coverage all of these groups are getting in the same magazines. So naturally, I notice The Rods. And then I see you guys are from central New York State, which I always notice things like that.
CC: Are you from the central New York, Syracuse area, originally or…?
GH: Originally, yeah. I am.
CC: Once Facebook was out, wow, I noticed that we had very similar, running almost parallel, friends and parallel career trajectories. But you guys had much greater [commercial] success than we had.
GH: We broke out onto a national stage at just about the same time. And we ran in very similar circles, career-wise, but also personally. We know a lot of the same people, you and I!
GH: In fact, one day many years ago, my father took me to his favorite restaurant in Cortland, “Hollywood”, not even realizing it was owned and operated by David “Rock” Feinstein.
CC: Isn’t that funny? And that’s the only long term endorsement The Rods have ever had. [Laughter] Great food, though.
GH: Yes, definitely. I’ve been there since. After my father died, I went in there for lunch, and I asked for Rock. He came out and sat with me, and we talked for about a half hour, which was pretty cool. He didn’t know me from Adam. But that’s okay.
CC: He usually tells me when somebody comes in, and I recall that. He was asking me if I knew who you were. But once someone’s left the building, it’s always a little late to play catch up. It was like, “Oh yeah!”
GH: So, the first time I ever had a chance to see The Rods perform, it was December ’83. I had come back to Syracuse for the Christmas holidays, and I’d brought Jack Russell with me. We’d just got signed and went from being dead broke to finally having some spending money, like drunken sailors on a weekend pass. So we were out with a couple of local girls, looking through, what, the Syracuse New Times, to see what was happening, when one of them said, “The Rods are playing the Lost Horizon.” I said, “Oh yeah, we’re definitely going to that!” So the four of us went to the Lost Horizon. By the time we got there, you guys were already on stage. The place was absolutely packed and although it’s a club, it felt like a big concert. As soon as I walked in, there were two things that stood out in my mind… Immediately, was the incredible energy in the room, and much of it was coming directly off the stage. But it was reciprocal. The other thing was the control that Rock had over the audience, the way he commanded everyone’s attention. If you’ve ever been to an early Twisted Sister concert…Dee Snider had a similar commanding presence that’s pretty rare. The only other time I saw that was watching Dave Draiman from Disturbed at OzzFest in 2001. Twenty-seven thousand people hung on his every word. It was like Freddie Mercury at Wembley Stadium. Rock had that commanding presence from the stage.
CC: We would call him the “Right Reverend Rock” because he’d just be up there in the pulpit. When you talk to him, he’s very quiet and laid back. People would comment about that, about all of us, because we’d be backstage, [very calm and serene] like, “Hey, how’s it goin’?”, I’d be tapping away, warming up. The guys would be noodling around. Everybody’s quiet and soft spoken, you know? Then after the show they’d go, “Oh my God! What happened to you guys?” [Laughter]
GH: Then when you went into your solo, I thought, “Holy Shit, this guy is a monster!” You were heavy-handed, heavy-footed, great chops, great technique, physical endurance, and a multitude of elements that you segued through, effortlessly. It was sheer bombast from start to finish. I’d never seen anything like it.
CC: Well, thank you for the kind words. I had come from…studying with Carmine [Appice] early, I wanted to play drums since I was four and a half. I just got to a point to where, by the time I was fourteen, I badgered everyone enough, I finally got a drum set. I was in a band six months later. All I did was practice everyday. I was in a band, and they were all older than I was. I started taking lessons from a local guy, and I wanted to play matched grip. I would listen to records and I would just play. I’d been playing maybe three years when I started with this guy. He just ripped me to shreds, [he told me] I “sucked”, whatever. He was a NARD drummer [National Association of Rudimental Drummers]. I was like, “oh, that’s cool!”, introduced me to rudiments, I had no idea what rudiments were. [Instructor, arrogantly:] “Well, I’m a certified NARD drummer.” I said, “Wow! I’d like to do that, too.” [Instructor:] “You could never be a NARD drummer.” I’m like, wow, what a dick this guy is.”
GH: [Laughter!] I don’t suppose you want to tell me his name now.
CC: So finally, after paying this guy for a couple of months, and going, “wow, maybe this guy’s kinda mediocre anyway.” He’s telling me match grip sucks. He’s telling me I suck. He’s telling me, even if I work hard, I couldn’t achieve it. Ultimately, I did become a NARD drummer. But it was like, wow, every week I’m giving this guy money. What am I thinking? So yeah, I said thanks, but no thanks. So, until I started taking lessons with Carmine [Appice], which I saw [advertised] in the musician’s union paper, that he was giving lessons in Long Island. That was the turnaround. Carmine totally turned my drumming around. I know this is the long way around the point I was going to make about what you were saying about my solo. But, at that point, I started to read a little bit. My reading’s still not good. But I was able to go through a few books, and that really opened a lot of doors for me. Carmine was a huge influence on me. At that point, I was living in New Jersey because I was in a band called Kelakos that had moved from Boston to New Jersey. That was the guitarist’s family name. They were looking for a better name, and they said, “Let’s [call the band] ‘Kelakos’.” I’m like, “Kelakos?! Really, guys? That’s like the worst possible name.” But that’s what we ended up with.
GH: It’s not exactly “Van Halen”!
CC: No. But it was on par with many other career choices that band made.
GH: [Laughter] I got ‘cha!
CC: [Laughter] The reason we were there [in Jersey] is because we thought our originals would be closer to the record execs, the A&R people. So we could run in every week or two and play our songs for the eagerly waiting A&R reps.
GH: Yeah! Ha!
CC: As you know, from having spent so many years in the business, that’s not exactly the way it worked.
GH: Right! “Eagerly awaiting”! [Laughter!]
CC: Yes! [Laughter] Eagerly awaiting for us to present the new Kelakos song for them! So my friend, Billy Hilfiger… Did you know Billy Hilfiger?
GH: Ahhh…. I’d have to say I haven’t heard of him.
CC: I played in Fight. He played in Glasshead. You were probably on the west coast by then. But, he was an upstate [NY] musician. He toured, they did the whole “Thruway circuit”. A great guitarist and a great guy. To me, he was like Mick Ronson. His tone and his approach to playing. He tragically passed away a number of years ago, way too young and way too talented. Well, he was working at Manny’s, and he said, “Hey, I can hook you up with Tony Williams, if you want to take lessons.”
GH: Wow! That’s impressive. What a golden opportunity!
CC: So he hooked me up with Tony Williams. He owned a couple of townhouses and that’s where I would go for the lessons. The windows would be open and he was like, “No, nobody cares [about the noise]. I got to play his mustard kit, his iconic kit later on in his career. A lot of times we would talk about his approach to music, which really stayed with me, it stayed with me when I produce, he was just awesome about the way he approached music, which later on when he went back and studied composition, it made sense that that was his brain. That’s the way he thought, and that’s why he was such a great drummer musically, not just technically. One of the things that was funny is, he was hammering me about traditional grip. He would have me lock my ring [finger] and my little finger in tightly and so everything on my lessons were that, and I’m like, “fuck, this is terrible.” So, I said, “Tony, I can’t do this. This just doesn’t work for me.” And actually, now, I do play traditional grip, just on certain things I’m playing, just because it feels comfortable to me. But back then, I was a slugger more than I was… There was no finesse involved, once I wanted to play heavy music. So traditional just wasn’t working for me. But he would hammer me. So then I went to see him at the Bottom Line. I watched both shows, and I was right up front. So…I’m watching both shows and [later on] I see him, and I go, “Okay, so…explain this to me. You’re breaking my balls about traditional grip, gotta play everything traditional grip. Not one time in either show did you play [using] traditional grip. It was all matched grip.” And he just laughed and said, “Look man, you gotta know both.”
GH: Wow… So how long did you play traditional grip before you switched over to matched grip?
CC: I never played traditional grip. I always played matched grip.
GH: I the beginning, I played traditional grip. My instructor was a tuba player. He was an old school jazz guy…
CC: Yeah. That was the only way you played drums “correctly”, years ago.
GH: And I hated it.
CC: Very rigid and “one size fits all.”
GH: I played traditional grip for six years before I switched over one day. And I gotta tell you this as long as we’re talking about grip… I studied with Thomas Lang back in 2010…
CC: What a monster drummer.
GH: And he said he had just recently switched over to matched grip. Prior to that, he had always played traditional grip. Now I’m sure he does many things both ways. But, he said, “matched grip just makes more sense for me.” So we’re not alone. We’re in some pretty illustrious company!
CC: So at the time, with Tony Williams, I was into the whole jazz thing. And then I got into Billy Cobham. Dave Porter from…
CC: …Syracuse, yeah, from 805. I was staying there a lot in those days…before Frank [Briggs] showed up and totally turned things around. Speaking of monster drummers…
GH: Yes, he sure is.
CC: …and he’s such a great guy as well. But such a phenomenal drummer. I was in L.A. A few years ago and I went by his house. He showed me things and he was cool, and I was talking about my first big end of my drum solo. He’s just very open minded. I can see why he does well as an instructor as well as a drummer because he’s just a kind guy and so open to everything and very positive, as opposed to my initial…first drum instructor, “You suck…”. [Laughter!]
Being into Cobham, because I was in Boston with that band, I saw Cobham a few times. I saw him at a little jazz club with just tables. He was on the floor and I was center, right in front of the drums, and I learned so many things at both shows. I switched to what I call a “french grip”, which is first indentation on your index finger, thumbs up, playing that way, which is really kind of a tympani or maybe sort of a German… I think a french grip is slightly different. But I call it a french grip.
GH: Does that give you more control with your fingers?
CC: Right, which I knew didn’t control more with my fingers, which [laughs] made me realize that, technically, I wasn’t really playing with a french grip. But I tried to imitate Billy Cobham, his style, because of the way he played. So, my version of it is, I snap, and I do play with my fingers. But, just the three fingers are really kind of slapping the drum, and more of the momentum of the wrist and the bounce. I learned so much. One [thing] is, he had, before anybody, he was using tension rods for the bass drum, and they changed bass drum heads and snare head between shows. I’m sitting there watching the whole time, in awe of course, with everything that went on, and his tech came up with a drill, which is very common now. I have several of them. …with a drill bit to take the drum head off with the tension rod. I had never seen that before. This was really early on…1974, ’75, maybe. I hadn’t seen a bass drum ever, anywhere, without the T-bar tension rods. That just blew me away that you could change a head that quickly. The guy was like a pit crew, he was so fast. Then, with the toms. He shows up with a [lit] cigarette. He holds this cigarette, parallel to the drum head, and took out all of the dents. So, I used that trick for years. I don’t smoke. But I would borrow…I’m like, “Hey, can I have a cigarette?” They’d light it and I’d take dents out of my drum heads. A remember a couple people of people going, “Hey, you’re wasting that cigarette!” [Laughs]. You can also use a blow dryer. Pulls ’em right out. Back then, I was just so in the dark about everything. That was actually before I’d taken lessons from Tony Williams. At that time, I was still living into Long Island from Boston, every two weeks to take double lessons with Carmine.
GH: About what year was that?
CC: It was after Cactus… At the time The [Vanilla] Fudge were talking about reforming… Beck, Bogart, and Appice might’ve been his next thing after that. Carmine was really cool in that, after a bad experience with one teacher, and then just deciding not to take lessons, that really puts you in a black hole where you really are kind of floundering and picking things up on your own, interpreting them as best you can. But you’re really not being taught. There are a lot of shortcuts that you don’t have, that can open doors for you. When I started with Carmine, he helped me with reading, and just the things that he said. He watched what I played… I have this thing with my left hand where I play a lot of grace notes. And he used to say, “That is so wrong. But that is so cool. Don’t lose that. That’s great.” And then there were other things he would explain. He taught me how to play at a fast tempo, comfortably, and how to balance myself on the kit, which something I realized later that John Bonham was the master of. When you’re playing the kit, as you know, if you’re stomping the hi-hat while you’re playing a quite passage, it just sounds kind of odd. By the same token, if you’re slamming the snare and you’re light on the toms and wailing the cymbals, there’s no balance. So, he really tried to teach me to balance myself on the kit, and to do it on my own, and not expect the sound engineer to make that happen for me. And that’s difficult to do, as I’m sure you know. I think it’s difficult for most drummers…except maybe Thomas Lang, Vinny Calaiuta, and some of the great drummers.
GH: Dave Weckl.
CC: Right. But for me, it was tough. So, the long way around on this, when you saw me, I had gone through playing with a band in Boston called Jack Stella and The Northern Lights, which was a horn band. They had four horns, keyboard player. It was, I think, an 11-piece band, maybe 12. The horn players were just adamant that I had my shit together. Those guys were Berklee music grads. These guys were all great players. When they had horn parts, they wanted to make sure they were accented, and you’d better accent them because they were dead on. That was a great experience for me in that they were serious musicians and really serious about, “Don’t screw it up, Buddy. When we play our horn parts, you’d better be there.” So, it made me paying with Jack Stella, who was a total jackass… [Laughter!] It made it a bearable thing for me, and that’s how I wound up in that band, Kelakos. I don’t know if you want to hear about Jack Stella. It’s kind of humorous the way I…
GH: [Laughing] I’m laughing because when people ask me about this musician or that guy, that woman, or whomever, I’m painfully honest about my experience. If someone has been a real jerk to me, I’m not going to lie about it. The reason I handle it that way is because the people who have gone out of their way for me, or simply been very nice or easy to work with, deserve to not be lumped in with everyone else, just because I want to look good. If somebody was a real bastard, I’ll call ’em out. That way, when I say “he was such a pro, and so kind”, “she was an absolute joy to work with”, or “you couldn’t meet a nicer guy”, everyone knows I really mean it. If it’s not true, I won’t say it. Good people are sacred to me, and they deserve the distinction. That’s just me, and I can’t be anything else.
GH: So tell me about Jack Stella!
CC: [Laughter] So, I decided that I wanted to be in a band with a major label deal. I’d gone to San Francisco. I’d gone to L.A. I’d gone to New York. It was just a weird thing for me in the mid-70s. It seemed like everyone was into the KISS thing with the make-up and the big boots, and I’m like…okay. Not all of them, but a lot of really weak musicians. And it was tough to network. In San Francisco, I didn’t find anything going on. So then I thought, New York. Again, nothing for me. Well, I’m not going to give up. I’m going to Boston. So, I go to Boston.
GH: And that makes a lot of sense because Berklee is in Boston. Seems like there’d be a lot of high caliber musicians there.
CC: I almost went to Berklee, actually. My girlfriend at the time, who became my wife, she was up for a position [at Berklee School of Music]. They had like 100 applicants, and they were down to the last two. I was very much considering Berklee. I’d had my brochures. I’m like, okay, if she gets the job, I’m going to go enroll in Berklee. I was also a little spooked although I was going to do it because I was kind of excited about it. But also had a little apprehension because of the fact that, y’know…will they make you a “jazz musician”? I was so afraid of becoming a “jazz musician”, man. I’m like a “rock guy.” Obviously, I realized there’s was nothing to really fear. It would only make me a better player. [After that], I could do whatever I wanted.
GH: Of course!
CC: Well anyway, that didn’t happen. So, I auditioned for Jack Stella. It went really well! The guys in the band were like, “You’re great! We love your drumming. You got the gig.” So I prepared to do that gig. Then I get a call. “Jack thinks you’re too strong for the band.” What I was saying about him being a jackass…I try not to be disparaging about people. Jack had the biggest ego of anyone I’ve ever worked with. And a very modest talent. He played keys sometimes. So I go back to Pennsylvania, and I’m prepared to go back to upstate New York. They hired another drummer. I was like, “Wow. That really blows.” I ace the audition and then they hire some drummer, and the guys didn’t like him. They didn’t want him. A week later, I get a call…”Can you come back? Please. We fired the drummer. We told Jack, we want you in the band. The drummer was weak. Jack finally had to admit that he wasn’t the right drummer.” So, I came back and I joined the band. Well, we’re out playing, and these guys are great musicians. They’re all schooled musicians as well as being excellent players. We played these week-long gigs in hotels. It was two sets: One was we [the band] played the show. Then Jack would come out and do the “Jack Stella and the Northern Lights” thing. He would come out like a “Tom Jones” kind of guy, and he would play some keyboards. So, he comes out one night, and he had one of his keyboard solos. There were twelve of us, including Jack, up there playing. He plays this horrendous solo…comes out of it, out of time. [The rest of the band] were all in sync together, except for Jack. [After the show], we all go back to the dressing room, and he goes into one of those Buddy Rich tantrums…
GH:[ Laughter] Oh, right!
CC: …screaming at these guys, and they’re all looking at their feet. Now this is my first experience with all of this. Because normally I would go, “Hey, it was wrong.” Y’know? [Jack’s] going, “I heard all of you! You all jumped at the same time! I’m thinking to myself, a young punk guy, “What the fuck, are you crazy? Like, eleven guys rehearsed your mistake?? What?? That doesn’t make any sense. How could we all play the same thing perfectly [incorrect] except you? And they’re all looking at their feet and he’s just screaming at them. And I just thought, “Wow. They just want to keep their job.” That was a big lesson for me. These guys were so much more talented and better schooled than Jack Stella. But Jack Stella had the gig. It was a good paying gig.
GH: He must’ve been pulling in a lot of money because once you start dividing up the take twelve ways…
CC: Right. And at that time, we were playing five nights a week, and I would have a really nice hotel room at these places we played. But, it was a show. He was a showy guy, like the Vegas thing, with a kickass band. I mean, he was okay. He had a decent voice. But he had a huge ego and his keyboard playing was horrendous. He just thought he was Keith Emerson at the time, rocking the keyboard back and forth while wailing a blues riff out of time. So anyway, my point was, I was studying Billy Cobham, taking lessons from Carmine and Tony Williams. So, by the time I got to upstate [NY], I was playing with Kelakos…I was done with Jack Stella…Kelakos had convinced me to come stay at their house for a week just to jam. So I said, “sure.” We started playing six nights a week, y’know, that ‘Thruway circuit’. That’s how we survived. We traveled all over, doing cover material. That was good schooling for me in that we had to turn over so much material, so many different styles. By the time you heard me [in December ’83], I’d been studying rudiments hardcore, studying with Carmine, then Tony Williams, studying Billy Cobham, and then playing covers six nights a week, learning all of the different styles just trying to emulate them. I always tried to play them exactly as they played them or as closely as I could. By the time I got to The Rods, I was really playing hard because the band was so freaking loud. And yet I still had the rudimental thing and some of the finesse while pounding the shit out of the drums.
GH: The Rods would’ve sounded so much different with a different drummer because your playing style, in my opinion, largely defined the sound of the band.
CC: Well, thanks. There was a lot of energy. I think that was it. David [Rock Feinstein] and I, and Gary [Bordenaro], who’s phenomenal onstage with us… We’ve had other bass players. Craig Gruber [Rainbow/Gary Moore/Black Sabbath], who’s such a good friend and such a good bass player. I don’t know if you ever played with Craig or not.
GH: Oh yeah! We used to talk quite often, and we were actually making plans to work together with a group he was putting together shortly before he passed away.
CC: It was a shame that didn’t get off the ground. It’s a shame. I think that could’ve been a huge thing.
GH: He poked me on Facebook the very month he died.
CC: Yeah, I had one, too. We would speak regularly. It’s funny because I have one that I just found a few months ago, that he had poked me. I tried to poke him back, even though I know he’s gone. But I think once Facebook knows you’re deceased, they freeze it. So, I couldn’t poke him back. But, I don’t get the whole “Poke” thing anyway. I have so many pokes, and ‘so and so poked you 14 times’, and… I have people who poke me that I know, and I think, “Wow, why would you just poke me? We just talked recently.”
CC: I don’t get it. I don’t even know where to go to poke anyone.
GH: I’m not familiar with poking protocol. Is it acceptable for a guy to poke another guy?
CC: Well, I have lots from guys I know and guys from…
GH: I wasn’t poking guys until they started poking me. So I was like, I guess it’s okay. [Laughter]
CC: I’m over my homophobia. But, it’s still like, “Hey, I just poked him…”. It just sounds a little odd from the old slang.
GH: I had intended to ask you about playing double kick. Because you play double kick and I’ve been playing double kick since I was 14 [years old]. I remember the specific reason I started using two kick drums, and so I wanted to know what the catalyst was for you to want to use two kick drums. But now that I know you’ve studied with Carmine and had such an early fascination with Billy Cobham‘s drumming, maybe there’s my answer. Even Tony Williams occasionally used multiple kick drums. Back in the mid-70s, I saw Tony Williams play at the Jabberwocky on the S.U. [Syracuse University] hill, and he was using three kick drums!
CC: I was just learning from records, trying to listen, and trying to emulate what was there and copy as best I could. And later, getting to work with two of the guys from Blue Cheer, producing “The Beast Is Back”. It was a dream for me, in a way in that they were my first big influence. But, watching Dick Clark, that’s what made me want to…I went out and got another bass drum…watching Paul Whaley play in Blue Cheer.
GH: Oh, no kidding!
CC: I was like, “Oh my God. Look at this guy. He’s just beating the shit out of his cymbals and the drums and just crazy with the hair.” It’s like, “Yeah! That’s cool.” And that was kind of it for me. I was probably 14 or 15 and I went, “Yeah! Okay! I’ll do that.”
GH: I had dinner with Paul Whaley and his girlfriend at their flat in Germany.
CC: Oh, nice!
GH: Paul had decided to just “retire” from Blue Cheer on the eve of a tour, for whatever reason. So, I got the call and I went and did the tour, and I got a chance to meet him, too. It was pretty cool. Yeah, he’s a very, very nice guy.
CC: A very nice guy! It was great to work with him in the studio in that he had…There were those moments that he played that stuff that was just so “left field”. Any musician that has a signature style…Their approach to something is a little different from anyone else’s. He had that, and he would just come up with things and I would be in awe like, “How cool is that?” I always admired that. I admired that about Gary Driscoll [Elf/Rainbow]. Gary Driscoll was just a unique kind of drummer. I don’t know if you ever liked Gary Driscoll‘s drumming…
GH: Oh yeah, I did! I was playing “Man On The Silver Mountain” in a band in high school. But unfortunately, I never got to know him. I was off to L.A. by the time those guys returned to Central New York. So I never got to meet, never got to know him, except through mutual friends.
CC: He was a sweet guy, and just a unique, great drummer. He did those Mick Waller [Jeff Beck Group/Steamhammer] fills. [Gary] was actually one of the first people to do a linear rudiment, of course, not knowing it was a linear rudiment. He would start with his kick drum, and the Mick Waller musicians would say, “It sounds backwards to me.” Sometimes he would come out of these brilliant linear rudiment fills and just be dead on, and you’d go, “Whoa, that was just the coolest fill.” And other times he would play it, and the snare was on 1 and 3, instead of 2 and 4. And you’d go, “Uh-oh.” Then he’d roll his cymbals, figure out where he was, and come back in. That was a negative. But he was a great drummer with a great feel.
GH: You’ve got to give Craig Gruber and the rest of the band a lot of credit that they were able to follow along with him on some of that stuff he was doing. He wasn’t afraid to take chances, even live!
CC: Well, Craig and Gary locked in so well.
GH: I’ve always heard that about them. Craig said he and Gary regularly rehearsed just bass and drums.
CC: Craig and I played really well together. He was really one of the best bass players I’ve ever played with. He was a great guy. So how did you like working with Duck [McDonald]?
GH: I liked it a lot. But we had this singer who was quite possibly the worst bastard I’ve ever met, ever dealt with.
GH: This guy named “[xxxxxx]”.
CC: Oh! [xxxxxx] was…[Laughing]…
GH: Yeah, he was singing and I…
CC: And this was with Blue Cheer or this was another project?
GH: Oh, no no no. I’m sorry. I worked with Duck much later on in a different project for [xxxxxx]…
CC: So, Duck wasn’t involved with Blue Cheer when you worked with them…?
GH: Right. He worked with Blue Cheer before and after me. When I worked with Blue Cheer, they had a guitar player named Dieter Saller, a German guy who’d played on the “Dining With The Sharks” album. Great guitar player.
CC: Okay. So later on, you worked with [xxxxxx] and Duck?
GH: Right. In 2012, I got a call from Duck asking me if I wanted to be involved with this project. I asked who was in it, and as soon as he mentioned [xxxxxx], I said, “Ahhhh….. I don’t know.”
CC: Had you worked with [xxxxxx] prior?
GH: No. But I knew of a lot of people who had, and I’ve heard nothing but horror stories. So many people had told me, “Do not get involved with anything [xxxxxx] is involved with. You will regret it.”
GH: But Duck assured me, “No, he’s the older, kinder, gentler [xxxxxx], and he convinced me it would be a professional experience. Reluctantly, I went along with it. I worked with them for six months, and [xxxxxx] was the biggest jerk I’d ever met.
CC: Right. Well, I have a history with [xxxxxx] myself.
GH: Oh, you do?
CC: [Chuckles] Yeah. When he first came here [to the US], Jack Starr had introduced me to [xxxxxx] and [xxxxxx] had started living at my house in the guestroom. Then Tom [Jude] Innamorato came up from American Mafia. He played with Doro [Pesch]. Do you know Tom?
GH: I can’t say that I do. But, coincidentally, the bass player from this [xxxxxx] group is with American Mafia.
CC: Freddy Villano…
GH: Yes. Freddy Villano. Very nice guy, easy to work with, and a very talented musician.
CC: Freddy’s a sweet guy. Really great bass player and a sweet guy. So, Jack Starr brought Tom Innamorato and [xxxxxx], and they stayed [at my house]. And so Craig Gruber, Tom Innamorato, Duck [McDonald], and myself, started working on material. That’s how [xxxxxx] came to sing on “Heavier Than Thou”. Because when Rock [Feinstein] heard [xxxxxx] sing, he thought, “Wow. He’s great. Let him sing the songs on this album.” He hadn’t worked with him. So, we’re rehearsing with Craig, we’re trying to write songs, and I’ve since apologized to Tom Innamorato because we were all older, we were all arrogant, we thought we knew it all, we’d all done albums, and Tom was a young kid, and he had great ideas. But none of us could finish a song. What would happen is we would work on a song, we would think it was really good, we would get what we thought was a really good arrangement. [xxxxxx] would take it home and he would come back the next day and he would say, [heavy European accent] “What. I only talk about this song. Let me ask you a question… I can’t feel it.”
CC: That’s what he’d say. [heavy accent] “Let me ask you a qvestion… I can’t feel it.” I’m like, “Fuck. Okay. Let’s start over.”
CC: So we worked out a song again. Consequently, and I still have it. I think we’d actually called ourselves “Paris” at one point. I still have those rehearsal tapes. Poor Tom. We could never write a song. Tom was such a nice kid, and he just got beaten up by all of our egos, the poor guy. He was afraid to say anything. It must’ve been horrific. That’s why I’ve apologized. I’m just so sorry. I realize now what a nightmare that must’ve been. So, [xxxxxx] did the “Heavier Than Thou” album, and at that point, we’re in the studio and I said, “Y’know, [xxxxxx], we have to really avoid some of the diction issues.” He was just incensed that I would say that. So, I said, “Look, if it’s something that, if we can smooth it out, let’s smooth it out. I’m not trying to insult you. But, I’m just telling you, it gets criticized. A lot of times, I hear it myself…a European singer, and they kind of have an accent. I mean, even Klaus Meine…’I’ve meesed you seence I’ve beeen ay-weeey’, I mean, this guy’s great, he got away with it.” But, what [xxxxxx] was singing… Since I’d written half the songs as well, and he was singing my songs, I’m like, “Y’know what, bud? We’re not doing that. It literally came to, he stood in the studio and I said, “If you don’t want to sing it correctly, the way I’m asking you to, then we’ll just wait. And I just picked up the [news]paper [Laughing]. He was out in the studio while I just read the paper.
CC: [Laughing] Like what am I gonna do, butt heads with a stonehead? [Laughing] [xxxxxx] gave me a gift one time that said, “Be reasonable. Do it my way.”
CC: So the record came out. We got the first reviews. They were very good reviews. And one of the first ones said, “…and without the usual diction problems.” So [xxxxxx] said, “Okay. Okay. You’re right.” But, I played on [xxxxxx]’s album that he and Duck did. And then he wanted me to join the band and come to Cortland to rehearse this band once or twice a week. Like, old school. Not to be involved with The Rods or any other band. I said, “[xxxxxx], that’s not how it is anymore. It’s not 1969, buddy. That’s not the way it is. We’re all in different projects and the projects go off at different times, and that’s how musicians stay busy. ‘Well, that’s not loyal.’ It’s not about being loyal. You can be loyal to a project. But a project has its shelf life. Maybe you’re on tour for two or three months, and then you’re sitting around. So, you work with somebody else.” He just didn’t get that. That was around the time Duck told me they had brought you in and that you had done the drum tracks, and they were thrilled with the drum tracks. But that you didn’t want [xxxxxx] to screw around with them or something. And that you just said, “I’m going home.” I said, “I don’t blame him.” Because he fucked with my tracks. I made him put them back.
GH: I recorded the drum tracks in my home studio, and I would bring them to rehearsal on a flashdrive. Duck would download everything into his system. But there were no scratch vocal tracks to reference. I had no lead vocal tracks of any kind to create drum parts around. I just had to guess where lines might possibly begin and end. Six months of rehearsal and [xxxxxx] never sang a single note. Not once, even when he was there. He never offered an idea of what might eventually go there. So I would drop my fills in where it felt right. Then Duck would call me and say, “[xxxxxx] says this fill is too long. It extends into where the vocals are going to be.” I’d say, “Okay, fine. I’ll shorten it up.” So, I’d go home, write a new part, and record it again.
CC: [Laughter] [With European accent] “Geddy, let me ask you somesing… I can’t feel it.” [Laughing]
GH: Right! [Laughing] So when that wasn’t sufficient enough, he began instructing Duck to electronically edit out individual notes from my fills! At that point, it became something I didn’t even play.
CC: So then why even ask you to record drums? They should just get a drum program and program them.
GH: So, I sent [xxxxxx] an email saying “This is really disheartening that you would ask the guitar player to electronically edit my drum tracks. How about you come to rehearsal and show me where the vocal lines are supposed to go so I don’t play over vocal lines that aren’t even there?” And that’s all it took. He wrote back, “Okay, you’re done. Come get your drums from the studio.” Six months wasted. I should’ve listened to my friends.
CC: [Laughing] [heavy accent]: “Geddy, I cannot verk zis vay.” I don’t mean to laugh. When I first started working with [xxxxxx], what I was told by people in Holland, some managers, different record people was, “Watch out, because he’ll screw you.” That project you started? That’s still not complete. It’s still languishing.
GH: For people who may know you only as a drummer, I want to talk about you as a producer. Some people may be surprised to learn how many different groups you’ve worked with in that capacity. Please name some of them.
CC: I actually have a lot of them on my wall. I was thinking recently that I should put a discography together. I produced the first “Spreading The Disease”, “Fistful of Metal” and “Armed and Dangerous” by Anthrax. Their first three. Overkill, “Feel The Fire”, Rhett Forrester, “Gone With The Wind”, Helstar, Exciter, “Violence & Force”…
GH: I know you produced a band called Attila because I was once in a band with [bassist] Vinny Manfredi. He asked me to pass along his regards.
CC: How about that? He just contacted me recently. It was great to hear from him. Yeah, he was a good guy. They were a band that really got… So many times, it’s happened to us with The Rods, as well… They were caught in a label that goes under just as your album comes out. With indies, it’s just a tough place to be.
GH: When you’re in the recording studio, as a drummer, you have a very specific sound that you’re going for, and I’m sure you’re very familiar with the techniques that enable you to achieve it. So when you’re in the recording studio producing someone else, how do you capture another drummer’s sound without getting too close to your own drum sound?
CC: Well, let’s take Charlie Benante When I first started working with Anthrax, Charlie is so great, and just such a monster drummer. The first thing was, Charlie knew what he needed to do to his drums to make them sound great. He tuned them, he played them. I was thrilled with how he sounded, with how he played. I even told him from the first album on, “you’re going to be a drummer who’s going to be admired and emulated by so many drummers.” It was his sound, so [my objective] was just to “capture it.” There have been other times when drummers would come in with basically some pretty sturdy cardboard boxes…
CC: [Laughs] …and expected to get a great sound out of those, where I’ve had to go, okay, let’s see what we can do to get this to something approachable as a real sound. In general, I’ve always tried to do that. With Anthrax, they kind of accredited me. There’ve been some things with Anthrax where, for some reason, they thought there was a falling out. Someone was telling me about Scott [Ian]’s book, and they never, never did that. Everybody has their memory. But, one of the things they have said was that “Carl captured [the sound of] the band.” My thing was, they had so much energy, but they were young, and when you’re young and you don’t know how to play tight to the studio… You can play tight live. But the studio is a microscope, as you know, so, trying to get them all dialed in and focused was what I was really trying to do to get them there, and I think I achieved that. I think that’s why those three albums helped launch them. I was able to harness that and capture that energy. A lot of times, it’s really about trying to get the energy, capture the energy of the performance when the band has it. I try not to change somebody’s sound. If they have a sound, I wouldn’t want to change it.
GH: What are your plans for 2017 and beyond?
CC: I just fly by the seat of my pants. I have a lot of projects that I’m trying to finish up. I have a song with Brad Finsel [TKO] that I’m going to release. We had done that Lemmy tribute to Motorhead after Lemmy died. He wanted to do something, being a big Lemmy fan. I mean, everybody’s gotta respect Lemmy. There’s a guy who ‘walked the walk.’ Whether you liked his music or not, you gotta give him props for being a guy who stuck with what he loved. He didn’t waver for anybody or anything or any trends or whatever. “If you don’t like what I do, that’s fine. I’m still doing it.” He didn’t give a fuck what anybody thought. That’s the way it should be. You put it all out there when you’re a musician. You’re baring your soul. If you don’t believe in it, people are going to catch wind of it pretty fast. Then I have a big announcement about The Rods that I can’t quite say yet. But I’ll be announcing something about The Rods shortly.
GH: You guys toured in Europe last year…
GH: Where all did you go?
CC: Last year, we only did a few dates. We were in Lübeck, Germany. We were in Stadskanaal, Holland. Hamburg…and then the “Keep It Real Festival” in Lauda-Königshofen, Germany.
GH: How was your reception there?
CC: Really good. We’re really fortunate that we get a good response. I also noticed that there’s a great camaraderie with young drummers. Because when I first came back ten years ago when we started doing this stuff, I thought, wow, drummers have really progressed. There’s just so many tremendously talented drummers out there. You know, what am I bringing to the party? But then I find that these young drummers who are super talented…there’s such a great sense of camaraderie in the drum community that are very appreciative of what I do. It’s a different style from theirs. Very complementary, very supportive, and I love the fact that that’s the case. Because honestly, in upstate New York when I was young, and Gary Driscoll and I, and Mark Nauseef and I have laughed about this. They would come and see me and Mark Nauseef said to me one day, I was probably twenty-one. I don’t think I’d taken lessons at the time so it was still early in my drumming life. I remember Mark saying to me, “Gary can do anything with one foot that you can do with two.” We’d laugh about it because there was such an arrogance in those days in upstate New York.
GH: Yeah. It was always very competitive.
CC: Competitive and negative, instead of helping each other, like the whole Seattle thing which was, we get a deal, and then we’re going to help you get a deal and do whatever for you. It was, “Screw you. We are better than you.” It was such a negative thing. And so it’s nice to see that when I’m out, that I see these young musicians are just so supportive [of each other].
GH: Many people have asked me about the 80s scene in L.A. when it was Quiet Riot, Great White, Ratt, Dokken, W.A.S.P., Motley Crue, Black and Blue, etc… and the scene was, at that time, all of the bands seemed really supportive of each other. Everybody was rising at their own rate. So, you might be opening for some group one week, and three weeks later they’re opening for you. Plus, we’d all played with each other in previous incarnations of groups while the scene was still forming. Everyone already knew each other on a personal level before everything exploded. We were all part of the same scene and we were all benefiting from the same scene. I remember it being friendly between bands.
CC: Which is cool…
GH: I know what you’re talking about…that central New York attitude where it tended to be hostile and very competitive. I don’t know if it’s still like that.
CC: It was hostile and very negative. It forced you to be guarded because people would just stab you in the back. It was just unpleasant, which is why I really appreciate seeing that. That’s really cool that you were able to have that experience. I know from being out there a few times, hanging out, everybody seemed to know each other. Everybody seemed pretty cool with each other. Gary Driscoll never said anything negative to me at all. He was always very nice and very supportive. But Mark Nauseef had that cocky attitude. So many people did. Like I said, we’ve all sat around and laughed about it since.
GH: How about your gear? Whose drums are you using these days?
CC: What I’m recording with now is a Pearl Masters, crushed glass finished. 8, 10, 12, 13, 14, 16, and a 22” kick with the Evans EC-2 heads. I really love this kit to record with. I also use a Gretsch Catalina kit with three toms, two floors. You’ve probably seen those pictures on Facebook. I still have my first kit, my Ludwig blue sparkle 50s, 60s, 70s drums that I purchased as I could afford them. I just bought a set of white Mapex. I’m thinking about switching it out with my Gretsch kit that I use with The Jeffrey James Band.
GH: What cymbals are you using?
CC: I have Zildjians, Sabians, I have a Wuhan China. And then I have this endorsement with Kasza cymbals that I really like. They’re a less expensive line of cymbal. But, I tried some in a music store and I loved ’em. They were more musical. So I bought a couple and I liked ’em. So I thought, I’m going to call the company. As it turned out, I ended up with an artist consideration [deal]. But they’re so inexpensive to begin with. I love the hi-hats. I have a couple sets of hi-hats, and they have this Fusion Series, which I really like. Now they have some new lines. I tried telling people about them. One of my buddies, who’s a drummer…He thought, well maybe if I’m going to buy this kind of lower line, I’ll try this other company. He ended up giving them back and he got the Kaszas, which he says are phenomenal. He tried ’em, he loves ’em. The cymbals are killer. The reason I got them is because they were more musical for the Jeffrey James Band. There are eight guys in that band, and with horns, it just made it something more than my other cymbals. I was using Paistes up until six months ago and just stopped using them because I just love these Kasza cymbals so much. I wound up getting a set to record with ’cause I love them so much. I’m really happy with them and I’m really impressed with them. The percussionist in the band, when he first heard them, said, “Those cymbals are great!” Most sound people and other drummers said the same thing.
GH: Well, thank you, Carl. I’m so glad we had a chance to have this conversation.
CC: Yeah. Me, too. It was great talking to you.
GH: Best of luck. Thanks for your time and I hope to see you soon!
BORN TO SLAM is the brainchild of ex-Great White drummer GARY HOLLAND. Each month Gary will bring us an in-depth “conversation” with various working drummers to see what makes them tick. In addition, he and his guests will cover ALL topics of concern to drummers everywhere. And while their jargon may get a bit technical for us non-drummers, the conversations are sure to keep your interest.