Gary James' Interview With Carl Canedy Of
The Rods

The Rods are legends in Central New York and known the world over. They released their first album in 1980 on an independent label and in 1981, Arista Records picked them up. Rods member Carl Canedy spoke with us about the history of his group.

Q - Carl, just how popular is Hard Rock / Heavy Metal in the U.S. and overseas?

A - Interesting question. I think overseas it's really surprisingly big. Here in America, for me it's always been what I see as pockets. Certain areas will have a festival with Classic Rock bands and Metal bands and it does well. Then others, it's like marginal. So honestly, here in the States, you go to Texas and it's great. Come to the Northeast, not always great. We just came back from Germany yesterday. It just seems like it never went away and just always does well. Here in Central New York, you of course perform in Syracuse at venues like The Lost Horizon.

Q -Where else do you perform in New York State?

A - We've played The Havat. We've played some festivals such as the Binghamton area Metal Fest. We did an outdoor show with them last year. (2009). We performed with Skidrow in Syracuse. Auburn. We did some dates in Elmir. We did a show with L.A. Guns in Elmira. We did some shows in Johnson City.

Q - What were you doing before The Rods?

A - I had actually played in a band called Kelakos that played all around Buffalo, Rochester and a tremendous amount in the Ithaca, Cortland, Elmira area.

Q - What does Kelakos mean?

A - It was an interesting thing because it was the guitarist and lead singer's middle name. He was Greek and tried to convince us, I was never convinced, that name was a real great name to use for the band. It had special meaning because it was part of his family name, which it certainly was for his family. But for the rest of us, it was always "Kelakos?" Try to spell it and pronounce it for people. It was never a go-to kind of name.

Q - The Rods is a much better name. No one ever mis-spelled that, did they?

A - No. No one ever got that one wrong.

Q - I didn't think so. The Rods' first album was released in 1980 and was called "Rock Hard"?

A - Correct.

Q - And the following year Arista Records signed you?

A - They did.

Q - Where did they catch your act?

A - That was a case of, we had signed to... Metal has always been bigger in Europe. We didn't know at the time there was a thing called the New Wave of British Heavy Metal going on. So we were doing just whatever we did. It turned out that Arista America, which was a Germany company, was interested in The Rods. So they wanted to sign us. The day of the signing or the day before, they were absorbed by Arista U.S. and Arista America was no more. A lot of bands were dropped from the label. We were one of the bands that were kept because Mike Bone was a big supporter of The Rods. He was the A&R guy. So that's how we wound up on Arista, kind of by default. It was not necessarily the best marriage for the company or for us.

Q - How long did your association with Arista last?

A - Maybe two years.

Q - And how many albums?

A - Two albums.

Q - Did they do anything for you in terms of promotion?

A - They didn't. Mike Bone did his best. They didn't really support us in the way we certainly would have liked. And of course you have to remember in perspective, Air Supply was on the label and Air Supply was huge. They had the kind of hits that Clive Davis loved. It was a whole different kind of thing from what we were. Arista America was a better fit for us. They understood Metal. They would've had different promotion. After we toured the U.K. with Iron Maiden, AC/DC actually asked us to tour with them. We had a lot of press and buzz going. I think we were maybe $35,000 or $40,000 short of doing that and Arista U.K. put up the money, but the U.S. would not promote it. They wouldn't put in the extra half and at the time our manager was not a "creative person" in the words of one of our attorneys. It was a big mistake not to do it, but Arista didn't do a lot to promote us. They did give us some tour support. We did dates here in the States with a number of bands, Ozzy, Foghat, Def Leppard and so on. In terms of other bands like Krokus were getting, we didn't get that kind of support.

Q - What would the $40,000 have been used for? For equipment?

A - Touring the U.K. To this day, I don't think it's a huge money maker for the major acts, in terms of just cash they make. That may have changed over the last ten years or so. Depending on the size of the band's show, it can be not so profitable, so they have the bands actually pay to support, which is uncommon here (in the States), but not uncommon there in the U.K. So, that's what it was. It was just basically to buy on.

Q - I thought they did away with that.

A - You know, pay for play is still big. They do it in clubs all the time. It comes in different incarnations. Like locally, you will see a lot of clubs tell a band, "you play, we'll put you on the bill," and you actually get paid because you're gonna sell fifty tickets and you get to keep $10 of every $20 you sell tickets for. Again you have to go out and promote yourself and sell those tickets. The same as Pay To Play really.

Q - When did your deal with Arista end? 1982, 1983?

A - It was probably toward the end of '82

Q - So, from that point on, you had no record deal?

A - We actually had a number of record deals. We had signed a one-off deal with Mike Marney that our manager had arranged, interestingly enough, Mike Varney's partner now in a record label. So we had done a demo and I guess our manager then thought that was the brilliant idea then. As our attorneys said "Not the most creative person." We put that out on Mike Varney's label, which actually did pretty well, surprisingly.

Q - That was Shrapnel Records?

A - Shaprel Records. Then I think next we did two albums for Combat and Music For Nations. We did two albums for Passport and we're actually starting to do fairly well with the last Rods album that we released on Combat...I'm sorry, on Passport. We're getting some airplay around the country. The label ended up making a bad deal with Sony and ended up folding, so we just got caught up in that. It's so typical for bands to get caught up in that shuffle. When you're in the middle of that change and you have a product out, the promotion stops and of course so does your momentum.

Q - Do you put out your own CDs these days?

A - We actually have interest right now. We've been involved in something that we're just now putting out a new album, so that we're free to do that. So that's what we're doing. We're shopping it. We have labels interested. We just finished a new 'live' DVD which we're shopping as well. We may just put that out. Self-releasing is not like the old days, certainly it has its advantages.

Q - Because of the internet and your website?

A - That's right. You can sell 'live' shows over the internet. i-Tunes is huge.

Q - You produce Rock groups as well. How did you get into that aspect of the business?

A - I got into it because I had always been involved from the time I started playing, borrowing tapes / records from a friend. She was at Elmira College. She was signing out these tape recorders for me and I would learn to over-dub. I'd always been involved in the process. So, when it came time to do the Rods' album and then the band Kelakos did an album and I was involved in the production of that. As a songwriter, you always try to have a hand in your recordings and spent a lot of time doing session work. So, once we started recording The Rods' album, David (Feinsten - Rods guitarist) and I were songwriters. When it came time to do singing or whatever, we'd just work out things together. So, he and I produced it. That's how it evolved. One day, Johnny Z heard some things and said "Hey, would you produce a band?" I think Anthrax was one of the first bands I started working with. Matter of fact, I just finished an album by a group called Blunken, from Miami. We're just mixing that album right now.

Q - Blunken. That's a strange name for a band. What kind of group are they?

A - Perfect name for the band. They're kind of progressive. A musical journey. Some of their songs will be like Metallica. They'll be long, but at the end of the song they might have transformed to a Reggae song. It's really interesting time changes, time signatures. But it's a great album. I'm really pleased with it.

Q - You produced them in Miami?

A - Actually I brought them here to Scranton (Pennsylvania). We did pre-production in Miami, but ultimately to record them the way I wanted to record them, which is where we could do everything in a 'live' way, we had to do it here, because unless we were paying top dollar for a place like Criteria... studios in South Florida are all set up for Rap music. Just not set up for more midi-based studio. Small. They really didn't have the room. So unless you were willing to pay $1,500 a day, which if you're self-producing something, it's not feasible.

Q - Where is the market for Blunken?

A - The market for any band is finding an audience. But there are bands like them. We played a show in Norway with Opeth two years ago. It was unbelievable, the crowd. They're a huge band.

Q - I've never heard of that band.

A - And neither had I. It was funny watching their show, standing at the board, the crowd just knows every word. The songs are amazing. The musicianship is amazing. One minute it's like a Death Metal song and the next minute you're listening to The Allman Brothers. All of a sudden you're hearing those harmony guitars, Southern Rock type music.

Q - You shared the bill with some pretty big names over the years. I know you opened for Judas Priest. Who else?

A - A lot of bands from Foghat to Def Leppard to Ozzy, Rainbow, Joe Perry Project. So many bands we supported. Overkill.

Q - I recall seeing Ozzy at the Landmark Theatre in 1981. Did The Rods open that show?

A - Yeah.

Q - I thought so. I remember you and the other guys off to the side in the audience when Ozzy came on. You were really studying Randy Rhodes.

A - Yeah. Everybody was looking at Randy Rhodes. I always tell this story: We were in our dressing room and all of a sudden it was so loud we couldn't hear. There was some amazing guitar playing and it was Randy Rhodes warming up. The stuff he played with Ozzy was different. He came from that school with Joe Satrian and Steve Vai. That was that playing all the modes, incredibly fast, crazy stuff. He was amazing to listen to. I'm sure everybody on stage was watching.

Q - How much help did Ronnie James Dio give The Rods?

A - In terms of... our new album, Ronnie came there and sang tracks for this new album. He sings one of the songs on the new album. He's just a big help. Wendy's (Ronnie's wife) wonderful. Ronnie's great.

Q - How about going back to the 80s?

A - You know, Ronnie was busy with his touring, so our paths never really seemed to cross.

Note: Ronnie James Dio died on May 16th, 2010. He was 67 years young.

© Gary James. All rights reserved.

The Rods
Photo from Gary James' Press Kit Collection