CARL CANEDY – “This Time, The Artist I Was Working With Was A Prick…Myself!”
June 11, 2020, a year ago
If you’re an admirer of first wave thrash metal, then you are already familiar with the name ‘Carl Canedy’ – after all, he was the producer of such classic offerings as Anthrax’s Fistful Of Metal, Armed And Dangerous, and Spreading The Disease, Overkill’s Feel The Fire, and Exciter’s Violence & Force, among others. And additionally, he’s been the long-time drummer for metal vets The Rods, and is also the leader of his own solo band, Canedy, which will be issuing their latest album, Warrior, on August 7 via Sleaszy Rider Records. Canedy spoke with BraveWords correspondent Greg Prato about his solo band, standout tracks from Warrior, and his production career.
BraveWords: What made you decide to pursue a solo career?
Carl Canedy: “I had done Headbanger, which was an album that I think a lot of people thought was long overdue as a solo album. And the reason why I did that album was because I had some time between the Rod’s projects and different things – so I decided to do that to showcase my songwriting. I thought, ‘I should have an album that is just about my songwriting. Not about my drumming, not about producing – just showcasing my songwriting, so that I have that…and to pass on to my daughter as well.’ So, I assembled songs that I had written 100% of – even demos that I call ‘my 30 minute demos,’ which I present to the band, where I play and sing everything. And then I give them a completed song for us to learn. I had produced over 40 albums, but I always worked with other artists or collaborated with them, to help them realize their vision. And this time, the artist I was working with was a prick…myself! It was just miserable working with myself. I had no one to bounce ideas off of – it was like watching a bad movie, where someone just goes into despair. They melt down and slowly become a mess of indecision and anxiety. At one point, I was talking to Robb Reiner from Anvil, and I was saying the song ‘My Life My Way’ – which I love, and I wrote it about my two friends, Billy Hilfiger and Jim Nunis, who are both deceased and gone way too soon, and was a very important track for me – I just couldn’t get the drum track. Robb gave me a big pep talk – and then I went and knocked it out. But, I wasn’t even sure if I was going to release that album. So, I never wanted to work again with that jackass artist – myself – ever again.”
BraveWords: But you did carry on.
Carl Canedy: “I did want to do another album and I did want to continue to write. And I looked for musicians in this area to collaborate with. And there are great musicians in the Scranton, Pennsylvania area. However, no like-minded people. And I had been playing in this band, Jeffrey James Band – it’s a local, 8-piece horn band – for 22 years. And Tony [Garuba] – the bass player from Canedy – joined the band six years ago, and he and I clicked immediately. Tony is one of those guys that we laugh about in Jeffrey James – because Jeffrey James is all covers – Tony bought a Black Sabbath album when he was young, and he went into a parallel universe of heavy metal. We play him the biggest hit songs, and he doesn’t have any idea how they go! He has no memory of them, they’re not in his DNA. He was just a heavy metal guy the whole time – which we find very humorous. We say, ‘We’re going to do a song by the Beatles,’ and he has no clue. So, Tony and I played well from day one. Tony, Charlie [Russello], and Mike [Santarsiero] – the other three members of Canedy – had a band called TLC, called Totally Lost Cause, and their drummer just wasn’t going well. They had a TV show scheduled, and they asked me if I would do the TV show. It went so well that from that, we went to a recording studio every Monday. And after a year and a half of doing that…of course, every Monday isn’t every Monday because everybody is busy – we may get two sessions a month if we’re lucky. But over the course of a year and a half, we found out that we had written an album and had become a band. So, it was very organic. Although I looked for musicians, at this stage of the game, I wasn’t really looking to find a band – because I’m always doing things.”
BraveWords: What are your standout tracks from Warrior?
Carl Canedy: “That’s a good question and a difficult one, because I love every song on the album – and that’s unusual for me. And I don’t say that to make it sound like I’m hyping it, like, ‘Every song is the best.’ But I do love them all. They all have strong things. I think ‘Warrior’ is one of my favorites just because it’s such a powerful opening track. ‘Do It Now’ is fun because the way we wrote that…and that wasn’t my doing for people who listen to it and go, ‘Oh, that’s a track that’s basically a drum solo with musicians adding some chords.’ I didn’t even arrange that song – the other guys brought that song in. But ‘Do It Now’ is great because it’s a fun song for me to play and it showcases my drumming a little bit. I love ‘In This Sign’ – which was actually the working title for the album the entire time we were doing the album. It was one of the first songs we did. It was at the very last moment we changed it to Warrior.”
BraveWords: Memories of filming the video for Warrior’s title track?
Carl Canedy: “I had bought some cameras and I thought, ‘Let’s do a wide video.’ Because a lot of times, when you don’t have a big budget and you try to do a big budget video, the video comes off as like, ‘Yeah, right…nice try. You really would have been better off just setting up and playing – for a new band.’ And essentially, that’s what Canedy is – we’re a new band. So, I just set up cameras. I had just gotten these cameras, so I think I had six of them. I had no clue how to use them – I think I took them out, set them up, and didn’t realize that some of the batteries weren’t fully charged for the angles. But it was fun because we went in and did it. It was so easy. That’s one thing about the band that we’ve only done one gig, but playing live, the band can pull off what we did on the album. It’s not overproduced, so we can basically duplicate the album live. And Mike the singer is phenomenal, in that he can just nail it every time. And he doesn’t have ‘Lead Singer’s Disease’ – he’s a very intelligent guy. He’s a very mellow guy. So, you’re not dealing with any kind of arrogance there, which is always refreshing.”
BraveWords: Concerning the classic thrash albums you produced in the ‘80s, which ones stand out?
Carl Canedy: “I would say the Anthrax albums – Fistful of Metal, Armed and Dangerous, and Spreading the Disease – really stand the test to time. Exciter captured the power on that. I think that Exciter is such a powerful band live – Dan Beehler was such a powerful singer. So, I think a lot of them stand the test of time. Some of them…I wish I’d been able to serve the band a little bit better. But at the time, when you look back at things, in the moment you’re dealing with inexperienced musicians sometimes, you’re dealing with a studio that has limitations, and you’re dealing with a very, very tight deadline and tight budget. When you look back today, many years later, you’re thinking, ‘Geez…why didn’t that turn out a little bit better than it did?’ And you forget that you were dealing with a lot of things. A lot of times, it’s ‘Acme School of Crash Course in Recording.’ Because the studio is such a microscope that it’s different from playing live. You get in a studio, and a lot of players get in and are like, ‘I’m the best player ever.’ But suddenly they hear themselves and they have a really hard time because, ‘Wait…it’s not that good.’ Their technique isn’t up to par. All those things that are sins that are forgiven live are not forgiven in the studio. So, that causes a little meltdown for some people, and it takes time to readjust. And then of course what you get is a syndrome where you’re so self-conscious that they focus so much on the technical that they’ve lost what made them great in the first place – which was the feel of the dynamics and the energy. They’re just so focused on making everything perfect. So, you’ve got to get them to that point and then past that point – where they now have the freedom to play the way they play, and yet, have the technical chops to pull it off without it sounding sloppy and messy in the studio. It’s always a tricky thing, but when I look back on it, I blame myself and I wish I had done better for the bands, but then given everything, it was as good as it could have been for the time and all things considered.”