Producer CARL CANEDY Recalls ANTHRAX's Early Days And Thrash Criticism – “This Is Horrible. This Is Sh!t. This Is Crap. It's Insect Music!”
November 24, 2023, 3 months ago
By Greg Prato
As 1/4 of thrash metal's Big 4, Anthrax was most certainly an important contributor to the style – especially with such early releases as 1984's Fistful Of Metal and 1985's Spreading The Disease – both of which were issued via Megaforce Records and co-produced by Carl Canedy (best known as the Rods' drummer, and producer of '80s offerings by Overkill, Possessed, and Blue Cheer).
Recently, Canedy was willing to look back at this groundbreaking era in which he worked alongside Anthrax in the studio, when thrash – as we know it – was still in the building block stage. All it took was for yours truly to ask Canedy the question 'Could you sense there was a thrash metal movement when you were working with Anthrax?', and he proceeded to offer up a detailed and extremely interesting answer! Read on…
"The first album…it was the changing of the guard. And I recognized it. I played some demos for friends, and I have a friend – we still laugh about it, I think he still owes me 20 bucks – we had a bet, and he goes, 'This is horrible. This is shit. This is crap. It's Insect Music.' Which, I don't know what insect music means, but that's what he said. And I go, 'This band is going to be huge.' And he goes, 'You've got to be kidding me.' I said, 'They will be a gold or platinum band.'"
"But what I found was that older musicians…and 'older,' I mean like 26 not like 46 – it was the changing of the guard. And for those musicians who were locked into coming out of that hard rock and what was beginning to be like a hair metal thing, and I don't think they could really grasp the fact that it was changing. And that they were becoming essentially – and when I say this I don't mean it to be derogatory, because it applies to myself and to the band the Rods – dinosaurs. And that music was now no longer cutting edge, relevant…whatever. It was a whole different approach to writing songs."
"And I think it put the fear of God into some people, and I don't think they could see it. I'm sure if they took a step back, they could see that the band was phenomenal. But most of the people I played it for were like, 'What is that?' And just didn't get it. It was fast, it was crazy, the lyrics were more political, and it just wasn't too happening for them. And for me…people say, 'Oh, do you like bluegrass? I hate country.' I'm like, 'I love country, I love bluegrass. I love all music if it's good.' If it's crap – fake poser crap – then I don't. But if it's genuine musicianship, I can appreciate all of that."
"So, for me, the way I approached every production was, 'How can I get the best of the band recorded?' And that's what I saw with Anthrax. They were phenomenal but they were young, and they were loose. So, once in the studio, I discovered immediately that Scott [Ian] is the guy that should be playing rhythm. And of course, Dan Spitz was a blazing ripping guitarist, and Dan should be playing the solos. And that's how we're going to make a tight record. And Charlie [Benante] was a 'one take guy.' Charlie just hammered it out right away – one take. So, that was my goal – was to really capture that."
"But yeah, I definitely recognized it early on and I knew they were going to be huge. And they had the attitude – which I loved – which was basically 'take no prisoners.' When they came back from the tour after Fistful of Metal, Neil wasn't there and they brought in another singer. And of course, Dan Lilker wasn't there. Dan Lilker, I love Dan. Dan was a great, great player. In fact, I love the fact that he credits me when I suggested that in the business he really needed to learn to play with a pick – because of the speed metal thing. And he embraced it. About four or five years ago, he walked up to me – and hulking over me – he goes, 'I gotta talk to you.' And I thought, 'Oh, the shit's gonna hit the fan. He's going to be bitching about my producing.' And he goes, 'I have to thank you, man, because you changed my whole approach and then that really made a huge difference for me. I can't thank you enough.'"
"But when they came back in, they had a singer with them [Matt Fallon]. Who was a very good singer – but he was young and he partied, and he wasn't the right singer. I actually have demo tapes of it that I listened to recently, and he was very good. But for me, I said to the band after a week in the studio, 'I don't think he's going to get you to the next level.' Because the goal was a major label. Remember, they were on Megaforce Records. So, they said, 'Well, get Johnny on the phone.' I go into the conference room, I call Johnny Zazula…rest in peace Johnny, I miss him every day. In the last few years of this life, we were speaking two or three times a week – and it has left a big hole for me. But I told John what I thought, and he said, 'Put the guys on the phone.' That's all he said. I said, 'John wants to talk to you.' They go into the conference room, and five minutes later they come out, and they go, 'John wants to talk to you.' So I go, 'OK.' I go back into the conference room, I pick up the phone, and John says, 'Put him on a bus,' and hangs up the phone! So now we're in the studio at Pyramid – Alex Perialas is engineering, I'm producing – and we have to put him on a bus and send him away. Which was hard. I felt sorry for him, but he was young."
"So, now we have no singer. I was able to reach out to my friend Andrew 'Duck' MacDonald, who gave me Joey's number, and I called Joey [Belladonna]. Joey came in, and the rest is history. All of us knew the minute Joey…and he had to pick it up – he was used to singing Journey. And so now, this whole style of music – the phrasing, the timing was very quick. But he adapted quickly, obviously. But we knew within the first five minutes of him trying to sing a song. Everybody in the control was like, 'Wow. That's it.' The magic was there."
"But for those guys, I always appreciated the fact that they had the balls to do that. Like, how many bands on the verge of getting a major label deal would say, 'We've got to lose this singer, and we have nobody now. No resources, no potential singers in mind. We're stuck. This could be the end of the band.' But their convictions were so strong that when I said, 'I don't think he's going to get you to the next level,' they believed me and they did what is right for them. And I always loved that about the band from day one – when they came in, they were in 100%. And to this day they are in 100%. So, I have total admiration."
"And back then, Johnny had no money. I was paying their per diems. Like, I paid several thousand out of my pocket to the band – just so they could eat every day. Somewhere, I have the 'Not Book' – because Scott has started the 'not' thing, and we were all laughing and picking up on the not thing. But every day they would have to sign for their per diems, and pretty soon, they signed 'Winston Churchill,' 'Mickey Mouse.' I mean they would just start signing ridiculous things for their per diem. But, total respect for the guys."