interviuri rock

Kenn Nardi (ANACRUSIS): gone to early

Kenn Nardi (ANACRUSIS): gone to early
BANDS : Anacrusis, Kenn Nardi

The 90s... they may bring back great memories for the metal fan, especially for those in the former communist bloc, but times were difficult  for the artists involved. A lot of bands that rose above any expectations in terms of musicianship, failed to do so in terms of commercial success. Kenn Nardi's band, Anacrusis is one of these bands that saw the musical industry turning their back on them in those troubled times when grunge was shifting the tide on the metal scene. He proved to be a very nice and talkative person as he answered all our questions about the history of the band, about the 2009 Reunion and about the future of Anacrusis.

 


Metalfan: Hello Kenn, and welcome to Metalfan.ro. Considering that it’s the first time we talk, I would like to start with your beginnings as your musician. What pushed you to make music and what bands inspired you back then?
Kenn Nardi: Growing up in the ‘70s, I was a huge KISS fan. More than anything else, they inspired me to be a musician and dream of being a “rock star” some day. My father is also a singer/guitar player so there was always music around our home. He used to play for the neighbours and at family get-togethers and once I was old enough to trade my tennis racket for a real guitar, my dad taught me some basic chords and some easy guitar stuff to get me started. Almost as soon as I could play three chords I began trying to write my own music.
Other bands that had a big impact on me when I began to discover music were PINK FLOYD and the BEATLES. As I grew into my teen years I got into metal bands like Black Sabbath, Judas Priest & Iron Maiden. I always leaned more towards the melodic side of metal, listening mostly to bands like SAVATAGE, HELLOWEEN & METAL CHURCH.

Metalfan: How was the first line up of the band put together? Was it difficult to find musicians who shared your view about thrash metal?

Kenn Nardi: ANACRUSIS was actually formed by our guitarist Kevin Heidbreder & bassist John Emery. They started out playing covers of MAIDEN & OZZY and eventually began writing some original songs. Our drummer Mike Owen joined them a few months before I did in the summer of 1986.
I had been playing in an all-original metal band called HEAVEN’S FLAME and Kevin came to see us play a few times and liked what we were doing, musically. When my band split up, I started jamming with the guys and we seemed to have very similar ideas about what kind of music we wanted to play. Once the four of us were together we began building upon the foundation of my original songs along with a few Kevin had written. “Imprisoned” was the first song written after we all came together and was a turning point for us musically and lyrically.
Less than half of our debut album SUFFERING HOUR was actually comprised of “new” songs (“Present Tense”, “Imprisoned”, “R.O.T.” & “A World To Gain”). The rest were either songs from my old band (“Butcher’s Block”, “Fighting Evil” & “The Twisted Cross”) or Kevin’s songs from before I joined (“Frigid Bitch” & “Annihilation Complete”).
Our original “Annihilation Complete” was even more of a mix of older songs and included Kevin’s “Pendulum” (later re-worked as “Killing My Mind”) and two more of my old HEAVEN’S FLAME songs “Vulture’s prey” and “Apocalypse”.

Metalfan: "Suffering Hour" (1988), Anacrusis’ debut album, although very good in terms of music, has not been as fortunate in regard to the sound quality of the recording. How were the recording conditions, what budget did you have and what label promoted that album?
Kenn Nardi: We recorded that album in a little studio in Kansas City, MO. It was a small house converted into a studio and had basically a control room with the mixing board, a window and a room where all of the musicians would set up and play. We recorded everything but the solos 7 vocals “live”. We spent about six days tracking and mixing everything and did the whole album for $1,200. We were not signed when we booked the studio and planned to record, but by the time we made the album Bernard Doe from Metal Forces had signed us to a 2-album deal with Axxis (later Active) Records in the UK. The bulk of the promotion for the album came through ads and news items published in Metal Forces magazine and a few interviews with small fanzines. We also received quite a bit of attention from Kerrang! at that time.

Metalfan: Did you promote the album live? What memories do you have of the concerts you played during those years?

Kenn Nardi: There was no real touring done during that period, though we did play a few one-off shows after the album was released. The most exciting was when we drove up to Chicago and got to open for VOIVOD & VIO-LENCE. Dimmension Hatross was my favorite album at the time and this was the album they were touring for, so being a part of that show was awesome for us. I just recently got a hold of a bootleg recording of our set that I never even knew existed until a few months ago. It’s pretty strange to hear our first real out-of-town gig after almost 24 years.

Metalfan: Reason (1990) is the band’s second album and you got to promote it as an opening band in a DRI tour. DRI was a popular band at the time how did you get that gig and how was the tour in terms of crowd reception and bands interaction?
Kenn Nardi: We were all fans of the Dealing With It-era stuff and were enthusiastic about getting our first real tour, but we were also bit nervous about how we would go over opening for a classic punk/hardcore band like D.R.I.. Of course by this time they were leaning more towards the metal/crossover side of things so I think we fit in just fine. We were all listening to bands like CRO-MAGS, AGNOSTIC FRONT, THE CRUMBSUCKERS, etc. and there was a lot of punk influence creeping into our music at that point. Also, the fact that we didn’t exactly look like your typical “metal” band worked in our favor.
I believe we got that tour through our booking agent, since D.R.I. were no longer on Metal Blade by that time. We were on the road with them for about 3 weeks and the guys were all very cool to us.

Metalfan: After the tour, drummer Mike Owen left the band. What was the reason for his departure and how difficult was to find a replacement for him? Were things very different with Chad Smith in the band?
Kenn Nardi: Mike had decided that he wanted to go back to school and that music wasn’t what he wanted for his future career. He was about to get married and wanted something more stable. He ended up joining the Navy for a few years only to end up playing music and touring for many years after that with bands out of San Deigo and Las Vegas.
Chad Smith had been the drummer in my old band HEAVEN’S FLAME. He had always hung around the ANACRUSIS camp and was actually friends with Kevin before I was. Chad was actually the one who introduced us when our band was splitting up. When Mike told us he was leaving, Chad was the natural choice to replace him and we never even auditioned anyone. Chad is a much different type of drummer than Mike and their personalities are also much different. Mike viewed music more as something fun to do and was very easy-going about the band and our music. Chad took things more seriously and was a much more dedicated musician than the rest of us. Chad was one of these guys who would practice hours each day. Chad’s style definitely affected my song-writing approach and opened the door for some very creative experiments on our next album.

Metalfan: Anacrusis’ third album Manic Impressions (1991) abandons the crossover element and focuses more on progressive-techno-thrash. What was the reaction of the press and the fans upon hearing the band taking this experiment to the extreme?
Kenn Nardi: The change was generally seen as a good thing. Reason was a very clumsy album and even though it was much more experimental than Suffering Hour, it still came across as very rough and raw. Chad’s precision drumming combined with more cohesive song structures made the change seem more radical than it was. It was really a natural progression to the direction we were heading in and Chad fit that period of the band perfectly. I think MANIC would have been a very different album if Mike had stayed in the band. Another big change was that unlike the first two albums, which contained several old songs from our early years, MANIC was almost entirely brand new songs which were written just for this album. The only “old” song was “Tools of Separation” which ended up being left off the album and later re-recorded for Screams and Whispers.

 


Metalfan: How did Anacrusis get picked up by Metal Blade and how important was their support to the recording and promoting of the album? Were they the ones who got you on the Overkill and MEGADETH tours?
Kenn Nardi: I’m not sure what role Metal Blade played in getting us those tours, but they were pretty good about supporting us financially as far as touring was concerned. We had signed a multi-album deal with them just as we were releasing Reason, which they picked up the distribution for. Manic was our first album on the Metal Blade label and though the promotion was generally good and it was relatively visible in the magazines and trade papers, distribution was not great and the album was often hard to find. It was viewed like an import album and only carried by request. Often we would play a gig and people would write us and say they saw us play and went looking for the album only to find that the local record shops had no idea who were even were.
Speaking of the OVERKILL Tour, we knew Blitz from another gig we did with them up in Rochester, NY on our very first shirt road-trip a few months before the D.R.I. tour. We did a couple weeks worth of one-off shows on the East Coast playing sometimes with local bands and other times opening for national bands including OVERKILL, TROUBLE, CRO-MAGS & BIO-HAZARD. The very first gig was with OVERKILL and Blitz came backstage before the show to introduce himself. He hung out for a long time and was super-cool as always. I believe Kevin stayed in touch with him after that and had a lot to do with them asking us on that tour the following year.

Metalfan: Anything worth mentioning about those tours? Overkill and MEGADETH were at the peak of their popularity at the time, so for a young band like Anacrusis opening for them must have been like a dream come true, was it not?
Kenn Nardi: Yeah, they were both great opportunities for us. I think the label could really have taken advantage more of this exposure, particularly the MEGADETH shows, but they were hardly mentioned. In fact I can’t even find any of those shows listed on the several exhaustive websites listing all of MEGADETH’S past tours. We did ten shows with them when ALICE IN CHAINS dropped off the tour. The crowds were generally good even though they usually had no idea who we were or even that AIC would not be playing until they arrived at the venue. MEGADETH were all 100% clean and sober at that time and even Dave was very pleasant and likeable whenever we dealt with him. Unfortunately I have no photos or recordings of us from any of these shows.
The OVERKILL Tour was a great experience for us all. The guys were very cool and we did thirty-eight shows with them over a two month period in the autumn of 1991. The only bad thing was that we were opening a three-band bill which included THE GALACTIC COWBOYS. Those guys were very cool and everything, but this meant we only got thirty minutes to play, which was disappointing considering we had three albums by then. We only played Manic songs on that tour.

Metalfan: Getting back from the road you lost again your drummer, as Chad Smith left the band, what happened this time?
Kenn Nardi: Chad was always very aggressive about his career and this often made us a bit nervous. We felt like Chad was the kind of guy who might jump ship if a better offer came along to him and we just weren’t sure he was fully committed to ANACRUSIS. We thought it would be better for everyone involved at that time if he left and pursued his other ambitions. We always felt that he saw ANACRUSIS as a stepping-stone to bigger things and we were not comfortable with that. I have to say that there would have been no one better to drum on Manic Impressions and his contributions to the band and that album during that period should not be ignored. We went through an important transformation at that point from a basement band to a professional touring band with our own musical identity and Chad had a lot to do with that. He really helped us all tighten up our playing and take ourselves more seriously than we had.

Metalfan: Screams and Whispers (1993)  is your latest studio recording to date. While this album is a step forward in every aspect, it seems to pose a rather puzzling matter: the keyboard tracks. Who’s idea was it to have keyboards and who picked those odd keyboard tones? Did you have a lot of people bashing about it?
Kenn Nardi: It was my idea. I had always been into orchestral rock bands like ELO & The MOODY BLUES and when I heard CELTIC FROST’S Into the Pandemonium I loved the way the orchestral elements mixed with very heavy music. It gave the music a “timeless” quality by adding a Classical tone. I wanted to try something similar only more melodic. Of course we couldn’t have a real orchestra come in and play on our album, so I either sequenced or played the parts on an inexpensive Korg M1 keyboard. Those were best sounds available to us at the time, though today the samples would sound much more realistic. Still, I thought they came across just fine and I rarely ever heard anything negative from fans or in reviews. I tried to use the keyboards to compliment the songs, but not overpower them. To this day, “Grateful” is one of our most popular songs because of the dark, ominous atmosphere the keyboards bring to it.

Metalfan: There’s been a video filmed for "Sound the Alarm". Starting with year 2000 it’s been broadcasted several times on MTV Romania. I wonder how much airplay did it get back in the 90s when the album was released? Was it an efficient way of promoting the band?
Kenn Nardi: I only know of one instance of it airing on Headbanger’s Ball here in the States. It was done very cheaply and on our own using a film student friend of ours. We only paid about $1,500 for the film to video transfer. We filmed parts of it at a local club and the rest in the TV studio at a local University which is where we did all of the editing after hours free of charge. I don’t know that metal Blade ever even submitted it more than once to be played on MTV back in 1993.

 


Metalfan: A series of live concerts with Merciful Fate and Death followed some time later. As I understand, Chuck Schuldiner had personally chosen Anacrusis as the band to open for Death on the European tour. How was the experience across the ocean? What was your relation with Chuck, and how was he as a person? How did you get along with King Diamond?
Kenn Nardi: From what I understand, Chuck liked our Screams and Whispers album and personally requested us for the tour. We had a great time with them and we were very excited to finally make it overseas. I expected Chuck to be very unpredictable based on stories I had read about his past behaviour, but he was just the opposite. He was completely professional and treated us great. He was relaxed and friendly the entire time and we even shared a bus with the guys for the entire month we were there. At that time DEATH included Craig Locicero (FORBIDDEN) who we already knew through our common manager Debbie Abono, Steve DiGiorgio (SADUS) and Gene Hoglan (DARK ANGEL). All of the guys were amazing musicians and it we would watch them from the side of the stage in awe.
Just before we headed to Europe with DEATH we opened for MERCYFUL FATE for a month here in the States. We were all fans of the band and though we didn’t spend as much personal time hanging out with the guys, King was a very nice guy whenever we spoke to him. One of the first club shows I ever saw was back in 1984 when the original line-up played in St. Louis in support of the Don’t Break the Oath album (one of my favorites). I stood right in front of KD the whole show and it was amazing. It was a real honor for us to play with them.

Metalfan: After the tour with  Death, Anacrusis disappeared from the map until 2009. Disbanding at the peak of creativity and popularity might seem a strange decision for a band.
Kenn Nardi: By the time we went to Europe with DEATH we were extremely fed up with the whole situation with our label and just the music business in general. We never felt that Metal Blade did much to promote us or that they had much interest in the band at all. The multitude of compilations & “best of…” sets over the years only seem to highlight this since not a single one contains any ANACRUSIS music. This is strange considering they own the rights to what many metal fans would consider two very ground-breaking albums (Manic Impressions & Screams and Whispers). We were opening for three other bands and playing only 30 minutes each night sometimes as the doors were opening. That short of a set with four albums out was very frustrating for us and the fans who in some cases had waited several years to finally see us live. With DEATH it was only the two bands most nights and we had a longer time to play which was great. The European audiences were very enthusiastic and most of the shows were among our best ever, but it was too late for us and we were all beginning to take our frustrations out on each other. Kevin, John and I had been playing together for seven years by then which is a long time and our very different ideas about music & the music business were beginning to cause very serious problems. I cannot imagine anything productive coming from that relationship if we had moved forward at that time with another album.

Metalfan: What have you been doing all this time? Have you stayed away from music?

Kenn Nardi: I have written and recorded some music on my own over the years, but I basically walked away from the entire music world after ANACRUSIS split up. I did play some live shows as 2nd guitarist with a band called TRIBES WITH KNIVES, which were friends of ours. I had produced their early demos. They released one album in 1994, but I had no involvement with it at all. I have lived a pretty normal life since then with the same woman for the last eighteen years. I have been working as a computer programmer for about twelve years now and only mess around with music and video stuff in my spare time.





Metalfan: Why and how did the 2009 reunion happen?
Kenn Nardi: We were asked to play at the KEEP IT TRUE XIII festival in Germany. All four original members were in St. Louis at that time and Kevin & John had even played together in a 70s/‘80s cover band for a few years. We thought it would be a fun opportunity to play together again since we had all walked away so abruptly back in 1993.

Metalfan: In my opinion the "Hindsight: Suffering Hour & Reason Revisited" release is very beneficial for your fans, because now they can hear your first two albums with a new and modern sound. How was it for you to re-visit those old songs?
Kenn Nardi: It was great for me personally and I think the other guys enjoyed it as well. Everyone was more or less happy with the new recordings and no one could argue that most of material comes across much better this time. We had always been unhappy with the way we had to rush those early albums and the poor production that was a result of many different things. Revisiting songs written and played twenty years early was a challenge, I must admit. We aren’t nineteen and twenty years old any more and that stuff was FAST, haha. I think we did a pretty good job breathing new life into those old songs, all things considered and I am very thankful we finally had the opportunity to re-record them.

Metalfan: How were the live concerts played during the last three years? How was it to meet the audience again and how different is your audience today compared to the old days?

Kenn Nardi: It was amazing to play these songs live once again. Some of the fans were old friends, some were brand new and had only discovered us after the beak-up, but all of them were very excited and enthusiastic and we were honored we had the chance to play for them. It was a dream come true for us after all these years and the shows were very emotional for us and the fans. The people who do to get into our music tend to connect with us through it on a very personal level and everyone we met felt like an old friend. It was an incredible feeling to know that people still enjoyed ANACRUSIS so many years later. I would never have thought that would be the case back when we broke up.

Metalfan: What are your plans for the near future? The band has released a new song in 2010, are there more to follow? Maybe a full length album?
Kenn Nardi: After our St. Louis reunion show and the KEEP IT TRUE festival in April of 2010, our guitarist Kevin decided he did not want to play any more shows. We did go on to play a few more times with a friend of the band filling in on guitar (including the ROCK HARD Festival in Germany and the ALCATRAZ METAL FESTIVAL in Belgium last summer), but we have no plans at all to continue at this point.
John, Mike and I had begun writing music during 2009 & 2010 and we had between twenty and thirty songs in the works, but no one really has the time to put in the band these days, so I doubt there will be another album or anything like that. I may record some of these songs on my own, but that depends on whether or not I am inspired enough to so it. Right now I am not, but who knows? Playing again has been great, but we never intended to try a full reunion or to fully resurrect the band. We are all very different people these days and our differences musically and otherwise have only widened over the years making it very difficult to work together in a productive, creative way. There would really be no point in trying to fake it for the sake of a new album or any other reason, so I’m afraid that ANACRUSIS will have to once again exist only in the past.

Metalfan: Thank you for your time, I wish you good luck in your personal life, and I hope to hear about Anacrusis in the near future, because I always thought this band hasn’t said its last word yet. Cheers.
Kenn Nardi: I wish you the same and thanks for the interview.
Autor: Klawz, Fantotzii
Vezi galeriile trupelor: Anacrusis,

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