INTERVIEW AND PICTURES BY MARKO SYRJALA AND ARTO LEHTINEN
The Rods used to dominate back in the early and mid 80’s by releasing six albums in a row. After the intensive years of banging their heads and rocking hard, The Rods went on a hiatus for a long time. David “Rock” Feinstein did a few one/off shows by playing material from The Rods. It wasn’t until 2011 that The Rods officially got back together to release the long waited comeback album title VENGEANCE. The legendary trio arrived at Swedenrock and therefore sitting down with the whole band after the gig was obviously a great idea. THE RODS, here we go…
This is a bit old of an topic already, but David, you played at Wacken Open Air in 2004 under the Feinstein name but then you also played a brief set with the Rods which also was a kind of reunion show of the band. What was the idea to play with both bands at Wacken in the first place?
Feinstein: It was just an idea of the promoter who thought it was a good idea to do that because I had the association with The Rods. But it really wasn’t a Rods reunion, just a matter of just doing a couple of Rods songs. I was mainly there with promoting my solo album.
Garry: It was the first time we had gotten together in a long time, and we went through a few rehearsals and we had… Carl couldn’t do it, we had another drummer. So, it was a little uncomfortable
Carl: I could have done it. It wasn’t that I couldn’t do it, let’s get the records straight. I could have done it.
Garry: You wouldn’t do.
Carl: Don’t say I wouldn’t do it, I could have done it.
Garry: So, we were only doing three songs. It wasn’t the same, it was just an opportunity to go and do it. And it was just amazing. The great amount of people that came to signing session with Rods staff, it was just ultimate experience. So, that was the first time I really realized there was all these fans out there, a lot of them weren’t that old, a lot of them were younger. And then the Internet really brought to us the information, that we have all these fans out there, we had no idea about it before. We didn’t know, like Brazil. We played in Brazil last year we had a lot of fans down there and in fact we had no idea that anybody in Brazil knew who we were at all.
But the Rods got permanently together after that Wacken thing or how do you see that?
Feinstein: In fact, it was before the Rods had a re-union, I think it was probably a year later. We got the Rods reunion, we did the two shows in our home town just for the fun and we got such a huge response, and we decided to continue on to do that. If there was somebody that wanted to hear us play, then we would try to go there and play. So, right now it’s been five or six years since we started the reunion and every summer we’ve managed to play some shows and we did an album, VENGEANCE album. So, we are going to record a new album soon and we hope that we can get on to play some more shows. The thing is that we don’t have a manager, we don’t have an agent and we don’t have any record label. We just basically do everything ourselves and any offers we get; we look in direct through the Internet. Carl gets a message or I get a message or Garry gets a message. And we see if we can do it and if it’s worthwhile we will do it.
The Rods disbanded in the late ’80s and then you kind of disappeared from the music map. But it seems that now there’s a whole new demand for bands like the Rods again. What do you think, what is overall the main reason why people are now re-discovering the older bands?
Carl: I think there were a couple of things, one is the Internet. We started getting emails from people; my friends are here from Norway. Hans we’ve been friends on Facebook forever, then he winds up actually getting us to play a festival in Norway. So, those things happen and David’s solo album was a big catalyst in terms of getting the band back together. It came out at a time when we were all available. Garry and I were both more of it. We had families and we had children but the children were growing and suddenly we were able to do things. So, it was really good timing and David’s solo album and the fact that… because of the Internet as you said. There was a period of time in the ’90s and that was when fans started writing us and saying, “We love the band”. And we were unaware of that because our management knew but they never told us. So, later on we started discovering that there were fans around the world. So, it’s really exciting for us to do this again.
How do you see the difference between the audience of nowadays and back in the day – I guess it is now very difficult to reach the young audience?
Carl: Actually we see that and we’ve seen a lot of different shows. There are also younger people there, it’s usually a mix of half and half. And the young fans are much into classic metal bands. I mean, a lot of young fans are really discovering it, they are into it and we see it at the shows. We saw it in Brazil. I think there are more young fans, like the shows in Brazil and here in Europe we have older fans in the audience.
NEW ALBUM, THE MUSIC BUSINESS, AND MORE
Like you said, there is a new the Rods album in works.
Feinstein: We are working on writing a material now. So, I would say within six months probably we will have it. We don’t know, but…
But you don’t have a record deal at the moment?
Carl: I don’t know either.
Feinstein: I will, we will find out what’s going to happen. It would be good to have a label that has distribution, that’s the whole thing and the whole record is so different now. The Internet was to help to get the record out there and for physical CD. A lot of people just download the music. They don’t even care about the CD.
I heard some kind of rumor which says that the Rods have a new manager and she’s called Wendy Dio. Is there any truth behind that rumor?
Feinstein: I don’t know anything about that, but rumors easily get started. Right now we don’t have any manager. The three of us have a hard time managing ourselves. So, right now we are doing that by ourselves.
Carl: We haven’t really heard anything about this, so I don’t know how that rumor got started.
I guess the reason why it started is the previous album VENGEANCE came out through Niji Entertainment Group (co-owned by Wendy Dio) and people just started to think, you know?
Feinstein: Yeah. I can see that rumor would easily get started. It was never really intended to be there and either, so.
Another rumor says that you have more unreleased material recorded with Ronnie and it will be used on the next Rods album. How do you comment that one?
Feinstein: No, that’s not true.
Garry: I wish we did, yeah.
Feinstein: I think it is probably because of… I don’t even really know, but I think there is probably some things that he recorded at his house in a demo form. Because I know he was working on a new deal, album. It was going to be another… he was going to do a second album of MAGICA. He was about to do a MAGICA II, that what he was working. So, there are probably some things, songs that he did at his house. Those will probably be used in somewhere at some point. But I don’t know if that’s… I haven’t heard any of those. So, I don’t really know for sure about but those are the songs people probably mean when they talk about unreleased Ronnie songs.
You don’t have record label, management, or manager, and you’re doing everything by yourself. How does that work if you’re honest?
Feinstein: I think that if we could find a manager who understood the three of us and how do we think. Someone that would actually work for the band and try to find gigs for the band. We’ve never really had good management that would in fact really do the best for the band. So, it’s hard to know. I mean right now we are just doing ourselves. There is not really anything in the band; just people get a hold of us.
Carl: We met Helena in Norway five years ago, and she’s helping us so much and she’s…
Feinstein: There are people in the business that get to know us and meet us, they help us find great opportunities.
WORKING ON NEW SONGS, THE RODS RE-MASTERS AND MORE
What is the process of writing a follow-up to the VENGEANCE album, as you have the great legacy behind you. Does it bring some kind of pressure?
Feinstein: Carl can explain more, a lot about recording vocal. We are just basically going to do another album.
Carl: We are negotiating right now about re-releasing the Rods old material, the whole catalog, including HEAVIER THAN THOU which has never been released on CD or ever re-released in any format. And we are going to have new material, so as far as pressure goes. We will just do what we do. I mean at this point, nobody is forcing us to do it. We are only doing everything we do because we want to, which is actually the best way to do music. Record labels are probably saying, write a single, you need this you need that. We have a big back catalogs, so it’s not like we need… We used to go that way, well we need an opening song for the same. So, we need a new opening song or we need… But now we just write whatever we want and that’s about it.
I have all the Rods albums and since day one I noticed that there are lots of, I would say, “quotes” of famous riffs. Is that something you’ve done on purpose or did it happen just accidentally?
Carl: David was on the road with Deep Purple with Elf, night after night after night for a solid year. And Ritchie is a favorite guitarist. So, his influence can be heard for sure “laughs”.
Back in the day you used to be on many different record labels, Circle Music, Roadrunner etc. Did you get some how disillusioned by record labels back as getting ripped off that you want to be careful when picking up a right label or being independent nowadays?
Feinstein: The first label was Arista, it was our major label that we were tied to that label for a couple of years, for two albums. We were really naive about everything and didn’t really understand the way things worked. Basically we were like just about every other band, we just want to play and write songs and make records and go play that. We didn’t really understand or cared to really think about the business partner, which was a mistake
Carl: And nor did we have good management that protected us. Our manager ruined our third album, it was a demo. IN THE RAW was a demo that we paid for and financed and he wanted going in partners. And so, for us it’s been a road that’s typical of every other band, I don’t feel the dissolution. I think those guys, like Garry and David have to speak for themselves. I don’t feel disillusioned, because music has always been the most important thing for me. Then I enjoyed playing with these guys, so I wish we could play more and I enjoyed playing this type of thing. Sweden Rock is great, I love doing these festivals. But as far as the music business goes it’s always been a tough business, and we started this band. There was really no one like us out there in the States. And honestly, we didn’t even know that a band like Motorhead existed. We started playing, David had come from Elf, and I had come from another band. Garry was in another band. We just started playing, there was just a sound that we were doing and all of a sudden new wave of British Heavy Metal was the label that we were getting for our music. But we didn’t even know Motorhead existed or that brand of music was out there. We never made music, we never made music to be like Air Supply who was a band on our label. Air Supply was getting all the tour support and the money. But we were never going to be Air Supply; we were a band that was… We didn’t do this to become like pop idols. We did because we loved playing what we played, if otherwise we’d never would have played it because we didn’t know if we were going to lose it. We played at a club at one point, and early on in the career and the club emptied out. We were like, “Okay.” One guy said to me, he was outsider and he goes, “Carl, what are you doing, why you’re playing this kind of music?” I’m like, “I love it, I don’t know.” And I just stop for a minute and go, “This drunk guy is telling me that we shouldn’t be playing this music.” So, I stopped for a second and went, “Fuck that, I do it because I want to do it.”
When did you start discovering the New Wave of British Heavy Metal genre in general?
Carl: It was after we did the ROCK HARD album, self produced. We released it and we started getting to recognition, we did a single, “Crank It Up.” That was getting some regional airplay immediately, we didn’t even know. It was like the Buddy Holly movie. We pulled it out, put the single out. I called the radio station in Rochester, which is a big metal station to follow up – “Did you get our single? Did you have a chance to listen to it, it was “Crank It Up”. He goes, “We’ve been playing that a lot and everybody loves it.” So, we had no idea about it until then “laughs”.
That was long before the Internet.
Carl: Now everything is Internet, it makes it worldwide. You are connected to the world. I mean, we wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the Internet. I’m sure the YouTube performance that we just did is on YouTube by somebody already or in Facebook.
David, how do you know that which songs will end up to your solo album and which are for the Rods?
Feinstein: I think that any song as far as what I would write would be a Rods, anything that I would write would probably be a decent Rods’ song. It’s just my style of playing, and I have written some songs that aren’t Rods style songs. The HOLLYWOOD album, THE RODS album. The HOLLYWOOD album was really different than, it’s not really a Rods style album and also the songs that we put aside. We wrote and said, “We wrote this song, it’s not really a Rods song. So, let’s put it over here.” And then all over sudden we are hoping through with the stuff, so we brought in a singer to sing our song because those songs really called for a different type of vocals and Garry and I could do and then starts everything. So, Carl and I both write songs that are outside Rods albums. We also know when we write a song, we know instantly that’s a Rods style song.
Carl: Have you heard “Great Big Fake Ones”? We have a new song out. You didn’t hear it?
No we haven’t. Tell something more about it?
Carl: We just got it out, you have to listen to it. We did a soft release on it, we just put it up on the Internet.
Garry, when we will hear more of your songs?
Garry: I don’t know. My time has been pretty well taken up by career and my family, we will have more time now. And I have been thinking about this.
Carl: That’s good, because he’s a good song writer. We only have one song that he wrote, and I had to save it from the ashes. We recorded it and they didn’t want to do it, but he’s a good song writer. So, I hope he does.
You mentioned your career so what you’re up to when you’re not playing with the Rods?
Garry: Well, when the Rods disbanded I did play with Kim Simmonds and Savoy Brown for a couple of years. But I soon got out of business, I started a family and I became a nanotechnology engineer, a form of graphic engineer. So, I teach people how to make little tiny things using really expensive tools. And actually I’ve written an encyclopedia chapter in one of those, a little text on what I do. I know something about it “Laughs”.
CARL’S PRODUCER CAREER
Carl, you’re also a known as a producer. How that thing got originally started?
Carl: It came out of the fact that we were doing much as a band, we were kind of… we wanted it out. We wanted to play, but we just didn’t… We weren’t getting gigs and whatever, so I started producing. So, I was producing a bunch of bands. I was doing Anthrax and Exciter, TT Quick. All those bands. So, we came out of that. Working with a lot of musicians and just saw we should put together something. So, it was really me looking for a project. That was…
Feinstein: A project. And I think it’s understandable, because when you just work within one realm like the Rods or like pretty one direction. And sometimes maybe you want to branch off and say, I want to try something a little different. That was his version of doing something a little different, like producing an album. It’s a little bit different music, and maybe his solo album. It was kind of pretty smooth, but out there maybe that would be a little different than the Rods. So, you can’t get outside the box a little bit. I mean my solo records even though they are slightly different but they are a little bit like the Rods. That’s only because my style doesn’t change, I write under one theme. But I think that’s what the thing is, you might need to get out of them. But Garry and Carl will play in other bands, like their own songs.
Carl: I think it was, I have always been interested of…. You write songs, I’ve always been writing songs. And I was always interested; from early on I got two tape recorders and two mono-tape recorders and recorded one to the other. I was always interested in recording; I was always interested in writing and so when we first started the album. A lot of times David and I were the only ones in the studio, we couldn’t afford a producer. So, it were kind of vocal and I would say try it this way or whatever. And we would just be there and we work on it together, and I mean that’s how we both started producing and stuff like that. Producing ourselves, because you just don’t have the money to hire a producer when you are Indie. So, that was it. And then I met Johnny Z, and I have been doing some local demos for bands and so Johnny is here. So, “Hey! You want to try this band?” I said, “Sure.” And then that’s how we started, it was simple as that. There was no master plan, and Johnny was just hot and signing bands left and right and he needed producers. And so, he was giving me different projects. I did three records with Anthrax. When I first started working with Anthrax a lot of my friends laughed. They said “these guys are going to be a gold!” and one friend he goes, “they are a worst band ever, have you’ve seen them? You are bringing your balls on the fire”. I said, “Yeah. I have no doubt they are going to be successful band. They are like, “You are fucking crazy. That sucks.” So, at the end of the day… But early on it was changing of the guard that type of music, and not everybody got it at first. Johnny had signed bands, obviously Metallica, Anthrax, those bands. They were cutting edge that was changing of the guard. We were just talking about James Hetfield. Who would think that in the ’80s when Metallica’s first album came out, that James Hetfield would influence singers. How many singers today, other singers sound like James Hetfield, vocalist? Which is surprising?
What about working with Possessed – you gotta tell a little bit about it?
Carl: Jeff and I speak. I wrote an intro for their album, they are still using that. What went wrong with that was, I think they rehearsed we did pre-production. It really just came down to I just screwed up. No, I think we did a great job and everything. But we went to the studio and that band was…. I approached and produced them and I should never have separated the musicians to play. That band was like Holy Ghost, Rods and Temple but they were tight. And I should have just supported them as one single unit, and just let it be what it was going to be and I didn’t do that and that was a mistake. And then engineer we had was good, but I just think at the end of the day I have to take responsibility. It could have been a heavy album- But then the mastering, I lost control of the mastering. I don’t think the mastering was going well. So, whatever. But at the end of the day I just accept responsibility, and at least the guys aren’t angry with me. They know what will happen and we did a good job, it’s just that the end result could have been better.
Nowadays it is considered a classic metal album.
Carl: I can’t believe how much they sold for it, BEYOND THE GATES. And I got slacked pretty badly.
THE BREAK UP OF THE RODS AND THE ELF RUMOR
Like mentioned earlier the Rods disbanded in the late 80’s. Why did it happen back then?
Feinstein: Well, I don’t know. Maybe Carl here have a different view than I do. We didn’t really break up, I think we just got so burnt down on the business side of it and we got screwed too much on the business part. So, we got tired.
Carl: We just wind down, it wasn’t like….
Feinstein: We just couldn’t do it anymore. I think we just needed to get away from that, we just was so disillusioned. It’s hard to explain, you actually go through it yourself. It was never a mental thing to go through, it just became like very bitter. Not within us, because we always seemed good terms with three of us. We didn’t split because there was the feeling between the three of us.
Carl: It wasn’t like we just quit. Like, “screw these guys”. It wasn’t like that at all, it was just wind do. We weren’t making any money, we were making a little bit. We couldn’t make a living definitely because we had bad people managers, taking care of us. So, we jumped to, “How can I pay my bills?” I started producing bands to earn money, Garry got a day job.
If the business side wasn’t doing that great, did you ever ask tips from your cousin?
Feinstein: Ronnie was like us too, he really didn’t want to deal with business. He was naive about the business, when Wendy…. When we finally got together with Wendy she really helped us. She really took over the business plus she’s a very smart woman. So, it was really in Ronnie’s favor to have one. Because she straightened everything up and she took care of the business like it should have been, and that was the big turn. I think Ronnie’s career, when she got involved, because she made it all possible.
One more question about Ronnie. For a long time was a rumor according that you and Ronnie had plans to put the band Elf back together. It never happened but was it something that you were really thinking or is that just another rumor?
Feinstein: Before Ronnie died it was in talks, the last ten years of his life. There were times when we talked about it. We didn’t know who was going involve but we knew that he and I would do it, of course making it for the fans. So, we talked about it and just because he was so busy all the time also, that’s why we couldn’t do it because he was too busy. So, it never happened. Well, if he was still alive it would happen right now.
Okay, that’s all by now. Thanks for time and good luck with your next album!
The Rods: Thank you guys!