Interview with Kenn Nardi
Let’s assume that some readers are not aware what you have been doing in the past several years. Can you bring us up to speed on your activities?
Anacrusis reunited back in 2009 for a couple of shows in 2010. We played a St. Louis show followed by the Keep It True festival a few days later with the original lineup of Kevin Heidbreder (gtr), John Emery (bass), Mike Owen (dr) and myself. During the many months of rehearsals we also re-recorded our first two albums from scratch which we released as a double CD called “HINDSIGHT: Suffering Hour & Reason Revisited”.
After those original reunion shows our guitarist went his own way and we played a couple more festivals and local gigs with an old friend filling in on guitar. After the 70,000 Tons of Metal Cruise in 2013 we once again retired the band and went forward with recoding what ended up being my first solo album “Dancing With the Past”.
Was your experience on 70,000 Tons an inspiration to start writing and recording again?
No, just the opposite actually. Playing the cruise was a great honor for us, but it was also apparent by that time that we were all pretty burned out on Anacrusis. This trip was actually when I decided that we would probably never finish this “new” album we had begun working on and that I would go ahead and finish it myself. I had already written the bulk of the material by that point.
Was there any point that your new album was intended to be an Anacrusis album?
Yes, it definitely was supposed to be a new Anacrusis album, at least with three original members. I wasn’t thrilled about the idea of doing an album without our founding member Kevin Heidbreder, but it was clear that he was not on the same page as the rest of the band seemed to be on. It was better that it worked out this way since I would honestly rather leave Anacrusis in the past. Whatever musical legacy we managed to leave is better off left alone, I think. Ultimately releasing the album under my own name allowed me to make the album I had wanted to make all along and I don’t think the other guys were fully on board with everything I wanted to do anyway.
Based on an assumption of the title of your new solo album, how much of it was old material in the vaults and how much of it was new?
There are a handful of songs that go back several years, but the vast majority of the material is post-reunion. There are two songs that go all the way back to just after Anacrusis broke up, I think three from around 2007 and the Cruel April song “A Little Light”. I also re-recorded “This Killer in My House” which was a song John and I co-wrote during the reunion and which I included on the “Silver” CD in 2001. However, considering there are 28 tracks that still leaves a lot of new stuff.
When writing songs what comes first the title? The main riffs or even just a feeling or an idea?
It has changed over the years. In Anacrusis I would usually write riffs or take riffs from John or Kevin and piece things together before I would try to add melodic stuff and vocal lines. The lyrics usually came last even if they were written by one of the other guys before I had music together which required me to squeeze things in. For songs I wrote entirely myself, the lyrics would always come last as I would usually have the exact melodies and vocal arrangements and would then “fill in the words” which usually allowed those songs to flow better.
For Cruel April it was 100% writing a full song on an acoustic guitar along with the melodies and then finishing with just the right lyrics that I felt fit the song.
For DwtP it was a little of both. I never have lyrics lying around at all. They are the hardest for me and I don’t like to waste anything, so I would write the music and melodies and maybe a line or two or at least have a theme in mind before filling things in with the lyrics.
Why did you decide to do a double album instead of release an album in 2014 and one again in 2015?
I really wanted to do something different or special. I did not ever hear this material as two different albums. To me it all fit together and I had had way too many things to “say” musically to do it in 10 or 12 songs. I wanted enough room for the “Anacrusis” style stuff that I knew most people would be looking for, but also enough space for all of the other things I wanted to include. I still have a lot more music that I didn’t use on the album, so I wasn’t just throwing in every single idea I’ve had for the last 20 years. Doing a new album after so long is a very strange position to be in. There is a lot to prove if that is the right word. I didn’t want a half-hearted bunch of songs with me or the band trying to sound like 1993. It is impossible to go back in time that way anyhow, so why bother? I really wanted something more than just a new album. I didn’t know at the time (or even now) if I will record any more music ever, so I wanted to get all of this music finished for those fans who want something to occupy them for a while.
I noticed the cover art is quite dark and I’ve noticed a slight similarity to the cover art for the Mekong Delta album, THE MUSIC OF ERIC ZANN. Coincidentally, that is not the Mekong Delta album that Eliran Kantor did the art for. Why did you choose it and how did it come about?
Well, it wasn’t really “chosen” since Eliran created just for this project. Eliran is an old fan of the band and a friend. He is a very talented and well-respected artists and we got to know each other while working on Hindsight which he did all of the artwork for. The original title for the album was going to be Parallax Error which was a title I had since 1991 and which I would probably have used for the “fifth” never-recorded Anacrusis album. He and I both struggled over the months to come up with anything that visually fit well and after I decided to change the title I gave him my ideas of what I thought it should look like. Eilran used those themes and created an entirely different idea that he felt went with the title.
Were there select people that you shared your ideas with to get input or feedback or was it just strictly, all you and what you wanted to do?
Well, there are a very small number of people, whether they are family or friends or even fans that I would share things with just to get their reactions. However, I never ever go with anyone opinion over my own when it comes to my music. Maybe that is good or maybe that is bad, but in the end I have to live with it, not them so I trust my own gut when it comes to these things.
What is the greatest challenge of being a total solo artists and conversely what is the greatest advantage, besides not having to compromise for your art?
Well, from a creative standpoint I certainly do enjoy working alone. I just hate compromise. It only means that no one gets what they want. Many things in our band fell flat or ended up completely awful due to compromise. Not necessarily the music itself, but many other things. On the other hand, it is nice to mix things up sometimes when it comes to fresh ideas though and sometimes other people definitely help with that. I have no problem collaborating with other people on their ideas if they ask me to, but I’d rather work on my own stuff alone.
I know some older fans still leave a negative perception about pre-programmed drums. Did you ever get any feedback, negative or positive about choosing to do the drums yourself?
Yeah, of course and it is very disappointing. People are very set in their ways. You would think it was 1985 by some of the reactions. I can tell you that had Mike played the drums you’d barely tell a difference. Everything is to a click and the samples I used were all right from his kit and the ones I would have used for the drums had he played. This was done to be practical, not because I don’t like drums. I love drums and I love Mike’s ideas too. Things were just dragging along for months and months and I couldn’t imagine us ever finishing things any other way. There was just too much music and Mike didn’t have the time to devote to learning the other songs or coming up with stuff for some of the older material.
People would be shocked at how many albums have sequenced drums on them that they don’t know are sequenced. I put an unimaginable amount of time into my programming and am 100% happy with the drums on the album. I never made it a secret and guarantee the vast majority of listeners would not have known the difference had I not been open about it. If I told you now that Mike was actually on one or two songs, no one would know which ones those were. I have a couple songs with Mike playing on them and I have to listen very hard to tell the difference. Now, maybe even with Mike paying they wouldn’t have sounded like some people expected that they should sound, but I can tell you the drum sound on DwtP is exactly the sound I wanted for the album.
All the preliminary feedback I’ve been seeing about the album is largely positive. I know this question may be premature, but can we expect to see more material in the future?
Maybe. I have a lot of stuff I didn’t use and my head is always full of ideas for music. If I can find the time I may record something else. Nothing as big as this album, but maybe a dozen songs or something like that. Releasing albums is a waste of time these days really; especially if you have no band and do not tour or whatever. I do enjoy the creative outlet though and I know from the reaction to this album that there are still a few people who enjoy my writing, playing and singing, so who knows?
Do you ever feel pressure from media or fans to talk about ‘the good old days’ and your former band? You must get sick of questions about reunions and reformations and so on.
No, not at all. I am very proud of what the guys and I accomplished back in the ‘80s and ‘90s. The fact that people even know the band ever existed at all blows my mind. To be invited overseas to play our music after 20 years is an incredible feeling and I never take that stuff for granted. We were just these high school kids stuck in the Midwest just trying to stay in tune and with zero chance at making “the big time’ so I think we actually did OK in the long run. And without Anacrusis and my past there would be absolutely no interest in music that I make now. I would just be stuck driving my poor wife crazy in the car with all of this noise forever, haha.
Will the Japanese version have lots of bonus tracks? I know at least one of your die-hard fans thought that an album that was only 2.5 hours long was too short. Just kidding, but on a more serious note, will the album be licensed to various territories and what is the best way for fans to buy it? How important is it in this day and age to still have a physical product on the market?
I might have to release another 2 ½ hour album just to really annoy everyone. As for physical albums, I still like them; at least for something like this release. Few people buy albums any more though, it seems. Everyone who wants the CD can order it right from Divebomb records. They ship worldwide and have distributors overseas who already carry copies as well.
As a songwriter, what is your proudest accomplishment of the whole process of releasing this album?
Well, I think the sheer volume of songs and ideas and the fact that each is its own little symphony. I didn’t pad the songs with long solos or intros or any of that stuff. There really are 2 ½ hours of songs on the album (and that’s all that would fit).
This process was definitely bitter-sweet and did not exactly end up being what I thought it would be at the beginning, but I think it is very nuch the album I have always wanted to make. Most of all, I am happy that the fans seem to appreciate not only the hard work I put into it, but the material itself. This album is for them and for me, so that’s all I could ever have hoped for.
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