INTERVIEW WITH KEN NARDI (ANACRUSIS)
Anacrusis is one of my “all time favorite” bands. I have been a huge Anacrusis fan for many years and was lucky to see them live at the Keep It True Festival during the Band’s short-lived re-union days. Now, we have an interview with Ken Nardi both about the past and his new works. I hope you enjoy this;
HS- It is both easy & hard to make an interview with you as you have the most detailed band site I’ve ever seen. Why are you so open to the fans, don’t you feel that a little mystery is needed? (Not because I don’t like this, in fact I see it as a great favor to the fans, but this site really needs a great effort) Now you are dealing with the website alone I think, will your future materials continue to be on this site?
KN- The site was originally put together for me by a fan and it was a good place to let people know that happened to the band since we had broken up back in 1993 without any formal announcement. I wanted to put up lots of content for fans to check out and updated things several times over the years. Currently a fan contacted me from overseas who does websites professionally and asked if he could update it and bring it up to more modern standards and of course I said “yes, please”. So, hopefully in the near future there will be a much nicer, cleaner version with the same content and more. I will continue to use it to keep fans up to date on anything that is going on.
HS- In any of the albums, Anacrusis did not meet any criteria, or fit into a general style? How could you stay out of the general line, was there certain principles-ideas that kept you out of the “normal”?
KN- Well, the idea was for us to create music that brought together many of the musical influences that we all loved. There was a certain sound we had with my vocal style and our very low tuning, and I could just tell when something “fit” or didn’t. We tried our best to avoid the usual clichés and not to sound too much like anyone else. What was left was what made us who we were.
HS- How did the reunion and break-up come? At first, I wasn’t expecting a permanent return, and that’s why I was in Germany-KIT to see you once in a lifetime. Then, it became rather promising that you could continue as Anacrusis, but you broke-up, what happened in those days?
KN- In 2008 someone from a small label that specialized in releasing old obscure or out-of-print metal asked me to release our old demo, which I agreed to. I compiled or original 1987 Annihilation Complete demo along with other demos and pre-Suffer Hour material and some early video footage for this project. He happened to be friends with the organizer of the Keep It True Festival in Germany. He asked if we might consider a reunion performance for KIT which seemed impossible at the time. However, our original drummer Mike Owen had recently moved back to St. Louis from San Diego where he had been for many years and we were hanging out together. All of the members of Anacrusis had remained friends over the years and so I asked if the other guys would be interested in something like this. First Mike, John and I got a rehearsal space to see if we could even play like this anymore and after things sounded OK, we invited Kevin to join us.
We never intended to reunite the band full-time or even play again after KIT, but when we saw how the reaction was from our fans we remained open to a couple offers after that. Kevin decided he did not to participate beyond that and so we got an old friend to fill in on guitar for a few more shows. After the 70,000 Tons of Metal Cruise last January (2013) we decided not to do any more shows.
HS- Related to this, Hindsight was also effective in making me believe for a permanent return. It was not only a reissue as you recorded all songs all over again. How did you decide this, why wasn’t it just a reissue?
KN- The master tapes for both albums are gone forever and with no way to re-mix or improve the sound of them we didn’t see any point in re-releasing them since I’ve had them on the website for years. We were never happy with the rushed recordings the first time and always felt like the bad production covered up some really god songs and often kept people from checking those albums out. After we agreed to KIT we had nearly a year to rehearse for it, so we decided to take that time between rehearsals to completely re-record those albums with the original members.
HS- Before the reunion, you first returned to music with Cruel April project, at that time did you intentionally move away from Anacrusis style, or it was just what you wanted at that time?
KN- After walking away from music for many years after 1994, I started to get the musical “itch” again and started learning some songs I liked on acoustic guitar. I quickly learned what I had learned many years before which is that I don’t sing other people’s music very well, so I started writing some songs of my own. I was not thinking of Anacrusis at all or even intending them to be officially released or anything like that and was just using them to blow of a bit of creative steam. I ended up creating a whole new unique sound and decided to put together a CD for anyone interested in hearing these songs. The recording were very spontaneous, like I’d sit down and come up with a melody and song one day, write the lyrics a couple days later, put whatever instruments n it that felt right and then move on to the next song.
HS- After all these years, what made you return to music, and after the second break-up of Anacrusis, what made you continue?
KN- I wouldn’t call it a “break up” this time. We never really were “back together” other than playing some shows. We just decided that we don’t have the time for more gigs with our personal lives the way they are. On the other hand, I had written so much new material that when things didn’t work out I still wanted to finish something for the fans who wanted some new music. I don’t intend to play live or anything like that at this time though.
HS- Many bands are reuniting and releasing re-issues, what do you think of these come-backs? Can we expect one for Cruel April project?
KN- No, that was just something I did to get myself back making music for a while. Metal Blade still owns the rights to Manic and Screams, so we can’t really do anything with those albums either.
HS- You will release the new materials as Parallax Error and also released some sample songs. Will all songs be new or there will be ones left from Anacrusis era? What does Parallax Error refer to/symbolize?
KN- None of the material goes back to the Anacrusis period. We never really wrote more than we recorded back then other than a few old songs from the early demo days that we dropped before Suffering Hour. Most of the new songs were written over the last couple of years, with a couple going back to just after Cruel April (2005-2006). A couple songs go all the way back to 1994 just after Anacrusis broke up and I have also re-recorded “A Little Light” from the Cruel April CD.
Parallax error is term that refers to an objects position seeming to change based on the observer’s relative position. Or in other words, we can see the same thing from different angles and it could appear different to each of us. I am using this concept applied to life in general or like with personal, political or spiritual beliefs. I believe most of us want the same basic things out of life and often due to our different “positions” or information can see conflicts where maybe there really are none.
HS- At the releasing time, will this be a band or Kenn Nardi solo project? Can we see guys from Anacrusis accompanying you?
KN- I haven’t decided whether to release it as “Anacrusis” or just a solo project. The music was all written with the intention of being “Anacrusis” but I am playing everything myself aside from a handful of songs that John had already recorded the bass parts on. The idea was to track everything against programmed drum parts so I could begin the process without having to record all of the drums first. Then we would go back and have Mike play the drums and replace them that way. We just never got far with them learning their parts and were not getting anything accomplished while I was still writing and tracking new songs. With so much new material, it would take forever with our current schedules to finish it and I really wasn’t sure if John and Mike were really into doing it at all. Eventually I just decided to do it all myself. Maybe this isn’t the best way, but I did want to finish it and I am very happy with the results. I am also much happier to do what I want without having to get agreement from the other guys. Maybe they didn’t like the direction I was headed musically. I don’t know, but I am very excited about these new songs and I think this will be a metal album like none that has ever been done (or at least that I’ve ever heard).
HS- How are the relations with Anacrusis members? Do they continue music; did any of the guys show interest in your recent materials?
KN- We are all still friends and still see each other now and then. As far as I know Mike is still writing and recording his own music and I don’t think John is doing anything musical at the moment. Kevin has been playing in a ‘70s-‘80s cover band for several years now and has a great time doing that.
HS- Did you set a release date for the new materials? Will it be self-production and distribution?
KN- I’m still not sure when or how exactly this will be released, but with only a couple songs left to complete I hope to have it out sometime in the next few months. It is just really hard to find the time that I wish I had to work on it. It is a HUGE album (28 songs and 2 ½ hours long) and doing everything myself is very time-consuming.
HS- You went through a musical transition in all these years, how did your music and lyrics evolve in time?
KN- I think that I was more constricted creatively than I even realized in Anacrusis. Even though we did whatever we wanted, there were still certain parameters that heavy metal defined and I really couldn’t be as creative as I wanted to be at times. With Cruel April I was able to let go of those restrictions completely and I believe those lyrics and melodies are light-years ahead of what I wrote in Anacrusis. With this new material I am trying to bring some of that maturity back into the framework of “metal” to create what I feel is basically Anacrusis songs with much more depth.
HS- I can observe that many Anacrusis fans have different favorite albums, and all are die-hard fans. This is really a huge success by attracting different people with different releases and still keeping the “cult” status. Personally, I cannot name my favorite, like Manic Impressions from the start to the last song, but the atmosphere, progressive style of Screams & Whispers is killing me. And, still Present Tense and Fighting Evil stays as my all-time favorites. Which Anacrusis album / song you like to sing & play most?
KN- I like certain things about each album, but Screams is my favorite because I think it has some of the best songs and production. I am also proud of Manic Impressions because I think it is probably our most focused album and the most consistent throughout. Everything just fits well together on that one and that was the result of bring in a new drummer and working with him more closely with a specific vision in mind.
My favorite songs are usually our more melodic songs. “Stop Me”, “Release”, “Grateful”, “Explained Away” and “Driven” are probably my favorites. I think “Sound the Alarm” is the best Anacrusis song I ever wrote though. It just flows so well together and shows most of the elements of our sound in one place. It is always the song I tell people to listen to first if they don’t know our band.
HS- How was 70.000tons Festival, during the reunion period, which live performance satisfied you most? (on your side)
KN- Well, what can really compare to KIT? You were there and saw it for yourself. There was an unbelievable “buzz” in the air when we took the stage. I’ve never felt that ever before. We were excited, the fans were excited and it was just magical (in spite of all the sloppy playing, haha). We really wanted to make it feel like we were BACK and not just a bunch of older guys going through the motions and jamming through some of our songs. We knew that many people had waited for years and years with no hope of ever seeing us live and did not want to disappoint anyone.
Even though the show went well and WE felt the buzz onstage, I honestly walked off after the show feeling like “oh boy, was that sloppy…” or “OK, we made it all the way through that”. It wasn’t until I walked out into the crowd that I felt the incredible love of our fans. There were people crying they were so happy to see us or meet us. There were these huge Viking metalheads getting on their knees and bowing down in front of me, haha. It was embarrassing, but what a great thing to feel after being away from music for a lifetime. We had never experienced that before even the first time we were together and it really makes you feel like all your hard work was not in vain. This went on all weekend and it could have gone to my head if I wasn’t right back home and going back to work a couple days later where no one cared if I was alive or dead, haha.
It was similar here at home where we played our first show in something like 17 or 18 years (with the original line-up) a few days before KIT. It was more family and friends too and wonderful in a different way. It was great to play for older fans and also younger people who had heard of this “legendary” band Anacrusis from their own hometown. Some people even had their teenage children with them and both were fans. It was a great night as well and was a show we were 100% in control of so we were much more relaxed having all day to sound check and get everything just right.
HS- What do you think of new metal trends, are you familiar? Thrash metal seems to rise again with NWOTM bands, which I don’t like much. They play a very straightforward music with almost no melodies in it, what do you think?
KN- I am honestly not familiar with much new metal music. I like some of the melodic death metal stuff and think the musicianship is unbelievable in some of the newer bands, On the other hand, so much has been stale for so long and seems like nothing new has happens since we quit long ago. Sometimes I go to a show and a band opens and has this incredible music, but a guy growling the same thing over and over and there are no “songs” at all. I forget everything ten minutes after I have heard it. I am trying to bring real songs back to metal in a different way, because melody has all but disappeared from this music aside from the really over-the-top Power Metal style bands. Honestly I listen to bands like Coldplay or Muse much more than metal these days aside from some of my old favorites. Maybe I’ve just gotten too old to understand all of that young aggression, haha.
HS- I think I should stop now as there are zillion more questions in my mind…Thanks a lot for this chance…as an addition I have a short!!! Q&A part;
HS- Who was your idol in metal, have you met him/her?
KN- I was fortunate enough to have met a couple of my “metal” heroes back in the day. In 1985, my pre-Anacrusis band got to open for Metal Church here in St. Louis. They were my very favorite band and David Wayne was my favorite vocalist. We got to hang out at sound check and after that I went up to Dave at the bar and asked him to sign my order form from their first LP (which he did).
In 1993, we got to tour with Mercyful Fate and I got to meet King Diamond a couple times and hung out backstage after a few shows. They were favorites of mine too.
As for “non-metal” heroes, I had the honor of meeting Justin Sullivan from new Model Army and someone I respect as much as any musician on earth. He wrote “I Love the World” of course which we covered on Manic Impressions (and were the first band ever to cover them even before Sepultura). He was really cool and during the encore he dedicated “I Love the World” to me which I was later told was a real rarity.
HS- Can you remember the first metal song you heard, first record you bought or seeing a live concert?
KN- Well, I was a life-long KISS fan so they were my “first” everything. As for metal though, my older brother first turned me on to Judas priest and Iron maiden and once we moved into that heavier music, we used to listen to the original Metal massacre albums to discover new bands. I found bands like Warlord, Trouble, Voivod and others this way.
My first metal club show was Grim Reaper in 1984 and it was great. His voice blew me away and a few months later I was very lucky to see Mercyful Fate for “Don’t Break the Oath” with the entire original line-up. I stood right at the stage in front of King Diamond the whole show. I felt like such a kid looking back. How funny to think that 8 years later my band would be opening for them on tour.
HS- Was there a certain person-family, friend-who took you in metal?
KN- Like I said, my older brother turned me onto Judas Priest and that sort of thing. He had gone to see them with Maiden on the Screaming for Vengeance Tour (and Number of the Beast, what a show I missed) with a group of friends who I later hung around also. That’s how I found out about Slayer, Venom and other bands like that. My early favorites were the more melodic power metal bands (as they were called back then) like Savatage and metal Church.
HS- The weirdest fan you ever met? (excl.meJ )
KN- You and your friend! Seriously, that will always be a great memory. You were the very first fans we met on that trip back to Europe for the first time since 1993. You guys didn’t believe it was us until I showed you my passport, haha. That excitement was just the beginning of a great trip for us.
We’ve never really had any bad experiences. Anytime I meet an Anacrusis fan they are always very cool and down-to-earth, which makes me proud and in my mind says something good about the band. They always feel like an old friend because I think there is a special connection that happens maybe because our lyrics are so personal.
HS- The worst thing happened on a show/tour?
KN- I don’t really have a god story here, sorry. Thank God, we never had a tragedy like Metallica or Death Angel. Our experiences were more like a series of small annoyances, haha. Touring was tough and since we were always openers it was always very stressful. I don’t particularly like performing live mostly because of the trouble hearing myself sing and things like that. The worst things were usually the in-fighting between the band members. It can be very stressful and people tend to take that frustration out on each other.
HS- What are your hobbies or work in daily life besides music…
KN- My main “hobby” for the last couple of years has been writing and recording this new music since it has taken up most of my spare time when I am not at work. I “regular” job is in computer programming. Of course I enjoy listening to music, hunting for a good documentary I haven’t seen, and traveling around the country sightseeing with my wife a couple times a year.
HS- What do you listen at home, in your car, how is your personal music taste?
KN- These days I am mostly listening to the music I am working on to check out the mixes and things like that. I don’t like to listen to much heavy music when I am writing new material because I don’t want to be influenced too much by what I hear, so I am usually listening to things like Muse or the Cure and that type of music. I listen to a lot of political/talk radio when I am driving. Much more than music I also go back to the classic metal stuff that I’ve been into since the ‘80s, but I don’t listen to much newer metal at all. I’m pretty out of the loop on the metal scene in general so I’m not familiar with many of the newer bands out there.
HS- Do you like to play covers on stage, which cover you like most?
KN- Well, I always enjoyed playing our cover of “I Love the World”, but that’s about it. I have never really been into playing other people’s music. Even from the very beginning as soon as I knew a few chords I started writing my own songs. I never could really sing any of the songs I liked because I didn’t have the vocal range for it, which is the thing that drove me to make my own music and develop my own vocal style in the first place. Our guitarist Kevin has been doing the cover band thing for nearly 10 years now and I used to see them play all the time and I never understood how they could do those same songs over and over hundreds of times without becoming very bored with it. Our bassist John was also in Kevin’s cover band for the first few years. John just loves playing music and was happy to be onstage again, but he was constantly trying to get me to write and play some new music with him, so he was pretty excited to do the reunion shows to get back to our own music for a while.
HS- Thanks a lot for this great interview, we are looking forward to your new releases…