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Anacrusis's Kenn Nardi: "I have thought that the ultimate reunion would be to write and record 3 or 4 songs with each lineup and do an album with all six members. I seriously doubt that that would ever happen though…"

Interview with Kenn Nardi from Anacrusis
by Lior "Steinmetal" Stein at 08 October 2019, 10:40 PM

There is a strange vibe, wanting to not be in the pit, even though there is legacy to maintain. It can be understandable, and it is positive that being inside the pit can be frustrating or unsatisfactory at times up to the verge of simply wishing it will all end, leaving it behind. However, there is something special about the past, which is part of the reason why there is an itch to stick around, even for a little while. Metal Blade Records, collaborated with the band, are reissuing the entire early Anacrusis albums, right before their disbandment. Steinmetal had a talk in depth with Kenn Nardi about what is behind the reissues, evolution of Anacrusis, why this process isn't permanent, listening formats and more…

Hello Kenn, it is an immense honor having you for this interview for Metal Temple online Magazine, how have you been doing sir?

I’ve been doing fine. Aside from preparing for the reunion show this December, it’s just normal life since the solo shows I played back in 2016.

For the third time in its history, Anacrusis reunites. Along with the comeback, the band unleashes, through Metal Blade Records, its early four album discography. Before dwelling into the reissues, what made you guys to make this move and revamp back to the Metal scene with Anacrusis? Who actually initiated this decision and put it to action?

Ula Gehret (Clandestine Music) had done legal work with Century Media for years. Now he works with artists directly and was a very long-time fan of Anacrusis. He contacted me about the possibility of approaching Metal Blade about reissuing the old releases. This was not a business venture for him, but a personal mission. Relations in the band weren’t great at the time and it took a long time to finally get everyone on the same page, so to speak. Ula worked tirelessly to straighten out the details of the arrangement and we were finally able to get the albums re-released after several miss-starts.

Since your last disbandment, back in 2013, had you been receiving offers to reunite for mini-tours or standalone shows? If you did, and you refused, why did you?

Yes, on occasion I am contacted by promoters asking about us playing a show or festival, but most people know that we were no longer active and not really interested in playing again. I honestly didn’t think we’d ever want to play together again. We had done the reunion back in 2010 and then 3 of us went on to play a few more special gigs including the 70,000 Tons of Metal Cruise in early 2013. I didn’t see any reason to do it all again since even though we have all remained on relatively good terms over the years, there are always conflicts between certain members of the band that make for a less-than-enjoyable experience for everyone in the end.

What I noticed about the reunion is that you also brought in all the drummers that were involved in recording the early albums. I must say that it is quite uncanny. What was behind the decision to do that? Was it mainly to make is special going live to reintroduce the material of the old records with the same people that recorded?

It is something that we had thought about (or joked about anyway) many times in the past, but never really imagined a way to actually have everyone play aside from maybe one of the other guys getting up for song or two. When we were asked to do a show at a great local venue to coincide with the albums being reissued, we felt like this might be a perfect opportunity to do more than just another “reunion” show.

We thought it would be nice to celebrate the band and our music and what each of us had contributed to it. Although Mike Owen was the drummer of the original line-up, I consider everyone who recorded with the band during our active run an “original member”. Although they all did a great job playing with the band and each had the opportunity to play songs from the albums they didn’t record on, there is just nothing quite like hearing the songs with the full recording line-up.

What is your appreciation of what will be the end products of these reissues? What is special about them that makes them stand out in light of recent reissues made?

Our music has been out of print for many, many years. Metal Blade had re-released "Manic Impressions" and "Screams and Whispers" back in 1999, but since we owned the rights to "Suffering Hour" and "Reason", they had been out of print since the original 1990 Metal Blade releases. A big part of the agreement was that we would license the first two albums again so the entire catalog could be remastered and re-released.

Another exciting thing for the vinyl purists out there is that "Screams and Whispers" will now be available on LP for the first time.  Formats were constantly changing during the ‘80s and ‘90s and by 1993, most albums were no longer being pressed on vinyl, making that last album available only on CD and cassette (US only).

Some of your early 1987 demos, displaying within the reissue of “Suffering Hour”, contain a whole lot of fiercefullness, however, were never officially recorded. What do you know about that session prior to “Suffering Hour”? Why weren’t those songs included in “Suffering Hour”, or the following “Reason” for that matter?

When I joined Anacrusis, I had just broken up my old band Heaven's Flame (which also featured drummer Chad E. Smith who would later join Anacrusis for the "Manic Impressions" album). Anacrusis were wanting to do a very similar style of music and many of my old songs ended up in Anacrusis. As we began to write songs together, it was clear that Anacrusis would have a slightly different focus, lyrically and stylistically. Many of the old songs were a pretty good fit for the band and songs like “Butcher’s Block”, “Fighting Evil” & “Twisted Cross” were recorded virtually note-for-note for the debut album, while others just didn’t feel like as good a fit at the time.

In some cases, riffs or nearly the whole songs were later used but with different lyrics. “Vulture’s Prey” became “Brotherhood?” on "Screams and Whispers", “The Storm” became “Quick To Doubt” on "Reason", and songs like “Silent Crime” and “Child Inside” were largely re-written versions of old Heaven's Flame songs, neither of which were ever played in Anacrusis. There was also Kevin’s “Pendulum” which later became “Killing My Mind” as a bonus track on "Reason". Aside from those, there was also at least one other Heaven's Flame song that Anacrusis played live, which never made it to the demos or any album.

What do you prefer personally, in a CD or a Vinyl? Which for you is better for a solid good listening session on your own?

I know some people will argue endlessly about this, but I am no purist. I completely understand about “warmth” vs “coldness, etc and having grown up a huge Kiss fan I certainly can appreciate the large LP format. However, the rest of the argument against digital is nonsense to me. The average person (and certainly most musicians who have stood in front of a blasting amp for years) absolutely cannot tell any major difference and as far as practicality, digital wins, hands-down. Most of the early short-comings of recording straight to digital have been worked out long ago and compression and other things can simulate those nuances quite well if that is desired. As for old albums recorded onto analog tape and then transferred to digital, I have always said a CD on a good stereo sounds much closer to what Led Zeppelin would have heard coming through the mixing console speakers than any LP does.

Also, most of us grew up hearing music over the radio which was highly compressed to even levels out between songs for broadcast. These days everyone talks about the “production” of an album. When I did this to my friends in the ‘80s they looked at me with blank stares. People knew what they thought sound “good” but everyone wasn’t an “expert” on “brick walled” compression and all the rest, haha.

Brick-walling albums was nothing more than an overcompensation for that missing compression that was lost when people started listening to music directly from digital sources and not over the radio airwaves. If you were to record music from the radio back in the ‘70s and ‘80s, the meter would barely fluctuate. EVERYTHING was squashed into an even level. That’s why many times your records at home didn’t have that same explosive sound that you were used to hearing over the radio.

I bet that listening to those reissues made you remember some of the better moments of the band going through experience after experience. What is your most unique memory out of that first time period of the band, in its inception up until its split in 1993?

As a horrible perfectionist with horribly imperfect albums, it is a challenge for me to enjoy the old albums much, honestly. There were many different reasons for problems with our recording and everything was a painful learning experience. I was much too timid early on and didn’t understand the importance of capturing good sounds to start with. Inexpensive equipment and less-than-stellar engineering virtually guaranteed recordings that could only sound “so” good. It was important for me personally to put together the music a certain way and I was very guarded about working with outside people.

Writing and recording was always my passion, much more so than playing or performing. I believe most of the music is assembled correctly, but the sounds captured were just not good. By the time we got to "Screams and Whispers", I was much more confident and am mostly happy with that album. There were still some bad mistakes made with some of the drum tracking which was unfixable at that time (and with our budget) which ruin some parts for me, but overall the songs come across the way they are supposed to.

One thing I have learned though is that no matter how good or bad, people get very used to things the way they originally heard them and have a very difficult time hearing them any other way. "Manic Impressions" is a flawlessly performed album, IMO, but the guitar sound kills the music for me. Other people believe it was completely intentional and cannot imagine it any other way. There is no way around it.

Looking back, while these tunes are playing, would you have done anything different? Perhaps preventing the band from disbandment back in 1993 and continue forward or something like that?

Well, I think there are many things I would have done differently, but ultimately the band as it was would probably not have continued beyond the fourth album. Before then, there was a certain kind of naïve hope that there was still some pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. I remember being disappointed after "Manic Impressions" was released because we felt that we weren’t receiving the attention we deserved from the label or whatever and even though reviews were generally positive, no one could find our albums and all of that typical stuff that most bands inevitably go through. Despite all of that, there was still a strong creative fire there to move forward with writing and even expanding our musical scope, realizing that there was no way our band would ever reach a position where we could support ourselves financially. Before then, I was able to accept that and for me Anacrusis was more about expressing myself and making music that I was happy with. By the time we were finishing our final tour in Europe with Death, I had absolutely no inspiration to write a single note or new song. It was the first time since I got into the band that I did not think about the future at all.

By then, differences of opinions within the band regarding music, business, management and everything else were so clearly defined that I couldn’t imagine anything being productive beyond that point. I felt like I had gone as far as I wanted to. I am not the kind of person who would have kept traveling around the country for years and years if I felt it was going nowhere.

I do sometimes regret not doing something else musically (if that option would have even been possible at the time). The band might have continued without me too, or started something new. I can only speak for myself, but I can say I was absolutely finished with the band as it was. When we returned from the last tour I also went through a divorce and that was enough to zap any notion I had at the time of devoting myself to music fulltime. Some people are able to escape their troubles by diving into their work, whatever it is. I am the opposite. My whole life was upside down and I was basically paralyzed by the trauma of it all. Of course life has a way of sorting itself out and you move on, often into something much more fulfilling, which is what happened with me, but by then I had realized I really had no desire to be part of the “music business”. If our guitarist Kevin hadn’t been the one who dealt with the label and all of that stuff over the years, I wouldn’t have lasted for 2 albums. I have very strong convictions about certain things and will always choose my principles over anything else which doesn’t always get you very far in some areas of life. Not that there was anything specific that I objected to related to our label or anything, I just knew enough about how the music business works to know I really wanted no part of it, which is why I never bothered trying to put together a different band or get signed or release anything else until many years later. Eventually the world became a place where you can do things yourself and if money isn’t your main motivation, you can find great satisfaction as a musician or songwriter in other ways.

With you being in the band throughout its entire career, and I know it is a hard question to ask but I have to, which of your early discography do you think is your best offering? Please elaborate on your pick why exactly

Each has its strengths, for sure, and things like the production and technical aspects are impossible to ignore, but I would say I think the music and songs on "Manic Impressions" and "Screams and Whispers" are of a much higher caliber for sure. Some people love the raw innocence of the earlier albums and I totally get that, but I am a “song” guy and my taste runs in that direction. I really go back and forth between the last 2 albums. I usually say that my favorite songs are on "Screams", but overall "Manic" has an almost perfect continuity to it.

Let’s go even further micro, which track of your entire early discography do you find as the one that paved the road for you forward, influenced you to become a better musician and songwriter? Please elaborate

"Manic Impressions" for sure. We were starting fresh at that time with a new drummer and I was feeling very inspired to really push us into refining our own style by that album. We had started to do that on "Reason", but so much of that album comes off as very awkward. I’ve said before that if the albums were our children, then "Reason" would be the awkward teen struggling through the changes of adolescence to find its identity. That’s really what Anacrusis was at that time.

As we’ve been rehearsing all of the material for the upcoming reunion show, I can really feel how much I enjoy playing and hearing the material from "Manic Impressions". Those songs seem to flow together the best and something just clicks with me and also with how the band connects on that material. We were so focused at that time and it really comes out in that album. We had finally chiseled away enough of the early influences that all bands start out mimicking and had finally created something all our own, I think.

Talking about performing live, I noticed that you scheduled a few shows with the entire band lineup performing the songs of the old records in special sets. Will you be heading also to play in Europe or other areas around the world unless you restricted yourselves to the US? Perhaps a reissue celebration tour?

We are actually only doing one special hometown show where we will play 3 sets; one with each recording lineup. This was enough of a reason to put differences aside to celebrate our music being made available again. I’m not sure how many bands have done something like this before but we feel it will be the ultimate gig for any fan of the band. Not just to see each drummer get up and play a song or two, but to actually see each lineup perform the music we recorded together all in one show.

We don’t have plans to do any more shows, but might consider something if we felt it was special and feasible for us. Not many promoters would be able to take a show like this someplace else, so we’d end up having to choose between drummers and it just wouldn’t be the same.

I personally have no interest in doing anything like a tour. I’m not sure about any of the other guys. There are things like festivals or mini-tours like I did with my “solo” band back in 2016 which can be enjoyable, but we aren’t planning anything beyond the reunion show at this point.

Usually when bands make a comeback, labels often reissue their old material, in order to keep the flow of albums going along with slowly bringing the bands back into recognition, and with a brand new album on the way. The big question is if that is the case with Anacrusis? Will there be a new album?

I have thought that the ultimate reunion would be to write and record 3 or 4 songs with each lineup and do an album with all six members. I seriously doubt that that would ever happen though. It really is impossible to recreate the original vibe of very young people even with the same guys. It’s nice to have the albums officially available again though and in a way makes them feel more like they will live on bit longer, but we aren’t attempting any sort of a “come-back” or anything like that. We just were offered a nice opportunity to play a local show at a great venue and feel that it will be a good way to write a final chapter, so to speak, to a book we all gave a good portion of ourselves to and which will always be very important to us. It was exciting to play together again back in 2010, but even then things ended on a sour note. We hope this time we can focus on what is important and just enjoy ourselves while doing our best to give a great show to our fans.

Whether you will be making a new album or not, let’s talk hypothetically. If you will produce a new album, would it be back to the harder edged days of the first two albums or the rather Metal in progression material of the latter two?

Well, that is part of the problem. I would say it would have had to go beyond the final album, which is what I feel I did with my solo album "Dancing With the Past". Other members would probably rather go back and try to recapture the fire and energy of the early days, which I know I cannot do. I am not that person anymore and when musicians try to mimic themselves it always comes across as phony to me. I find it very difficult to do an impersonation of myself as a 20-year-old. When I write, I basically do it for myself. I know that is selfish, but it is the truth. I’m not interested in faking it.

When I think of early songs I wrote that have only 3 parts I know there is absolutely no way I could think that way again. I love “Fighting Evil”, but if I tried to write that today, I’d feel that it was not developed enough or was just too simple or whatever. I’d probably keep adding to it and ruin it. I love it exactly the way it is, but I can’t create that way now. I’m fine with that though. It’s just the way it is.

Off Anacrusis for a bit. Back in 2014, you released your debut solo album, which you mentioned, “Dancing With the Past”, with material that some of it was intended for Anacrusis. Is that project still alive? Will you still be making albums as a solo artist?

I had hoped to record that album with John Emery and Mike Owen, but really without Kevin’s involvement I don’t think it would have felt right at all to put the label “Anacrusis” on it anyway. So, I ended up doing it myself just because I didn’t want to scrap all of the ideas I had worked really hard putting together. Ultimately, there was a lot of miscommunication and I think it caused some unintended hard feelings. I didn’t believe at the time that John and Mike were really into what I was writing very much and felt like we’d never finish anything. I finally just decided to keep the bass parts I’d already recorded and sequenced the drums. I tried to give Mike credit for his creative input which was huge on some songs, but there was no “right” way to do this, so it is what it is.

Having said that, doing the solo shows was very enjoyable for me, personally. I honestly enjoyed playing and singing that newer music much more than the older songs. Plus, the bass player and guitarist were two old friends with whom I share a mutual respect. They were basically there to play my music and some Anacrusis songs and there was no politics or anything like that. No label or business or “direction” to argue about. We weren’t trying to be Anacrusis or anything like that.

I may write more music someday. Maybe it will heavy or maybe not. I pretty much said everything I wanted to say on my album, musically speaking. I don’t feel that I need to write 30 more songs like those any time soon. Who knows? That’s the nice thing about not being in a band or part of the business of music; you can do it if it feels right and there is no pressure.

Other than the reissues, which I have the feeling that you have been listening to in order to test end products, which newcomer bands nowadays have you been following? Any interesting bands that you think could make it big one day?

Man, I am so out of touch with the current metal community that any answer would be embarrassing. I have no idea. For me, Muse is a great “newer” band and they have been around since the ‘90s, haha. There is a lot of exciting, interesting music that I’ve heard and a lot of very stale ideas that I cannot believe bands are still recording as something “new”. I guess it’s always been that way. For me, it is all about songs and melody. The bands who are able to write good, engaging songs with power, passion and authenticity will ultimately end up feeling the most “successful”, artistically speaking. If you are hoping to buy a mansion someday, unless your name is Metallica, playing metal is probably not the best way to do that.

Kenn, I wish to thank you for this interview and for your time. It is highly pleasing to know that you guys are still out there, and I sure hope that it won’t be mainly for the reissues. All the best sir.

Thank you for the interview and thanks to you and everyone else keeping the name “Anacrusis” alive after all these years.





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