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The Rods rev up for rockin’ return

The Rods: from left, Carl Canedy, David "Rock" Feinstein, Freddy Villano
The Rods: from left, Carl Canedy, David "Rock" Feinstein, Freddy Villano

Formed in 1980, The Rods have won fans around the world with catchy hard-rock songs such as “Crank It Up,” “Power Lover,” and “Too Hot to Stop.” The Cortland-based hard-rock trio also has influenced scores of heavy metal bands, including Metallica, who opened for them on a tour in the early 1980s.

After a hiatus of nearly five years, the Cortland-based hard-rock trio will return to the stage for a series of shows, including two in the coming week.

On Sunday, July 10, they’ll perform at Dio Day, a day-long benefit concert at Night Owls in Cortland.

Friday, July 15, they’ll headline the Cortland Main Street Music Series, performing at Rose Hall in downtown Cortland.

And on Aug. 6, they’ll be at Sharkey’s Bar and Grill in Liverpool, just outside Syracuse.

And there are more gigs to come in September, including a metal festival in Toronto and Blues on the Bridge in Binghamton.

The Rods are still led by founding members David “Rock” Feinstein (vocals and guitar) and Carl Canedy (drums), who recruited Freddy Villano (who has played with Quiet Riot and Dee Snider’s Widowmaker) after longtime bassist Garry Bordonaro retired in 2019.

Last week, the three gathered for an interview after a rehearsal for their upcoming shows. They discussed their return to performing live, their new lineup, their 2019 album “Brotherhood of Metal,” their brief brush as a four-piece, and much more.

Carl Canedy of The Rods
Jim Catalano
Carl Canedy of The Rods

Q: So these are your first shows in almost five years?

David “Rock” Feinstein: We haven’t played as the Rods since some gigs in Tokyo in November 2017.

Freddy Villano: And it’s my first gig, after being in the band for three years.

DF: I'm excited about it, and I think the other guys are, too. They’ve played out in other groups, but I haven't been on a stage – except for sitting in for one song (at the Lonnie Park Grammy celebration show last month at the Homer Center for the Arts). It’s going to be different, because I haven't done it in a while. But in rehearsal, I can see that it's going to be really good. And it's going to be fun.

Carl Canedy: It’s been really fantastic to play with Freddy. He's such a great bass player. He and I have played other gigs together, and we've locked in almost immediately. And it just seems like the more we rehearse, the better we're getting, so I'm, really thrilled about it. Even though I'm a little nervous about doing the first gig, you gotta get that one under your belt.

Q: Freddy, the Rods actually played at the first concert you ever attended, right?

FV: The first concert I ever went to was Iron Maiden at the Northstage Theater in Glen Cove, Long Island, on their “Number of the Beast” tour. I didn't even really know who Iron Maiden was at the time, my sister's boyfriend took me because he knew I was into KISS and had turned me on to Black Sabbath through the “Heaven and Hell” album. But the opening band on the concert was The Rods. I can still picture you guys on stage – somebody threw their guitar up in the air.

And now here we are, however many years later. So it's really special, frankly, to find myself in this position, to kind of come full circle like that musically. And it feels really natural. Carl and Rock have welcomed me in with lots of encouragement, and I appreciate it. It’s been really fun to work things out here in rehearsal, so it'll be interesting to see what people think of it when we get out in front of an audience.

Freddy Villano of The Rods
Jim Catalano
Freddy Villano of The Rods

DF: It’s gonna be different. The old lineup, with Garry – we had a certain thing, and it was more like a three-ring circus with a lot of jumping around. And that came naturally to us; of course, we were much younger then. This is not going to be like that, but it will be the same music played just as good as before, if not better. I think people who are fans of The Rods are going to like it.

CC: I know I'm having fun, which is great. I was really not expecting to have this much fun, but it's fun to play.

Q: It’s a bit of a cliched question, but did you guys have any idea when you started out in 1980 that you’d still be doing this 42 years later?

CC: Well, when we first started, we played The Arcade (in Ithaca), and we literally emptied the club in five minutes in our first set – the only people left were a couple of girlfriends and our road crew. But we just kept on plugging along, even though we had no idea we would even catch a prayer at any point at whatever level. So, absolutely no idea. But we loved what we were doing. And here we are now, 42 years later.

DF: It’s definitely different. Garry was in the band for a long time, and we were like three brothers. We didn't really think about what each one of us played – we just played what we wanted. It was kind of a freelance thing, though we did have to keep the structure of the songs. But we knew enough about each other's playing that we could read off each other, we didn't have to look at each other too much, or figure out what was going on. But that only comes from years and years of playing together. So for me to start with someone new in Freddy -- he is a great bass player and a great person and everything …

CC: He's going to want more money now! (laughs)

DF: … so it's all meshing really well. We’ve had a few rehearsals and it's getting better all the time. And I feel really comfortable with it, so I think it's gonna be good. I'm enjoying it.

Q: Even though you haven’t played out in a long time, you did release an album in 2019, “Brotherhood of Metal,” that was astoundingly good.

CC: That's great. Thank you for that. A lot of people were really surprised that “Brotherhood of Metal” was as good as it was. And as heavy as it was.

FV: As one who didn't play on that album, I concur. It’s a great record.

Q: I thought it merged the classic early 1980s Rods sound with a 1970s Deep Purple-ish influence, mainly due to Lonnie Park’s keyboard parts.

DF: Yeah, keyboards do add a lot. You know, there's a lot of records that you don't even realize there's a keyboard in there, and a lot of bands have keyboards even though onstage but you don't even see the keyboard player, but they do add a lot to the to the background.

CC: It’s great to have a keyboard player. So if there are any metal keyboardists out there, let us know!

Q: You’ve already told your fans that the next Rods album, “Shockwave,” is well on its way to completion.

CC: It’s all written and just waiting for my drum tracks, pretty much. I had already recorded some of the tracks but I decided I wanted to get a different drum sound, so I re-headed my drums completely, and am starting over, but it will go quickly now.

Q: Are you on these tracks, Freddy?

FV: Yep!

Q: How is the recording process different from previous albums?

DF: Our personal lives are different now. You know, back in the day, it's all we did. We went to rehearsal every day at 10 in the morning, we got coffee, we rehearsed, took a lunch break, went back in – it was like an everyday thing. And we played as many gigs as we could.

Nowadays, everybody's got families, personal lives, jobs, and responsibilities, so you have to fit what you can do into a certain amount of time, and it's hard sometimes. We can say, “We need to have enough songs for an album,” but we can't sit down and think we're going to write songs every day for an album. They have to come. It's taken at least a year to come up with 10 songs, and get them together, you know, because we do it in bits and pieces. It's just a different thing now, but it's still good.

David "Rock" Feinstein of The Rods
Jim Catalano
David "Rock" Feinstein of The Rods

Q: After Garry Bordonaro retired, you announced in early 2020 that The Rods were becoming a four-piece band, bringing in Freddy on bass and Michael San Ciro (from Canedy’s eponymous band in Scranton, Pa.) on vocals and keyboards, with Rock focusing solely on guitar. What happened with that?

CC: Well, my take on it is, it was my idea to get a singer and possibly a keyboard player. Mike, the singer we brought in to us from CANEDY, also plays keyboards, so he would have been a great addition. And then we could go on from there and write different style songs. But as time went on, it was like, okay, it makes sense to keep with what we’ve been doing. David's been the singer, he's the identity of the band, and he's done pretty well for 42 years. So we don't really need a singer. And then, without Garry, the whole band would change. And that was the unknown.

We didn't know if everyone going to expect the three-ring circus, running around the stage. It’s one thing to do that in your 20s, but it’s another thing when you’re older. So that was the real impetus, the catalyst, behind the change. But as time went on, I was like, “You know what, we don't really need it.” Mike was fantastic, but he would have taken The Rods in a different direction. And there was no need to take it in a different direction – if it's not broken, don't fix it.

DF: When Garry decided to retire, Carl, and I were like, ‘What should we do? Should we just stop?" Carl's doing a solo thing, and I had done a solo thing, but I wasn't really doing anything solo at that point. And we're just like, well, what are our options? We could try to bring a keyboard player, and as he said, a singer and another bass player.

And the thing is, like Carl said, if you changed the whole thing, it's not really The Rods.

For the last 40 years, people have known The Rods as being a power trio, one that was a little bit walking on the edge, like on thin ice, all the time. If we were 25 years old, and we had like another 20 years ahead of us to change the band, build it back up, and do something different, that might have been a good choice, but we just decided that the fans that have known the band for 40 years are going to expect to see what would have close to what it was, and that's why we decided to just stick with the three-piece.

Mike is a great singer, but it was pretty weird, because I never played in a band, except for one, that had a lead singer – one who happened to be the best lead singer in the world. So for me to be in a band with another singer, no matter how good they are, it was weird for me.

You know, when we started the band years ago, we wanted to get a lead singer, but there was nobody around. So we basically sang because we had nobody else to sing, and it just stayed that way.

Q: The Rods influenced a lot of bands in the early 1980s, like Metallica, who actually opened for you guys at one point. But did you think of yourselves as a metal band?

DF: We were in the first phase of the new wave of heavy metal. But we kind bordered on punk rock a little bit, so we never really considered ourselves a heavy metal band – we were just a hard rock band, you know? Anyway, it is what it is – you write a song, and it's a reflection of what you play, how you play, and how you write. So that's just what it is.

To learn more about The Rods, visit:


Jim Catalano covers the Finger Lakes music scene for WITH (90.1 FM in Ithaca, and its affiliates.