In 1986 St Louis thrashers Anacrusis formed, by 1988 their debut album Suffering Hour was released and by 1993 they were one of progressive metals best acts. However, that was the last we would hear of this amazing yet overlooked band. Anacrusis was one of the most underrated bands in thrash metal and their founder and braintrust Kenn Nardi one of the best songwriters and musicians in the genre. 20 years later Kenn has released a solo album that will satisfy the Anacrusis fan base. With 28 tracks on 2 CDs and over 2 and half hours of music, Kenn definitely made up for the time away. I recently had a chance to discuss the album, Anacrusis and future plans with Mr. Nardi.
First off congratulations on the release of Dancing With the Past. It's an amazing album. I understand that you at first were going to release it under Anacrusis. What made you decide to release it as a solo album?
Thank you. I just would not have ever felt comfortable releasing as an "Anacrusis" album since aside from a few bass tracks I am the only member on the recordings. It isn’t so much a matter of the material since most of it was intended for a new Anacrusis album, but releasing it under my own name allowed me a bit more freedom to try some new things that I don’t think would have fit well otherwise.
A few years back Anacrusis got together and played several festivals and also did the 'Hindsight: Suffering Hour & Reason Revisited'. Very well done by the way, I am not a fan of re-recordings, but you stayed true to the original songs and it is quite enjoyable. Was it at this time that you began writing new material or did you already have songs written prior to this?
Thanks. I feel the same way most of the time. I will usually listen once just to see how things sounded "updated", but usually not much beyond that. I didn’t want that to happen with Hindsight. I know it is hard for the older fans to accept new versions no matter what we would have done, but I also know there are many fans old and new that never listened to the first two albums much due to the production. I think the material strong enough to be heard so hopefully hindsight will make discovering those songs a little easier.
Our drummer Mike Owen and I began jamming together right away and we always had really great musical chemistry. Mike’s drumming always made me come up with riffs left and right. 'Made' was the first new song I wrote after playing with Mike one afternoon. Before Kevin even joined us for rehearsals in the spring of 2009 I had this song fully written. Most of the other stuff I came up with as we rehearsed for the other shows and I also had a handful of older songs lying around before we began. Several songs were written after we stopped playing together again in 2013.
A lot of the songs have the Anacrusis sound, but also are very fresh and modern. When you were in the songwriting process were you writing it as an Anacrusis album?
Yes, definitely. I did have some older stuff that I wanted to try to give the "Anacrusis" treatment to, but most of the rest was written with an Anacrusis album in mind. Not that I wasn’t envisioning a somewhat more mature version of our band. I knew that I wanted to bring some new elements into the mix just as we had done from album to album while maintaining a style that was true to our sound. Not having Kevin involved would have made this more difficult since we all had a hand in writing and brought different things to the table.
Now that you have finished with the recording process, what's been going on with you? Work? Family? Hobbies? What is regular day for you?
Working on the album took up almost every spare moment I had for months and months and of course it's a good feeling to have finally finished everything. However, I have a few other things in the works now, so I am still keeping busy with music. I do work full-time at a "regular" job which takes up most of my time, so I have to squeeze music in around that and spending time with my wife and the usual things people do. We are in the process of working with Metal Blade to re-issue all of the old albums, which will have tons of bonus stuff, so I am trying to get all of the best quality live recordings and things like that together to see what the best stuff is to use. I have also begun recording some more music which may end up being an album at some point.
Do you have any plans to bring the material on the road? Or at least to play live locally or are there any festivals lined up?
As much as I'd love to play some of this new material live, I have no band or anything so there is no way I can do that. I don't have any plans to do anything live at the moment. That could change, but it isn't anything I am actively pursuing though. I been asked by a couple people to play and they have even offered to assemble musicians to play behind me, but that would just be too strange for me. I need a lot of practice to get things done in a live setting and walking on stage with strangers is not anything I would ever be comfortable with. Maybe if the demand is great enough from the new album, I will consider trying to put a band together locally, but I am so far out of the loop I wouldn't even know where to begin finding people willing to basically just learn and play my songs.
Anacrusis was ahead of their time and has been an influence on later acts. Who influenced you early on? Who influences you today? What influence to you draw upon outside of music?
KISS were my big heroes growing up in the 70's and even if their music isn't an obvious influence, the whole experience of being a KISS fan certainly planted the seed in me to make music. Also, my Dad was a singer and guitar player and we always had music around the house. The Beatles were also a major influence along with Pink Floyd and many others. Later it was Priest/Maiden and then the thrash bands. I was heavily into Hardcore/Punk and even some alternative bands that came out of the 80's too which also found its way into some of my music over the years.
These days I don't listen to much newer music, but Muse are one band I can think of that I really did some great stuff in recent years. I am a fan of great songs, whoever writes them. People give me trouble because I like Coldplay, but I think they are great songwriters no matter what their audience is or how many albums they have sold. I have honestly been so focused on Dancing with the Past for the last couple of years that I don't like to listen to other stuff because I don't want to be influenced at all by what I hear someone else doing musically.
As for metal, I don't really listen to many newer bands. Some of my friends will send me videos from YouTube to check out and there is some really great stuff out there, but I guess the whole aggressive thing just doesn't resonate with me much these days. I still listen to all of the old bands that got me into metal in the first place, but my days of seeking out new bands are behind me. If I do listen to metal, chances are it will be old Mercyful Fate or Metal Church or something like that.
You mentioned that during the writing and recording process of Dancing with the Past that you didn't want to listen to other music. I have heard other musicians say that same thing. What did you draw inspiration from during that time?
I didn't really need much inspiration for this album aside from what I thought Anacrusis fans might like to hear after so many years. I generally try and write music that I myself like. That is the standard that I use. if it doesn't do anything for me then it will probably never end up as a song. I knew there were certain trademark that the band had established and I focused on trying to bring those elements together in some new ways rather than repeating what the bad and I had already done in the past. Once I decided to finish the album myself I was even more free to try some different things using many of those same ingredients.
You also mentioned that you are writing some new material. Is it building off of Dancing with the Past or is it a new direction? Will you ever write something that's not metal? Is that something that you have ever considered?
Well, the Cruel April project was definitely not metal, though it had a mostly dark tone to it. I'd like to just write some songs again like I did then without Anacrusis or anything else in mind. Maybe something dark and melodic like Nick Cave or something. As for right now, I still have some very heavy riffs and a few old songs that I'd like to properly record, so if I do something in the near future it will probably be similar to Dancing with the Past, with maybe a few more twists. I knew with Dancing with the Past there were Anacrusis fans out there who were dying to hear some new songs that sounded like that band, but if there is a next time, I won't be too concerned with repeating that pattern again. I think it would be hard for me to write anything heavy without it sounding somewhat like Anacrusis, since I was the vocalist and main writer in the band.
What are your 5 favorite Anacrusis songs?
That's always a tough one to answer. I think "Sound the Alarm" is the best song I wrote for the band. Other favorites are "Release", "Stop Me", "Explained Away", "Driven", "Paint a Picture". it changes all the time, but I tend to favor the more melodic stuff for sure.
My 5 "Stop Me", "Paint a Picture", "Too Many Prophets", "Tools of Separation" and "Terrified"
You just like the letter "T", (laughs)
Thank you for taking the time to do this with me. It was great to learn a little more about you.