Back in the early 1980’s The Rods were one of the most promising up-and-coming heavy metal bands. They released their first few records, including The Rods (1981) and Wild Dogs (1982), via a major record deal with Arista. They were the go-to opening act for some of metal’s biggest bands, including Judas Priest, Ozzy, and Iron Maiden, to name a few. And, though it might be hard to imagine now, Metallica was once their opening act.
Listen to The Rods
Meet The Rods
Comprised of local journeymen from Central New York, The Rods include former Elf member David “Rock” Feinstein (guitar/vocals), Garry Bordonaro (bass/vocals), and Carl Canedy (drums). It seemed that they were destined for more than a footnote in the annals of rock and roll, but instead of grabbing the brass ring, the band dissolved in the late ‘80s, derailed by personnel conflict and line-up changes, and bouncing from one independent record label to another.
In the ensuing years, Feinstein opened the Hollywood Diner in Cortland, New York; Canedy went on to produce influential metal acts, including Anthrax, before veering off into a real estate career in Carbondale, Pennsylvania; and Bordonaro became a microlithographic engineer at Cornell University’s NanoScale Facility in Ithaca, New York.
In 2004, The Rods reunited for a three-song set at Wacken Open Air, a summer heavy metal music festival that takes place annually in the small village of Wacken in Schleswig-Holstein, Northern Germany. Since then they have been playing a handful of select gigs each year at metal festivals, mostly in Europe and South America. In 2011, after growing interest from the metal community, they released their comeback record, Vengeance (Niji). According to Bordonaro, life has never been better.
Do you find there’s a better balance for you nowadays, moonlighting as a rock star?
Yes. And the reason is because it’s not everything anymore. Back then it was, “This is all I want to do, it’s 100% of me, everything counts on this.” Now I hope nobody cares too much, so that I don’t have to tour too often. I’ll play—don’t get me wrong. I’ll do nothing else, if they pay enough, but they’re going to have to beat my job by a lot, because with vacation, retirement, health insurance, etc., that’s a lot of money.
People seem to think being in a rock band is a glamorous lifestyle.
Anyone who travels for a living will tell you it’s grueling and hard. Even if you stay in nice hotels, it’s hard. Last year, on the Dio Disciples tour, we stayed in a hotel four nights out of that whole trip. We did 18 dates in 21 days. Even back in the day that would’ve been hard. On top of that, we had one bus with 14 guys on it—both bands. It was brutal, but we did really well. We all survived it. I was glad to come home though.
How did The Rods originally come together?
In 1978 disco was really happening and we all just hated it. I think the Rods were a knee-jerk reaction to that. I joined the band in January 1981. There were other bass players before me, but I have the most tenure.
How did you come to audition for them?
I was playing in the club scene a lot. In those days you could work. We played all over New York and Pennsylvania. That was my job; I didn’t have another job. But I wanted to get out of the business at that point. I was pretty disillusioned, so I got a job at the mall like everybody else. I didn’t want to play bars for the rest of my life. For one, it didn’t pay well; for another, I wasn’t having much fun. Then, out of the blue, Dave and Carl asked me to audition. I thought they always needed a bass player like me. There aren’t too many guys good at three-piece. Then when they told me they were in the process of getting a record deal I thought, “Well this is something I haven’t done before.”
So you went from clubs to arenas?
The first thing we ever did was open for Rainbow in a big club. Then Ozzy. After that we were in 20,000-seat arenas playing in front of these big crowds opening for Foghat. After you do that, the adrenaline is incredible. You get addicted to it.
Has anything about performing changed for you over the years?
We’ve all matured in our playing as well as our psyches. We’ve all had families. What we haven’t lost is our belief in what we play. The whole concept of the band hasn’t changed. I’m finding that we really can still do it. We’re out there playing with kids that are 25 years younger than us and we still hold our own.
How did you become a microlithographic engineer?
Technically I’m a photolithographic engineer. I fell into it accidentally. I came out of the music business and got a job at a technical company. As a musician, you’re a jack-of-all-trades because you can’t afford to fix anything, so you fix everything yourself. In the band, I was always the guy to fix everything because I knew how. I fixed the truck, I fixed the amps, the guitars. So when I was looking for a job I said, “I know how to fix all kinds of stuff, so why don’t I see if I can get a job doing that?”
This article is from our September-October 2013 issue. Click here to order.