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pre-Anacrusis

As we were nearing the end of the Summer of 1990, we were facing the two biggest changes in the band's history so far. One being our first line-up change, the other being our decision to sign directly with Metal Blade for the next album. When Mike decided to leave the band, the last thing we wanted or needed was someone to come into the group and upset the musical identity that we had been working so hard to Live '91 establish. Chad Smith was our immediate first choice. He had gone to school with Kevin and Mike and had been the drummer in my previous band, Heaven's Flame. In was, in fact, Chad who had introduced me to Kevin after our band had broken up. He had always stayed in touch and had followed the progress of Anacrusis since its inception. We knew Chad felt we had strong material and a lot of potential. He felt he could add a lot to the band, and we agreed. Chad had always been an extremely disciplined musician, whereas the rest of us were mostly self-taught and by no means virtuosos on our instruments. Chad felt that by giving us a more solid foundation, we could concentrate more on our playing, and ultimately, the songs would come across better. This would prove to be true, especially on the newer material we had been working on. Shortly after we returned home from our three-week tour opening for D.R.I., we had begun to write for what would become the next album. It was at this time that I began using a drum machine to assist with my arranging and recording. Not only could I quickly try many different ideas, but it also made it very easy to achieve a descent drum sound and thus, good sounding demos. I also knew from working with Chad in the past that he would have no problem pulling off anything that I could come up with on the drum machine. One exception to Kevin Heidbrederthis would however be the weird, very syncopated patterns that make up the chorus of "Idle Hours". This was one of the first things I wrote using the machine, and quickly learned that writing something that sounds interesting is one thing, but a human being actually being able to play it is another. So Chad re-worked it a little and after much practice, it became, I think, one of the coolest patterns in any of our songs. The great thing about having a drummer with Chad's abilities in the band was that it opened many doors, creatively. What Mike possessed in speed and energy, Chad more than made up for in discipline and technique. His seriousness about his instrument made us all look much more closely at our own playing. At times it was a little intimidating, but definitely made us a much tighter band in the long run. I always felt one of the best things about Anacrusis, was that musically, all the members were very much on the same level. Often with heavier bands, there would be a fantastic vocalist or guitarist, and the rest of the act would be built around showcasing one members talent. In Anacrusis, we always tried to write and arrange the songs in ways that would let each Kenn Nardi instrument stand out. Our strength would be in the songs as a whole. The first songs written for Manic Impressions were "Paint a By making the riffs themselves more complicated, this would make the musicianship stand out more than a boring ten minute guitar solo for example. We would often be referred to as a 'technical' or 'progressive' band, a title normally given to musicians of a much higher caliber, Rush or Yes for example. We had always tried to use the arrangements or instrumentation in different ways to try and make the material more interesting and varied. Picture", "Explained Away", "Idle Hours", and "Tools of Separation". Anyone familiar with "Screams and Whispers" will recognize the latter as being from that album. Actually this song was fully recorded during the "Manic" sessions, but didn't make the final cut. This was due to time constraints during the final mixing where we had to decide on finishing "Tools" or "Far Too Long". We felt that the overall 'feel' would suffer more without "Far Too Long", and waited to re-record "Tools" for the next album. Another thing we new early on was that I strongly wanted to include a song by my favorite band, New Model Army. I had recorded a demo of their song "I Love The World" from the "Thunder and Consolation" album released in 1988. NMA had been my favorite band for a few years and I wanted to pay homage to them with a cover of one of their songs. "I Love the World" seemed like a great choice due to its tempo and feel. Over the years many people (many not knowing it was a cover) have referred to this as our 'best song'. I, for one, would never disagree. We spent September and October working on new music and, figuring we usually did our best work under pressure, we went ahead and booked studio time for January. The remainder of the songs were written over the next couple of months. Manic Impressions was recorded in January - February 1991 in Lake Geneva, WI at Royal Recorders Studio. Royal Recorders was a definite step up for us. It had been used by many big artists, most recently Queensrhyche had mixed "Empire" there. By choosing to record at a time of the year when most big artists preferred Rio or some other more enjoyable climate, we were able to get a great deal on recording time. The studio was very state-of-the-art with digital machines and a computer-controlled, fully-automated mixing console. We were in Heaven, but not for long. One mistake we made was to assume that with all this great 'stuff' we were using, we couldn't possibly screw this one up. Unfortunately, we were very wrong.

 

 

The recording went pretty well at first. Chad laid down all his parts alone, playing only to special 'click' tracks he had programmed for each song. One thing we were careful about this time was keeping Live '91the tempos consistent. Where as on the first two albums it was like, "O.K. let's hurry up and get these drums done so we can start putting down guitars"(which made most of the songs on these albums MUCH faster than originally intended), this time we wanted to avoid speeding things up too much. This had a lot to do with why many people felt the album had a very mechanical or cold feel to it. Another thing we learned later was that no matter how much planning goes into the finding the 'right' tempo, until the songs are performed live, you really don't get a feel for what the best tempo is. Almost everything on the first two albums was too fast, but after playing songs from Manic on tour, a couple of tunes like "Something Real" definitely could have used a little kick in the seat. It?s like when your writing a song your thinking of it from a certain point of view, but when you are performing it, you might be concentrating on it from a completely different angle and suddenly the 'groove' you thought you heard ain't so 'groovy' anymore. Dig? After the drum tracks were finished (about a day and a half, go Chad!), I recorded my rhythm parts, then Kevin, the John, all taking about a day each. Next came the 'clean' guitar parts, solos and vocals. One Chad Smithof our greatest fears as a band was that someone would come in from the outside and start telling us what to do or how we should sound, so when it came to the people we worked with, we had a tendency to stick with the familiar. In this case we decided to use the same engineer from the Reason album. We had become pretty close friends and had always blamed the sound of Reason on the lack of good 'stuff' we got to use while recording it. Even though his intentions were good, his lack of experience working in the digital format caused many problems. We recorded all the basic tracks over the first ten day period, the plan being we would take a week off to get away from the repetition of hearing the tapes over and over, and return a week later to finish over-dubs and mixing. It was at this time, while running off rough mixes to take home to listen to, that we started to notice some problems. There were very noticeable 'punch-ins' (where you 'punch into' record mode while playing along with the tape to fix mistakes.) Some sections of vocals sounded like they had been recorded one word at a time over a three month period. There was digital distortion. (digital tape does not compress the sounds that peak over 0db like analog tape, and distorts instead) and many things would have to be redone. Although I was acting "producer", I, and the rest of the band, had pretty much kept quiet while the basic tracks were being laid down, leaving this task to the engineer. This is when we learned the hard way how important it is to begin with good "sounds" rather than relying on effects and processing in the mixing to fix problems. So now we were faced with a big problem. We decided to return to the studio without our engineer to complete the album. In all fairness to him, I feel the problems we had were as much to due with a lack of communication on our part as with anyone's ability. One of the best things about Manic, is that even though I still did most of the writing and arranging, it was starting to become more of a group effort. Kenn & JohnJohn was beginning to contribute quite a bit lyrically, and musically, and Kevin was beginning to devote more time to his solos, and also contributed many great riffs. One of my all-time favorites is "Explained Away". This song was based around a piece of music Kevin had. Add John's lyrics, my melody, and great drumming, and what resulted was a nice combination of everyone's creativity. I feel this song (and later "Driven") best sums up what we were trying to accomplish musically. From mellow vocals to screams, from intricate syncopation to thrash, this song has a little of everything we did. Lyrically, we continued to journey further inward, digging deeply into the issues that we (and most everyone else) dealt with on a day-to-day basis. As Anacrusis continued to play a greater role in each of our lives, the lyrics began to reflect this, becoming an important outlet for much of the frustration we were dealing with at that time. So, we spent the next few days after returning to the studio sorting through the songs and fixing as many of the noticeable "glitches" as time would allow. Some were smoothed over, but many were not. At one point we had considered re-tracking all of the guitar parts, as I hated the sound of them (and still do) but we decided to use the time and money remaining to complete vocals and solos and to try and salvage a decent mix of what we had. In usual Anacrusis fashion, we ended up running out of time and finished with about three songs mixed. This led to us scrounging up enough money to buy another 12 hour block of studio time, and Chad and myself making the 10 hour drive back up to Wisconsin, mixing all night (literally falling asleep at the board a couple of times) and then turning right around and driving back to St. Louis all in one shot. This was not the best way to end a recording session, but at least we had completed the album. Well, almost. Actually we had also recorded "Tools of Separation" to be included on Manic, but when our mixing time was running out it came down to "Tools" or "Far Too Long". I felt that "Far Too Long" would add more depth to the album as a whole, so "Tools" was never mixed. We did, however, record this song again in 1993, this time for our last album. All in all, I feel this album was our most technical and experimental. I personally think the final mix is much too bright, but it is also very clean sounding, overall. This was an exciting time for us, as we began to mature, both personally and musically. This would definitely continue on our next and final album, "Screams And Whispers".

 

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We spent the summer of 1991 rehearsing the "Manic" material and waiting for the chance to play the new songs live. I must admit, there was quite a challenge in playing and singing some of these songs. In the past, most of my vocal parts were written guitar-in-hand. This was not the case with Manic.In fact, I had made a conscience effort not to approach the arrangements this way, rather recording demos of the music and singing along to the tapes later. If you listen to the first two albums, you will notice the vocal parts usually follow the guitar riffs pretty closely. I thought by doing them individually, it would give the effect of a separate vocalist, and generally make the arrangements more varied and interesting. John EmeryIt was at this RIP phototime that we were given the opportunity to open several shows for MEGADETH. They had just finished a run on the Monsters of Rock tour and had scheduled a few shows to work their way back home from New York to Los Angeles. One of the cities was our hometown of St. Louis and the rest were around the mid-West and the mid-South. We opened a total of eight shows, the largest of which was near New Orleans, in front of a crowd of over three thousand. The overall reaction from audiences was good for the most part, although due to the poor distribution of the album, most people had never heard of us and were not even aware that we would be playing instead of ALICE IN CHAINS (who were originally billed as the openers). In early autumn we spent two months on the road with OVERKILL. They were touring in support of their "Horrorscope" album and we, and the GALACTIC COWBOYS opened 38 shows over a seven- week period. The only disappointing aspect was that, as the opening band, we only allowed a 30-minute set each night. With three albums under our belt (and longer than average songs) this severely limited the amount of material we were able to play. We opted to do just songs from "Manic". The usual set list was six songs: "Still Black", "Something Real", "Explained Away", "Paint A Picture", "I Love The World" and sometimes "Dream Again". This was a bit of a letdown to many fans that had waited since "Suffering Hour" to see us live. This is just the way it goes for every band until they get the opportunity to tour as the headliner. One thing this trip did accomplish was to tighten up our playing as a unit. After returning home, we could play the songs backwards in our sleep and although we had maintained a consistent practice schedule (5 nights a week) since the very beginning, there is something about facing the challenge of a new club and a new crowd each night that matures a band like only touring can. After returning home from this 2-month tour we immediately began to write material for the next album.

 

 

Suffering Hour
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Chad Smith, Manic Impressions