|Official biography written by Kenn Nardi: http://www.anacrusis.us/anac_hist_pre1.html
Anacrusis was a word Kevin stumbled across in the glossary of a music theory book in high school. Technically, the word means "upbeat, or an unaccented beat at the beginning of a piece of music or line of poetry". This sounded to Kevin like an ideal name for what would be the band he would start later that year. Kevin, like myself, grew up in and around St. Louis. Also like myself, he had always been a huge KISS fan. There has probably never been a group more influential than KISS when it came to producing "young fans-turned-wannabee-rock-stars". There was something about those cheesy "Mom's eyeliner and lipstick, sister's tights, tennis racket-wielding, food color- spitting, 'lip-synched in front of the mirror' KISS concerts" that made a kid feel like it could all be possible for him someday (don't tell me I was the only one). Eventually, most of us decided to trade the tennis rackets for a more traditional instrument. In Kevin's case it was the trumpet, in my case the violin. Kevin continued to perform in the marching band all through high school, while my interest of the violin didn't make it past the fourth grade. The reason? Of course, because I couldn't play KISS songs on it (even "Beth" might have taken many years of practice). My Dad had always been a singer/guitar player,(as was Kevin's) so growing up I had always been around music. A born showman, my dad was always entertaining the neighborhood kids, or hanging out at the local tavern playing tunes by Elvis, Johnny Cash, Hank Williams Sr., or the like. He had opted early on for the domestic life, deciding to get married and raise a family rather than pursue a musical career. I often thought that he regretted not having at least tried doing something musical and seemed to resent the grind of an ordinary day-to- day job. I was determined not to repeat this fate and decided to find out if I had what it took to "make it", or at least not grow old wondering. John was born and raised in Canada, moving to the US with his family around the age of sixteen. He is a couple of years older than the rest of the band, and though also a KISS fan, his musical influences also included other classic metal bands like Black Sabbath (Geezer was his idol), Led Zeppelin, and Rush among many others. He had played in a few bands with friends, doing songs by everyone from Robin Trower to Santana. Mike Owen was a military brat, born in the Philippines, but also raised in St. Louis. He and Kevin were the same age (I'm a year older) and attended the same high school. Many people have thought that Kevin and I grew up together, but actually, though we had lived our whole lives about five miles apart, I had attended the 'rival' high school on the other side of town. Mike was very sociable and popular in high school. He was always very athletic and hung around with more of the 'jock' crowd. He and Kevin met at school, and after discovering a mutual love of many of the newer heavy metal bands coming out (Slayer, Metallica, etc...) decided to play music together.
I had started a band in High school with my older brother Sam, called Heaven's Flame. Almost since the first time I had picked up the guitar, I had felt inclined to write and perform my own songs. (and due to the fact that I have a pretty terrible vocal range and nearly any song was too high for me to sing). For this reason, I had never learned to play many songs recorded by other bands. I think this would turn out to be an asset in my song-writing later on, as I think my ignorance of the "way to write songs" would always make me approach it differently than many other writers. It was at this time that I was introduced to Chad Smith by a mutual friend. When I met Chad, he was very much on the cutting edge of the metal scene. Though most of us were still into Judas Priest and Iron Maiden, Chad had already been into Slayer, Venom, and Metallica for a couple of years. The most impressive thing though, was that his kit featured double-bass drums, and that he definitely knew how to use them. At the time this was essential. Just as it would later on, Chad's ability to play anything I could imagine, opened many doors for me musically. Like everyone else at the time I had also begun moving from more 'old-school' British heavy metal to the newer, faster bands that were beginning to surface on both American coasts. Chad, Sam and I began playing together in 1985 and continued to perform locally and record demos until about the middle of 1986. The highlight had been opening a show for my favorite band at the time, Metal Church at a local club. It was in this band that I was introduced to low-tuning. Because I had a very limited vocal range, Chad suggested tuning down a fret or so, as this was a common thing for bands to do, especially in a live situation. This made it easier for the singer to hit the higher notes more easily. Hey, why didn't I think of that? Well this did allow me to be more creative melodically speaking, but still was not enough. I kept tuning lower and lower, until finally going down five whole frets to 'B'. This was great for me vocally, but caused many problems with staying in tune. Anytime you drop the pitch of even one string this effects the intonation (the ability of each string to sound in tune with the others) of the whole of the guitar. Not only that but the strings go very limp, especially tuning down a whole string like we were doing. I experimented with many different string gauges and for a long time I was using bronze-wound acoustic guitar strings. I would use two low 'E' strings for 'E' and 'A', an 'A' string for my 'D' and so on (sorry non-guitarists). This did the job pretty well and gave us a very deep, full sound. It was near the end of Heaven's Flame that Chad introduced me to Kevin. He, John and Mike had been practicing cover songs and a few originals Kevin had written, but had never been able to get a permanent singer. They used to come and watch Heaven's Flame play at local shows and had always liked our songs and my voice, so when Heaven's Flame finally broke up Chad suggested that I call Kevin. The two of us hit it off right away, having many of the same ideas musically and the same sort of sense of humor. I went over to Kevin's house to try and 'jam' with the whole band but didn't do very well since I couldn't play any songs they knew. Eventually I borrowed Kevin's Garage Days EP and figured out "Am I Evil". He also showed me how to play the couple of original songs they had ("Annihilation Complete", "Pendulum", and "Frigid Bitch"). We would stand around for hours playing these four songs. (We also eventually figured out "Motorbreath" from Kill Em All, too) At the time I had no real interest in getting involved with another band. I was very depressed about the break-up of Heaven's Flame and having just graduated high school, had begun to question whether I should just forget about music and look for a 'real' job. I agreed to help them record a demo to use to try and find a vocalist. I miked all the instruments through this mixing board we used at practice and we recorded "Pendulum" and "Frigid Bitch" all together straight through with no way to fix mistakes as the sound was going straight to Kevin's jam-box (we couldn't afford to rent a 4-track). I then ran the music back through the mixer and sang(?) over the two songs. I had to read "Frigid Bitch" off of a piece of paper to keep up with the many lyrics. Again we weren't using a 4-track so I had to get through the whole song in one try. We then took a tape of the two songs to a local collage radio station that had a Sunday morning metal show. One of the features was called "demolition", a segment which featured demos by local bands. Heaven's Flame had been played a few times so we thought we would give it a try. Luckily, they did play it, and also did a short, on-air interview with us. The funny thing is he announced each band member, but didn't say my name, but only that they were looking for a vocalist. We continued to practice together and eventually Kevin convinced me to teach him a few Heaven's Flame songs. This was a perfect excuse to convince him and John to tune their guitars low, since these songs had to be played with my low-'B' tuning. Well, obviously the guitars were never tuned back up, and without any 'formal' decision, I just eventually became the permanent vocalist for the band. We practiced the songs we had, wrote a few new ones, and after a few months began to get shows around St. Louis. Our first headlining show (and second show ever) was at the local Community Center. Kevin and his friends had hung out there growing up. One of the rooms had a nice sized corner stage and could hold about 200 people. We rented the room for about $60 and hired someone to supply the sound and lights. We weren't allowed to charge admittance since it was a public building, so we made up tickets and sold them before-hand at school and around town. The place was packed and the show went very well. It was then that we began thinking of recording a proper demo to send out to record companies. We went to a local music store that rented equipment and picked up a 4-track recorder and began working on what would become the first version of our "Annihilation Complete" demo.
After gaining the interest of a few smaller independent labels, due to the reviews of our ANNIHILATION COMPLETE DEMO in the Fall of 1987, we decided to take our own money and record the album before we were signed. We figured we might have a better chance of being picked up by a label if we had a finished product to shop around. (this money was later reimbursed by Axis Records when we signed with them just before the actual recording began) We recorded SUFFERING HOUR in March of 1988 for about $1,200. We did the entire album in 7 days in a small studio in Kansas City, MO. We recorded this album much differently than any of the others. All of the rhythm tracks were recorded live with the whole band playing together. We did all of these in a day or two, with a couple more for solos and vocals. Last, we mixed the whole thing in about two days. I should say our engineer did most of the mixing, as we were all in the studio for the first time and were too shy to do or say very much (except "more reverb please"). Needless to say the finished product was not exactly what we had hoped for, production-wise, but at that time we were thrilled just to have recorded an album. We ended up signing with Bernard Doe's label ACTIVE RECORDS (AXIS at this time) for a two album contract. Bernard was known for his magazine METAL FORCES, which was one of the better metal magazines around. We had won "best demo" in the 1987 reader's poll and he had included the songs "Annihilation Complete" and "Imprisoned" on the "SCREAM YOUR BRAINS OUT" compilation album. SUFFERING HOUR was a definite hodge- podge of old and new songs, and I think this is the thing that makes it a much more disjointed album than our later releases. Only four of the nine songs were written while we were together as a band, with the rest being either older songs from my As far as the material goes, previous high school band HEAVEN'S FLAME, (which featured Chad Smith on drums) or songs Kevin had written before I joined ANACRUSIS. "Imprisoned" was the first song that I wrote for the band, and I think musically and especially lyrically, it would set the tone for the direction we would take in the future. The songs "Butcher's Block", "Fighting Evil", and "the Twisted Cross" were all from my previous band and "Annihilation Complete" and "Frigid Bitch" were two songs Kevin had written before I was in the band. I think this will help to explain the lack of continuity on this album. One of my favorites, still, is "Present Tense". I would have to call this the first 'true' ANACRUSIS song, as it was the first one that we all contributed to and wrote together. I think it was also the last song written for the album (Coming up with the best material at the last minute would become a reoccurring theme for us). Another thing I should mention is that we also recorded BLACK SABBATH's "N.I.B". It was a hyper-active version that we used to play live, and we intended to include it on S.H. but we weren't exactly sure how to go about getting permission to use it, so we left it off the final pressing. Just imagine the original a little faster, with too much reverb and me singing "my name is Ken Nar-di" in place of the "my name is Lucifer" line and that's pretty much it.
We weren't quite sure what we wanted to use for the cover, but we knew we wanted to try and be different than all of the other metal bands around at the time. One idea I had originally was a really great picture of this huge rock with ocean waves crashing all around it. I got it out of National Geographic, I think, and I made a photocopy of it to show to Kevin. It looked really cool, all grainy and black and white from the crappy copy machine, but I don't think anyone was too thrilled with the idea. It looked very "New-Age Doom". Then Kevin showed me a picture he had taken on a school field-trip to Washington D.C.. It was a photo of the cathedral with this eerie sunlight coming over the top and really nice colors. The only problem was he couldn't find the negative and all we had was this little snap-shot. So we had a friend who was a photographer take a picture of the picture so we we could blow up the negative from that one. Kevin was learning Commercial Art in school so we thought we could do the lay-out ourselves and do it just how we wanted. But when we sent the finished cover to the label in England, they didn't want to pay for a color separation for the photo or something like that, so we ended up with the cover in black and white. How ironic is that? Here we were trying to be different and we end up with this drab cover with a picture of this big scary cathedral on it. It couldn't have turned out any more 'metal' looking if we had wanted it to. Needless to say, that scene from SPINAL TAP has always come to mind. A lot of people have told me they love the cover just because it is so stark and simple and I can see their point, but I have always felt that the album cover, on a subconscious level, plays a big role in how the music sounds to you. For example, when I listen to certain albums I tend to associate a certain feel or 'color' with the music. I think a lot of this is related to the look of the cover, and I think that "Suffering Hour" has always seemed very one-dimensional to me because of its cover. So, all things considered, I think for a first album it's not all that bad. It didn't really show the different textures and moods of our music, even as much as our demos had, but on a positive note, at least I decided to drop the the cheesy falsetto-screams just prior to recording the album (shooting for Halford, but sounding like King Diamond, never had a vocalist tried to do so much with so little). I guess it could have been worse.
Whereas SUFFERING HOUR was a mixed bag of old and new material, REASON was us beginning to find our own identity. This album has some of my all-time favorite ANACRUSIS songs on it. We had originally begun with a eight song demo which contained "Quick To Doubt" and "Child Inside" (two more re-worked Heaven's Flame songs w/new lyrics), "Terrified", "Pendulum" (a song from our Annihilation Complete demo which would later get some new music and lyrics and become the bonus track "Killing My Mind"), "Wrong", "Silent Crime", "Not Forgotten", and "Injustice" (also a leftover from the first demo). As anyone who is familiar with the album can see there is a shining absence in "Stop Me" and "Afraid To Feel". Both of these songs were written very close to the time of the album's recording. In fact it wasn't until we were in the studio that the other guys actually heard a finished version of either of them with vocals. These two songs were to become a blueprint for the direction we would later take lyrically and musically. I can only imagine how different an album REASON would have been without them. I had always been a huge Pink Floyd fan (especially THE WALL) and wanted to try and bring some of their dynamic range to heavier music. I remember at first no one knew what to make of "Stop Me". We weren't sure if it would come off as being too "wimpy" and had always intended to have "Terrified" be the first track on the album. One day Kevin and I were talking before band practice and we decided, "hey what if we put 'Stop Me' first?" We thought it would give the album a completely different feel, and I think it did. The sad thing is I think these songs also are two of our worst recordings. The playing is very sloppy, the mix is muddy, and ultimately, they did not turn out nearly as good as they could have. This album was also hastily recorded in a total of about ten days. It was recorded the same way our demos were usually done, with me and Mike laying down drums and a 'scratch' rhythm guitar, followed by bass, guitars, solos and vocals being added later. I think the sound of the mix can best be described as an overcompensation for the lack of effects and layers of overdubs on SUFFERING HOUR. That, and the fact that I was constantly listening to DISINTEGRATION by the Cure at the time (still one of my favorites). Both DISINTEGRATION and REASON have the same sort of big, muddy sound, which I have come to appreciate as having given the album its distant, gloomy atmosphere. As a whole, this album was ANACRUSIS trying to stretch the norm of what was considered 'Metal' at the time. The ironic thing we used to often talk about was, on one hand we were trying to be different, but on the other hand, we were not quite sure why no one was catching on. I think it was always a little suicidal on our part to almost force people not to like us because we were too 'different'. I remember making a conscious effort to have the arrangements in the songs not be the usual "verse, chorus, verse, chorus, solo, repeat 2nd verse and chorus to the fade-out". Our writing was definitely more fragmented at this time, and would remain that way until the next album when I began to use a drum machine to arrange and record most of the demos. Up until REASON, we usually would come up with riffs at practice and then we would just stick them together without a lot of thought about transitions from one section to the next, or even one tempo to another. While this made the songs more unpredictable, I think that sometimes it also made them almost unlistenable. Later we would try and use different textures, whether vocally, lyrically, or musically, rather than unpredictability, to stand out from the crowd.
It was also at this time that a lot of changes were happening in our personal lives. When we recorded SUFFERING HOUR, Kevin and Mike were barely out of High School, (I had only graduated the year before). All but John still lived with our parents and as the responsibilities of "real life" began to clash with our 'full -time hobby', we all began to put some serious thought into our individual futures. This was when Mike decided that touring around the country in a broken-down van, playing for no one was not exactly what he wanted to spend the next several years doing (who could blame him?) He decided to leave the band after our first tour opening for D.R.I. in the (very hot) summer of 1990, and join the Navy. This was a decision that he quickly (and admittedly) would come to regret. We always kept in touch with him and missed him being around (one of the funniest people you will ever meet), but we respected his honesty in not wanting to continue with the band half-heartedly. The strange thing is after he got out of the service he went back to the drums, playing in a few different local bands and the last I heard, he had moved to Las Vegas and now is the only one of the four original members of ANACRUSIS still active, musically. For anyone who doesn't know, REASON was released with one cover in the U.S. and a different one in Europe and elsewhere. The European version is actually the one that I came up with and Kevin did the layout for. At that time we were still signed directly to Active Records and had not even secured an American distribution deal for SUFFERING HOUR. It was just before we recorded REASON that Metal Blade picked up the fist two releases. Because Metal Blade released SUFFERING HOUR after REASON was already being completed, this caused some confusion with U.S. fans as to when, exactly, these two albums were recorded. When we were trying to come up with ideas for the cover, we knew we wanted it to contain a 'human element', as this is what the songs always dealt with lyrically. Since REASON was very much about the confusion and apprehension associated with everyday life, we wanted the cover to reflect this mood visually. When we sent the finished artwork to Metal Blade, for some reason they did not want to use it. In fact they had some sort of technical excuse as to why the layout wouldn't print properly (obviously Active had no problems with this) and the wanted their art department to put together a cover from our suggestions. So, after many telephone calls and much discussion, they came up with... a photo of us sitting there. Pretty creative stuff, huh? The worst part was none of us ever even saw the cover until we walked into a record shop the day it was released. Spinal Tap II. This would not be the last disappointment we would face over the next couple of years.
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 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 this 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 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 the 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 of 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. John 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".
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. 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. It was also at this time 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. After returning home from this short mini-tour we immediately began to write material for the next album. I believe the first songs written were "Sound the Alarm", "Release", "Grateful", and a slightly re-vamped version of "Tools of Separation". We then began tossing around ideas at rehearsal that would later become "Driven", "Too Many Prophets", "My Soul's Affliction", and "A Screaming Breath". In usual fashion, I later took tapes containing riffs we were working on and began arranging them into finished songs. One significant difference in the arrangements on "Screams and Whispers" is the use of "orchestral" keyboard parts in a few of the songs. This was something that I had wanted to try for quite a while. "Into the Pandemonium" by Celtic Frost had been one of my favorite Metal albums ever, and one of the things that I loved most was the combination of very heavy riffs and orchestral instruments. There was something about it that made the music appear huge and ominous. People had often described our music as pseudo-classical, due to the fact that the songs often contained multi-layered arrangement where each instrument was given a very different place in the musical "picture" which resulted in more interplay than was usually found within our genre. Our goal was to combine elements used by CELTIC FROST on "Pandemonium" with more of an emphasis on melody. The first thing I did was an arrangement of a piece of music I had been playing around with since I was about fourteen or fifteen. It was a fairly typical sounding little piece of "clean" guitar that was basically just a couple of minor chords with individually picked notes running up their relative scale. But when played on the keyboard, along with pulsing, underlying quarter notes, it was given completely new life. I quickly added a few transitional sections and what would later become "Brotherhood?" was born. Then next thing I did was program a few patterns on the drum machine and run it through tons of compression. The combination of this simple chord progression and straight-time drumming created what I thought was something very unique. I knew it was something we could use to broaden the sound of the band, and although this particular demo would not be used for some months, it was what inspired "Grateful" and "Too Many Prophets". It was during this time that tensions began to grow between the members of the band mostly due to a universal dissatisfaction with our record label and what we perceived as a lackluster approach in their support of the previous albums. The biggest division was between our drummer, Chad and the other three members. Chad was increasingly unhappy with our inability to earn money from either record sales or touring. He was married and, with a young daughter as well, he was finding it more and more difficult to support his family while devoting all his time to a band, which was not generating any money. He had always been quite capable of earning a living playing the local bar scene and though I believe he truly respected what we were trying to accomplish musically, he began to criticize our timid approach to dealing with the business side of the industry. When he began to hint about joining a local cover-band to earn a few bucks, we were insulted and began to question the stability of the band, including a drummer who we felt might "jump ship" at any moment. We had spent several years trying to build the following we had, and were concerned that Chad's more hard-nosed approach to dealing with our label might have resulted in us throwing the relationship we had built with them right out the window. Remember, we were in St. Louis, and in St. Louis record contract definitely did not grow on trees. So after much deliberation, Kevin, John, and I decided Chad would probably be happier somewhere else and we would be happier with a drummer more committed to ANACRUSIS. Sadly, we informed Chad that we were going to begin looking for a new drummer. By this time we had written most of the songs for the next album, and had set up a couple of local shows to try out some of the new material. Chad agreed to stay with us long enough to do these last two shows. The remainder of the album was written over the next couple of months using mostly ideas the four of us had worked on together, so even though Chad did not appear on the album, his contribution to the drum arrangements was very significant.
Next came the not-too-fun task of replacing Chad. This position would, of course, be filled by Paul Miles. Paul had been playing in local band around the St. Louis area for a number of years and we had actually seen him perform a couple of times. I think Chad may have actually recommended that we consider getting in touch with him. So, after contacting him and asking him to learn a couple of songs from "Manic", we had him over for an audition. After running through "Paint A Picture" and "Something Real" it was clear that Paul definitely had the musical ability we were looking for. One thing we liked about him was that besides possessing the musicianship needed to play the newer material, he also had more of the "looseness" and "rawness" that had been lacking since Mike Owen's departure. By the time Paul joined the band, practically all of the new material was already written, and with studio time already booked, he pretty much just learned the songs as they appeared on demos recorded using a drum machine and drum parts arranged by either Chad or myself. Although Paul added a few things here and there, I sure he was more than a little disappointed by his level of input. Regardless, he understood the amount of time we had put into making this album our strongest yet. So after rehearing with Paul for a couple of months we prepared to enter the studio again. The one thing that we were all in agreement about was that we felt it would be a more relaxed environment if we recorded in St. Louis this time. We figured this would make it more convenient for band members to continue working at their respective jobs while the album was being recorded. The other thing we agreed on was to hire Dave "Fuzzy" Dvirnak to engineer the recording. "Fuzzy" had been an engineer at Royal Recorders during the recording of "Manic" and although not officially an engineer on the album, he had lent much of his time to try and help salvage the album. During the time since then he had become a friend of the band and his easy-going personality made him enjoyable to work with. We decided to use a 24-track studio built in the basement of a sound engineer we had worked with a few times at earlier local shows. The studio seemed to have everything we would need to do the initial recording and the price was definitely right. For about the amount we paid for two weeks at Royal Recorders we were able to block out two months this time. Of course, the equipment was not of the same caliber, but we felt that much of what Royal had to offer was unnecessary for our purposes. We also wanted to take our time and make sure we could feel more relaxed during the recording. We began with the initial drum tracks, this time with John and me accompanying Paul. We thought this approach would give the songs more of a "loose" feel, as opposed to what many people had described as the "mechanical" feel of "Manic". In many ways, at the time, I think we knew that this album was what would either make or break the band. We new that if we didn't receive the much needed support of our label there might not be another ANACRUSIS album. With this in mind we set out to make an album that would fully define our sound by incorporating all of the elements used on our previous efforts along with the broadened sound of songs like "Grateful" and "Brotherhood?". It didn't take long to feel a degree of tension between our new drummer and the rest of the band. Kevin, John and myself had been together since the beginning of ANACRUSIS and felt a strong sense of family. We also felt as though ANACRUSIS was our creation and were very protective of it when it came to any outside input. In retrospect, Paul was in a very difficult position, whereas even though Chad had not been with us from the beginning, his relationship with me and the band was a long one. Paul, though familiar with ANACRUSIS when he joined, had never even heard our first two albums and didn't seem to have much appreciation or respect for what we had accomplished up to this point. Paul often felt like an outsider, which is very common for a new member in any band with a few years behind it. We had a lot of work ahead of us and the last thing we wanted to deal with at this point was personality problems. So, without too many problems we carried on with the recording. Another problem was the relatively short time Paul had to learn the material. There was one song in particular that we had written with Chad that featured several very intricate double bass drum patterns that Paul had a really tough time with. Before entering the studio we had expressed a concern that Paul may have some difficulty playing it and offered to change a few parts if it would make the song more comfortable for him. He insisted that he just needed to practice it and it would not be a problem. This is not to cut down Paul's ability but it was just one of those things that may feel natural to one player and extremely difficult to another player of equal ability. Another concern was the song contained many pieces contributed by Kevin and we didn't want the song to be cut from the finished album, thus greatly diminishing Kevin's input to the songwriting. Well, as things often go, when the time came to record it, and only a couple of attempts at the first few bars it was put on hold until later in the session and eventually dropped all together. The only other incident involved the song "Brotherhood?". As I said before the bulk of the instrumental sections were written months before and the heavier sections containing the verses were actually taken from an old song from our first demo called "Vultures Prey". This was another HEAVEN'S FLAME leftover that we had never recorded. I had always liked the melody and chord progression and since it had a similar tempo and feel as the other new pieces I had come up with, I decided to combine them into one song. I completely re-wrote the lyrics and recorded a demo of it for the guys to hear. I'm not sure how popular it was with Kevin and John but I insisted that it was important that it was included on the album in order to "round out" the new element of orchestral sounds on several of the songs. I decided to place it as the last song on the album, this way if it was hated by the listener it was easy to just stop at the track before it rather than having to skip over a seven-minute song featuring "stupid keyboards". For some reason Paul seemed to keep putting off learning this song, and in the studio, ended up playing along to the demo tape one section at a time, figuring out the parts as we went along.
The rhythm guitar was the next obstacle we had to face. We seemed to have no problem getting a decent guitar sound in the basement or on stage, but for whatever reason as soon as we went into a studio it became a major challenge. As with "Manic" this time was no exception. One problem was due to the fact that we tuned extremely low, which always presented intonation and tuning problems. After struggling through most of the original tracks we actually went back and completely re-recorded all of the guitar parts. The bass tracks went the smoothest with John feeling much less rushed than the albums before. On "Manic" Kevin and John were constantly teasing each other about who would finish their parts the in the shorter amount of time. John had always suffered from "red-light" syndrome. This is a common condition in which a musician can play a song flawlessly, fifty times in a row, and then as soon as the record light comes on, he suddenly and completely forgets how to play his instrument. This time Kevin was ordered to remain outside the control room while John was tracking. Another difference this time was that we were ably to commit more time to guitar solos. We put a little less emphasis on speed and a little more on melody and phrasing. We all particularly liked how Kevin's solo turned out on "Driven", as I usually did the more melodic solos. Another nice thing about having so much time was when I came to doing vocals. I was used to recording demos at home, where I am controlling the recorder and can quickly shuttle back and forth between sections in order to listen to or re-do parts that aren't quite right. In a studio situation you are usually stuck in a booth outside the control room with the engineer working the control. This makes communication difficult and if you are off-key you have to wait for the tape to roll back to the right part and instead of jumping right back in and fixing it, you often stand there for a minute or two waiting for the song to come back to the right part. This was another big problem on "Manic", with each line usually taking approximately five million takes. This time I usually went into the studio alone and with a microphone set up right in front of the mixing console, I could record just as I usually did at home. It made things much easier for me and boring enough for anyone else who happened to be there that they would usually go away before too long. People love to make fun of the vocalist in the studio because the is nothing that sounds worse than your dry, unprocessed voice when they can't hear the music you are singing to. This is of course known as "walkman-sing-along" syndrome. I think we spent about five weeks recording everything and the last few mixing. We had been concerned about the fact that the studio had no automation for mixing (this allows you to "write" volume changes or mute and un-mute channels or effects and then "save" those changes to a computer which them performs those tasks each time you play back the tape). Where the board at Royal Recorders was fully automated, this time we had a dozen arms reaching in each direction trying to remember when to turn things up or down or when to mute something, etc. This is always a big restriction in mixing, mainly because if one person forgets to do something at the right time, you have to go back and do the whole thing over again or live with the mistake, depending on whether it's the third or four-hundredth time you have tried to get it right. Needless to say, with the amount of different guitar layers, and especially on the songs containing "orchestration", the final result was less than fabulous. After we had completed mixing everything with less-than-satisfying results, we were convinced that the biggest problem was that we didn't have the right equipment to get the most out of what we considered our best recordings. After a couple of weeks we convinced the record label that we should go back to Royal Recorders and remix everything. They suggested that we hire Bill Metoyer to help out. Bill was well known for his work with SLAYER, TROUBLE, and C.O.C. to name just a few. What we ended up with was an album that we were very happy with. No recording is without its flaws, but I think we were finally able to present our music as we had imagined it to sound. This is still the only one of our four albums that I personally like the sound of. For the most part it was very well received by those who were familiar with ANACRUSIS. Some said the keyboard parts were a little pretentious, but this was to be expected. If there had been a fifth album I can almost guarantee it would have been in the vein of the more "orchestral" songs. There will always be those who prefer the raw speed of "Suffering Hour", the dark moodiness of "Reason" or the technical iciness of "Manic Impressions". It is always a matter of taste. I think as our swan song I am very proud of "Screams and Whispers" as I think it succeeded in summing up all aspects of what we were trying to say both lyrically and musically up to that time. It contains some of my favorite ANACRUSIS songs ("Driven", "Sound The Alarm", and "Release") and, I feel, was a natural progression from where "Manic" left off. And with the number of bands in recent years who have incorporated "orchestral" elements in their recordings and performances (METALLICA's "S & M" to name a very recent one), I'd like to think that, though we were certainly not the first, we were nonetheless at least a little ahead of the pack.
The band broke up during their first headline tour, late in 1993. Around Christmas that year Emery refused to play at a concert. The band was dropped by Metal Blade within an hour and Anacrusis was no more.
Note that you can download all their entire albums on the official Website.