Interview with guitarist Dave Carlo
Interview conducted by Luxi Lahtinen
Date online: May 11, 2015
Canadian Speed Metal merchants Razor have a long history. They are undoubtedly one of the pioneers of Canadian Speed/Thrash Metal and have become legendary among metalheads around the world over the last four decades. Of their eight full-length albums (and one EP) so far Evil Invaders, Malicious Intent, Custom Killing and Violent Restitution get the most of praise.
Razor has ups and downs and even dissolved a couple of times (in 1992 and in 1997) but has always come back. In April 2012 guitarist and songwriter Dave Carlo was diagnosed with Stage 2 Oral Cancer for which he got the needed treatment.
The band has been active for the past few years and has had opportunities to play around the world. In February 2011 they headlined the True Thrash Festival in Osaka, Japan, a performance that will be released next year on both vinyl and CD. Currently Razor are working on songs for their ninth studio album and preparing for a number of shows in 2015-16.
Dave Carlo was contacted by The Metal Crypt and was kind enough to give some insightful updates into the current plans for Razor.
Luxi: How are you guys doing these days? Are you happy that people still wave the flag for Razor after all these years?
Dave: I am very glad that people are still interested in the band. I think that social media and YouTube has a lot to do with keeping interest in the band growing. It's been a real blessing for us to have that and it's given the whole world access to our songs. That makes a big difference.
As far as how we are doing these days, well, we have had a busy couple of years. I had cancer back in 2012 and I spent a year and half dealing with that. That was the biggest issue for me to face and I am feeling much better now. We have a new drummer named Rider Johnson and he's doing a great job. It took us a little while to get him broken in and working with Razor so we just started getting ready to play shows again at the beginning of 2015. We have done a few shows now that have gone really well.
Luxi: Relapse Records will be releasing three Razor albums, Violent Restitution, Shotgun Justice and Open Hostility, in mid-May this year, completely re-mastered with bonus material, new packaging, etc. Was it a tough job to find all this bonus material and did any of it surprise you with how good it sounded after all these years?
Dave: It was A LOT of work to get all this material together. I had to go through a ton of old cassette tapes, photos, etc. I am a blind person these days; I don't have a very good eyesight so things took a lot longer as I had to personally be involved in choosing all the material. As far as the quality goes, well, it isn't always fantastic on some of these bonus tracks but the idea was to give the Razor fans something unique, something they have never heard before, and give them an idea what it is like to be behind the scenes for the band; the writing process and things like that. So it is really about the stuff that is interesting to Razor fans or at least we hope will be interesting for them. You can decide yourself whether the bonus songs are good or not. I'll leave that up to the listeners to decide. I obviously decided that they weren't good enough to go on the album back in the day but you may have a different opinion, who knows.
Luxi: Why didn't Decibels get the same treatment as those previously mentioned albums? I know that Germany's High Roller Records already put it out in 2011 as a limited edition vinyl but a re-mastered CD with some bonus material would find its way on to the wish lists of Razor fans around the globe...
Dave: That would be a possibility to do Decibels as a reissue. Right now it's currently still available through a Canadian distributor, but that is something we might look at in the future. We want to start with these three releases and take it from there. As far as the early albums go, a lot of people ask for the first three albums. We have a few legal issues with the Canadian rights holder to these releases and that makes it difficult for us to make deals for the rest of the world. Hopefully some day those will see the light of day everywhere as well.
Luxi: These reissues will be available on CD. Did you also try to get them out on vinyl or even as a limited edition box set just to give something truly special to the most die-hard fans of Razor? I am sure this type of release would stir up even more interest for the band...
Dave: I'd love to do a box set of all of Razor's material. Unfortunately, some of the companies that hold the rights for some of Razor's music are not working with us and don't want to partner with us to make that music available to the rest of the world. That is especially true of the company in Canada named Unidisc Music that controls the first three Razor releases. We don't even think they have a legal ground to prevent us from working with other companies for the rest of the world. We have lawyers looking into that right now so we will have to see if that can allow us to get the releases out for everybody else. That's the real obstacle to getting a box set going. These Unidisc people don't want to work with anybody. They are a very selfish company and they don't care about music fans at all. They are not even specialized in Metal; they just take over bankrupt record labels and put stuff out and they don't bother supporting or helping anybody.
Luxi: What about the early Razor releases starting with the Armed and Dangerous EP from 1984 that has been bootlegged several times? Do you think it's pretty much impossible to get Razor's earlier releases reissued due to legal issues? Has Relapse Records tried to get the rights so they can reissue them someday? I am sure Razor fans have asked you about zillion times if there is light at the end of the tunnel?
Dave: Okay, I just answered this question but to continue this topic, it wouldn't matter who's trying to get the rights from Unidisc for the first three albums, Unidisc just won't cooperate. We have learned that from the experience. Unidisc is also cheating us on the royalties and are not paying us properly. So legally they are in breach of any agreement they had with us and that leaves us for an opportunity to maybe make some deals at some point in time. We are not prepared to do that right now. We are not ready for any legal battles so it's not going to happen at this moment. One option that is definitely available to us is to do a re-record of the first four albums, release the songs that we want to re-record with the new line-up. I know that does not replace the original recordings, which have always been special to everyone. But it does give people access to what the new line-up sounds like playing the old material. That might happen too.
Luxi: What do you think of the Razor bootlegs that have been floating around the past few years? One of the most famous is the limited vinyl bootleg Escape the Fire which is actually a pre-production demo for the Executioner's Song album. A label called Voodoo Evil Records put it out in 2006. Have you seen this release yourself?
Dave: I have seen that release and my comment on that one would be I am always disappointed when a company decides to release bootleg versions of our albums. We are not hard to make a deal with. A lot of companies that are legitimate, High Roller Records is a good example and War on Music in Canada is a legitimate, reputable company that works with us, put out fantastic releases.
But there are companies that put out bootlegs and that really aren't making any effort at all to contact us or make an arrangement with us. They are trying to be greedy and just make money. They aren't really as interested in the quality of the release as they are in making money. And the recording artists, especially the Metal recording artists, should be compensated for the work they have done just like any other artist. I think it's the lowest form of life that tries to take advantage of musicians and put material out illegally without paying them what would be fair. Everybody deserves a profit from the music but the artists that created it absolutely should be paid for it. I really think it is snake-like behavior releasing bootlegs. It does not have to be that way at all.
Luxi: How much quality Razor live footage is available from your past for a DVD release? This is undoubtedly something that Razor fans have been asking for, right?
Dave: We actually made a DVD in 2004 of a concert we played in Toronto. It's a very high quality DVD. It was never released for a number of reasons. One of them was there wasn't enough time available in that period for us to make proper deals to release it. It's now ten years old so I am not sure what we are going to do with that material. There are a lot of live performances, some of them not so great quality but some of them decent quality, up on YouTube available for watching. I think people can see the band now that way and some day we may release something in a higher quality DVD format. That's something we haven't decided yet.
Luxi: When talking about Razor album artwork, for the sake of my own curiosity, are there some covers that you are not so proud of and wanted something different than what you eventually got? Do some of them even look hilarious to you these days?
Dave: Well, I think I have talked about this in a few other interviews in the past. I definitely did not like the covers for Shotgun Justice and Open Hostility. The original versions of these covers did not look very professional to me. The problem was my focus was mostly on the quality of the music at that time. I was totally interested in how the music came across and how it sounded. I neglected the artwork part of it to the point where I let other people help me make the decisions and it came back to me to bite me in the ass. Yes, I do have some albums covers that I wish were better but we improved them. If I look at the new versions of Shotgun Justice and Open Hostility I love the fixes that we have done. I think that they are fantastic!! So now, if I look at the current versions of those albums I really like all the album covers now.
And as far as defining some of them as hilarious, yes I guess in someway I did. What are you going to do? You make a mistake or a bad decision and it's there reminding you for the rest of your life that you made that bad decision. I am very grateful for the fact that we updated and improved the artwork of those albums.
Luxi: Razor has always been known for blistering, high-energy Thrash Metal that is fast and raw something that makes the band's sound so unique. However, Razor's fourth album, Custom Killing, lacked these elements. Should we blame ex-vocalist Stace "Sheepdog" McLaren for that? As some of us already know, he wanted Razor to sound more like a Rock band than a Thrash band which was not what you wanted when it was recorded...
Dave: Well, I think Custom Killing is an important album for Razor and the reason I say that is because without that album there would be no Violent Restitution. Violent Restitution turned out to be as heavy and as aggressive as it was because the way Custom Killing turned out. I wanted to reinforce Razor's aggression and rawness with Violent Restitution. And I think the music on Customer Killing is quite good but the production is not and I think that played a role. Custom Killing is an interesting, important and experimental album from us and I think it's right up here with any other Razor release for its historical significance.
Luxi: Stace did not quite live up to his last name on that record as we all know McLaren is a brand of a racing car and it should represent speed, power and aggression. Uh, oh well... sorry about that, eh!
Dave: Ha ha... that's a good point. I never thought of that. That's kind of funny. And the thing is that I want people to notice, now that we're bringing up Stace, yes, it's true that Stace was pushing the band to move to that direction; he wanted to showcase more of his vocal abilities and he wanted to play a larger role in creating the music and we definitely let him have far more input on Custom Killing. I wrote that album to suit his needs. But I also want to point out that there's been a lot of talk about the fact that maybe I am having some kind of feud with Stace. I don't have a feud with Stace. As far as I am concerned Stace is entitled to his opinion but he was doing some interviews where he was saying some things that are factually incorrect. And if somebody is going to say things that turn out to be just untrue then I have no choice but to take that up and tell people the truth. I am a very blunt, honest person. It's not always what everyone wants to hear but I'll speak up when it needs to be said. Stace indicated in a recent interview that he felt that he had been cheated and lied to and it was all completely wrong and I think he was out of line to say the things he said. So I am not in a feud with Stace and as far I am concerned he is entitled to his opinion. He put in a great vocal performance on most of the Razor albums. He's a legendary heavy singer with a fantastic voice. I am disappointed that he didn't like the harder edge material as much as the rest of us did.
Luxi: It can be read all over the Internet that there's been animosity and bad blood between Stace and the other original members of Razor. He made his own statement about some things related to Razor (claiming you to be a cold businessman, among other things). Has the hatchet been buried or is the war still on?
Dave: I think I just answered this in the previous question. I guess I give more information in my answers and I end up answering questions ahead of time. But yeah, I don't have anything against Stace. I don't like that he said stuff that isn't true and if anyone else said something that isn't true either I would correct it as well. He may be upset about some of those things that I said about him but it is 100% true. I don't like going back and forth publicly and saying stuff about each other. I don't want to have a feud or war with anybody and I don't have that with him. If you pick up the phone and call and want to talk to me about any issues I'll be happy to talk about them. But what really pissed me off was that he and I have been talking in friendly terms about doing a reunion of the original band. Then he did an interview where he basically said stuff that I thought was stabbing me in the back, so that changed my view about the whole situation. It's too important to Razor for me to ever have regrets against him, to be honest. I don't have regrets about anybody that has ever worked with Razor. We all built something together and I am proud of everybody who has worked with me.
Luxi: Now you have had Bob Reid in the Razor ranks for years, replacing Stace. What new things does Bob bring into Razor and do you think his personality fits with what a Razor member should represent and reflect?
Dave: Okay, you know this is a funny question to me because you said Bob Reid is the new singer for Razor. Well, Bob has been in Razor since 1988, so that is how many years now? 27 years. He's "the new guy"; he's been "the new guy" for twenty-seven years!!! That's a long time to be "the new guy." It's really kind of funny. I've worked far more years with Bob. I only worked four years with Stace. Now I admit that Razor was retired for some of those years. Bob and I are very much of the same mind when it comes to what makes great, hard-edged Speed Metal. Bob has another band that he works with, his own band called Bobnoxious. It's much more commercial sounding, Rock 'n' Roll type of music. People are allowed to have different tastes musically and they can still love really hard-edged Speed Metal. Bob is like that; Bob is a maniac when he performs with Razor. He loves the hard-edged aspect of Razor and all the revenge-driven themes. Bob is a huge inspiration for me when I write because I love his voice and I love the attitude he puts across onstage. I am looking forward to making another album with Bob.
Luxi: You have been working on some upcoming shows for Razor including Maryland Deathfest as well as at Trois-Rivières Metalfest, both this May. What else have you planned for 2015 as far as playing shows is concerned? Have you plans to invade Europe, Japan, Australia, etc.? Your jobs, families, etc., naturally may restrict your shows, right?
Dave: We are going to play a lot of shows in 2015. As I talk to you now, we already played at Trois-Rivières Metal Festival in March. That was a fantastic show. We also played in Winnipeg, Canada, something called Manitoba Metalfest, on April 18th and that was an even more crazy show for us. We are looking forward to Maryland Deathfest on the 23rd of May. We are going to take a couple of months off in July and August so that I can complete writing the new Razor album. And then in September we are doing a lot of shows. We are going to do Paris to play at a festival there called Fall of Summer then we are playing at the Wings of Metal in Montreal in September. In October we have a number of shows coming up. Some of them I cannot announce yet but will shortly. We are going to Italy to play at Play It Loud Festival in October. We are working on dates for Athens, Greece, as well as Madrid, Spain for November. We are also working on South American dates in November as well and we are already booked to play in Germany in April in 2016. There are also some other European shows going on. I'd really like to get Razor back to Japan sometime in the near future and to New Zealand and Australia as well. Those are the last unconquered territories for Razor. We have never played live in Australia, New Zealand or even South America, but we are doing South America later this year. So all that is left for us is really Australia and New Zealand and I think we will have covered all of the major areas we need to play.
Luxi: Is Razor up for doing even bigger festival appearances like Wacken in Germany and Hellfest in France IF the conditions for doing them are optimal for the band?
Dave: No doubt we would be up for that. We played at Wacken before, in 1999. It was still a pretty big event even back then. We have never played at Hellfest. In fact, our first French appearance ever will be this coming September where we'll play at the Fall of Summer Festival. Festival appearances are actually the best situations for us because as you said earlier we tend to just fly in and play a couple of shows and then fly out. So that's really ideal for us.
Luxi: I cannot help asking about new stuff you have been composing. So, would you be kind enough to kill Razor fans' curiosity regarding this matter? Is there any new Razor stuff in the works and how does it compare to the band's previous albums?
Dave: We already played our first new song in over 20 years at Manitoba Metalfest, on April 18th. The song was called "All Fist Fighting." We didn't do a perfect job on the song. I screwed the solo up because I had a bit of an issue seeing the neck of my guitar but I think it sounded pretty good. It gives an idea of what the new material will sound like although there are going to be probably twelve or more songs on the next album so I wouldn't judge the entire album by just one song. I can give you another title of a song we have already completed. It's called "Punch Your Face In" and it's another straightforward, butt-kicking Razor song; Violent Restitution/Shotgun Justice style, I think. For the next release I want Razor to be in that dark place that we were in when we did Violent Restitution and Shotgun Justice so I am focusing on that kind of energy. I have got last material written and quite a bit of the lyrics too, but I haven't put it all together yet so I've said as much as I can right now about the new material. I am going to finish it up this summer and am hoping we'll record sometime in the fall. I want to get our next album released sometime in early 2016; that's the plan.
Luxi: How does the rest of 2015 look for Razor?
Dave: I think 2015 is the busiest year we have had with Razor in a very, very long time. After I got though cancer and made the decision to get the band back on track I had a new passion for it because the cancer taught me that there are no guarantees as to how long I am going to be here. I'd like to leave a bit of good music behind for people to enjoy and that motivates me for sure.
Luxi: That was it and hopefully you had some fun while answering my questions. Thank you, Dave for doing this for The Metal Crypt and all the best with all of your future endeavors with Razor. Any last words of wisdom?
Dave: The last words would be keep your eyes open for future Razor releases. We have a live CD coming up that we are putting out next year, from our Osaka, Japan concert in 2011. Right now we have deals made with High Roller Records for it to come out on vinyl and we will have a CD release of it too, I am sure of that. It's a fantastic live recording; best quality we have ever had, so it will not disappoint anyone, I don't think.
And I just want to thank everybody for their interest in Razor and hopefully with our new album I can deliver the kind of material that you are hoping for and expecting. And come to see us live if we are in your area. Come to see us! All the best to you. Thank you for the interview.
|Other information about Razor on this site|
|Review: Violent Restitution|
|Review: Evil Invaders|
|Review: Executioner's Song|
|Review: Escape the Fire|
|Review: Cycle of Contempt|
|Review: Cycle of Contempt|
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