Life’s a bitch sometimes, and in the case of Razor’s leader Dave Carlo – much more often than usual. The Canadian trash/speed veterans’ guitar player has bravely and even stubbornly pushed the band forward through hard and harder times in the Eighties, before throwing the towel in the early nineties. Now, somehow miraculously, Razor’s ninth full-length album Cycle Of Contempt is being released today, September 23rd, a quarter of a century after their previous one. This new album is a major event in thrash and speed metal, because it has been talked about for as long as twenty years. We at Velvet Thunder simply couldn’t miss the opportunity to talk to the man and the legend himself – Mr. Dave Carlo, ladies and gentlemen!
Hello Dave. It’s an honor to talk to a legend like you, man. First of all, my deepest condolences for losing your wife Rose.
-Oh, thank you very much. I appreciate that. It’s been very a tough couple of years.
The long-awaited new Razor album Cycle Of Contempt is finally out this Friday. Is there one particular reason you can put above all, which lead to this album being delayed for so long or it was several things?
-Well, the main reason is we had retired the band from 1992 to maybe 2022. I know we made an album called Decibels in 1997, but the band wasn’t actually active during that time. We reformed it for just one performance for Wacken Open Air in 1999 but other than that we weren’t really doing much at all. What brought Razor back was the high-speed internet which gave people the chance to discover the band by downloading the music. A lot of people discovered Razor for the very first time in the early 2000s and because of that we gained more and more popularity during that time, which lead to the band reforming again to start performing more regularly. Then when we got out there and saw all the enthusiasm, we decided it’s time to do a new album, which was six years ago.
Dave, I wrote it in my review – this is not only the best thrash album of 2022, but I think it is Razor’s best album. And what puts it above all is the fantastic production and sound quality. Do you feel that way too?
-Oh, I absolutely do feel that way and I am very, very happy to hear other people who share this opinion. This is, in my view, the best work we’ve ever done, no question. Everything is done much better, the standards for this record were much higher than what we were able to have for previous Razor albums, because in the past we didn’t have the budget or the time to do what we were able to do now. That really made all the difference. The performances are what we wanted out of everybody whereas in the old days, sometimes we had to compromise because we didn’t have the budget to stay in the studio and spend the time we needed to get it right. That was sometimes only two or three days! We had much more time to do this album and it gave us the chance to do everything just right.
Your lyrics have always been angry and pissed off, but this time, they sound particularly bitter, maybe because of everything the world has been going through in the last few years. Are they a total reflection of your personal feelings or there is some fiction in there too?
-For sure there is some entertainment in there. At the end of the day that’s what it’s all about. For example, you have people like Charles Bronson or Clint Eastwood, who are performers but kind of hard-edged to what they are doing. Musically I am kind of the same thing. It comes from a certain place and some of it is certainly brutally honest and there is some of my personal experience in there as well.
I think that Razor, together with maybe Sacrifice, have always been the underdogs of Canadian metal and a band with just so little luck through the years. Do you regret doing something wrong in the Eighties that prevented the band going bigger?
-Yes, and that’s a long answer I have to give you for that question. The biggest mistake that Razor did in the Eighties is that we did not leave Canada. We should have moved to either Europe or to the US, because the music establishment there was much friendlier to the extreme style of metal we were playing. In Canada, the agents, the managers, the radio stations, all of it was too commercial and looking for commercial success. Bands like Razor had some commercial success but the Canadian establishment didn’t respect that kind of music. They even laughed at Metallica and Slayer when they were starting their careers. We signed a Canadian label and we shouldn’t have done that and we even had offers and opportunities to sign with American labels. It was a big mistake we didn’t and because of that we lost the opportunity for network with other bands and get management and people who could have done better for us and help us play more.
Your riffs in the Custom Killing album are definitely more melodic and even slower at times. Did something in particular influence you during that time?
-Absolutely! The number one thing that influenced my playing and composing at that time was Stace “Sheepdog” McLaren. He wanted us to move into that direction and was very vocal about this at the time. He also wanted me to change the way I write, because I do it by myself. I like to be locked in a room by myself and just process things on my own. He wanted to be with me in the writing room, working on songs together. I tried it his way for this record and we even changed the Razor logo for him so I call that record the way he wanted to shape Razor. I was really trying but it wasn’t my passion to play that style. I think he wanted to prove to the world that he could sing more than just straight though I have to say, and I said it many times, it’s the screams people love him for. That’s what you need to remember.
Your guitar playing and riffs always sound so unique and 100-percent Razor, from the first few seconds. What is the main recipe or secret to play and compose like Dave Carlo? Is there something special that you do, other than BEING Dave Carlo?
-I think it’s in my hands, because when we happen to play in the last few years, I usually don’t travel with my guitars although I’m going to change that and now I’m going to start travelling with my guitars. So I’ve borrowed guitars many, many times and when you watch me on youtube, 90% of the time I’m playing somebody else’s guitar. And what I found people saying all the time is “oh, it sounds like Razor when you’re playing!” and I’m like “yes, because it’s in my hands!”. Your guitar will sound like Razor when I play it.
Have you ever looked for a second guitar player to join Razor, through the years?
-Well, we HAD a second guitar player in Razor before, in 1983, when I formed the band. The history of the band is Razor was formed in 1983 and the concept of the band was put together by me and Mike Campagnolo and a fellow named Paul Chapman. Not The Paul Chapman who played guitar for UFO – a different guy. Just before we got Razor up the ground, in the summer of 1983, Paul was the second guitar player and also the lead guitar player. I was supposed to do the rhythm guitars and all the songwriting. Then Paul was hit by a car and killed in September of 1983….
-…and so that changed our plans. Then I auditioned second guitar players but I couldn’t find anyone who could play “Take This Torch” properly. And then we were left with no other choice and when we ended up in the studio I had to learn some lead guitar in the last minute. And that’s why the solos you hear on Armed And Dangerous are not that evolved because I’d just been playing lead guitar for about six months. So that’s the story of Razor – we were supposed to be a two guitars band, but after we started we decided that’s the way it is and that’s fine.
How did Rider Johnson end in the band? He is doing a fantastic job on the new album!
-Yes, I love Rider. We were looking for a new drummer after I got cancer in 2012. That was right after 2010 when we decided we need to reform the band and play more regularly. So after I got cancer, we took a year and a half off and then I decided to change the line-up a little bit and fix up the chemistry. Rider was somebody a friend of mine knew about so I went and I talked to him and right away I liked him very much. Rider’s an impossible guy not to like, that’s what you need to realize. He’s just a lovely guy. Sometimes he needs a bit of a kick in the butt, but when you kick him in the butt, he responds very good and he works hard. The thing I like about Rider the most is he responds pretty well under pressure. He’s really grateful to be part of the band and he did a really good job on Cycle. This is a very hard album to pace and it was hard work for him, but he did a beautiful job.
Does the change of drummers influence your writing and way of composing or you usually do all the music and tell the drummer what exactly is expected of him?
-Yes, I think I had shaped the drumming of the band since Rob Mills joined. When Rob joined in 1987 and when Rider joined in 2014 they had their way of drumming and I molded them a little bit for the Razor sound. Rider was a developed drummer, but I worked with him for about a year before we started playing live. He had a bit of a learning curve to get used to the Razor style because he has been in other thrash bands which weren’t quite as intense all the time. Rider really needed to learn how to increase his stamina, because that’s what we really need in someone to be able to lay these fast beats all the time. We don’t do a lot of slow-down breaks in our songs so we really need a guy who is athletic to play the drums. So, yes, I play a role in that to make sure we are delivered what we need.
Dave, do you still have the time and interest to follow the contemporary thrash and speed metal scene in the last 20 years? Are there bands that have impressed you?
-You know, this is a bit of a problem for me because of my poor eyesight. I have an issue of being partially blind so it’s not easy for me to discover new music unless someone brings it to me. And sometimes there’s people who do that. Actually there’s a band from Brazil called Violator which I like very much. I like their style, it reminds me a little bit of Razor, of early Sepultura and that’s what appeals to me.
Canada’s metal scene is just legendary! Do you keep in touch with the other bands that started with you back in the yearly Eighties, like Sacrifice, Exciter, Anvil, Annihilator, Infernal Majesty? Are you friends with these guys?
-Well I would say my best friends in the metal world are probably Sacrifice. I am in touch with them all the time and Rob Urbinati and I are very good friends. Rob is a guest vocalist on one of the songs in the new album.
Oh, really? That’s a nice surprise, because I failed to notice that mentioned in the press info.
-Yes, the song is called “Crossed”. The first verse is Bob Reid, the second verse is Danko Jones and Rob is singing the third verse. So yes, they are best friends and I’m always complaining to them to do more shows, but they live in different parts of the country and it’s not so easy. I’m also really good friends with the guys in Exciter and I see them quite often and am planning to do more show with them next year as well. These are my closest friend I would say – Sacrifice and Exciter.
I am really happy the new album is coming out on such a great label like Relapse Records. This means Razor will finally get the recognition and exposure this band deserves. How did you seal the deal with Relapse?
-I agree with you a hundred percent, it’s wonderful to work with them. They had a guy who contacted me about ten years ago and who is a big Razor fan. He had a Razor tattoo on his arm. He emailed me if I were interested in Relapse reissuing some of the older CDs. So I made a trip down to the States and I met him and everybody in person and was very, very impressed with the team there. It’s a whole organization of metalheads – everybody there is a metal fan. It’s beautiful because they’re all speaking the same language as I am musically. It’s wonderful to work with people who have the same passion for the music we’re making and that’s why we’re getting such a good support from them.
Dave, you have released a very limited but cult compilation album in 1994, called Exhumed, which is completely impossible to find nowadays. Do you have plans to possibly reissue it or maybe doing an all-new compilation?
-You know what, that’s a good question! That might be something that I do reissue and the reason is that I have the rights to reissue that album. That’s a problem with some of the albums but in the case of Exhumed, I have the rights to do it and that might come out some day. That is a good anthology of our first era, which is from ’84 to ’91.
It has a fantastic tracklist and you can also expand it with songs from the next releases if you want. It’s really something that is very sought after by the fans and I think it will be a good idea.
-Yes, that might be something that happens in the next year or two but right now I have too much stuff to focus on around Cycle.
Razor has cancelled a lot of gigs in 2022 due to more than obvious reasons and your personal tragedy. Do you plan playing live any time soon and more importantly, is there a chance to see the band in Europe more often?
-Yes to both questions. We had to cancel a lot of shows in 2022 but of course my first priority was to take care of my wife. Unfortunately I lost her a few weeks back but that’s a new chapter in my life which I need to write whether I wanted to or not. We have two shows that I haven’t cancelled for this year. One of them is in England in November and the other one is at the Abyss Festival in Sweden, which is again in early November. Just this week I told all my agents that it’s time to get us out there again and start booking us. So I have some show announcements to make in the next months and people can follow what’s happening on the band’s website, or you can follow me on social media. If you type “Dave Carlo” in google, you can reach my Instagram or Twitter or my youtube channel. You can expect to see much more live shows from us in 2023 – there’s absolutely no doubt about that.
I wish you all the best with the new album and, more importantly, on a personal level, Dave! Thank you so much for rewarding us with such a beast of an album. It was worth all the wait!
-Thank you very much. It’s my pleasure and that is just the best thing to hear from people. It makes me feel like my work was worthwhile. If everybody feels this way, I’ll make another one!
You can catch Razor live at the Underworld on November 4th TICKETS
Cycle Of Contempt is out now. You can buy it from HERE