When Stace “Sheepdog” McLaren had left RAZOR, a considerable part of this Canadian Thrash machine’s charm and magic was immediately gone. Even though the band has always been a brainchild and literally a property of guitarist Dave Carlo, the wild and powerful vocal performance of Stace was no less distinctive for the band’s identity than the impressive riffs of Dave. I’m sure most of the other RAZOR maniacs felt exactly the same at the time, and nothing could convince them to mask their prejudices and accept new efforts of too much modified band as equals to its early classics. Whatever the “serious musical critics” had to say, the fans have some additional criteria which can be neither classified nor justified nor explained. And that’s exactly what is so great about music – it’s wild nature. You can’t make it work in accordance with an established order invented by human beings. It has its own, unique ways of manipulating people and you simply can’t go wrong following it – it has no sales and marketing departments to fool with you. With due respect to Dave Carlo and his efforts, I must confess of being one of those too old die-hards to survive the loss of too much of what we used to love about the band. Now you can imagine how happy and excited I was to swallow Stace McLaren’s interview in the 80’s Metal sanctum called Snakepit, let alone finally hearing from him personally after all these years a bit later. If you are a RAZOR fan (otherwise why should you bother reading this at all?), you won’t fail to understand me
How did it feel to see yourself starring the front cover of Metal magazine after all these years?
“It brought back memories from an almost forgotten past, man. I never thought I’d be talking about RAZOR days again. It kind of made me think of who I was and who I am now. I wonder how Carlo felt. I am curious as to why Embro and Mike weren’t interviewed also.”
Have you talked to Dave after that ultimate RAZOR feature in Snakepit Magazine? I was sincerely pleased to read both you and him speaking favorably of each other despite all your past differences. I believe it was a great idea of Laurent to make such feature and, just like any other die-hard RAZOR maniac, I really hope it’s going to become the first step in bringing the real RAZOR back… So I wonder if he succeed at least a little bit?
“I did e-mail Dave after the interview and he returned the e-mail with a phone number, but it got misplaced and he has yet to return my last e-mail. Maybe he read the article in Snakepit and changed his mind!!!! (ha ha). I very much doubt the original RAZOR will be seen again. I haven’t talked to any of them since I left the act, I doubt there is any interest in any of them meeting again to play the old stuff.”
Why did you choose a microphone instead of a guitar as your companion to conquer the Metal world? Originally your musical career started with a guitar, didn’t it?
“I wasn’t a Metal guitar player, at least the kind of Metal that we were playing at that time. Carlo wanted a front man, it was important for the whole band really, but I think it’s true that Carlo didn’t want to share the spotlight. I think we needed a second one live though. Sometimes I thought it sounded kind of empty during the solos. We overdubbed the guitar in the studio so much that when we played live, it always seemed to be missing something. I did start to play guitar at a young age but didn’t do anything professional til RAZOR. I studied traditional / classical between the ages of 8 and 14, and moved into Hardrock as I matured. I still prefer Jazz over most styles, but I listen to the heavy stuff still off and on. I tend to stick with the classics though. MOTÖRHEAD, old METALLICA, old SLAYER, etc. I don’t listen to too much RAZOR though, and to be honest, I don’t even have copies of a couple of the albums. The last one I recorded with the band was never sent to me at all. I hold that against Carlo to this day, and it has been over ten years.”
I believe many young vocalists consider it a honour to be compared to you vocalwise, so I wonder if there was someone you had felt honoured to be compared to back in the beginning of your vocal career?
"I do consider it an honor though I have yet to meet anyone that I have influenced to that degree. Truly if that is the case, I am flattered. I think some compared me to Lemmy Kilminster and that was cool, but I think to be thought of as original is better. I’m sure Lemmy feels the same way.”
What’s the story of appearance of that funny nickname of yours, who was it to come up with "Sheepdog" and what did it actually mean?
“I picked up Sheepdog from the boys back home in Kingston. It was because of my hair always being in front of my eyes, and I always wore a silver dog chain around my neck. It stuck for years but I don’t hear much of that here in Mallard Bay.”
If it wasn’t into RAZOR, where do you think you would have put your energy into?
“If I hadn’t put my energy into RAZOR, fucked if I know where it would have gone. Something rebellious and misunderstood, for that I am sure, but it would have been music oriented always. I still play guitar almost every day. I do alot of writing, but nothing like those days. I miss playing with a heavy rhythm section and banging it out loud though. Once in a while I plug in the Gibson and wail out loud and hard.”
So, what kind of energy it primarily is – positive or negative, creative or destructive?
“Nowadays most of my energy is positive, especially mentally. Now that I’ve gotten older, my body is paying for all of the fun shit I’ve done. Pretty soon the wakeboarding has got to stop, and I’m not allowed to ski anymore because of my knees. But dude, these fingers are feelin’ fine. Definitely creative, Tim. You know, you write this heavy stuff and think, who the fuck am I gonna play this with, and nobodys around to put it out man. But it’s still in your head and doesn’t go away. I’d probably try it again with the right guys. I think a heavy project with my name on it, would be alot more driven and less produced than any thing I’ve done with RAZOR. Go back to the old school of thought. If you can’t play it live, don’t record it in the studio (and that goes to you too, ANVIL with that aussum tune ‘Motormount’ that you wouldn’t play live because you couldn’t). Everyone walks away disappointed. Keep it simple with alot of hooks.”
You were the last one of the classic RAZOR line-up to join the band, how long did it take you to adapt to the band, to feel yourself completely “at home” in RAZOR?
“I don’t think I ever felt completely at home in RAZOR. At least not totally anyway. I was the baby in the band, and grew up differently, and I was the only non-Italian. It was hard to adjust to a new city, and new associates. I think it was always just a business deal! If we were close friends, I think we would have stayed in touch.”
Do you remember what was it to give you a hint that RAZOR is exactly that band you should stay for years and share it’s most colourful years with?
“Carlo had everything well organized and ready before I was in the picture, and that was impressive, considering how inexperienced we all were when it came to the business side of that project. That was probably the biggest hint that this was more than just a bunch of wanna-be rockstars, and I should follow this through and stick it out.”
Both you and Bob Reid got only a mic stand in RAZOR, though both of you could handle a guitar as well. Was it Dave Carlo’s matter of principle to remain the one and only guitar player in the band? Have you ever tried to play guitar in RAZOR or at least to talk Dave into considering the idea of sharing his guitar duties with either you or anyone else?
“We did try to convince Dave Carlo to agree to hiring a second guitar player to fill in the spaces, but he was adamant about his decision to remain alone. The albums always turned out great, so we’d forget about it for a while, until the live gigs kicked in. Then I would have the same reservations about it again. It was a big circle of discussion over the period of time I was in the band. I heard Bob play, and he could have done a great job playing second, I don’t know how Dave felt at that point.”
It seems like Dave has always been the one “to rule with iron hand” in RAZOR, hasn’t he? Do you think things could have been very different if there was much more democracy in the band?
“If there was any democracy in the band, the songs would have been a lot more diversified, especially with the tempo of the material. Dave had this impression that the faster the better, but for me that wore off quickly. The fast pace was fuckin heavy and cool, but sometimes a change is necessary for people to respect the idea of the speed. It was hard sometimes to distinguish noise from good riffs. I also think if I had more say in what I was singing, there would have been less titles with the word death in it. That is something I was totally tired of. ‘March Of Death’, ‘Deathrace’, ‘Angel Of Death (AOD)’ etc. etc. etc. I wanted to sing fun shit, drinking, sexy broad, get on your bike and ride while smoking a joint kinda tunes. You know what I mean brother?????”
Did the relative frequency of your albums releases have any negative effect on RAZOR’s creativity and atmosphere in the band?
“I think Attic Records was afraid we would be forgotten every six months if we didn’t release a project. They were too concerned about albums, and not concerned enough about tour support. We were rushed into writing on the "Malicious Intent" project, some of it filler tunes obviously, yes I think it had a negative input on our moods and atmosphere, especially in the studio.”
On the cover of the “Speed Kills – II” compilation album RAZOR was called “Canada’s answer to SLAYER”, so I wonder whether you found this to be a kind of compliment back then or, on the contrary, a sign of underestimation of your band?
“SLAYER was a great band, and if that’s what we were being compared to, I say cool!!!!! I do think they had better talent in that act. No question about it!!!!! I liked our songwriting better though. Alot of times I felt unclear of what their songs were saying. But what a fuckin’ drummer. Hat’s off to him!!!!”
If I got it right, the end of your romance with RAZOR started with M-Bro and Mike Campagnolo leaving the band and by the time of the “Violent Restitution” recording sessions you knew it was going to be your last album under RAZOR’s banner. It must be very frustrating to work in the band being aware of the fact that everything is falling apart, isn’t it?
“Yes, it was frustrating, trying to pull something together, you know is destined to untie itself. The fun wasn’t in it anymore. That last album I recorded with them (the one of which I have yet to recieve, remember that one?) was written completely by Carlo. Music, lyrics, the whole shebang!!!! Personally, I thought it sucked! Dave was taking the wrong direction, and sliding towards Hardcore. I can’t remember off hand a name to anyone of those songs. Somebody told me there was a chainsaw or something of cheesy artwork, but I haven’t seen it yet. Even after that project was done Carlo asked if I would do another project, I had conditions, and I never heard of a word since (no payment for any of those compilation CD’s either).”
Don’t you regret staying in the band after both Mikes leaving? I mean you said that “Custom Killing” was your most favourite RAZOR project while “Violent Restitution” was the least favourite one, so wouldn’t it have been better to leave on that major note that “Custom Killing” did turn out to be (at least for you, as I’m sure many RAZOR fans wouldn’t agree)?
"I do regret staying for another project, "Custom Killing" would have been a great finale for me. I had a hard time letting go of everything we had worked so hard to accomplish. It always felt like it was just beginning. Every project seemed that much different to me.”
Are the years with RAZOR the most vivid memories of your life?
“I hate to admit it, but RAZOR is not the most vivid memories I have. It feels so old now. I am proud of the things we accomplished. I did the things I had set out to do. I do miss being in the studio, we all learned a lot from Terry Marostica. I especially miss playing live. That is something we needed more support in from Attic Records. I think that could have kept the original line-up together longer.”
Your band’s contribution to making and development of Speed / Thrash Metal was fairly enormous, yet the credits for it were what you’ve hardly ever received. So I believe all the more painful it must have been for you to see how this genre was abused, profaned and literally killed at last in late 80’s / early 90’s…
“I have never heard too much about how much influence I or the band had on other acts, yet back then I think we all influenced each other. I am flattered that some people believe that. It kind of makes me wish I had put my own project together, after RAZOR was behind me. People like you would have stood behind it I’m sure!! (Hell, yeah! Moreover, some of us are still here, still waiting – Tim) The only thing that’s painful, is that none of us are in contact. That is sad. I guess it was strictly business.”
Are you still proud of everything you’ve done with RAZOR?
“I am proud of songs like, my favourites, ‘Cross Me Fool’, ‘Tear Me To Pieces’, ‘Last Rites’ amongst others. I don’t regret any of it. I would tell every kid in the world to try the business out when you’re young and keep a cool head, because it’s important that everybody is your friend. Trust me!!!!!“
You seem to be a person whose tastes (at least when it comes to music) don’t change with time very much, if at all. Is it really so? Being of that kind myself I highly appreciate it, but for many other people it’s a clear sign of… mmm, not being very cool, to keep it short ; -)
“I think when it comes to music, I tend to stick with the ones that hit me. METALLICA’s" Kill ‘Em All " is the perfect example. Phenomenal project man!!! The next album, yeah cool, buy it. After that I didn’t buy again. It goes with all styles of music. I’m not like Carlo and Campagnolo, who owned five-hundred Speed Metal albums from all over hell’s half acre and the rest of the world. If I don’t like it, I don’t buy it! I sure as hell don’t listen to it just because I own it. That’s not what music is about. You hear it, it hits you, and you want to listen, again and again. It doesn’t matter how old you get. You know what I mean, brother!!!”
Sure, that’s like putting on old RAZOR again and again, like things you’ll never betray… I really liked what you’ve said in Snakepit’s interview: “We are what music we make”. To what extent that music you did with RAZOR made you in the end then?
“I think being in RAZOR made me a lot more confident as a writer and a person. It gave all of us strength at a time when all of us, I think, were just getting to know ourselves.”
Do you still keep your hair long or was it only a part of the image back then and therefore they were cut off soon after your stepping off the Metal scene?
"My hair is still very fuckin’ long man. Til death!!!! That’s a fuckin’ promise!!!!! But you know, S.O.D said it perfect "It’s not how you wear your hair, it’s what’s inside your head". I’ve had this hair for so long now, I wouldn’t be me without it. How’s yours holding out man? I heard Carlo got cut long ago.”
I wonder why you have never made any music since your parting ways with RAZOR? What did you exactly lack: an urge, a need or simply an appropriate opportunity to do it again?
“I did try to work with INFERNAL MAJESTY for a short time, but that act was totally Mickey Mouse, man!!!!! The guitar solos sucked, and that satanic theme had to go. No other Metal projects interested me, and I was more interested in getting back to playing guitar again, though I would have listened to any offers to stay in the game. I didn’t have the money to take the time to find the right players to do something for myself, but that would have been cool. I wish I could have heard a finished product of what I was driving at in the metal scene.”
Haven’t you ever felt a pity for Bob Reid? I mean for the most part of fans you have always been the one and only voice of RAZOR… Well, seriously, what’s your opinion on your replacement’s vocal abilities and the correctness of calling it RAZOR?
"I don’t feel pity for anyone in that business. The changes are so often better in each of our own eyes, we forget about the old and cast it into the history books. RAZOR certainly had to feel it was for the better, at least directly after the creation of Rob’s first project with the band. I don’t think they toured enough to hear any flack from the fans or the magazines anyway. I certainly don’t think they should have called it RAZOR, though, like I said to Laurent from Snakepit, it should have been called "Dave and the other guys"!!!!!! The guy is allright on the vocals though.”
Is there anyone among the current Metal vocalists whose singing you really enjoy, anyone doing it the way you highly appreciate?
“Most of the new stuff being written, I’m sorry to say, sounds repeatative. I can’t say any of the newer Metal vocalists sustain my attention very long. No offense meant.”
I guess once in a while you still play guitar, simply for yourself. What is it you’re playing? Has it ever been any RAZOR stuff?
"I still play guitar everyday and write alot of music, but only a small percentage is heavy shit. Mostly Jazz and some classical. I write the odd lovesong for my old lady, I like the minor keys alot. I have a massive guitar collection including mandolins and lutes, and even a South American Cuattro, which is based on a four string spanish acoustic. I’m still struggling with that one (translating spanish to english is harder than it seems).”
Looking back, do you regret anything you have ever sacrificed in the name of RAZOR?
“I don’t regret anything I did with RAZOR, or the time spent on trying to make it work. I do wish I spent more time playing guitar, and keeping in tune with that. It took a couple of years to get some of that back. That was a shame.”
Are RAZOR records anything you would be willing to hide from your grandchildren or, on the contrary, exactly the things you would be proud to put on the turntable for them to listen to someday?
“I’d play RAZOR for my grandchildren, but I’m not sure they’d listen. I wondered how old you were, but when you said turntable, I knew we came from the same era. Long live the THRASHDANCE!!"
Official RAZOR website: http://come.to/the.razor.pages