Violent Restitution! RAZOR Mainman Dave Carlo Responds To Sheepdog’s Tail
August 30, 2014, 6 months ago
The worst thing about the music business is that sometimes you just get too close for comfort. I’ve been fortunate enough to meet/deal with numerous artists and bands throughout the history of BW&BK and BraveWords. If you told me in public or high school that I might cross paths (physically) with the people that I was listening to on my record player, 8-track or cassette Walkman, I’d tell ya to smoke another one! Be careful what you wish for! But there have been instances where what was blasting in my ears sounded much better than the circumstances that created them. Case in point: Razor, a band I’ve followed since my teens and to this day is still a motivational thrashing tool. Man, I was beyond excited to finally find Stace “Sheepdog” McClaren a few months back and have a helluva 90-minute (!) chat with one my extreme metal idols. Then step in another one my idols, Razor mainman and speed metal guitar innovator Dave Carlo, who was none too happy to read Sheepdog’s comments about the past, present and future, to put it politely!
After soaking in the Stace piece, Dave contacted me and he was gracious enough to provide BraveWords a response to Sheepdog’s interview (found here) and we promised to showcase it in its entirety unedited (of note, it didn’t require much of an edit!). I gotta stress, unlike the Snakepit Magazine article that conducted two separate interviews with Carlo and Sheepdog a few years back (unknowingly apparently), I had no intention of such tactics. It was meant to be a fun, retro article with Sheepdog and I had no motive to stir the proverbial pot. It’s tough being in the middle of a war of words so to speak, when I had only good intentions and yearned to bring up fond memories. The last thing I wanted when listening to Razor is to have a feeling of drama creep in!
Anyway, so here it is in its entirety, Dave Carlo’s open letter to Razor fans around the globe in response to Stace “Sheepdog” McClaren’s recent interview with BraveWords.
“On July 29th. 2014, a friend of mine emailed me a link to an interview with former Razor vocalist Stace “Sheepdog” McLaren. My initial reaction was, 'Cool. This should be a fun read.' But, very early into the piece, as I became more and more angry with each statement he made, a few things became crystal clear to me. First off, I was being attacked, and in a sneaky, underhanded, gutless way. Second, I was being lied about. I was being misrepresented as a thief, a liar, and a self-centred asshole. I was furious. I was so pissed that I felt an immediate need to respond. I wanted to call McLaren up and ask him just how many drugs did he do over the last 26 years that made his memory so fucked up. Instead, I decided to cool down a bit and then write a reply to his interview. His version of virtually everything was garbage. I can’t think of a better way to describe it. Wait a minute: delusional garbage from a narcissistic gasbag. There. I found a better way after all.
Anyone who truly knows me, knows that I hate injustice of any kind. If there is one thing I am most certainly NOT, it is a bullshit artist and a thief. I am straightforward and blunt as hell. I am no doubt 100% Alpha Male, and I don’t apologize for it. I have a very strong belief in my abilities and my intelligence. I have taken control of my destiny through many obstacles in my life. Over the years I have faced a lot of adversity. On a daily basis between my own health issues and those of my immediate family, I deal with Autism, OCD, clinical depression, partial blindness and cancer. So my character is well defined. I am a dedicated father. Most of my life is devoted to my autistic son and my daughter. They are my priorities in life. I am fiercely loyal to my friends and family. Over the years I have considered all Razor members, both past and present to be part of my family. Did we all agree on everything? What families do? But together we built something out of nothing and I was proud of all of them. In spite of our very different personalities, I always considered Stace to be a friend. But in his interview, I read that he did not view me with the same regard, but with a lot of resentment and hostility. When attacked, I will defend myself. So prepare for a lengthy read...but I think an interesting one, especially if you are a Razor fan.
So, let’s get all the cards on the table. First of all, nobody is more disappointed than I am that I have to do this. I have never felt the need to publicly throw my band members under the bus. I have made a few observations that were absolutely under stated in previous interviews I have given, but that is about to change here. This occasion calls for the brutal, honest truth. In the past I never said a word about anyone in Razor that was not true. I could have said a lot of negative stuff (all of it true), which no doubt many musicians could say about their fellow band members, but that is counter-productive. How is that going to get anyone to become a fan of your band? I don’t see it helping. So for many years, I have protected the image and reputation of past and present Razor members by NOT making public statements about what I perceive to be their character flaws. But for some reason, Stace felt that he could shoot his mouth off carelessly about me and not expect me to react. He even called me this week and left a message on my phone as if nothing was wrong? WTF? Are you kidding me? Needless to say, I did not return the call.
I was actually considering a reunion show with the original Razor before I read his interview. I am now glad that I did not follow through with it. And here is the kicker...I am really convinced that he believes most of what he is saying. So he must be suffering from OJ Simpson Syndrome (keep telling yourself lies long enough and you eventually believe they are true). I am assuming he has told anyone who will listen in Peterborough (or wherever he lives now) this version of Razor history for years. Well he’s way off on the facts. And I would suggest to you that my memory is much better than his. I will now correct the record, and not with tact or restraint this time:
But before I do I have to make this clear. Regardless of what I say after this, Stace McLaren is a very talented vocalist. When he wanted to be, he was excellent in Razor. When he didn’t want to be (during his brief time in the Violent Restitution era), he let down his fellow band members and his fans. But his recordings are legendary for sure. What disappoints me about him as you can see in his interview is that he really didn’t seem to grasp what it was about his voice that most Razor fans loved. Most of them loved the manic screams and the over the top vocal style that he put across on Executioner’s Song, Evil Invaders and Violent Restitution. However, he envisioned himself as much more than a thrash metal vocalist, and I guess he felt creatively stifled in Razor. He wanted to change the entire premise of Razor (for fuck sake, he even told me he didn’t like the name Razor). However, I wanted to play heavy, fast metal. He calls Violent Restitution punk. I really don’t give a shit what he calls it. He didn’t even really listen to it because he wasn’t invited to actively participate in writing it (save for the lyrics to one song). His ego was bruised, but the music was way heavier than he wanted it to be. And he sung it the way I insisted. The reason he did this is because I told him he had to. The Custom Killing experiment was officially over. A new chapter had begun. His legendary scream at the beginning of The Marshall Arts was at my insistence. I told him to give me the loudest, meanest, longest scream of his life. And to his credit, he pulled off a fantastic scream. He put in a good performance on Violent Restitution, but he’s not qualified to comment on the music since he didn’t take the time to really listen to it. All he remembers is “you’ve got no fucking brains, you’re not too fucking smart!” LISTEN TO THE FUCKING ALBUM before you shoot your mouth off Stace! It’s a great album. It still holds up 26 years later.
He is way disrespectful to the legacy of Razor. It seems he has no idea that Razor had a history after he left. He doesn’t even remember the name of our current singer Bob Reid...he keeps calling him “Rob”. He really does come across like a bit of a poser to me. I don’t like to call him that, I don’t want to taint the band’s legacy (and for 30 years I did not want to taint his legacy either), but he is obviously narcissistic (everything is about “him”). I didn’t see him comment at all about what Razor fans want or like. He goes on about what “he” wants, and what “he’s” willing to do. No concern for anyone else who enjoys the band’s music. Sorry, that sounds like a dink to me. I have been playing the song Evil Invaders for people for 29 years. Does anyone think I’m doing it for me? I care about our fans. I do it for them. And it is not a big deal. I am gratified by the fact that they want to hear it!
So: to all the Razor fans who moved ahead with us after Stace left...the ones who came to our shows and the ones who bought Shotgun Justice and Open Hostility: you are my brothers and sisters. I love you. I respect you. You are the ones who took the time to hear how great the band still was on Shotgun Justice and Open Hostility. You know that Bob Reid is a fantastic vocalist in Razor and that it isn’t about Sheepdog vs. Bob. To those many people that I see posting stuff like ‘Sheepdog is the only singer for Razor’….I can only say that if you really believe that, then you probably didn’t even pay attention. The only other explanation might be that we don’t have the same taste at all. Without question, I made the best music of my career between 1988 and 1991. The only album from the early period that compares is Evil Invaders, which was just as good. But make no mistake about my views...my masterpiece is Shotgun Justice. The production was not the best (guitars are not loud enough In my view), but the music is superb and ass-kicking If you didn’t notice because you were too busy telling everyone that Stace is the only real singer for Razor, well I guess that is your loss. Maybe he has some Flamenco guitar music for you. Probably really heavy too. I can see a mosh pit forming.....oh wait...yawn.
Stace was never interested in the business end of the band. He thought we should all be partiers, drunks and stoners all the time. Problem is, someone’s got to do some work if you intend to make a public impression. There has to be organized effort to succeed. He didn’t want any part of it...he wanted to party. He never asked to be a part of any business discussions and he was welcome to be. When we went to the Attic offices, all he wanted to do was go to the storeroom and get free records. When we showed up for a gig, he disappeared until showtime. He wanted to find someone who would buy him drinks, or get him high. He didn’t help with anything. When we had a crew working with us, they generally didn’t like him. Our main light guy during the early years hated him. I can’t count how many times I had to defuse tensions between Stace and guys who were working for us. I guess he treated them like they were less important than him.
Below are some quotes from Stace’s interview with “Metal” Tim. Each quote is followed by my response to what he said. Enjoy.
Stace said: “I actually talked to Dave (Carlo) a long time ago about it first. Me and him weren't friends when we were in the band, if you know what I mean. Things weren't good there. We had different goals and different ideas on how to attain them.”
My reply: “I thought we were friends. I guess I was wrong. I think things were fine for him until Violent Restitution. I’ll elaborate when I respond to his next quotes.”
Stace said: “And I was younger than they were - you know how that all goes.”
My reply: “Here is my recollection of our birth dates (I might be off by a single day or so): Mike Embro (born May 17 1962), Dave Carlo (born July 11, 1964), Mike Campagnolo (born December 24, 1964), Stace McLaren (born January 19, 1965). So at the time of meeting Stace (April 1984), I was 19, Mike Campagnolo was 19, Stace was 19 and Mike Embro (the grandfather I guess) was 21. So Stace was a whopping 1 month younger than Mike Campagnolo and a whopping 6 months younger than me. I can see why we didn’t have the same musical goals. There is clearly a major generation gap there. ????? What the fuck are we talking about here?”
Stace said: “As time went along, it wasn't moving fast enough for me and he wasn't doing anything to make that any better. I think he always thought of it as a part-time gig, whereas me, I was at that age and wanted to be a rock star.”
My reply: “I was working my balls off to try and make things better. I did not want to be the band’s manager. If he was paying any attention, he should have known that. I can’t believe he thinks that I wanted to be the band’s manager. What kind of moron would I have to be to want a thing like that? How many really successful acts are managed by the band’s guitarist? Duh! The problem for us was that we could not find a Canadian manager or management company that would take us on. They all said we were too heavy and not commercially viable. I tried to get Bill Seip (Helix’s manager) interested, but he passed. I tried to get Andy Wigderson (Killer Dwarfs) interested, but he passed. We talked with Leiber-Krebs (who were American based, but were managing Anvil at the time), but they passed as well. Fuck...every Canadian organization we talked too passed...they said we were too fucking heavy. The Canadian music scene (in terms of managers/agents) just missed the boat on the thrash metal era. What we should have done is move to the USA and try to get an American manager. That might have helped considerably. While bands like Slayer and Metallica had been picked up by great managers, we couldn’t get anyone to take care of it for us. Stace never did anything to help us, so I guess he didn’t even realize how hard we (Mike Campagnolo and I) were trying. That really blows my mind, to be honest. He could have helped too, that would have been welcome.”
Stace said: “I understood that that music had a very limited audience, very underground. I knew I was never going to be a millionaire walking out of it, but I thought that that movement was big enough that we could at least be international and consistently playing. And I wasn't happy with that, because we weren't really doing that. I didn't want to be like Dave and work in a camera store and play the odd gig once and a while. It wasn't enough for me.”
My reply: “The music doesn’t have a very limited audience. It has a decent sized audience. It’s not American Idol stuff, but Slayer did OK I think, and they were certainly no less heavy than us. What Stace said here is exactly the problem we had with the Canadian music scene. They did not see the potential of Razor. Looking back, I’m surprised that Attic Records did. And I did not work in a camera store when I met Stace, I worked in a music store. I had to eventually take a job at a camera store in late 1985, because we were not doing all that well financially. Stace eventually took a job there too. It wasn’t a fucking career choice. Jesus.”
Stace said: “After putting out a few albums, it wasn't changing and he didn't want to get management, he didn't want to get an agent, he wanted control and do it all himself and relied on people getting through to us by the fan mail.”
My reply: “I’m not even sure what he means about the fan mail, but on all counts he’s just plain wrong. I explained about the management situation above. I did not want control and to do it all by myself. That is just asinine.”
Stace said: For me, I just saw it going nowhere and the last time we went down to the States to do some gigs I had talked to him privately - this was back when the drummer and bass player had left and we had a couple of young guys (Dave Carlo's younger brother Adam on bass and drummer Rob Mills). I had had enough and I knew it wasn't going to go anywhere. I think I was 24 at the time and I needed to think of something else to do with my career to make money. So I called it to a halt and went home back to Kingston.”
My reply: Delusional. He didn’t call a halt to anything. I was going to call a halt to Razor and he talked me out of it! I’ll explain what happened in more detail when I address the next quote.”
Stace said: “He (Dave) contacted me again about six or seven months later and wanted to record another album and I said I'd record the album, but I wasn't going out to promote the album. But I'll be honest with you I hated it ... that last album (Violent Restitution), I couldn't stand it. The band was going more hardcore than it was metal. I went in and I did it, got paid and I left. I won't lie to you, I was kind of embarrassed by that album. Dave tells me that that album ended up doing pretty well as far as critics went, which surprised me."
My reply: “Here’s what happened: Custom Killing was not well received. Custom Killing was the type of record that Stace had wanted to do from the very beginning. He wanted a chance to show off how “versatile” he was etc. That album was written (musically) by me under direct whining from Stace mostly, to satisfy him. For a few years he was always suggesting that he should have a bigger role in creating the music. I would not give him that role because I thought the music he wrote was weak. He would occasionally bring me riffs...all really simple and not thrash oriented at all. What should I do with them? Well I finally gave in and arranged some of his riffs to form a song called “Cage The Ragers” which appeared on Malicious Intent. I gave him full writing credit for both music and lyrics even though I had to radically re-work his riffs to try and make them a little bit suitable for Razor. The song is definitely the weakest thing we ever did and I held my nose while recording it (figuratively of course). Now, back to Custom Killing: we even changed the Razor logo at Stace’s request (his buddy drew the one that appears on Custom Killing...nothing wrong with that logo...it’s just not the original). After the failure of Custom Killing (poor sales/critically panned), both Mike Campagnolo and Mike Embro left the band. They did not leave specifically over Custom Killing’s failure, but the timing worked out that way. With their departure, I contemplated my future and decided that I would try something new too. I was going to end Razor. Stace did not want me to do that. He said we should continue without them. Now looking back, I’m sure he wanted to continue in the Custom Killing direction, so I’m sure he was really surprised when I wrote Violent Restitution instead. When I brought him the music, he definitely expressed surprise (but not hate). I told him, “we tried it your way...now we’re doing it mine. If I go down, I do it on my own terms”. Yes, it was an arrogant approach, but after the recent Custom Killing disappointment I felt that the band’s future depended on a strong return to form with a bit more edge. I did the album I wanted to do without concern for Stace’s views. I admit it. But let’s face it. If he hated it so much, he could have (and should have) refused to record it. He didn’t. He also could have refused to play live to promote it. He didn’t. He says he did, but he’s wrong. He played live through the first half of 1988..and he was TERRIBLE! He did not remember the words to any of the Violent Restitution songs and he was embarrassing us. It came to a head in February of 1988 in London Ontario at the Key West club. We were playing and he was fucking up so badly that RIGHT ONSTAGE, during a guitar solo, I yelled into his ear 'If you are this bad at the next gig, I will fire you right on the stage in front of everybody!' I was so fucking angry. We (Adam, Rob and I) had been working our balls off. We were an excellent band. He was making us sound like shit. After the London show he apologized to me and promised me that he would be better at the next show. So at the next gig (The Silver Dollar in Toronto), he shows up with enough paper to wallpaper a fucking museum. He has all the words to all the Violent Restitution songs written out on paper, and he proceeds to wallpaper the entire front and sides of the stage floor with the cheat sheets. I said, ‘What the fuck are you doing?’ He said ‘making sure I don’t forget the words.’ So, how about actually memorizing the words? How would it look if I wallpapered the stage with guitar chord sequences to all our songs? Would that impress anyone? I’m guessing no. So the writing was on the wall (no pun intended).
SFH (Bob Reid’s band at the time) had been opening shows for us during that time, and I really loved Bob’s voice. I decided that if Stace didn’t pull it together in the very near future, Bob was the guy I was going to ask to sing. Our last gigs with Stace were in May of 1988 in the US with Znowhite. About a month later, I got a call from Sacrifice manager Ray Wallace. He told me that he had heard a rumour that Stace was now working with Infernal Majesty. Given that news, I decided that I would call Bob Reid and ask him to join Razor. Bob thought about it for a few days, then eventually called me and accepted. Some time later (another month or so), I get a phone call from Stace. He told me that he was “just fucking around” with Infernal Majesty and that he was never in their band. I think he was testing the waters to see if there was a chance to work with Razor again. No doubt he will deny this to all ends of the earth these days, but that’s what I think he was doing. I told him that I was working with Bob Reid and we ended our conversation. Never talked to him again until 2012, when he called me out of the blue to wish me well in my cancer treatments (which I have to admit surprised me and had me thinking of him in an unexpectedly positive way). More on that phone call in few minutes.”
Stace said: “I didn't know SPV picked it (Violent Restitution) up. But I never saw a dime from that album, which is another surprise for me.”
My reply: “Even Stace knows this is bullshit. He said in one of the earlier quotes above that he ‘got paid and he left.’ Stace was paid $1800.00 Canadian for his performance on Violent Restitution. That was accepted as payment in full. That was 25% of the money available to the band under our agreement. I was paid the same in spite of having to write all the music, replace the drummer and bass player, and work with them for 4 months getting the material together. All he did was show up at the studio and sing.”
Stace said: “All in all, I have to say, Dave and I have talked since and it seems good now, but back then I didn't trust him anymore. I think that at the time and at that age, I was starting to lose faith with everything that he was doing. It doesn't surprise me to hear that it did very well, and I didn't see a dime, if you know what I mean!"
My reply: “I don’t know how he can say it seems good now, based on his interview. Maybe if Stace had taken the time to learn what was going on, he would have realized he wasn’t being ripped off (at least not by me...we are all being ripped off by Unidisc but that will be explained in a minute). And as I explained above, he did see a dime......18000 of them to be exact.”
Stace said: “So I went up to see what it was all about and I met the guys. I was a long-hair with a leather jacket; I was a rock n' roll musician. So I got up there and met Dave Carlo and his hair was a little bit long, but not like I pictured this thrash metal band to be.”
My reply: “So only he was a rock n roll musician! For the record, Razor was my third band. I had been playing in rock bands since I was 14 (1978). Not as a guitarist (I was a bass player until 1982), but I had lots of experience. Who gives a fuck if my hair was as long as his? That’s poser shit as far as I’m concerned. With or without long hair, I kick ass. Hand me the guitar and get out of my fucking way.”
Stace said: “I had never heard of Slayer and they were playing it for me. They played me Kill 'Em All.”
My reply: “That’s right. As far as thrash went, he didn’t know shit from Shinola. At least he admitted that. Mike Campagnolo and I were real fans. We had tons of albums. He makes that sound like its some kind of handicap.”
Stace said: “But I really liked that song 'Take This Torch'. I think that was the song that drove me to work something out with these guys.”
My reply: “I love how hard he is working at making it sound like we were just begging him to be our singer. He wanted the gig and badly! He knew that Mike and I were putting up the cash to finance the debut EP. He knew he was going to be on vinyl. Every time we played a new original song for him, all he said was ‘I love this shit man’.”
Stace said: “When I first met Dave, he was all business. He was a thickened Italian that was all talk and all business. He was a pure fucking salesman.”
My reply: “Agreed that I am definitely business oriented. No apologies. Somebody has to be in charge. But I am mostly an artist, a musician. I took on the business role out of necessity. Now one other thing has to be addressed here: I am wondering about this “thickened Italian” remark. Let’s get this straight. In more than one interview, I have read comments from him about how “Italian” we all were. Well I love Italians (and it is my heritage) but I have to make this clear: For fuck sake, I was born in Guelph Ontario Canada. So was Mike Campagnolo and Mike Embro. And so were my parents! My dad was born in Guelph in 1930 and my mother in Hamilton Ontario in 1941. My parents and I speak English (my father no longer with us d. 2006), no Italian (although my grandparents did). Stace makes me out to be a fucking cross between Vinnie Barbarino and Rocky Balboa. I am a fucking CANADIAN! Shut up already!”
Stace said: “I then I met Mike (Campagnolo). I think he was a janitor at the hospital at the time. His hair wasn't really long like mine either and he was a little overweight. One night we picked him up and he came bumbling out of the house towards the van and I was thinking to myself, 'what have I got myself into? These don't look like typical guys that I had hung out with in Kingston who were musicians.”
My reply: “Honestly...doesn’t this sound like poser shit to you? First of all he makes Mike sound like a reject...which he most certainly is not! Everything is about what we looked like...like he’s so fucking hot! Fuck off. Your hair is brown...you bleached it blonde with that Sun In crap that we always saw you using. I’m not judging...my point is...THIS SHIT IS IRRELEVANT. I suppose in his view we’d have been better off if we looked super over- the-top heavy but played shit music.”
Stace said: “And they wanted me to come back and do some gigs at Montreal's Palladium and Toronto's Masonic Temple (Concert Hall). I told them I wasn't promoting that album. I think that annoyed Dave and he never called me again. And I'm talking over 20 years. And honestly, I wasn't abashed by it, it didn't bother me a bit. I don't think any of us at that point were good friends anymore. It was more of a business and it wasn't fun anymore.”
My reply: “This is wrong. He did play at the Concert hall in March of 1988 at the Toronto Metal Massacre I. He never refused to play a single gig ever. I’m not sure how his brain concocted this. Drugs are a dangerous thing kids. He also says we weren’t good friends anymore, but earlier he said we were never friends. ??”
Stace said: "Anyway, so he sends me a copy of the magazine and I had said a few unpleasant things and Dave's side of the story was nasty too, but it was a lot of bullshit and a lot of lies. Laurent was doing this thing on retro thrash metal and we were the cover story. He didn't explain any of that to me.”
My reply: “Nope. I disagree. I stand by anything I said (in the Snakepit magazine article a few years back) and I don’t think it was nasty at all. . I don’t bullshit or lie where Razor is concerned. Have I ever told a lie in my life? Well if I said no...you’d know for sure I was a liar. Everyone lies. But the key thing is how often and what are you lying about? Betrayal is a form of lying that I find extremely low and I do not do it. I don’t sell people out unless they stab me in the back. I have from time to time gone out of my way to NOT say certain things in order to protect the band’s image, but that is not lying.”
Stace said: “I was actually really pissed off.. And I understand, but I was kind of insulted. I think in all truth, it was Dave that was holding us back because of is business decisions and I was really thrown by that.”
My reply: “I’m not sure what decisions he means. Probably that I insisted on managing the band etc. I’ve already explained that this was not the case. As far as holding the band back, I think that the decline in quality from Evil Invaders to Custom Killing had more than anything to do with it. Yes we needed more gigs, management etc. But the music was also in need of improvement at that point (1987).”
Stace said: "Dude, I haven't had a royalty cheque or publishing cheque in 15 years.”
My reply: “If Stace contacts Peer Music, they will have publishing money in trust for him. I found this out 10 years after Unidisc took over Attic’s back catalog. And I told him this on the phone, but I guess he prefers not doing anything about it and blaming me for it publicly. His publishing money (or his royalties) have never been my responsibility.”
Stace said: “That shit was paid off a long time ago. Like why am I not seeing any money? But like I say, I'm fine financially, it's not like I need it. But this is one of the things that eats at the back of your head. Like one of those things where I don't think I trust him knowing that he was in charge of the Fist Fight Records shit.”
My reply: “This really bugs me. He was paid a flat rate fee to perform on Violent Restitution and on Custom Killing. He was offered the choice of a royalty or a one time payment (which was substantially more than we usually ever saw in royalties). In both cases he wanted the money up front and he got it. He has been paid for his work on those releases based on choices he made. If he had opted for the royalties, he would have made less because he would not have received any money at all until all recording costs were recouped. We all (Adam, Rob and I) took the same option as he did, by the way. Now, with respect to Unidisc: they took over Attic’s back catalog, unbeknownst to me or anyone else in Razor, way back around 2000 or so. They released our albums on CD and never paid us a dime. After 6 years, I made an effort to try and connect with them and they ignored me for 3 more years until Mike Campagnolo and I got a lawyer involved. We tried to mediate a resolution with them. We actually just wanted to take back our masters. We had a clause in our agreement with Attic that clearly stated that the agreement was terminated in the event of a bankruptcy, but for some reason Unidisc got our masters without our consent and would not relinquish them. We ended up incurring a great amount of legal bills (Mike and I) and our lawyer eventually got some money from Unidisc, but it wasn’t even enough to cover our expenses. We lost a bunch of money on it and were told that we did have a case against them, but it would cost a lot more to sue them and there was no guarantee of forcing them to turn over the masters. So at this time, we have decided not to press ahead with that. We are receiving royalty cheques in the neighbourhood of $150.00 every six months from them. There is no doubt that these are inaccurate and well below what we are supposed to be receiving but without a lawsuit, that is all we will be getting. We are trying to cover our past legal costs. Once we do, we would gladly share what’s left with all 4 Razor members, even though Mike and I have done all the work, as usual. To this day, I still have no idea how a Canadian bankruptcy court proceeding can justify giving our masters away without our consent when our contract clearly stated that the agreement was terminated. I think it is super fucked up. If I had the time and the money, I would sue just on principle even if I lost. Now on the other hand, Stace just does interviews and accuses me of stealing from him. If we had done the reunion and it went ok, I was considering doing a re-record of the original albums with the original line up, just to have a product out there that would compete with Unidisc (and one that we could release in foreign territories too...Unidisc won’t do this). That would have been great for Mike Embro, who was drumming better than he did back in the original days. He wanted a chance to show everyone how good he was. He was working very hard for this reunion. I feel bad for him. He is a great guy. I love him.”
Stace said: "You know, that video was so cheesily done too. Attic Records wouldn't spend a dime.”
My reply: “Attic Records did us a favour by making the video. They did not have to under our contract. The truth was that Attic was very reluctant to invest money in us for two reasons. The first is that they didn’t really understand the thrash metal scene and I think they thought it was a fad. The second reason had a lot to do with money they lost on Anvil. They claimed to have put a lot of money into Anvil and it did not pay off for them. Since Razor was also a very heavy band, they kept using the Anvil example with us when it came to recording budget etc. Unfortunately for us, we didn’t realize we weren’t going to get more support until after we signed with them. They were a good label and could have done a lot for us, but they were too busy with Lee Aaron. They saw her as some kind of meal ticket, while we were just a band that played underground metal. But I don’t think they were trying to be cheap on the video. After all, as far as I know it was the very first thrash video produced anywhere.”
Stace said: “We were an experiment to Attic Records, but we were released on the Viper Records division. They didn't want to stamp it on their label right.”
My reply: They wanted an all metal division for their label, so they created Viper. It wasn’t because they were embarrassed to have us on the Attic label. They put us on the Metal For Lunch compilation which was on Attic.”
Stace said: “Al Mair (the President) we didn't really talk to too much. It was Lindsay Gillespie who I hear had his own record company in Toronto when he and Attic split. But Lindsay Gillespie was a really smug, Porsche-driving yuppie who knew nothing about what we were doing. I remember when they were putting out Evil Invaders, they had unveiled a couple of ideas for album covers and the one that had of me with the metal face on the bike. It sounds funny, but I didn't even want the song 'Evil Invaders' on the album. We recorded 16 songs and that song did nothing for me."
My reply: “He remembers wrong. We did not record 16 songs for Evil Invaders. Everything we recorded was put on the album. He is confused. Executioner’s Song was selected from 18 songs (not 16), the seven songs from Armed and Dangerous and the 11 songs from our follow up “Escape The Fire” (recorded December 1984 as the probable follow up to Armed and Dangerous). I had many meetings with Al Mair and he was doing as much as he could to help us as far as I was concerned. The same goes for Lindsey Gillespie. I liked them both. They believed in the band. I wish they hadn’t kept using the Anvil example with us to deny us more support, but it was not their fault that we could not get management. They tried to help us. It was just unbelievable how narrow minded the Canadian scene was at that time.”
Stace said: "Campagnolo wrote the lyrics to that song and to this day I don't even know what that song is fucking about.”
My reply: “Well how about reading them Stace! The song is about....wait for it.....Evil Invaders! That would be aliens attacking Earth! Duh!”
Stace said: “Like how many songs did we have that had the name death in it? To me that's not what I wanted. I didn't want to be all negative and dark.”
My reply: “Yes we have songs with the words ‘death’ in it. What would you have preferred….’pottery?.....flowers?........strolling through the park one day?......”
Stace said: “I didn't care how fast they wanted to play. I wanted to make it fun. But they were all on this evil kick, which was frustrating to me. I wanted it to be something different. You've got to remember something, when my generation grew up, we didn't have that kind of music to influence us. Being a guitar player, I was a huge Eddie Van Halen fan, a massive Led Zeppelin fan. Robert Plant influenced my own song-writing, not my metal song-writing. I've written a lot of music on my 12-string and acoustic guitar. Lyrically he was my hero. I loved David Lee Roth as a frontman. And I was into Southern rock too big time like Molly Hatchet. So I went from that vein to jumping into this.”
My reply: “Stace is the same age as we are. I grew up listening to KISS, AC/DC, Black Sabbath, Rush, Judas Priest, Ted Nugent and Aerosmith among others. And I was in other bands before Razor that had more of that type of sound. But Razor was a part of the emerging thrash movement. My influences at the time were Motörhead and Raven (who Stace says he hates....which solidifies my view that he doesn’t know good metal when he hears it ... early Raven is incredible!). It sounds to me like he shouldn’t have joined Razor if this was so frustrating for him. He obviously would have achieved way greater recognition and fame in another band (if they could tolerate his ego). Let this be my public apology. Stace, I am really sorry I did so much to hold you back. Fuck, I really am a miserable fuck up, aren’t I? And I would love to see you write and record something to prove to the world that being in Razor fucked you over.”
Stace said: “I knew that Custom Killing wasn't going to do well. I didn't like the production of the album, I thought it was very weak. I don't think there was enough guitar in the mix. But again, I didn't have nothing to do with that. Keep in mind my age at the time, my naivety of the situation. Letting Dave take more and more control instead of fighting back. I was a stoner that fucking went in and did my job and hung out and got laid and waited for money and gigs. And I let him take charge, and I think everyone kinda did 'cause back then he was such a boisterous fuck. Now I’m a completely different guy, and I’ve had words with him about that.”
My reply: “Custom Killing was Stace’s album. He wanted it done that way. He spent more time in the studio than anyone working with the producer (Terry Marostega) to get what he wanted specifically. Yes, I wrote the music to that album, and I do not hate the music at all. But I was not overly involved in the production end of that album, Stace was. Violent Restitution was the album where I took full charge. Stace looked at that album (Custom Killing) as a showcase of his true abilities. I looked at it as a failed experiment.”
Stace said: “When we did Custom Killing, I loved some of the album. A 'Stand Before Kings' was one of the songs that he wrote and let me write lyrics to the music. There’s a part in that song that I actually sing for about 30 seconds, not just howl and scream and shit. And that’s the thing that we wanted to do just a little bit different. Maybe a lot of people didn’t like it, but for us - especially Mike Campagnolo, because there was a lot of openness for him to play his bass, rather than just single string it all the time. Dave with was the one writing these long songs and for me I never wanted to do them live ‘cause I was a bit of a party guy and they were hard to remember.”
My reply: “I offer this as an example of Stace’s memory issues: Stand Before Kings isn’t even on Custom Killing...it’s on Malicious Intent. And as I said, yes I wrote the long songs, but I was trying to appease Stace. This is what he wanted. He loved working with me on ‘Last Rites’ (maybe that’s the song he was talking about). I remember him going on about how amazing it was to be in the same room with me writing the song together. It was a definite attempt on my part to do it his way. As a general rule, I do not like long songs (much in the same way I do not like long guitar solos....I think they are boring and self- indulgent).”
Stace said: “I knew when we finished it that the fans wouldn’t like it (Custom Killing), but at the same time you were thinking that maybe it would draw us some new people. I don’t think it worked out like that, because everybody was wanting to hear the old Razor."
My reply: “So if everybody wanted the old Razor, why don’t we give it to them?”
Stace said (regarding the reunion): “I would also want to make sure that it was my choice of music. I would want to pick the song list because I wouldn’t want to go all the way there to not have fun.”
My reply: I think it should be about both the band members and the fans of the band. We should play the songs that people want to hear. There are many classics that Stace apparently doesn’t like. A reunion would have been about more than him.”
Stace said: “It was the same thing Dave was trying to pull with the original guys getting back together. He admitted to me that Rob (Carlo) had no idea what was going on and he would appreciate if we kept all this to ourselves. I said ‘you may want to talk to all the people that are trying to put this thing together.’"
My reply: “He’s talking about the reunion here. When we spoke on the phone about this I told him not to say anything to the media because I wanted to talk to the current band members first, so they didn’t read about it somewhere instead of hearing it directly from me. I had no intention of abandoning the current Razor. The reunion shows were a separate issue for me. So I was trying to do the right thing. Stace makes it sound like I was trying to be a weasel. I don’t know how he confuses this. He is paranoid. No wonder he’s so disgruntled if he doesn’t even know what anyone is really saying.”
Stace said: “I ended up talking to Dave for a long time on the phone. He seemed that he kind of mellowed. I don’t if it was because of his cancer. He’s losing his eyesight too. So I don’t know if this has humbled him, but he was actually very cordial on the phone and very polite. Very unlike any time I ever remember him before. I just assumed that they guy had grown up.”
My reply: “So Stace is accusing me of not being polite and not being humble. I am very confident in my abilities, no doubt. But I am not an arrogant, unapproachable asshole. I am always polite to everybody I meet unless they are an asshole to me first. I ask everyone who knows me.....come forward.....if you have met me anywhere....have I ever been an asshole to you????? I hate people like that...that’s how I know I am not one of them!!!”
Stace said: “It just seemed that when I was available to go up there, one of them wasn’t available. We tried three of four times and just wasn’t happening. I think it was Dave that said, ‘for this year, let’s just forget about it.’ It wasn’t for lack of effort or interest, it was just timing.”
My reply: “We had two phone conversations. The first one came from Stace to me, about a month after my cancer treatments had begun. He said he had called because he heard about the cancer and wanted to wish me luck in my treatments. I told him that I appreciated him taking the time to make the call and we began to talk about the old days. He seemed interested in talking specifically about how he felt in 1988 and why he felt he had to leave the band. I told him that I think we have a difference of opinion on what happened, but that it wasn’t really important (because I didn’t see the need to bring up old history if it wasn’t pleasant for either of us). We then talked about maybe getting together just to jam some old songs together for fun. Unexpectedly he told me he would love to do a show with us again sometime. I told him I would also be willing to consider this but we would have to only play the material from the albums he sang on. Very surprisingly, he actually said that he would be willing to play any of the songs, including the material from Shotgun Justice and beyond. I would never have expected him (or wanted him for that matter) to do that, because I was still going to continue with Bob on the next album. I told Stace that if we got the original band together again, and it sounded good, we could not only play a few shows, but we should consider re-recording a bunch of the old songs so that we could compete with Unidisc (I explained the Unidisc situation to him). We ended the conversation on a very pleasant note. So pleasant in fact, that I was convinced it would be worth my while to rent a rehearsal hall with Mike Campagnolo and Mike Embro and work on a set of songs from the first 4 albums (Mike Embro did not play on Violent Restitution so we omitted that album). From November 2012 (once I was feeling better) until April of 2013, the three of us (Mike, Mike and I) practiced a few times a week to get ready for Stace. During that time Stace asked for all the songs to be sent to him (not just the ones we were going to play...ALL of them). We sent him all the songs (he later criticized me for doing this in his interview, even though it was his request). I asked him to come down in February. We were ready for him. He said he wasn’t ready yet and said he would come in March. March came and went and he couldn’t make it. Then April came and he finally agreed to come down on one day only. Unfortunately, Mike Embro had a commitment on that day so we never got together. After that, I was pissed off because I felt we were getting a runaround. I decided to put the reunion idea on hold until I saw some degree of real interest and commitment from Stace. We had spent a few grand in rent between the three of us, waiting for Stace, but he pretty much hung us out to dry as far as I am concerned. Actions speak louder than words, and the bottom line is he never showed up. Shortly after this, he called me and left a message. I returned his call and we talked more about music. I really did not enjoy that conversation at all. He kept me on the phone a lot longer than I wanted to be, and when I got off the phone I determined that I would probably never be able to handle being around him for too long. Maybe it was all that “confidence” that he suddenly got, but I found him really annoying.”
Stace said: “The song-writing I do now has absolutely nothing to do with heavy metal. It’s a lot mellower, a bit more intricate. I play a lot of flamenco guitar. I have done some recording, personal stuff. I’m not trying to sell it, it’s just for me.”
My reply: “Sounds just like what Razor fans want! You know what? He wanted to have this kind of thing incorporated into Razor too. For the record, I am a decent jazz pianist. That might fuck you up to hear that but it’s true. Do you hear my jazz influences in Razor? I wouldn’t think so. Will you hear me playing keyboards on a Razor album anytime soon? Only for a sound effect maybe.”
Conclusion: “I think I’ve said enough. This may sound a bit out there, but I really hope you do not finish this article thinking Stace and I are enemies. He might think so, but I do not. I have too many other things to think about in my life to get busy with hating on my former band members. I only felt the need to point out the truth and defend myself. I will still be able to listen to all the Razor albums that Stace is on, and to enjoy them just the same. I hope you can too! All the best.”
(Retro Razor photos courtesy of Razorband.com)