Back from the Edge: Razor’s Dave Carlo Reflects on Life’s Balance and Flux Ahead of the Band’s Return
Razor are no strangers to tragedy and triumph. While they sold out stadiums in Canada and Europe in the ’80s and Razor was known in many circles as the “Canadian Slayer,” they were largely ignored in the U.S. That is, until the internet came along and opened our eyes to a whole world of metal outside our borders.
And along for the ride during those the band’s ups and downs was guitarist Dave Carlo, whose own life was constantly in a state of flux. In the years since Razor released their last album, he’s battled stage two oral cancer, his daughter dealt with serious mental illness, and at the time of our conversation, his wife was in hospice sadly losing her own fight with cancer.
But just as the light shines off a well-honed blade, there’s an even brighter side to Carlo’s struggles. After 25 years since their last studio release, Razor is set to release a new album titled Cycle of Contempt via Relapse on September 23.
And while it was hard at times to press on with questions about music and touring while he was dealing with such heavy stuff, Carlo smiled warmly and said he needed to do something to take his mind off it all. And thus, much like life, the following conversation flowed through the good and the bad, the funny and the sad, the bleak and the hopeful.
So the obvious elephant in the room is how long it’s been since the band made new music. What made you decide to make a new record now, and what did that process look like?
Basically what happened was, in the 2000s when high-speed internet came to be, people started having access to download music from all over the world and started discovering the band — a lot of young people started discovering us. Over the last 20 years, there’s just been a gradual increase in popularity, and around 2010, it got to the point where we were getting offers good enough that we couldn’t ignore them anymore.
We started performing more regularly, and by 2015, it became clear that this was getting bigger, not smaller, and it wasn’t going to be a fad. It’s here to stay, and the internet is bringing new fans all the time. There were a lot of people asking for it, so we just decided to go ahead and do it.
What was the writing and recording process like after so much time had gone by?
I did it the way we typically did. In 2018, we had just come back from some show in Japan, and we had a little break and took six weeks to do the music. Then we were trying to find a window to record, and we had too many commitments that interfered with that. But, since we didn’t have a commitment to any particular label at the time, we just waited. It turns out that at the beginning of the pandemic, we were ready to do it.
We didn’t have the lyrics written yet. So the pandemic gave us a chance to definitely get that sorted out and then we still had to wait for about a year. it was really bad, we couldn’t even see our friends. So during that time, we wrote our lyrics. And then we got together and we started getting the recording stuff.
You’ve personally gone through a lot as a cancer survivor and mental health advocate for your daughter. How are you holding up?
I got cancer in 2012. At that time, my kids were around 10, 12, years old, and I had to fight through that for about a year and a half with my treatments. They removed 20% of my tongue because it was oral cancer. You wouldn’t know that to hear me talk today, but it did slow me down. At the time, they told me it was going to affect my speech, but somehow I managed to get get away with not having that happen. And then they got my neck open; they took 27 lymph nodes out of my neck, too.
So I have no feeling on one side of my neck. if somebody decides to deck me or something, and they hit me there, I would just stand there and look tough and wouldn’t even wouldn’t flinch. (laughs) So maybe I can get a second career as a stunt double in an action movie.
I came out of it and have been cancer free now for 10 years. But unfortunately, at the beginning of the pandemic, just two months in, my wife got cancer. She’s been fighting that for two-and-a-half years now. Unfortunately, we’ve thrown everything we can at it at the Mayo Clinic and home; we had a fundraiser going to help help cover the costs. I wanted the best people looking after her. She’s the glue that holds my family together. She’s so important to my kids, but it hasn’t gone the right way. Just yesterday, she ended up going into hospice.
I don’t know how much longer she’s gonna be here. I hope as long as possible, as long as she’s comfortable. I don’t want to see her suffer. But that’s where we’re at.
Thank you for sharing that, and I’m so sorry that you’re going through that during a time when you’re trying to be excited about this record.
There have been great highs and terrible lows in my life. There’s no equilibrium! But it’s so important to be able to come and talk to people like you about this because it’s good for me mentally to get a break from the stress. It’s nice to have something exciting to talk about, and I want to keep the focus as much as possible on the new record.
Absolutely. Well we’re all really excited to see you back out there and touring, especially here in the U.S.
Where are you located?
I’m in Denver.
We would love to come to Denver! The main thing that comes to mind when I’m thinking of Colorado is South Park, of course. I was actually just thinking about the way they draw Canadians, and thinking about making something with us drawn and animated like how they draw the Canadians.
That would be hilarious, you absolutely should. And speaking of future plans, I know it’s a little early, but do you have any plans to make a future album, or is that not on your radar yet?
Yes, we will likely make another one. Will we make it immediately? No. There won’t be one, like, every year like in the old days. You’ll probably see it eventually, though, maybe every two-and-a-half years now.
Razor’s Circle of Contempt is slated for release on September 23, but is currently available for preorder via Relapse.