by Sal Serio
I interviewed singer TK Xanax of Oshkosh metal band Razor Fist, who formed in 2005. TK’s compatriots in metal mayhem are guitarist Nick Moyle, drummer Dave Patterson, and bassist TJ Lafever.
Maximum Ink: What is the band member breakdown of the groups you guys were previously in?
TK Xanax: Well, first off we’ll start with the Razor Fist line-up which consists of Nick Moyle-Guitar/Backing vocals, TJ Lafever-Bass guitar, Dave Patterson-Drums, and TK Xanax-Vocals. Over the years TJ and Xanax were in Hill Of The Dead, Nick and Dave in Hell On Earth, Nick, Dave, and TJ in Tower Of Babel, Dave and Xanax were in THC (Total Hardcore), and Dave is currently in Bag Of Gremlins (Xanax was also briefly in BOG). So basically Razor Fist has quite an incestuous past with all of us having played in various bands together since the mid-90’s. For this reason Razor Fist formed easily and extremely quickly in 2005 and we had our first album “Razor Fist Force” recorded less than a year later. From the first rehearsal we all knew that we had something special with Razor Fist.
MI: Online you mention a ton of bands that inspire you, but are there any specific bands that directly influence Razor Fist?
TK: It’s so difficult speaking about our specific influences being that we’re all record collectors and have gotten into so many bands. I guess the roots of Razor Fist are the bands we all listened to as kids, groups like Motorhead, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Accept, Mercyful Fate, punk groups like Black Flag, Negative Approach, MDC, and classic 70’s hard rock groups like Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Rainbow, UFO, Thin Lizzy, etc. Bottom line, we all grew up as metalheads who loved hardcore punk. Our influences are just too numerous which may be why the Razor Fist sound is such a dynamic distillation of heavy metal and punk rock and doesn’t sound like any particular band from the past. We tend to feel our sound is quite unique and this opinion has been backed up by so many reviews of the two albums.
MI: How was the 80s hardcore punk scene influential to Razor Fist?
TK: The in your face, love it or leave it attitude of Razor Fist was directly influenced by our love of 80s hardcore. We also most certainly all grew up with the DIY ethic ingrained into our brains. Unfortunately, sometimes the fact that Razor Fist functions more like a hardcore punk group (in regards to our refusal to suck up to promoters, pay to play, or beg record labels for favors) has interfered with our ability to function at maximum efficiency in today’s heavy metal scene, especially regarding the “big” metal labels (we won’t mention any names). Although, luckily due to a resurgence of interest in underground 80s styled thrash metal groups, we’ve been able to maintain our musical integrity and still find a record label to support us. We will always be indebted to the 80’s hardcore ethic despite the fact that musically Razor Fist resides slightly more in the world of heavy metal.
MI: You’re now on the German Pure Steel CD label and your CDs sell well in Europe - how did you get the overseas connection? Do you have plans of touring over there? Do you think your style of metal is more appreciated in Europe?
TK: Basically, we ended up signing with Pure Steel Records in Germany without even really trying. Our first album “Razor Fist Force” (a first pressing of 1100 CDs was released on a local Wisconsin label in 2006) was purchased by several really cool German metalheads who spread the word about Razor Fist via word of mouth and the internet. After negotiating with an American label and Pure Steel in Germany we decided that because Razor Fist has a far stronger fan base in Europe, Pure Steel Records would be the better of the two. So far our instincts seem to have been proved correct. The sales of our second album “Metal Minds” (released in Aug. 2009 on CD by Pure Steel and on LP by High Roller Records-who are also releasing “Razor Fist Force” on LP in Feb. 2010) have been stronger generally in Europe, especially Germany, Italy, and Spain. Although, there has also been quite an interest in Razor Fist in South America(which since the 80s has had a small but rabid collection of thrash metal scenes). Currently it’s safe to say that overall Razor Fist is more appreciated in Europe, however we appreciate all of the great fans we have in the USA! We currently are concentrating more on rehearsing for the third album than touring the US as a whole, but we plan on doing some touring in Europe and possibly a full US tour especially once the new album is released in 2011.
MI: Do you feel that being based out of the Fox Valley, or Wisconsin in general, presents any limitations for your aspirations as a band?
TK: Certainly it’s always been a little more difficult to operate out of the Fox Valley due to the smaller size of the local metal/punk scene. However, there are so many people who have worked their asses off for years trying to put on shows in the Fox Valley and so having grown as musicians and played in our earliest bands here in the Fox Valley(as well as Green Bay and Milwaukee and Madison) we have great respect for those who participate in the Fox Valley underground scene(and throughout Wisconsin). Razor Fist will always be a band from Wisconsin and proud of it, even if the majority of our fans reside in Europe.
MI: Online it states that your first EP Rage Of The Black Blade is “best listened to when wrecked on hard drugs” and your 1st full length CD Razor Fist Force has a song titled “Sex Drugs And Metal”. Do you guys really advocate drug use, or is that all tongue in cheek?
TK: We don’t advocate drug use, we advocate the freedom to use drugs. We’re not gonna lie and say the drug references are totally tongue in cheek because they aren’t. We find the idea of people having a good time (with or without drugs) quite appealing. We also find the “War On Drugs” quite appalling. The “War On Drugs” is nothing but a war against individual freedom. It’s quite ironic that by-far the most dangerous drug of all, alcohol, is celebrated and legal and that drug laws are primarily made and enforced by individuals with virtually no knowledge concerning the psychoactive substances they are trying to suppress. In the end, human society is built on the actions of the individual. Complex matters such as altering one’s consciousness are matters which should be determined BY each individual, not the state. Just remember, in the late-19th century one could purchase both heroin and cocaine without a prescription. Certainly there were issues concerning addiction, however, society did not collapse and there was no need then for the number of prisons built today due to the need to house drug “offenders”. Just like the prohibition of alcohol in the 1920’s, the “War On Drugs” is responsible for much of the crime it is supposedly intended to prevent. Please people, learn from history! Prohibition does not work! We’re for total drug legalization. We’re also for intensive drug education. Razor Fist has no fundamental problem with responsible drug use. At the same time we’re not gonna shove anything down anyone’s throat…except our opinions. Thankfully the best drug of all, music, is still legal. For now.
MI: What are some of the best gigs you’ve done, and why?
TK: Without a doubt the highlight of playing so far in Razor Fist has been getting to play with Trouble, a band we consider to truly be one of the greatest metal bands of all time. Nothing is greater than getting to play with a band that you’ve loved for years! We’ve also had some great gigs with other popular underground thrash metal acts such as Warbringer, Skeleton Witch, Tortured Soul and Vindicator. Although, some of the most fun gigs have been smaller local gigs where we played in front of 30 people, so each show is its own little adventure and you never really can tell which show is gonna be great. For Razor Fist really no show is a bad show because we simply love to play.
MI: You’re music is pretty fast speed metal. Where do you go from here? As the band develops and matures it would seem you’d have to introduce slower tempos and more diversified arrangements. Do you agree?
TK: Yes, Razor Fist plays some fast speed metal, although even on the first two albums(“Razor Fist Force” and “Metal Minds”) there really is quite a diversity of tempo. Sometimes we feel at first listeners think we’re faster than we really are and as they get to know the songs they realize just how dynamic the material is. There will always be speed in Razor Fist, there’s no compromise when it comes to that. We are constantly trying however, to improve our arrangements and find ways to write catchy material. With the material for the next album we have really sought to provide powerful hooks in each song so that they are memorable and most important, like the best 80s metal, FUN to listen to! Sometimes it seems like the fact that (unlike much modern metal) we strive for catchy choruses and anthem/chant styled vocal arrangements is a liability. Some people just don’t get Razor Fist, but we’re not gonna pander.
MI: What’s next for the band in 2010?
TK: Pretty simple, 2010 is all about getting the third album recorded which we hope to do during the summer months and ready for release by 2011. The new batch of songs is the strongest material we’ve written yet and we’re quite confident that it will substantially increase our following. The songs are super-catchy, fun yet aggressive and filled with Razor Fist attitude. We also hope to continue to fit in shows throughout the year and get ready for some full-blown touring. Slowly but surely the Razor Fist Force is growing. Check us out and we’ll grow on you!
CD: Metal Minds Record Label: Pure Speed
• Purchase Metal Minds on Amazon