|N. SHUMATE, OUT OF THE BLUE
COVER STORY, VOTED BY YOU
Preparing at a local coffee shop I glance up and see rhythm guitarist Mark Nye, drummer Matt Mees, and bassist Tommy T-
Bone Caradonna. After making introductions and grabbing a cup of joe, lead vocalist Randy Kuszmaul enters and pulls up a
chair. Drake Tulloh, lead guitarist, unfortunately had prior work engagements.
Before me now sits Central Ohio’s Razorbliss.
Razorbliss’s metaphorical pop culture rhetoric with sarcastic, sinister nocturnal grooves conjoin Motown and Spector’s Wall
of Sound for a magnum opus of intellectual, caliginous theater.
Birth. Although the band’s influence as a whole combines Rob Zombie, Nine Inch Nails, Marilyn Manson, and some Jesus and
Mary Chain, individual childhood music influences contributed to the structure of this ascension.
“For me it was the Beatles,” says Mees, “I have an older sister whose ten years older than me, and her record collection was
key for me.” He also cites early Grand Funk, specifically Don Brewer’s drum solo on 1970’s Live Album, which proved
pivotal for Mees’ drumming career. “I was about 8 or 9 years old when that came out and I started playing drums shortly
after when I was 9,” says Mees.
Nye pulls primary influences from his dad’s music collection. “A lot of the guess Who, a little bit of Rush and Uriah Heap, and
definitely the [Rolling] Stones. I remember my first show. My dad got really good tickets to the Stones, it was like
seventeenth row, Three Rivers Stadium, and I was twelve-years-old. That definitely made we want to play guitar,” says Nye.
One of the younger member’s of Razorbliss is Kuszmaul who credits Chicago alt-rockers Smashing Pumpkins. “The majority
of being a kid I really wasn’t allowed to listen to rock-and-roll,” smiles Kuszmaul, “my mom seriously thought that it would
poison my mind…and sure enough it has! When I was thirteen a friend of mine let me borrow Mellon Collie and the Infinite
Sadness, and I was like, ‘I want to be like that.’” Kuszmaul says Billy Corgan’s vocals stood out and he thought “that’s very
much what a rock singer is supposed to sound like.”
Caradonna praises the radio as his greatest influence. “There’s a lot of things, but I’d have to say for me the biggest influence
in music was the radio, and all that comes with it.” Mees adds, “Like some of the 70’s singer/songerwriter stuff, some of
those guys had some really good music. You go back and listen to stuff like the Carpenters, they were just writing really great
songs. It’s all about the songs.”
Pre-Razorbliss. The members of Razorbliss each have extensive backgrounds that is revealed on stage.
Kuszmaul got his start in elementary school as part of a choral group. “After that, in middle school, I went to various
competitions and found out I was actually quite good at singing. And it went into high school as well and I found out that I
could scream and sing at the same time. It was basically me sitting in my car trying to sing along with Nirvana, Nine Inch
Nails or Smashing Pumpkins. It involved a lot of coughing at first, but after a while I found that I could hold notes for a very
long time and scream them in pitch… without as much coughing!”
Mees grew up in a household surrounded by music. “My mom was an opera singer, so I started off doing piano. I have it on
both sides—I’m classically trained, but drums are my thing. I didn’t take any drum lessons until I was in college. I actually
left college three years into it because they had me on a different road map, and I was doing my own thing.”
Despite a lacking generational interest in music, Nye started with brass instruments at the age of nine. “I progressed into guitar
when I was a teenager which lead to bass, which put me through college, and now I’m back to guitar. I had teachers when I
played brass as a kid, I had a guitar teacher when I was a teenager, and in my early 20s I found this really cool bass instructor
named Wayne Spike who played with the Delphonics, the Ohio Players.”
Caradonna turned to music in hopes of escaping monotony. “I was extremely bored as kid—we had basic farmland in front of
our house and behind us, but I always had a love for music. I had a neighbor that was playing and he kind of showed me a
few chords. I took lessons from a guy down the street for a few months, but he was having me playing songs that I didn’t
really like. Then I lost interest, and later I started taking music lessons at a music store for a month or two, then I pretty much
taught myself. I moved out to Los Angeles to go to GIT (Guitar Institute of Technology). I was a really good student at first,
then after a while I was like, ‘this is boring me.’ The class I went to, we had great musicians, Paul Gilbert and Jeff Buckley
were students. I was good friends with Jeff; we both lived in the same apartment complex. Then I started getting real gigs,
and here I am now.”
Razorbliss. The origin of Razorbliss was conceived by bassist Caradonna. First as a one man band without a name in mind,
just direction, music and passion.
“We started with the songs I already had, and I went into the studio and basically had half a record done. Then when I moved
to Columbus I was looking for some singers and put out some ads, and hell Randy walked into my world glowing. All these
guys came in with nice produced CDs, and Randy comes in with his cassette tape singing acapella! He was great, I knew
right away he was what I was looking for,” says Caradonna.
The duo shared the same vision and went into the studio to begin tracking. Caradonna continues, “We tracked half of Comedy
of Errors, then we went to find musicians and I knew Matt, and I knew he had a stinky beat; it was real you know, it wasn’t
some lame drummer throwing garbage cans down some steps. Then we auditioned guitarists and it was like pulling teeth for
me and Randy.”
Thus, the band name emerged from the countless studio tryout sessions. “I was sitting there going, you know I want to
(motions slitting wrist), you know, I got tired of it,” says Caradonna, “We had ideas for a band name before that, but the band
wasn’t built about a name.” Kuszmaul adds, “and ultimately, it ended up being a really fitting name.”
Mark Nye joined Razorbliss shortly after the departure of former guitarist Scott Cassan. Ney and Mees have worked together
for over five years in various projects. “Before joining this band I was really disenchanted with being in a rock band. I was
just ready to buy myself an upright bass and buy into rockabilly, the punk rocker retirement plan,” laughs Nye. “I remember
when he (Mees) told me about joining this band, and I heard the music and thought, ‘wow, these guys are writing some
seriously memorable songs.’ Its fist-pumping rock-and-roll without being all moopish, testosterone fueled aggressive rock, it’
s not that. It’s just stuff that you can remember.”
Music. Razorbliss isn’t solo filled, thrash metal. Razorbliss is danceable, edgy, straight forward rock.
Caradonna says, “People want something they can dance to, and that’s extremely, extremely important.” Mees adds, “every
note has importance, it’s not just some random ‘play some notes on a guitar,’ everything is pretty much aimed to get personal
gratification out of the success as a whole. It’s very precise.” Nye agrees, “it’s not an experimental thing. When a song was
crafted it was crafted a certain way for a certain reason. And that’s the way that it gets played.”
Caradonna and Kuszmaul write, but the main lyricist behind Razorbliss is Kuszmaul who composes songs that are personal to
him, yet relatable to any audience.
“A lot of the artistry in lyricism is how to express something that I’m feeling, but also trying to make sure that it could connect
to how others feel,” says Kuszmaul, “I sometimes glaze it with a sheet of vagueness just so people can interpret it however
they want. It’s an interesting way to say something without being cliché.”
An appealing aspect to a live Razorbliss set is the onslaught of uncontained energy that Kuszmaul spills onto the stage.
“In terms of whatever it is I’m doing, be it jumping around or whatever, I spend a lot of time watching every music video or
concert that I can get my hands on, and I study how movement and music mix up and how one affects the other. I’ve had
past theater experience before, just prior to doing Razorbliss, I was part of a shadow cast for Hedwig and The Angry Inch.
That actually provided a sort of prerequisite for being the lead singer of a band,” says Kuszmaul.
On the topic of Randy’s stage presence, Mees snickers: “I think once the music gets a hold of him he really doesn’t have the
ability to just stand their and sing. Might be a DNA flaw, I don’t really know.” Caradonna adds, “We’ve always been here to
entertain people, not ourselves.”
The band attracts a youthful audience that lines the stage front, while the adult fan base generally parks in the back, still
shouting and being just as enthusiastic as the front row admirers. “Our vision of the perfect mosh pit is hot chicks dancing, I
don’t want to see guys beating each other up all the time. I want to see attractive women wiggling around,” says Mees. “Of
course if they chose to beat each other up, that’d be awesome as well,” laughs Kuszmaul.
Chemistry. Sitting with the band it becomes clear that the experience, clever attributes and shared mindsets will carry the band
toward an auspicious future.
Mees explains the formula: “So many bands get wrapped up in being rock stars and being bad ass, wearing the right clothes
and everything. But, at the end of the day, if you can play a mile a minuet on whatever instrument you’re playing, that’s all
well and good, but if you don’t have a good song, nobody wants to hear it.” Kuszmaul adds, “It’s like a mystery novel where
someone dies on every page, but no one ever finds any clues.”
This band is fully mature and experienced, they realize egocentrism should not be a quality when performing. Mees says,
“You need consistency and to have the ability to put your ego on hold. A lot of guys feel if they can’t blow out Eddie Van
Halen licks or whatever they’re into, then they’re not really being all the guitar player they can be.” Nye adds, “ I have this
prevailing philosophy that in music, some of the most important notes of your entire life are the ones you don’t play.”
The Future. Turing on the radio and hearing “Love Me” or “Right Now” is one of the band’s goals. “Some bands pride
themselves on being underground,” says Mees, “I want to be so far above ground, I don’t even want to see the ground!”
With a recent trend of speed metal going mainstream, Kuszmaul is willing to wait it out. “I think it’s just going to take people
getting sick of that and wanting to go back to a time when bands did write songs that can stick in your head, things that can
be related to. I mean we pride ourselves on not being like anything else like emo, screamo or speed metal.”
Mees agrees and says it’s just another trend, one of many that have now been shelved. “Like in the 80’s, record companies
realized that hair was selling: ‘here’s Firehouse, here’s another band,’ they started doing the rubber stamp thing. Even though
the guys that are doing the thrash, cookie monster vocals think they’re separating themselves from the crowd, they don’t
realize that they now are also wearing uniforms. They all have a certain look, or they have a certain thing. Like we went
through the Flannel Age, and now we’re in the I don’t know, Thrash Age.” Nye adds, “[thrash music] is very impressive, the
guys are technically skilled, but at the end of the day you’re not going to go home thinking, wow, that was snappy.”
Caradonna says, “you can’t go home and serenade your girlfriend with that.”
Currently Razorbliss has written enough new material for “almost two albums” as a follow up to Comedy of Errors while
testing the new songs on live audiences.
The band engrosses audiences with their on stage spontaneous antics, grooveable beats, freakish styles and choruses that will
fail to escape your mind. As Mees says, “You go to see a show, you don’t go to hear band.”
As I shut my notebook I realized that throughout the interview the focus resided in the outlook of Razorbliss. There were no
symbols of boastful rock star attitude. No mention of Tommy’s touring days with Alice Cooper in 1989 and 1990, Matt’s past
as a member of Godz or Mark’s other bands The Filthy Habits and X-Rated Cowboys. Sure those things are prevalent, but the
fact remains, Razorbliss is an entity of its own.
For Upcoming Shows, Music, and “Razorbling,”
Randy "Razor" Kuszmaul
Tommy T-bone Caradonna
|©Copyright 2009-2010 Out Of The Blue.
All rights reserved.
Through their dedicated hard work and time, Razorbliss was voted for and won the final printed
"Battle For The Cover" planned to be released early in 2008. In fact, they were the first band to have enough
votes to not share the cover spot. Unfortunately, the final production of this final print issue never happend
due to financial constraints and the transition into the current online webzine in Jan. 2009.