Here Comes A Real Headbanger

Bill Mossman
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November 30, 2011
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Guitarist Carlos Cavazo first burst on the heavy metal scene with Quiet Riot in the 1980s. Photo courtesy of Carlos Cavazo

Eager for a little vacation time in Hawaii, heavy metal axeman Carlos Cavazo returns to the Islands ready to trade riffs with local band Big Dawg for one riotous evening

It was the early 1980s and guitarist Carlos Cavazo, the newest member of a largely unknown West Coast heavy metal act named Quiet Riot, was having a difficult time wrapping his head around the suggested lyrics for one of his song’s choruses.

“Bang your what?” Cavazo remembers asking.

“Bang your head,” answered the band’s stentorian singer and lyricist Kevin DuBrow. “Randy (Rhoads, Quiet Riot’s former guitarist) was just on the phone telling me about his tour in Europe with Ozzy Osbourne and how all these kids are banging their heads at concerts. So, I’m writing the line ‘bang your head’ into the song.”

Are you crazy? the axeman recalls thinking. “No way!” said a defiant Cavazo.

Fortunately, DuBrow had the final say in the matter and the line turned out to be just the kind of shot-in-thearm absurd statement one of Cavazo’s compositions needed to rescue it from the scrap metal heap and catapult it into the timeless metal anthem realm. Released as Metal Health (Bang Your Head), the song not only wound up helping Quiet Riot sell millions of albums and ultimately land a spot on VH1’s 40 Greatest Metal Songs’ list, but it also was at least partly responsible for popularizing the role of headbanging in rock music.


“Shows you how much I knew,” says a now-content Cavazo, laughing. “Bang Your Head ended up being a career song.”

It’s a career that continues to grow for the Mexico City-born axeman known for his lightning-fast solos and memorable riffs. While his time with Quiet Riot came to an end in the early 2000s, Cavazo has since kept busy as both a solo musician and multi-band member. He currently occupies one of two guitarist spots in Ratt, another big rock outfit from the ‘80s, and also has performed in the supergroup 3 Legged Dogg, a group he founded with rock veterans Vinny Appice, Jimmy Bain and Chas West.

But more importantly for kamaaina, he’s getting ready to play a one-night-only show with local rock band Big Dawg this Saturday at Hawaiian Brian’s. The performance begins at 8 and costs just $10 if a toy is brought to the show for Sunday’s Biker Toy Run. Presale tickets can be purchased at groovetickets.com.

Cavazo views this weekend’s gig as a great way “to give back and help those in need,” while also fulfilling a promise made to Big Dawg frontman Brett Wolfington-Floodman.

“I recently ran into Brett in Las Vegas, where I was sitting in with the band Sin City Sinners, and Brett told me what he was doing in Hawaii. He asked if I would consider coming out and playing with his band and I said heck, yeah!” Cavazo tells me. “I didn’t care if I made any money; I thought it would be great to just come out to Hawaii and make a little vacation out of it.”

Days before his Hawaii performance, Cavazo talked in greater detail to Musical Notes about what has thus far been a riot of a career as a professional rock musician.

MN: Looking back at your time with Quiet Riot, what do you make of the band’s success?

CC: We were in the right place at the right time. It definitely was a lot of luck. Being successful in the music industry is basically like winning the lottery because there are a lot of talented people out there who may never make it because they don’t have the right luck or opportunity. But I say we were lucky because we were basically doing the same thing we were doing at clubs. It’s just that we had a couple of big hits and all of a sudden we’re enjoying huge success.

MN: Exactly how did that catchy riff in Metal Health come to be?


CC: It was actually something that my brother, Tony, came up with while we were in another band, Snow. I then took the basic riff, added to it and we’d play a version of the song at our gigs. When I joined Quiet Riot in 1982, Kevin remembered hearing the song at our gigs and liking it. We ended up rewriting the lyrics and music, and luckily the song became a hit. Honestly, I didn’t see that coming.

MN: Speaking of Snow, a little bird told me a reunion is in order. Is this bird singing a correct tune?

CC: Yes. We’re actually doing a reunion gig in Hollywood Dec. 10. Everyone from the original band is back except for the singer, who’s having health problems. We haven’t played together since releasing our EP (in 1980). But we’re going to get together for one night and make the best of it.

MN:You joined Ratt a few years ago and contributed several songs to the group’s last album, Infestation. What’s the band up to these days?

CC: We’re on hiatus right now. I think everyone was a little tired of working and wanted to get away from everything for a while. But we’ve been talking about getting back into the studio after the New Year and working on a new album.

MN: Is this the career you’ve always wanted? And are you glad you made it out of the ‘80s unscathed?

CC: Actually, I thought of becoming an electrician when I was in high school. But I’m glad it worked out this way. I started playing gigs at age 17 and since then, everything I do is centered around the guitar. The ‘80s were a fun time, but it was also a crazy period as well. There was a lot of drug abuse and alcoholism. Fortunately, I survived it all. Unfortunately, some of my friends didn’t.

MN: You enjoy playing many types of music rock, of course, but also classical and country. Are there any other artists you’d like to do work with?

CC: David Lee Roth and David Coverdale are two that immediately come to mind. But I’d also love to work with the Gypsy Kings. I love their stuff.


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