An Interview with Tony Cavazo of Hurricane & SNOW

Header image courtesy of Tony Cavazo Facebook (official)

By Andrew DiCecco
adicecco@vinylwriter.com

Image credit: Craig Newman

In addition to seeing his contemporaries become household names and ascend the Billboard charts, Tony Cavazo also kept tabs on the influence his band SNOW had on the momentous hard rock wave that washed over the early 1980s.

SNOW, which also boasted Cavazo’s wunderkind brother Carlos on guitar, the uber-sprightly Stephen Quadros behind the kit, and the charismatic Doug Ellison fronting the quartet, had developed a loyal following among a thriving L.A. music scene, opening for the likes of Rick Derringer, Johnny Winter, and Starz.

Playing alongside such notable acts as Quiet Riot, The Boyz – which featured future Dokken guitarist George Lynch and drummer Mick Brown – Pretty Poison, White Sister, and Eulogy, SNOW was among the circuit’s most prominent acts despite never securing the elusive record deal.

Though SNOW disbanded at the same time Mötley Crüe, Ratt, and Quiet Riot achieved widespread success, Tony Cavazo weathered the proverbial storm long enough to ultimately see his dreams fulfilled later in the decade with the band Hurricane. The band’s sophomore album, Over the Edge (1988), produced by Appetite for Destruction knob-twiddler Mike Clink, peaked at No. 92 on the Billboard Top Pop Albums Chart. The album’s lone hit single, “I’m on to You,” steadily climbed the Billboard Mainstream Rock Tracks charts upon its release before ultimately stalling at No. 33.

During my conversation with Cavazo, we delved into the history of SNOW, as well as Hurricane’s past, present, and future.

Andrew:
I appreciate you taking the time, Tony. As a prelude to discussing Hurricane, I’d like to spend some time talking about SNOW, a band that was heavily influential within a thriving music scene. I know you and Carlos were in the band Speed of Light prior, but walk me through the genesis of SNOW, if you would.

Tony:
Well, back in the Speed of Light days, it was me, Carlos, and our drummer, Perri Strong. Me and Carlos did all the vocals. We were just playing high school functions, backyard parties, and things like that. Then our drummer left the band because he wanted to go to college. After that, Carlos and I decided to move to Newport Beach in California, from where we were living. So, we went there and we put a new band together; we found our singer, Doug Ellison, and we had another drummer, his name was Roger Singer. Then after a few years there, we decided to move up to L.A., because we figured that in L.A. we’d have better opportunities, which did work out for us. Our drummer did not wanna go to L.A., he didn’t wanna move there, so we went up there and that’s when we found Stephen Quadros. We found Stephen Quadros through an ad, and Carlos and a friend of ours, Stuart White, went to meet with him. And then he came down and jammed with us, and it was instant magic right there. We felt really comfortable with him, so he became our drummer.

We started playing small places like the Woodshed and things like that. Then we ended up going up to the Whisky and the Starwood and other places like that; a lot of clubs. The Golden Bear we played; you know, we did a lot of stuff. And we were opening up for bigger bands; I think we opened up for Ted Nugent one time and we opened up for Johnny Winter. You know, people like that, and we were just playing all over the L.A. area for a while. We never really toured, but we did play all over L.A. Every time we played, we always had a packed house.

Then we went into the studio to record our EP. That was a great experience recording that EP except for one thing; we almost had a tragic incident. Our truck was parked out in front of the studio, and it was on a busy street, and some drunk guy ran into the back of it. He must’ve been going about sixty miles an hour. He ran into the back of it, and it was just by chance that one of our techs that was with us, he was really tired and he was gonna go sleep in the back of the truck and he didn’t do that. He probably would have been killed if he would have done that, so we lucked out. But it was almost a tragedy that never happened. We were really lucky. The truck was totaled, and his car was laying upside down in the middle of the street. Either he fell asleep at the wheel, or he was drunk or something. I’m not sure.

We released that record, and eventually, that record became a collectible record. And it still is today; we still sell them online.

Andrew:
Before you switched to bass, you and Carlos both played guitar in Speed of Light. What influenced your decision to pivot to bass?

Tony:
Yeah. The story of how that goes is we had a bass player – I was playing guitar and Carlos was playing guitar and we were both singing – and our bass player went on a vacation with his family and he left his amp and his bass at the place we were practicing, at our drummer’s house. We looked at each other … “Who’s gonna play bass?” And Carlos goes, “I’m not playing bass.” And then our drummer says, “I can’t play bass.” “Well, I guess I’m voted to play bass!” So, I ended up playing bass and I fell in love with the instrument right away. Both the drummer and Carlos both said, “Man, the band sounds so much better with you playing bass.”“Okay, I’ll just continue doing it then.” So, that’s how that started. The bass kind of fell into my lap. You know, I wasn’t planning to do that, but that’s how it happened. And I fell in love with it. I love playing bass; it’s my joy in life right now.

Andrew:
How well did the band adapt to their new surroundings after moving to L.A.? What was the rehearsal facility like?

Tony:
Well, we moved into a house. It was a two-bedroom house and we had a big camper in our backyard. The backyard had a big, long driveway, and then there was an alley behind that, and there was a garage behind the alley. So, we converted the garage into a little rehearsal room. We put rugs and soundproofing all over the inside of it. We put some electrical wires in there so we could plug into our amps and stuff in there. It was perfect. Stephen Quadros lived in the camper, and then we converted our living room in the house into a bedroom for Doug. And Carlos and I each had the other second and third bedrooms. So, it worked out for us. The only common area that we had was the kitchen and the bathroom. I remember we took the door off of the bathroom and put it in Doug’s room so he could have some privacy. And we just put a curtain in front of the bathroom, so if we had to take a shower or use the bathroom, we’d just close the curtain. So, that’s how that worked. I’m sure that the owner of the house did not appreciate that, but that’s what we did. It worked. We lived in that situation for like four years.

Image courtesy of Tony Cavazo

Andrew:
What was the music scene like in L.A. around that time, when bands such as SNOW, The Boyz, London, and White Sister ruled the circuit?

Tony:
Well, the scene back then was really thriving. It was still new to a lot of people. Heavy metal was still kinda new in that area and people were excited about it. All the bands were great and they all had good followings. Our following was their following. So, people just wanted to come out and see bands play. And they would pay; they didn’t care. I remember one time we played at the Whisky and the line was all the way around the block from people wanting to come in and see our show. They had to kick everybody out after the first show, and then a whole new line formed for the second show because we were playing two shows a night. It was an incredible scene. That scene will never ever be recreated again; I really highly doubt that. The industry’s changed. Back then, it was exciting, it was new, it was unbelievable. I’m really, really glad that I was a big part of that. I really am. It was a fun time for all of us.

Andrew:
Did the band land a residency somewhere on that circuit?

Tony:
No. We had a standing gig at the Starwood and the Whisky once a month. So, we’re playing four gigs a month; two at the Whisky; two at the Starwood. And we would occasionally go play someplace else, like a private event or some of the other smaller venues around the area. The Troubadour we did before and the Golden Bear, and other places, like Orange County that we played. We kept our schedules pretty busy, so we were able to do that. We had our friend, Stuart White, who was our manager, and he was always booking the shows. He got us in there.

Andrew:
While there was an indubitable local buzz surrounding the band at the time, Tony, why do you think there was no significant interest from record labels?

Tony:
I think that there would have been if the band would have stayed together. I think what happened was Van Halen came out and Mötley Crüe and bands like that were all starting to make their noise. And Ratt was coming out there and making their noise. If SNOW would have stayed together during that time, we more than likely would have gotten a record deal. I think what happened was that Carlos and I were already thinking about disbanding SNOW, and forming a new band because Stephen Quadros had left the band, and Doug was wanting to do something else. We were all thinking about doing other things. We felt like it really wasn’t gonna go anywhere. But that’s about the same time that Kevin DuBrow called Carlos and wanted him to come in and record while Randy Rhoads was gone with Ozzy. Then, unfortunately, Randy was killed in a plane crash, and that opened up the door for Carlos to be the permanent guitar player for Quiet Riot. And I went into the studio and recorded several tracks with them as well. They called me in to do some tracks. I don’t know if they ever used my tracks on the album, it’s hard to tell, but right about then Rudy [Sarzo] came back because he could not handle playing in Ozzy without Randy. It was tough for him, so he wanted to come back to Quiet Riot. I bowed out, it was his gig, to begin with, so I said, “Sure if he wants to come back, that’s fine. I’ll find something else to do.” And that led to me meeting Robert Sarzo, and we formed our band, Hurricane.

Image courtesy of SNOW Facebook (official)

Andrew:
Being a primary songwriter, Tony, I must inquire about the origins of the popular SNOW song “No More Booze.” which later morphed into the “Metal Health” for Quiet Riot, which remains one of the more iconic rock anthems of all time.

Tony:
The song came about when we played a gig and we were done about one o’clock in the morning. We heard there was this big party going on somewhere, so we went to this party. We got there, and the booze was gone. The keg was empty, there was nothing left, and I was like, “Oh, what a drag! No more booze!” The next day, I go, “That might be a good song to write about.” So, I kind of did write it. The guys in the band really liked the idea, and that became one of SNOW’s main songs. We played it and everybody loved it; even Kevin DuBrow liked it. Then when we were talking about disbanding, Kevin called me one day, and he goes, “I wanna use ‘No More Booze’ on the album.” I go, “Well, that’s fine, you can use it on the album as long as I get a piece of the action.” He goes, “Yeah, of course! But what I wanna do is I wanna change to lyrical content and the melodies to fit my voice.” I said, “That’s fine. You can do that.” So, it became “Bang Your Head,” and that song did really well. It really changed my life. It was a great decision that I made to let him use it on the album. I still get benefits from that song to this day, so it’s great.

Andrew:
SNOW also ran in similar circles as Pasadena’s own, Van Halen, during its time. I know Van Halen attended some SNOW shows and lent out some of their wireless gear for you and Carlos to use. Are there any particular stories or memories you have that stick out?

Tony:
Well, I remember we went to a party and Dave [Lee Roth] came to the party and he liked one of our band member’s girlfriends. He was trying to hit on her, so that was pretty funny. We became good friends with some of the guys on their road crew; they would always lend us amps and their wireless units and stuff like that to play our shows if they weren’t using them. So, they were really into our band as well. So, they would come to our shows and they’d bring the wireless and they’d hook it up for us. They just wanted to be a part of that. It was great. We didn’t really become close friends with them, but we knew who they were and they knew who we were. They would come to our shows, and of course, we’d go to theirs. We always would laugh, saying, “Oh, they’re comin’ to steal our licks.” But that’s probably not true – they didn’t need to steal our licks – but we would laugh about that. They would come to several of our shows; Alex would always come to watch Stephen Quadros play; Eddie would come to watch Carlos. I never saw Michael Anthony – and David Lee Roth – he didn’t come to our shows; he just happened to be at a party we were at one time. That’s when he was hitting on, I think it was Doug’s girlfriend. [Laughs].

Andrew:
SNOW was such an influential band for the sea of hard rock and heavy metal acts that came after. In what ways did you observe contemporaries implement some of the band’s concepts?

Tony:
Well, a lot of the bands that came out in the 80s, they were younger than us. Some of the members of those bands that became popular would come to our shows. They would watch what we were doing, and they would emulate what we were doing. I’ve had several people come up to me, like at the NAMM Show and stuff like that … “Man, you totally influenced my playing. I really became a bass player because I watched you play and it made me wanna play.” And I go, “Oh, that’s great, man. That’s cool.” So, there was a lot of influence by SNOW, and some of the other bands, too. There were a lot of other great bands that were influential, as well. So, I could see that in some of the 80s heavy metal bands that were out. SNOW was actually influenced by Black Sabbath and Deep Purple; bands like that. That’s who our influences were. Our whole thing was to have The Who kind of attitude; we wanted to open up and jam through songs. And it worked out; we just were able to read off each other really well. It was a lot of improvisation in that band when we played live. I felt so natural playing in that band. We all did.

Andrew:
Before we transition, I’m curious to hear the story behind the release of 2017’s SNOW: At Last, specifically regarding preserving the masters. It’s my understanding all of the recordings were sitting in storage for thirty-five years before finally seeing the light of day.

Tony:

Yeah. Here’s what happened; Stuart White, our manager at the time, he retained the masters. And they were two-inch-thick tape; the old-school way. They were in a storage locker, and somehow, there was a fire at that storage locker, and those masters actually survived the fire. When we got the masters back, we had to take them to this specialist, and he baked the tapes. He put them in an oven at low temperature, like a hundred degrees or something, just to loosen them up because they stick after a while. So, we did that, and they converted all the tapes to digital format. The guy that did it, he was so surprised that the tapes survived. And we were so lucky they did because they could’ve been lost in history. So, we converted it all to digital format, and that’s when we talked about releasing SNOW: At Last. And we put that live Starwood show on there, and the actual EP, and a bunch of practices tapes, practice verses of songs that were on there. They don’t sound great, but hey, it’s just a little bit of history there. We recorded those in our own little practice room with a tape recorder; a little 4-track. So, that was pretty fun. Again, that will never be repeated again in the history of music. It won’t. And I don’t think it will for any band.

Image courtesy of Tony Cavazo

Andrew:
Following SNOW’s disbandment, you joined forces with guitarist Robert Sarzo, a fruitful collaboration that ultimately fueled your next vehicle. How did Hurricane come together?

Tony:
Well, the last gig that I did with DuBrow – which became Quiet Riot – Kevin DuBrow introduced me to Robert, Rudy’s younger brother. Me and Robert, we hit it off right away. We became friends instantly. We talked about getting together and jamming, and we kept in contact, and we finally did. We went to this lady’s office building that she said we could use, and we brought a 4-track recorder in there and just started writing stuff. I was doing some vocals, he was doing some vocals, and we really wanted to put a band together.

We found our singer – Kelly Hansen at the time – we heard about him, and we went to see him at a cover band gig that he was playing. We thought he had a really good voice, so we asked him to join. He thought about it for a little while, and he called and said, “Yeah, I’d be interested in doing that.” We told him we were gonna record an album and all that stuff. The original drummer didn’t work out for us, so we got Jay Schelling and he came in and he was really the right guy. So, we started writing, and then we went into a rehearsal room and started really honing in on the songs. What happened was, we became friends with the people at KNAC, the radio station that played heavy metal stuff, and they were playing our songs that we recorded on their shows before we even played a show. So, when we played a show, the place was packed because everybody heard those songs on KNAC and they wanted to come to see the band that actually played them. I can’t even remember where our first gig was – I think it might’ve been at The Country Club if I’m not mistaken. We had a great crowd and everybody was into it; they recognized the songs. We played the song “Hurricane” and “Girls Are Out Tonight,” and things like that. They recognized them because KNAC was playing those songs.

We ended up with an Enigma record deal, and they wanted us to go on tour, so they would ask us if we would go on tour with Stryper. We were labelmates with Stryper. So, we went out for, like, nine or ten months with Stryper. That was a really good tour for us. Then after that, we ended up touring on our own, and we ended up on stints with Iron Maiden and Cheap Trick. And we went out with the McAuley Schenker Group and Gary Moore, guys like that. I mean, it was incredible. We were playing some really good shows with those guys. Then we ended up changing guitar players; Robert, he wanted to do something different, and it just wasn’t meshing anymore, so we ended up with Doug Aldrich in the band for the third record. That was really good, but it was just a one-album deal. That’s when I left the band, and Jay and Kelly put a new band together under the name Hurricane and released a fourth album. I didn’t even know that they did that until a few years later; I heard about it and I listened to it. It’s good, but I don’t know if that record actually did anything. But the first three Hurricane records, we made a dent in the music industry with those, and people still like those.

Right now, Robert and I are working with a drummer, Mike Hansen, and a singer named Daniel Schumann on a new record right now. We’re in the process of recording it; we’ve got it more than halfway done. We’re trying to figure out what songs we wanna put on it. We’re doing it the modern way; we’re writing on our own pro tools and we just record and email it back and forth. That’s how we’re doing it right now. I kind of miss the old school way, when you actually had to go into a recording studio and write songs like that, or go into a rehearsal room and do pre-production.

Andrew:
I wanted to briefly discuss Over The Edge before we move forward to the present day. What was it like to work with acclaimed producer Bob Ezrin?

Tony:
Well, Bob Ezrin is a genius. He brought a whole new vibe to the band. He came in and he wanted to hear what we were doing; he would give us advice; he was very influential in the way we wrote and the way we pursued things. He was the one that came up with us doing that song, “I’m Eighteen,” because, at that time, it was actually eighteen years later that he produced that song that Alice Cooper did. He came up with the idea of doing it the way we did. That song, it really kicks ass. It really does. I love the way we did it.

Andrew:
What did the budget for that album look like?

Tony:
It wasn’t a very high budget because it was Enigma Records; they were a small label. They had Poison at the time; they had Stryper; The Smithereens. Bands like that were doing really well, and we weren’t high on the totem pole, but they worked with us and they gave us a budget. Bob Ezrin did it because he liked the band, and I don’t think he really made a whole lot of money. He just was there as an executive producer, but really, the guy who really twiddled all the knobs and produced it was Mike Clink. He was the one that’s credited with making that record. I remember working late nights with him by myself; him and me in the studio and me doing my bass tracks and us doing taurus pedals, and all that kind of stuff. It was great. It was a good experience working with Ezrin and Mike Clink because both of those guys are really notable producers in the industry.

Image courtesy of Tony Cavazo Facebook (official)

Andrew:
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Hurricane’s upcoming performance at Masquerade: A True Rock ‘n Roll Experience in Philly at the end of July. What can you tell us about the event?

Tony:
Yeah, yeah. I mean, I hear that show is gonna happen. It’s been ongoing for a couple of years now. We were supposed to play that show two years ago, but then COVID hit. It’s a makeup show for us. We were gonna play it again last year, then we were gonna play earlier this year. He keeps changing the venue and changing the date, so when we get the actual contract, then I’ll believe that the show is gonna happen. I hear it’s on Hair Nation- they’re talking about it – and you mentioned it, so I hope it does happen.

Andrew:
Well, they’re selling tickets for the event, so I would imagine it’s finally going to come to fruition.

Tony:
Our new singer is great; he’s not really like Kelly, but he can hit the notes that Kelly can. He used to be one of the Tenors of Rock – that show in Vegas – he was one of those guys. So, he’s got a really well-rounded voice. He can sing really good, he looks cool on stage, and he’s got a good persona. He’s a pro.

Andrew:
Will the setlist include any of the new batch of songs?

Tony:
Yeah, yeah. I don’t know how long we’re gonna get to play – I think we might get an hour – but we’ll play at least two or three songs as a set. I’m sure we will.

Image courtesy of Chroma Cast

Interested in learning more about Hurricane & SNOW? Hit the link below:

Be sure to check out the full archives of Shredful Compositions, by Andrew DiCecco, here: https://vwmusicrocks.com/shredful-compositions-archives/

About Post Author

Andrew DiCecco

Predominantly known for his NFL coverage, Andrew DiCecco is a Pennsylvania-based journalist with a profound passion for Rock music and its illustrious history. What initially began as a childhood hobby collecting CDs eventually evolved into a full-blown absorption into the world of Rock and Roll. An aspiring rock historian, Andrew seeks out every autobiography and documentary on Rock artists imaginable to further his knowledge to go along with a growing collection of vintage albums and magazines. Andrew’s musical preferences include, but are not limited to, Def Leppard, Van Halen, AC/DC, Guns N Roses, Metallica, Iron Maiden, Ozzy Osbourne, Scorpions, Foreigner, and Journey. An innate appreciation for guitar heroes, Andrew cites Vito Bratta, Eddie Van Halen, John Sykes, George Lynch, Dave Meniketti, and Neal Schon as some of his personal favorite players. Andrew is also a regular listener to SiriusXM’s <i>Trunk Nation</i> with Eddie Trunk, his primary source of inspiration.
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