New interview w/ Rudy Sarzo

AxlVanHagarAxlVanHagar Road Warrior
edited March 2009 in History of Rock
Good stuff, I need to pick up his book , sounds really good.

Acclaimed bassist Rudy Sarzo (ex-Quiet Riot, Ozzy Osbourne, Whitesnake,), always a man of many words and interesting stories, was kind enough to speak with us regarding, among many other things, the long-overdue release of the critically acclaimed memoir Off The Rails: Aboard The Crazy Train In The Blizzard Of Ozz…

What was the main catalyst behind the decision to write Off The Rails: Aboard The Crazy Train In The Blizzard Of Ozz? Did you feel that after having been so far removed from the situations surrounding your time in the group and Randy’s untimely demise that the time was finally right for everything to come together?

Rudy Sarzo: “…After so many years of nothing being written about Randy Rhoads from first-hand experience, I felt compelled to write about it. The actual seed for me writing the book was getting together with Ozzy after one of the first Black Sabbath reunion shows that they did at the L.A. Forum. …Going backstage, getting together with Ozzy and realizing that he wasn’t really in the best of shape to sit down and recollect all of the memories we had of touring from back in 1981 and 1982. During the last chapter, I write about that. That was actually the catalyst for me writing the book. I realized that if I didn’t sit down and write this, nobody would. …Writing a book is quite an undertaking. You have to sit down…I took about a year and a half out of my life to write it all down. At first, you sit down, write a few chapters and then you send it off to a published not knowing if it’s going to be accepted, if anyone is going to be interested in it or if your even good enough to write a book, ya know? Then you go through the process of being accepted and then you sit down and you start the journey. The hardest thing for me about sitting down to write this book was knowing that I was going to have to deal with Randy’s death again. Did I really wanna relive it? …Everything that had happened had been repressed in my memory for all these years. …I didn’t know how all of that was going to feel. So you start out on your journey. What I really wanted to do was take the reader by the hand and take them on tour with us. I didn’t wanna give a whole lot of opinions because I wanted the reader to make up their mind about everything that I felt and what I experienced. But then, once I got to that final chapter, when Randy was still alive…that was the hardest thing for me to write because I had spent the last year with him alive in my head, reliving all of those events. It took me about a month to finish chapter eighteen. That was very, very tough. The publisher called me and said ‘Look, you’re almost finished; you’re almost done with the book. Why don’t you just finish up, carry on and give it some closure?’ So I finished the chapter and then I got to chapter nineteen, which deals with the crash and everything just poured out. …Memories that I had been suppressing for twenty five years at that point. It was very tough, but I was able to get some relief from everything that I had been carrying for all that time. To be able to put all of that down on the pages…for me to be able to share with everyone what actually happened…it was such a weight being lifted off of my shoulders. …By the end of the book, I was finally able to get closure. Only during interviews like this do I get to actually relive it again (laughs). I thought that writing the book would get it out of my memory vaults…putting it down on paper and sharing it with the world and it did actually give me closure and that was really unexpected. It’s been the biggest reward of writing the book. …Just getting that closure about that period of time in my life. …The hardest one was chapter eighteen, saying goodbye and chapter nineteen, just dealing with the crash. It just poured out. It was just this big, huge wave of emotions, ya know? In fact, I couldn’t even write as fast as my emotions we coming out of me. So after all of that, I felt it was very important for the reader to understand how Randy’s death affected all of us. It was very painful…having to go back out onstage without him. In fact, we didn’t even really have a mourning period. After the crash, the following day, we were still in Orlando and took a red-eye back to L.A., which was another very strange experience. …When you fly out of Orlando, you’re basically flying in a plane full of children who are very happy because they were just at Disneyland. They’ve spent the last couple of days living in Disneyland and they’re all happy and running around and you couldn’t have had three sadder should on that plane than Ozzy, Sharon (Osbourne) and myself, ya know? We were just going through shellshock, sitting there being surrounded by all these kids running around and laughing at stuff. That was like the beginning of knowing how tough it was all going to be…dealing with all that stuff.”

Looking back, do you feel not cancelling the remainder of the tour was a wise or correct decision?

Rudy: “Well, Ozzy is still with us, so in retrospect, yes, I think so. …God knows what Ozzy would have done with a few months off. I think Sharon definitely made the right call there. …Having to go through the audition process and then funeral services for Randy and (hairdresser/seamstress) Rachel (Youngblood) was just very bizarre. …We just went right in and started auditioning guitar players because Sharon just wanted to keep Ozzy occupied. She felt that the worst thing that she could do was cancel the tour. …The last performances I did with Ozzy were for (1982’s) Speak Of The Devil, which were the re-recordings of the Black Sabbath songs. There’s another video called Speak Of The Devil that is the Ozzy Osbourne band with (Night Ranger guitarist) Brad Gillis doing the Diary Of A Madman tour that was live from Irvine. That premiered on MTV on Halloween 1982. That was completely separate from the re-recordings of the Black Sabbath songs by Ozzy…”

All things considered, as the audition process commenced, was there any immediate consideration given to finding a replacement for Randy? I can’t even imagine how difficult everything must have been…

Rudy: “No. Randy was irreplaceable. One of the things we found the hardest was trying to find someone that could carry on the rest of the tour with dignity. Our vision was to finish the tour. The commitments had been made and the contracts had been signed, blah, blah, blah. The hardest thing was finding someone who could play like Randy because Randy’s style was so modern. It was real cutting edge at the time, ya know? Nobody was really playing like him at the time. …(Hughes/Thrall and Asia guitarist) Pat Thrall’s brother, who had played with (drummer) Tommy Aldridge in (guitarist) Pat Travers’s band, actually saw Brad Gillis playing in a cover band in northern California. He was like ‘Listen, this guy can cop Randy’s style’. That was what we were basically looking for. ...Someone who could go out onstage and play those songs close to the way that Randy did. And Brad Gillis came in and did a terrific job. He sure did. Not only from a musical pit of view, but also by enduring everything that was going on around him that had nothing to do with him, ya know? He was just this new guy who was basically coming in to finish up this tour and he ended up dealing with all these emotional issues that everyone was going through. …He did a great job and he also put up with a log of crap.”

At the conclusion of your tenure with Ozzy, what prompted you to again become a full-fledged member of Quiet Riot? Am I correct in understanding you had at first only intended to record a single track or a series of tracks with the group for Metal Health but was eventually persuaded to re-join the group on a full-time basis?

Rudy: “…(Vocalist) Kevin (DuBrow) called me up and asked me to come in and do one track, a song called “Thunderbird”. After Randy left to go play with Ozzy, Kevin put together a band called DuBrow and one of the songs that Kevin used to perform during that time was called “Thunderbird”. I had played with Kevin in DuBrow on and off right up until the time I joined Ozzy. As a matter of fact, I was living with him. So Kevin called me up and said ‘Hey, do you wanna come in? We’re gonna record “Thunderbird”. …So I came in and cut “Thunderbird”. Some of the other songs that ended up on the record were songs we had already been doing in either Quiet Riot or in DuBrow such as “Slick Black Cadillac” and “Love’s A *****”, so they asked me if I wanted to play on the other tracks. …So by the time I actually left the session, I had recorded four or five songs even though my intentions on that day had been to only do “Thunderbird”. …After dealing with the crash and Randy’s death for so many months onstage, being able to go into a room and make music with people that weren’t directly connected with the Ozzy Osbourne band was an emotional refuge for me. It just felt really good to be playing with some old friends again and not have to deal with all of that. You have to understand that even though the band got named Quiet Riot, it had very little to do with the old Quiet Riot. Musically, it was basically a totally different band and the only real connection was that Kevin had been in the old Quiet Riot. …Musically, there was only one song that we used to do, “Slick Black Cadillac”, that took me back through that era when Randy had been in the band, ya know? For all intents and purposes, you could have called that band anything else and it would have still been the Metal Health version of Quiet Riot. I never went out onstage and said ‘Oh, boy. This sounds just the way it used to when Randy Rhoads was in the band’ because it didn’t. It was a totally different musical direction. As a matter of fact, if you go to YouTube and watch any of the old Randy Rhoads Quiet Riot videos and then watch the Metal Health version of Quiet Riot, it’s two different bands. …I think it had more to do with the fact that times had changed. There was that shift between the ‘70’s and ‘80’s and the Randy Rhoads version of Quiet Riot was more of a ‘70’s band that was influenced by Sweet and Queen. It was more Pop/Glam whereas with the new version of Quiet Riot, (drummer) Frankie Banali brought in much more of a Hard Rock/Heavy Metal edge to the band. There was much more of an AC/DC and Led Zeppelin type of heaviness to it. That’s what the Metal Health version of Quiet Riot had.”

In retrospect, did you find making the transition from the Metal Health and Condition Critical version of Quiet Riot to touring in support of Whitesnake 1987 to be difficult or was it more of a natural musical fit?

Rudy: “…Going from Metal Health era Quiet Riot to Whitesnake…that’s really quite the leap, isn’t it? (laughs) I left Quiet Riot in 1985 and toured for Whitesnake 1987, but in between, I played with Tommy Aldridge in a couple of bands. We were trying to get our own thing together, but one of the only things that people can actually listen to was called Project M.A.R.S. with (acclaimed guitarist/keyboardist) Tony MacAlpine. …Ourselves and everyone else in the industry have been progressing musically, ya know? We were going in that direction anyway, so it wasn’t like I went directly from Quiet Riot to Whitesnake. …Musically, Tommy and I had been going in a different direction anyway, so actually, it was pretty much a perfect fit by the time 1987 rolled around and we started playing with Whitesnake. A lot of people are not aware that in 1985, Tommy Aldridge and I were asked to join Whitesnake. The reason why I didn’t personally do it was because Whitesnake had been the opening act for Quiet Riot on the Condition Critical tour, so I had gotten very familiar with the situation, the internal situation, within Whitesnake. There was a lot of tension and turmoil, and I got to witness a little bit of it, between David Coverdale and (ex-Thin Lizzy/future Blue Murder guitarist) John Sykes, ya know? I was just leaving Quiet Riot and I didn’t want to go from one personally bad situation to another bad situation. …John Sykes, I have nothing bad to say about his playing. I think he’s a good guy and a great musician…I just didn’t want to be part of that tension. There was something about him and David being together in the same band. …They were putting this new band together with (guitarists) Vivian Campbell and Adrian Vandenberg for the video for “Still Of The Night”. When that video was made, we were not officially a band yet. We just go together so well on the set that it was basically the seed for that becoming a band.”

Once the recording processes for Slip Of The Tongue began, was there a conscious effort, both as individuals and collectively as a group with Steve Vai, to recapture the multi-Platinum ‘…magic…’ of 1987?

Rudy: “No. …By the time we started working on Slip Of The Tongue, all we wanted to do was carry on the momentum that we had going for ourselves from touring for about a year and half for the 1987 album. We wanted that record to be a representation of what Whitesnake was at that time. …I loved playing with Steve and I say that because I didn’t actually get to record with him. What had happened was Vivian Campbell had departed from the band and Adrian Vandenberg remained in the band, writing with David and recording the basic tracks. During the recording of the rhythm tracks, the drums and the bass, Adrian was injured. …By the time we finished recording all of the rhythm tracks, Adrian had injured his wrist. So by the time Steve Vai came into the band, I had already done my bass parts (laughs). Steve had to come in and kind of mold himself, ya know? …Bring enough Steve Vai into the band with it still being Whitesnake, ya know? It was pretty interesting. I really love his contributions to the Slip Of The Tongue record, but I was never in any pre-production for the album with Steve. When we were doing pre-production, what was blasting through our minds was that someone else was going to come in and finish the record. I would have loved to have had Steve there from the very, very beginning. My personal approach musically would have been completely different. As a matter of fact, when I recorded a lot of my bass parts, I had no idea what David was going to sing. …The vocals and the guitars were being recorded simultaneously. We had two producers on that record. Mike Clink was the producer that started the record with us in Reno and by the time Steve Vai came into the band, David has split the producing duties with Keith Oslen, who was actually was the producer on the 1987 album. Keith did the vocals and the keyboards while Mike Clink was recording Steve’s guitars. …And this was back in the old days, so there was no digital and you had to create all these slave tracks and analog tapes and take them from one studio to another so Steve could carry on. So we had two producers going on at the same time in two different studios. Then, when all the tracks were done, they both went into the Record Plant to mix (laughs).”


  • AxlVanHagarAxlVanHagar Road Warrior
    edited March 2009
    At what point did you realize your time with Whitesnake was coming to an end? Was there a clear and defining moment or was it an overall gradual process where all parties involved simply grew apart musically?

    Rudy: “It was very simple. On the second day of the Slip Of The Tongue tour, David announced on the bus that at the end of the tour that it would be over for Whitesnake as he wanted to take some time off with his wife Tawny (Kitaen). …So the following day, I had to start putting things into motion about what I was going to do with my future. It was actually really nice of David to give us notice so that we could prepare. We started touring in early 1990 and by late Summer 1990, the tour had ended and also David’s marriage with Tawny Kitaen had ended as well. …It gave everyone in the band time to put things into motion as far as what we were going to do by the end of the tour, ya know? It wasn’t like we found this out on the last day after the last show, ya know? It was really good of David to give everyone such an advanced notice. But in another way, it was also very sad to get out onstage knowing that my time with Whitesnake was coming to an end because I’d had a great time. …I had a fantastic time with those guys. It was a great band, great music and great people.”

    For those of use not explicitly familiar with your career, what direction did you ultimately opt for?

    Rudy: “…Grunge had not yet hit MTV yet. We’re talkin’ around 1990, so the direction that I chose to go in was to basically keep doing what I know how to do (laughs). …Going in an Arena Rock direction, ya know? Through a mutual friend…I had heard there was this great guitar player and singer, so by the end of Whitesnake, I had out together a band called Sun King. ...This where guitarist John 5 came from. …He was nineteen when I first saw him play at (famed Hollywood, California-based club) Gazzarri’s back on the Sunset Strip. Someone had told me about this incredible guitar player, ya know? It took me just a couple of minutes to realize that this guy was an incredible talent. …If people had just seen him play with Marilyn Manson, they would not realize what an incredible guitar player he is, ya know? This guy can play with anyone from K.D. Lang to Rob Zombie and Marilyn Manson, ya know? This guy can play anything and play it great, too.”

    Once you became re-involved with Quiet Riot on a full-time basis in 1997, did the group initially find it difficult to rediscover the group’s target audience amid the height of the Alternative and Post-Grunge eras?

    Rudy: “…The industry has to go with the trends. They said ‘Here’s what you’re going to do: if you have a band with a guitar, you’re going to be Grunge.’ ...If you are Rap, this where you’re going to have all the sexuality and all of the cool chicks are going to be in the videos. So they basically took what ‘80’s videos were and split ‘em (laughs). They were like ‘The guitars go over here to Grunge and the chicks go over here to Rap videos’ (laughs). To me, what we did in the ‘80’s was basically a continuation of what we did in the ‘60’s and ‘70’s with bands like Led Zeppelin, Queen and The Who, ya know? …We brought in the chicks for eye candy in the videos, but basically, we just Rocked. But (in the Grunge period), you really couldn’t Rock anymore in the same sexual connotation that Rock ‘n’ Roll was really all about, so it was very odd to me, even though I didn’t make a full attempt to play some music without any sexuality (laughs). It wasn’t Rock music anymore. …We had been through this really weird trip during the Grunge period, so to finally get back up there with Quiet Riot, which isn’t necessarily the most sexual band… I believe the most sexual band I’ve ever been in is Whitesnake. The way David put it was that his music was all about the relationships between man, woman and God because there’s also a lot of spirituality in it. Quiet Riot was more like adolescent Rock ‘n’ Roll, ya know? If you look at the catalog of Quiet Riot, there’s really not a love song in there. The closest thing you get to a love song is a friendship song like “Thunderbird” than Kevin wrote for Randy. Everything is about rebellion and teenage angst. That’s the best way that I can describe Quiet Riot, which to me is fine (laughs). By 1997 when we got back together again, it was very refreshing to go back out onstage and get in touch with those emotions.”

    In hindsight, was re-joining Quiet Riot a way for you to relive your past while still moving forward?

    Rudy: “No. …It was more about being who you are and being true to yourself because the industry had shifted, trying to follow all of those trends. I’ve been a dinosaur so many times in my career (laughs). The reason Quiet Riot didn’t get signed back in the late ‘70’s is because the music we were doing was considered over and done. In the late ‘70’s, the last band to get signed out of Los Angeles was Van Halen and then they just shut the door to everyone and not just Quiet Riot. Band like Ratt, Mötley Crüe and everyone that came out of that first wave of Sunset Strip bands, ya know? …Everyone that played at Gazzarri’s and The Roxy. So way back when, people were like ‘You guys are has-beens’, ya know? But we were still in our twenties (laughs). So I’ve been through this so many times, ya know? At this point, I don’t even pay attention to it anymore. Just be yourself, be honest with your music and just be who you are, ya know? …You just have to be true to yourself.”

    Select Discography
    Off The Rails: Aboard The Crazy Train In The Blizzard Of Ozz (2008) *******
    Holy Diver: Live (2006) ******
    Guilty Pleasures (2001) **
    Alive And Well (1999) **
    Manic Eden (1994) *****
    Slip Of The Tongue (1989) ****
    Tribute (1987) *
    Project Driver (1986) ***
    Condition Critical (1984) **
    Metal Health (1983) **
    Speak Of The Devil (1982) *
    Mambo Infierno (1968 - via Cuba) +

    * with Ozzy Osbourne
    ** as a member of Quiet Riot
    *** as a member of M.A.R.S. (MacAlpine/Aldridge/Rock/Sarzo)
    **** as a member of Whitesnake
    ***** as a member of Manic Eden
    ****** as a member of Dio
    ******** as an author
    + as a member of Conjunto Casino (credited as "Rodolfo Maximiliano Sarzo Lavieille Grande Ruiz Payret y Chaumont")
Sign In or Register to comment.