Dio was able to create magic on and off the stage, just by being present, by being in the room.”
Rudy Sarzo: Hello.
Wikimetal: Hello, Rudy?
W: Hi, Rudy, this is Nando. How are you?
RS: Nando, how are you?
W: I’m fine. I’m very happy to be talking to you.
RS: It’s great talking to you too. Good afternoon!
W: It’s a real honor to be speaking with you, thank you for your time, it’s been really nice to be in touch with you.
RS: Thank you so much, I’m looking forward to the interview.
W: Rudy, around 1984, I was a ten-year old fan, and after listening to a lot of Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath and Quiet Riot at the time, I decided to become a bass player. And I’m still playing. To me, you are not only a great musician but also a great performer. I’m going to start by asking what were the main influences that made you choose the bass as your instrument?
RS: Well, that’s a really good question. But basically… You know, when you’re young, at least when I was very young, I just wanted to be a musician, I just wanted to be in a band. Being in a band was kind of like social networking back in the 70’s and the late 60’s. So it was kind of like a way to socialize. And I had some fundamental knowledge of playing guitar, but in our neighborhood in Miami, where I was living at the time when I picked up the bass, there was no bass player. So I was basically kind of encouraged to play the bass, because nobody else wanted to do it. It was not until later on – three years later, around the early 70’s – that I started really understanding the concept of what being a bass player is all about, you know being a part of the rhythm section, listening to the drums, being the link between rhythm and melody, so these are things that… Because we didn’t have any YouTube or any source of tutorials like there are available today. So these are things that you had to discover on your own, basically. And also by listening to the great musicians that inspired me back in the days, such as Tim Bogert from Vanilla Fudge in the late 60’s and John Paul Jones, and Jack Bruce. And also Jaco Pastorius was a local from Miami. He was teaching at the University of Miami and performing live at the clubs in Miami Beach. So I got to see him perform a lot. So yeah, I had a lot of inspiration, but as far as having a lot of sources of information like we have today, I really didn’t. It was just a matter of listening a lot to records and to the radio.
W: That’s great. Rudy, today, March 19th, is such an important and unforgettable date, and you wrote an amazing book “Off the Rails”, about the times and stories you had with the one and only Randy Rhoads. We strongly recommend all of our listeners to buy and read this book. Can you share any memories about Randy on this important day, exactly thirty years after one of the saddest tragedies in Rock history?
RS: Yeah, you know, every day I think about him, so it’s not you know, today, yeah, it is thirty years but it doesn’t change anything because I still think of him every single day. So don’t really think of him today more than I do any other day. I think the best I can do in order to celebrate Randy’s memory is to play something to him, to play music, because that’s what Randy was all about: making music. To me, his contribution as a friend and as a musician was more significant than anything else. So that’s how I like to think of him, you know, he means more to me as Randy, the composer, Randy, the friend, Randy, the teacher, than Randy, the dead rock star – that doesn’t mean anything to me. It was him being alive and doing everything that he did for us, as friends, as musicians that really means… That to me is the most important thing: Randy when he was alive, not Randy being dead. You know, his music lives on. It’s… Just about every day I get e-mails or facebook messages from young musicians – ten, twelve years old – who hear him for the first time and get inspired to play the guitar and know where the real inspiration… Because he’s been inspiring guitar players for the last three years or more, you know, he was also inspiring music before he was known as Randy Rhoads, the guitar player for Ozzy Osbourne, he was inspiring a whole generation of guitar players as a teacher in Los Angeles. So he’s been doing that for a long time, so to me that’s more significant than thinking about him.
W: And Rudy, do you remember how you got in touch with Randy for the first time?
RS: I auditioned for Quiet Riot in the late 70’s, that’s how I… I actually got to see him perform before that, but to actually get in touch with and speak with him that was during the audition to Quiet Riot in 1977. Actually, as I recall, the first time I met him was in 78, that’s when I actually auditioned for Quiet Riot. In 77 I was still out of town, so 78 in Los Angeles, that’s when I… 78, 79, those were the years that I played with Quiet Riot, in Los Angeles – the Randy Rhoads version of Quiet Riot.
W: I remember when I was like eleven years old in 85, I went to see Quiet Riot playing in Brazil for the first time and I was really disappointed, because I was your fan at the time, and you didn’t come with the band. Do you remember why you didn’t come with the band at that time and why you left the band after “Condition Critical” was released?
RS: Yeah, I actually think the band noticed that I was leaving the band before the tour started, but there were contracts, there were commitments to the tour that I had made, so I fulfilled the commitments and at the end of the American tour, I already had announced I left the band, yeah, they should have let you guys know I wasn’t coming. I had no control over that, I wasn’t in the band anymore.
W: I know, but probably half the people wouldn’t have turned up.
RS: Well, yes, but I mean, it’s still Quiet Riot.
W: I know, I know.
RS: But they should have announced who was going to be playing base.
Music shouldn’t have any political boundaries. Music was created for us, human beings, to talk to a higher power and to communicate among ourselves.”
W: Rudy, changing the subject, we have a classic question on our show, that we ask every single person that we interview, which is: imagine yourself listening to a rock station on the radio, or listening to your ipod on shuffle mode, with lots of hard rock and heavy metal songs, and all of a sudden, a song starts that makes you lose your mind and you feel like head banging immediately, no matter where you are. Which song would that be so we can listen to that one on our show now?
RS: It would have to be Rainbow with Ronnie James Dio. Either “Gates of Babylon”, that’s one of my favorite ones.
W: “Gates of Babylon” with the unforgettable Ronnie James Dio.
RS: Actually, play the version for the… The CD is “Dio Holy Diver 20th Anniversary”.
W: No problem, we’ll be listening to that version right now.
You played with some of the greatest legends in Rock history, and in my opinion, one of the greatest voices in music in general. I had the chance to ask Ian Gillen and Geoff Tate the same thing, so I’ll ask you now: is there any story in particular you could share with our listeners about how great Ronnie James Dio was as an artist and as a human being?
RS: Oh, sure. How long is the interview? It would actually take hours to really go into details, but, you know, one of the amazing things about Ronnie – he had so many amazing qualities about him – but I’m just going to talk about one of them right now: it’s the magic factor. Sometimes we… Especially nowadays with so much computerized music, the soul, the energy, the spirituality, the magic factor is really missing in today’s music. And this is something that Ronnie James Dio was a master at. He was able to create magic on and off the stage, just by being present, by being in the room. But on stage, I don’t think anybody could even come close to the magic that he was able to create. And by that, it’s to make you believe that what he was singing about is really happening right there, at that moment. And the way he personified the characters that he sang about, I mean, it was just incredible.
W: How about the “Hear N’ Aid” project?
RS: You know, I had a very very small participation in it, I was just present during the large chorus recording of it. It was really worthwhile for Ronnie and everybody who was involved in that, because when it happened, actually, they wanted to make… Ronnie contacted the people from “USA for Africa”, and they wanted to do a contribution from the hard rock folks, contingency, but what happened is they wanted nothing to do with it, so Ronnie took it upon himself to put together the whole event – “Hear N’ Aid”, the recording of it, everything that went along with it, and all the money went towards “USA for Africa”, without the help of the people that organized it to begin with.
W: So, since you mentioned the music scene today, how would you compare the music scene in the 80’s and the music scene now? What are the good thing and the bad things in both periods?
RS: Well, the good thing was the record industry and the bad thing was the record industry. Or should I say, the big influence of certain marketing techniques that were used. You know, it was a good thing because it really helped me personally, having MTV playing our videos – with bands like Quiet Riot and Whitesnake, and stuff like that. But then, it really did not give a very fair playing field to a lot of the bands, because basically you have MTV telling the audience “Hey, this is what you have to listen to, because this is what we’re going to play on television.” So, you know, it was good and it was bad, in a sense. I think that nowadays, even though it’s harder for musicians to be able to reach a massive audience, especially without a record deal, there are still some really good avenues of doing it, like social networking, such as YouTube and so on. Even though the good thing about the 80’ is the fact that you had an infrastructure, such as a record company that would nurture, act… With, you know, veterans, professional A&R – artists and repertoires – people that would help you choose your songs and develop yourself as a band, and with producers that would get the best performances out of an artist or a group. That is really very rare today, because record companies have basically become distributors and in a lot of cases you have to create the album on your own and then if the record company thinks that you are a marketable project or group, they will do it for you. But there is very little development, very little professional veterans, you know, people with a lot of experience working with bands in order to maximize their potential. And so that’s not as good today as it used to be.
W: About the period you played with Whitesnake, Whitesnake in the late 80’s had put together a real dream team. How did you guys manage to have so many great talents in one band? And was it hard to deal with all these guys’ egos?
RS: No, not at all. Dealing with the egos… By the time we got together in Whitesnake, we were all basically veterans of bad situations, or at least situations that we were not happy in, so we walked in – especially I did, and I just felt very blessed to be in the company of such great musicians and great friends. Ego wise, yeah, I don’t know, we are all travelling in the same bus – the wives, the girlfriends, everybody, so I was good. Of course, you know, stuff happens, especially between the wives and the girlfriends, but as far as the guys in the band – which to me, is what is really important, because that’s what the audience chose us for: to hear a band and see the magic being created on stage by the guys, getting along, and really communicating musically – that never really got in the way. So, yeah, it was an incredible, outstanding experience for me to be in that group – Whitesnake.
W: What was harder, to deal with four people’s egos or with Yngwie Malmsteen’s ego?
RS: I have nothing but praise for Yngwie and his wife, April, who manages him. I tell you, going on a tour with Yngwie was more like going on a tour with his family, because he brought his son with him. And other people in Yngwie’s family were also part of the crew, selling merchandise and stuff like that. No problem whatsoever with Yngwie, as a matter of fact, that’s one of the most rewarding experiences I ever had, so, personally, that’s what I can say, because that’s the way it was, that’s the truth.
It’s 30 years now since Randy Rhoad has passed away but it doesn’t change anything because I still think of him every single day.”
W: Changing the subject, Rudy, we had the pleasure to talk to the great Alex Skolnick from Testament, and he was telling us about his involvement with the “Unblock the Rock” Movement, in order help to the heavy metal bands in Cuba. Since you are a Cuban, what can you tell our listeners about the situation that these hundreds of rock bands from Cuba have to face, is there anything that ordinary people like us can do to help?
RS: You know what, that’s interesting. I wasn’t aware that Alex was involved in the movement, that’s great. I would love to be in that movement too, because I am very aware of the Latino, of the Cuban music scene. I completely support it, a more of a unified front that we can create in order to expose all these great artists – you know, music shouldn’t have any political boundaries, music, in itself, music was created for us, human beings, to talk to a higher power and to communicate among ourselves. It should have nothing to do with politics. The only problem is that totalitarian governments did not allow or nurture rock N’ roll, metal, that type of music, because they see it as a weapon against what they’re trying to control. And music is about rebellion, music is about freedom, heavy metal is about freedom of speech, it’s about playing and singing what you feel and who you are. And it’s not just communism, it’s just totalitarian governments, fascists governments too, in general, that do not nurture the music that we love, the music that we create. So anything that I can do, personally, to help our brothers, our metal brothers in Cuba and any other totalitarian country, could be China – now I hear that there’s a great, incredible rock N’ roll scene happening in China, which would be inevitable, because most of the equipment that we play comes from there, nowadays, so I’m pretty sure the guys in the factory making the guitars and amplifiers said: “Let us make some music now!”
W: It’s a big contradiction, right?
RS: Yeah, which is great, if there only one good thing that comes out of musical equipment being created in China is the fact that Chinese musicians now have access to the equipment, so that it great. But, yeah, anything that we can do to help our brothers be heard and be acknowledged, and have their stories be told through their music, and their feelings shared, yeah, I would be the first in line to help any of our metal brothers who want to be heard.
W: Can you pick a song now that you feel really proud of having written or maybe participated that we can listen to on our show now, again?
RS: Oh, boy, there’s so many, there’s so many… Today, let’s play some Ozzy/Randy stuff, as a tribute. Anything such as “Mr. Crowley” or “Revelation Mother Earth” – that would be my favorite.
W: Well, that’s a great song.
After such an impressive curriculum, what would you say was – I know it’s a very unfair question – but what would you say was the highlight of your career, or maybe a few highlights of your career? I know the “US Festival” was a very important happening in your career, but any other things you like to remember?
RS: Yeah, the “US Festival”, definitely playing with Ozzy, with Randy and Tommy, Ozzy, the The Diary of a Madman tours were incredible, every day there was some major event happening. Just to see the band going from like… the fans, who are the ones who dictate whether you’re going to make it or not, really embracing the band, actually embracing Randy Rhodes as the new force in music, as a guitar player, composer and so on, performer. Definitely going to number one with “Metal Health”, which actually came out 29 year ago, about a week and a half ago, on the 11th of March. And going to number one in November 1983, yeah. You know, it wasn’t just going to number one, it was the fact that we were, our competition was “Thriller”, you know, the biggest album, the most significant pop album in music history. So to be in such great company, that was incredible. And, you know, Whitesnake, I loved being in Whitesnake, Dio… Being a member of Dio’s band, such great memories. But, you know, I’m still making great music, I’m in a band called Animetal USA, we’re working on our second album, the first record was just amazing. And playing with guys like Chris Impellitteri, and Mike Vescera, and Jon Dette, and Scott Travis… And moving forward. In addition to Animetal USA, I’m in a band called Tred, with Mike Orlando from Adrenaline Mob and Tim “Ripper” Owens, and AJ Pero from Twisted Sister, we’re making an incredible record there too. And being part of Dio Disciples, Ronnie’s band, and on vocals we have Ripper, and Toby Jepson… And also touring with Blue Oyster Cult. You know, I feel very very blessed to be making music and loving it.
W: First of all Rudy, I really appreciated your time, spending your time, and thank you so much for your interview. You are definitely one of the best people we interviewed, and so nice, so great to hear all your stories. Before we finish, I just want to know what your advice would be to a fifteen year-old, fourteen year-old kid who thinking of learning to play the base and starting a band?
RS: Oh, ok, very simple. I think knowledge is power: know your instrument. Because the better you know your instrument, the better you’ll be able to tell your stories, that’s what we do with our music, whether you play the base, the guitar, the drums, the keyboards, sing, these are instrument of communication, you want to communicate feelings, you want to communicate messages through your music. You know, let me give you a link to an incredible website: there’s this bassist and teacher in England, the name is Scott Devine Bass. It’s a free lesson. I go there and I learn something every single day, so I really encourage everybody, all the bassists out there who want to really take the music to the next level, it doesn’t really matter what skill level you are, even if you are a professional like me, there’s still so much more to learn. And this gentleman has an incredible way of teaching, and he wants to share his all knowledge with everybody, for free. These are beautiful tutorials, I really encourage everybody to check these out. Scott Devine Bass. That would be the advice I could give anybody, because that’s what I do.
W: Thank you once again. It’s been great to have you in Brazil.
RS: Thank you for this great interview.
W: No, man, thank you so much for everything you’ve done, you’ve been an inspiration, not only for me, but for all the music lovers. And it’s been a real honor to speak with one of the best bass players in rock history. Thank you so much, Mr. Rudy Sarzo.
RS: Thank you, sir. Thank you so much. God bless.
W: All the best.
RS: Bye bye.