When I got the call to interview someone from Dio Disciples I knew it would be amazing whether I was talking to one of the new guys singing or one of the original Dio guys playing in the band. When I heard it was going to be with Rudy Sarzo I about spit my Lucky Charms across the room. Having interviewed some pretty amazing people over the years I can honestly say that Rudy exemplifies everything this page is about. I knew I wouldn’t have forever to talk to him so I tried to wedge in as many pertinent questions I could about Dio and his amazing career. Photos courtesy of Rudy Sarzo and Randy Rhoads Society…..Read on….
Q: You are in final rehearsals with Dio Disciples…..Of course you’ve been in DIO for years but how are the rehearsals going?
A: They’re going good John! I had done one rehearsal with the guys before they did their European tour which I was unable to do because of my prior commitments with Blue Oyster Cult. The actual rehearsals are going GREAT though. I mean, it’s a very emotional time for everybody involved due to Ronnie’s passing but I keep reminding myself the reason why we’re doing this which is to celebrate Ronnie’s legacy. We begin the tour soon so that will be very emotional but it’s a great band of course, it’s Ronnie’s band, and we just are doing everything we can to honor the catalog and do him proud. We’re not a tribute band, it’s all the guys from the last Dio lineup. We call it a celebration, we aren’t trying to replace Ronnie so instead we have two very great singers (Tim “Ripper” Owens and Toby Jepson) who are very dedicated and put their heart into their performances every night. I’ve been in situations like this before of course with Ozzy trying to move on after Randy and it’s just……It’s never easy, it was an emotional roller coaster. The feeling is very similar to that feeling 30 years ago of getting ready to go onstage after losing such an important person. That feeling of trying to keep the tour going after losing Randy in the plane crash is still very fresh even all these years later but hopefully I‘ve gained some kind of strategy as far as how to deal with it and have a better outcome. It’s still going to be very tough to not see him up there with us.
Q: Having seen the videos of the European leg it seems like the fans are really supporting it, is that what you’re finding in talking to people?
A: Very much so, we want it to be interactive. It’s not just about the band Dio Disciples it is totally something that involves and depends on the fans. The reviews have been really positive and it’s gotten an incredible response from the fans overseas. Most people truly understand that we’re doing it for the right reasons, it’s not like it’s for a financial gain, it’s something that we’ve all had to take time away from our other commitments to do. I had to take time away from Blue Oyster Cult, Ripper Owens is busy with his restaurant, his own solo career and of course he sings for Yngwie and has gigs to do with him. It’s not like any of us were just sitting around wondering what to do next, we all have other things that are very important to our careers but this is something we all needed to do and felt committed to do. The bottom line is we all have to remain focused as to why we are doing these shows and how important this is to honor Ronnie’s music.
Q: You did Hear and Aid and you were of course later in Dio and I was wondering how far back do you go with Ronnie? When was the first time you became aware of that magical voice?
A: It was the 70s and I will NEVER forget that first time hearing his voice. It was when I heard “Man on the Silver Mountain” on the radio. I had never heard a voice or a delivery like that before and haven’t since. That was when I first heard it and connected with it but I never actually understood why it was that it made such an impact on me until I actually played with him. I got to realize that he wasn’t just a SINGER singing notes and being a musician, he was a STORYTELLER. He communicated not just music but told stories and really was this amazing storyteller. I have worked with some incredible singers over the years but noone that was gifted like that in communicating, personifying the characters he sang about. When I’m on stage with him and he’s singing “Man on the Silver Mountain” I believed, honestly believed he WAS the man on the silver mountain and I was going to follow him along on the journey.
Q: When we talked with Paul Shortino he indicated that as great of a singer as Ronnie was he was even better as a person, as a friend. What was it like to actually spend time with Ronnie away from the stage?
A: Yes, that’s true of him not just with fellow musicians but with fans as well. He was a friend to many, many a fan. When I joined DIO we did a lot of touring in Europe, a lot of festivals in Europe and the fans in those countries were family. They would follow the band from country to country. I mean that’s just unbelievable. The same thing with the fans here in the states, they were family, we would go to barbeques at their homes and there was also no separation whatsoever between Ronnie and band or Ronnie and crew. The crew, every single member of the crew was family. Many of them would stay in his home. That’s the kind of person he was.
Q: You haven’t plugged it or mentioned it at all yet but I want to mention your book. Fans can get it autographed by you from your website Rudysarzo.com and it’s been out for a while now but it’s so personal and so different from all these other rock star books that I have to ask you…..Since doing “Off The Rails” and becoming an honest to god successful author how does writing compare to playing music?
A: It’s just another creative outlet. We as artists are communicators just like a photographer or you as a writer and to me as an artist it gave me a longer, more in depth forum to tell my story. A song only has so many verses or so many choruses to communicate and if I meet someone or do an interview I can convey an emotion or tell a story but it’s in a very short form. In a book you have the rare opportunity to REALLY, REALLY go into detail about how things happened or why they happened. I do Rock and Roll Fantasy Camp and I always tell my campers that we as musicians are communicators and that book was my opportunity to really detail my stories. ( Editor’s note: He is also a successful computer animation designer and did the opening video sequence for DIO’s last European tour but he’s just being modest…)
Q: Sharon said in her book that she will always remember the Blizzard of Ozz band when she hears Phil Collins. She said that the tour bus was always blaring the first Phil Collins album and Ozzy was obsessed with it. That was surprising to a lot of us metalheads….Do you feel the same way when you hear “In the Air Tonight”?? (laughs)
A: Actually I remember it from sound check. It was something that was always being played as we got our levels right for sound check, the boards were not computerized like they are today so the house engineer would have to do it manually and I remember that song in particular because it was perfect for that. It has layers, just the way that song starts out and then the drums come in and then you know it just builds. It was a way to really get the sound right for the show. I remember every day hearing that song blasting down the hall. With Randy and I on the bus it was something different. A Lee Ritenour album called “Captain Fingers” was what we would go back on the bus and relax to….it was something to calm down to after all the metal and was a nice fusion jazz thing (laughs). I do remember some ABACAB from Genesis at that time though so maybe that’s what Sharon was talking about (laughs).
Q: To me the most shocking thing in your book is the fact that you maintain the crash wasn’t an accident, that it was an intentional crash. I urge people to check out the book for the details but do you still maintain that it was actually an attempted murder/suicide? It sounds so much sicker and darker than the already sad story we’ve always accepted.
A: Oh yeah, oh yeah, without a doubt. I wrote the book about 25 years after I was on that bus when the plane hit and no new information has come to light that has changed my mind or made me feel any different. I also feel that that sentiment is shared by all who were present and there when it happened during that segment of the tour when Andrew Aycock joined us as our bus driver. When the documentary film on Randy Rhoads is released by Peter Margolis there will be even MORE details about that, they interviewed all of the principals involved. It should be great.
Q: You were also interviewed by Regina Russell for the upcoming Quiet Riot movie, “Well Now You’re Here, There’s No Way Back” which we’re very excited about. How did that go?
A: Oh, it went great. I think it will be a great film, Frankie and Regina asked me to do that and it was very nice. I also did interviews for the Jack Osbourne movie “God Bless Ozzy Osbourne” which is a really amazing movie. Have you seen it?
Q: No, I want to though since everyone says it‘s amazing…..what does it focus on?
A: It’s pretty compelling viewing. It’s basically Jack in search of his dad. The Ozzy that he knew was some guy laying around on the sofa drooling and drunk you know….which is what he says in the movie. So he has to learn to understand “Ok, who is THIS guy??” and it’s pretty interesting to watch as he learns about his dad from all these people who knew him and were around him.
Q: The Ozzy tours just went on after Randy passed but you left after the Speak of The Devil recording and went back to your old band Quiet Riot. For those who haven’t read in detail in the book….what was it like to be able to go back to Kevin and Frankie at that point?
A: Well, it was painful for me to go onstage with Ozzy after Randy was gone. It was painful after the crash to not grieve and just carry on. To be up onstage every night, wearing the same outfit, with all the same production and hearing Randy play the intro to “Diary” and looking over and he’s there and then one day from the crash on doing the same show and we’re all there but he’s gone. It was too painful to bear. The only way I could deal with it was to go into autopilot and just play the notes on the guitar. I wasn’t really able to communicate or entertain I don’t even think I was really playing music like I normally do. I was just playing notes to get through the moment. To not have any time to grieve my friend was very painful.
Q: We have an interview coming up with your brother Robert (Hurricane lead guitarist, movie composer) who was the original replacement for Randy and he said it’s on his resume and he was in the band for a while but it was only to support you really. It didn’t matter if he got the gig and there was nothing glamorous or pleasant about it because it was just a horrible time. Why didn’t the tour just cancel and regroup?
A: Robert’s right. First of all, they had a contractual agreement to finish the shows but it was really because of Sharon feeling that the show must go on or Ozzy would self destruct. She was probably right, he would have ended up killing himself drinking or doing drugs if he didn’t; have work to do. He would have literally drowned in his own sorrows so the best way to do it was to keep him going, keep him moving. Don’t give him the time to sit and damage himself.
Q: At that point was “Metal Health” something that was on your radar?
A: No, not really. What happened was Kevin Dubrow called and said “Hey Rudy we have this song that we’re working on called “Thunderbird” and we want to dedicate it as a tribute to Randy since Randy was so important to the original Quiet Riot” and I was already familiar with the song so he wanted me to come down and just play on it. It was an old DUBROW song which was the band we played in after Randy had left Quiet Riot . He was like, hey well can you play some of these other Dubrow songs and I was like “Whoa dude, you gotta give me some time, it’s been a couple years since I’ve played those songs” (laughs) and so I worked on relearning them. One was “Slick Black Cadillac” which was not just a Dubrow band song but that was actually the one song that was actually from the Randy era of Quiet Riot. Long story short, by the time I had left the studio I had cut about 5 tracks and I was still in the OZZY band at that point. I walked away feeling really good though. It felt really good to be playing music away from the situation that was OZZY at that point. Quiet Riot could have been any other band, to me personally I felt no other connection at that point with Quiet Riot. I was connected to Randy through the Blizzard of Ozz band not Quiet Riot. When Randy Rhoads and I played together in Quiet Riot it was like a few rehearsals, a few shows and that was it, he left soon after. We were not on the road every day together like a family as it was during the Blizzard and Diary of a Madman days….it just wasn’t like that with the Randy era Quiet Riot. However, I was just happy to be working on music and having fun with Kevin who was my old roommate and Frankie who I also had played with and knew. I walked away feeling happy and refreshed. Put it to you this way John…I left one of the biggest bands in the world, I didn’t just love Randy, I LOVED Ozzy, and I left to join a band that could not even get a manager. Noone wanted anything to do with Quiet Riot even though the Metal Health record was finished and in the can. That little album that Quiet Riot did that went to number one??? Noone believed in it, noone wanted it. Everyone told us that the kind of music we were doing was OVER. We were dinosaurs, that was EXACTLY what they told us. You’re laughing but its true. They told us that new wave was what was cool and we should just forget it. You can’t imagine my feeling and pain to leave such a big band as Ozzy to join this unknown thing. But that unknown band was the happier place to be and that was what mattered.
Q: You are a live show legend and have had success touring the world with all the bands we’ve talked about in addition to others like Whitesnake and many others. You’ve also played on some great albums. What is your favorite studio and favorite studio album that you did sessions for?
A: Hmmm..that’s a good question. I have been in this Rock and Roll Fantasy Camp thing for a long time now and have really gotten to work in some great studios that I haven’t worked in before. I’ve grown to love Capitol Records Studios. That is a really great studio, designed by Les Paul and just amazing to work at because it‘s set up to record live. The typical studio is set up to do record all the musicians separate and do all these layers and I just don’t agree with that way of doing things. I think that all the music I grew up on and loved from the 60s and 70s was all basically recorded live in studio. When it’s all isolated and controlled you lose that communication from band member to band member and some of the magic is lost. As far as what record I’ve worked on that I really prefer, I’d have to say it’s the one I’ve just made with this new band Animetal USA. The buzz over this record is incredible in Japan and it’s me, Chris Impelliteri on guitars, Mike Vescara (Loudness, Obsession) and Scott Travis (Judas Priest, Racer X). It’s not even out yet and our label Sony informed us that it debuted at #1 with preorders and all that. It will be coming out soon in the states soon but it’s basically an American metal spin on Japanese Anime themes and I have to tell you that record is the most intense record I have ever played on (laughs). It’s really heavy and fast and it’s really intense. We have really elaborate Kabuki makeup and costumes which is something I’ve never done before. I wore costumes in Ozzy but that was totally different this is more like a character, a superhero. We shot a video and will be touring and our first shows will be at the HUGE Japanese Metal Festival LOUDPARK. I think there’s a lot of people here in the U.S. that will love it too.
Q: I’d always heard rumors of you doing a solo record or doing something with your brother Robert like a SARZO Family kind of thing. Do you think things will ever slow down enough for you guys to work on something together like that?
A: Yes. That is on my bucket list. It will happen at some point.
Q: You’ve basically perfected the art of playing and entertaining at the same time. When you work on Rock and Roll Fantasy Camp is that something you often stress to the students, that it’s not all music, there is something to be said for putting on a show?
A: Yeah, and first of all the Camps are much different than the VH1 show and much more elaborate. On the TV show there is of course a story they are trying to tell and everyone gets involved in their part of the network getting to that end result. The TV show has a certain outcome that they try to extract from the actual experience of being in camp. Each counselor has a certain style and is given certain campers to work with one of the main things I wanted to stress was not just to maximize their potential musically but also visually. As a performer it is very important to project, you must do it when playing live and you must project and create magic when you’re in the studio as well. Being in a recording studio is really just a snapshot of what you are as a performer and as a band at a given point in time. It’s ideally a photograph of who you are at that moment. To me back in the old days when we used to have vinyl albums I always looked at a record album the same way people look at an album of photos. I would look at each individual song as a single photo in the album, that’s why I feel so strongly about making full, complete albums and making magic on those albums.
Q: You’re known for getting lost in the moment and having some wicked moves and visuals while playing live. Many of them have been picked up and recycled by other players in other bands. Do you ever think about any of those things or do they just happen?
A: No, and I don’t mind because I don’t even think about it. It’s not something I create, it’s just an emotion. That’s all it is and I’m a different bass player with every single band I’m in. I feel the music differently and react differently. My motto is “I join the band the band is not joining me”, I always look at the band and play for the band and the song. Most of the bands I’ve been in have a legacy and a style and have been around for a while, like a band like Blue Oyster Cult you have to really respect the music they’ve made and put down on record and the show they do. It’s iconic 1970s radio hits. You play IN the band. I become the best bass player I can be for the band I play with,.
Q: Before I let you go I have to ask you about your time in one of my favorite bands. What was it like to play with the guys in ANGEL?
A: It was great! I was in ANGEL and was a member of ANGEL when I was asked to join OZZY originally and I turned it down. I was a huge fan of ANGEL and I loved the image, especially for the 70s they were great image wise in a time that was great for that sort of thing. You had Bowie, Rod Stewart, and everyone had a very strong image and identity. I think that’s something that was lost in the 90s with grunge was that when you’re wearing flannel and combat boots you look just like anyone on the street. I think as a movement and as a music that the alternative stuff was very strong but as far as individualization, not really so much. I’m not really an 80s guy, that was the time I did my stuff and made music but to me personally the 70s were my defining era, that 60s and 70s stuff was where I drew all of my influences from and Angel was certainly a part of that. Angel had an incredibly strong identity not only musically but also visually. When I got to join the band I was already a huge, huge, HUGE fan of them. Unfortunately we just never got out of the recording studio, we just kept working on demos and I never even got to play live with them outside of rehearsal.
Q: Good luck with all of your projects and thank you for keeping Ronnie James’ music alive. I hope to see the show for myself soon.
A: Thanks for doing this John and thanks to everyone for taking the time to read it. Stay in touch with me on Rudysarzo.com and follow the tour dates for Dio Disciples on the Facebook page.
Sites That Link to this Post
- Legendary Rock Interview with Simon Wright (Dio Disciples, Dio, AC/DC) | | February 2, 2012