Kelly Garni has lived a life worth writing a book about. He started a band with one of the most legendary guitarists of our generation but he had no idea that he and Randy Rhoads, his best friend from Junior High, were writing pages of rock and roll history. Kelly is a kind and interesting guy who has lived a roller coaster of a life forever touched by not one, but two tragedies, the terrible crash that took his friend’s life and the loss of his bandmate Kevin Dubrow. He loves the fans but it hasn’t always been easy to retell the stories so he wants to once and for all document it in print. Kelly’s book is called “Angels With Dirty Faces” and we are proud to be editing and releasing it through our publishing arm, LEGENDARY BY DARKHOUSE this October. You can get a copy through www.legendarybydarkhouse.com
Stay tuned here for part two of this interview soon. Kelly has a way with stories, doesn’t need a “ghost writer” and has a lot to talk about these days. Read on….
LRI: Hi Kelly, so nice to speak with you. This year is of course the 30TH anniversary of your best friend and bandmate Randy Rhoads’ passing. Every year he is remembered as he should be but this year is a little different isn’t it?
Kelly: It is. Every birthday, every anniversary of his passing I receive a lot of email and regular mail for both he and Kevin Dubrow but this year marking the 30th anniversary of Randy’s death there has been a bit more attention. I went to Randy’s gravesite on March 19th as I often have and it was an amazing outpouring of affection for him. It was really tremendous to see all these guys like Zakk Wylde show up but really it’s just always so special for the family and I to see how he touched the fans to this day.
LRI: The fans have really been waiting for something “Randy Related” to get into this year and the Osbourne re-releases were nice as are the guitar and wine but other than that there’s been little aside from some nice magazine cover stories. There is a new 100 dollar coffee table style photo book out and some are speculating that it’s somehow being done by some of the same people involved in the long-awaited Randy Rhoads documentary. A lot of people are frustrated by that but more importantly frustrated to still be waiting for that documentary, myself included. What is the status on the movie?
Kelly: It’s never coming out. It will never see the light of day I can tell you that much.
LRI: That really sucks. Everyone would want to see that. Do you believe there will ever be a proper film about Randy and his legacy?
Kelly: I think there should be, for the fans sake if for no other reason but I don’t think it should be done by that guy whose name I don’t even like to say because it only gives him more undue publicity. That’s part of the reason I wanted to get my book out there is because there is such a major disappointment among the fans regarding that “so-called” documentary. There are a lot of people who are not too happy about the entire process of what went down with that movie and most, not all, but most of the books written about Randy are simply filled with the same old photos and rehashed magazine articles we’ve all poured over for the last thirty years. My book is filled with stories and rare photos of Randy from way back to when we were kids but it’s not being marketed or titled “Randy Rhoads” nor is he on the cover. Having said that, there is a definite need to add some new information to the story.
LRI: Is there some major reason the movie is never going to happen? I talked to Rudy Sarzo who said he was interviewed but he really had no more info.
Kelly: It’s never happening. I don’t know what else I am allowed to really say but the ironic thing is that the director himself is probably the one most to blame for the film not happening.
LRI: When these anniversaries pop up is it a time when you reflect on the old band and your days or is it a time that you reflect on your friendships with them in general?
Kelly: That’s a good question. I could probably go about six ways in answering it but really I do end up thinking about the band to be honest. That’s because at this point in time we’re really not just talking about one but two losses here so any anniversary makes me think of both of them equally.
LRI: I’m really glad you brought up Kevin Dubrow because I still think that his loss was tremendous but his image of being over the top and obnoxious during the early 80s sometimes overshadowed the magnitude of his passing. I am excited about your book because it shows the true Kevin that existed before and after those “MTV” days. How did you see Kevin change over the years?
Kelly: I saw Kevin change in unbelievable ways. He and I had a pretty interesting history. In the band we were outright enemies, we hated each other in those days. I was on a constant quest to get him out of the band and get a different singer. I hated him, he hated me and we could not find any way whatsoever to get along which caused a lot of tension in the band and it put a lot of stress on Randy to try to be neutral. Randy and I were such good friends for so many years and it was important for him to be unbiased and get along with Kevin. That disdain for each other lasted even beyond my years in the band up until Kevin moved here to Vegas in the 90s. A mutual friend had gotten us together prior to his moving out here and just basically said “Hey, you guys, it’s been decades now, you need to get along, Kevin and Quiet Riot are playing a show up in Vegas, I’ll get a room and meet you there and we can patch this up”. I’m always willing to do that so I said sure and we patched things up quite nicely. I was very struck by the first thing that came out of Kevin’s mouth, he said “You know, I got quite a well deserved reputation for having a big mouth in the 80s. I did and said a lot of things over the years that I shouldn’t have but I’m a completely different person now”. That was really good that he did that and acknowledged that because just being around him it was clear that something had changed. He was the first one to admit that he had to go through some changes in his life to become someone who could become a friend to another person.
LRI: During the 90s and all the reunion touring it was clear. He made it a point to really connect with fans and treat us like people not customers.
Kelly: Very much so. It was clear to anyone he came in contact with. He realized that he had screwed up really bad and was just not viewed as a very likable person to almost everyone but to his credit, he DID change and as a result of that meeting we became as close as brothers. We realized that we have an undeniable and unbelievable history together and the best thing we could do would be to just see that and get along. In the end, it ended up being a good thing for us to start out as enemies but still somehow wind up sharing a that brotherhood and history together that just happens when you start out playing rock n roll as kids. Brotherhood can have its ups and downs and sometimes the relationship can be contentious, that’s why so many bands splinter and break up. You get arguments and fistfights and it becomes a four-way marriage that only people who’ve been there can relate to. We pretty much ran the gamut but in the end I just absolutely adored him and enjoyed his company and friendship for many, many years. The whole time he was here in town was really great and I really loved being around him. He lived just a few blocks from me and I took care of his house when he was on the road, helped him with his mail, that kind of stuff. You were asking about birthdays and anniversaries, well Kevin and my birthday just happened to fall on the same day. Back in the Quiet Riot days I used to dread my birthdays because everyone would throw us a big party and I’d always have to share it with him despite how obvious it was we couldn’t stand each other. That became totally different once we rekindled our friendship. We would look forward to our birthday every year because Kevin would make it so much fun. He was so generous and he loved to eat and loved to eat expensive food so that’s what we did. We’d talk and talk and inevitably it would dawn on us that no one twenty years ago would ever believed that we were capable of getting along as well as we did. We used to really laugh about it but he would also say something in regards to Randy that always struck me as kind of spooky. He would often say “Doesn’t it feel like there’s three of us sitting here” and he’d also say that whenever I would visit him in the recording studio, “Doesn’t it feel like he’s here” and I would have to admit there was usually a very strong presence. It was extremely spooky.
Kelly: I mean it was almost overwhelming how much it felt like Randy was sitting with us.
LRI: Frankie Banali is involved with a movie about Quiet Riot and has seen quite a bit of history go down long since Randy passed. I’m sure Randy would be surprised by all the twists and turns in Quiet Riot that he never could have envisioned all those years ago when you guys dreamed big dreams as kids.
Kelly: I’m sure he would be, hell I am surprised by it all. I think it’s really a band where there’s definitely a part A and a part B, they are really quite different but still tied together by that name, Quiet Riot. I ran into Frankie at the 30th Anniversary gathering for Randy and we had a nice chat, it was good seeing him. I’ve always been acknowledged by Rudy Sarzo for my time in the band, he’s been very fair to me though I don’t really know him. I’ve had good relationships with guys like the late Kenny Hillary, Alex Grossi and Carlos Cavaso and even Kevin’s replacement Paul Shortino who’s a great, great guy. Paul has a tattoo on his arm of his wife Carmen and I took the photo he had tattooed on. Which is pretty cool because I think the world of Paul and I’ve known Carmen since she was 15 and wanted me to introduce her to, get this, Rudy Sarzo!! I took her to see Quiet Riot open for Black Sabbath at the Aladdin and introduced her to Rudy. Nothing happened there and she of course went on to marry Paul but still, fate moves in mysterious ways!
LRI: Is it hard to pinpoint all the facts and circumstances involved in you and Randy starting Quiet Riot?
Kelly: Doing this book has really refreshed my memory as well as those of a lot of the people I’ve interviewed. The fans have always, always been helpful too and save ticket stubs and flyers and all sorts of things that can become very useful when you’re trying to recall events from 30 plus years ago. Randy and I met during Junior High!
LRI: What was Randy like as an academic student?
Kelly: Well, I go into a great amount of detail in the book but the short version is that he and I were both actually pretty bright and would’ve been amazing students but our academic experiences weren’t always ideal. A lot of that stemmed from prejudice against us and the way we looked or carried ourselves back in those days. Every time we showed up for school it was usually problematic so we pretty much avoided it.
LRI: When you started playing in those pre-Quiet Riot bands was it pretty readily apparent that you guys may have had enough talent and chops to make it?
Kelly: Well, it was certainly readily apparent that HE did (laughs). He had already been playing guitar since he was seven. Although, when I met him he didn’t know how to play lead guitar yet at all. He was just starting to take lessons for it and really just riffing around. Our friendship kind of happened at just the right time because he was able to teach me bass and have somebody to play off of in terms of learning to play lead guitar. Our friendship was very tight-knit because neither of us really fit into any of the little cliques that kids tend to fall into. We weren’t nerds, we weren’t jocks, we weren’t dopers we were just on our own. In our school there really wasn’t any other musicians for the most part, although Drew Forsyth (original Quiet Riot drummer) was one. He didn’t have any problems fitting in at school though because he was in the school band and he was a little older anyway.
LRI: Were you pretty much at Musonia (The family’s music school) the majority of your time when you were learning to hone your skills or were you also at each other’s houses?
Kelly: It was a little bit of both. I like to say it was probably the most perfect musical upbringing you could ask for. There were always opportunities to just be around music in general but the band thing was something completely different. That existed and took root in Randy’s and my mind and became our driving force and primary focus. Musonia was something of a tool and also a means to an end but it wasn’t necessarily where it all took root, meaning we didn’t spend all our time there working on the band. His older brother and some of his friends would play there a lot and we’d be there. Sometimes, if we did chores we’d be rewarded by Randy’s mom and be able to play there sometimes as loud as we wanted which was a really big deal to us because we had already become way too familiar with the local police department at too young of an age. They were always responding to noise complaints and of course it was always Randy and I (laughs).
LRI: You got good enough to venture out of the house and start playing the sunset strip as young teenagers which in the mid seventies had to be interesting right?
Kelly: You better believe it. We had started playing gigs well before Quiet Riot, and back then Hollywood was a pretty loose place. Nobody carried or cared about ID’s. Thirteen year old girls could walk in dress like sexy 25 year olds and kids could saddle up to the bar and order a cocktail so it wasn’t a big stretch for us to get up and play there. It was like that at Rodney Bingenheimer’s and also at the Starwood. It was really no big deal back then.
You are of course most known as a founding member of Quiet Riot but we understand since then you’ve worn a few different hats. What are some of them?
Kelly Garni: Well, you’re right on that one. Since my Quiet Riot days, I have been a paramedic, a photographer and have worn a host of other hats. It all seems to keep leading me back to music though. I have a new band with some great musicians, including Tomi Rae Brown (James Brown’s widow) called GodMother of Soul. I got into playing and Quiet Riot when Randy and I were just kids and it is really a joy to be playing music again with this band, it’s not heavy metal but then I’m not 20. It’s more of a classic rock type thing, Janis Joplin, Hendrix and things more along those lines. We are all out here in Vegas which is a great place to play in a rock and roll band because unlike Los Angeles, you can actually be a working band out here. L.A has always been dominated by the whole “pay to play” mentality. Mostly it’s just refreshing to be playing music with my friends which is really the only way to do it.
LRI: You must get asked a lot about the details of your friendship with Randy. Only family and a select few close friends have the perspective you’ve had and many have put forth speculation that ends up being considered truth. Do you just learn to keep your guard up and does that make it difficult in writing a book like this?
Kelly: Yes and no. Two of the main things that are widely believed about him are in many respects true. He was fairly introverted but it was really more on a personal level than his outward behavior around people. He didn’t generally let too many people in too close, not close enough to his soul, for lack of a better term, to figure out who he was. He kept that fairly private unless you were very close to him. Some people got close enough with him to get to that area, his family did, I did, a couple of his girlfriends did. That was about it though. There’s a lot of people out there who claim to really, really know him and some of them were around us at that time but that doesn’t mean they really got into the guy, few did.
LRI: So, you’ve delivered us this book and we’re set to deliver it to the world. It’s filled with all the little details about Quiet Riot, about yourself, that 70s scene and of course Randy. I read lots of these books and most of them have a ghost writer but you actually freakin sat down and did this. When did you decide to undertake such a thing?
Kelly: I wouldn’t say I decided to do it as much as I had to do it. I knew I was going to have to do a book at some point as I have to get all these stories out definitively and I am a writer. I’ve written a number of screenplays and that’s what I went to college for after the band days but this book is a whole other story altogether. There was a lot of pressure put on me to tell the other side of the story because of what’s happened with the documentary. I had originally planned to wait a longer time to do it because I hope my life is only half written (laughs). My book is not just a story about Randy, he’s certainly a big part of it but I’ve lived a pretty interesting life myself filled with some pretty interesting people in addition to Randy. It’s been over 30 years since he passed though and I’m still being asked about those days and my time with him which has been great but often extremely unpleasant at the same time. It never goes away and it’s always somehow been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. I cut off all my hair and became a paramedic and tried to move on years ago after being out of the band and thought that I could leave all that music stuff behind. Wrong. I’m in the back of an ambulance performing CPR on someone and my driver has the radio on and I hear my playing on one of the old Quiet Riot albums which was, as you could imagine, surreal. It doesn’t matter where I go or what I do as a career it will always come up that I’m the guy who was friends with Randy and started Quiet Riot and people always have questions. With this book, I’ve hopefully succeeded in answering all of their questions and then some. The other thing I’m very cognizant of is that there is such a legacy involved with Randy and that legacy needed some participants who were important in the story and important in his life. There was a tag stuck on me in regards to Randy back in the 80s called “Keeper of the Flame”, which kinda stuck. A lot of people have tried to pour gas on it and a few people have tried to throw water on it but noone has been able to put it out. It’s a title I didn’t create and have sometimes reluctantly accepted but I really do try my best to live up to it.
Come back for much more in part 2 of our interview with Kelly Garni including much more on the original Quiet Riot days and the late, great Randy Rhoads and Kevin Dubrow.
To order Kelly’s book visit: www.legendarybydarkhouse.com