Sarzo, far left, with Quiet Riot
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON AUG. 5, 1983
By Steve Newton
Formed in 1975 by Kevin DuBrow and the late Randy Rhoads (who died in a plane crash last year while a member of the Ozzy Osbourne band), Quiet Riot were one of the leading Los Angeles rock bands during the late seventies.
Boasting dynamic live performances and a loyal following, the band opened major concerts for the likes of Journey and Black Oak Arkansas and recorded two albums for CBS/Sony in Japan.
The band’s first domestic release, Metal Health, was released earlier this year and dedicated to the memory of Rhoads. It features the rip-roaring “Slick Black Cadillac”–a single that sold 100.000 copies in Japan alone–as well as a raucous version of Slade’s “Cum On Feel the Noize”.
Along with DuBrow, the current members of Quiet Riot are drummer Frankie Banali, guitarist Carlos Cavazo, and bassist Rudy Sarzo. Banali played drums on the much-overlooked Hughes/Thrall album and Billy Idol’s single “Mony, Mony”; Cavaza lead guitar with the successful L.A. rock band Snow; and Sarzo bass for Ozzy Osbourne.
I had a chance to talk to Sarzo recently as the band was opening for Loverboy in Seattle. He told me about his reasons for quitting Ozzy, his late bandmate Randy Rhoads, and life on the road with Quiet Riot.
How did you first get involved in playing bass?
I like to set myself really high goals, like jazz musicians. I mean, you can’t compare someone who plays contemporary music with someone who’s a technician. I still appreciate people like John Entwistle, who has always been monster at the bass guitar, but he doesn’t have the technique that Jaco Pastorius or Stanley Clarke do. Not that that makes Entwistle a worse musician–he’s still a great player.
To me Randy Rhoads was the most remarkable rock guitarist of the 1980s. What was he like as a person?
You know how people usually say great things about someone after they’re gone? Well, all the great things I could say about Randy I would say whether he was alive today or not. He helped me so much going through the readjustment period of being with Ozzy because he’d been with him for about a year and had already gone through all the crap–the same crap that goes on in any band.
Ozzy knew what he wanted–it was his band and that was that. So Randy helped me a lot in adjusting to that situation.
What was it like playing with Ozzy Osbourne? Is he really the madman he’s made out to be?
No no, he’s just a guy. Ozzy’s Ozzy. People have this image about him, but he’s really just a normal guy.
But doesn’t he bite bats’ heads and stuff like that?
Actually what happened was he thought it was a rubber bat that somebody had thrown on stage, so he put it in his mouth. Then he realized it was not rubber but a dead bat.
So that’s what happened–he didn’t bite the head off it. He’s a pretty normal guy.
Why did you leave the band?
I wasn’t happy anymore. After Randy died the band was never the same again. The feel and the whole attitude were just gone. While I was playing with him in Ozzy’s band it was like still being in Quiet Riot, but with not as good a singer–with just Ozzy singing. After the accident I kept on playing with Ozzy, but I wasn’t happy, and when Quiet Riot reformed I went in to do a track for them.
And it was so good to be playing with friends again. I’d been friends with Frankie Banali for twelve years, so this magic [snaps his fingers] just came back. I had only gone in to do one track but I stayed there for almost the whole album.
So I made up my mind then that I wanted to leave Ozzy, but I had to fulfill all my commitments first, so I recorded Speak of the Devil live and then right after that it was official.
How did Quiet Riot happen to get booked for the recent US Festival?
It was incredible–one of those breaks that you only get to see in the movies. We were doing this tour with Scorpions that was all smaller halls, B-venues, because they were just warming up for the festival themselves. We got to Boulder, Colorado on the same day John Cougar pulled out. And Boulder just happened to be the city where the organization that was booking bands for the festival was based.
They really liked our band a lot, so when Cougar pulled out they mentioned to our manager that there was a possibility of getting us in the show. The next day we went on to another city and our manager stayed behind negotiating the whole deal. We got a call that evening saying we were in and we couldn’t believe it. This was two days before we were supposed to go on! So we went in, we played, and we got out. Four days later we realized what had happened.
What other bands did you enjoy seeing at the Festival?
Well we didn’t hang around much because after our gig we did a lot of press interviews and photo sessions, and by the time we finished doing that we were so tired that we just wanted to go home. Well [laughs] back to the hotel anyway.
When did you go on that day?
We were given the choice to either go on second–which would have been Joe Walsh’s spot–or to go on first. And we wanted to go on first–that’s the whole rush of it. After that everything becomes just one big blur of bands coming on. The first one is what people really get up into. The first or the last.
How did you come to record Slade’s “Cum On Feel the Noize” on Metal Health?
It was suggested by our producer Spencer Proffer. It was a hit single for Slade in Europe and he felt that it was a good song for us to do. It has an anthem to it–we really enjoy playing it live.
I mean this is a live band–we’re talking “balls against the walls” you know, a lot of volume. We are heavy metal in attitude, but in spirit we’re hard rock cause we’re not really into the ultra-stud, heavy-duty this and that. We’re not into any demonic messages or anything like that, we’re just a hard rock band that’s having a good time.
How do you think the American hard rock scene differs from the British?
Well, having spent some time in Europe and England I have noticed some differences. Because an American band can actually make money in the States by being a little bit more commercial, they sell out. English bands, they really don’t care! They don’t think melodic. They don’t have to think melodic because they make it by being what they are.
That’s why you have bands like Iron Maiden and Saxon–they can tour Europe forever and make enough money to buy their own little mansions and not have to sell out.
American bands, once they’ve tasted money, they sell out.
Does that include Quiet Riot?
Oh no, we’re not out to sell out. This is what we are. When we get melodic it’s because we like melody. We’ve grown up with seventies material like Faces and Humble Pie–that’s what our roots are. Listen, if we were going to sell out we would have gone new wave a long time ago.
What do you think of the new wave scene these days?
There’s some good stuff. There should be room for everything. Because you can’t just eat steak or lobster every day. There’s got to be room for a little cheeseburger here and there.
What other bands do you like listening to in your spare time?
We like Judas Priest a lot, they can get pretty melodic. If you listen to their albums, they were more heavy metal at the beginning. With “Breaking the Law” they found a lot more hooks. And then Screaming for Vengeance had a lot of great tunes. Def Leppard is another one with a lot of great tunes.
What is life on the road like with Quiet Riot?
It’s great. All these guys are nuts, totally berserk. Actually, I am the most mild-mannered person in the whole band.
Who’s the craziest?
I would say Frank. He has a habit of going around naked in the hallways and doing nasty things just for the hell of it. And Carlos, we call him Hugo Hefner cause he has all these girls come back to his room, then he puts on his robe and starts acting like Hugh Hefner.
We don’t destroy things in the hotels, though. If any Holiday Inn people out there are reading this, don’t worry about it.
Do you ever fear for your hearing playing in a loud band like Quiet Riot?
No. Actually distortion is bad for you, but volume doesn’t really hurt. What affects me onstage is my equilibrium because the bass throws me off. That’s why I’m really klutzy onstage. I feel like I’m going to fall all the time because of this [makes roaring sounds] volume.
To hear the full 27-minute audio of my 1983 interview with Rudy Sarzo subscribe to my Patreon page, where you can eavesdrop on over 325 of my uncut, one-on-one conversations with:
Dave Martone, 2020
Ian Gillan of Deep Purple, 2006
Joss Stone, 2012
Glenn Tipton of Judas Priest, 2005
Jack Blades of Night Ranger, 1984
Vivian Campbell of Def Leppard, 1992
Colin James, 1995
Kim Simmonds of Savoy Brown, 1998
Tom Cochrane of Red Rider, 1983
Ed Roland of Collective Soul, 1995
Taj Mahal, 2001
Tom Wilson of Junkhouse, 1995
Mike McCready of Pearl Jam, 2003
David Lindley, 2002
Marty Friedman of Megadeth, 1991
John Hiatt, 2010
Nancy Wilson of Heart, 2006
Jeff Golub, 1989
Moe Berg of the Pursuit of Happiness, 1990
Todd Rundgren, 2006
Chad Kroeger of Nickelback, 2001
Steve Earle, 1987
Gabby Gaborno of the Cadillac Tramps, 1991
Terry Bozzio, 2003
Roger Glover, 1985
Matthew Sweet, 1995
Jim McCarty of the Yardbirds, 2003
Luther Dickinson of North Mississippi Allstars, 2001
John Rzeznik of the Goo Goo Dolls, 1995
Grace Potter, 2008
Buddy Guy, 1993
Steve Lynch of Autograph, 1985
Don Wilson of the Ventures, 1997
Gordie Johnson of Big Sugar, 1998
Trevor Rabin of Yes, 1984
Albert Lee, 1986
Yngwie Malmsteen, 1985
Robert Cray, 1996
Tony Carey, 1984
Ian Hunter, 1988
Kate Bush, 1985
Jeff Healey, 1988
Richie Sambora of Bon Jovi, 1993
Colin Linden, 1993
Kenny Wayne Shepherd, 1995
Justin Hayward of the Moody Blues, 1986
Elliot Easton from the Cars, 1996
Wayne Kramer from the MC5, 2004
Bob Rock, 1992
Nick Gilder, 1985
Roy Buchanan, 1988
Klaus Meine of Scorpions, 1988
Jason Bonham, 1989
Tom Johnston of the Doobie Brothers, 1991
Joey Spampinato of NRBQ, 1985
Patterson Hood of the Drive-By Truckers, 2003
Andy Powell of Wishbone Ash, 2003
Steve Kilbey of the Church, 1990
Johnette Napolitano of Concrete Blonde, 1990
Dan McCafferty of Nazareth, 1984
Davy Knowles of Back Door Slam, 2007
Jimmy Barnes from Cold Chisel, 1986
Steve Stevens of Atomic Playboys, 1989
Billy Idol, 1984
Stuart Adamson of Big Country, 1993
Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull, 1992
Warren Haynes of Gov’t Mule, 1998
John Bell of Widespread Panic, 1992
Robben Ford, 1993
Barry Hay of Golden Earring, 1984
Jason Isbell, 2007
Joe Satriani, 1990
Brad Delp of Boston, 1988
Zakk Wylde of Pride & Glory, 1994
John Sykes of Blue Murder, 1989
Dave Mustaine of Megadeth, 1998
Alice Cooper, 1986
Lars Ulrich of Metallica, 1985
Shannon Hoon of Blind Melon, 1992
Myles Goodwyn of April Wine, 2001
John Mellencamp, 1999
Mike Campbell of Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, 1999
Kenny Aronoff, 1999
Jon Bon Jovi, 1986
Dickey Betts of the Allman Brothers, 1992
Little Steven, 1987
Stevie Salas, 1990
J.J. Cale, 2009
Joe Bonamassa, 2011
Rob Baker of the Tragically Hip, 1997
Tommy Emmanuel, 1994
John Petrucci of Dream Theater, 2010
Eric Johnson, 2001
Stu Hamm, 1991
Gene Simmons of Kiss, 1992
Ace Frehley from Kiss, 2008
David Lee Roth, 1994
Allan Holdsworth, 1983
John Mayall of the Bluesbreakers, 1988
Steve Vai, 1990
Tony Iommi of Heaven and Hell, 2007
Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, 1996
Geoff Tate of Queensryche, 1991
James Hetfield of Metallica, 1986
Rick Richards of the Georgia Satellites, 1988
Andy McCoy and Sam Yaffa of Hanoi Rocks, 1984
Steve Morse, 1991
Slash of Guns N’ Roses, 1994
Brian May from Queen, 1993
Dickey Betts of the Allman Brothers, 1991
Jake E. Lee of Badlands, 1992
Rickey Medlocke of Lynyrd Skynyrd, 1997
John Fogerty, 1997
Joe Perry of Aerosmith, 1987
Rick Derringer, 1999
Robin Trower, 1990
Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top, 1994
Mick Ronson, 1988
Geddy Lee of Rush, 2002
Buck Dharma of Blue Oyster Cult, 1997
Michael Schenker, 1992
Vince Neil of Motley Crue, 1991
Vinnie Paul of Pantera, 1992
Steve Harris of Iron Maiden, 1988
Sebastian Bach of Skid Row, 1989
Rob Halford of Judas Priest, 1984
Bill Henderson of Chilliwack, 1999
Paul Rodgers, 1997
R.L. Burnside, 1999
Guthrie Govan of the Aristocrats, 2015
Mick Mars of Mötley Crüe, 1985
Carlos Santana, 2011
Walter Trout, 2003
Rudy Sarzo of Quiet Riot, 1983
Tommy Aldridge, 2001
Donald “Duck” Dunn, 1985
Mark Farner of Grand Funk, 1991
Chris Robinson of Black Crowes, 1990
Jennifer Batten, 2002
Mike Fraser, 2014
Leo Kottke, 2002
Lemmy Kilmister of Motorhead, 2002
David Gogo, 1991
Booker T. Jones, 2016
Link Wray, 1997
James Reyne from Australian Crawl, 1988
Mike Rutherford of Genesis, 1983
Buddy Guy, 1991
Country Dick Montana of the Beat Farmers, 1990
Mike Cooley of the Drive-By Truckers, 2016
Gary Rossington of Lynyrd Skynyrd, 1986
Lindsay Mitchell of Prism, 1988
Buddy Miles, 2001
Eddie Money, 1988
Tom Hamilton of Aerosmith, 1983
Gaye Delorme, 1990
Dave Murray of Iron Maiden, 1984
Graham Bonnet of Alcatrazz, 1984
Mick Fleetwood of Fleetwood Mac, 2016
Doc Neeson of Angel City, 1985
Rik Emmett of Triumph, 1985
Sonny Landreth, 2016
Tosin Abasi of Animals as Leaders, 2016
Jeff Beck, 2001
Albert King, 1990
Johnny Ramone of the Ramones, 1992
Peter Frampton, 1987
Otis Rush, 1997
Gord Downie of the Tragically Hip, 1989
Leslie West of Mountain, 2002
Steve Howe of Yes, 2017
Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden, 1983
Uli Jon Roth, 2016
Poison Ivy of the Cramps, 1990
Greg Lake of ELP, 1992
Warren Zevon, 1992
Tal Wilkenfeld, 2016
Steve Clark of Def Leppard, 1988
Roy Buchanan, 1986
Gary Moore, 1984
Ronnie Montrose, 1994
Danny Gatton, 1993
Alex Lifeson of Rush, 1992
Ann Wilson of Heart, 1985
J.J. Cale, 1990
Yngwie Malmsteen, 2014
Long John Baldry, 1985
Allan Holdsworth, 1983
Kim Mitchell, 1984
Warren Haynes of the Allman Brothers, 1994
Derek Trucks, 1998
Susan Tedeschi, 1998
Joe Satriani, 2018
B.B. King, 1984
Albert Collins, 1985
Ronnie James Dio, 1985
Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath, 1984
Dick Dale, 2000
Greg Allman, 1998
Dickey Betts, 2001
….with hundreds more to come