Rudy Sarzo on Randy Rhoads, life after Ozzy, and the return of Quiet Riot

Quiet Riot 1983  Rudy Sarzo, Kevin DuBrow, Frankie Banali, Carlos Cavazo   (Photo by Chris Walter/WireImage)


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 folowing, 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 relase, 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 started playing after listening to Paul McCartney, then later on Queen. And Vanilla Fudge were one of my biggest influences. Over-the-top, you know, the more notes the better.

I like to set myself really high goals, like jazz musicans. 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 bat’s 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 Humbe 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 yor 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.


One thought on “Rudy Sarzo on Randy Rhoads, life after Ozzy, and the return of Quiet Riot

  1. hey rudy you r great. I remember you and Kevin at the Starwood and Carlos when he was with snow. I also remember Bobby Stefen that guitar player just before Carlos.Smile and A-la Carte were good but you rock. The Guess Who. Good Luck.

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