Interviewed by Brian Rademacher
Date: December 28th, 2005
You were born in Cuba. Do you remember anything about your life there?
Actually I was a fetus first, then I was a baby when I was born Ha-ha. Actually, I remember a lot. I was ten and half when I left. My formative years I lived in Cuba.
How was the culture there at the time?
Not only the culture... the Cubans in Miami have a tendency to say things in Cuba were a such and such way. I was telling my parents that. We are talking about the fifties and sixties everything in the whole world was a different way, not just in Cuba. I think it reflected that era and it was just the way the society was. I was born in 1950, left in 1961, and basically the same things as far as society and culture goes were happening in the US and Cuba, except for the revolution when Castro came in. A lot of Cubans left when Cuba became a communist country. But Cuba is pretty much what Puerto Rico is to US today, almost like an extension of the United States.
At what age did you start playing bass?
I dabbled in guitar but never really heavily played… (I played) more melodies. There were a lot of instrumental bands in those days like The Ventures. Then The Beatles came in, and then more ‘vocal’ groups became popular. Nobody wanted to play bass so I became the bass player.
Did you have teaching class or were you self-taught?
I was self-taught. It took me a couple years for someone to be kind enough to show me how to tune the guitar. (Laughing) I had this record… it was a double record called, “Learn How To Play The Bass With THE VENTURES.” It was like a tutorial, it would play one track and explain the song, and the next track would be the same but with no bass and you would play along with that. So that is the closest thing to getting a bass lesson for me. Back then, don’t forget there were no digital tuners or videos. Nowadays you can go to Guitar Center and load up on instructional videos.
What was the first garage band you were in?
Oh boy, I was in so many. I first started playing with a makeshift bass. It was an acoustic guitar with only four strings. We really didn’t have a name for that band. The very first band I can remember... I was in a band called The Era of Good Feeling, it morphed itself into Sounds Display, and after that, there were a lot more like Mango, Sylvester, and more.
When did you start playing bass cradled in your arms?
I played a lot of clubs in Miami. It was a good way to hold your craft. When you play clubs in Miami you would play 45 minutes on, 15 minutes off - six sets a night. After a while, you basically have to find ways to entertain yourself playing the same songs over and over again. My way was to see how fucked up I can hold the bass and play it. That was a challenge to me (laughing), so I found a way to keep myself awake… because after a while you’re looking out the window and its daylight. Basically, it’s about having fun and having a good time - that’s R n’ R.
Did you ever want to sing lead vocals?
(Laughing) oh yeah, I did for just a short while I was a lead vocalist. I was in a really bad glitter rock band called Cock. We had a porno set and it’s the seventies. It was like porn meets glitter. It was so bad that after we did the tour, I wanted to play bass. So my brother had a band, they were going to play a party, and the singer was not available so I said, you know what… I’ll do it, I’ll sing. It was old Bowie and I did it, and I had a blast. It was cool.
Did you have a dream during the beginning of your career?
No. Anything that has happened in my career is well beyond my dreams.
Did you have family support?
Absolutely, I had incredible family support. But I would say most of the musicians I worked with their families supported them in some way financially or emotionally.
Did you record anything before joining Quiet Riot that was released?
My first actual release was “Speak of the Devil” with Ozzy… even though “Metal Health” and “Speak of the Devil” were released at the same time. I made a point to let Quiet Riot know I was still playing with Ozzy Osbourne. I was not officially a member of the band Quiet Riot. I was asked to come in and play on a couple of tracks. They actually had a couple of bass players. There was not an official bass player. The first day I went in there to record the session Tony Cavazo was in there. We did “Thunderbird,” “Slick Black Cadillac” and three other tracks. So there were two or three songs already in the can when I went in there to do the session. One was “Metal Health” and “Don’t Wanna Let You Go” which were recorded by Chuck Wright.
When you first met Randy Rhoads what was your impression?
I saw him play before I met him. I have a book called “Off The Rails” and the publisher at the time, Cherry Lane, suggested a subtitle “Off The Rails - My Adventures In The Land Of Ozz”. One of the reasons why I chose Cherry Lane was not only because my relationship with John Sticks the publisher but also his relationship with Randy. He was the editor of ‘Guitar World’ and he knew Randy pretty well. I knew the book was going to be a labor of love. But it also happened that Cherry Lane also has the sheet music for the ‘Ozzy / Randy’ catalog. So when Sharon Osbourne found out the book was going to be hitting the street on September 14th, they put a ‘Cease and Desist’ order and applied pressure. After many communications between Cherry Lane's lawyers and the Osbourne lawyers, it finally came down to Sharon writing me a very nasty letter and putting an ultimatum on Cherry Lane that if the book was published, she (Sharon Osbourne) was going to pull the catalog. So the contract was released… right now I have another deal in the works and it’s still going to come out - Thank God! Also, the Editor in Chief at ‘Guitar World’ contacted me because they are putting together a tribute to Randy. It’s the whole issue and they will be using some excerpts from the book.
What was your feeling about Kevin DuBrow’s attitude?
All I can say is that all the problems I had in the eighties, reared their ugly heads in the nineties. That is why we are not playing together anymore.
Were the bass lines more difficult in Ozzy’s band compared to Quiet Riot?
I grew up playing progressive music so I would say the most technical music I have played would have to be the last tour I played with Yngwie Malmsteen. I would say that because of him being a guitar player it balances the guitar lines on the bass. It was a beautiful challenge.
What was the most memorable experience in playing for Ozzy Osbourne?
Every single moment!
Let’s move onto Whitesnake. What was you impression of that band?
I had a blast. It was a great band with a great bunch of guys. It was a blessing and a privilege to be a part of the whole thing.
They only released one album “Slip of the Tongue”?
With that configuration yeah, we only did “Slip of the Tongue” because we were not in the band. Tommy Aldridge and I were asked to play on that record but we turned it down. For me personally, I knew at the time about the friction between John Sykes and David Coverdale. Whitesnake was the opening act for Quiet Riot in 1984 and I got to experience it first hand. So I was not about to leave a situation, even though I did not regard it as a good situation, just to go into another bad situation. I opted not to join the band at the time. I am not saying this out of any disfavor to either David or John, they are both great people as well as great musicians, but there was something about their personalities in the same band that didn’t work. So when John wasn’t in the band anymore, I felt it could be a good situation to be in.
You played with Yngwie Malmsteen during 2004 on The Attack Tour. How was it working with him?
It was great. I had a blast it was all good.
Moving from band to band... is it more challenging for you?
Moving from band to band is not a decision of choice. To be honest with you, I wished personality-wise everything worked out with Quiet Riot; because once you reach a certain level of success, the chances of making it happen again are very slim. So when you go from a big situation to the unknown, it’s pretty risky. The reason why I left Ozzy: emotionally I didn’t want to be in the same band without Randy. It was very hard to carry on without him when the crash happened. With Quiet Riot, I had to leave the band because of the conflict of personalities we had in the band. With Whitesnake, David broke up the band. He told us that was the last tour the second day we got off tour in 1990. We were pretty much forewarned of the future of Whitesnake. Then I went back with Quiet Riot in 1997 and with Kevin DuBrow not showing up to the gigs after the seventh time, and being sued by promoters and so on, we couldn’t afford to keep the band. It was decided by everybody in the band to say, hey it’s over and carry on. Now with Yngwie, I was asked to do the tour, so I did. In the meantime, I got a call from Ronnie James Dio to come and play on the record. Then again I was on a tour with Yngwie and I was not about to get off the bus and go in the studio with Dio. I have to fulfill my commitments to Yngwie. I have been with Dio now for a year and half and we are getting ready to work on the new record.
You have been a writer, a songwriter, a bassist and did a solo album plus a DVD. What was the most fun?
Anytime you do an instructional video, you want to give as much knowledge as you can. It is basically teaching with no one in the room (laughing). You imagine that imaginary student that is right in front of you - that universal student. You take it from there. It’s a little strange but it is something that once you get the hang of it, you just go and do it. Playing live - nothing beats that. Writing the book is like doing homework, while all the other kids are playing baseball in the yard, and you are in your room doing homework. Basically, that is what writing a book is all about. You make a commitment to start it, you finish it and once it’s done, it’s out of your system. Everyone who has read it has been very pleased with it. It was to make sure that everything that was in the book did justice to Randy’s memory. That was it. It’s a book about Randy (Rhoads) and a book I wish the Osbournes had written, but they didn’t. So someone had to and I took upon myself to do it.
You have just joined Ronnie James Dio for the upcoming tour. What drew you to Dio?
It’s like it never stops. We just got off tour a few weeks ago and we go back out in March. We also did a DVD back in October and it will be release in 2006.
Working with so many musicians, who was the biggest impact musically in your life?
Overall, everyone has some kind of impact. But I would say that overall it has to be Randy Rhoads. Randy had a definite major impact on me. He was so eloquent. He carried himself so well. He was an example not only to the fans, but to everyone he came in contact with, as far as friends and people he worked with. Besides Randy, I would have to say Steve Vai. Steve has a lot of those elements in him. He is a guy who is organized in his life and career. He knows how to prioritize things.
What does the future hold for Rudy Sarzo?
I don’t know (laughing) - I guess just keep doing what I have been doing in the rock ‘n’ roll style. It’s all about playing music and fulfilling your dream. That must have been some dream. But actually, it’s beyond a dream. I am a guy who has been very blessed.
I appreciate the interview Rudy.
Thanks very much Brian!