Catching Up With Rudy Sarzo
The bassist now returns with a whole new project dubbed Animetal – an anime inspired metal supergroup. We recently caught up with Sarzo to talk about Animetal and his storied career.
Interviewed by: Roger Scales
How did the Animetal project originally get started and what was the process like in selecting the four band members?
It started with Mike Vescera (Obsession, Loudness, Yngwie Malmsteen) our singer who was living in Japan at the time, who was a huge fan of Japanese Anime. Between 1996-2006 there was a band called Animetal out of Japan who specialized in metal covers of theme songs from classic and modern Japanese anime and tokusatsu television series. Sony records was looking to reboot the entire concept so this time they wanted US musicians who were both familiar with and fans of the concept but also well known to a Japanese audience. Ultimately it came down to Mike Vescera, Chris Impellitteri, Rudy Sarzo and Scott Travis who all recorded the first record released last fall in Japan. Once Judas Priest decided to go back out on tour we needed a new drummer so we selected Jon Dette, who has played with both Slayer and Testament in the past. He plays drums on our second record called “W” which was released last month in Japan. Century Media is now making available worldwide a special edition compilation of both records available for purchase as a CD or downloads.
Do you think this record will resonate with a hard rock fan unfamiliar with Anime as an art form but who are familiar with the individual band members coming together in what could be called rock’s new super group?
If you never heard these tracks before in their original format then you’re just enjoying great heavy metal covers. Also we just recorded the theme song to Rock Lee and His Ninja Pals the most popular show in the Anime field so we are now creating new music as well. I think because we are just an enjoyable rock band, whether you are a fan of Anime or not, there is something for everyone with us.
Since your all individual characters did each of you help create the costumes and makeup now being worn?
There was a blueprint and concept to this project long before each of us actually got involved. The record company and management wanted to make sure that the members chosen were going to embrace the roles, as they had already been created. Once in that character then each of us did add to it and use our own influences. Right now we are all very comfortable not only playing the music but also identifying with the role itself.
Does the live show include any theatrics, pyrotechnics or any outside performers?
Not really. From a visual standpoint it includes jumbo screens and anime footage. There is a subculture in the Japanese market called Visual Kei characterized by the use of make-up, elaborate hair styles and flamboyant costumes. It also uses the latest technology to create a presentation and set a mood. I’ve been an avid computer digital animator for a long time now. I did contribute all of the images that are shown throughout our set.
You have performed in Japan both in 2011 and 2012 and also played your first US date back in late June at a Anime festival in California. What are your touring plans for the remainder of this year and beyond?
Right now we are putting together a tour that include Anime expos throughout the world but also surrounding dates in other cities while in those areas. It’s in the works right now and some dates should be available very soon. The whole project was originally conceived in Japan and was very culturally centric. Once the (first) album was released we were immediately embraced by the entire Anime community. The fans have been very supportive and have really made us feel right at home within the Anime world.
You recently announced your departure from Blue Oyster Cult after five years in the band. What factors led to this decision?
Well as I got more involved with Animetal USA, another new project I’m currently involved with called Tred (more on this later) plus my involvement with the Dio Disciples and my ongoing work with the Rock N Roll Fantasy Camp, it doesn’t allow me any additional time to continue to tour with BOC. It was a very amicable split and it just came to a point where I was cancelling appearances and it was just a mutual decision to part ways. It was so wonderful to be able to play with them. They are dear friends of mine and I will always treasure the time I had playing with them.
Speaking of the Dio Disciples what is the current status of this tribute to Ronnie and are there additional plans to record and or tour into the future?
They are doing some dates coming up in July and August and due to my involvement with Animetal USA I could not be involved in them. James Lomenzo will be my replacement. Whenever I’m available I will do the dates because this is a celebration of Ronnie’s legacy and his friendship with the fans and anyone whom he ever played with. This will continue for as long as the fans demand it.
When you were writing the book Off the Rails: Aboard The Crazy Train In The Blizzard Of Ozz did you ever at any point think “Maybe I shouldn’t include this” or was it more therapeutic to be as frank as you were throughout the entire book?
I was as frank as possible but at the same time I don’t think anything I revealed was that earth shattering. My vision for the book was the simple question I had got from fans over the years saying the exact same thing over and over again: What was it like to play with Randy Rhoades? I was the only guy who played with him both in Quiet Riot and Ozzy. I just wanted to be able to answer that question fully. Because if I take five or ten minutes with one person and tell him or her a couple of stories they always seemed to walk away thinking it wasn’t enough. By putting it all in the book I feel I have fulfilled that. I feel like I put down everything I could possibly share with the rest of the world about my experiences with Randy Rhoades.
What were the wildest times for you as a touring musician the Ozzy years, Quiet Riot or Whitesnake?
Playing with Ozzy no question. You really had to expect the unexpected at any given moment. That’s why it was so memorable an experience and the greatest touring exposure I have ever had. Maybe it was because it was my first real major touring work that I had done but it was also the most unusual one I have ever had as well.
Lots of news from some your former bands on the DVD front over the past year or so. Quiet Riot from the US Festival in 1983, Whitesnake from the Donnington Festival in 1990 and now the Ozzy 1982 Speak of the Devil performance is coming out on July 17. It must be satisfying to look back at the various stages of your career now being resurrected through the power of these recordings?
Yea they are all highlights of the different points of my career. What they all have in common is that each of them was at the peak of each bands musical performance. I had not see the footage of the Ozzy show with Brad and Tommy in almost thirty years. It was originally broadcast almost thirty years ago Halloween night on MTV as part of their Live Concert series. I had not seen it at all since we recorded it. Looking back at the footage it put me in mind to how devastated we all were at the loss of Randy and how tough it really was to continue to tour. However we owed it to the fans to finish the tour. Also we needed to keep Ozzy on the road and his mind occupied. He was so distraught if he had just gone home I’m certain he would have drank himself to death. That’s how out of it he was at the time. Having said that that stage set was unique, props the castle and hearing Randy’s guitar work open each show to Diary of a Madman.. man it was tough. We had to make it a celebration each night for Ozzy because he’s the one who had to sing and bear his soul for each performance. Watching the DVD I’m very proud to have been a part of that celebration.
Since the death of Kevin Dubrow in 2007 Quiet Riot has continued on with Frankie Banali as the sole remaining member from the bands heyday. Would you ever consider a reunion with Frankie and Carlos?
I would never say never because that was such a significant part of my life and they are both such good friends of mine. I still hang out with Frankie a lot. We get together frequently and drink coffee and get caught up on projects that we are involved with both personally and professionally. Carlos and I run into each other at events around town on occasion and while out on tour. Everyone is pretty focused in on what they are working on right now. Carlos is a great fit for RATT and he is really enjoying himself. Frankie is carrying on the tradition of Quiet Riot and his vision of the band. Everybody is happy and healthy and that’s what most important.
With the success of Off The Rails would you ever consider writing a book of the second half of your career after Ozzy and the chronicles associated with each of them?
I’m still working on the first half of my career!!! Truthfully I have a new book in the works based on nutrition. I’m heavily into nutrition and supplements and I’m working on a book right now with Leslie Hamel (Suzanne Somers daughter) for basically having a rock n roll lifestyle and how to survive it.
Rudy not a lot of fans maybe be aware of your passion for and work with computer digital animation. When did you first become interested in this field?
Basically from the very first time I bought my own computer and realized I could tell a story visually with the tools I have right now. I do consulting and truly enjoy it. Companies that do visual software and hardware. The role of the musician today is very different than what is was even ten years ago. The way the industry has forged ahead at this point it is really up to your own reasonability to create the music and to promote your own music and create the identity of just who are as well. Especially if you’re a brand new band. Who are these guys and what are they all about? It’s always been like that but in the past you had reps at labels and a publicity staff that took care of all that but now it’s really up to the individual musician. If you make your own music using Pro Tools you should be able to also create your own graphics so that you can take advantage of social networks such as YouTube and Facebook.
Earlier you mentioned another band project you’re involved with Tred with Mike Orlando, Dan Nelson and AJ Pero what stage is that in currently?
We have all been very busy working on some other projects at the moment. Mike is out with Adrenaline Mob, AJ is touring with Twisted Sister and Dan is working on some solo material so we are just waiting for our schedules to open up. I will be heading to the east coast in Mid July to do some promo and rehearse with the band so we can finish up the album. We are still trying to secure a record deal. We have some offers on the table and once everyone finishes up with their other commitments we will forge ahead. I’m very excited about it because it’s so different. It returns to a style of funk metal playing on this record and it takes me back to my roots in the 1970’s when I was playing a lot of slap bass. It fulfills a whole other musical side to me.
Any final message to the Animetal USA fans both old and new?
Thank you for support. I’m so proud to be a part of this project and how much attention we have been getting. The band has been given this terrific opportunity to carry on a tradition of the Japanese culture and introduce it to the rest of the world. We want to reach new fans who may not be that familiar with the Anime style but do enjoy metal music. We are looking forward to playing for them in the future. It’s all about freeing your mind. There are no boundaries with this music and it’s a celebration of our God given gifts of imagination. Freedom of expression through music which is Animetal USA is all about.