Catching Up With Quiet Riot’s Rudy Sarzo

Rudy Sarzo performs with Quiet Riot on the 40th Anniversary Tour at Stage 954 at the Casino at Dania Beach in Dania Beach, Fl on January, 27, 2024.

On the heels of an energetic and enthusiastic performance on January 27, 2024 at Stage 954 at the Casino at Dania Beach, Quiet Riot’s Rudy Sarzo sits down with Digital Beat Magazine for an interview. 

Quiet Riot has been touring for a couple of months now in support of the 40th anniversary of the barrier-breaking album “Metal Health”.  DBM’s Ivan Romero got an opportunity to chat with Rudy Sarzo, and this is how it went:

Ivan Romero (DBM) Good afternoon, Rudy. Thank you for taking the time to speak with Digital Beat magazine. Quite honestly, we’re really excited to have the opportunity to speak with you today. We know your schedule is busy and we appreciate the time you’re making for us. Congratulations on the show this past Saturday at Dania Beach and thank you for keeping Quiet Riot alive. You know, just happy to have the opportunity here. 

Rudy Sarzo (RS) Yeah, you know, thank you. Thank you for having me. When you talk about something like that, which is, I rarely think about it, if ever, unless somebody like you brings that up. Look, I’ve been doing that. You know, coming back to Quiet Riot, to celebrate the legacy of a bandmate and the memory of a bandmate, or the whole band since we lost Randy. That’s why I went back originally, leaving Ozzy to rejoin what became known as the Metal Health version of Quiet Riot. And when I say that it’s because prior to me joining the band, and I can send you video footage from MTV interview of Kevin saying on the camera to Martha Quinn, that the band was renamed Quiet Riot when I came back. 

DBM: Right. 

RS: So what I’m trying to say is this is not the first time that I returned to the band to celebrate the band. You know, my home. This time was at the request of Frankie Benali that I returned to the band. So, because I was already playing with the Guess Who and I was very happy, great band, great bunch of guys, great music, you know, soundtrack of my life. My relationship with Frankie Banali goes back to 1972, that was almost, and he passed away in 2020, so we were a couple of years shy of a 50 year bandmate and friendship. It means everything to me to be able to fulfill his wishes. 

DBM: Yeah, and I hear that it’s such a great story. Certainly the friendship with Frankie, you know. Heck, I’ve been a fan since you released Metal Health. I think I was 12 years old at the time when that was released, and you know, that particularly is the soundtrack of my life. So, thank you for that. 

RS: Oh, thank you. 

DBM: So what do you think it was about Metal Health that resonated so strongly with audiences, both then and now? Because I think you guys are picking up new fans. 

RS: Yeah. Well, at first it was, you know, you have to have the record. Without that record we, you know, you’re dead in the water. As a matter of fact, people talk about the two previous albums, Quiet Riot records that were only released in Japan. Well, here’s the problem, unless you’re a Japanese band and back 40 something years ago, there were no Japanese bands. You know, there was no Japanese rock circuit you could play. Bands like Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin go to Japan and play there. And I did that with Ozzy in 1981. But if you only released a record in Japan, it had nothing to do with the United States market. As a matter of fact, those two records were released in Japan and we cannot leave LA. As a band, we could not leave LA County. Nobody cared, we’re just a local band, right? So what was the original question again, because I just went back on 78? 

DBM: No, no, it’s all good. Why do you think it’s resonated so strongly with audience? The Metal Health album? 

RS: Yeah, yeah, yeah, I remember that. So what happened is, that we had a really catchy song in there. Now people might connect more with “Bang Your Head”, but that song was released twice. As a single first, it was the first single or video, and it did not really climb up the charts like Cum On Feel The Noise did, which went to, it was a gold single, which is really rare. If you have a multi-platinum record to actually have a gold single because that means that you have to sell a million singles to reach gold. Back then it was actually vinyl, but it was released, so it was very rare. But one thing that we found out quickly was that once the song got on MTV, the parents would put MTV on for their children. Just kind of like to entertain them because there’s all these videos going on. It’s a lot of stuff, kind of like an alternate to cartoons, basically, and Cum on Feel The Noise, the actual melody, is pretty much a nursery rhyme very similar to “Three Blind Mice. (Rudy singing) “Three Blind Mice; Cum on Feel The Noise”. So the kids parents would bring kids backstage to meet us and to have these toddlers, children, singingCum On Feel The Noise. So it really resonated across the board with a huge demographic. And I think that was totally the appeal. Now through the years, Metal Health became more of the Quiet Riot anthem because I think the children have grown up and they’re more into metal than they were into nursery rhymes 40 years ago (Rudy laughs). So, that’s a good sign. I think it was pretty much what happened with that. Now, as far as the record goes and getting airplay and getting on MTV, the fact that the band, no matter where we play, just like we do now, we put on an arena performance. It doesn’t matter. We could be playing in a club, it’s been a while since we’re playing a club, but when we do, we put on an arena performance and when we’re playing an arena like we did a couple of weeks ago in the Mohegan Sun Casino Arena, we put in an arena performance. It’s just natural for us. 

DBM: And it’s a great show. It’s spectacular, having seen the one last week and I’ve seen Quiet Riot in many of its lineups. Certainly this is one of my favorites, outside of the original lineup of course. But it’s funny you mentioned the term anthem, because you’re walking me right down my list of questions here. The title track,Metal Health, is certainly an anthem as you called out. What was the inspiration behind that song? 

RS: Good question because I got a good story behind it. OK, Randy and I used to go and pick up Kevin Dubrow every time we would come back to Los Angeles from touring with Ozzy. We would go and pick him up at home. Ever since we got to the airport, we would get a car that would pick us up, pick up Kevin and we’d go to the Rainbow Bar and Grill, just to catch up, because you know it’s 40 something years ago, so we didn’t have the means to connect like we do now with our phones through e-mail or texting or whatever, FaceTime. We didn’t have that. So unless you were in the same room or very expensive intercontinental phone call that we were about to make, that’s how you communicated with your friends or family. And so we take Kevin, and one evening we had just been performing in England and we were blown away by the audience because the audience, the kids, mainly boys, kind of like the same crowd that went to see Motorhead, went to see Iron Maiden, they came to see Ozzy and these guys, they would bang their heads in front of the stage as we’re playing. You know, so we were just blown away with that and we were telling Kevin at the Rainbow hanging out and having pizza, your not gonna believe this, these guys are so crazy that they bang their heads against the stage while we’re playing, and that made his wheels turn, because originally that song was titled “No More Booze”, that was the title when Carlos Cavazo used to play that song in his band, Snow. So he brought that song in, and it got rearranged and of course lyrics rewritten to suit the  “Metal Health” message. 

DBM: That’s a great story. I had never heard that one. I’ve followed the band for quite a while. Thank you for sharing. 

RS: Yeah, yeah, the anthem could be No More Booze, which a lot of people nowadays could really relate to. 

DBM: Yeah, I hear you. So looking back on your career with Quiet Riot, what are some of the most valuable lessons you’ve learned? I say Quiet Riot, but really your storied career with all the bands you’ve played with and basically your longevity and resilience in the music industry, right? How have you come this far and how do you keep it going?

RS: You know, the secret sauce to Quiet Riot basically comes from Randy Rhoads. He was the factual leader by example. Randy never told anybody what to do, or what to say, but he had everybody’s respect due to not only his talent, but musical integrity. He’s the only musician I’ve ever played with that was born into a musical family. Professors, academia, his mom and dad are music professors. The family still has the music school called Musonia, and that was Randy’s world, music. At a very young age he started playing classical guitar. And then, because he wanted to hang out with kids his own age, he started playing electric. So he put a band together, piece by piece. So his best friend, Kelli Garney, he taught him how to play bass, so he was in the band. Then he found Kevin, and then they got Drew Forsyth, playing drums. And so that’s at the core of the band. Randy’s vision of musical integrity, if you have that as your main influence in your group, that’s how you lead the group. With everybody having integrity in what we do musically and as individuals, you’re going to have a pretty long career. 

DBM: Agreed. Integrity is the root of it all, right?

RS: Absolutely. I mean, of course, you’ve gotta have all the other qualities, but without musical integrity…I know a lot of guys who are really talented, and girls, but mainly guys. I mean, because what I’m about to say, girls have it more together than guys. I have not met a female slacker musician, no. They’re all like very dedicated to what they do and they have, I mean, a lot of them kicked most of the guy’s butts. It’s incredible. But, so what I’m saying is basically about guys that I grew up with, very talented but no integrity whatsoever in what they’re doing. 

DBM: Understood.

RS: So the guys, you know who they are, they know you, you look at them, you go what happened? There you go. This is what happened. They had no.….. When I’m saying integrity, it’s inward and outward. Inward meaning about feeding your musical soul, learning and moving forward. And the other one is how you treat your bandmates, how you treat the promoter, how you treat the crew and how you treat everybody else. Very important. 

DBM: In what ways do you think Metal Health, in this case, the album, influenced the landscape of heavy metal music, both in the 80s and even beyond? 

RS: Yeah, it did. But then again, every other band had to bring their best and everybody else did. I mean, Motley (Crue) was wonderful. They still are, all these guys, Ratt, Dokken, they were all ready. We were all ready. We just happened to have, in my opinion and according to the facts, the reason why Quiet Riot went in the studio to cut some demos that eventually became the Metal Health record was because the producer and owner of the label and the studio was looking for a singer that could sing “Cum On Feel The Noise”. That was it. That’s all he wanted. If this guy can sing the song, put it on a record, it’s gonna be a hit. And he was right. And that’s how it happened. So he chose Kevin as the vehicle for his vision for “Cum On Feel The Noise”. That was the difference between us and everybody else. Plus, that we had Randy to guide us, you know, because it’s, again, it’s Quiet Riot. So everybody that was in the band were all on the same page, vision wise. We knew what we wanted with the band, what we wanted to achieve, you know. And yeah, I mean, if you look at the back cover of the record it will say dedicated to the memory of Randy Rhoads. That’s the main reason for us going in there together, to record. As a matter of fact, the first song I recorded while I was still a member of Ozzy, was “Thunderbird“, which was a song that I had already played with Kevin in his band, DuBrow because Quiet Riot, as a band, ceased to exist. When Randy left, there was no Quiet Riot. There was Dubrow, Kevin’s band. I used to live with Kevin up until the day I joined Ozzy and, so I knew the song. By the time that I left the last session, I had done “Thunderbird”, “Slick Black Cadillac”, “Love’s a Bitch” and “Let’s Get Crazy” because the last two were definitely Dubrow era songs. 

DBM: That is awesome. Now, as a fellow Cuban, I’m really, you know, certainly proud of what you’ve achieved and will continue to achieve. And I’ve got a couple of questions around that, If you’re OK with it.  

RS: Yeah.  

DBM: So, how do you personally reflect on 40 years of Metal Health and consider your journey from Cuba to becoming a renown bassist on the heavy metal scene, not just a band, but the scene, given your extensive catalog? 

RS: You know that is a really good question and look, I grew up with Latin music. I grew up with Latin jazz in Cuba, you know, I was born there. So I came to United States when I was almost 11 years old and I came to United States in a period where rock’n’roll was very soft, Fabian and Pat Boone. You know, pre-Beatles, I think somewhere around 61 to 60. 

DBM: Right. 

RS: I think from around 61 to 64, when the Beatles appeared. It’s gonna be 60 years this month that the Beatles played on the Ed Sullivan show for the first time. I was looking for a type of music that reflected what I lost in Cuba, which I lost freedom. The freedom that we had in Cuba when communism came. We lost it and of course we had it again in the United States. So I was looking for what music really reflects, freedom in the US, and what’s rebellious enough? But that, you know, you couldn’t rebel in Cuba. You were put in jail or killed. And rebellion as a kid is very important. It’s what you base your teenage years on, you know, rebellion. And I found it through music, through rock’n’roll. I guess rather than rebellion, it had to do with freedom. Freedom to express myself, and that’s why I gravitated towards rock music. And I mean, I enjoy listening to Afro Cuban music, dance music, Latin music and all that, especially Latin jazz. I love Latin jazz. But rock’n’roll has been part of my DNA, who I am as a human being. Yeah, that’s definitely my number one choice. 

DBM: That’s great. Thank you for sharing. Do you think there were any challenges because you were Latino in a predominantly white American heavy metal scene or were you assimilated as just another one of the guys? 

RS: That’s a good question. And well, what I found, I mean, looking back at how it was with me, just the fact that I would get that type of attitude more from my peers in Miami telling me, you’re Cuban, you know you should be playing more dance music. They always associated dance, dancing and drinking with the programming, the numbing that a lot of the Latin countries, you know, to keep the people drinking and dancing and they’re not going to complain. They’re just going to live day by day. And I was completely against that. So, that type of government that keeps the people dancing, make booze really cheap, entertainment, to let off some steam and then we’re gonna keep the same oppressive government running for decades. And so, unfortunately I got to associate that type of music with that type of mentality and I couldn’t; I just… it was very hard for me to embrace. 

DBM: Understood. Makes perfect sense. 

RS: But just to encapsulate, because a lot of times people miss this, they, just the fact that rock’n’roll, especially the band like Santana; Santana to me was the perfect rock band. I’ll tell you why. Because, if you’re gonna look at rock’n’roll music, it comes from Africa, so you have the percussive, tribal Afro-cuban rhythms that Santana, which his percussion section has, and then you add the Blues, which came from more of the oppressive slave territory in the United States, so it’s complete. You have like, you know, the African influence and music coming that went to the Caribbean with more of the Spanish colonial, giving them the freedom to still play the percussion instruments and to even sing in African, and look how many songs come from the Caribbean that are sung in some kind of an African language. You know, and then you have the other opposite end; the oppressive one where they were actually singing in the cotton fields just to get through the day and then playing the Blues at night. And so you put those two together when it’s more of a celebration tribal Afro-Cuban, speaking with a higher power, you know? Whatever, religion. Yemaya, whatever, you know. Or the other end, which is like just trying to get some hope in your life and some faith and just to get through the day. That’s early on. Early on, I really fully understood that. Maybe it’s because I came from Cuba and I could tell that there was a connection between the Blues and of course British Blues and the British invasion, including The Beatles. All those bands were influenced by either R&B or the Blues, so there were a lot of those elements in the music. If you listen to the Rolling Stones who came in after the Beatles and to the United States, it was an invasion because it was not just the Beatles. It was many other bands that were very Blues influenced. 

DBM: Yeah. Now I heard you mention the word faith just a second ago. I recently, after many years of planning to, finally read Off The Rails. I couldn’t put it down. Read the first half of it on a flight to Kentucky and read the rest of it on the flight back. It was just such a great read. Thank you for sharing the story. In the book you mentioned faith on multiple occasions and I found it interesting that the written portion of the book, right before you get to the pictures at the very end, ends on page 316. Was that by design or was that just coincidence? 

RS: You know, I read the Bible, but I do not memorize the scriptures or what number they happen to be. 

DBM: John 3:16 is “For, for God, so loved the world that he gave his only son.…” So it’s one of the most quoted, certainly, verses within the Bible. So that’s why I just found it interesting. And I love the portion of the book where you talk about going to the church and finding someone who was inconsolable at the front of the church and it was Ozzy that was there as well. 

RS: Yeah. So that was John 3:16.  

DBM: Yes it was. 

RS: Wow. Well, you never know. 

DBM: So then we’ll chalk it up to coincidence. 

RS: It’s like listen, my whole life I consider to be a miracle, so that would not surprise me whatsoever! (Rudy laughs)

DBM: Yeah. So it’s just something that stuck out with me when I finished reading the book and I got to that last page. I wondered if this was by design, but there you go, right? 

RS: Yeah, I think it’s even more powerful to me that it was not by design, but there you have it. 

DBM: That’s right. That’s right. So last thing and then I’ll wrap up here, and again, I appreciate your time. You’re very passionate about supporting animal rescue. Thank you for lending your celebrity to support such an awesome cause and can you share a little bit about that with us? 

RS: Sure. Well, I’m looking at baby Willow and she just looked at me when I mentioned her name like what, what do you want? No, I mean it to me it’s a no brainer. I don’t even think about it. It’s like breathing. I don’t think about breathing. I just, maybe I should. I mean, a lot of yoga teachers say, you got to really concentrate on exercising you’re breathing. I say you’re right. Because sometimes when I’m playing, I stop breathing. I have to catch myself because I start getting cramps because oxygen is not flowing through my body, through my blood. So again, going back to breathing, I won’t even think about it. So doing the animal rescue whenever I am online or I come across a shelter that has some adoptions available, I share that because you never know. I do get messages from people that get to see some of the possible adopted animals that are available and they go and they adopt them, and they even leave messages for me and it makes me very happy. 

DBM: That’s awesome. Thank you. Thank you for doing that. There’s such a need out there. 

RS: Well, thank you. But, you know, we’re all in this together. It’s very simple to do, you know? Just do it. 

DBM: Yeah. OK. So Rudy, you know, thank you for taking the time today to share with Digital Beat Magazine and our audience and congratulations again on such a storied career with so much more to be written yet. We wish you continued success and look forward to the opportunity to see you again in the future. 

RS: Oh thank you for your support and I was looking at the photo, I mean you’re so talented. Thank you. Really. Really. I’m really impressed. Thank you so much.

So there you have it…. Digital Beat Magazine’s conversation with the legendary Rudy Sarzo. It was such a pleasure to have a conversation with the best hired gun in the business. Digital Beat Magazine wishes nothing but continued success for Rudy Sarzo and Quiet Riot. 

All photos © Ivan Romero

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Ivan Romero
Ivan Romero is based in South Florida. He has a passion for music and photography. His musical background goes back decades from managing a retail record shop through several years in local radio and also as a club DJ during the rebirth of the South Beach club scene. Ivan covers live events from Central Florida to South Florida having worked with one of the largest concert sound and lighting companies. His photos were published in Front of House (FOH) magazine. Ivan also covers corporate events throughout Latin America and the Caribbean. He has a keen eye for shots with an ability to capture the emotion of the moment. Ivan also has a strong belief in community service and often provides his talent with local schools to capture their performance events for drama, choir and others.