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INTERVIEW: RUDY SARZO of Devil City Angels – September 2015

| 23 September 2015 | Reply

When you are offered time on the phone with a legend that has played with a lot of your favorite rock bands over the years, you take the time and make the call. One such offer was given me while reviewing and covering the debut release from the latest rock supergroup, Devil City Angels.  After recording of the disc was completed, original bassist Eric Brittingham stepped down to pursue other projects and it opened the door for legendary bass player Rudy Sarzo to join the fray.  Just a couple days removed from the disc’s release date, we called Rudy on a crazy Monday afternoon…


Toddstar: How are you, Rudy?

Rudy: I’m doing terrific, terrific. Great to hear from you. Where you calling from?

Toddstar: I’m calling from Detroit, Michigan.

Rudy: All right. One of my favorite cities. Oh my God, I played just about everywhere there.

Toddstar: I’m sure you have through the years.

Rudy: Yeah, except for the big place, where’s the big dome place?

Toddstar: The Pontiac Silverdome?

Rudy: Yeah. I haven’t played there yet.

Toddstar: The place is pretty much closed down, so I don’t think anybody else is going to play there now.

Rudy: Really? Oh my goodness! Aw, what a shame.

Toddstar: That’s true. Rudy, thank you so much for taking time out for us today. It’s such an honor to speak to a legend.

Rudy: It’s my pleasure. Thank you for calling.

Toddstar: Let’s talk about it. You’ve got something major going on right now and that’s the release of the Devil City Angels debut.

Rudy: Yes, and one thing that I want to clarify, which I always do every time I do a review regarding Devil City Angels is I joined the band after Eric Brittingham had completed his bass tracks. First of all, actually I’m going to be speaking about the record from the viewpoint of being a fan, because I love the band and I love the record, so I can give you that point of view.

Toddstar: That’s exactly what I was hoping to get from you, Rudy. Let’s talk about the record. What I like about the release is it’s 80s, but it’s modern. What’s your take on that?

Rudy: 80’s and modern… You know, yeah, that’s an interesting outlook on it. To me, the spirit of the 80s, the having a good time, musically, and not being too political or too social commentary, except for a few bands like U2 and The Police and bands like that, but basically, the band I was associated with, which was Quiet Riot, we had that, and therefore, Poison, being part of that same family, and L.A. Guns, being part of that same family, too, we all shared that in common. I think it was pretty much a sign of the times. That was pretty much appropriate. That was what MTV gravitated towards, especially in the very beginning. They wanted to concentrate more on the visuals and creating a safe place to go to, mostly for the audience, which happened to be very young at the time, in their early teens. It was about creating that safe environment, so our type of music, which was pretty much harmless. It was very innocent, but rocking at the same time. That was most suited for that medium of MTV.


Toddstar: Having grown up in that era myself and having experienced it, I’ll have to agree with you 100 percent. What is it about the project that drew you in, like you said? The album was recorded by the time you got there, but what drew you in to say, “Yeah, I’d love to get on board?”

Rudy: It was a no-brainer for me. First of all, I happened to be working with Tracii Guns in a band called Gunzo, since the beginning of the year, so when I got the call around March or so, I happened to be playing with Tracii, so it was great that I could continue with him in another band. The fact that I had seen the group performing live in Las Vegas in November, I was really impressed, and then they played me the record. Tracii would play me some tracks here and there and I was really impressed with what I was hearing. When they asked me if I wanted to be in the band, I said, “Of course!” I didn’t even have to think about it.

Toddstar: You mention Gunzo. Tracii’s had a long career. You’ve had a historical career. What’s it like when you get two guys like you and even now, in Devil City Angels, where you put Rikki Rockett in the mix. You guys are all legends in the genre. What’s it like when you guys get together? Are you guys able to put all the ego aside and just play music and enjoy it? How does that work out with three big names like that?

Rudy: A new group, you pretty much have to, at some level is to really respect your collective legacy. By that, I mean everybody in the band’s past legacy, but then also build on that, which is what the whole reason of getting together is building something new and something almost like a bucket list. Okay, everything that you have not accomplished so far with the other bands, well, this is your opportunity to be able to do so. By that, I mean creatively, musically.

Toddstar: You’ve shared the stage with some front men. The list… Kevin DuBrow, Ozzy, David Coverdale… you’ve shared the stage with everybody.

Rudy: Ronnie James Dio.

Toddstar: Yeah, Ronnie as well. What does Brandon [Gibbs] bring to the table? What is it for you, not only as the bands bass player, but a fan of music, what does he offer?

Rudy: Yeah, he’s very unique in his sound, because he’s rooted in the blues, but also has a very modern edge to it. That was very unique. It’s not a voice that you could pinpoint and say oh, this guy’s from the 70’s or the 80’s or even the 90’s. He’s very much now, but also rooted in what the music that we play, which is blues-based rock and roll.

Toddstar: With Devil City Angels, is there a plan to take this out on the road? Are you guys going to bring this to cities like Detroit?

Rudy: Yeah, the album just hit, what is it they call it nowadays… Dropped? When you drop a record it would break. Now, I guess, that’s a good thing, you know. It dropped last week, and we’re just waiting to see what our strongest markets are, as far as record sales and getting local air play. We’re going to strategically hit those areas first and then build up on that. We’re going to see within the month what the outcome is.

Toddstar: Very cool. You’re arguably one of the busiest men in rock and roll these days, Rudy. You’re never sitting still. What else have you got on the plate right now, other than Gunzo?

Rudy: I got so many things. You know, I’m very blessed. I’ve had a career path that I got to play with some of the greatest musicians and even people that I’ve been fans of, for many years, but then again, I’m always looking towards the future. It’s great to acknowledge the past, but I’m more interested about the future and there’s a lot of stuff going on that I really can’t talk about right now. It’s always about the future and also, the future of Devil City Angels, which is a huge part of what I’m talking about.


Toddstar: That’s good to know. I love the album. I listened to it and I couldn’t wait to run out and pick up a copy. Downloads only get you so far. You want to hold that plastic in your hands. I’m still one of those old-school guys that like to hold it.

Rudy: Yeah. I like to hold it and smell it. Sniff it a bit.

Toddstar: Exactly! You talk about the future, but again, your past is undeniable, but one part of your past that I thought was very cool, and it had to be cool for you, but I’d like to get your take on it was you being able to join your brother, Robert, in a band. You guys have both run this course where you’ve run side by side for years and then a couple years ago, you were able to come together and work with Geoff Tate. How’d that work out for you and Robert?

Rudy: Yeah, we did the Geoff Tate version of Queensrÿche. We got to perform Operation: Mindcrime every night. When I was in the band, they were looking for that one guitar player that could handle all the guitar duties on the record, and I told them, “Listen, the best guy I know is my brother. Trust me. He’s gonna nail it.” It was great to see him being able to accomplish that, go on tour, spend time with him. It was a fantastic time on the road, it really was. It was great.

Toddstar: That’s good to know, because you always wonder how that dynamic works when it’s relatives, you know?

Rudy: Yeah. There are a lot of brothers out there on the road. It’s family. A band is the family that you pick and then your family is the family that you’re born into. When you put those two elements together and if it works, it’s magic.

Toddstar: Rudy looking back, who has influenced you the most in the way you not only play bass but how you present it when you’re playing live?

Rudy: Oh, that’s interesting! Actually, it wasn’t even bass players, because back in the day, bass players didn’t have much of a presence on stage. They basically stood around and played, even though what they played was tremendous. Anybody from John Entwistle to Chris Squire, except for Tim Bogert. I would say he was the most animated guy and he was kind of my big reference for bass players, though. All the other bass players were pretty much stand-in-one-spot type of guys. I would say Hendrix and Keith Emerson, from ELP, keyboard player, as far as a performer angle. Musically, you have everybody from John Entwistle, all the guys that I mentioned and then some.

Toddstar: Sure. Looking back, Rudy, if you had to pick a couple things in your career, what are the things you want to be remembered for?

Rudy: Remembered for? I’m still working on it. I’m really, really, really, really working on it. Not there yet. Being a part of Quiet Riot. We were basically the band that opened up a lot of doors for all the other great bands that came from the area, the Sunset Strip, L.A. Motley Crue and so on.  We had the album, Metal Health and it went to number one. It put the focus in the industry, because before that record, as a matter of fact, by the time the record was done and it was ready to be released, nobody in the local Los Angeles music industry thought anything was going to happen. They had no idea. Meanwhile, I had kind of a clue what was going on, because I had been touring with Ozzy. By touring with Ozzy, I got also to tour with Def Leppard in the United States and I got to tour with Girl, the other band that Phil Collen and Phil Lewis worked in from in the UK. We got to tour with UFO, Motorhead. I got to see the whole new wave of British metal going on in Europe and the UK. We got to tour with Saxon also. I had a really good understanding of what was happening outside, not only the United States, but also locally, in Los Angeles, so I thought well, there’s a glimmer of hope for the type of music that Quiet Riot is doing because there’s other bands, especially Def Leppard, that are doing basically the same genre and are being very successful-successful enough to be on tour with Ozzy and sell records and so on. It did give me some hope, but I had no idea that Metal Health was going to be such a breakout hit. No matter what I do in the future, that is definitely one of the things I would love to be connected with, since I was there, not only with Quiet Riot, with Metal Health, but also Quiet Riot with Randy Rhoads and having to play with him in two bands. I’m the only musician that got to do that. I got to experience his transition from being a local guitar hero to becoming a legend. Really a legend. Truly, truly, truly a legend.



Toddstar: As you detailed greatly in Off the Rails. That book was an excellent account of your time with Ozzy and with Randy.

Rudy: Yeah, that book. My main motivation in writing that book was to actually answer the number one question I get asked when I travel around the world, which is “What was it like to play with Randy Rhoads?” Let’s say if I would meet the fans in the lobby of hotels, they would ask me something and I would give them one example. That was never enough, I would walk away thinking, OH! I forgot to tell them this and that and so on. So I figured, you know what? I’m just going to put everything in a book form. Anybody that is interested, there it is.

Toddstar: I enjoyed the book and the insight. It was something that you couldn’t get from anybody else.

Rudy: Yeah, only from the people that were actually there. It’s not hearsay; it’s not based on me interviewing people, no. It’s based on being there and having my eyes open and breathing it and living.

Toddstar: Listen Rudy, I know you’re a busy man, so I again want to thank you for taking time out.

Rudy: Thank you so much! Thank you for carrying the torch for Devil City Angels. We really appreciate that. It’s so hard, nowadays, to get any attention with the lack of radio airplay and so on, so people like you, creating a buzz about the record, we really, really appreciate it.

Toddstar: For me, it’s fun. I’m carrying the torch for Devil City, but I’m carrying the torch for you and your legacy, and great rock and roll.

Rudy: Thank you.

Toddstar: Slip of the Tongue is still one of my favorite Whitesnake albums. I love your work with Quiet Riot and Ripper. Everything you’ve done, you’ve been one of my favorites along the way.

Rudy: Thank you so much. Thank you. I really appreciate it.

Toddstar: All right, Rudy. Be safe and hopefully we’ll see you in Detroit soon.

Rudy: You, too. Yeah, I haven’t been to Detroit in a few months, so I hope to go back. Hopefully, it’ll be after the snow.

Toddstar: Sounds good, brother.

Rudy: Okay. God Bless. Take care.









Category: Interviews

About the Author ()

ToddStar - that's me... just a rocking accountant who had dreams of being a rock star. I get to do the next best thing to rocking the globe - I get to take pictures of the lucky ones that do. I love to shoot all genres of music and different types of performers. If it is related to music, I love to photograph it. I get to shoot and hang with not only some of my friends and idols, but some of the coolest people around today.

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