Making It In Music recently conducted an interview with legendary bassist Rudy Sarzo (OZZY OSBOURNE, QUIET RIOT, WHITESNAKE, DIO). A couple of excerpts from the chat follow below.
Making It In Music: Rudy, you've been a member of some of the biggest acts in rock and roll, which undoubtedly goes hand in hand with big egos. How do you deal with that and remain a team player?
Sarzo: Hmm… That's an interesting question! You know, I've certainly dealt with egos, but to me, an ego is basically a shield… it's an insecurity factor. Those with the biggest egos are the most insecure. You know, to me, every single band is just a learning situation. I've worked with some of the biggest egos, but then I've also worked with some of the most level-headed, balanced people around. So it just depends on the individual, but it also depends on the stage of their career or their personal growth. Just because a person was an egomaniac when I worked with them "x" amount of years ago doesn't mean they are an egomaniac today. If you happen to be going through a certain point in your musical journey or life that may involve a lot of insecurity, egos often develop. You know, certain things are going on in your life… a rivalry, or maybe you're at a point in life where you feel your performance level is not as good as it used to be. As it result, you may become insecure and shield yourself. I've definitely learned how to deal with that (egos), because I recognize the symptoms. I don't take it personal. I deal with that person as a human being. As a bandmate, I try to help and support them, without singling them out. I try to let the individual know that they are more significant than they see themselves to be.
Making It In Music: What are the qualities that have attributed to your success as one of the most sought-after bass players through the years?
Sarzo: I never go into a band thinking, well, I've been doing this for "x" amount of years, and I'm just going to do what I know. No, no… I go in and I study old recordings. If I'm going to do songs, I always reference the original recordings and listen to whatever live recordings are available on YouTube to see how the band has progressed. I might add some nuances based on the way they played the song 10, 20 years later, but I always go back to the original, because to me, that is the actual blueprint of the song and I respect that. I try not to divert too much from the original intent of the song. However, in a lot of cases, by the time I play with a band, there's only a few original members left, which means that I may be playing with a drummer who didn't originally play on a given song. So, not only do I have to stay true to the original bass line, but I also have to lock into the new feel of the latest drummer. I've been in situations where guys walk in and they want to play everything the way they are used to playing it. No, no, no, you have to respect the original legacy of the rock group. I always take everything in consideration. I'm joining the band, the band is not joining me.
Making It In Music: The music industry has obviously changed immensely since you started out, particularly since record sales are no longer the driving force. In your opinion, how does a band in this day and age get ahead and stick out of the pack?
Sarzo: You know, that's a tough question. I don't think anyone really has a good answer to that question, because I haven't heard one yet. Once a solution becomes a compromise, then you're not really breaking ground, you're just basically compromising and rolling with the changes. And to me, the best change that could be — even though we don't have the same industry system that we used to — is to take the focus back to artist development. Some of the greatest records ever made were done through the mentorship of many legendary producers who were able to join the artists vision with their creation. There are alot of songs being produced these days without an actual producer. The band goes in without any personal reference or experience and then tries to make the best music possible. Unfortunately, it just doesn't match the level of records that were released 30 or 40 years ago. There's just a lot missing in it. You know, anybody can sound great nowadays. It's not even a matter of getting a great performance, anymore. With Pro Tools, you can fix anything. What you're really lacking is magic… that ear-candy ingredient that used to be present on every single great record that came out in the '70s and most of the '80s.
Read the entire interview at Making It In Music.