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Hurricane Guitarist
Robert Sarzo

FIB MUSIC:  What's new?

Robert:  I am in the process of mastering some of the work I had done in the early 90's. Enigma / Capitol / EMI picked up the option, after I was out of Hurricane. It was going to be a solo album....I had put a band together with a different singer and different musicians, I wrote everything. I did it on a 4 track, I played all the instruments and then I had musicians come in and record the same part, at a real recording studio. Those recordings.....when Enigma closed down, RCA were going to pick up the option and they were going to release it. Through them and through BMG.......and it was also going to be released in Spanish....the same tracks. My singer Rudy Rails also sang in Spanish, so we were going to release it in both languages.

FIB MUSIC:  How did all that come about?

Robert:  Well, I was doing clinics for Crate amplifiers, over in Mexico.....and I realized that there was a market over there for Spanish rock....and no one was doing it. So I started experimenting with it. It came out really well, the recordings, you know, they sound like they were done from that time period, late 80's, early 90's. The singer had an amazing voice. I am originally from Cuba and Rudy (Rails) was also from a Cuban family, so he spoke Spanish. We really clicked.

Hurricane - "Over the Edge" - Live 1988

FIB MUSIC:  So BMG was going to release it?

Robert:  Yeah. It was going to be released through BMG....I think it was '91 already......and then the gentleman handling all the deals, left the company and the whole project was dropped. Around this time, I had been married to a wonderful wife, Suzie Sarzo....and she had been diagnosed with cancer. In a tragic event like that, you just shift your focus on other things....and I was just focusing on keeping her alive. That went on for a half a decade and, you know, she ended up passing away. But the material was mixed by Garth Richardson. I always wanted to do something with it. Now that the new Hurricane releases have been remastered and re-released through Caroline. All these years I have been getting a lot of emails from fans....., which has just been really wonderful to hear from everybody. Anyhow, that just made me feel like it should be released and letting people hear where my direction was back then in the early 90's.

FIB MUSIC:  You guys were one of the last giants to finally do a re-release on the Hurricane records. What the hell took so long?.....did you have anything to do with that?

Robert:  No, I didn't get in touch with any record companies. I did think about it a lot because I got so many hits from fans that wanted to buy the albums and the cd's had been selling, on the internet, for over a hundred dollars each.

FIB MUSIC:  Easily.

Robert:  Yeah, in the back of mind I kept thinking it should be re-released, but they also remastered them and they sound really good. I'm glad they finally re-released it because there is a lot of good material on there.

FIB MUSIC:  Are you receiving any payments, or royalties, from sales?

Robert:  You know, I have my people checking into that. I don't have that information yet. It was just released and royalties always take a little time....they're always a few months behind.

FIB MUSIC:  So you guys are originally from Cuba?

Robert:  Yes, my brother Rudy (Sarzo) and I, we were both born in Cuba. I'm the younger one, so I don't remember a lot about it. But I do remember leaving behind Communism and a revolution and it that it was very unstable. I remember explosives on the street because they were trying to overthrow the government. I remember a lot of chaos going on....there was rationing of food. At that time, you couldn't just go to the market, like we can go to Ralph's and buy groceries. Also, Fidel Castro had already changed the currency to his currency and they only allocated so much money to people. It was all about taking control of everything. The government, the publications, the tv, anything you read had to be authorized by the communist regime. We flew here on a airplane....we did not come here on a banana boat (laughs)....wearing a three-piece suit (laughs). I was very young and I was starting from scratch. I had to learn the language.

FIB MUSIC:  How old were you?

Robert:   I was five.

FIB MUSIC:  And how much older is Rudy?

Robert:  He is four years older.

FIB MUSIC: you come to the States?

Robert:  Right. We left everything behind. We left all of our toys, belongings, cars, we couldn't bring anything. We left the lights on in the house and we left wearing beach clothing. We did not want the committee, the informers....when people would leave, they would take these informers....people who worked for the government....they would take over the home of a family who left and they would get to stay there for free....they would take over all of your belongings and in return they would report people who were planning on leaving.

I remember being in preschool and they were interrogating to see if my parents were against the communist regime. I was five years old and I was told if I didn't, my parents would be punished. They were right about it. Some of my friends lost their family because of that. I had to grow up very quickly and very young. Maybe that was another reason I was playing in nightclubs with my brother at age fourteen.....playing bars and everything. I grew up very quickly. It was a very different childhood. I moved around a lot....from Cuba to Miami, from Miami to New Jersey....then back to Miami. We always had a loving mom and dad and they fed us a lot of positive attitude.....that's a gift. It really worked for Rudy and I. We always felt like we were taken care of, fed well, dressed well and it didn't matter what we had, what kind of car, or what kind of furniture....even though my dad always had nice cars. (laughs) He worked very hard though.

FIB MUSIC:  How did you guys get into music?

Robert:  Well, we always liked music, but our uncle has been a classical pianist and opera singer and I exposed to classical music at a very young age. My parents liked music too. Even though they were jocks. My mom was a tennis pro in Cuba and my dad was a gymnast. He was supposed to represent Cuba in the Olympics and he climbed ropes. He was champion of that....., or however they do that. (laughs)...hey, I'm a musician. He had a lot of medals and he was very well known. There was a lot of Positive Mental Attitude....I call it PMA.

FIB MUSIC:  How did you get into rock music?

Robert:  At the time, everybody on the block listened to the Beatles and had an instrument. My brother had wanted a guitar.....we were living in Jersey and my parents ordered a guitar from Spiegel Magazine. So I kept seeing the guitar around and thought how great it was....the chicks go crazy for you and you make people smile and be happy. When we moved back to Miami, everybody was playing guitar. I eventually taught myself how to play guitar and my brother taught himself how to play bass. He started playing bass because he started playing with some friends and they were like, "hey you should start playing bass....we already have two guitar players and it's easier and has less strings."(laughs) And Rudy was like, "ok, I'll give it a shot" and he has been playing bass ever since. (laughs)

FIB MUSIC:  Yeah, he has done alright for himself?

Robert:  Oh, he's done great. He's fabulous.......he's a great player.

FIB MUSIC:  You guys had a band together at some point?

Robert:  Oh yeah. We had a band with Frankie was called LIZARD.


Robert:  Yeah. You can probably Google it.....a band from Miami. We played a lot....many years in Florida. Back in 1975, we left Miami to work on this album project in New York City. I ended up staying in New York and after the album project fell apart, I started doing session work with Jimmy Iovine and Shelly Yakus...we were doing albums and soundtracks for movies and stuff like that. Then I joined D.L. Byron's band, Jimmy Iovine was producing and I went out on the road opening for Bob Seger. That was my first arena tour. I believe I was 24, at the time. D.L. Byron was a great songwriter. He was the one that wrote the song (sings), "We're running through the shadows of the night". That was one of our songs. It was going to be on our second album. We also did some stuff for the movie Times Square. Thommy Price was the drummer, at the time. He has played with Joan Jett and a bunch of others. He had been in Mink DeVille, at the time.

FIB MUSIC:  How do you end up making the move to Los Angeles?

Robert:  Well, I was here in New York and my brother decided to move to L.A. and then he started working with Angel and then later Quiet Riot and all that. Up to that point, we had played together, for many years. We learned our instruments together and we would jam for hours on stage. Our songs were like a half hour long (laughs). We were a jam band....we did a lot of improvising. It was great.

FIB MUSIC:  Any recordings exist?

Robert:  If there is, they probably sound terrible. Our keyboard player, he stayed in Florida, he never left.....that's the thing, a lot of great musicians stay there. You know, Miami is great. They don't want to leave; they were comfortable. Maybe because I lived in New Jersey, I knew I had to go back on my own. That's where the industry was, at the time. There was KC and the Sunshine Band and this and that. We would do some top 40 gigs also....we would do this thing where we would turn all these disco songs into a heavy metal bash.(laughs) It sounded more like Led Zeppelin, or Iron Maiden, than it did disco. I would bow the guitar strings, you know, my violin bow.....they didn't have synthesizers like they do now and if they did, they were very expensive. So I would use the violin bow on my guitar. We didn't have a keyboard player. It was just me on guitar, Rudy on bass, lead singer and a drummer. It was more like Led Zeppelin doing disco songs. I read later that Van Halen were doing the same thing when they started out, during that same era. They were playing top 40 at Gazarri's.

FIB MUSIC:  Frankie Banali was in Miami?

Robert:  Yeah. We met him in Fort Lauderdale; he was living there.

FIB MUSIC:  How long were you in a band with him?

Robert:  Well. That trio with.....I don't than a year.

FIB MUSIC:  Is it just pure coincidence that Rudy plays with Frankie, later in Quiet Riot?

Robert:  No, no. Rudy stayed in touch with Frankie and then he was doing some touring with some top 40 band and they needed a drummer, so they called Frankie and Frankie joined them on the road somewhere. You know, doing like a club circuit. I didn't want to do that. I wanted to stay in the city and see what I could do there with session work and recording because it was just thriving at that time, with all the record companies.......and it worked....I got in there. I was at the Record Plant recording in 1979 and the album was released in 1980. After that, the whole scene started to crumble in New York and that's when I decided to sell my house that I had in New Jersey and move to L.A. ................Actually, what happened was.......Randy Rhoads died....that's right......sorry, it was a long time ago. (laughs) When Randy Rhoads died, I got a call from Ozzy. Rudy had given them my number. I had already met Ozzy when they played the Capitol Theatre in New Jersey. They knew that I played guitar and they asked if I wanted to audition. They flew me from New York to Los Angeles. I was there rehearsing and auditioning. I didn't really care if I got the gig. I really wanted to be there with my brother; he and Randy were very close. So I auditioned and I got the gig. I supposed to start the tour, but at the time, I had met a bunch of people here......I had met Kevin Dubrow, Gregg Giuffria and that's how I met Tony Cavazo. Interesting how the cycle works. I never sit down and think about this stuff. Anyways, then Sharon's father Don Arden had already hired Bernie Tormé even though I had the gig and was rehearsing with Ozzy, then they apologized and said they had a problem and that they had already hired someone else. No hard feelings. Like I said, I really just wanted to be there for my brother, but after that I wanted to sell my house in New Jersey and move to L.A. and I have been here ever since. I liked L.A., I had never been here before.

FIB MUSIC:  Well, that's a little bit of Ozzy trivia I didn't know.

Robert:  Yeah I know. I learned all the songs, I auditioned and then I kept seeing people continue to come in and audition. They told me to be there at a certain time and that's what I did. I just learn the songs, that's what I do. Just try my best and I knew if I had to go out there and if they needed to, I could learn stuff just like Randy Rhoads. I have always been a metal player, I played fusion, jazz rock, all kinds of stuff. I just would lock myself up and think what would Randy feel like. Interesting enough, I was staying at the Sunset Marquis and on a couple of occasions, I felt Randy's presence. I felt he came and visited me. I had the last recording, that I had taped from his last radio interview. He definitely came and talked to me.

FIB MUSIC:  What do you mean?

Robert:  He was not buried yet. I didn't see him, but his energy was so intense. In my youth, I was exposed to stuff like that. Experimenting. He was definitely there. Sometimes, I still stop by his mom's school and.....I talk to his brother, I can still feel his presence come and go.

FIB MUSIC:  Didn't Randy ask Rudy to go on the plane with him?

Robert:  Yes. He said, "hey, let's go on the plane" and Rudy said, "no, I going to get a little more sleep". Next thing, he woke up to the bang on the bus and the plane had crashed into the bus.

FIB MUSIC:  So you make the move to Los Angeles in 1982?

Robert:  Yeah, I went back, put the house on the market and sell it.

FIB MUSIC:  Kind of different to hear a musician, who hadn't even been signed yet, say he's selling his house.

Robert:  I had to grow up very quick. I have a wonderful son, 29 years old. I grew up fast. I still workout and go to the gym. I am in really good shape, I snowboard, always learning new things. I never fell into the trap from the 80's, of doing drugs and drinking all the time.

FIB MUSIC:  No drinking at all?

Robert:  I occasionally drink. Occasionally, I like my red wine, or Jack Daniel's. I balance it out.

FIB MUSIC:  Yeah, Hurricane never seemed to be a big party band.

Robert:  Actually, we would bring baseball gloves and tennis rackets. I grew up playing tennis because of my mom. We were playing tennis at the hotels. We would get up in the morning and go play tennis (laughs). I drank Jack and Coke on stage. I partied with the audience, but I was cool with it. You didn't want to wake up with a hangover the next day. I like drinking once in awhile, but not enough to end up in the hospital, or burned out.

FIB MUSIC:  No drug use in the band?

Robert:  No. We just weren't into that.

FIB MUSIC:  What did you do from '82 to '84, before Hurricane?

Robert:  I was putting the band together. Oh yeah, it took me a hundred singers to find Kelly. I'm not exaggerating. By this time, I already had several drummers and I even had a second guitar player, Michael Guy. I had a lot of different Hurricanes. I formed Hurricane.......I have always formed bands.

FIB MUSIC:  All the versions were called Hurricane? You named the band also?

Robert:  Yes. Being from Miami, it was what I wanted to call it.

FIB MUSIC:  Was Tony Cavazo with you the whole time?

Robert:  No. I had different bass players, everybody was different. Then finally I met up with Tony again, I guess through Carlos (Cavazo) because my brother was playing with Carlos in Quiet Riot. I had this place in Santa Monica. This girl named Bambi, she was helping me out. Her father owned a building on Santa Monica Blvd and she would let me rehearse there at night. Then I brought Tony in there and we co-wrote the first song, "Hurricane". That was our first song, Kelly or Jay weren't in the band yet.

FIB MUSIC:  Do you still talk to Tony?

Robert:  No.

Hurricane, "Hurricane" - Music Video 1985

FIB MUSIC:  How did you find vocalist Kelly Hansen?

Robert:  I found him through drummer John Shearer. He was playing in the Top 40 circuit here and we had him come down and we thought, wow, this guy has got the voice. He sang the song Hurricane and then we started jamming and we just kept on working together.

FIB MUSIC:  Did any of the temporary singers go on to play in another band?

Robert:  Yeah. I got calls from them later on and they were actors....they're doing quite well. Some of them, I don't remember. So much has happened.

READ PART II with Robert Sarzo
If you found this interview first, make sure to read the second part of our
interview with Hurricane guitarist Robert Sarzo.

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