Interview with Hurricane, Diane & The Deductibles and ex-Queensrÿche guitarist Robert Sarzo

Date: August 1, 2019
Interviewer: Tyson Briden


Sleaze Roxx: Hello, Robert. How are you?

Robert Sarzo: Where are you based? ÿ

Sleaze Roxx: In Toronto — Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Yeah.

Robert Sarzo: I’ve been there many times to work.

Sleaze Roxx: Well, it’s good to talk to you. When I got the initial e-mail, I was kind of excited about it because I’ve been a Hurricane fan for years. A Queensrÿche fan as well. So it’s great to talk to you.

Robert Sarzo: Actually, I played there in Ontario with Queensrÿche not too long ago. Three, four years ago. Also with Hurricane back in the ’80s.

Sleaze Roxx: Did you do the Lima gig in Ohio? Two years ago?

Robert Sarzo: Probably not! As soon as Geoff [Tate] sold the name to the other guys in Queensrÿche and he went as Operation: Mindcrime, I was out. My contract was to do [the] ‘Operation: Mindcrime’ 25th [year] anniversary. We ended up doing two years of touring. He did the new record, but that was under the brand of Queensrÿche featuring Geoff Tate.

Sleaze Roxx: I went to the Lima show, but I only heard it. I went back to my trailer at that time, and I only heard them, so I wasn’t sure if you were actually there. My wife wanted to go back and I said, “Oh I want to see Geoff Tate!” So anyways, it’s all good. I do have a few questions about the past, but let’s talk about Diane & The Deductibles first. I know we only have about a half hour because I’m speaking with Diane at four o’clock. Actually, before we begin that, I was kind of curious — from Hurricane to Operation: Mindcrime. What had you been up to?

Robert Sarzo: Well, what happened was in between my wife Susie had been diagnosed with cancer.

Sleaze Roxx: Oh, I’m sorry to hear that!

Robert Sarzo: That lasted for a decade, or a little bit over going in and out of remission. I totally just really stepped out of the touring scene and just got into doing film stuff. It was local. I’m in Hollywood. I’m here in the heart of it and I was getting requests. I worked on the movie ‘The Collector’ with Marcus Johnston and he’s the writer of ‘Saw’ 3, 4, 5 and 6. He wrote the script for ‘The Collector.’ So I actually scored half of that movie. I worded on ‘Guns, Girls and Gambling’ with Christian Slater and Gary Oldman. You know just a few other films and TV stuff. So that’s what I was doing musically. And also, I had opened up a recording studio in Sherman Oaks. I did a lot of producing out of that. So that’s what was going on and at the same time trying to keep my wife alive. She had to get chemo, radiation etc. She passed away, so I actually picked up the pieces and went to get myself back together to go out to work. To go out and tour. And at that time, Tony [Cavazo] and I, we actually met up on social media. We started talking. Then we decided, “Hey, let’s give Hurricane a run!” That will be fun. Tony and I were the ones that really developed Hurricane. We started it. We still get together and do tours. When I was out with Queensrÿche, Hurricane was opening up. We did that for a month and that was that was a blast for me because I was in both bands. By the time I went out on stage with Queensrÿche, I was already pretty much on fire. Warmed up and ready to go. It was great. It was really lovely having the Queensrÿche family. Welcoming us and traveling together. So that’s why my face came out of the scene and I was asked to do tours with other bands. I just couldn’t do it. My son at this time was a young teenager. I said, “Somebody’s got to take care of the family!”

Sleaze Roxx: That’s right. And I’m sorry that your wife passed. I’m sorry to hear that. I was not aware of that.

Robert Sarzo: Thank you. I kept it very private. I figured it was something for me to deal with and not make it public. I did.

Sleaze Roxx: That’s good. I actually watched on YouTube — I watched a Hurricane clip from 2016. You know how people on YouTube always make comments and they’re always gonna make a comparison to a singer. The performance was amazing. I put a comment on it because what I noticed the most was the guitar. Your guitar tone was amazing. I know that’s your song, and you’re playing it on it, but you nailed it. Sometimes you go see a band and they don’t nail it the way you expect. Especially guitar wise. As a guitar player myself I always try to focus on that.

Robert Sarzo: Thank you for the compliment. You know, I do my work offstage. I tried to duplicate what I did on the record and I played all the guitars on all the Hurricane songs and I wrote all the guitar parts. It’s not that uncommon to be able to duplicate it because it came from your heart. You wrote it, but the sound after playing all these years really comes from your hand. You can give the same rig to another guitar player and it’s going to sound different. The same everything. It’s just the hand techniques of hand compression and all that. I’m talking about the theory of how to play with being complex about because you’re a guitarist and you kind of understand. I know you probably have a lot of readers out there that will understand and I’m sure they agree. Everybody says, “But yeah, this one comes from your hand!” Of course, the equipment will enhance what you’re doing to a certain degree, but even with an acoustic guitar, you can pretty much get the same pinch harmonics, the same compression and the same muting. I’m curious to know which video you watched! Were we on tour or…

Sleaze Roxx: It was in a club it looked like.

Robert Sarzo: Ahh, interesting!

Sleaze Roxx: It was 2016. It was “I’m On To You.” It was great. There was the odd comment that the singer doesn’t sound — his tones different. But I’m thinking, “That guy’s nailing it.” Someone made a comment because he had an easel and he was reading the words. And I was like, “Whatever. You know what he’s nailing it! It sounds good! He’s doing a great job!” You know what I mean? But that’s YouTube. That’s just people on the internet commenting, so it is what it is!

Robert Sarzo: It’s funny, if you really watch a lot of singers, they will have teleprompter next to the monitor wedge. You will think that it’s another wedge but if you stand on the side of the stage, you’ll see it’s the lyrics and the set list.

Hurricane performing “I’m On To You” live at Shamrock’s Bar in Chino, Hills, California, USA on July 29, 2016:

Hurricane – I’m On to You (Shamrock’s Bar in Chino Hills, CA 7/29/2016)

© Joe Schaeffer Photography 2016

Sleaze Roxx: A lot of guys do that.

Robert Sarzo: I do it when I’m singing lead. It’s just a lot of information and I don’t want to sing something that I shouldn’t be singing. Now getting back to the guitar sound, I’d like to talk briefly about what I’m using because it’s really like my favorite. It’s my endorsements but I’ll tell you I’ve been getting a lot of great thumbs up from engineers that mix the band in the studio or live. First of all, I’m playing the Mezzabarba amplifier made in Italy. This is the Holy Grail of Amplifiers. This thing is insane. Sick, wicked! Beautiful tone. It looks beautiful. It’s called Mezzabarba. You should check it out. Also I have my new signature model guitar that just came out and that’s what I’ve been using on tour with the Floyd Rose. FRX — that’s a system that actually sits on the body. You don’t have to make holes into the body to add the springs. That’s a great combination with Seymour Duncan 59’s. Grover Tuners.

Sleaze Roxx: That’s great. That sounds amazing. I will check out those amplifiers and the guitar for sure.

Robert Sarzo: You know what’s really important too Tyson? When you’re onstage, playing a good venue, you’ve got to have a good microphone picking up the sound out of your cabinet. So I started bringing my own mike. It’s made by Blue and it’s called the enCore 100i. They’re really reasonable. They sell for under a hundred dollars. I’ll tell you, even if you sing threw it, it sounds great. So it’s got a nice full range of highs, lows and mids. So I totally recommend that you know for miking up, especially Celestion cabinets with the Celestion speakers. That’s a great tone. That’s basically what I’m using.

Sleaze Roxx: That’s awesome. That the thing that stood out. I think the band sounded great, but it was so nice to hear that rich tone that you had and I’m like, “Oh man, that sounds so good!” And that was only I was only watching it on my computer too. So had it been through speakers I probably would have been jumping up and down. [laughs]

Robert Sarzo: That’s why you’ll have to come and hang out. Listen to it at a venue. It fills up. It’s got that old vintage Plexi-glass that only Marshall from the 60’s. Marshall Super Bass 100 and then I had a modified by Jose here in Sherman Oaks. This is the guy that did all the Eddie Van Halen amps. Randy Rhoads and everything. With all the modifications so I thought of bringing my Marshall there. He tweaked it here and there and I’ve already had a master volume because they don’t come with one. The thing sounded great, but I had a certain harmonic that other amps don’t have. The Mezzabarba does have it right out of the box. You gotta check it out!

Sleaze Roxx: I was going to ask about your gear, but you beat me to it, which is fantastic. So let’s get to Diane & the Deductibles. How did you get involved with that project?

Robert Sarzo: You know, it was really — oh gosh, it just fell into place! My wife is an insurance agent. She was working for Farmers Insurance. Then she started looking around on the internet for a job and she submitted her —  I wasn’t there but she probably submitted her resume. Diane called her back. They then started talking and she mentioned that she had been around the music industry. She had been involved with the whole music scene. Then Diane started asking her questions. Then when Diane found out who I was, she said, “Hey, do think Robert would mind coming down. We’re thinking of getting a new guitar player!” So my wife Avery asked me and I said, “Yeah! It’s not far!” So I went over there and I’ve been working with them ever since. We do a lot of writing. We really get very creative. It’s a lot of fun.

Sleaze Roxx: That’s what I was actually going to get to and that was about the creativity because when I listened to the music there is actually — I’ll ask you this first. Are you on the left side or the right side?

Robert Sarzo: On stage I’m on the right. I’m stage right.

Sleaze Roxx: Okay. On the recordings, is it mixed between yourself and Keith?

Robert Sarzo: It’s different. Gosh, I’d really have to sit down with you and analyze it. I don’t use a lot of effects. Actually, whenever we go in the studio, I’m old school and I record dry. I don’t want reverb. I don’t want anything because the racks in the control room, I want to give room for the gentleman or lady that’s mixing the record. If I start adding all kinds of effects, the person can’t do their job. So my guitar is probably the one that has the least amount of effects. I like to let my tone breath and then just fine tune it as you’re mixing it. That’s almost what I do live. I rarely use effects.

Sleaze Roxx: Right! The tones on the record — all the guitars stand out and they don’t bleed into each other. You hear each significant part, which I really enjoyed when I was listening to it. That’s why I asked that question because a lot of music nowadays is just you hear the guitar and it kind of  just meshes together where with this album, it’s — I can distinctively here each guitar part and what’s going on. I can hear the rhythm track while another guy is soloing or I can hear one part and I hear another one over top of that. It is really great to listen to and to hear it done that way.

Robert Sarzo: Oh good. That’s the direction we were going for and also Keith Lynch is the other gentleman that plays guitar. We work all the parts. We have a lot of harmony parts. His tone is a little different that mine. He uses Fender amps. I go for the British tone. So it kind of blends in really nicely. Everybody has their own swag, you know the way they play. So you can kind of tell who’s who. I don’t know which is which though on the actual recording.

Sleaze Roxx: That’s Okay. I think I do know after listening to it. I can tell which one is you and which one is probably Keith. 

Robert Sarzo: Yeah, he did record with some effects. A lot of people do that as well. It’s just my preference. I like to do it the other way. You know, all the guitar parts they were live? Nothing was overdubbed.

Sleaze Roxx: That’s awesome. Really? Wow!

Robert Sarzo: Yeah, I wanted to overdub and we just decided that we didn’t need it. It was fine. It’s nice when you do things like that. It works out. It’s real!

Sleaze Roxx: Yeah! There’s some complexity there too, which makes it even cooler.

Robert Sarzo: Yeah, there’s some interesting things going on. I did use my Godin Telecaster. That’s got that really cool vintage tone.  Some of the songs have that twankie sound that I like. Like the Nashville sound. One of my favorite guitar player’s was Roy Buchanan. That’s how I got the technique of doing the pinch harmonics.

Diane & The Deductibles‘ “Tears” video:

Diane & The Deductibles – T E A R S

Written & Performed by Diane & The Deductibles 2019Diane & The Deductibles – TWO- Out NowDirector: Natalie Lauren, Sky Dusk EntertainmentRecording Producer- …

Sleaze Roxx: Yeah, that’s cool. I guess in terms of songwriting the band kind of all works together?

Robert Sarzo: Yeah, we jam. Then we record. We jam and jam and then say, “Hey that’s kind of cool!” Then Diane starts singing over parts with ideas. Then we start fine tuning it. Tweaking, tweaking, tweaking and tweaking. We do it every week. I’ll tell ya, it’s a formula that works. We have developed our own style and technique. It’s not heavy metal. It’s not funk. I don’t know. It’s just what we do! We have so many different styles that it’s kind of nice to step outside the normal box that you are known for doing. Like myself, people think that I’m just a metal player, but I grew up listening to salsa music and it’s all the Cuban polly rhythms. 7/8, 5/4 timings. 7854. I used to jam doing that style in Miami with acoustic guitar and conga players. Doing that kind of a vibe and that kind of gets you to be playing on different time signatures that are not regular 4/4. So it’s kind of fun to be able to switch tones and play a little bit more, in the style country or folky. We’re working now on the next record. We’re going to be going back in the studio. We have a lot of material. We’re always writing and writing. We’re looking forward to that as well. We’re going to go in I believe next month.

Sleaze Roxx: It’s nice to hear your excitement about it.

Robert Sarzo: Yeah, it’s fun you know. I’m a writer, I’ve always been writing and I’m always writing. On the road it was the craziest thing because I would drag so much recording gear to my hotel room that when I had a day off or a night out. I would lock up myself in the hotel room, turn the lights down, set up my Tascam 244 recorder with a drum machine. And I was writing and writing. Just putting ideas off because my idea was when I got off the road, I had all these ideas to bring to Hurricane say, “Hey, let’s try this out.” Let’s try this, you know, and then we were doing everything together. Yeah. So. And I got that idea, because I read that that’s how The Beatles did it. They were always touring, so they were always writing in their hotel rooms. They always had a piano in their hotel rooms. So they could continue working. Led Zeppelin did it as well. You know, they would be recording when they were on the road and different studios around the country or around the world. So yes, it’s just one of those things. If it’s natural, you just keep doing it and having fun with it.

Sleaze Roxx: That is awesome! I wanted to ask you a couple Hurricane questions! I often wondered why there is such a gap between — I just learned this the other day, ‘Take What You Want’ was originally an independent before Enigma signed you?

Robert Sarzo: ‘Take What You Want’ — we released on our own label. Then we got Greenworld Distribution. Greenworld Distribution later on became the owners. I believe they then sold it. Then they started Enigma with EMI Distribution.

Sleaze Roxx: I have a vinyl of it and I don’t know when it was from. I actually bought it years ago.

Robert Sarzo: It may say Hurricane West or it might say Enigma.

Sleaze Roxx: It says Enigma on the back.

Robert Sarzo: Okay, so that was the second generation and then Japan also picked it up.

Sleaze Roxx: Right. And I think I have that CD with the two tracks from ‘Over the Edge’?

Robert Sarzo: Oh yes. They did a couple of re-issues later on. They did do that after we toured there.

Sleaze Roxx: But anyways, my question was why it took from ’85 to ’88 to release ‘Over the Edge.’ I guess it was because then you guys were shopping to get the label?

Robert Sarzo: We toured every year. We must have done about 260 dates. Right. So when you do the math of that, that’s why I was always bringing my recorder, to record. So we just never got a break. We were on tour with Rick Derringer. We were out with Edgar Winter I believe. We were out with Gary Moore. So with Gary, I think it was right before we took that break to go into the studio to record with Bob Ezrin and Mike Clink. We did a lot of pre-production with Bob Ezrin. We would run over to the studio. I would go over to his house. I’d be writing with him. So that’s what you do. You gotta put the time into it. And you want to do it with dignity. You want to do it with the right material and that’s one of the cool things about getting a producer like Bob Ezrin that demands more. It worked. I am very proud of that album. The first record we kind of self-produced it. Kevin Beamish actually was working with us but then he had to bail out and do another Reo Speedwagon album. So we mixed it ourselves. And we financed that first record. In those days, it was tough. You just have to push and push and push. We had a lockout studio. We were there seven days a week. We were not going out partying. There was no time to go out and party. We had to work. It’s what you want and that’s what you do.  You do it and do it, then eventually hopefully it pays off.

Sleaze Roxx: And obviously it did right? You guys did well.

Robert Sarzo: Oh, yeah. We were out doing arenas with Iron Maiden and all the other great bands. It was a great run. It was a lot of fun too. As a band, we had a lot of fun together.

Sleaze Roxx: It was good times but different times.

Robert Sarzo: You know what? It was innocent! It was about love, rock and roll, having a good time. Yeah. It was all just great. We felt free. There was freedom and you felt safe. You went from town to town, everybody welcomed you. Even when we went to Canada and Japan, it was just great. Really, really sweet time. It’s still great. Things have changed in the industry, which I get it and it’s still great. I always look forward to performing on stage.

Sleaze Roxx: Yes, exactly. That’s kind of why you do it, right? You do it to record albums, but playing live, is where you like to be the most, right?

Robert Sarzo: Yes, I do love it and love also being in the studio because you can really document things. Well, maybe not so much things but emotions. You’re documenting your emotions of the moment. That is really, really cool because later on people can continue listening to it. The moment that you were going through what you were feeling or what you ate. It makes you perform differently. Every night, I play things a little different because I will get really bored to play everything exactly the same way. I feel different every day, so I try to be as real as possible and I just really zone into what I’m doing at the moment. I forget everything. All my worries or anything about anything. I am there with the crowd. My mind, my heart and soul just goes into the audience like a figure eight. I give them my energy and they give it back to me. I give it back to them back. Back and forth. Back and forth. That’s really intense because you’re controlling your tones. You’re controlling what’s coming out of the space. What you’re focusing on. Especially on guitar, you’ve got that low ground. You got the high end. So when you see the reaction of people feeling your vibe, that energy, it’s just a lot of fun. And just keep it as real as possible.

Sleaze Roxx: That’s fantastic! So before I let you go. It is four o’clock and Diane’s probably expecting me, I just was wondering about the guitar that you used in the “I’m Onto You” video. Do you still own that yellow Ibanez?

Robert Sarzo: No! Actually, I sold it to a collector. I moved on and I didn’t want to own that guitar anymore. Plus, I don’t need to have 40 guitars. I feel that some things of the past should be somewhere else. Not in my closet. That’s why I actually keep evolving, and I keep just enjoying different instruments. And so, you know, different eras, different instruments should be somewhere where people can see it and touch it. I had no need for it. I love what I played now. I didn’t have to sell it but now I actually enjoy the fatter neck. Those were really thin. It had 24 frets. Now I went back to the 22 frets. To shorted scale. You go through different phases. And like I said, before, I cannot have 40 or 100 guitars. I don’t need it. It would be really selfish of me because I will never be able to play them all.

Sleaze Roxx: That is so true. The reason I asked that was because when I was getting ready for the interview, and I thought about that video. When I first saw it, and that was the thing that stood out to me in my mind I could still picture that yellow Ibanez for some reason. That goes back 30 years ago. It’s crazy.

Robert Sarzo: I toured that guitar a lot. It was everywhere. It was right at the beginning of Ibanez. They brought me in and I got different companies to be part of Ibanez because I was already endorsing them. So I got all those people together and helped them out basically. They wanted me to help them develop a good, metal rocking guitar that can handle the road. And it really worked out. Then the Shark Tooth was my signature model Ibanez, which was a product that came from my different styles. That Shark Tooth drawing, that was like my signature drawing of the neck. That’s what I drew. It was a shorter. So I’m happy that Ibanez actually took off because I really was very involved with them. They were great people. Casino, USA, we got together with the executives over there. I went out and what I felt they needed to do to progress and be what they are now. They did it and it worked. That’s the type of company that they were listening to the musicians.

Sleaze Roxx: Yeah. Kramer was big. Then Ibanez came along and kind of — a lot of guys used Ibanez afterwards. I am sure there were a lot of Ibanez guitars sold from seeing videos on MTV with so many guys using them.

Robert Sarzo: Well, I’ll tell you, when I brought it into the studio, that same guitar, Bob Ezrin looked at me and said, “What is that! Yeah take my Les Paul!” I had a Les Paul! I said, “No, no! You gotta hear this!” That’s what I used on the record. The Ibanez.

Sleaze Roxx:  He was cool with that?

Robert Sarzo: He had no choice!

Sleaze Roxx: I only asked that because it’s Bob Ezrin.  

Robert Sarzo: Yeah, but he’s human. I was like, “Okay, we’re all working together!” At that time, at that point, where we were at recording, we knew each other very well. He understood where I was coming from and he was very cool to say, “Okay! Do your thing!” I think I did try the Les Paul but it was just wasn’t working for that moment. It could have been the pick-ups. Who knows, but I had the Ibanez already. I had it dialed into my hands. That’s the sound that I wanted. Another thing too is when you have a 24 fret neck, you’re going to get a different sound it the neck is longer. You know that! So it’s about the sound. Bob was great. I loved working with Bob. Before Bob, I worked with  Jamie Iovine in New York City on the D.L. Byron record on Arista Records. Jamie was really into his vintage gear. So when I was working with him at The Record Plant, he had me bring in all my vintage gear. That’s what we used on that record. It’s called, ‘This Day and Age’ by D.L. Byron. It’s a new wave / rock album. It’s very cool.

Sleaze Roxx: Okay, I’ll check it out. That’s awesome.

Robert Sarzo: Yeah, yeah. Check it out. It actually did very well. It was just before MTV Tyson. They would play our video in between HBO movies.

Sleaze Roxx: Well, it’s unfortunate we only had a half hour because I think we could have talked a little bit longer.

Robert Sarzo: Well we can do it another time.

Sleaze Roxx: Yes and maybe we will down the road. That would be fantastic because I had more. Five more questions. I appreciate you doing this. Thank you so much.

Robert Sarzo: Oh, I enjoyed talking to you. It brings me back! Have a wonderful day. It’s been a pleasure speaking to you.

Sleaze Roxx: You to Robert. Thank you very much.

Hurricane‘s “I’m On To You” video:

Hurricane – I’m On To You (HD)

El exitaso de esta gran banda de Glam Metal del album “Over The Edge” del año 1988

Hurricane‘s “Hurricane” video:

Hurricane – Hurricane (Stereo)

You wake up in the morningand you wanna knowwich way that you need to goyou got to fight for the way you want to liveYou ask someone for good adviceand every…