I’ve been a Randy Rhoads fan ever since I heard the Blizzard of Ozz album. Many people can say the same thing.
I’ve read all the guitar magazine interviews (Guitar Player only?) with Randy, and while I can’t quote from them verbatim, I know the gist of his gear details. It also seems to me that he didn’t do many interviews before his untimely passing.
So it was with great interest that I “discovered” a 4-part Randy seminar (audio only) on the all-powerful YouTube. The whole interview also is transcribed here – which is of limited use because throughout parts 2-4 of the interview, Randy plays parts of his solos, which is very cool to hear: I don’t think I’ve ever heard him playing Ozzy songs outside of Ozzy albums.
In part 2 he plays parts of “Over the Mountain” and “Revelation Mother Earth” solos, some of them slowed down! Part 3 contains parts of “Flying High Again,” “Crazy Train” (at about 2:50 he teaches the inverted chords at the end of the verses, fills at 3:50 and 4:16 – cool!) and “Diary of a Madman.” Part 4 continues with the deconstruction of “Diary” and then ends quickly.
Anyhow, in part 1 he answers all of the gear questions. And while I’m aware that some people think Randy’s tone stunk, I really dug it – and it certainly was unique. So here goes (all quotes are Randy’s):
He’s asked about his live effects. “I have a pedalboard and in it there’s Distortion Plus, a 10-band equalizer – they’re all MXR, by the way – a chorus, stereo chorus, Cry Baby wah pedal and, umm, a Roland volume pedal. I used to use them all a lot more, but now our sound man is starting to add a lot more up front, so I don’t really use them all as much as I used to. Just sometimes. I use them more for quiet rhythm parts just to enhance the sound. I don’t really use any echoes or anything for leads, ever.”
[He apparently also used, at various times, a Korg Echo, Yamaha Analog Delay and Roland Tape Echo.]
He’s asked if he has a pre-amp built into his guitar. “No, I have Distortion Plus on the board and, uh, I just keep that on all the time, ah, just straight Marshalls.
He’s asked if he has feedback problems. “It’s not so much a squeal, I don’t have that problem. But I have a lot of problems with…if you let go for a second, it’ll feedback. You’ve gotta play so that you’re covering your pickup and if you want to do something quiet, I have to either use the volume pedal or I have to click off the fuzz because it will squeal. I got used to playing that way, you know?”
At this point everyone knows Randy nixed the Celestions in his Marshall cabs in favor of Altec Lansing speakers: Altec Lansing 417 8-Hs, rated at 100 watts apiece. But why? Here’s what he said:
“I had to change the speakers over to Altecs because they’re a very bright, clean speaker. The Celestions are really dirty anyway, and if you start adding a fuzzbox [the D+] to them, it’ll sound terrible. I like that added treble and dirt to it.”
Asked if he used a specially-made tremolo, Randy said: “I’m using his [Grover Jackson’s – he had to explain what a Jackson was!] tremolo units and I think they’re very good. Other than a Floyd Rose, there’s no perfect tremolo.
“[Jackson] is supposed to be releasing a brand new one he invented that’s equal to a Floyd Rose but it works with ball bearings….”
Notable: Live Tone
Like all great guitarists, Randy’s live tone was important, as you can tell from this quote about his live solo spots:
“It’s basically the same [every night]. I just improvise on it. It depends actually on the sound I have onstage. If it’s a bad sound, I do a very, sort of, basic form of it. If it sounds really good, I like to carry on with it….”
Notable: EVH As An Influence
A couple of fans asked if Randy was influenced by Edward Van Halen. Randy said, “Yeah I was, actually.” He added:
“We’re from the same town and we were both in local bands. As a matter of fact, there were a lot of [good] guitar players. L.A. was like, everybody was a lead guitar player and everybody played very similar. There’s a lot more players out there that are fantastic, that just haven’t been out yet.
“But everybody used to say we all sound very much the same. I mean, if you have a circuit and you know all the guitar players, you tend to….”
Notable: The Ozzy Audition
Here’s another one that isn’t news, but these details were new to me.
Fan: Is it true that when you went to audition with Ozzy Osbourne, that you didn’t have to really play anything, you just hooked up and tuned? Because I’ve heard a lot of rumors about that.
Randy: Yeah, it was really, it was more embarrassing than this [doing the seminar], getting up in front of a group of people. I thought I was going to play with a band…I met him at a recording studio and I just brought a little tune-up amp, which is a small Fender. If you’ve been in a recording studio, they have the glass booth up there, but I was through the tune-up amp, no effects, nothing. I mean, just straight through that mike and they were all listening. They said, ‘Okay, play.’ It’s like, You’ve got to be joking. I mean, what could I play? No musicians. So I just started warming up and [Ozzy] said, ‘Yeah, you’re good.’ You know, I only played for a couple seconds and then I got kind of mad because I thought, Well, you haven’t even heard me yet.”
> Someone on a forum posted a photo of a pick he got from Randy at that seminar, and it was a clear Fender medium .71mm pick.
> Also found this: “Max Norman [Blizzard engineer] has indicated that Randy used a ‘step-down’ transformer to run the amps at 98 volts….” Sounds like a Variac to me.