Animetal USA Ė Big in Japan, Definitely
By: David E. Gehlke
Blistering.com: Metal's popularity in Japan is no secret, so can describe to me the passion and excitement they've demonstrated toward your band?
Sarzo: I'd say they're the most die-hard fans ever. They don't follow trends. If they like you...and if you sell one record in Japan, that guy will follow everything you do. They believe in what you're doing and if you keep delivering that quality of music, they'll be your fans for life. One of the reasons is that we're doing Animetal USA is to say "thank you" to all of our Japanese fans who have supported us over the years. I've been touring in Japan for 30 years now and I've been going back with bands like Quiet Riot, Whitesnake and Dio. And Dio was the last band I played with in Japan before Animetal USA and our first show was at Loud Park. It was like "Here you go!" It's funny because we usually play Japan at the end of the tour, but we started in Japan. To say the least, it was a little intense.
Blistering.com: Marty Friedman, who we all know is a superstar in Japan played a big role in arranging the songs for the album. What was it like teaming up with him?
Sarzo: He arranged our first album, which was great. We have two albums out in Japan, and the second in the rest of the world through Century Media. It's called the "Special Edition," which you can download through iTunes or through Century Media. The first album, Marty had a really huge influence on it. He understands the Japanese market, he speaks fluent Japanese, and there's a 16-hour difference from Tokyo to L.A. So for him to be able to get clearance from our label, which is Sony Music from the publishers as far as, let's say we do a cover of an Anime song. We have to approach the publishers and tell them this is what we're going to do with it. And also to follow the first version of Animetal, who existed about 20 years ago. Our record company requested adhered iconic images from other bands in our songs. Marty was able to infuse that into our arrangements. He did a fantastic job. The first album was a very Japan-centric album; the second album, Sony wanted a more global appeal with the record. We're just trying different things as we evolve.
Blistering.com: Correct me if I'm wrong, but you just did your first show in the United States, right?
Sarzo: The first show outside of Japan was following a Japanese show with a band called Jam Project, which consists of five of the Japanese Anime vocalists. They if you tune into an Anime series or show it's probably one of the five vocalists in this band. And it was so cool. We actually went on first, then Jam Project went on, and at the end of the show, we all played together. I had the best time...the audience was going nuts. When we came back to the states, we did the Anime Expo in Los Angeles. There were about 35,000 people in attendance. All cultures, all ethnic backgrounds, just tons of families. You had parents and their children dressed up as their favorite Anime characters; it was incredible.
Blistering.com: We recently hit the 30th anniversary of Randy Rhodesí untimely passing. What are your fondest recollections from that era?
Sarzo: It was different times. I think that band, or any bands from the 70ís remember that the 80ís werenít invented. We were basically a continuation of what happened in the 70ís. We were just going up there and playing; there was no word of mouth, or social network, or YouTube. You really had to make a statement every single night on stage. We really didnít have the distractions we have now with technology, but you also had more creative freedom than you do now. Iím a big fan of technology and social networking and I embrace it. Back then we didnít have that, but that meant you spent more time playing your instrument than going online on Facebook and talking to your friends. Less distractions and more time to apply to your craft.
Then again, you can go online and get some of the best music lessons that are available to you. Itís how you handle technology and how you use it, but I will say that a lot of the mystique has disappeared. Me being a fan, I love Led Zeppelin, but Iíd never want to be Robert Plantís Facebook friend [laughs]. Iíve met Robert, weíve gone out to dinner, but Iíd never want to be a Facebook friend with me. To me itís more important to me as what this music means to me as a fan than ďHey Robert, whatís going on? Who cares? Itís the music; let him do his thing, whatever it is, I donít care. I just want to listen to Led Zeppelin [laughs].