Animetal USA – Big in Japan, Definitely
By: David E. Gehlke
A bit of fascinating concept: Round up four notable scene vets, place them in the context of Anime, then pop out a metal band bearing the name Animetal USA. The initial version of Animetal originated in the mid-90’s as means of covering the various theme songs from classic and modern Japanese television songs. That version has since fizzled out, but the revived version bearing the slight name alternation “USA” has quickly gained traction in the Asian market, where metal and Anime are bigger than well, Godzilla.
Consisting of vocalist Mike Vescera (Yngwie, Obsession), guitarist Chris Impellitteri, bassist Rudy Sarzo (Ozzy, Dio, Whitesnake) and drummer Jon Dette (Slayer, Testament), Animetal USA struck quickly in Japan via last year’s self-titled album, which was aided in the songwriting department by ex-Megadeth guitarist (and total Japanese megastar) Marty Friedman. The songs are speedy and poppy, with cartoonish melodies and fantasy-based lyrics leading the way. It’s basically an advanced, futuristic take on symphonic power metal, just with a different angle and pulse.
Sarzo was kind enough to phone Blistering on a Friday night to wax on Animetal USA and much more, including his time with Ozzy Osbourne’s band, as well as his thoughts on social media and the music industry. Here’s what the affable and instrument-licking bass player had to say…
Editor’s note: At press time, it was reported that Sarzo had recently joined Geoff Tate’s incarnation of Queensryche.
Blistering.com: You're not considered a speed metal guy given your work with Ozzy, Dio, etc., so how did you end up in Animetal USA, who by all intents and purposes, are a speed metal band?
Rudy Sarzo: It's very rewarding. I basically spent the 80's on second gear [laughs]. I think all bass players did...playing 8th notes. I'm one of the guys who are old enough to where I started playing in the late 60's, so I run the gamut of being inspired by some of the fastest and the most rigid bass players in the history of bass. A lot of those guys were about musically and speed, but how clear they were able to play. Back then in the early 70's, there were no tribute bands, there were tribute bands, so you had to play Johnny Cash to the Ohio Players, to the Stones, to Barry White. Whatever it was, you had to play it. It was a great training ground. I've been able to go from band to band and fit in.
Blistering.com: Was there any type of wood shedding you had to do, as in getting up to speed? No pun intended [laughs].
Sarzo: It's all the same...you have to use the same dexterity if you're playing slow or if you're playing 160 beats per-minute. It's dexterity, clarity... all of the above. There are some things I can do easier because you have the adrenal factor working for you. In the studio, it's more sterilized because you don't have the band playing with you; you're playing to the track. You don't have the same adrenaline rush, you're sitting down. I get in there, play it until I get it right. Then when live, you have other factors, other things that move and inspire you to play it right. Do you play any type of instrument?
Blistering.com: Oh yeah, I play guitar, but I've also played bass, so I have some idea what you're talking about.
Sarzo: I would say that most of the guys from my generation, they're not as narrow in their musical vocabulary. I can dig the whole tribute band thing, but I think it creates a very one dimension musician. To really dedicate yourself to one group, you're just narrowing yourself.
Blistering.com: The whole concept behind Animetal USA is unique and frankly, we don't have a band like this in the United States. Did you have a long-standing relationship with guys like Mike Vescera and Chris?
Sarzo: I've been a fan of all of those guys. I'm a musician second and a fan first [laughs]. I've been a fan longer than I've been a musician. That's what one of the things that keeps it interesting, discovering new bands. I've been a fan of all those guys for year, so to have an opportunity to play with these guys is just an honor.