Interview With Ron Sobol, writer, producer and director of Randy Rhoads:The Quiet Riot Years
Interviewed by JP
Recently I had the pleasure of chatting with Ron Sobol. Ron is one of the world’s foremost historian and archivists of early Quiet Riot and Randy Rhoads material. His company Red Match Productions have recently released a coffee table book and a companion full-length feature documentary both called Randy Rhoads: The Quiet Riot Years. Ron was very generous to send us a copy of each and we have our interview with him here.
Tell us a bit about your background and how you came to know Randy.
I was going to Los Angeles Valley College as a Cinema major. I was also working as a photographer on the school newspaper. My brother introduced me to Kevin DuBrow because of our mutual love of the band Humble Pie. Kevin and I became friends. That was September of 1972. Two and a half years later Kevin met Randy and I met Randy a week after that. They started Quiet Riot and as I was best friends with Kevin I hung around the rehearsals and started taking photos and took the first promo photo. I also helped out writing lyrics.
When did the first decide to do a book about Randy Rhoads?
Kevin and I were going to do a book. He had me pull out all my stuff. He was going to tell his story of Quiet Riot with Randy Rhoads and use my photos and memories. Kevin investigated the cost to self publish the project. At the time the cost was prohibitive and Quiet Riot had a tour booked so the book fell by the wayside. A few years later Kevin passed. There was a documentary coming out about Randy Rhoads and the interest in that spurred my interest in reviving the project. At first it was going to have all the bands I shot in it but there was so much good Quiet Riot stuff that had never been seen by the public before that it was decided that the book would be about Quiet Riot during the Randy Rhoads years.
Why did you decide to publish on your own? Did you shop the book to mainstream publishers?
My partners and I wanted total control over the project. We never shopped it to mainstream publishers. That always remains a possibility.
Was it painful at times reviewing the old photos?
Reviewing the pictures brought back good memories. For me those years from 1975 to 1985 were the most fun of my life. I do get misty everytime I get to the end of the documentary that comes with the book. That part of the film brings up a lot of emotions.
How much of the material was from your own personal archives?
Over 90% of the photos in the book are mine. When I was taking photos of Quiet Riot I found that sometimes they came out really dark. The lights in the clubs were not good for photos and I didn’t want to use a flash. I knew all the songs frontward and backwards so I thought I could do a better job doing lights for the live shows than the house person at the venues. Since I was doing the lights I hardly took any more onstage photos of the band. We needed to supplement some photos for that period of the band. Sometimes I would have an assistant do the lights for one song so I could go down and shoot some live shots.
What was the most challenging aspect about writing the book?
The time it takes. You keep wanting it to be finished and then another little thing comes up that needs to be done. It took over two years to finish.
Have you seen the other books about Randy on the market? Do you have comments on them, good, bad or otherwise?
There is a biography of Randy Rhoads by Andrew Klein and Steven Rosen that I feel is the best rock book I have ever seen.
I noticed that this is as much a book on early Quiet Riot as it on Randy himself. Did you deliberately design it that way?
Yes. The story is about a group of people, the band and their friends, who in an environment of the 1970’s club scene on the Sunset Strip in Hollywood banded together with the dream of making it in the music business. Randy wasn’t a solo artist, he was a guitar player in a band. The story has universal appeal for any person with dreams of making it to top in what ever profession they choose.
What is it about Randy that still attracts fans to this day?
Randy was an innovative guitar player that had his own unique sound and style. Like all the greats, when you hear him you know it is him. Combine that with his short time on earth and you have a legend born of a small body of work and the insatiable desire to hear more of what could have been a long and fruitful career tragically cut short.
Switching over to the documentary, many people do a book or movie, but for you it was both. Which came first the book or the movie?
The book came first. The movie was born out of my desire to give the fans something more than just another photo book. I have Super 8 sound movies I shot of Quiet Riot and I wanted to add a bonus disc to the book with those movies of Quiet Riot live and some offstage fun. Initially I was going to tell the story of the movies and interesting facts about them as an on camera additional interview cut in with the live footage. The results came out well and it was decided that we would do more interviews with the people who were there at the time, along with Drew Forsyth, Quiet Riot’s drummer, and Rudy Sarzo, Quiet Riot’s second bass player who also played with Randy on tour with Ozzy. Before we knew it we had 90 minute documentary.
Not to generate controversy but was their any person or group who were uncooperative during the production of the film, or conversely was there anyone who really stood out as being helpful and supportive?
Kevin’s mother, Laura was very generous in her help on this project. A lot of my photos were missing but Kevin had copies of the best ones so we were able to put those in the book and movie. She sat for an interview that gave insight into Kevin and Randy’s relationship.
Are you trying to have the film has a theatrical release, or at least the film festival circuit?
We have a distributor that took the film to Cannes and other film markets. We are waiting for the results of the negotiations.
What was the most satisfying part of completing such a large project?
The reaction of the fans and the friends that are in the movie. I have tons of fan mail, all positive, praising the project and thank us for doing it.
Do you have any other Hard rock/Heavy Metal related projects for the future?
My brother Stan Lee is the guitar player for the punk band, The Dickies. If I do another project that would be it.
You can check out Ron’s book and movie, Randy Rhoads: The Quiet Riot Years at www.redmatchproductions.com
Feel free to enjoy the Metal-Rules.com review of the book, published June 2013.