Passing away at the tender age of twenty-five, without doubt Randy Rhoads left this world too early. Having recorded two stellar albums with Ozzy Osbourne before an airplane accident claimed his life, to this day Rhoads' influence is apparent. Rhoadsfest II, set to take place December 4th at Paladino's in Tarzana, California, will pay tribute to Rhoads. Appearing? Influential hard rock instrumental guitarist Michael Angelo Batio, a Randy Rhoads fan like many.
"I'm a big Randy Rhoads fan" confirms Michael. "I got to meet him before he died; I met him backstage at a concert in Chicago, my hometown. I was asked to do Rhoadsfest I last year, and prior to that in 2007, I was asked to be in a Randy Rhoads movie that hasn't come out yet. I met the Rhoads family then in 2007; I really liked his mom and his sister. and Kelle I had met before. Last year it was so great, and this year it should be even better. I just love him as a guitarist. I really like what he did for rock guitar, and there's a history there; me meeting him and participating in the movie, and plus, I think one of the reasons how I got involved too was they saw me play in Los Angeles in Hollywood at M.I. with Uli Jon Roth in 2007. It was his Sky Academy show; Paul Gilbert was there, I was there, Chris Poland. I played my "Tribute To Randy", and I did a very unique rendition of his soloing. Where the melodic contour sounds are played, people recognise them as Randy Rhoads' solos, but I play them completely different than Randy and they really liked that, that I was able to take something that he did and really make it my version. "Tribute To Randy" - my version of two of his songs - is the most requested song that I play, so it's cool."
Michael's Chicago encounter with Randy Rhoads would be several years prior to the 1987 formation of Nitro, arguably at a time when he was trying to establish himself as a guitarist. "The memory that I have is that I was starstruck" remembers Michael. "Even then, I was much taller than he was. What impressed me was how angelic he looked onstage, and how different he looked offstage. A few years later when I met Angus Young from AC/DC, it was the same thing - they're completely different people onstage and offstage. I think even I'm like that; people look at me and they see this mean, mental looking guy, and then offstage I'm completely mellow and friendly. That concert that Randy Rhoads played at was photographed by a very famous rock photographer who's a friend of mine, and a photo of Randy on Ozzy's shoulders is from that concert that I was at. My memories of Randy Rhoads really are that he played great and that he looked angelic onstage. He really looked like an angel onstage, and then meeting him backstage, he was just so different. He was tiny, and he didn't look angelic. He looked cool don't get me wrong, but he just looked different - just like a normal person. It was great, and I really enjoyed it."
Naturally, Michael feels a kinship with Randy given their shared flair and passion for classical music. "I have a degree in music, so in some ways, even though he was famous before me in an iconic band we had similar backgrounds" explains Michael. "I love orchestral music, and not just Bach; I really listen to Renaissance composers. What I like about Randy was that he was really a great writer underneath Ozzy. E chord over A we just to refer to as slash chords; E over A is a very simple one-five-four progression, and it's not really a metal progression at all - it sounds so different than metal riffs. I've said this before, that only Ozzy could sing over that and make it sound the way it did. You can't play that on guitar and make it cool, because it's impossible. The melody just sounds too happy, but he was able to do it and that was the magic of what they were able to do together - Ozzy's melodies over Randy's chord progressions and riffs. It was great."
Of course, Michael Angelo Batio would later go on to forge himself a longtime career, issuing two albums in 1989 and 1992 as a part of Nitro and so on. With six solo full-lengths under his belt since 1995, Michael shows no signs of slowing down. "I have enough material for two CDs right now, but I have been so busy" Michael states. "It's been incredible this year; I've been on the road constantly, and since September I've just travelled over several thousand miles by aeroplane from India to Europe and so on. In fact, they want me to play in the Middle East next year in Syria. I have plans to record, but in this musical environment I can't even get my CDs out before they're leaked. It's really terrible. There are Russian websites where they've got everything; all my DVDs, and all my CDs. We have people enquiring on my forum how to get my music. We licensed my CDs in China, and we didn't even have to send them a CD master because they just took it off the internet off one of those free websites via filesharing. I have the artistic want to record a new CD but as far as business goes, it doesn't affect my touring at all if I don't release a new CD. I'm in a very unique position regarding that, so to answer your question, I have plans to release a new CD in 2011 but I've been touring so much that I haven't been able to start it. Hopefully, I'll take the time to do that."
Michael Angelo Batio will perform at Rhoadsfest II on December 4th at Paladino's in Tarzana, California. October 2005's "Hands Without Shadows" features "Tribute To Randy", an instrumental which contains elements of "Crazy Train" and "Mr. Crowley" (from September 1980's 'Blizzard Of Ozz), whereas its September 2009 successor "Hands Without Shadows 2 Voices" features "Tribute To Randy 2: You Can't Kill Rock and Roll" (the track "You Can't Kill Rock and Roll" being from November 1981's "Diary Of A Madman").
By Robert Gray