Director Andre Relis on ‘Randy Rhoads: Reflections of a Guitar Icon’
Tai Freligh chats with director Andre Relis about the new Randy Rhoads documentary…
Randy Rhoads, the legendary guitarist known for his unmatchable guitar riffs, re-shaped rock’n’roll as the lead guitarist for Quiet Riot and Ozzy Osbourne. After forming Quiet Riot with bandmates Kelly Garni, Drew Forsyth, and Kevin DuBrow in the 70s, the band quickly became one of the most popular acts in the Los Angeles club circuit. However, their music failed to land them a legitimate record deal. After playing with Quiet Riot for over 10 years, Randy received an opportunity to be the lead guitarist for former Black Sabbath singer Ozzy Osbourne. Randy played with Ozzy for a few short years, recording legendary songs such as Crazy Train, which includes Randy’s groundbreaking guitar solo. After touring with Ozzy in the early 80s, Randy was tragically killed in a plane crash on March 19, 1982 at the young age of 25. His body died that day, but his soul and music live on forever.
Flickering Myth’s Tai Freligh caught up with Andre Relis, the director of Randy Rhoads: Reflections of a Guitar Icon, a new documentary about the legendary guitarist Randy Rhoads and asked about his impact on the 80s music scene, why now for a documentary, and what he most wants people to take away from watching the film.
What got you into films from touring and playing music?
I started playing music in high school, in a band with friends. I was really inspired by the Sex Pistols, when I heard Never Mind The Bollocks it changed me permanently and my trajectory in life, I became completely dedicated to playing music. I put put an ad in the classifieds at that time when I moved to LA and got a call from a band looking for a singer in the South Bay. My band was together for 10 years, we were signed by a real independent label, and the owner Gene Fein, had a side job producing TV Series for Fox Sports. In between touring I worked there, started off at the very bottom as a PA and worked my way up the ladder. That experience got me into a job at Troma Pictures. That’s how it started for me.
When did you know you wanted to do something on Randy Rhoads?
My band was a mix of punk and metal so Randy Rhoads recordings with Ozzy was always like top shelf. He was an icon, but a lot of mystery about him. I knew of a documentary that Ron Sobol directed early 2011. It never got released beyond DVD, which I thought was a shame and wanted to get that material a proper release. I met with him a year or so ago and took on producing and directing a documentary with some of that footage as the blueprint.
How did Tracii Guns come onto the project as narrator?
It happened when we were nearly done with an early edit. We wanted another guitar icon to be the voice. In directing a documentary a lot of research is involved in finding footage. He was always playing at Randy Rhoads tributes and upon further discovery, I learned that he considered Randy his number one. At that moment, and along with a suggestion from my colleague JD, I knew he was the one and reached out to his people.
What was Randy’s influence on the 80s music scene?
Huge! My opinion is, along with Van Halen, I think he was one of the most important figures that created that 80’s metal sound. At least on the guitar side of things. When you listen to early Quiet Riot albums, 1 & 2, 1977 and 1978, they were so ahead of their time. They were playing stuff that a lot of bands emulated later on.
Was there anything surprising or enlightening that you discovered during the making of this film?
Most definitely. Learning about his upbringing growing up in a music school with his mother as a music teacher. How he picked up the guitar at 6 and his dedication was so intense. And I wasn’t aware Quiet Riot struggled so long and couldn’t get a record deal in the States for all of the 70’s. Also, the real details of the tragic day he died, I learned so much.
What do you want audiences to take away from this film?
I want more than anything audiences to take away his major influence on launching Ozzy’s solo career. He deserves more credit. Those two first albums were pivotal in that happening. Also the trials and tribulations of an amazing guitarist like this struggling along with his band mates to get signed, it just goes to show it’s not all about who’s the most talented.
Do you have a favorite story or moment from the interviews and footage you conducted and compiled for the film?
Yeah, the part where he auditions for Ozzy, how Dana Strum set it up and the story behind that. I think we did well recreating that day.
What has the reaction been so far to folks who have watched the film?
In general, very positive and thankful that a documentary on Randy’s life was finally released. There’s been a lot of false starts with others. There are certain hard core Randy fans that are complaining I didn’t have the backing of the Osbornes and family. I can tell you, I did everything possible to bring them in, I pleaded with them. But at the end of the day, it’s almost like being a reporter, you need to get the story out and as a filmmaker I was committed. His story needs to be told and I find it very odd after 40 years no one else could get a film or documentary on his life out to the people.
What other projects are you working on?
I want to work on a LA Guns doc with Tracii. I also optioned a book about Jim Morrison and his friend Craig Strete, it takes place right before he joined The Doors. It all takes place in one crazy night out in LA, it’s called Burn Down The Night. We have a script and we are attaching a director as we speak. It’s a feature film I will be very proud to produce when the time comes.
Is there anything about Randy and yourself that you feel have in common?
I’d say in return, other than the fact we both grew up in the music scene in Southern California and LA and played the Sunset strip, there’s very little we have in common. Although I sang for years in a Punk Rock Band, I got kicked out of choir in high school, I do not know how to read music, I am not a trained musician who changed the world through my talents and guitars riffs. I suck at guitar and am no better at playing now than I was when I was 18.
Andre Relis spent his late teens and his 20’s in the California music scene. Andre was heavily inspired by metal bands such as Quiet Riot and Ozzy. Randy always stuck out to Andre as one of the greats and inspired him to become the frontman of a touring punk band, Rubberneck. After years of touring Andre transitioned into television and film production in the early 2000s. From that point on Andre has been at the forefront of feature film and distribution for the last 20 years and in 2010 he founded VMI Worldwide, a Hollywood-based finance, production, and distribution company which he runs today. Most recently some of the more notable films Mr. Relis produced include The Last Son with Sam Worthington and Machine Gun Kelly, Wander starring Tommy Lee Jones and Aaron Eckhart, Arkansas starring Vince Vaughn and Liam Hemsworth, and Grand Isle starring Nicolas Cage and Kelsey Grammer. And on the directing side, Mr. Relis co-directed the 2016 feature documentary NWA & Eazy E: Kings Of Compton, which was released by E1 Entertainment in North America. Andre Relis will be one of the leading producers of the Lemmy Kilmister biopic slated to shoot in 2022.
Randy Rhoads: Reflections of a Guitar Icon is directed by Andre Relis. Narrated by Tracii Guns. Written and edited by Michael Bruining. Produced by Relis and Jessica Bennett. Executive Produced by Relis and JD Beaufils. Cinematography by Rich Buhrman. Music by Sean Kelly. A VMI Worldwide production. It is available now on VOD in the following formats: iTunes, Amazon, In Demand, VUDU/Fandango Now, Vubuiquity, Dish, Hoopla, Microsoft Store/XBOX, Google Play, DirecTV.