Randy Rhoads: Shedding light on a dark sound

Tracii Pistols: Absolutely. First of all, any experimental guitarist should have a guitar tech helping them while they play live. What Randy was actually using was an Echoplex tape retarder. Now we have these fancy echoes, where you can actually tap your foot in time on the delay and it’s the tempo of the song you’re playing, and there are time divisions you can set it to, like The Edge by U2, he has several delays. But at the time, no one had one.

On an Echoplex, you have a lever, and you have numbers that really don’t add up. It’s kind of like, maybe, milliseconds? I don’t know and I’ve used them all my life. But because the motors are so inconsistent and the voltage is so inconsistent, you can’t say “it’s 350 milliseconds there”, because every machine is different.

So what Randy basically said was, “Hey, this song is at this tempo, and I’m going to jot it down. And when I play this song, this is about the right tempo,” [chugs a slow beat], and he made these marks. If you have a song like “Killer Girls,” for example, where there’s a change in tempo, you have to have someone change that delay. You cannot play and then reach for the lever.

I found it fascinating too. It was like, wow, this guy is really one of the guys who did this. Other famous people, obviously Eddie Van Halen and Brian May, also use live tape delays. They had several tape delays. They would have one set at this speed, one set at this speed and set the on-off switches. But when you’re a young guitarist playing in clubs in Hollywood, you can’t afford four Echoplexes. Even back then they were like 700 bucks. It’s a big appliance. Yeah, when I saw that in the documentary, I said, “yeah, that’s how he did them.”

The documentary explores the “crosstown” rivalry between Eddie Van Halen and Randy, and I love the history of the Wah-Wah pedal.

Andre Relis: Obviously I wasn’t there, I can’t tell you 100% that it happened. But his guitar tech says there was major competition, it seems, between the two. But I wasn’t there. So it’s hard for me to say.

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