What Legendary Guitarist Randy Rhoads Left Behind: Director Andre Relis’ Message in Randy Rhoads: Reflections of a Guitar Icon

The trailer for Randy Rhoads: Reflections of a Guitar Icon
Randy Rhoads: Reflections of a Guitar Icon ©RANDY RHOADS: LEGEND, LLC 2022

Randy Rhoads was a legendary guitarist who died at the young age of 25 in an airplane accident on March 19th, 1982. He built his resume through Quiet Riot and Ozzy Osbourne and passed away at the peak of his career. His existence had a massive impact on the heavy metal world. 

40 years after his death, Randy Rhoads: Reflections of a Guitar Icon has been released exclusively in Japan. The director, Andre Relis, decided to come to Japan, so we spoke to him about various things. 

I personally hope the readers of this interview will listen to Randy’s guitar in the following albums: Ozzy Osbourne’s first album, Blizzard of Ozz, his sophomore album, Diary of a Madman, live album Tribute, Quiet Riot’s eponymous first album, which was only available in Japan at the time, and their sophomore album, Quiet Riot II, since it’s easier to access it today.

Andre Relis
Andre Relis was born in 1975 and is a film director from California. He started his film career in the late 90s as a producer for Fox Sports and a film distributor for Amazing Movies, Lionsgate, and so on. In 2010, Relis founded VMI Worldwide, a film production company based in Hollywood. The company produces and distributes many films around the globe. In recent years, it has released The Price We Pay by Ryuhei Kitamura and Wander, starring Tommy Lee Jones and Aaron Eckhart. In 2015, he directed his first documentary, N.W.A & Eazy-E: Kings of Compton, which shed light on the truth behind hip-hop crew N.W.A. Randy Rhoads: Reflections of a Guitar Icon is the second film he’s directed. 

Being inspired by the culture of Tokyo 

——How many times have you visited Japan?

Andre Relis (Andre): I think this is my sixth time.

——You’ve been here quite a lot.

Andre: Yeah. I’ve been here once with my family, once when I was small, once on my own, and around three times for work.

——I heard you lived in Japan when you were a teenager. 

Andre: Ah, that’s because we came to Japan as a family. My father worked for the government, and we moved around Taiwan, the Philippines, Japan, China, and Thailand. I don’t know how to put it into words, but I had a deep affinity with Japan and wanted to come back. So, I worked at Taco Bell for the summer to save money and returned to Japan. I spent one summer here, staying at my father’s friend’s place and other places. 

——What aspect of Japan did you develop an affinity with?

Andre: This might sound weird, but I felt freer in Japan than in America. I felt liberated when I lived in Japan. I loved how you could buy beer from a vending machine. Nothing was cooler for a boy like me (laughs). Also, I got inspired by the culture of Tokyo. The city lights were pretty, and I was fascinated by the beautiful temples. Plus, Japanese people are kind, and the food is good.

——Do you like any Japanese films or music?

Andre: There’s a film that depicts people’s dreams. What was the title? I can’t remember, but I think it was an Akira Kurosawa film. I also feel calm when I listen to classical Japanese music. Growing up, I was a part of a religious group that merged different religions. Hinduism didn’t really resonate with me, but I was so drawn to Buddhism. Maybe that’s why I’m naturally drawn to Japan.

In terms of art, the detailed touches of Japanese paintings are excellent. I also love bonsai. I became interested in bonsai when I came to Japan as a teenager and started buying and taking care of my own. I once got my father to water my bonsai plant, but it withered because he forgot to do it. I felt so sad because of that, and I got angry with him (laughs). 

What N.W.A and Randy Rhoads have in common

——(Laughs). What was the catalyst for you to become a film director?

Andre: I used to be a musician and became involved in filmmaking after that. There’s no doubt music is my foundation. I founded Vision Music, a label that creates music-related films, in 2003. I was interested in documentaries about musicians, and the first one I worked on was What We Do Is Secret with King Records, a biographical film about the punk band Germs. That was the first time I produced a film.

——Which documentaries are your favorites?

Andre: I have a lot. In terms of music, The Doors by Oliver Stone, Sid and Nancy by Alex Cox, and My Career As a Jerk, which is about Circle Jerks. This isn’t about music, but I love Taxi Driver

——Do you like punk music?

Andre: Yeah, I was in a punk band!

——I didn’t know that. I assumed you were in a metal band.

Andre: It was a punk band, but we incorporated metal elements. Going back to films: I also like The Decline of Western Civilization trilogy (The Decline of Western Civilization, The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years, and The Decline of Western Civilization III). Depending on the film, it features punk rock and heavy metal. I don’t see punk and metal as separate things. I feel like there’s a link between the two. 

——Do you like bands that combine hardcore punk and thrash metal, like Stormtroopers of Death?

Andre: Speak English or Die (Stormtroopers of Death’s first album and a masterpiece of crossover thrash)!

——(Laughs). Before Randy Rhoads: Reflections of a Guitar Icon, you directed N.W.A & Eazy-E: Kings of Compton, a documentary film about the American hip-hop crew N.W.A. What made you make this?

Andre: Back when I was into punk and metal, I also listened to N.W.A. The group reflected on their real-life experiences as Black people, but I felt hip-hop had something in common with punk and metal. Randy Rhoads resonated with me just the same. 

——I see. After your documentary on N.W.A, you made a documentary film about Randy Rhoads during his Quiet Riot and Ozzy Osbourne years. It’s interesting how you went from hip-hop to heavy metal. 

Andre: I also think N.W.A and Randy Rhoads have something in common. N.W.A was the creator of gangster rap and was revolutionary. Likewise, I believe Randy Rhoads, who played for Quiet Riot and Ozzy Osbourne, was the creator of heavy metal. It’s like how Iggy Pop and New York Dolls created punk rock. 

Hip-hop, punk, and heavy metal are all completely different genres with different sounds, but I feel a similarity in how they have a rebellious spirit. My punk band collaborated with Young MC, who was on the same label as us, to make a punk rock hip-hop song in 1997. Like Ice-T and Body Count, punk is compatible with hip-hop.

——True. Let’s talk about your documentary film. Did you first discover Randy Rhoads through Quiet Riot or Ozzy Osbourne?

Andre: I found out about Randy Rhoads through Ozzy Osbourne. Quiet Riot’s first two albums (Quiet Riot and Quiet Riot II) weren’t sold in America. You could only get those records in Japan. To be honest, I hadn’t really listened to Quiet Riot’s music until I made the documentary.

Randy Rhoads: Reflections of a Guitar Icon ©RANDY RHOADS: LEGEND, LLC 2022

Randy Rhoads’ influence on heavy metal was revolutionary

——I didn’t know that!

Andre: Of course, I knew the existence of Quiet Riot’s first two albums. I realized how amazing they were during the process of making this documentary. I listened to their music over and over. After properly listening to the first two albums, I realized they were more brilliant than their other ones. 

——The band’s first two albums spoke to you more than their third album, Metal Health, which became number one on the national charts. Why are the first two albums appealing to you?

Andre: I feel a sense of musicianship, and they have a lot of great songs. The song that became a hit was a cover song (Slade’s “Cum on Feel the Noize”). The albums that had commercial success were the later albums, unmistakably so, but the content of the first two is better. I feel like they should be more acclaimed. 

Randy Rhoads: Reflections of a Guitar Icon ©RANDY RHOADS: LEGEND, LLC 2022

——I see. Many people know of Randy Rhoads from his Ozzy Osbourne era, but I could tell from the film that Randy’s talents were already ripe during his Quiet Riot era. The fact that the film could convey that was great.

Andre: I was moved by that too! But it was hard for people to get a record deal, even if you were as talented as Randy Rhoads. I mean, you had to face the harsh reality, right? To live as a musician is difficult. You can also see that in the film.

——What was the blueprint behind Randy Rhoads: Reflections of a Guitar Icon?

Andre: There was an original documentary made in 2012, and we were able to get the license to make this one. That was major. That’s why I was able to feature Randy Rhoads during his Quiet Riot era. I wanted to zoom in on how he paved the way for heavy metal and how significant of a role he played in Ozzy’s solo career. 

——What do you think is Randy Rhoads’ magic?

Andre: He grew up in a musical family, which greatly influenced his guitar-playing style. He would generously teach music to others, and even when he was at the peak of his career, he was immersed in the guitar and never stopped studying it. I believe the influence he had on heavy metal was revolutionary. The way he played the guitar was so brilliant! Listening to heavy metal from the 80s, I feel like what Quiet Riot did with their first two albums significantly influenced the guitar riffs and musicality of that era. 

 Randy Rhoads: Reflections of a Guitar Icon ©RANDY RHOADS: LEGEND, LLC 2022

 Randy Rhoads: Reflections of a Guitar Icon ©RANDY RHOADS: LEGEND, LLC 2022

Randy Rhoads: Reflections of a Guitar Icon 
 Cast: Randy Rhoads et al
Music: Randy Rhoads et al
 Director: Andre Relis 
 Script/editing: Michael Bruining
Distributor: Albatross Film
Support: Nippon Cultural Broadcasting 

Photography Shinpo Kimura
Translation Lena Grace Suda


Ryosuke Arakane

Music writer from Oita-prefecture. He started his career as a free writer from 1999. He admires aggressive music and eclectically listens to both western and Japanese hard rock, heavy metal, loud, punk, hardcore and mixture rock.