Roy Z

Roy Z

If ever there was a Renaissance Man in modern day hard music - Los Angeles, California native ROY Z is it. Equally proficient as a guitarist, songwriter/arranger, and producer/engineer/mixer, his portfolio contains some of the biggest names in metal, including UK legends Judas Priest and Iron Maiden's Bruce Dickinson, hiphop/hardcore pioneers, Downset, and Z's own Latin rock band, Tribe of Gypsies, all of whom have benefited hugely from Roy's unique vision, versatility, expertise, and spirit of life.

The ability to relate and adapt to different situations and his appreciation for diversity goes back to Roy's formative years growing up as a Latino kid in the barrios of L.A., an environment that yielded all colors of the rainbow in more ways than one. "Where I grew up was a melting pot. Lots of black people, lots of Mexican people, and there were some poor white people, too. There was a lot of mixture of people and the music that was going around in my neighborhood was pretty incredible," reflects Z. "You had the Latin stuff, and my white friends were playing Led Zeppelin and Sabbath to me. The guy across the street was from Belize and he played steel drums. Next door was a lady from Honduras and she played Salsa. The lady two houses down sang in a gospel choir. All this music, man, was really cool."

At age thirteen, Roy bought a guitar with 50 dollars he got for Christmas and life was never the same after that. Inspired by the guitar gods of the day such as Eddie Van Halen, Randy Rhoads, Michael Schenker, and Jimmy Page, Z immersed himself in the instrument and soaked up everything he could, writing his own songs, and playing for hours on end. Before too long, Roy was recording his own home demos, jammed at backyard parties, and gigged locally with a succession of metal bands. But it was his desire to re-connect with his Latin roots and a self-produced 8-track demo of an embryonic Tribe of Gypsies, which scored a deal with a small German label, that got ROY Z's ball rolling for good - although not exactly the way the guitarist had envisioned: "I ended up as the producer by default because we couldn't afford a real producer with the budget we had", recalls Z. "But with all the extensive pre-production we had done, I pretty much knew what I wanted and felt confident enough to pull it off."

So did one Bruce Dickinson who upon hearing a few Tribe mixes asked Roy to fly to England to work with him on what became the 'Balls to Picasso' album, the start of a still ongoing relationship. And true to the old adage "when it rains, it pours", the next break was just around the corner - literally: "I hooked up with these kids from my neighborhood who were in a straight edge hardcore band called Social Justice. I produced a single with them and took them under my wing, helped shape their sound, and wrote the songs with them. We did another demo after they became Downset that got them signed to Mercury, and I ended up producing the album as well. Next thing I knew I was getting all kinds of offers and inquiries to produce other bands."

Over the next few years, ROY Z wrote, played, recorded, and produced - most of the time wearing multiple hats - with everyone from the aforementioned Downset to German metal meisters Helloween, Boston stoner kings Roadsaw, punk rockers Klover, featuring members of the seminal Gang Green, former Driver band mate/ex-Impellitteri frontman Rob Rock, and Iron Maiden vocalist Bruce Dickinson, whose resurgence as a solo artist with 'Accident of Birth' and 1998's monumental 'The Chemical Wedding' was in large part due to Roy's keen musical instincts and creative input. At the same time, Z also continued to pursue his own career with Tribe of Gypsies, producing acclaimed albums such as 'Revolucion 13' and 'Standing on the Shoulders of Giants', a/k/a 'Tribe of Gypsies III', the latter with the legendary team of Ritchie Podolor and Bill Cooper (Steppenwolf, Michelle Branch, etc.) lending a hand. To top things off, the Tribe landed a coveted opening slot on the Santana 'Supernatural' tour 2000, culminating in a rousing two-night stand at San Francisco's Shoreline Amphitheatre and a memorable backstage meeting with the Godfather of Latin rock himself, Carlos Santana, who gave the band his blessings.

It was another rock deity, the Metal God, Rob Halford, who came calling next after a failed venture with Trent Reznor and has occupied much of ROY Z's time over the past few years. And as was the case with Bruce Dickinson earlier, Z once again managed to tap into the essence of a classic artist and produced and co-wrote what was easily the most talked about metal record of 2000, 'Resurrection.' It is little wonder then that Halford has gone on record as saying that "Roy is the best producer I've ever worked with. He really has the psychology down as a producer - he never loses his temper or gets in your face. He understands how musicians work because he's a musician himself. His big thing is that 'you don't need to force it, dude - just relax and enjoy it, this is what we do'." - Capitalizing on the huge buzz, Halford followed up 'Rez' with an all-encompassing double disc 'Live Insurrection' (2002), and 2003's crushing 'Crucible', which saw the band expand on their sonic vision while at the same time retaining and refining the key elements that made 'Resurrection' such a resounding success. To top things off, Roy joined the band on guitar for the duration of their Japanese and American treks in early 2003.

The culmination of ten years of hard work, 2005 kicked off with a double bang of high profile Z-masterminded metallic bliss. The guitarist not only re-teamed with Bruce Dickinson for 'Tyranny of Souls', their first full-length collaboration in some 7 years, but also sat at the helm of one the most anticipated records in years, Judas Priest's blazing reunion spectacle, 'Angel of Retribution.' Featuring the Z-co-write 'Deal With the Devil', the album debuted in the US Billboard Top 20 and quickly sailed past the 500.000 sales mark worldwide, establishing Priest atop the metal world order once again.

Just barely into his mid-30's, ROY Z has indeed come a long way since those early barrio days and amassed an impressive resume both as a musician and behind-the-board magic maker to the stars and stars-to-be - something this Angeleno doesn't take for granted: "I do consider myself lucky and I am grateful to have a leg in both worlds. A lot of musicians who would like to produce, either while they're actively playing music or as they transition out of it, never get the opportunity. The process of creating an album from the ground up and seeing it bloom into something really cool is very satisfying and a great feeling."