This interview was originally featured in November 2009.
In terms of range, a vocalist's capability can vary. Some have a broad range, while others have a limited range, but even if gifted with a broad range, a vocalist can sometimes lack that raw, genuine emotion that a truly unique, wonderful voice has. Oft imitated but never really surpassed, Ronnie James Dio
is blessed with both. A godfather in the metal genre, Dio
's warm tones are rarely matched in their passion, and might. Almost thirty five years have elapsed since Dio
came to prominence courtesy of 1975 Rainbow
debut "Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow
", and since that time, other great albums like "Heaven And Hell
" (1980) and "Holy Diver
" have boasted the man's vocals. Reportedly approaching his seventies, Dio
's strength has never wavered, and his activities will inspire Devil-horned salutes for quite some time to come.
In mid August 2009, it was revealed that Heaven & Hell
/ Black Sabbath
guitarist Tony Iommi
was to undergo hand surgery. Cartilage had gone from the thumb in his right hand, meaning the joints were rubbing one another. By September, the man's hand had undergone stem cell treatment. While the man recovers, Heaven & Hell
is briefly on hiatus, meaning vocalist Ronnie James Dio
is able to conduct some Dio
band related activity. In late August, the Dio
band announced live British dates, and other European dates were announced shortly thereafter. The Dio
band's late 2009 European tour begins on November 21st in Glasgow, Scotland at the Academy, and draws to a close on December 22nd at the Hugenottenhalle in Neu Isenburg, Germany. Joining the frontman will be fellow Dio
band members Rudy Sarzo
(bass) and Simon Wright
(drums), and current Whitesnake
guitarist Doug Aldrich
filling in for current Dio
guitarist Craig Goldy
. Unfortunately, Goldy
cannot participate in the group's European trek due to previous commitments with Welsh rockers Budgie
, that commitment being in the form of an Australian tour throughout November.
2004 marked the release of tenth Dio
studio album "Master Of The Moon
", and since that time, the group hasn't issued another studio full length. However, the Dio
band have future material in the works. 2000's "Magica
" was planned as the first in a trilogy of concept albums, and those plans still remain. Culled from recent Dio
studio sessions, new composition "Electra
" will be issued in some form to coincide with the act's late 2009 European tour. Besides this, the vocalist is in the midst of penning his autobiography.
On October 14th at 19:00 GMT, Hit The Lights
' Robert Gray
telephoned Ronnie James Dio
to discuss the Dio
band's current plans, Dio
's forthcoming autobiography, and what the future holds for Heaven & Hell
Ronnie James Dio:
UG: Hello. Is this Ronnie?
Yes. Is this Robert?
This is Robert, yeah.
How are you doing mate?
I'm ok. How are you Ronnie?
I'm fine, thank you.
Would it be alright if I began the interview?
Obviously, 2004's 'Master of the Moon' was the last studio record from Dio. With the benefit of hindsight, what are your thoughts on that album?
'Master of the Moon'? Well, it's a bit difficult, because it has been such a while since we played it. The last time we played live was in 2005 - it might've been the end of 2004. It seems like so much has happened since that time, and since all those things that I've had to put aside, which is anything to do with Dio. I've been doing Heaven & Hell, obviously. It seems rather strange to come back and do Dio again. I'm very excited about it, but it seems strange, just because I've really applied myself so much to what I've been doing with Heaven & Hell. It won't take me long to get back in the swing of it as soon as we start rehearsing, but it just seems a little bit odd.
Ok. Obviously, everyone knows you reunited with Black Sabbath in 2006, but as Heaven & Hell. Did the future of the Dio band weigh heavily on your mind in deciding whether you would reunite with Tony (Iommi, guitar) and Geezer (Butler, bass)?
"It seems rather strange to come back and do Dio again."
Yes. It's always something that's in the back of my mind, and it's an incredible part of my life, obviously. It's something that you certainly can't forget. The pride that I've had, and all the people that I've played with in the Dio band, and some of the successes that we've had - you just can't erase that from your mind. It does hang over me, and one of the reasons I think Robert is because one of the last albums we did, 'Magica', was meant to be in three parts. We've only done one part, so I've thought about this a lot, about doing parts two and three. In fact, I've got about seven or eight of the tracks done now for 'Magica'. I always work on that when I'm not doing Heaven & Hell, or something else that I'm doing. It always weighs heavily on my mind, because I want to finish that project. It's not something that ever goes away, but that doesn't take away from what I do with Heaven & Hell. It doesn't make any difference; once I apply myself to one thing, the other just goes out the back door. But once there's free time, I always go back to the 'Magica' idea, which keeps me really connected to Dio.
When you reunited with Tony and Geezer, were you worried that a repeat of the 'Dehumanizer' situation would occur?
No, no. We were very, very smart about the way we dealt with things, and I think we learnt lessons from what had happened to us before, with the two break ups before that. I think it's a pretty good indication that we want to play in a band together, and that it's something we do a lot, because we keep getting back together again. But yeah, I think we took it really slowly. We didn't make plans to do something that we couldn't deliver, either to ourselves, or to someone we'd promised to do something, say a tour or whatever. We didn't make these long term plans, and that allowed a lot of mistakes not to happen. Again, we've all grown up a lot. We really appreciate each other more than we ever did before, and we were always good friends - that was never a problem. Contrary to what people may believe, we never had arguments. In fact, I don't remember ever having an argument. Of course, nothing physical ever happened, so it seems really odd that we did break up that many times. I guess a lot of it was because of some political things that were going on, and again, we were younger, and did things that we shouldn't have done.
So yeah, there's always that thought in the back of your mind, if this could happen again, and if this will be another 'Dehumanizer' situation. We're not allowing that to happen though; we have communication now, we talk, and we really, really spend a lot of time together, which was something we didn't do before. Because of all the lessons that we learnt from the past, I don't worry about that ever happening. If it did happen, I think we're confident enough in the things that we did in the past, and the things that we can still do without each other, so it wouldn't be the end of the world. But we really, genuinely enjoy making music together, and being around each other, so I don't see that happening. We're too cautious about it now.
Ok. Obviously, we're talking since the Dio band is due to play some European dates throughout November and December. How does the chemistry within the Dio band differ to the chemistry within Heaven & Hell?
It doesn't affect it at all. Not one bit. One of the shows we're playing is in Birmingham, and I've already spoken to Tony, but not to tell him that we were playing there, because he knew already. I just spoke to him about something, and he said "I'll see you at the gig". "Oh, ok". I said "You don't really have to come. I know it's a pain in the ass". "No, no, no. I want to be there". It's very supportive; I support anything he does, or Geezer does, or Vinny does, and they're the same. We're pretty secure in ourselves. In any way, shape, or form, I don't think they think that I'm gonna now continue to do this, and not take into consideration doing another Heaven & Hell album, or certainly another Heaven & Hell tour, because I will do. I don't think they feel any threat on their part. They don't feel threatened at all.
Alright. What I did ask was how the chemistry differs between the Dio band and Heaven & Hell?
Oh, I'm sorry Robert. I'm sorry mate. Well, you have an extra answer there. The chemistry between me and the Dio band, and me and Heaven & Hell, and what's the difference between the two? Well, I think one of the differences is that I'm a lot more in control of my own situation because it is the Dio band, and I can make a lot of decisions that are mine and mine alone. With Sabbath, we're very democratic. We don't do things behind each others' backs, and unless we all agree to it, it doesn't happen. That sometimes can make life a little bit more difficult if I don't agree with the decision of the other two, but that's the way we've set it up, so that's the way it works. So far, I've not seen any problems with that. So really, it's the difference between having a little bit more of a - certainly not a dictatorship, but let's put it that way anyway - a little bit more of a dictatorship, and a whole lot more democracy in Sabbath. That's really the difference in the chemistry.
As far as the people go, we are all different people. Tony and Geezer have done this for such a long time, and I've known them for such a long time, with all the things we've done together. We share different experiences in the Dio band, and life is made of all those experiences. Our experiences in the Dio band bring us close together, with the things we have done, and the things we're about to do. All the things we've done in Sabbath, Heaven & Hell, whatever we're gonna call it, those are different experiences, but yet they're all enjoyable ones. As far as chemistry goes, there's no lack of chemistry on either side. It's just as I said before; it's more my decision with the Dio band, and much more democratic the other way.
For these aforementioned European dates, ex-Dio member Doug Aldrich will be filling in for guitarist Craig Goldy, as Craig will be touring Australia at that time with Budgie.
He's out with one of your lot, isn't he? They're Welsh, aren't they? Budgie?
Yeah, that's right. Budgie are Welsh, yeah... But yeah, having said that, is the Dio band's lineup still the same?
It is. Craig made commitments that he had to make, while I had made my own commitments with Heaven & Hell. Obviously, he has other work to do, and he enjoys playing with them, and so he made commitments to go abroad. He certainly didn't want to let them down - I understood that. Fortunately for us, and unfortunately for David (Coverdale, vocalist), Whitesnake has stopped for awhile because David needs to get some rest. Craig's commitments left a big, wide gap open for a guitarist, and thank God it was Doug. He's played with us before in some of these same kind of situations, so it's a very, very easy fit. He's a different player than Craig is, but they both handle it in their own way, and magnificently I might say. At the moment, Doug is filling in for Craig. I'm sure he has plans to go back to play with Whitesnake.
While you're away as part of Heaven & Hell, is it difficult to keep the Dio band's lineup together?
It can be, but it hasn't been. Truthfully, all the guys who play with me, and I'm only going to say Craig being the exception because he has made a commitment, and that certainly doesn't mean he doesn't feel the same as the others, but Rudy Sarzo and Simon Wright, they do other things while waiting for us to continue on with Dio. Rudy and Simon, especially, really love this band a lot and as much as I do, and we've become a real part of each other. That feeling is always, always there. They'll do other things in the meantime, until we do another Dio tour, or another Dio album, being 'Magica - Part Two' and 'Three'. They're always prepared to do that, so that's where their desires and their loyalty lie really. I'll never have a problem with those guys, and thank God for that.
As you've performed Black Sabbath tracks live for the last two and a half years, I'm assuming the Dio band won't play any Sabbath tracks on its late 2009 tour. Does that give you room for more Dio songs, or even Rainbow era songs?
I see Rainbow songs being done. They won't ever be done, as far as I'm concerned - well, they certainly won't be done with my voice on them unless I do them. Those songs are great; for a long time, I think the fans have voted to keep those songs alive. They seem to love that music so much, and again, I enjoy them. We always try to keep that alive, and in the case of Sabbath things, because I've been touring for the last several years and played nothing but Sabbath songs that I had something to do with, I think it makes it really nice to be able to separate the two from each other. If I did anything, it would be a Sabbath song that we had never done, or probably would never consider doing - something that I really like that we never did. But at the moment, no. The plans are to do Dio material, and some Rainbow as well I think.
Are there any particular Rainbow songs you have in mind?
A couple, actually, one being "Sixteenth Century Greensleeves" (from 1975's 'Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow'), which I haven't done since the time I think we wrote it. We used to do it live, but not extensively. Also, a song called "Lady of the Lake" (from 1978's 'Long Live Rock 'n' Roll'). Those are two that I haven't done in such a long time, and I'd like to have a go at those, so those are two possibilities. And of course, there'll be "Man on the Silver Mountain" (from 1975's 'Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow').
Will any of these late 2009 Dio shows be recorded for live product, like a DVD or CD?
We haven't planned on doing that. At this moment, there are no plans to do that, but with us on the road, we're notorious for suddenly discovering that we're gonna be recording the next day. That happens a lot, because with a quick tour and the opportunity to record things, some people get the bug in their ear. "What about recording this?". That usually comes after the fact. At this point, there's nothing that I know of, but I'm sure at some point it certainly will be recorded, maybe in Germany or Britain. But certainly, it'll be done by someone who has a camera or a telephone out there.
Ok. I thought it might be something practical to possibly release, to keep the Dio name in people's minds while you're touring with Heaven & Hell.
There is something being released, actually. There's an album being released, which is a compilation of live songs. It'll be released to coincide with the tour, and as I mentioned before, I've been doing a lot of work on the 'Magica' album. I believe we'll release one of the songs from 'Magica' that I decided to put together, so that whatever package we happen to hand to the people when we're out there, it's a lot more attractive with one thing they've never heard before. I guess you could call it a teaser. It's a really good song ("Electra"), and part of the whole 'Magica' trilogy. It's sometimes hard for it to stand alone, but I did write an explanation of what it was about, and what the song is about, and that it's just a brief glimpse into what will be 'Magica' again. There's some plans to do that - there are some special plans.
It's publicly known that you're in the midst of writing your autobiography. Why did you opt to begin writing your autobiography?
"We really, genuinely enjoy making music together, and being around each other."
I started it quite a long time ago. It must've been about three years ago - if not, probably longer than that actually. I'm the kind of person who really needs to focus on whatever he does, whether it be writing a song, or writing memoirs. I don't do things on the side while I'm doing one project, just as I don't write songs on the road when I'm touring. That's what I'm doing out there: I'm touring, and I don't care to focus on writing, because I don't have the time to focus, being on a coach all the time or a plane. I started it a long time ago, and because of the Heaven & Hell things we've done, it's stopped me being really able to focus on it, and Dio too. It's still in the works. It's about a third finished by now, and I won't be able to get back to that until I finish this touring section. If there's more time after the tour, I'll just carry on, and start doing some more. I've just been asked a lot to write something about myself, and other people have included me in biographies of other people, bands and what not. I'd just like to tell it in my own way. Usually, they don't get it right, and there are other things that I need to tell that I perhaps haven't told these people, not that this autobiography that I'm writing is a tell all book, because it's certainly not by any stretch of the imagination. I think it's very amusing, more amusing than anything else...
Of course, there are some sad parts in it. I mean, everyone's life has some sad parts, but I've tried to limit it to the good things, and tell the story through the experiences of the people that I've worked with, from Ritchie (Blackmore, Rainbow guitarist), to Tony, to Geezer, to Craig, to Simon, to Vinny (Appice, Black Sabbath / Heaven & Hell / ex-Dio drummer), and on and on the list goes, from the very beginning of my musical life, which was five years old when it started. From that time onward, once again, told through and hopefully using the anecdotes and experiences that people don't know about, but not behind the things like "He's a prat", "He uses drugs", and "He's a drunk". That's not something I would ever do. I just want to explain my life in my way, and my way is to tell it through the experiences that I've shared with others.
You said you're a third of the way through writing your autobiography. At present, what year in your life are you writing about?
Let's see... At this particular moment, I'm through the first part of Rainbow, which is a lot of years. I'm finishing that one, and then the next will be the Sabbath part, and then Dio, and then a lot more Sabbath stuff, so it's quite a long story. I'm just through the first part of the Rainbow section of my life.
In my opinion, this autobiography will be a lot different than other rock autobiographies. The usual rock autobiographies are about being addicted to drink and / or drugs, and then becoming clean, but obviously, you've lived a clean lifestyle haven't you Ronnie?
I have. I've lived a good lifestyle, and I've been very aware of what the horrible things that are out there can do to you. I've seen it, again, through the eyes of those people that I'm writing about, and it's so sad to see people that you like pass away, or to see their lives suddenly swirl down the toilet, because of anything that they've done to themselves so early on. I said to myself that I'm not gonna do anything like that, not that I don't drink much and that kind of thing, but as far as being someone who's abused a lot of mind-altering drugs or something, no, I've not done that. I tend to stay away from people who do that - I think you're judged by the friends that you keep, and I think you're a better person if you have good friends. Yeah, I've been someone who's not really dealt with that. I just think we don't have enough time on this Earth - why throw it away doing that?
I agree. And obviously, because they're affected by drugs, such people are probably somewhat difficult to work with - due to their addiction, and everything.
The difficult part about it all is the time that you've lost - that's what it's all about. There are a lot of people who've recovered from it, and good for them; people who've gone into rehab, and not gone back to that, and now have a better lifestyle, and are more successful, some more than others obviously. But it's that big gap of your life that you've taken away, and normally, it's the youngest part of your life, which should be the happiest and the most brilliant learning experience for you, and times to build memories that you'll cherish for the rest of your life. When you've got a void of seven, or eight, or ten, or twelve years from extended drug use or whatever you've done to yourself, you've lost that time, and it can never, never come back. That's the thing I never wanted to do
This might sound bad of me to say, but will your autobiography be a proper autobiography in that you're solely writing it by yourself? Or are you having someone to help you write your autobiography?
No. I'm going to write it myself - I'm quite good at that. I've been a lyricist for such a long time, and I wouldn't have started becoming a lyricist if I didn't think I was good at my language. One of the subjects I majored in at university was English, and writing as well, the writing form, so I have knowledge of that. I know how to put words together, and I'm trying to write this as though it's coming from my mouth, as though it's coming from the way I'm telling you right now, but without "er"'s and "and"'s and that of course - I'll take those out. The books that I like to read sound very personal to me, and sound as though they're being told to me by that person to my face. That's what I've attempted to do, to write it as though it's coming right from pen, to paper, to you, and that's why I'm writing it the way I'm writing it.
It's about me, and it's about my early experiences, and how I began. But after that, I think everyone knows that I've had some success, and about some of the people that I've played with. Of course, I'll touch upon all that, but once it gets past my own formative years, and having my first band for three or four years, then it becomes, as I said, more about the experiences that I've shared with others. It's just my own way of writing it, and I think all I need is a really good editor. I certainly need someone there to proof read it, and say "Well, this isn't quite right. Maybe if you did this". I certainly will listen, but I won't listen very much, because I'm pretty self-centred when it comes to thinking that I really know what I'm doing. I edit the piece as I go along, and of course, there are going to be mistakes, but they're going to be totally my own.
You also recorded some voice work for 'Brtal Legend', but unfortunately those parts weren't used. What are your thoughts on that?
I was looking forward to seeing the finale, and it was very interesting to do. We went to a place called Skywalker Ranch, which is where George Lucas' original studio was. A brilliant place, with memorabilia everywhere. There was a great atmosphere, and I enjoyed doing it, but at the end of the day, it just didn't work out. Perhaps my voice characterization wasn't what they were looking for. It's not what I do, truthfully. They asked, and I thought it was interesting to be a part of, but at the end of the day, if it wasn't right, then it wasn't right. At the end of the day, I don't harbour any bad feelings about that at all. It doesn't matter to me.
Some have added two and two together, and have come up with five, alleging that your parts weren't used because Ozzy (Osbourne) contributed to 'Brtal Legend', and supposedly didn't want you to be a part of the project. What are your thoughts on that rumour?
I've heard that rumour, and people do put two and two together, or sometimes put two and two together and it equals five, so perhaps they're wrong about that. I don't accuse anyone unless I know exactly what's going on. I don't know if that's the case. It certainly seems coincidental, I must admit. It does. I'm not gonna throw the blame to anyone though. Perhaps that wasn't the reason, and perhaps it wasn't because Ozzy was a part of it. Again, it just doesn't bother me at all. I'm very thick-skinned when it comes to that, and I don't really care if they did that. If someone did do that, then I think it just shows small-mindedness, but I'm not gonna accuse anyone till I know what's going on.
You mentioned new Dio albums, which will be follow ups to 'Magica', as you intend for them all to be part of a trilogy. What do the seven to eight complete tracks you mentioned sound like?
I'm gonna leave that one for now. I'm gonna make it a surprise, at least the title, and what it's about. I'll just say that you'll hear something new that you haven't heard from Dio in a long time, which I think is rather special, in that we haven't been together for the last four years. We wanted to give people something new, so that they don't have to buy regurgitated material all the time. I think it was important to do. Perhaps I learnt that lesson from what we did in Heaven & Hell, when we did the album called 'Black Sabbath - The Dio Years' (2007), and we included three new songs. We had time to do three though. Unfortunately, this band didn't have time to do three new songs, so we did one really long one. Maybe it'll end up being two. It's just something that I thought was important to people who are out there to buy things - they deserve something better than just the same old, same old. That was really the reason for doing it, and it was the perfect vehicle to do it with as well, because it does a couple of things. It shows the album that I want to finish, and that I will finish. I think that's important for Dio fans to know, that they have something else album wise to look forward to. And as I said, secondarily, because I think it's important to do it for the people out there who've been supportive of this band for so long. They deserve something.
Do you see yourself recording a new Heaven & Hell album?
Yeah. I think so - I do think so. I think we'll probably tour a little bit first in the interim time. Of course, we're dealing with Tony's hand at the moment too. We would've been touring more with Heaven & Hell, and probably wouldn't even have organised this Dio tour, if it hadn't been for the fact that Tony has tendon problems in his hand, and had to be operated on. That gave me the time to do this that we're talking about now, which is the tour, and working more on 'Magica'. At the moment, we're waiting to see how Tony's hand is going to recuperate. We have no plans to break this up. I think we're all excited about doing another album at some point. I don't think we want to rush into it right now, but perhaps during this time off, between Tony's recovery and us getting back together with Heaven & Hell, we'll be able to get together and write some more songs. We can do that, certainly. To answer your question, yeah, I think we will.
Finally, how does the future of the Dio band look?
"I'm not trying to take away from what I'll be doing with Heaven & Hell, because once I apply myself to Heaven & Hell, that's the only thing I'll focus on."
I think it looks really good. Once again, as I said before, there are people in this band who really, really want to be in this band, and who really love the music that we make. They love the majesty of it, the bigness of it, sometimes the heaviness of it, and just all the great songs that have been done from year to year. Those songs never die; they're fun for me to play after all these years, and they're certainly fun for Rudy and Simon and Craig to play, and they do such a wonderful job of it. It has a great future, as far as I'm concerned. I'm not trying to take away from what I'll be doing with Heaven & Hell, because once I apply myself to Heaven & Hell, that's the only thing I'll focus on. As you suggested earlier though, in the back of my mind there's always that thought about the Dio band, because again, it's been such a big part of my life. It's given me such great songs to be able to play, and so many people who have made their way to this band as fans, and as friends. It's something that's never going to die, not in my mind, and it's something that I'll carry on and do.
Ok. Thank you very much for the interview Ronnie.
You're welcome Robert. How's your weather today? You got rain?
It's pretty shit - same as usual.
It's the same here - it's pissing with rain here. But, oh well, what are you gonna do? It'll be better.
Yeah. Hopefully I'll speak to you again - when we have something else to talk about.
All the best Ronnie.
Thanks Robert. You take care mate.
You too. Bye.
Interview by Robert Gray
|Dio: Upcoming Winter 2009 Tour Dates:
11/21 - Glasgow, Scotland - Academy
11/22 - Sheffield, UK - Academy
11/24 - London, UK - Forum
11/25 - Birmingham, UK - Academy
11/27 - Manchester, UK - Academy
11/28 - Lincoln, UK - Engine Shed
11/30 - Bristol, UK - Academy
12/01 - Antwerp, Belgium - Trix Hall
12/02 - Tilburg, Holland - 013
12/04 - Oslo, Norway - Sentrum Scene
12/05 - Bergen, Norway - Peer Gynt
12/07 - Gothenburg, Sweden - Tradgarn
12/08 - Malmo, Sweden - Kulturbolaget
12/09 - Stockholm, Sweden - Debaser
12/11 - Oulu, Finland - Teatria
12/12 - Tampere, Finland - Pakkahoune
12/13 - Helsinki, Finland - Cable Factory
12/16 - Bremen, Germany - Aladin
12/18 - Nurnberg, Germany - Lowenssal
12/19 - Reichenbach, Germany - H20
12/20 - Munich, Germany - Tonhalle
12/22 - Neu Isenburg, Germany - Hugenottenhalle