If there was ever a
person I would say "I'm not worthy" to, it would be this
man. I'm talking about one the most influential and STILL one of the
best vocalists to grace the heavy metal scene. Despite my lack of
worthiness, I was lucky enough to talk with Ronnie James Dio for
thirty minutes about Dio, Rainbow, metal and his future plans. So
without any more of my rambling and drooling, here you go my interview
with the voice of heavy metal...Ronnie James Dio!!!!
in MP3: 30 mins, 6.9megs
If you don't mind I'd like to start out with some questions
about the past. I know there's a lot of history so the first question
would be regarding the band ELF, which you were in many years ago.
Have there been plans to re-release any of those albums?
Well there is actually a plan to record another album.
Right, that was my second question. (Laughter)
Yeah because I've been in contact with my cousin, Rock (Dave
Fonsteine) and our drummer, Simon Wright, is going to play. He's
perfect for it because he's small too. Ha ha! We were going to use
Joes DeMaio to play bass on it. At this point I'm not sure whether it
will be Joey, or maybe both, but Rodger Glover going to do some of it
with us. Rodger produced all the Elf albums we did before and I can't
say no to Rodge and especially being the great player that he is. So
yeah, there are plans to do another one.
About re-released the other ones. I've seen them on CDs before.
They are from England; a company called The Connoisseur Collection. I
see them all the time and I keep saying well how come I'm not getting
any money from these things…how come I never get paid? But I have
seen them before. One is a double CD called GARGANTUAN ELF. That's got
the second and third albums on it. I have seen the first one, the one
with me on the cover with a long nose curly hair and pointed ears, the
one just called ELF; I've seen that on CD as well.
Do you have any timeframe in mind for when you will actually
sit down and work on this Elf project?
Well it's going to have to be a matter of when time doesn't step
upon what Dio is doing. We're not going to be finished touring until
probably late May because we have to go to Europe for a while as well
and South America. So by that time we certainly will be ready to write
another album for Dio. That will take precedence. I can't divide
myself between doing one thing and doing another, I just don't want to
do that and couldn't anyway. So unfortunately, or hopefully, it will
be after we finish the next Dio album and that will hopefully give us
a couple months for the product to get revved up and out there. At
that time at least we can maybe have a start at writing all the things
With regards to some of the other past bands/projects you've
been in like Ronnie Dio and the Prophets and other pre-Rainbow bands…has
there ever been talk of a box-set or re-releasing some of the early
rare stuff that people have problems finding?
Well…I can only say that I think that they should…if they find
them all they should bundle them in a box and blow them all up!
(chuckles)…that's what I think.
You'd rather forget about it?
I'd rather, yeah….and it's only because you become something so
much different. You understand why you are doing it and what you're
doing. I guess erasing it is only because I've become so different. If
I listen to that I think to myself "wow, what a wimp, what a jerk
off!" But you have to remember, if only everyone could know that
when that was happening, it was pretty hard and heavy stuff. But
unfortunately you can't go around to everyone and say "don't
listen to it that way." There's just (been) such a drastic change
for me…I don't mean to keep going on and on about it but I think
you'd know what I meant if you had written an article when you were
five years old critiquing something and when you are 25 years old
writing for Newsweek and someone says "oh…we just wanted to
bring up this article that you wrote, here it is." I don't know
if that equates, but you know what I mean.
With such an amazing career that has spanned about 40 years
now, have you ever though about putting it down into a book, an
Well I've done that already. It's pretty close to half finished.
But that again is a matter of time. I didn't realize quite how focused
you had to be to write some prose. When I did discover that I was
quite adept at it really…from my own autobiographical sense it's not
like I'm making up stories, so it's pretty easy to have the subject
matter there. But I've found you really have to work at it and
concentrate to do it properly. I'm not a very good typist, so I do
everything with a pencil with a large eraser on it and edit it as I go
along. By the time I've finished a chapter, it's the way its going to
be - obviously I'm not egocentric enough not to give it to an editor
who will probably have a lot of suggestions when the time comes. But,
I don't have the time again and that's the problem. I'll have to find
those month off periods. Which takes precedence - the Elf album or
writing a book? I don't know. I guess I can always write a book, I
can't always play with Elf.
I have a question regarding the musical climate that has
changed a lot over the span of your career. Trends and bands have come
and gone so what inspires you, Ronnie James Dio, the artist, to create
in the year 2001?
I don't know what makes me tick. I don't know really what it is
that made me want to have done this all this time. I think probably if
I have to do a self-examination for you, it's probably that I have a
really, really, really high level of desire for whatever I put my mind
to. I think when you translate that into the good fortune I've had to
be able to write, to be able to sing, without having to be taught to
do it and being given the time all my life to mature and to just
nurture it…it's just really easy. Maybe that's why I do it, because
it's just so easy. It's so easy for me to sing and to think musically
and it's so easy for me to be on a stage. In fact that's the best part
of it all…that all of this leads me to being in front of an audience
because I don't walk around my house and sing to my cat or my dogs or
to people on the street. I do that when the spirit moves me, and
that's in front of an audience. I just keep doing it because I love to
do it. It's just so fulfilling for me.
The hard rock / heavy metal scene has obviously evolved
during your career. Do you think it has evolved in a way that you
thought it would or is what we call "heavy metal" today
something that you never would of dreamt to of fit under the moniker?
No I don't think so. I don't think that the progression from heavy
metal music to whatever it may be called today, whatever forms of
metal music is may be - death metal, speed metal, whatever…I didn't
see it change just suddenly overnight. It eased its way in a little,
so I wasn't drastically shocked by it. It's hard for me to say did I
think that would happen, because it happened so slowly it seemed like
it was always there. I don't think I would of ever predicted it would
of gone that way. I would of always thought that it would of stayed…I
guess that's terrible isn't it really, it's a horrible perspective on
music that it would of stayed. Because of all people, me to say that…but
I would of thought that it would of perhaps hovered around the
parameters perhaps that I've always grown up with, with metal music
from Sabbath to Zeppelin to Purple to things that came after it. I
always thought it would just get better within that arena. I didn't
see that it was going to be a drastic rhythm change for a start, which
is what I think brought half of it out.
You mentioned Deep Purple…you will be performing with them
in March in Tokyo, Japan. I want to ask you what it is like to perform
with Deep Purple AND with a full orchestra and you can perhaps tell me
about the songs you did and if you did and Dio material or if you
Well the first thing I did with them was at the Albert Hall. That
was only two nights - a Saturday and a Sunday. It was only going to be
two nights and that was to be it. I'd gone over four days before and
rehearsed with the band and had done only two songs from an album
called Butterfly Ball. Rodger Glover had written it and produced it.
The show, because it was the 30th Anniversary of John Lords writing
and performing of Concerto For Group and Orchestra, which they had did
30 years ago at the Albert Hall. So they wanted to reprise that
particular event. Each person in the band took ten to fifteen minutes
to do something that they had done in their time of that 30-year
period - whether it be solo work or whatever they wanted to do. Ian
Pace played a big band thing because he started as a big band drummer,
Ian Gillan did some things from his solo albums, etc etc.. Rodger
Glover really only had Butterfly Ball to do which anyone would know
and I sang the thing so he asked me if I would do it. I said of course
I would, I would do anything for Rodger, I think he's the man…the
best. So I went over and rehearsed with them, did those two songs and
went back to thinking that that was good - we done the CD and it's on
DVD and it will be there forever and great bye. Then we went down to
South America after that and did three weeks in South America and then
did 5 weeks in Europe with it as well. So it went on a lot longer then
I thought it would but because it was such a good product. It was a
joy doing it with them. We did it with the Long Symphony Orchestra at
the Albert Hall and in Europe we did it with the Transylvanian
Orchestra - they're from Romania, they are actually from Transylvania
and the call themselves the Transylvanian Orchestra. They have
90-pieces. That was an event, traveling with 90 people but it was
wonderful. The reaction was great. It was a joy to be back with the
guys from Purple again. I've know them almost all my life…just to
hang out with them again was wonderful, we had a great time
reconnecting. The music was wonderful…it was just one of the high
points of my life. I can't tell you what a joy it was, it was easy to.
But when we did the other gigs on the road (besides the Albert Hall
one) I did four songs. I did the two from Butterfly Ball and I did
"Fever Dreams" from MAGICA and I did "Rainbow In The
Are any of those going to be preformed in Tokyo, Japan in
March or will there be any additions?
Well as far as I know those will be the ones. I don't know how much
work they've been doing. I've been rather busy, so to go off and learn
some more might be difficult, but I'm not bothered. I'll have just
finished the tour so I'll be good and strong so it won't be a problem.
On a lighter note, you were featured as the band playing at a
school dance in an episode of South Park. Were you contacted for
permission and how did it come about?
Yes we were contacted and initially we said, "We don't think
so because you'll be very cruel to me." Then we were told that
there was a lot of fans of the band at the place, actually I think it
was through Warner Brothers…but they were big fans and said they'd
be kind to me. And I thought (to myself), "Look if you want to be
an American icon, you better let this happen pal." So I did, and
they did it, and I think they were great. They killed me, I was on the
floor it was just wonderful.
How close did we actually come to a Rainbow reunion and do
you think it will ever happen?
came pretty close at one point but that went away. There were just a
lot of problems involved in it. There has been contact made between
Ritchie's (Blackmore) faction and my faction and Ritchie and I…but
not for those purposes…I mean, I haven't initiated that contact
because I just left that up to Ritchie. It was his band in the first
place, so it was up to him to make a move and obviously it wouldn't be
that way any more - it's a different world out there now. I think the
crux of that band was always, aside from Cozy who is not with us
anymore, was always myself and Ritchie from the way we just wrote and
played together. But there is still an outside chance. As far as ever
touring or doing anything like that, I would think that that would be
an absolute impossibility. It's really hard, it's like doing the
Sabbath reunion, and you think that everything is going to change, but
nothing ever does, nothing ever changes. I don't know if at this point
in my life if I want to put myself through that. I'm so happy doing
what I'm doing now. I'd have to really think about it. Let's face it,
money is a big enticer and I'm sure they are going to chuck some big
bucks at us because they already did once. But you've got to be a bit
more true to yourself then that. I would do it if I wanted to do it,
if it was important…because I think it is important to a lot of
people out there. That band has become…I don't know what happened
with it, but it became this template for music for a while and it just
seems like such an important thing to so many musicians that I think
it would be a shame for them, for the ones who have never seen it, not
to see it one more time. I think it would be great but who knows,
there is always a chance.
I was going to say, Rainbow did leave quite a mark, in my
opinion, on a lot of today's newer power metal bands. (Absolutely)
That's kind of evidenced by a CD that was released a year or two ago
called "To Catch A Rainbow" which featured several Helloween
members (amongst others). I was wondering what your thoughts were on
that tribute and the impact that Rainbow has had on power metal?
Well I am always flattered by tributes. I think it's something I
never expected but that one and anyone who attempts to do it flatter
me. Its just saying thank you. So to judge it…I judge it by the
thank you as opposed to what's in it but they all do a really good job
of it because they all love Rainbow so much. All these kids who grew
up that way, wanted to the singer in Rainbow and probably always
wanted to sing "Kill The King" or probably always wanted to
sing "Man On The Silver Mountain." Just as I always wanted
to sing "Smoke On The Water" or the things that you grew up
with, that's what you want to do at some point in your life. So they
do it with care and they imitate very well I think. But you know there
is only one original. And the other part of the question (impact on
power metal)…like I said before, and especially in Europe, it's had
an incredible effect on so many people. I've spoken to a lot of people
in my life who were stunned by the first time when they saw Rainbow
and went on to become what they became, not because of Rainbow but
because they wanted to be like that. I know Lars Ulrich is one of them
and Yngwie Malmsteen is another. I just know so many people who I've
spoken to over there who are in bands and even bands you'd know very
well go "ohh…I saw Rainbow and for me that was ohhhh…"
It's just amazing how that band, and we were always huge in Europe but
we weren't that massive in America, at least the Rainbow I was in at
the beginning of the band. I think we were more of an underground band
at that time, I don't know why. I remember playing in, I think it was
Toronto, at the Maple Leaf Gardens. They had to cut the place back
pretty drastically but I think we only drew like 1500 people or so. I
thought, "Well this isn't going to work." Then we started to
do a little better here and there but we were smart enough not to play
massive places like that. Then 25 years later it has become this band
that everyone saw at Maple Leaf Gardens. There must have been 150,000
people there and I didn't see them. That's what happens but it's been
a very important thing especially from the "duo"
combination, which works so well all the time. From Mick Jagger and
Keith Richards to Perry and Tyler, there are many more of them...I
don't say we were on that level, Ritchie and I, but we created
something very unique just as Tony and I did in Sabbath as well. You
connect as two musicians who are necessary to make it happen and it's
a magical thing. Rainbow just had impact on everyone because they
hadn't heard anything like that before.
With regards to the other tribute album, the only other one
I'll bring up, and that's HOLY DIO which was another of the tributes
that stood out, what did you think of it and how much involvement did
you have with it? Did you have any involvement at all, or was it just
brought to you done.
Yeah, that's exactly the way it was, yeah.
Did you think it was a fitting tribute?
I thought the best one was the European one. The HOLY DIO one
wasn't as good as that one, I didn't think. It was OK. Again, like I
said before, to me, I can't bite a thank-you. It was great.
A question regarding your personal and business relationship
- and that is with your wife, Wendy, who is also your manager. Do you
ever find it difficult to balance those to factors of your
No, never. I've never ever had a problem.
How long has she been your manager anyway?
Ok…Craig Goldy, recorded one Dio CD with you, DREAM EVIL,
and then he left the band. Why did he leave the band back then anyway?
He was just dissatisfied with his life and with what was going on I
guess….and the people he was playing with. I was very surprised that
he left and called and said "I'm going." Now since he's been
back, obviously the first thing he said was "all I can tell you
is that that was the the biggest mistake I ever made." You do
what you have to do in life, I understand. If you are not happy doing
something then, good I don't want to be around you anyway, not if I
have to make music with you. So Craig left for his own personal
reasons and to have him back again is wonderful. He's matured so much,
he's such a calmer person, and he knows what he's doing and what he
wants. He's a great musician and a great guitar player, a great
friend. I couldn't of been luckier to get Craig back again.
Do you think he was a big part of the reason why a more
traditional sound emerged on the MAGICA CD?
think so. I think you'd have to definitely say that. Craig's sound,
although it has thickened and broadened out a lot since the DREAM EVIL
days and he plays slightly differently I find….I think he knows what
it's supposed to sound like for Dio. I think he knew that when he came
into the band the first time and he knew what I wanted this time, it
was just there. We've never had a problem. It was just one of these
magical things where we just sat down and wrote and played like 12
hours a day and didn't know what time it was. I really haven't
experienced that for a really long, long, long, long time. In fact,
maybe never. It's a just a special relationship that we've built up
musically and personally too because we're good friends and we've know
each other for so long. But without him, I could of never written
MAGICA, no way.
At the beginning of the writing process, wasn't the idea of
having two guitar players discussed - as in keeping Tracy G and having
That's right, that's very true. So many people had criticized Tracy
for the kind of guitar player that he was, that he didn't fit inside
of this band. They criticized him for such a long period of time that
we just had to have a look around. Obviously we were not pleasing the
people who are our certainly our fan base anymore, they still come but
they don't seem as happy as they used to be. Maybe some of them stayed
home. So I wanted to stay loyal to Tracy. In fact I love Tracy, I
think Tracy is a great guitar player. But he was just the wrong style
of guitar player for the typical Dio sound I guess. So I wanted to
bring another guitar player into it so we'd have two - we'd have the
best of both worlds, Tracy and Craig. Tracy could of stayed in the
band, I didn't want to lose him, but when I brought it up Craig said
yes but Tracy said, "look it's not Craig, it could be anybody. I
can't play with another guitar player." I understand that. Some
people can and some people can't. Some people can sing with others and
some can't - it's not a problem. So Tracy was gone and that left us
with Craig so everything really worked out for us really well. I
really wanted one guitar player anyway but I was willing, for Tracy's
sake, just as a friend and fellow musician, to not do that to him. But
he chose to do it himself.
MAGICA represents your first concept album. Is this idea
something you've had on the back burner or have wanted to do for many
It's something I've been wanting to do for a long time but nothing
that I ever thought about doing. None of the bits of this particular
piece had been inherited from any past thoughts that I've had at all
because the way I write is I write for the moment, I write for the
project. Now I write a concept piece and I have to start at the
beginning and it started with the title MAGICA and it went form there.
I just started to write a fantasy story about MAGICA. What was MAGICA
going to be? Well I made it a book and so on and so forth and away it
goes. Then wrote the songs and musically wrote it around the story.
It's really easy to do. It's the easiest album that I've ever written
because it led me every time I had to turn around and write something
musically or lyrically it was exactly where I needed to go. It was
something I've wanted to do, but again, a new process and one I
couldn't of done without Craig.
Do you think you would do a concept album again?
I think what I'll probably do is, I know what I'll do next time.
This will be a lot more straightforward album - the next one. Just
more song orientated, not a concept of any kind. I think that's
probably what's expected but we're going to do something more
straightforward. Then (after that) probably the next two albums will
be parts two and three of MAGICA because I want to make it a trilogy.
Back in 1985 you were the mastermind behind the Hear n' Aid
project. I know since then your involvement with helping those who are
less fortunate has continued in an organization called Children of the
Night. I was wondering what plans, if any, exist for a Hear n' Aid
We are going to do one for Children of the Night, which will
basically follow the same pattern as the Hear n' Aid project. It will
be one song, Craig and I have already written the song and that will
feature five or six guitar players and five or six singers. We will
have other songs that will be given to us by bands of things that
haven't been released yet. So it will be a full CD. At the same time
we are going to re-release the Hear n' Aid album on CD because it's
only ever been released in Japan on CD.
Will you invite back any of the same vocalists or guitar
players who preformed on the first one.
Yeah, if they are available I will, sure. I don't want all of the
same ones this time. Yngwie wants to do it so he did on the last one,
so there's that possibility. As far as other guitar players go, I
think Vivian (Camball) will contribute so that would be great. Bruce
Dickinson is going to sing on it…we haven't really finalized all the
people yet because it's a matter of time and when we can do it. With
all the touring and other albums arriving…it will probably happen
when we come back from doing this album, I'm sure that's when we're
going to have to fit everything in.
Will you call it Children of the Night then, of Hear n' Aid
I'm sure it will be Children of the Night. It has nothing really to
do with Hear n' Aid. That was for (famine) relief for Africa, this is
something totally different.
Regarding Yngwie Malmsteen, you have recorded with him in the
past on "Dream On."
"Dream On" and those things they put the guitar player on
quite a bit later. So when I sang that song, there was no guitar on
So you've never got to sit and work with him on anything like
No, I wouldn't do that anyway. They asked him to be the guitar
player and it's up to him to show his chops. I'm assuming that's what
his fans want to hear (ed. note: fuckin eh!!!). I wouldn't be
so pretentious to do that unless it was my gig. If it was my gig I'd
DAMN well do it, I can tell you that.
Would you ever consider future collaboration with Yngwie?
Aaaa…Never say no.
I think it would be kinda cool!
Ok…well I've said this before and I love Yngwie. I think he's a
great person and I'm one of the few people who really like him. He's
been great with me, he's been very respectful, he's a great player. My
only thing is, if I worked with Yngwie, I would just want him to be
more of a person on a band than "I'm Yngwie Malmsteen." I
think that's what it is all about, being a person in a band. That's
what a band is, when musicians get together to play - they are in a
band. They feed off each other, they invent things together, and they
enjoy it together. The band is not the reason for me to be out there
in front of THEM and sing. That's not my job. My job is to be a part
of that band. I'm just afraid that Yngwie feels that his job is to be
in front of that band. So it makes it hard sometimes from a musical
standpoint. But I love him and we had a great time on the tour and he
did a great job.
You're touring now, not with Yngwie bur with Armored Saint?
(Yeah and Lynch Mob) Doro was also on the bill with Yngwie, how did
that go over?
Doro was GREAT. Doro was rock and roll, she's rock and roll. She's
a great person. I love Doro. I've known her for a long time. She
opened for us, she had a band from Germany called Warlock a while ago
and…I think that must have been like 90-91, something like that. I
met her then, she was great then and she's even better now. She's
great, the hardest working girl I've ever seen. She really works hard
and loves the music and she's going to do really well here. She went
down really well with the audiences.
With regards to your voice, you've been singing for quite a
while, so do you have to take any measures to keep your voice in such
excellent shape such as avoiding smoking, drinking, eating healthier
foods…anything like that or are you just gifted?
It's not smoking and also really knowing how to do it. Technique is
the thing that is most important. If you know how to song, then you
are not going to hurt yourself. You can always do it because the other
roots you can take to not injure yourself. Your voice is your
instrument and you should know it really well and that's what the
problem is. People think they can just go out and screech and scream
and it goes away. I just don't smoke and I try to look after myself
but I'm a musician and I drink, I can't help it (laughs). You know,
it's boring out there on the road. I'm too long in the tooth to stop
doing it now.
wrap up I want to ask you about something people have asked you about
before but will no doubt continue to talk about, and that is the sign
created by raising your index and little finger. Some call it the
"devils hand" or the "evil eye." I would like to
know if you were the first one to introduce this to the metal world
and what this symbol represents to you?
I doubt very much if I would be the first one who ever did that.
That's like saying I invented the wheel, I'm sure someone did that at
some other point. I think you'd have to say that I made it
fashionable. I used it so much and all the time and it had become my
trademark until the Brittany Spears audience decided to do it as well.
So it kind of lost it's meaning with that. But it was…I was in
Sabbath at the time. It was symbol that I thought was reflective of
what that band was supposed to be all about. It's NOT the devil's sign
like we're here with the devil. It's an Italian thing I got from my
Grandmother called the "Meloik" (ed. note: not sure of the
spelling). It's to ward off the Evil Eye or to give the Evil Eye,
depending on which way you do it. It's just a symbol but it had
magical incantations and attitudes to it and I felt it worked very
well with Sabbath. So I became very noted for it and then everybody
else started to pick up on it and away it went. But I would never say
I take credit for being the first to do it. I say because I did it so
much that it became the symbol of rock and roll of some kind.
You are the first I remember form back in the 80's who I say
use it the most.
That's right (laughs).