Drum legend Bobby Rondinelli
Interviewed February 23, 2005 in Helsinki, Finland
by Marko Syrjala & Jarno Huovila
Pictures by Marko Syrjala and archives.
Drum legend Bobby Rondinelli has a long and successful history in the world of rock music. He has played and recorded with such acts as Black Sabbath, Rainbow, Blue ?yster Cult and Doro. We met Bobby in last February when he visited in Finland with his "new" band "The Lizards" who were midst of their current European tour supporting for another legend Glenn Hughes. There was a talk about tour, the Lizards and of course about his old bands and some other interesting things ? read on!
Metal-Rules: You’re on tour with ‘The Lizards’ right now. How has it been so far?
Bobby: So far it’s been going well. It’s fun.
Metal-Rules: How did you get the started with this band?
Bobby: I’ve been in the band a little over three years, it was going before I joined. I did a record in the studio that the bass player [Randy Pratt] owns and they liked the way I played and they asked me if I’d play on some of their songs. I enjoyed playing with them and they wanted me to help them find a drummer and I said “I could do this… I could play drums for you guys for as long as it doesn’t interfer with the Blue ?yster Cult.” So, they said “OK, great.”. So for three years I did both.
Metal-Rules: Vinny Appice was filling in for you some time ago in ‘The Lizards’. What happened then ?
Bobby: That’s when it all started with the Blue ?yster Cult thing, that’s when it started overlapping, to become a problem, you know, because the Lizards were going away for six weeks and Blue ?yster Cult had three shows in six weeks. I said “Let me get somebody to fill in for these three show, so I can go do six weeks.” and they said “No.” and that’s when I decided to leave [in September 2004].
Metal-Rules: ‘The Lizards’ has released four albums, one of which is a live one. This is your third tour in Europe, but you’re still quite unknown at least here in Finland. What’s the situation in other countries like in the States right now?
Bobby: We’ve been playing actually more in Europe than in the States, we’ve done a lot more touring over here. But hopefully starting this summer we’ll do more work in the States.
Metal-Rules: You have a new singer in the band. Why did you split with your old singer John [Garner]?
Bobby: Yeah, Mike [DiMeo] has been in the band for about seven months now. Why did we split? You know, people argue, somebody says this and somebody says that, next thing, bump, I’m gone. It was like, I think, John and the guitar player [Patrick Klein] weren’t getting along and… a big blowup. John left and we got Mike a day later.
Metal-Rules: You also did one album for Riot with him [Mike].
Bobby: Yes, ‘Into the Storm’. I like that record. Actually when I did that record for Riot, Mike came to one rehearsal, so I really didn’t know him that well. When I did the tracks, he wasn’t even there, but when I heard the record, I was really impressed with his singing. And as soon as John left, I got in touch with Mike, I got his number and called him that night and asked him if he wanted to check it out. I called a few guys, they were interested, but after we heard Mike, we called the other guys and said “Forget it, we got a guy.”.
Metal-Rules: Is he now finished with Riot?
Bobby: No, they just finished, I believe, a new record “laughs” . I think he’s doing both now?
Metal-Rules: Right now you’re on tour as a support for Glenn Hughes. Do you known him from the past?
Bobby: Yeah, I went out to dinner with Glenn and Tony Iommi once. Glenn was actually gonna at one point do my solo record. I’ve known Glenn for a while, not very well but you know?
Metal-Rules: After this tour, what?s next in goal for the Lizards?
Bobby: We’re gonna finish working on a new record.
Metal-Rules: A new record, already?
Bobby: Well, we’ll start working on a new record. We have already a few songs recorded for it already, we’ll have to write more and we’ve got a few songs we’ve got to record that we’re gonna do tonight. And I think we come back in the end of April to do some shows with Ian Hunter. There’s maybe talk about a UFO tour, I don’t know for sure about that, but I do know we’re coming back with Ian Hunter.
Metal-Rules: You’ve had” a gong symbal” in your drum set at least since the Sabbath days. Do actually have use for it or does it just look good?
Bobby: I use it, you know, I hit it. I think it’s useful, I like the way it sounds. I think it sounds beautiful and powerful. I know it looks great!
Metal-Rules: Are you going to use it tonight?
Bobby: I’ll use it tonight. A smaller one, we didn’t bring the big one. When you’re supporting, there’s not that much room on the stage sometimes, you know?
Metal-Rules: You’ll be playing for about an hour. Will there be time enough for a drum solo?
Bobby: There is always time for a drum solo! “laughs”
Metal-Rules: Half an hour drum solo, perhaps?
Bobby: Nah, keep it to 29 minutes?
Rainbow in 1981
EARLY DAYS THRU RAINBOW
Metal-Rules: OK. Lets go back in time for a bit. I understand that you were first inspired to start playing drums by ‘The Beatles’ after playing guitar for a bit?
Bobby: Yeah, I started on guitar.
Metal-Rules: And then you soon joined a band called ‘The Wanderers’…
Bobby: Wow, you go way back!
Metal-Rules: …and then later you had a band called ‘Samantha’, but in between, were there any other bands?
Bobby: Sure, a lot of bands in between, there was Tusk, The Bonney Parker Band and Growing Gun. It must have been more, but that’s all I can remember, it was a long time ago.
Metal-Rules: It was during your time in ‘Samantha’ when you auditioned for ‘Kiss’, and out of thousand of people it came down to between just you and Eric Carr?
Bobby: That’s true.
Metal-Rules: But then you got connected to Ritchie [Blackmore] through a friend or something like that and told him that you wanted the ‘Rainbow’ gig. Is that right?
Bobby: Well, Ritchie, when he approached me he said: “If you don’t get the ‘KISS’ gig, I’d like to get together and jam with you.” I said “I wanna jam with you no matter what. And let’s see how it goes.” and he asked me to join Rainbow and I was on hold from Kiss and I still didn’t know. So, after a couple of days not hearing from KISS, I told Ritchie, I said “Look, I want the gig.” He goes “What if KISS calls?” I said I’ll tell them I got a gig. And a couple of days later I got a letter from them [KISS] saying thanks, but no thanks.
Metal-Rules: Do you remember which songs you played with KISS for the audition?
Bobby: “Dr. Love”, “Detroit Rock City”… I forget, there was about five or six songs. If I saw a list, I could remember, but I don’t really have any KISS records.
Metal-Rules: Were you a KISS fan before that?
Bobby: No, I was too old to be a KISS fan. Guys that were younger than me were more the Kiss kind-of fans, you known.
Metal-Rules: If you would have gotten the gig, you should have chosen a make-up of your own, what would you have been?
Bobby: The invisible man make-up “laughs”… I don’t know? But I didn’t get it, so I didn’t have to worry about it.
Metal-Rules: Well after that you joined to Rainbow and you did two albums with them. How was it working with Ritchie Blackmore?
Bobby: It was great. He was one of the best guitar players ever, so to play with him was like a dream come true.
Metal-Rules: Have you run into Ritchie in recent years?
Bobby: Yeah, I see him every once in a while, in a club on Long Island or something, where we live. We’re still friendly.
Metal-Rules: He’s doing the renaissance thing now what you think about that?
Bobby: Yes he is. I think if that’s what he wants to do, he should do it.
Metal-Rules: When Ritchie rejoined ‘Deep Purple’ [in 1984], were you surprised?
Bobby: When he did the reunion thing with ‘Deep Purple’, after Rainbow, was I surprised? No, because I heard how much money they got. They were great, I mean, I think that first album they did, ‘Perfect Strangers’, was a great record. I still think that band has something real special when Ritchie’s in it, but they can’t seem to get along.
Metal-Rules: OK. After the Rainbow thing was over, you did some sessions with Ray Gillen [in 1985], which were finally released in 1996. Can you tell how that thing came about?
Bobby: I was putting a band together with my brother [Teddy] and we auditioned bass players first and we found James Lomenzo who then went on to ‘White Lion’ and played with Slash and Zakk Wylde, we found him first. We tried out a lot of really… so many bad singers. Then somebody told me about Ray, but at that point I didn’t even wanna hear anybody else and said “Give me his number, I’ll get him to send me his tape.” because you’ve got to be nice, you know in two seconds if someone is not the right guy, but you can’t just stop them and tell them to go and they’ll be there for an hour and you gotta be nice and I didn’t wanna do more of that. So I called Ray up, and I go “Hi, can I speak to Ray Gillen, please.”. He goes “Yeah, this is Ray.”. I go “Hi, my name is Bobby Rondinelli.”. He goes “Yeah right. It’s George, isn’t it? Fuck you George.” and he hangs up on me. I’m thinking “What the hell was I about?”. So I call him back and go “Hello Ray, it’s Bobby Rondinelli.”. He goes “Fuck you George, I know it’s you, it’s not Bob.” and he hangs up again. So now I’m getting mad, so I call back and I say “Look, I’m not calling back. I’m not George, I don’t know who George is.”. He goes “Is this really Bobby Rondinelli?”. I said “Yeah.” He says “Man, I’m sorry.”, he’s drummer’s name was George and they were talking about me the night before for some reason, so he thought it was a wind-up. He goes “I wanna come down.” and I’m going “We’re really not hearing anymore people, just please send us a tape and then I’ll call you and we get together.”. So he says “Alright, overnight something, you know, you’ll get it in a day.”. So two days later, three days later I don’t get any tape, so he calls me “Get it yet? You get it yet?”. I go “No.”. He goes “I don’t know what happened, I sent it.”. I say “Alright, whatever, come over.” and so he comes to the door and he’s all smiles, I go “You never sent the tape, did you?”. He goes “No, I didn’t, I wanted to do it live.”. But you know when we heard him, just the way we knew in two seconds when the other guys weren’t right, we knew he was the guy.
Metal-Rules: You had Tony Martin and Neil Murray on your second ‘Rondinelli’ record ‘Our Cross – Our Sins’ in 2002, was that it obvious choice to use those guys? Also were there any plans to tour for the album?
Bobby: I think they did a great job and it was a good choice, even if it wasn’t the obvious choice at the moment, as they were in England and I in the States. Me and by brother [Teddy] did the guitar and drums and then I flew Neil over and he did the bass and then I flew Tony over and he did vocals. I’m happy with that record. I really like that record. There was talk about touring for the album at the time, but the record company didn’t really do the right thing in a lot of ways.
Metal-Rules: Any chance of a third Rondinelli album somewhere down the line?
Bobby: You never know. I’m sure there will be another one of those down the road sometime?
Black Sabbath in 1994
Metal-Rules: How did you end up playing with Black Sabbath in the early ’90s?
Bobby: When I played with Doro, the tour manager used to work with Tony Iommi, so I told him that that’s a band that I would really like to play in and he says “Yeah, you’d fit in good with them.” So, I get a call one day from this guy and he says, this tour manager, Robert Gambino, “Rondinelli, Sabbath needs a drummer.” I go “OK, great. Give Tony a call and tell him I’d love to check it out.” He goes “I can’t.”, because Tony Iommi’s wife at the time didn’t like this guy, they weren’t allowed to talk so he gave me Tony’s number and I called up and spoke to his [Tony's] wife and told “Hi, my name is Bobby Rondinelli. Sabbath is looking for a drummer and I would really like to check it out.” and I gave her my phone number and Tony Iommi called me back ten minutes later, he says “You know, your name was on a list, you’re one of the guy we were gonna call.”, we talked for like an hour and I flew over a couple of days later and got the gig.
Metal-Rules: Did you have to do an audition?
Bobby: No. You know, you get the gig, but if you go there and they don’t like you? The first song you play is an audition no matter how you look at it. You know what I mean?
Metal-Rules: Yes I know what you mean… But then after the album “Cross Purposes” and tour, Cozy Powell came back to Sabbath?
Bobby: Yeah, Cozy came back and?
Metal-Rules: Am I right that your last show with Sabbath at that time was in Finland, Provinssi Rock Festival, June 11th. And I’ve heard that it was because your manager asked for too much money that you were finished with them?
Bobby: That was the worst manager, I’ve ever had. She went “This is what they’re offering.”, but I said “No, you’re gonna get this.” and they said “You’re fired.”. I never spoke to her since.
Metal-Rules: But it wasn’t long before they asked you back again, on the ‘Forbidden’ tour. They asked you back even before the US tour, and then you eventually came back for the European tour?
Bobby: You’re pretty well informed. They, Tony actually, me and Tony went out to dinner before the US tour, so I knew something was up, because usually they don’t call you unless they need you. So we went out to dinner and then I got a call a couple of weeks later as the US tour had started, you know, to see if I wanted to do the European end of it.
Metal-Rules: How do you like the ‘Cross Purposes – Live’ album and video that you did?
Bobby: I think it was pretty good, it was a good live band. We didn’t know about the video till the night before, like “Oh by the way, you’ve got a video tomorrow.”. “Oh great, thanks for telling us.”.
Metal-Rules: When you were still in the band, was there any talk about the re -union which finally happened in 1997?
Bobby: Sure. Originally it was going be me on drums and Ozzy singing. Then I find on MTV it’s the original line-up!
Metal-Rules: You were actually offered to play an Ozzfest date, but you refused because you didn’t want to harm your relationship with ‘Blue ?yster Cult’ at the time?
Bobby: They offered me ONE Ozzfest date and money wise and everything in the Blue ?yster Cult it didn’t… it wasn’t worth it.
Metal-Rules: Have you kept in contact with any of the Sabbath guys?
Bobby: I saw Tony Iommi about ten days ago, he came down to a show, his daughter’s band [LunarMile] was opening for us. It was good to see him. I like Tony. And I speak to Tony Martin all the time. And Neil Murray, I spoke to him a few days ago.
Black Sabbath 1995 Live in Finland
ODDS & ENDS
Metal-Rules: Back in 1984 you did something together with the Scorpions?
Bobby: Yeah, I did the ‘Love at First Sting’ album.
Metal-Rules: You never got credited for it officially?
Bobby: No, but I got paid well, but didn’t get the credit.
Metal-Rules: There are also rumours that Jimmy Bain was playing bass for that album?
Bobby: Yeah, definitely, me and Jimmy. We both played on that record.
Metal-Rules: But you were never offered to play with the Scorpions fulltime?
Bobby: The Scorpions wanted that to happen, Rudolf wanted that to happen at the time. Scorpion’s manager back then, David Krebbs, thought that since they were the first German band to get big and they shouldn’t have an American drummer and an English bass player, got to keep it German.
Metal-Rules: And now they’ve got an American drummer [James Kottak].
Bobby: I know, I got screwed “laughs” What are you gonna do? But they did that years later.
Metal-Rules: You’ve worked with other German musicians as well, such as Doro. You kind of had a German period in your career?
Bobby: Yeah, I guess I got a little German thing going on over there, but Doro, that was pretty short, it was an experience.
Metal-Rules: You left from Doro’s band just before the album ‘Doro’ came out in 1991 and Gene Simmons was producing it. When Doro was asked about the reasons why you left, she said maybe it was because of some bad blood with Gene?
Bobby: No, that had nothing to do with me and Gene. What it had to do with was, I didn’t really get along with her manager that well. They wanted me in the band, I didn’t wanne be in the band. I just did the record, but they wanted me in the band and finally I said “OK, I’ll do it.” and then we did some shows in Germany and I did a drum solo and it went over really good, but Doro [Pesch] was upset because when you do your drum solo, people forget about her. “What are you talking about?” She goes “Bobby, when you do your drum solo, they forget about me.” I went “No, they don’t, they just… when I’m doing my solo they’re supposed to be paying attention. Then you come back and…”. So the mananger gave me lots of grief, actually about being too good, you known the bands new and young and then… I said “Want do you want me to do? Not play good?” So then when they were doing this record, I tell the manager that I have to go do a trade show for Yamaha drums on these three days, so please whatever… and I tell him four months in advance, I say whatever we’re gonna do, just please don’t do anything on these three or four days. No problem. So we meet with Gene Simmons, he’s going to produce the record, when did I want to start the record, like the day before I have to go to this trade show for Yamaha. So, I tell the manager “Don’t you remember , I told you I needed these days off?” He goes, “Well, yeah, you know, maybe we’ll just start the record with somebody else and…” I say “Howabout you start the record with somebody else and finish the record with somebody else, because I’m out of here.” That’s how I quit. It had nothing to do with Gene.
Metal-Rules: After that you played with ‘Quiet Riot’, and you did one album called ‘Terrified’ with them. Where was Frankie Banali at the time?
Bobby: They weren’t getting along at the time and Frankie had left, I didn’t take Frankie’s place, I took somebody else’s place, because they were going for a while without Frankie. Kevin DuBrow called me and asked me if I wanted to do the gig and I wasn’t doing anything at the time, so I said “Yeah.” and I played with them for a few years. Then when I got in with Sabbath, that’s when Frankie came back.
Metal-Rules: He still played on some of the album tracks?
Bobby: Yeah, because it was only supposed to be like an EP at first and then I left for Sabbath and they did more stuff, and he was actually the drummer at the time [of the album's release].
Metal-Rules: How did you end up joining Blue ?yster Cult after Black Sabbath?
Bobby: I played with the bass player in Blue ?yster Cult, Danny Miranda, in a local band, whenever I was home, we’d do some gigs at this one club. So I was in Sabbath and he was in Blue ?yster Cult and we had this little side project, so when the drummer they had needed to take off one show, they asked me if I would do it and Idid and they asked me to join the band and I said “No, I’m going back with Sabbath in a couple of months.” So they got another drummer or whatever and then I hear from MTV that I’m not in Sabbath anymore and I’m like “Man, I could have been working with this other band.” but they [B?C] asked me to join again.
Metal-Rules: You also did drums for the ‘Sign’ record some time ago. Are you still doing something with them also?
Bobby: The Sign? I think I’m done with that. They did another one after that without me, I think?
Metal-Rules: I guess that about covers it. Thank you very much for the interview.
Bobby: Thank you guys!
Special thanx to William James from Glass Onyon PR to get this interview done!!