Bobby Rondinelli discusses The Lizard, Blue Öyster Cult, Rainbow, Black Sabbath, and more

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INTERVIEW ANSD LIVE PHOTOS BY MARKO SYRJÄLÄ

Bobby Rondinelli has had a long and successful career as a rock musician. He has played and recorded with legendary bands such as; Black Sabbath, Rainbow, Blue Öyster Cult, and Doro. Bobby is currently a member of The Lizards. The band recently made their first European tour as a support band for Glenn Hughes, and the package arrived in Finland last February. Rondinelli was in a good mood and had a lot to tell about his past, present, and future.

 

THE LIZARDS

Metal-Rules: You’re on tour with ‘The Lizards’ right now. How has the tour been so far?

Bobby: So far, it’s been going well. It’s fun.

Metal-Rules: How did you end up joining 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 interfere with the Blue Öyster 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 for a couple of shows. What happened then?

Bobby: That’s when it all started with the Blue Öyster Cult thing. That’s when it began overlapping, becoming a problem, you know because the Lizards were going away for six weeks, and Blue Öyster Cult had three shows in six weeks. I said, “Let me get somebody to fill in for these three shows, 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, including a live album. This is your third tour in Europe, but you’re still quite an unknown band in Europe. How is the situation in other countries, like in the States?

Bobby: We’ve played 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? People argue that 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 didn’t get along and… a big blowup. John left, and we got Mike in one day later.

Metal-Rules: Mike is best known for his long stint with Riot. And in fact, you have also recorded one album with the band.

Bobby: Yes, ‘Into the Storm.’ I like that record. Actually, when I did that record for Riot, Mike came to one rehearsal, so I didn’t know him that well. When I made the tracks, he wasn’t even there, but I was impressed with his singing when I heard the record. And as soon as John left, I got in touch with Mike. I got his number, 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 reached 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 act for Glenn Hughes. Do you know him from the past?

Bobby: Yeah, I went out to dinner with Glenn and Tony Iommi once. Glenn was actually going to, 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 the next goal for the Lizards?

Bobby: We’re going to finish working on a new record.

Metal-Rules: A new record, already?

Bobby: Well, we’ll start working on a new record. We already have 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 going to do tonight. And I think we will come back at 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 that”gong symbal” in your drum set at least since the Sabbath days. Do you use it, or is it there only because it looks 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. Is there 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

THE KISS AUDITION AND JOINING RAINBOW

Metal-Rules: Let’s discuss your career early days a bit. I’ve understood that you to start playing after seeing The Beatles n TV. But initially, you started with a guitar?

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: Later, you had a band called Samantha, but were there any other bands in between?

Bobby: Sure, I played with many 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: You were still a member of Samantha when you did and audition for KISS. And in the end, the band made a final decision between you and Eric Carr?

Bobby: That’s true.

Metal-Rules: Eric got the job. Around the same time, you get connected to Ritchie Blackmore, and you tell him you want to join Rainbow. Is that correct?

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’d let them know I got another gig already. 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 were about five or six songs. If I saw a list, I could remember, but I don’t have any KISS records. I was too old to be a KISS fan. Guys that were younger than me were more the KISS kind-of fans, you know.

Metal-Rules: If you had 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, you got the gig Rainbow, and you then recorded two albums with the band. 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 do 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 decided to rejoin 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 think that the first album they did, ‘Perfect Strangers,’ was a great record. I still think that band has something extraordinary when Ritchie’s in it, but they can’t seem to get along.

 

RONDINELLI

Metal-Rules: After the Rainbow thing was over, you did some sessions with Ray Gillen, finally released in 1996. Can you tell me about that project?

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 friendly, you know in two seconds if someone is not the right guy, but you can’t just stop them and tell them to go. They’ll be there for an hour, and you have to be nice, and I didn’t want to do more of that. So I called Ray up, and I went, “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 not hearing people anymore. 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 to “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:  The second Rondinelli album, OUR CROSS- OUR SINS, was released in 2002. Then you had Tony Martin on vocals, Neil Murray in the bass, and your brother Terri on guitar again. How do you like the album, and why did you never do a tour to support the record?

Bobby: I think they did a great job, and it was the right choice, even if it wasn’t the obvious choice at the moment, as they were in England and I in the States. My brother [Teddy] and I did the guitar and drums, 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 like that record. There was talk about touring for the album at the time, but the record company didn’t do the right thing in many ways.

Metal-Rules: Do you and Terry have plans to make more albums under the Rondinelli name in the future?

Bobby: You never know. Am I sure there will be another one of those down the road sometime?

 Black Sabbath in 1994

BLACK SABBATH

Metal-Rules: Another exciting chapter in your career is your time with Black Sabbath. How did you end up playing with the band in the early ’90s?

Bobby: When I played with Doro, the tour manager used to work with Tony Iommi, so I told him that Sabbath is a band that I would 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 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 guys we were gonna call.”, we talked for like an hour. I flew over a couple of days later and got the gig.

Metal-Rules: Did you have to do an audition before they chose you in the band?

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. Do you know what I mean?

Metal-Rules: Yes, I know what you mean. However, after the CROSS PURPOSES album and -tour, Cozy Powell wanted to return to the band.

Bobby: Yeah, Cozy came back then.

Metal-Rules: If I’m correct,  your last show with the band then was in Finland. It was on June 11th, 1994 in Provinssirock Festival.  Is it true that you break up with the band because your greedy manager asked for too much money?

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 have never spoken to her since.

Metal-Rules: However, a few months later, the Sabbath asked you back. And you did the European part of ‘Forbidden’ -tour with the band. But if I remember correctly, Iommi was in touch with you many months earlier, before the tour’s European leg started?

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 the concert video?

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 classic Black Sabbath -reunion, which finally happened in 1997?

Bobby: Sure. Originally it was going to be me on drums and Ozzy singing. Then I find on MTV that it’s the original line-up!

Metal-Rules: I have also learned that you got offered to play a couple of  Ozzfest dates with the Sabbath, but you refused to play those?

Bobby: They offered me ONE Ozzfest date, and money-wise, and I was busy with Blue Öyster Cult, it wasn’t worth it to make do 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 Lunar Mile 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 talked to him a few days ago.

Black Sabbath 1995 Live in Finland

ODDS & ENDS

Metal-Rules: Back in 1984, you also worked briefly with the Scorpions?

Bobby: Yeah, I played on the LOVE AT FIRST STING album.

Metal-Rules: But you never got official credit for your work?

Bobby: No, but I got paid well but didn’t get the credit.

Metal-Rules: There are also rumors that Jimmy Bain played the bass parts on 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 full-time?

Bobby: The Scorpions wanted that to happen. Rudolf wanted that to happen at the time. Scorpions manager back then, David Krebbs, thought that since they were the first German band to get big and shouldn’t have an American drummer and an English bass player, he 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 going to 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 Doro’s band just before the album DORO came out in 1991, and Gene Simmons produced the album. When Doro was asked why you left the band, she said maybe it was because you still had some bad blood with Gene. Is that true?

Bobby: No, that had nothing to do with Gene and me. What it had to do with was, I didn’t get along with her manager that well. They wanted me in the band. I didn’t want to be in the band. I just did the record, FORCE MAJEURE, but they wanted me in the band, and finally, I said, “OK, I’ll do it.” and then we did some shows in Germany. I did a drum solo, and it went over really well, but Doro was upset because people forget about her when you do your drum solo. “What are you talking about?” She goes, “Bobby, when you do your drum solo, they forgot 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 the show continues”. So the manager gave me lots of grief, actually about being too good, you know? The band is still new and young, and I said, “What do you want me to do?”.

When they started working on this DORO record, I told the manager that I had to do a trade show for Yamaha drums. I told him this four months in advance. I said, “Whatever we’re going to do, just please don’t do anything on these three or four days when I need to be away. “No problem.” So we have a  meeting with Gene Simmons, he’s going to produce the record. Then they decide to start recordings, 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.” I said, “How about 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 briefly with Quiet Rio. You also recorded the album TERRIFIED with the band. 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 position 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: But Frankie played on a couple of 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 the drummer at the time [of the album’s release].

Metal-Rules: How did you end up joining Blue Öyster Cult after Black Sabbath?

Bobby: I played with the bass player in Blue Öyster Cult, Danny Miranda, in a local band. Whenever I was at home, we’d do some gigs at this one club. So I was in Sabbath, and he was in Blue Öyster 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 I did, 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 [Blue Öyster Cult] asked me to join again.

Metal-Rules: You also played on The Sign band album, SIGN OF LIFE. Are you still working with them as well?

Bobby: The Sign? I think I’m done with that. They did another one after that without me, I guess?

Metal-Rules: I guess that about covers it. Thank you very much for the interview.

Bobby: Thank you!

Special thanks to William James from Glass Onyon PR for getting this interview done!!

WWW.BOBBYRONDINELLI.COM