Interview with Ronnie James Dio
Interview and live pictures by Luxi ?Holy? Lahtinen
Interview session pictures by Niko ?Diver? Karppinen
Sauna Open Air festival (see -> www.sauna-open-air.fi/news.htm) was held in Tampere, Finland for the 2nd time in the beginning of this June, and this year the organizers had expanded the festival from last year?s one day festival to 3-day festival by gathering together three big names for the festival (Slayer, Dio and Megadeth) that made to move our lazy asses to Tampere for three days, making it overall the kind of festival to any metal dude or dudette who wanted to enjoy some quality acts playing there this year.
Our main plan was to interview Slayer at the Sauna Open Air ?festival (both of us being huge Slayer ?fans), but since their management had told that there?s no point for the Slayer -guys to get interviewed this time by any press people – having no new album out yet or anything, we changed our plans just at the very last minutes and asked a possibility to interview Mr. none-other-but Ronnie James Dio instead.
We got something better than what we originally ordered. Namely the whole band arrived to the backstage area to do the press thing, sat down on the other side of the table, getting ready for an interview and looking amazingly relaxed and comfortable. We put the tape recorder rollin? and started bombing with our questions mainly directed to Ronnie… and here?s the result. Enjoy folks.
First off, I?d like to know if you are still going to organize ?Hear?n? Aid number 2??
Yeah, it?s enough for the same purpose. I think that it?s wonderful what people like Bob Geldof is doing again, but y?know, at the end of the day, I don?t think it?s gonna make any difference at all because you cannot save the world by trying to collect money. That just doesn?t do the thing. The good part is the awareness of what he?s doing. So it?s not the same kind of project because ?Hear?n?Aid? was for rock for Africa. And all of the gathered money, it?s never seen what we earned, what they earned for we are the world, never really seemed to go to the right place. It always goes to the bad people. So this is for a private charity I’ve supported for, about twelve years our ?Children of the Night?. So it?s for the organization where I know the money goes to support the kids, for the school we built for them for the place where they lived. But we are going to do the same kind of idea. There will be one song with some great guitar players and great singers. It?s just that it?s for a different purpose than what ?Hear?n?Aid? was. But we are gonna re-release ?Hear?n?Aid? on CD as well and on DVD because before it was only available on vinyl, but never on CD. So you?ll get two things in one, but it will all go for this organization called ?Children of the Night?.
So do you already know how it has been scheduled and the people who will be involved with it?
No, I don?t ? and the reason being that, time is such a problem because all of us is on tour so much now. There was a time, perhaps 6 or 7 years ago, when all of us were doing very much touring because the other generation of music came along and we don?t wanna hear new any more. But nowadays they seem to like to do what I guess someway they call us ?classic rock band?. It?s been a bit more important, so time is more difficult. And as far as people go, y?know there?s some people I have spoken to, that I have toured with, in sense that I might want to do this and they sell it, like Bruce Dickinson and Klaus Meine. Other guitar players I really haven?t talked to a lot of them, but y?know, we have no problem to just to speak to Yngwie and say would you do it because of course he would do it. So because we don?t have the time set to do the scheduling ? and we haven?t a really contact to those people because we don?t know what this schedule is. I think it?ll be one week finish touring when I can devote my time to what has to be done. So I would say it wouldn?t be until, probably not until the end of the next year. And at the end of the next year we will be touring the Russia for a year and coming back here in December. So I would say probably ? if we can fitted in in the summer time, it would be wonderful. We can do it during July and August. I?d like to try that. If not then, it will be in the beginning of next year.
Would it be an appropriate time maybe to bring in ?Stars? in your live set again then? At least I remember that you played that particular song at the ?Giants of Rock? festival here in Finland many years ago…
Well, I think because it?s so difficult to choose a set for us certainly because my long career with Rainbow, with Black Sabbath and with Dio ? and all the products we made. Although it?s a very important project, I think we would be doing wrong for people who are gonna miss one song that they wanna to hear, that was from Dio or from Rainbow or Sabbath. So probably not. But after we do the ?Children of the Night? charity, I think it will make sense for us to do it then. So after that happens, maybe we will combine the two and do that song – and the newest one for ?Children of the Night?.
How do you choose the songs for your set lists anyway? Howe hard is it to pick up the songs for your set so that you could please your audience by your choices?
The answer is: Dartboard.
Seriously… that?s always very difficult… very difficult as a matter of speaking. There are some songs that we simply must always do, y?know, songs like ?Holy Diver?, ?Heaven & Hell?, ?Man on the Silver Mountain? ? some things that have become… well, expected to us. And I think that all is fine when we don?t do them, then people complain. If we do them, then they ask why we didn?t do something else. But to be honest, we are kind of caught in the middle. So it?s very difficult because there?s so many choices. So we?ll try to put songs inside the ones we MUST do; the ones we always kind of do. We have a lottery of so many choices, but we also have a problem of having too many choices which ones we should choose to make people happy. So I guess the answer is the dartboard, I guess. Actually we listen to Rudy, we let Rudy tell us what to do.
Rudy always chooses ?Gates of Babylon?, so we always do that for him.
It?s was a really pleasant surprise when you played ?Gates of Babylon? at the Tuska festival here in Finland last year…
… and you are going to hear it here again tonight…
Excellent! Anyway, as far as I have understood based on one interview I just read just recently, this is the first line-up with the present members here that you have actually worked with ? and you have tried it before, correct?
Yeah, we have tried it before, yeah. We?ve tried it, I think, when Vivian with this and Danny, and for some reason it just bounds around and didn?t feel right. When we did it with this band, for some reason it really worked and really clicked. I guess it?s the musicians who you are playing, makes a difference. This time it worked, so I?m more than happy to do it. It?s a great song and you can keep those things alive as we do because there won?t be another Rainbow that will do those songs ? and there won?t be another Sabbath that will do the songs you do with the Sabbath. So it is a joy to do the songs, it makes all of us happy ? especially Rudy.
There was some talk about Rainbow reunion at some point. Do you see that ever happening?
Never… never again.
What about the Elf reunion?
I don?t think so… I just don?t think so. That?s such a long time ago and the songs are so much different than what this band is about, what Sabbath was about, and what Rainbow was about – and what Dio is about. I think because it was included in the Anthology, at least some people got a chance to hear a couple of the songs. But that was a different time and I don?t think it?s fair to put these people through what those songs were; they were a band based around a honky-tonk piano and that?s just not what we are anymore, so I?d say no. It was a good idea because it?d have been fun to do with my cousin Dave (?Rock?) Feinstein (the Rods), but I don?t think that will happen.
Talking about you as a singer, how on earth do you keep up your great voice these days?
I know how to fake it really, really good…
I just try to look after myself the best I can. It?s really difficult these days because traveling really makes it difficult, being in a jetlag and trying to set in so long. As for song writing, I continuely write songs that are very difficult to sing, so I basically just try to keep up a positive mental approaching as much as if I can. I?ve just been, y?know, lucky. I think my mind won?t allow me to be, y?know, too bad. It becomes harder and harder to as you go on, it really does. The older you get, the harder it becomes, I think.
Can you say that you have pretty much an ideal, unique singing technique?
Well, it?s ideal, but I don?t know how unique it is. I think anyone who has a brain as a single learning technique and knows how to sing properly, I?ve known how to sing properly, so that?s all what?s been a great asset to me. I?ve been just very lucky plus with this strong voice and I know how to use it, so it?s always been relatively easy for me to sing.
Have you ever, at some of your career, studied singing?
No, I haven?t. No, but I started playing at very early age as a trumpet player. That gave me the technique that I use as a vocalist. It?s always just singing from a diagram.
During October of this year, you will have this ?An Evening with Dio? in England with several dates booked to that country!? Could you tell what this ?An Evening with Dio? all about?
We were asked to do the entire HOLY DIVER album which we will do from the beginning to the end. And it seems interesting. I know that Deep Purple did the MACHINE HEAD from the beginning to the finish, Queensryche did OPERATION MINDCRIME, and it seems to go down very well in Britain which is where I was aim for. And so we were asked to do that and I thought it was interesting as we haven?t done that before. And the interest seems to be there, so that?s what it is really all about. I mean, to me every time when we play as an evening with Dio, but I think what it meant more, was it was roughly devoted simply to the Dio songs and not so much to Rainbow and Sabbath and Dio, BUT we can?t do those songs, but a part of the set will be just that. But the rest will be like important songs like we have done from Rainbow and from Sabbath so far.
Are you going to try out the same idea somewhere else as well besides UK?
We are going to do it in Russia, and when we come back in the end of November and in December, doing about a little over a month, we?ll be there – and we will do it. I think it will make this different than that because this will be kind of our same thing that we do with a few changes. But yeah, we?ll do it.
What about the songs on your latest album MASTERS OF THE MOON. Have you planned to include some from that particular album to your set tonight?
The only one tonight, only song called ?Shivers?, the last song on the album ? and we did ?The Eyes?, but there are some other ?big songs? that we did in the set, and ?The Eyes? being one of those kinds of songs. We don?t want the entire set to be me and the ?Temple? ?thing, so we are taking that out and do another one. Also thinking we already did ?The Eyes? which is still one more from MASTERS OF THE MOON, then again it?s a problem because we have so much to choose from. How many of them can we do from, y?know, from MASTERS OF THE MOON – and that means that other people will be unhappy because there are songs they wanna hear on there, so we are doing that. Perhaps when we have come through the next album, we are able to do a couple of more from the MASTERS OF THE MOON ? hopefully, who knows, but I?m not promising anything though.
As the fact is, you have recorded many albums with a bunch of different musicians, I was just wondering whether there are some musicians or a line-up which means more than any other line-up for you?
Y?know, there happens to be line-ups that are more pleasant than others to play with. This one is one of them. Sabbath for me was one of those as well. Rainbow was, y?know, just a very different kind of special band, so that was nice, too. I?d say probably… I put Sabbath first just because of the situation that it was. Musically I?d say this one is more pleasureful for me because this is the best band I have played with because of the musicians in it. I mean, because we have played together for a long time, with exception of Rudy that seems always to play with us forever. So I guess this gives me more pleasure, I mean this line-up, but Sabbath was the one I kind of remember the most. It was a very special time. In the ?60s the band was not that successful. I think that always makes you feel good you did that was a positive thing. It wasn?t just a band playing because of to make money, but a band playing that had something to prove.
So could you tell what?s your ?dream line-up??
There?s none for me. There?s no dream line-up for me. I mean, I think once you start thinking you want to play this person is supposed to, who you play with now, I mean, why I would wanna play with these people. Y?know, a ?dream line-up? to me is always the line-up I play with, y?know, the band that is always very flexible how we feel about how this we want to be. And this band fells that way. So to answer to your question, I really don?t have a dream line-up. I don?t wanna play with Jeff Beck, and I don?t wanna go back and play with Richio of Sabbath again. I mean, this one is the one that gives most pleasure.
As you have all this gifted musicians around you in the line-up these days, do you think your song writing thing has somehow become a bit easier over the years because of that?
Hmm… I think it becomes more, maybe only easier because you have finally found the one way that really works. I wished it worked that way. I?d rather make it more difficult. I mean, the more difficult the challenges are, the better you can be. So maybe the next time, y?know, with Rudy being in the band, it will make a great difference because this will be a totally different mind dome. That really works very well. I think each time that you do an album with different people you haven?t done before, it?s always the best one. Like for me the first Rainbow album was the pleasurable out of them all; not RAINBOW RISING, but the first one. HEAVEN AND HELL was the same way. HOLY DIVER and THE LAST IN LINE were the same fore me, too. That?s where all the magic happens: You don?t know what to expect, so because Rudy is in the band, I won?t know what to expect. This is not Jimmy (Bain; a bass player in the Dio line-up back in the day!) any more, so I know what to expect from him. It will be a little bit different, so hopefully that battle made.
I have a question for all of you actually. Which Finnish metal bands do you know and what you think about them?
Stratovarius. And Timo (Kotipelto) has a band, too ? besides Stratovarius, right? And they will perform tonight, I think – right? It?s hard for us to know to very many Swedis… (*ups*), eh, Finnish bands because, y?know, they are so far away from us and there are not very many of them that, y?know, have had that success that Stratovarius is having these days.
Scott (Warren): I also know that Nightwish comes from Finland…
Are any of you guys aware of the Swedish Heavy Metal band called Astral Doors?
I have heard the name…
Namely in my opinion they sound incredibly much like your band ? and what is even funnier and pretty amusing, their singer sounds almost exactly like Ronnie!
Oh really? That?s cool. Now we can quit…
If they sound exactly like us, what the hell we are here for!!
You mean they WANNA sound like us, that?s what it is?
Yeah, kind of like that. The Dio ?influences are all there wrapped up around their music, so…
Ok, I thought so. But seriously, I think that?s a compliment toward us. I?m glad that we could have influenced them, that?s great.
Their songs basically develop from the same traditional Heavy Rock/Metal elements like your music, so…
Good, good… that?s good because we need bands that wanna play a good music and not this crap.
You being as a very experienced singer as all of us here know, what kind of advices could you give to any singers of metal bands who are just about to start singing in their own bands?
Just learn how to do it right, how to sing the right way. You sing from here, you sing from here. You destroy yourself quickly by singing from here. Sing from a diagram, don?t smoke and have respect for yourself. And be different – and be unique because that always works. Y?know, that?s why it?s good that Astral Doors can be like us. That makes them like us. That doesn?t make them youth go. That?s different because that?s what always works to me. So try to be unique, try not to be like everybody else. You can do that way in the writing if you may sound like me or sound like Rob Halford, but if what?s you write that makes you sound… ?different?, y?know. I have been lucky to be approached from more of a fantasy level with a Halford -addict kind of situation and I realized early on my career that was going to be different than anyone else. And I stayed with that and did that all the time. And I think the audience knows when you are doing it because that?s the trend that is happening. People who have followed trends, don?t stay around very long. The people who are different, who are unique ? and let their audience know this what you can expect from them all the time. I think those are the ones that are little more successful, so my advice would be: Learn how to do it properly and be as different as you possibly can both in writing and in singing.
You have a great voice and you have been doing singing for a long time. Is Heavy Metal still giving you any challenges these days any more?
Just signing itself is a quite big challenge in itself. Just being able to survive these days is challenge. And I think once you have people who think so much of you, the challenge is you always have to be good. It?s easier to be bad, it?s really hard to be good all the time. So that?s the challenge for me to always have to reach that level everyone expects from me. And y?know I don?t always do that. At least in my mind though. When everyone says: ?You were great tonight…?. I know if I sucked or I didn?t suck because my opinion of myself is I must always try to be perfect ? and that?s impossible. For at least that?s my goal all the time. So if you have those kinds of goals all the time, you want to reach those heights all the time. And I think you can always be at least good… all the time.
So how long do you believe Dio will be going?
Well, in my case until I know that I know I?m not doing well any more. When that happens, I wanna go out on the top. I don?t wanna just do it because I can do it. Lots of people can just continuely playing, continuely prove to play, but that doesn?t mean they are all good. So… I don?t know, it could be another 10 years, or it could be another 2 years. I don?t know. I never think in terms of when it?s going to end; I only think in terms of what?s gonna come tomorrow, or how could we be tomorrow. So I don?t use much of my time to think what?s ahead of us in the future or when all this is going to end for Dio.
So can you tell then when can we expect some new material from Dio?
I think it won?t be until the fall. That?s again we have so much playing to do. I don?t write when I?m on the road, y?know. I only write when it?s time to write, so when the tour is finished, we?ll start writing then. That will do it. I?d say in the fall; it may even be… actually it may even be later in 2006. It may be that, too. I never give a date because they never come true, they just never do. And if I tell you a certain date, you can always hold it against me like: ?I thought you said…?, so I won?t say that.
Do you any plans to write MAGICA ? NUMBER 2?
I don?t know if that?s gonna happen at all. I wanted it to happen this time, but how much time do we have? This is gonna be such a long project to do, and then I don?t wanna release an album 2 years from now. So it will be a matter when we can start writing, and how quickly it goes. But it will happen some day, so that means to answer your other questions, if we don?t do MAGICA – PART 2., then it will be certainly another three years before we can fully start writing again.
Since you are here in Finland right at the moment, being booked to this relatively little, but nice festival called ?Sauna Open Air? ?festival, I?d like to ask from you do you know what ?sauna? is, or have you ever tried ?sauna??
Sure… of course, of course!! I?d have thought you a lot more than that. I?d have thought the entire place would have been one big ?sauna?.
But yeah, for me that?s a really good anyway. Sauna really cleans you up, y?know, saunas are cool. I just wished I had time for the one occasionally.
Scott (Warren): I think it?s very interesting to how there?s so much culture behind the saunas, so much history and how many things you can do with that idea, I mean with all the sauna; the health thing which is involved with them and stuff like that. It?s impressive… really impressive, I think.
Rudy (Sarzo): I live in Miami and I gotta tell you the whole city in December is like sauna…
Sauna all days and all nights along, ha-ha!!
Thank you for the interview guys!
The official DIO homepage: www.ronniejamesdio.com