Music Interviews

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Interview by Melissa Bennett
published in Artist Magazine, San Francisco

Ronnie James Dio c Rick Brackett/Artist Publications

My writing has always been medieval-flavored, but I'm concerned with what we're doing with ourselves and our environment. Singing is all I ever really wanted to do.

-- Ronnie James Dio

I had seen Dio once before, but it had been the kickoff of their first tour and they hadn't gotten their stage show together yet, so I was very much looking forward to seeing them in full swing. I had this chance first when they played a double show -- 8:00 and the added show at 4:00 at the San Jose Civic on October 5th, and then again at another double show of 8:00 and 11:30 at the Santa Monica Civic on October 7th.

You can imagine my surprise... I was overwhelmed, each show was better than the last. Along with songs off their first album, Holy Diver, Dio also played such old favorites (by Black Sabbath and Rainbow) as "Man on the Silver Mountain," "Heaven and Hell," "Stargazer" and "Children of the Sea."

The stage was like a mountain range, with drummer Vinnie Appice the highest of all, behind his huge U-shaped drum set. Below was a cave, out of which Ronnie appeared. Stage left was guitarist Vivian Campbell and to the right, guitarist Jimmy Bane. At one time Ronnie called out to the audience, "See if you recognize the song by the introduction..." The backdrop of the monster descended and Ronnie, Jimmy and Vivian disappeared into the cave. As smoke billowed over the stage, pouring out from the drum set, the band whirled into the eponymously titled song from Holy Diver.

Later, backstage, I had a chance to speak with Ronnie, and I must say I was impressed. He is a very together guy, going after his goals and achieving them, then moving on to yet another goal. He was actually a nice person and, even after being in the business for so many years, he still treats his fans with the utmost respect and devotion.

Earlier, he had sent a roadie down with backstage passes for two of these fans. It seems that they had come without tickets and without enough money to buy scalped tickets, but had come anyway in hopes of catching a glimpse of their idol. With them, they carried a huge black cross bearing the name, "Ronnie James Dio" in large white lettering.

Later, he told me of the time he had been walking down the street and had come upon a bus bench with "Dio" engraved in the seat. "It felt great to know that we were being recognized, to know that people cared and that we were bringing happiness to them -- which in turn brings happiness to us."

Ronnie James Dio
San Jose Civic Center, San Jose, CA, 10/5/83

© Rick Brackett/Artist Publications
digital effects: Joy Williams/Artist Publications

Well, it's time for a little background information on the members... Ronnie began with a band called Elf, which he started in the early '70s. He, at that time, was a bassist. In fact, when he was a child, he studied the trumpet and then later moved on to the bass. After going to England to record two albums, Elf was picked up to join Deep Purple on the road as their opening act.

Richie Blackmore was so impressed with Ronnie's singing that the two later joined to form Richie Blackmore's Rainbow. Ronnie played with Rainbow for three years and helped turn out five albums. In 1979 he took Ozzy Osbourne's place as lead vocalist for Black Sabbath. After extensive touring and three albums (one of which was live) Ronnie left Sabbath in pursuit of a solo career.

Vinnie Appice, Black Sabbath's acclaimed drummer, joined Ronnie to form Dio. "I think he's probably one of the hardest playing drummers going these days and, technically, one of the best as well," commented Ronnie. "Our personal bond got very strong while we were in Sabbath together... He's someone I've always wanted to continue working with."

Ronnie and Vinnie had gone to England to find a guitarist and a bassist. They found that Jimmy Bane (who had played with Ronnie for two years while in Rainbow) was available. He had just finished touring Europe with Thin Lizzy. Jimmy, originally from Newtonmore, Scotland, had played with a band called Harlot previous to Rainbow. After Rainbow he formed Wild Horses along with Brian Robertson, ex-Thin Lizzy and Motorhead guitarist. Shortly before joining Dio, Jimmy had done some collaboration with Phil Lynott (of Thin Lizzy) and as mentioned earlier, went on tour with them.

The newest addition, Vivian Campbell, is a 21-year-old guitarist from Belfast, Northern Ireland. "Vivian was then in a band called Sweet Savage, who were touring with Thin Lizzy, and Jimmy loved the way he played," Ronnie informed me. So they invited him to England and were knocked out by how good he was.

Dio's first album, Holy Diver, was produced by Ronnie himself, who also wrote most of the material, with some collaboration with the other members. "What I've tried to do is write the way I always have -- from my heart and from my head," he said. "On this album all the lyrics, melodies and changes are mine. My writing has always been medieval-flavored, but I'm concerned with what we're doing with ourselves and our environment. Singing is all I ever really wanted to do." And he has the talent to back up his desire.z                                       



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