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As he says himself, Ronnie James Dio was lucky (or capable, I may add) to be present in three of the most important schemes of rock history: Rainbow, Black Sabbath and Dio. Here’s what Rockpages.gr discussed with the man who revived Ritchie Blackmore after Deep Purple, brought Sabbath back to the spotlight and stood on his own two feet when he had to; about Heaven and Hell, Rainbow… ehm… Mighty Mouse and his – not – retirement plans.

 Interview to George Anasontzis

 

Rockpages.gr: Ronnie, the first impression that I got, when I actually looked at the first album of Heaven and Hell (The Devil You Know) is that it’s very dark… And by listening to it, you realize that it is all very dark and doomy. It has of course the Dio fronted Black Sabbath, signature, but I think it is slower and even more obscure than the previous ones.

Ronnie James Dio: Well, I think it’s because this time we wrote what we wanted to write. There were a lot of times that we had to do swifter and faster songs than it was necessary. This time we just wrote what came from ourselves, what we felt… and because of the world that we’re living, it couldn’t be a happy album.

Rockpages.gr: So, regardless your personal status, you are still affected by the world…

Ronnie James Dio: You’re always affected by the world you are living… I mean, look what happened with the loan recession, with the threat of a nuclear war from Iran, from North Korea, India, Pakistan, all the horrible things that happen in Africa, all those people dying, the stupid war in Iraq, the stupid war in Afghanistan… It [songwriting] has to color how you feel and I don’t think any of us felt very happy about what was out there. So, we are a reflection of the world we’re living; it had to be more doomy than happy. So, we didn’t write a lot of fast things and people always bitch us out for that. (Changing his voice to a dumb-like one) We want more fast songs. Well, if you want more fast songs, you write them, mate (laughs). You are going to get from us what we are, we just wrote what came out of ourselves, out of our heads, out of our minds, and that’s why we did it. For the reason that it’s not a happy place that we’re living, we probably wrote a lot more dark and doomy kind of subjects.

Rockpages.gr: Well, it’s not a happy world…

Ronnie James Dio: We were a lot happier when President Clinton was the president, so we wrote a few more happy songs, but not too many… but it’s not what we are, we don’t think in those terms, especially when you have someone like Tony to write the kind of riffs that he writes, they don’t let themselves to be happy songs. He likes to write slow things, I love to write slow things, cause it gives you more time to express. A fast song is a harder song to write, it really is a harder song; there’s not much time to express yourself cause it’s (claps fast his hands) Wow! What happened? So, if you can write a clever little lyric, like the Neon Knights or the Mob Rules kind of thing and it works; but it’s easier to write songs that give you space, especially as a lyricist, to explain the story that you’re trying to make. Because as a lyricist, you only get – well, these days you can write a little bit longer songs – but you get six to seven minutes to virtually write the story… cause I try to write stories that have connections, they have a plot, a beginning and an end and a middle… So, they’re easier to write and more fun to write, cause if you get a little more time, there’s a little more explanation. Fast songs just come and go.

Rockpages.gr: Maybe people think fast songs have more passion and energy…

Ronnie James Dio: Not to me, they don’t. For me, passion is on songs that have a lot of space and many chances to have explanation. Fast songs are so hard to write because the go by so quickly. They just don’t give me enough time to develop the idea.

Rockpages.gr: So, it didn’t cross your mind at all to try and write a new Heaven and Hell, to make the come back in such a way?

Ronnie James Dio: If you start comparing things that you’ve done before, you’re really losing… when we did the Dehumanizer album, for example, we had ten years between the time we had written the Mob Rules album and everybody thought Ah… This is going to be the next Heaven and Hell album. And so, we did something completely different. We made a much more modern, much more modern as far as thinking goes, more modern as far as writing went… and on this one, we never thought about it. We knew that what was going to come out from us would be what we liked. We were not there to write songs that everybody else wanted. It wasn’t our purpose to have a Heaven and Hell album, we never thought that we’d better write these songs because they will like it, we wrote the songs because we knew we will like them. And then, luckily enough for us, people liked it as well. And that’s good… good for you [as a songwriter]. So, why should we write another album that is supposed to be like Heaven and Hell and what you want and… We don’t write what you want, we write what comes from us because that’s all we are. We can’t contrive ourselves to be what other people want. So, what we write is what you get. We don’t apologize.

Rockpages.gr: And if someone wants another Heaven and Hell, just put it back on and listen to it.

Ronnie James Dio: Go listen to it, that’s right, or write it yourself and send us the songs and we’ll do it.

Rockpages.gr: I remember how I was listening again and again the Bible Black song… The lyrics and the atmosphere…

Ronnie James Dio: It’s a great song. Because – see what I mean – it has a story. It tells about someone who has such a horrible life, so humdrum life… He does the same every day and back to this horrible place and alone… A lot of people live that way. And suddenly he discovers this book that takes him to some other place just because of the spells that are in, because of what he reads or what he conjures up in his own mind… and it takes him away and makes him happy, whether it’s a good place he’s going to, for you and I, or a bad place, for you and I, or for him, it doesn’t matter. At least it told a story and you can hopefully visualize this man going back to his home after a horrible day, pulling a book from the shelf and the book is even described, black and bound in leather, and suddenly the world changes. That’s why I like to write this kind of songs and when we wrote this song, I knew that to me, that was the cornerstone of that album. Whatever we wrote after that would be accepted because that was such a good song.

Rockpages.gr: I think it clearly stands out of the album.

Ronnie James Dio: And it’s the same with everywhere we go and everyone we talk to. Everyone says (whispering) Bible Black. Great song. I just saw the Testament guys who I know for years and years and years. I just went in to say hello and Chuck said “I bet you’re doing Bible Black first, right?” Nah, I think it’s fourth… “Ah…”. I say, you are going to be here for that song… “Ah, yeah… I love that song”. So, we succeeded in doing something I think it was important, and that’s what made the album worth for us, that we had this great song, just like we had Heaven and Hell. And when we had Heaven and Hell, I knew, we all knew this is a great song. And Children of the Sea we knew we had a great song. So, we didn’t have to worry about the rest. The rest just came flowing out of us.

Rockpages.gr: What are the plans for Heaven and Hell after this tour? And what about the Dio band?

Ronnie James Dio: Well, we’ve gone very slowly with what we’re trying to do here, because we’ve had a history of breaking up for ten or twelve years at the time. One of the reasons was that we had made plans to long range in the future. And I think if you do that, if you plan your life two years ahead, probably six months into those two years, you’re going to go “I can’t do that”… “Nah, I don’t wanna do that”, “No, I’m not going to do that”. And you destroy all your plans and everything you started up to do.

Rockpages.gr: Actually that’s quite probable to happen in these cases…

Ronnie James Dio: Exactly. So, we took it one step at the time. We’re doing a tour. First we’re going to do those three songs, two songs is all they asked us for the Black Sabbath: The Dio Years, we wrote three,  because Tony and I write well together, we write easily together, so we wrote three, and that was it. We weren’t going to tour, we weren’t going to do anything else and it was back to Dio for me. And I thought that for them, it was Ozzfest time again. And someone said, maybe you’d like to tour for this and so, they suggested nine days of touring… The last day was in New York City at the Radio City Music Hall, which became a DVD as well. And then we stopped. That was it… and then someone said “We can do more tours. They want you to tour the festivals in Europe”. We thought Fine… So, that was only a month of tour of our time taken on and when we stopped, someone said what about touring all America… All right. So, you can see we were presented with something we took on easily for a short period of time for each section. And when the touring was over, someone said “Do you think you wanna do an album?” and we thought… hm… yeah, ok. Because we knew we could because of the Dio Years. So we did and then of course, when you do an album, you are kind of committed to tour and we’ve done that. So, our next touring is America one more time. Following that, Tony is having an operation on his hand. That’s gonna take six months away from anything we can do. He just gonna have to recover from all of that.

Rockpages.gr: And you are getting back to Dio…

Ronnie James Dio: Well, I don’t like sitting around and doing nothing. And the Dio band has always been my passion anyway and I’ve written an album called Magica which was only one part of a trilogy. So, I need to finish that, which I’ve been working on in the time we had between the touring. So, I plan doing that again and touring with the band again as well. And then we’ll just see what happens when Tony’s health comes again, and if everything works up, perhaps we’ll do another album together. So, we take one step at a time, that way we found we don’t break up anymore.

Rockpages.gr: Well, since Tony and Ozzy are in a legal fight right now, it doesn’t seem to be Black Sabbath soon anyway…

Ronnie James Dio: Yeah, it’s suing something… I was very surprised for that… I don’t know what Tony will do. I don’t know what Ozzy will do. I don’t know what Geezer will do… I don’t know what Sharon will do. I don’t know what any of them will do. I only know what I will do and I think that’s the most important. I will once again listen to the offers that are there and if it makes sense to me, then perhaps I will do it. But I just know I have another life. I’m lucky. And they have another life perhaps, too, with Ozzy, to do that. But I don’t think they want to do that. I really don’t. I think going back to that, for them, is not joyful. It’s not musically joyful. This band is so good and it represents each other so well. I think they are sick and tired of playing Iron Man and Paranoid all their lives… which is not a challenge I think. This band is a challenge. I’d like to think that I’m one of the people who challenge them musically and I think that they would like to carry on and do this. But we shall see. It’s not a matter of my not wanting to do it; I just wanna see what is going to come up. Two times not being in this band anymore, being kicked out of it, it doesn’t make you feel very good, especially when you have a good opinion of yourself and I know there is nothing I did wrong… You can feel very vengeful, perhaps, at times. I’ve forgiven the bad treatment I got from him [Tony Iommi]. We don’t talk about it, but I’ve forgiven it. But that doesn’t make me, any less… You know, I guess, I still do think about it, I remember what he did to me… and the life that I had without you [referring to Iommi and Black Sabbath] has been comfortable and happy one with the Dio band. I love those guys; I love to play with them. I insist upon playing with them again, which I will do. So, I don’t have to wait till the end of all this… whatever it’s going on here… and see what happens. I’m not committing myself to anything, so we’ll see what happens.

Rockpages.gr: Have you ever discussed about the breaking up of the band?

Ronnie James Dio: No, we never talk about things like that. We have very little communication when it comes to that and I think that’s always been the problem. No communication. That’s why we broke up all those times and no one ever talked about what the problems were. Or were there problems? Perhaps, but we never talked about it. So, we don’t talk about what will happen now, either. We don’t talk about making another album, we don’t talk about touring more after this. Therefore, I make decisions based upon my own communication with the people that I work with and the desire I know there is out there from the Dio fans, who are very important to me and Dio is very important to them. That is something that I will do and I want to do and need to do for myself. So, as far as the rest of it goes, we don’t talk about it, so, who knows what is going to be.

Rockpages.gr: You can always play in rock movies, like Pick…

Ronnie James Dio: Of Destiny? Yeah, that probably made me more seeable than anything in years. I go to the grocery store and little kids with their mothers (making his voice child-like) “Look, it’s Dio, from Pick of Destiny”. What happened to Dio from Heaven And Hell or Dio from Black Sabbath or Dio from Dio. But you know, that’s what life is becoming. That’s cool. But I don’t want to do things like that. I’m not a movie person. The only movie things I ever wanna do is, I would like to make my own anime film, write the music for it. Because I think that animation really suits the kind of writing I write with Dio, which is a lot of fantasy oriented. And you can take more fantasy with animation than you can in real life. I mean, in real life, you got to make a film as good as the Harry Potter films or Lord of the Rings, and I just don’t think there is enough money for me out there to find to do that. So, I’ve always loved animation, I’m a child at heart. Animation is cartoon to me and I always loved cartoons. When I used to go to the movie theatre, I would always just wait for what came before the film, which was the cartoon. And for me it was always Mighty Mouse. Do you remember Mighty Mouse at all?

Rockpages.gr: Of course I do…

Ronnie James Dio: Mighty Mouse was my hero. When Mighty Mouse came up, I was the happiest person. I didn’t care what film was coming next, as long as Mighty Mouse was there. Or if it was a Bugs Bunny film, that’s it, my life was happy. And I love animation because I think it brings the child out in a lot of us. So, I think it’s the best vehicle for me, to do animation. So, that would be something I would like to do, but I doubt I ever will. I think it’s too long a process and it would take much time away from writing more music. Because I need to focus on writing music, so, if it takes two months to write an album, or three or four months, that’s four months away from being able to write music for an animated film and it’s not really something I’m desperately in need to do. But it is one thing I would do, had I decided never to be on stage anymore.

Rockpages.gr: Someone asked me the other day about you… He said, Ronnie is sixty eight…

Ronnie James Dio: Seven… Always trying to make me a year older than I am… What a bastard. Tell him he’s a bastard for saying that.

Rockpages.gr: I don’t think he said it in a bad way…

Ronnie James Dio: Well… yeah… but he called me 68, the son of a bitch… Now, [smiling] go ahead.

Rockpages.gr: I think he just did the calculations wrongly… He’s a bad mathematician…

Ronnie James Dio: Yes, he did. Well, we’re all getting older aren’t we? I’ve been doing this all my life, since I was five years old, but… I don’t feel that old. I don’t think I look 67. And I don’t feel it at all. But anyway, the question is?

Rockpages.gr: You don’t look 67 anyway, but don’t you think that it’s time to do another Rainbow album?

Ronnie James Dio: Also, it’s the Rainbow question, eh? No I will never do another Rainbow album. I’ll never ever do that again. I want no part in doing it; I want no part in doing anything with Ritchie at all. I respect him, he’s a genius, he was a great part of my life, but I don’t need to go through that hell. Especially, when you get to be this age, do I need to suffer more? I think life should be easier as you get older and not more difficult. And Ritchie is too difficult a person for me to deal with, because I like to have control of my own life. When I’m not in this band, I’m in the Dio band. We think the same. So, there is no problem with not liking each other or demanding that I have to do something that I don’t want to do. So, it’s not a place I want to go to. I’m happy for Ritchie that he’s happy doing what he’s doing. I wish he were not doing it and I wish he was still making rock ‘n’ roll music. But maybe he’s too old… He’s pretty close too.

Rockpages.gr: I think he’s very close…

Ronnie James Dio: Yes he is. In fact, I think, a year away… no. Two years away.

Rockpages.gr: And he’s a man in love…

Ronnie James Dio: Well, I don’t think that excuses not making great music. I don’t think so. To him, maybe he is making great music. Good for him, good for him.

Rockpages.gr: We have a saying but I won’t translate it, cause it contains swearing… But anyway a woman can pull a whole ship…

Ronnie James Dio: Ohhh, yeah, we call it “Following your dick up a cliff”. That’s what it’s called. (He’s making fake screams) “Oh, oh, she’s still up there and I’m down here. Forgot about that. I died and she didn’t”. It’s true, it’s true and maybe that’s the way he is. But knowing Ritchie as I do, he has… she may be important to him, but I don’t think she’s more important than he is to him. I’m not trying to make Ritchie out as a bad person, because he’s not a bad person, he’s a good person and as I said before, he’s a genius, but he’s making life difficult for people, he’s not a kind man at times and I don’t wanna be around cruel people, I had enough of that from him…

Rockpages.gr: I don’t think that at this stage you have to…

Ronnie James Dio: I don’t have to, but I certainly won’t. I mean, even if it was something I had to do, I wouldn’t do it. If it was something that meant putting food on my family’s table and I had to play with him, I wouldn’t do that. I’d find some other way; I’d go dig a hole on the ground, become a carpenter or become a bricklayer or do anything. But I don’t need to put myself in that anymore. Been there, done that… Once again I say, I had no problem with Ritchie, Ritchie and I never argued, we never had a problem. I think I was always able to write the things that he wanted; until he decided he wanted to be a pop star. And then he started doing pop music. And once he did that, that was the end for me. I didn’t want to do that, I was lucky enough to be able to get into Sabbath and write things that were… perfect for me. I wanted to be heavier than what he allowed me to be… or allowed his band to be. You know, I just look back on an angle “Thank you very much, Ritchie, for teaching me so much and allow me to play with a genius like you”. But I think, at the end of the day, there comes a time in his life when he says “I want to thank you, Ronnie, too, for putting that band on the map, because once I left Deep Purple, without you, who was going to do that”. Nobody could have done what I did, writing those songs at that time. After he came out of this huge band, Deep Purple, he was the most frightened person in the band. (Changing his voice) I hope this works… Do you think they will like it? Yes, I think they’ll love it, it will be a great album and it’s going to be wonderful. But I don’t hear a lot of nice things he says about me, but I take the high role, I say a lot of nice things about him, because that’s the way I find it. I don’t have a problem with him at all and I don’t have a revenge problem with Ritchie. But I don’t want to get to a situation where life is difficult again and he makes life a bit difficult for me. You know, I’m not saying the things that other people have said about him and they were a lot more cruel that I was about him… I mean, what he put them through…

Rockpages.gr: Do you have anyone particular in mind?

Ronnie James Dio:  Aha, anybody who ever played with him… Let’s see… Graham Bonnet, Joe Lynn Turner probably, Mark Clarke, Tony Carey, Cozy (Powell), who can’t defend himself anymore. I think everybody who knew that he was a difficult person to live with. So, mainly all those people, all those people he kicked out of his band or replaced them with… I mean, look at Roger Glover for example, he kicked Roger out of Deep Purple  and as we see now, Deep Purple wanted nothing to do with Ritchie, being back in the band, especially after they got back together again. They are so much happier with Steve, because Steve is a nice guy. Ian Gillan would never ever have anything to do with Ritchie. So, I guess we mentioned Ian, too, and Jon, too. Any of them… I think all of them… I don’t want to put words in their mouths, I’m not talking for them, but, you know, having known all these people so long, I know what it’s like. And once again, I can only say to you, what you should take from this, is that I admire than man so much, he is a genius, absolute genius, we made great music together for a short period of time and when it ended, it was a time when it should have. I look back at those times, as wonderful wonderful times, great memories, great music that we made, but it’s not a place I want to go to again.

Rockpages.gr: You mentioned Joe Lynn Turner before. You know, I guess, that he’s in a talk fight with David Coverdale.

Ronnie James Dio: Yeah, I heard something about that.

Rockpages.gr: He’s accusing David Coverdale of using tapes in concerts. Do you ever think or fear what would you do in a similar situation?

Ronnie James Dio: I would quit then. I don’t need, I don’t have to do that. I can sing until I’m 150 years old. If Tony Bennett can still do it, I can do it. Tony Bennett’s got to be what, 80, 81, 82…? Something like that. He still sings like god. He can do it, certainly I can do it. I know I can do it. If that came to that point, why would I want to do this anymore? I don’t lie. That’s a lie. But I’m not saying that David does it, I don’t know anything about that. It has nothing to do with me… (grins)

Rockpages.gr: Maybe it’s because his voice was in a bad shape in the last tour…

Ronnie James Dio: Well, that’s probably a matter of not looking after himself, not looking after his voice or maybe not having one of those voices that I’ve got, which is made of iron… You know, that’s not his fault. And if people still want to come and see him and they dismiss the fact that he’s using tapes, if he does use tapes, then that’s ok. I think it’s silly of Joe to have said what he said. I mean why would you want to start this controversy. He must be a very bitter person if he does that. I think it’s very unfair…

Rockpages.gr: Maybe he’s still fond of Blackmore…

Ronnie James Dio: It could be. I’m thinking it maybe because he’s doing this other thing, Over the Rainbow, or something. Yet another project which doesn’t make sense to me, but, you know, Go ahead and do it and so, maybe that’s it. Maybe he thinks that if he says bad things about David, Ritchie will like him better… Perhaps, I don’t know… I don’t think so. At the end of the day, I think it was silly of him to say that. I don’t think it made any sense at all. And all it has done is create this controversy that nobody really cares about. That’s what silly television reality shows do, to do things like that. Just go, candle your light and make your life successful. That’s what I always did, when I was not in Rainbow anymore, I didn’t just go “He’s such an asshole. You know what a jerk he is. You know what he did and you know what really goes on behind this”. I just thought, Well, it’s over, and I’m a realist. Reality is that life goes on. So, I will carry on my life and I will be successful because I refuse not to be successful. That’s what Joe should have done. But, like I said, it could be because it could be a Ritchie influence, but I doubt it. I mean, Joe misspoke and once you say something, in these days… You know, that’s what happened with Vivian Campbell, as well. I didn’t know we had a cell phone and someone asked me after a show, while I was getting on the bus, “What do you think about Vivian Campbell?” and I wasn’t happy at the time and I do have my opinions about him and I said something that wasn’t… that I shouldn’t have said, and certainly I wouldn’t have said if I knew we had a cell phone stuck in my face somewhere. And it created this controversy as well. I don’t normally do that, but I said what I said and I stand by what I said, I obviously meant it, otherwise I wouldn’t have said it, but I would never have said it had I known that it was going to be aired publicly. Never. And I think Joe should have a little more sense not to do that. He’s created a monster by going up against Coverdale. Because David doesn’t like things like that (laughs). I’m glad I’m not in the middle of it, nothing to do and I’m glad I can talk about it, not (making his voice harsh) “He’s an asshole, he’s…”, because neither of them are like that.

Rockpages.gr: A girl had come to me and said, “Oh I want to see Rainbow [meaning Over The Rainbow] but they are playing only in Japan” and I said “Rainbow?” “Yeah, that band with Joe Lynn Turner” “Come on, that’s not Rainbow…”

Ronnie James Dio: Of course it’s not, of course it’s not. Let’s face it, the only important Rainbow ever was the first one. With Cozy, myself, Tony Carey, Jimmy and Ritchie. That was the important one. Oh, actually the first one was the most important one, which was my band Elf and Ritchie. That was the most important one. Look at the wonderful songs that came from that, look how it changed music. Look how it made people, like Metallica… Lars for example always says, “First show I ever saw was a Rainbow and I knew I had to do something like that”. All my peers, all the other great musicians “Rainbow, unbelievable… changed my life, made me wanna do this”… That was always important.

Rockpages.gr: It did change the rock music history…

Ronnie James Dio: It did! I’ve been lucky to be in three different locations: Rainbow, the first Rainbow of course, the first three Rainbow albums, but certainly the first and Rising, which people like the most… I consider the first album to be the best one…

Rockpages.gr: You can’t really distinguish them…

Ronnie James Dio: Yeah, yeah, they are both great. Different styles and musicians playing, but of course, at the end of the day, Ritchie and I still wrote all the songs, so, there you go. Then, followed Sabbath, with Heaven and Hell, which was another groundbreaking time, because a new generation of people picked up on our music. And Holy Diver. That was another generation of people. So, I was so fortunate to be within those three things and those are the most important things for me, anyway, and I think that’s what you should be proud of, that you’ve changed the scene of music, that you influenced people so much that they wanted to become that. That’s the real true test; that other musicians, who aren’t musicians yet, want to be what you are. I had my people like that too, Purple, first of all Purple… “Whoaa!”, Zeppelin… “God, what’s that all about”, Hendrix… “Oh God”. Those were the people that influenced me. Isn’t it wonderful to have people that care that much about the music that you made? Well, it always has been for me and I think these three times that I mentioned were important, important times. So, if there is any kind of legacy, I can look back and say “Here’s something at least I left for history or for other people to carry on even better that I did”. But retirement?? No!! I don’t need to retire, I’m too damn good.




 
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