Interview: Ronnie James Dio

NEVER SAY DIE

Ronnie James Dio is a legendary figurehead in the world of rock music, He has worked with some of the heaviest bands in the business, namely Black Sabbath and Rainbow. Since its conception in the early eighties he has made his mark with his own band DIO who've proved just as forceful as the latter two names he was associated with. Now in 1990 with a new line-up and powerful new album, Lock Up The Wolves it seems that Ronnie and his cohorts are back to prove that their music is just as valid in the 90s as it was in the 80s.

The 'great wizard' of rock n'roll enlightened us further when RIFF RAFF spoke to him at the outset of his recent British tour...

What's it like for you now with a revamped band?

"Well, all the way down the line it feels really excellent! I think the proof of the pudding was when we did the five dates with Metallica. It was really the way for us to find out how the band was going to work on stage because it really had never played together before that. It was interesting to jump into the fire that way for me because I'd been used to the same players for the last seven years. The new band responded just incredibly well. It was as though we had been together for a long time. It just got better and better!"

There's such a different feel on the album. It seems more 'direct' to me.

"That's much more like the first few albums that we did. They were more direct. The first things that you do are usually more natural. You don't take so many chances because you're not quite sure of who and what you are. So, you're right in your estimation of that! I'm very pleased with the way it's all turned out. It's just what I wanted it to be."

So how did you find 'whizz-kid' guitarist Rowan Robertson?

"Well, Rowan was the product of listening to 5000 tapes which were sent to us over a period of about eight months. I listened to each one of them! I know that sounds preposterous, but it's true! I listened to each one of them because I didn't want to miss anyone who might have been wonderful. I really wasn't struck by anyone until I heard Rowan's tape. It was exactly what I was looking for! It's going to be wonderful for me to watch his career flower and blossom, whether I'm there or not there. I just wanted a player who was right for the band's situation and that proved to be Rowan! Had he been 118 years old he still would have been the right player. Lucky for us, he's only 18."

How satisfied are you with the new album then?

"I couldn't be more pleased with it, especially under the circumstances. Its beginning was with the old band and its ending with a completely new line-up. It could have taken a wrong turn, but because the changes were made rather slowly it was gentle easing into the situation. My view of the album is that it shows the promise of this band to come!"

Lyrically, how have you approached your songwriting this time?

"Well, I think that in reviewing most of the songs that I've written you'll find that the majority of them are about people. This album was more of a conscious effort on my part to write about what I felt at the moment! What I felt at the moment was not the brandishing of swords, the killing of dragons, et cetra, but more what was going on around me. In my life there were a lot of changes. When you see things falling apart around you, crumbling, and then being reconstructed, it makes a great difference to your attitude! It's really evident in one of my songs called My Eyes which is really autobiographical."

What do you think is so special about the British rock fans?

"They're so damn knowledgeable! I think Britain is the best testing ground on Earth because if you gain acceptance there then you can gain acceptance anywhere. After all it's football and music that mean the most to the kids there!"

Dio have always been an especially popular act at festivals. Have you got any lined up this summer?

"At the moment, no. I think at the moment the most important thing for us to do is re-introduce the band to everyone. After all it's been three years since Dio last played live. Our aim is to just play and get better, to be more confident with ourselves! So I don't think we'll be doing any festivals until next year."

It must be great to go out and play after having spent so much time getting the album together.

"It is a relief just to be able to play again, to realise that things have come to fruition. However, the album was a joy to record and was a lot of fun."

You've managed to leave your mark on the 70s and the 80s. How do you view the Dio project progressing into the 90s?

"A lot of that depends on how long we stay together. Let's face it, it's going to change! It's all wonderful now, but in a year so egos are going to come to the fore and it's going to change. I've seen it happen so many times in my musical life that I'm prepared for it and I'm willing to accept it! It's a total package. That attitude has to be there. You have to be proud of what you are, you have to be proud of the band that you are in, and you have to always want to progress! You can't rest on your laurels! So, if we continually attempt to be fresh I think we'll be safe."

The 90s seem very optimistic for rock music in general don't they?

"Absolutely! I think with new bands there is a lot of competition. There are so many of the same that I think they need to be weeded out and then the good ones will rise up and they'll influence the next generation of bands to come. A lot of them are such 'test tube babies,' manufactured in the studio and on the pages of magazines, they seem to be unscrewable heads that can be shifted from one band to the next. I think people have to have a little bit more feel about being an individual. After all that was what tradition was about in the beginning! No ones was Jimi Hendrix, no one was Deep Purple, and no one was Led Zeppelin. Now we have to be sure that everyone isn't Led Zeppelin, Deep Purples, and Jimi Hendrix."


Mark Crampton
Riff Raff
June, 1990  
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