On the Mend
An Interview with Ronnie James Dio
by: Alain M. Gaudrault
Ronnie James Dio is a man dedicated to music. From his first recordings back in 1962 with Ronnie Dio and the Prophets, to his latest Dio release, _Angry Machines_, the man's career has had its share of ups and downs. The eighties were a period of great success through his stint with Black Sabbath and subsequent solo career. Of course, the nineties have had a profound negative effect on the pervasiveness of metal in North America, but Dio moves on, unphased by critics, dedicated to making music. I spoke to Ronnie about a variety of things, often about topics in which I myself was interested. This, after all, was a teenage hero of mine, and I couldn't pass up the opportunity to ask him things that perhaps aren't necessarily interesting to the masses. You'll find some information regarding the new album and tour and all as well, so if you're at all curious about what's going on in the Dio camp, read on.

CoC: How's your health? I hear you caught a flu or cold just recently.

Ronnie James Dio: I'm quite a bit on the mend. I got through it okay but when we got back, we got back home from Germany on xmas eve day. A few days later we had to take Vinny [Appice], our drummer, to the hospital, 'cause he got pneumonia. So, Vinny's been a little bit ill, he's out of the hospital now. It's meant that we've had to push back our tour. We were gonna start on the 12th of January, now we can't start until the 6th of February because Vinny's got to recover a bit more from it. Again, I'm not as bad as him but we're finally getting over it. I'm still a bit stuffed up. It seems like this flu is leaving so many people almost dead on the side of the road, and it's really killing me. It just won't seem to go away.

CoC: In fact, that leads me right to the first question, which relates to touring plans. What are they?

RJD: As I say, we can't start until the 6th of February. I'm not sure which gigs that's going to encompass, but what we will do, being that we have to go to Europe again on the 17th of February, when we finish there we should probably be in the beginning of March or so. We'll be coming back to America and we'll do all the shows that we couldn't do on this end of it. We'll just lose the time frame, but we'll certainly be there to play the shows.

CoC: Any Canadian tour dates?

RJD: I think so far there's a Toronto date [April 22nd at RPM Warehouse - Alain], and I know that there's been some talk of doing a whole bunch of gigs in western Canada as well.

CoC: What made the Dio & Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow co-headlining tour plans collapse?

RJD: It was purely a matter of Ritchie not wanting to tour until after he did another album. He had toured in Europe for quite awhile, I guess, with [his previous] album and he did a little bit of touring in America, I think, I'm not sure where. It was almost in the works. Ritchie had agreed to do it, I'd agreed to do it, not that it was that kind of agreement where we hate each other so we both had to say that it was okay, but someone has to say "yeah that sounds like a good idea, to tour," so we had decided to do it and then Ritchie changed his mind because it was pretty close to the holidays and he didn't want to tour until after his next project and wanted to stay home with his family. It was going to be in the works but it was just bad timing.

CoC: It seems you've regained production duties with _Angry Machines_. Why did you use a producer other than yourself for your previous album, _Strange Highways_?

RJD: I think that whenever you're getting to the point where it seems as though you don't know what a record company's asking of you, what's happening with the music that you're making, you're confused 'cause you're not making the right music. Whatever happens, I think you always go for some kind of a change, and I know that the record company also said it'd be good for me not to do this one and get someone else, someone outside to do it. So for all those reasons I said okay, it's not a problem. I've got no ego on that, let someone else have a go at it and hopefully they'll do a good job. The difference is that production is not just getting the sound onto tape. The guy we used, Mike Fraser, who's just an absolutely incredible engineer and a great person, I loved working with him and he was brilliant, but all the material was produced by the time it was given to Mike, just as all the new material was produced by the time it came time for me to do the final production in the studio. We record everything we do, we maneuver it, we work it until it's exactly what we want, and then we're ready to record it, so there's really no need for production. There were no suggestions like "let's do this in this part of the song" and "let's try that" and "let's do this" and "let's make this sound that way." It wasn't like that. It was like, this is what they do and away they go. That's really the way it is for people that have been doing this for such a long time, you get really good at doing it and you don't need to be told how to do it. Just as with all the other albums, producing this one was just as easy for me as it was for Mike, I'm sure. The only difference is that I can change things around pretty rapidly, and we did on [_Angry Machines_]. There were some things I didn't like, maybe some tempos that were wrong that we slowed down just by using the tape to slow it down, some parts that weren't right that we cut out and edited a lot of this and a lot of that. As far as that kind of producing goes, that's what you have to do, and the last album we did (_Strange Highways_), whatever edits we made, we made them as a band, so it wasn't really produced, it was engineered very well, but not produced. The reason for doing it was maybe being unsure of ourselves and having a record company saying let somebody else try.

CoC: Given the changed rock scene of today, what with bands like Soundgarden, Ministry, Type O Negative, and Marilyn Manson garnering widespread support, where do you see your music's place in the hard rock of the late 90s?

RJD: I think that's what we're doing now, I think we're carving that out for ourselves right now. I think that from the last album, its material, anyway, not so much its sound, which I felt was a bit faded, but there were some great songs on it with great attitudes. "Jesus, Mary & the Holy Ghost" was a great song, "Evilution", great songs from that album, and some other good pieces as well, and [_Angry Machines_] taking us more into a little bit more progressive musical attitude. We're not writing music that was considered to be dinosaur music before, it's not about magic and wizards and witches and whatnot, although there are places to write that kind of music as well, and times to write it, too. But I think that we're creating a new path for ourselves in this music so that we can compete with what's happening musically. We're not pretending that we're young people making music for young people. We're not, we've been there, we've done this, and we've done that, but that doesn't mean we're still not good at what we do and we still can't be relatable to people, 'cause after all, young or old, they're still people. As I say, we're carving our own little place, I think, within the musical community. We're much more like a Soundgarden now, I think, than like Dio was [in the past].

CoC: Seeing as there is no title track, where does the title _Angry Machines_ come from, and how does it relate to the album's content?

RJD: The title is in one of the songs. We didn't want one of the songs as the title of the album, we've done that every time, every album we've ever done. We wanted to have something just a little bit different for ourselves, so it didn't really point at one of the songs, but the whole concept of it is that we're trying to be a little more evolutionary, more progressive in what we're doing and one of the pieces of subject matter that crops up occasionally is the fact that we're getting so far ahead of ourselves, or :are: we getting so far ahead of ourselves with computers and machinery of that manner, will they eventually take over our lives, will God be a computer, will your wife be a computer, will whatever be a computer, will humans then no longer be necessary? Computers will create their own world. Very interesting thoughts, you know, that have been had by science fiction writers. The title and that idea of machines taking over the world seemed to be apropos for the times we're living in. It's a more realistic attitude.

CoC: The song whose lyrics have me most puzzled is "Big Sister". Would you mind sharing your inspiration for this track?

RJD: This track is kind of slanted in the direction of George Orwell's "1984" novel in that there was Big Brother watching. Big Brother took over everything, privacy was gone and there were certain rules to be followed and they were pretty strict, etc, etc. It just seems to me that women in this day and age are becoming very, very powerful, as they should be, they've been slaves long enough. But I think that the wiles that they use, the way that they go about getting what they're getting, there needs to be a "male warning" up there someplace that Big Sister's coming for ya, Big Sister's gonna change you, she's gonna take everything. Like in the lyrics it says "there will be changes, no more giving it all for free." That's from the woman's perspective. There are gonna be changes, from now on, whether it be sex or comfort or cooking or whatnot, we're not giving it away for free anymore. And that just permeates the whole attitude of the song. It's like, "look out for Big Sister, here she comes." It's pointed in the women's direction.

CoC: Are you satisfied with how the album and tour have been faring thus far?

RJD: I am satisfied, yes. Let me put it this way. I'm certainly not dissatisfied. But for me, everything is a building process. You can take three or four steps backward, you just have to make sure you regain them and take some more forward. For me, this is our way of saying "this is what we are, this is what we've become, this is what we want to become, we're comfortable with playing with each other." Live, the band is just a machine, just a great band live, great to be in front of it, great to be part of it, the audiences have been wonderful, very accepting people. We don't have to go out and blow our brains out to try to capture someone. Things are going well, I couldn't be more pleased.

CoC: Despite a less than amicable past with Tony Iommi, would you consider appearing on his solo album if asked, or participating in any project which involved Iommi?

RJD: Yeah, sure, I have no problem with Tony. He's always been a friend and I'm sure that if we saw each other right now, tomorrow, it would be the same "hug and how-ya-doin'" it always has been. Tony's a good person, he's not a very vindictive person at all. If the opportunity were right, I'd certainly consider something like that.

CoC: No hard feelings about the whole Costa Mesa incident?

RJD: Not on my end, there aren't. I've had contact with Geezer and, through other people, "hello" to Tony and Tony "hello" back to me. It's not a problem, we're grown up people. We shouldn't have to deal with stupid things that we've done before. We made an album (_Dehumanizer_), I thought we were gonna make ten or eleven of them, and go away gracefully all being in Black Sabbath, but that didn't happen. For whatever reasons, there were reasons that I believed in, there were reasons they believed in, so be it, but I think any band that's going to announce that they were going to reform with the ex-lead singer and the drummer during the two shows that were supposed to have the band as the opening act is going a little bit over the line. I think it proved right down the line that "Why should I have done those shows?" I didn't want to be a part of putting people in seats for Ozzy so that they could announce that they were gonna reform and that'd be the end for us. I was right, but that's not the point. The point is that we don't have any problems with it. If I could do something with Tony, if it were the right thing to do, I'd consider it.

CoC: Often pondered, yet so elusive is your year of birth.

RJD: Well, I was born in '49, and I never told anybody anything other than that. The thing is that I started so young, I think, that I probably flow through a lot of people who are the same age as I am, and have done more than they have, but it's never been a problem for me. You are what you are, you get to be as old as you get to be. It really doesn't matter, but that's me.

(article submitted 16/3/1997)


ALBUMS
2/14/2010 Q Kalis Dio - Evil or Divine: Live in New York City
3/13/2001 A Bromley 8 Dio - The Very Beast of
1/16/1999 A McKay 8 Dio - Inferno: Last in Live
11/18/1996 A Bromley 8 Dio - Angry Machines
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