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Dio

Interviewed by Mike Korn
Interview with Ronnie James Dio from 2000
MSJ: This interview is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: The Early Years Volume 5 at lulu.com/strangesound.

How did your tour with Yngwie and Doro go?
Great, absolutely wonderful. It was a wonderful package. Doro was great, Yngwie blazed away all the time. It did great business throughout the country. We had a lot of enjoyment doing it. Everybody got along really well. It was one of my favorite tours, if not the most favorite.
MSJ: The night I saw the tour in Chicago, you came out and played 3 encores. Was that a typical night or was it a special show for you?
It was probably longer than what we do most of the time but as long as there's no curfew and we're having a good night and a good time, we will do everything we can do, about 23 songs in all.
MSJ: After all the time you've been in the music business, does the urge to perform still burn as brightly for you?
Absolutely, it's really the reason why I do what do. The best time of your life as a performer is being on that stage. The phone can't ring; you don't have to take out the garbage. This is your time, your special time. That's what it's all about to a musician. The rest of the stuff, you just have to put up with.
MSJ: So the work in the studio, the actual creation of the music, is secondary to the live aspect for you?
Well, I like to create the music but I think it becomes unnecessary. It's almost like, if you don't make the album, you don't tour and you can get caught up in that. There are times when I enjoy the writing process and there are times when I don't, when it gets difficult. The recording process is the same. When it gets difficult, it's not enjoyable, but if the last album we did is any example, it should be easy for us. This was the easiest album to work on that I've ever been associated with as far as writing, recording and playing it goes. It's just been amazing, but generally, the reason for recording is just to get out on the road.
MSJ: Your latest album "Magica" is a very involved concept piece. Did you come up with the story in a burst of inspiration or were these ideas in your head for years?
The only idea that had been in my head for years...and probably only about 3 years at that...was the word "magica". I saw that word on the Internet and went, whoa, what a great word that is. I can do something with that! And so for 3 years it languished in my mind but when I decided to make this concept album, I chose to call it "Magica". Everything started with just that word. The difficult part was figuring out what "Magica" was going to be. I started writing the story. Once I wrote the story, the songs came very easily. The title came first, then the story, then the songs.
MSJ: "Magica" saw you return to more fantasy-based lyrics. Your previous album "Angry Machines" tried to deal more with contemporary topics. I gather from what you've said, it was easier writing the fantasy lyrics.
It was, because of my writing style. The fantasy lyrics are more open to interpretation. When you're talking about contemporary social issues, those are hard to describe with analogy, with fantasy lyrics. I find contemporary lyrics hard to write because they don't seem to have a lot of beauty to them. They are just stark statements. I like things that are colored with a lot of metaphors and analogy.
MSJ: It's hard to use metaphors when you're describing the urban crack problem.
Exactly.
MSJ: Your lifelong fascination with medieval and fantasy subjects, was there a specific book, movie or story that sparked that for you?
The first book I remember reading that had anything to do with that was "The Black Shield of Falworth" by Sir Walter Scott. That started me off on my knight quest. And then I read a lot of Arthurian tales and a lot of science fiction. I loved the way that they wrote, the way I had to use my imagination. Fantasy is not something you can hold in your hand. Much like religion, you have to use your imagination. Because of that, I tend to use more flowery terms to describe things.
MSJ: Your lyrics tend to be very inspirational or very gloomy. Would you say that you are manic-depressive in your lyrical outlook?
Not being a psychiatrist or a psychologist, I can't tell you if what I do is symptomatic of that. You need to write things that are opposed to each other or everything will be the same. Once you've exhausted one side of your personality, you need to explore the other side because it seems new to you. I'm positive that a lot of things I have written have mirrored my feelings at the time that I wrote them.
MSJ: For example, "Rainbow in the Dark" was a very uplifting song and on the same album, "Invisible" seemed to be pessimistic.
"Invisible" wasn't meant to be pessimistic. It was meant to describe 3 problems that people have. It was meant to describe the problems of a young boy, the problems of a young girl and the problems of me, because I'm the character in the third verse. It was just meant to be an observation on life because that is really what I'm always writing about, my observations on life.
MSJ: So it was actually pretty objective?
I think so. Yeah, I think what I was trying to say to people who didn't suffer these problems was that maybe they should try to think about other people are going through.
MSJ: Over your long career, who were some of the favorite musicians you worked with?
I have to cite most of the guys I've worked with over the years. Tony Iommi and the guys in Sabbath. I loved all the guys in that band. The guys in Rainbow, too. My first three albums, I loved working with those people. I loved working with Vinnie Appice. I really enjoy working with the guys in Deep Purple because I've known them for such a long time and because they so inspirational to me when I was growing up. They played the music I wanted to play. I'd also have to say all the people who worked with me on the "Hear'n Aid" project. That was not just because they were great musicians, but because they were great people. I guess my answer is there's a hell of a lot of good people out there.

MSJ: Will you be doing another Hear'n Aid project?
Yeah, we're going to do another one. The single is written. Like the previous one, it will include different singers and guitarists. Then we'll have an entire album. We're also re-releasing the first one on CD. It was only on CD in Japan up til now.
MSJ: Is there anybody you'd like to work with that you haven't, yet?
I honestly don't sit around and think to myself, "I'd like to do something with that person". I think it's because I've already chosen the people I want to work with. I have to show loyalty to those people. I think you can get so much more out of someone who's your friend as well as a great player. There's not a guitar player out there that I'd rather work with other than Craig Goldie nor a bassist other than Jimmy Bain or a drummer other than Simon Wright, but if I had to pick somebody, I'd say Jeff Beck. He's such a great musician, head and shoulders above everybody else.
MSJ: Is the band you have now the ultimate Dio band?
I'd like to think so. Yeah, I think it is. Yes, I do.
MSJ: It seemed to be a well-oiled machine on stage.
It's a great machine. Not only is it a great machine, it's a happy machine. I think everybody who comes to our shows realizes what a great time we have on stage. It's such a plus when you love to play together.
MSJ: What's been your biggest Spinal Tap moment?
Yeah, we've had a couple of those. Now when I was in Black Sabbath, we had a giant cross that was made of broken mirrors with a track of lights that would chase around it. This was when we were touring with Blue Oyster Cult on the "Black and Blue" tour. We wanted to do something special with this cross because this was in Madison Square Garden. We had BOC's pyro guy rig the cross up so it would catch on fire real dramatically. "OK," I said to the audience, "we're going to do something really special now" and I went into this big spiel trying to get the crowd psyched up. "I'm gonna count 1...2...3 and when we get to 3, raise your fingers up in the Devil Sign, something's going to happen!" So we count down 1...2...3...with 20,000 people in the crowd. And then the cross goes "spffff...sputter...pop...fzzzzz". And that was it. That was so embarrassing. That was a great Spinal Tap moment!
MSJ: What was the last CD you bought?
The last CD I bought was by an English band called Skunk Anansie. I can't remember the title but boy, that girl could sing!
MSJ: Any final messages, Ronnie?
Not really, except keep an eye out for the new Hear'N Aid project, and we're going to do another Dio album with the same band. It will be the second album in the "Magica" trilogy.
 
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