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Ronnie James Dio - singer, Dio / Black Sabbath / Rainbow / Elf
March 27, 2000 - Maritime Hall - San Francisco, CA

Ronnie James Dio is one of the most well-known voices in rock. He is idolized by many heavy metal fans and, even his own name says "God". (Dio being Latin for "God"). Known to some as the Man on the Silver Mountain and affectionately, to others as the Torture Midget (by a couple of unnamed bands Dio has toured with, Ronnie James Dio certainly has his legacy.

Ronnie has had his share of struggles throughout his musical history - First as the leader of Elf, then as reigning vocalizer in Rainbow (with a volatile Ritchie Blackmore), on to replace Ozzy Osbourne in Black Sabbath (one of his strongest points) and finally on to his own namesake, Dio. Dio, however big he started off as with his own band, has had his ups and downs. No more are they headlining the 20,000 seat arenas. As well, in taking a chance, Dio has released a new concept album, his first such partaking. This particular offering is considerably slower in material than former albums, a possible turn-off for many fans who expect a renewed "Rainbow In The Dark" or such tunes.

The first time that I had met Dio was when I had done an interview with him in 1982 at his very first show ever of his own solo band in Antioch, CA. At that point I was a young upstart who had been warned to not upset Mr. Dio with any particularly touchy questions. There I sat as I worried what I may or may not discuss with him and how it may affect my future writing career. As it turned out, the interview went fine - albeit, with my feeling as though some issues had been danced around instead of answered directly. (There will be a reprint of that interview at a later time.) Dio was recently on tour as we managed to sequitur him at a backstage location for a quick round of chatting, this time double-teamed with myself and another writer both lobbing questions that had to be fit into a short time-span. So, as we continued...

K2K: To start with, do you remember playing in Antioch [California] at the Concert Barn?
RJD: I remember that so well. You have no idea how well I remember that. I remember that because it was a show that we had no idea where we were going to go. We had just started, first album "Holy Diver". Someone said, "You're playing the Concert Barn in Antioch." We drove out there in a bus. The bus took us there. We kept driving and driving, took a left and we went past nothing. We took a right and went past more nothing and then left... I went, "This is a joke." Remember, I had played with Sabbath and we had played for hundreds of thousands of people. I went, "Is this what my life has come to?" We turned up at that place and there weren't that many people there because we got there really early in the day. We went to the house that was there and they made food. It was great. Then we went to the dressing area which was a trailer of some kind behind the stage. The next thing I know, we're up onstage and there are 3,000 people in the place. Suddenly we had broken every record that Antioch ever had and ever record that Antioch ever will have and it was magnificent. That was the first time that we'd ever played. The only material that we knew was all of "Holy Diver" which we did and some Sabbath songs and some Rainbow songs. Luckily we had those too. I will never forget it. It was one of the most defining career moments of my life.

K2K: Judging that it was at an actual barn, it was 3,000 people and how much livestock?
RJD: (laughs) I saw no livestock but it did smell slightly.

K2K: So, the new album "Magica", I just got it today and listened to it. My question is, is it going to be a movie project or what? What is the point of this kind of concept like this? It seems a little involved for just an album.
RJD: The point was that I've not done anything in that writing mode for about seven or eight years. From "Dehumanizer" to "Strange Highways" to "Angry Machines" and the live album. They were all a bit more realistic and perhaps socially oriented, which is not really what I'm known for. With a guitar player like Tracy, who is a lot more industrial than any player I've ever played with before, I've listened to the people, during that five or six year period that Tracy played with us and they said (mockingly), "We don't like your guitar player, man. We want you to some stuff like what Dio's all about." We did this for five years because I still think that Tracy is a great guitar player. I think he always will be a great guitar player. He'll do what suits him at some point.

We did not fire Tracy or get rid of Tracy. Craig came into the picture because I asked Craig to be another guitar player in the band, because I didn't want to lose Tracy because I thought that I could get the best of both worlds. Tracy said that he just couldn't play with another guitar player. It wasn't Craig. It could have been Jimi Hendrix and he still couldn't have played with him because that was not what he did. So, when he was gone, that made it easy to write this kind of album. With this kind of album, the concept was needed because I didn't want it to seem as though seven years went by, we're trying to be a little bit more modernistic and a little bit more realistic, and failing. I didn't want to go, "Uh, OK, we'll do another "Holy Diver" without the concept, without the story to follow, without something a bit more special than just a bunch of songs. It had to be a concept for me. I've always been known as a storytelling anyway and I wanted to write a story that no one else had written before that had some connection with the music and that was special to me. That's why I did it.

K2K: In an interview that happened in Paris, a gentleman interviewed you and hit upon the point of religion and what you thought of the whole concept. You told a story that was quite similar to the way that ""Magica"" is set up. At that point you said that the Bible had been written by aliens and shot to Earth and they're going to watch to see what we'll do in the world.
RJD: That sounds somewhat similar but the difference was that, my concept, when asked about religion was that I felt that the Bible was not only a book of such ancient origin that has been changed from time immemorial so that it becomes not even close to what, if those people actually wrote it - you know what I mean. It's crap. Come on. I tell you a story, you tell fifteen other people, and by the end of the day it becomes something else. I don't believe in it.

So when asked about religion, I said that the Bible was probably written by a bunch of fraternity guys on another planet. They put it in a little rocket ship and whoosh, there it goes. It happened to land on Earth and somebody went, "Whoa! This is the shit and we've discovered it." That's my impression of religion. That's the way I feel. If the aliens were mentioned, I think it was an alien society, not the aliens that I pictured on this concept album. Here they're more robotic and more digital. They are like the Borg of Star Trek. That's really the way I envisioned them was more Borg-like than anything.

K2K: Of course, it comes out of context, you're own personal beliefs.
RJD: Oh that, yeah. (laughs)

K2K: You give an interview and somebody takes it out of context to make it something else.
RJD: Well, like the Bible, the interview goes on and gets changed from saying to writing to interpretation. That's what I'm saying. Basically you're right. It was not anything to do with this, but now that you mention it, obviously subconsciously I must have drawn from that idea of "the book". "The book" is not magic, it's not the Bible, it was not sent anywhere, it was already there. Yeah, sure. Minisculy. That's a good point. That's a really good point. Very good point.

K2K: Have you seen the movie "Stigmata" which is based on the Gospel of St. Thomas which is considered heresy by the Catholic Church? It is supposed to be the actual Gospel of Christ whereas the other Gospels are supposed to be more hearsay. I was wondering if you had seen it based on your beliefs.
RJD: No, my beliefs go back a long way before that film was ever even seen.

K2K: My point was that the Gospel says that God and Heaven are within you and you do not need an actual church to find Him.
RJD: That was always inherent. Again, let's remember, who knows that those things being ascribed to Christ were really being said. I mean, come on, did some guy sit there with a notebook saying, "Excuse me, Jesus? Wait, wait, tape ran out. Let me turn it over." and more than the guy sat there and went (acting as if writing), "So let the masses..." Things like that, things like Buddha, whom I think was "The Dude" to tell you the truth, if Buddha was that same kind of thing. People weren't sitting there going, "Buddha, what was that?... Uh, what did you say?...Buddha... Oh.... Men or women?" I'm sorry. What happens is that there are people, there are good people who have good thoughts. Those people who have good thoughts keep saying them and they affect other people. They become a moral, a rule of life. Just like bad people will say bad things and that will become a rule of life as well. It doesn't mean that Jesus said it. It doesn't mean that Buddha said it. It doesn't mean that Ronnie said or you said it or you or you. It doesn't mean that. We are what we are. The whole problem for me is this "faith" thing. "This is what it is and you'd better believe or you're going to...." I find that just so counterproductive.

K2K: I don't know if I'd attribute that to faith though. It sounds more like a control issue.
RJD: What does religion tell you? Their faith is "If you don't do this, you'll go to Hell. If you do this, you'll go to Heaven." Etc., etc. That's their faith. That is the faith of almost, well certainly of the Catholic religion and that's the one that I grew up in. That's the one that I can relate to. I can't relate to Buddhism because I'm not that. I can't relate to Oriental religion because they are in a totally different direction than I was brought up. I'm telling you my own feelings per my own social upbringing. I'm only a product of the environment that made me what I am, so I can talk about the Catholic part of it. That's why you hear me say these things about Christ and about my feelings about the Bible. I would love to believe in a Christ. I would love to. You know? When I see Christ in you and you and him and in her, that's just the way I think that life is supposed to be. That's what it's all about. Heaven and Hell to me is where we are and we make our own Heaven and Hell. We're not going to go anyplace else. We're not going to fly off with little cherubs going anywhere.

K2K: How did you get to be on South Park?
RJD: Well, South Park was very strange. I got a call from Wendy, my manager, who said, "I just got a call from South Park and they want to use 'Holy Diver'." I said, "Get the f..." I said, "They'll crucify me." She said, "No, they're really big Dio fans." I said, "Sure. I'm sure that's going to work." She said, "No, I'm telling you they are." So, I thought to myself, no matter what they do to me, this is an opportunity to make me part of Americana. I let that one go. How many people could be part of South Park. I said, "Go for it." They did it. I saw it and thought it was great. They gave me more attention than they ever gave anybody else, certainly musically. They played the whole song and they played it on the credits of the outset. In fact, somebody from Warner Bros., where we used to be signed, called up because we stay in close contact, called up and said, "We've never seen treatment like that. They must've loved you." It was great. Even if they crucified me, I felt that I could've dealt with it. I think that what made me most proud of it all was that the people who did it kind of knew that I'm not an a**hole and so they didn't treat me like an a**hole. That, to me, was the most precious thing about it all. It's one of the funniest ones I've seen. It really was great.

K2K: Speaking of TV brings me back to ""Magica"". Is this going to be a movie project?
RJD: No, I don't think so. I never thought of doing this album as this big bright light that's going to shine down because we did an album called ""Magica"" because we wrote these wonderful songs about something that's bigger than life and it's Dio from the "Holy Diver" days and it was going to be Cow Palace and Madison Square Garden and the Coliseum and the things that we always did. It was never like that for me. It never has been like that for me. It only meant "how good is the music going to be". Luckily, this is a really special project and it has so many aspects that could be explored.

I think that animation, filmwise, would be very good for this. I would love to be able to present it much in the way that we presented "Sacred Heart". Great production. It's a different time and a different place and you have to realized what you are and what has happened to this music. What I will do, at some point, I will have it presented, for a couple of nights, in a theater for 3,000 people or 5,000 people and have it properly choreographed and done with all the effects that I see in my mind, just for two nights and then it will be a video. Perhaps a film. But not a film like the entire story. I would like it to be that, eventually, and that would be for me, computer graphics. Expenses have gone down so much for that. People are brilliant who do it. I think that this idea, this story, could never be done with real people, real actors, because it looks so empty. My real thing that I've always wanted is this, I don't want this to be another album like "Magica," the "Scream", and then part three "Magica."

I would like it to be literary trilogy. I would like to write this part as story one, but not just in the short form that you see, but fleshed out, the way I see it all. The second part of the trilogy would take you back to the character Eriel, the central good guy who dies in this first part, and from his life early on until it gets to the point of what happens in this story. The third part of the trilogy from Challis, the young boy who saved the planet, find out what happens with him after that. The great wars and battles that were fought out. What would fulfill me is to be able to write it. I love to write. I think I'm good at it. This was one of the most difficult things to do because you had to do a Reader's Digest, a real Reader's Digest version of what would be an epic story. I pat myself on the back for that. You condense it, you sold it, it's something that you had to say, it took you to places, but without the narration I don't think it would have worked as good. The narration, it's pretty cool. I didn't do it because I love myself and love to hear myself talk, I thought it was special.

K2K: You could always be nominated for Best Heavy Metal Spoken Word for the Grammys.
RJD: That's it. You got it, dude.

K2K: What about a video game?
RJD: Video game is in the works. If they do, they do. If they don't, they don't. It wasn't my idea. But I think it would be great. They can do wonderful things.

K2K: Tell me about Children Of The Night and Hearing Aid 2.
RJD: Children Of The Night is a charity that we've been involved with for 10 years, Wendy and I. It was started by a woman named Dr. Lois Lee. She's my hero. Dr. Lois Lee, as in Tommy Lee with absolutely no f***ing connection in no f***ing way. She's like a superhero. She's had it for 18 years now. She first began it in Los Angeles where she would go to pimps and drug addicts and drug dealers who were taking little kids off the bus, like 12 years old. Twelve year old kids from a bus, who would try to get away from sexual abuse - it's all about sexual abuse, this charity. They get off the bus and there would be a guy there, "Oh, want to be stripper?" You know what you're going to be? You're going to be a prostitute. Most of these kids die of AIDs.

Within the 10 years that we've been involved in it, we've been able to build a 24 bed shelter in Van Nuys, California with a school. Just one of the facilities for kids from 9 to 18. Some of them are nine years old and have no idea what this is all about. From nine to eighteen. When they're 18, they're released. They have to go away. They're prepared now for a job. They've had an education. It's almost an adult life. Most of them are dying of AIDs and most die before they become 18 years old. That's a sad thought. They're strong kids, they take no crap, and they're there because they went to Hollywood because that's where they think it's all about. For "the dream" to be a rock star or a movie star? Shouldn't we give back to them? You bet your ass. Because we're their idols and that's why they went there. This is a perfect opportunity to give back to them.

Like I said, we've done this for 10 years. Some great people have given a lot of good money and done concerts. We've done a couple of concerts - one at Irvine and one at the Forum. Ozzy did a show for us. Great White did a show for us. Johnny Carson's a contributor. Roseanne. Hugh Hefner. Richard Marx. We got half a million dollars from Richard Marx from a song that he gave us all of his publishing from his biggest hit album. It's just a wonderful, wonderful cause. There's some real, real great kids. They're the best. So we're going to do that. Craig and I have written a song called "Throwaway Children", inspired by a poem by one of the kids, who has since died. That's the way they view themselves, as throwaway kids. It's such an incredible talent and so a descriptive title that I had to use. It six month's time we'll record it. So far we've got commitments from Yngwie, from Viv Campbell, our old guitar player, Bruce Dickinson's going to do it. I won't tell you the others because we don't have confirmation yet, but there's so many. There's going to be six guitar players and six vocalists, maybe seven of each.

We're also going to include "Hearing Aid". "Hearing Aid" was only released as a CD in Japan. So, that will also be released in CD form, the album that it was. "Children Of The Night" will not only be that one song, it will be like "Hearing Aid". It will be songs contributed by other people, so it will be like a proper album. You get two for one and all that money will go to Children Of The Night.

For more information about Dio - http://www.ronniejamesdio.com

Written by Philip Anderson and Joe Camareno

Philip Anderson is a musician, in addition to being a writer/photographer. He has performed as a guitarist/vocalist, as well as songwriter, in several bands over the past 20 years. As a writer and photographer, he has been published by several magazines and in several books, and had his works appear on television.

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