Hard Radio Interview
Yes indeed, Scottish-Canadian-American bass legend Jimmy Bain has seen the rise, having toured and written through the classic years of both Rainbow and Dio. And he's most definitely seen the fall, having spent much of his productive years and the hazy '90s "falling foul to the demon drugs" intimating that "I did everything, but heroin was my drug of choice."
Now one year clean and as personable and articulate as ever, Bain is set to resume a career too long on the sidelines, likely seeing active duty as part of Dio's new Magica album, as well as shopping his personal project The Key, featuring Tracy G. and a drummer who is now (he thinks) working with David Lee Roth. HardRadio got a bit of a career retrospective from this talented metal legend, a bassist, keyboardist, and singer, who - don't forget - co-wrote fully 17 tracks from Dio's first four albums.
In addition to the Dio records, Bain was on the first three Rainbow albums, did two records with Brian Robertson as Wild Horses, was integral to the overlooked WWIII project, worked on both of Phil Lynott's solo albums, played uncredited bass on Scorpions' Love At First Sting, and worked with Kate Bush, John Cale, Gary Moore as well as contributing to another 25 or so records throughout the rock world. To commemorate the man's return, HardRadio gathered Mr. Bain to recount a few tales from his blessed metal past. Enjoy!
On joining Rainbow...
"It's actually a crazy story. When I was living in London I was living with a couple of roadies who were also Scottish. One of them, named Fergie, worked with Jethro Tull and the other one worked with Ritchie. He was with a band called Badfinger before that. Ritchie decided to leave Deep Purple and planned to put the Rainbow together, and he did it with Ronnie and the guys from Elf. But he didn't really like the bass player at all so he was going to be the first to get replaced. So I got a call from this guy Fergie, from LA, and I was in London, it was about 3:00 in the morning on a Wednesday.
And he said 'Ritchie's looking for a bass player blah blah blah,' and the next minute he hands the phone to Ritchie and he talks to me for about an hour. And he basically asked me when I was playing next. And I said, at the weekend. We had a residency at the Marquee for about six Sunday nights. So he said, 'well, I'll come over and check you out.' And I was going, 'yeah, sure, sure.' You think there's no way that's going to happen. On the Sunday when I went down to the bar, just down from the Marquee, I walked in and there was Blackmore and Ronnie Dio, and their manager and Fergie, and a couple of other people that had flown over from L.A. to check me out.
So with my band unfortunately, the two guitar players couldn't play a note, and the drummer, you know, he just drank too much Guinness or something like that. The band just completely sucked, you now? And I thought, 'oh, there we go, there's my big chance to get into something good.' But then Ritchie took me aside after. I was apologizing because the band really didn't play very well, and he said, 'well, they made you look really good.' And a couple of weeks later I was in L.A. and I had gotten the gig with Rainbow. And then later he threw out most of the other guys in the band and replaced them with Cozy and Tony Carey, and then we went and did Rainbow Rising."
The chemistry between Ritchie and Ronnie...
"At that point I think they were pretty happy with each other. Ritchie was definitely happy with Ronnie's vocals and the fact that Ronnie had a really down to earth personality. And Ronnie could handle doing a bunch of interviews, which Ritchie didn't really like doing. He had this image of not talking to the press, and he worked on that really hard. Ronnie's lyrics were also important. Absolutely! In essence, that is probably what he loved as much as anything about Ronnie. Because that medieval thing was really where Ritchie was at also."
Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow and Rainbow Rising...
"I like the first album, but I think Rainbow Rising was more of a band effort. I mean, the first album sounds like it gelled and everything, and the songs are good. I thought Rainbow Rising was a little bit short in terms of tracks. We always did the absolute minimum, never anything left over. But I really liked being involved with it. It had great potential and I would have liked to have been around a little longer because I had just started getting into writing with them on a couple of songs that didn't make it until the album after that, 'Kill The King' for one.
I was involved with the writing of that with Cozy. That was the first band thing that we did. But by the time that came out, it was just Powell, Blackmore and Dio. If I had been in the band I think, I would have gotten credit for it. But we were starting to do things like that. But unfortunately, I don't know, Ritchie would wake up one day and he wouldn't hear Rainbow on the radio, because they weren't playing anything as hard as that, and he would decide to change one of the musicians. When I got fired, I was in shock.
I went over to see him and he really couldn't give me a reason why he got rid of me. He just sort of looked every which way but at me. I had gathered from that that he had made a decision and he had to stick by it. Because, you know, the management had got hold of me and fired me, and then I went to see him. I don't know if he had second thoughts about it. I know they had a bit of difficulty replacing me because the guy that they got, Mark Clarke, didn't work out. They gave me a call, and I said, 'I don't really think so. After you got rid of me once, it would be quite easy to get rid of me again, so why should I bother?' So I went on to do Wild Horses with Robo."
Rainbow on tour and On Stage...
"Pretty well everything that was in the live show went on On Stage. I don't think there was any doctoring at all either. I don't think Ritchie would ever consider going in and overdubbing or anything like that. It's quite a long record. It was just a lot of fun to do. That came out after I was out of the band, so that was kind of a bonus for me. In terms of touring, it was all funny at the time, because Ritchie, at the best of times, was pretty neurotic to say the least. All kinds of stuff went on, but not on stage.
You'd come back and your room would be completely gone. You'd come back to the hotel and there would be nothing there, just a light bulb, no dresser or anything and it was all in the bathroom. They would spend hours and hours and hours trying to keep you away from your room so they could do all this stuff to you. And there were a couple of instances where we got kicked out of hotels in the middle of the night because of something one of the guys had done. I remember Cozy at one time scaled up the side of this hotel in Germany.
I think he was on some kind of medication at the time (laughs) and he had a fire extinguisher and he let it go. But unfortunately he had gotten the floors mixed up. He was supposed to be letting it off in Ian Broad's room, Ritchie's roadie at the time, but he misjudged the floors and he let it off in some German salesman's room. Then we were all woken up and ejected from the hotel. It was a lot of crazy stuff. You'd wake up to somebody axing your door down. It was crazy, but it never really affected your performance or the records. It was always done on the side."
Working with Scorpions...
"I played bass on all of Love At First Sting with Bobby Rondinelli on drums. We were in Abba's studio which was the most expensive at the time and it just wasn't working with Herman. I hate to be mean, but he was just awful, playing on the same kit he had when he started way back. He'd never change the heads on the drums. He couldn't get anything right and it was taking us forever, and I knew Bobby Rondinelli from touring with Rainbow so we got him in and we had three or four tracks done in two days. That band was all Rudy's rhythm playing. Also, Dieter Dierks had those guys by the short and curlies.
We had to demo the whole record before we even recorded it. Otherwise, I know they had other bass players in all the time, I know about up to Blackout, but it was usually a buddy from Hanover. That's normal for them; it's a German thing. Francis didn't seem to mind or think it was weird at all. But I couldn't play with a bunch of Germans like that. The only guy I could communicate with was their English roadie. I've never done any other ghosting work; I was credited all the time. But on that one, when I got that album and wasn't credited, I didn't care. They paid me a lot of money to do it."
Jimmy drains a pint or two with Brian Robertson...
"Oh yeah! And he's from Scotland as well. I met him when I was in my band Harlot, before Rainbow, and I stayed pretty close to him. After I got the boot from Rainbow I went straight back to England the next day. And he had been in some kind of skirmish and he couldn't play with Lizzy for awhile so they were using Gary Moore. So him and I got together and we kind of clicked and wrote some songs and went in and demoed them. He was with Thin Lizzy's management and my best friend was Phil Lynott as well.
So I kind of had this idea that him and Robo had had this head-to-head thing that was never really going to be sorted out. It worked out good for me because Phil was basically telling me that 'if you're going to work with that creep, good luck to you!' But I kind of liked it. It was craziness, but we managed to get a record deal and put out a couple of records, one of which was produced by Trevor Rabin. I liked it because I got to sing and we wrote all the stuff. But you know, at that time when we were in London, you couldn't get arrested if you were playing anything heavy. It was kind of punky and rebellious and we were playing the wrong kind of music at the time."
The late, great Phil Lynott...
"Oh, Phil Lynott was just unbelievable. I was on tour with Dio and I came back that Christmas that he got sick. He's my daughter's godfather. We were really tight. I was born the same day as his eldest daughter, Sarah and our wives were really tight, close together. We lived like, I don't know, three or four miles away from each other in London. Actually, I worked and wrote on a couple of his albums, Solo In Soho, and his second one. I wrote 'Girls' with him, 'Dear Miss Lonelyhearts', and on the second one, The Phil Lynott Album, 'Old Town' and the one that Mark Knopfler played on, 'Ode To Liberty'.
And I played on all that stuff, keyboards, bass, everything. That was a real buzz because he was a real talent and a really a nice guy. Like I say, I was on tour with Dio, and I came back and saw him at Christmas, actually stayed at his house, and I had to leave on Boxing Day. I took his two kids over to see my daughter for Christmas Day and I never saw him again because he was taken to hospital that day. And I had to leave the day after Christmas and actually fly to Vancouver to pick up the tour again and I didn't get to go to his funeral. And I was really kind of destroyed by that. But these things happen. You never know when you're going to get taken. Pretty amazing."
The Dio years...
"We were doing Wild Horses in a recording studio in Dublin, and Sweet Savage was doing stuff in the morning so I introduced Ronnie to Vivian Campbell. Viv was interested despite doing the demos with Sweet Savage. Viv and I shared an apartment together. The first album was really raw. Ronnie was producing and we had this really great engineer who was a big part of the sound. Towards the end of Dio it got to be too much though, with the stage show and the spiders and the guitar that shot lasers. When we first started on Holy Diver, playing with half a drum kit and all, we just knew it was magic.
I had stuff from Wild Horses, Viv had Sweet Savage stuff, we were all writing. I wrote a lot on the first two albums but it just got harder and harder to come up with stuff. We all thought Last In Line was a bit smooth, although I liked everything about it, the cover, everything. By the time Sacred Heart happened, I looked at that monster on the cover and thought, he's laughing at ME now! Touring was always a blast. I was famous for being lit up and still being able to play. I even fell over a few times. It was like it was part of the show. Ronnie and I got pissed together a few times but I always got carried away and had to be carried to the limo and stuff. But as long as I played live and was creative and wrote songs, it didn't matter. Toward the end, Ronnie was having fights with Viv, and you get to a point where you just think you've got it, and you think you can bring in keyboards and play with the arrangements. I always thought we had such a unique sound, we could just be Dio. We didn't have to try write like anybody else."
© Martin Popoff, Hardradio 2001