Ronnie James Dio
Why I Quit Bloody Sabbath
When Kerrang! scribe Pete Makowski interviewed Black Sabbath's two remaining members, Geezer Butler and Tony Iommi, earlier this year, hediscovered that they were more than happy to have parted company with their former vocalist Ronnie James Dio.
"We felt we were being taken over by Ronnie," declared Butler, whilst Iommi opined: "In the States he was getting like a little Hitler. He's got a great voice, but personality conflicts took over really." Tony and Geezer also claimed that, during the mixing of the 'Live Evil' album in Los Angeles, Dio had tampered with the tapes and endeavoured to bring up the sound level of his vocals. Finally, they could stand it no longer and gave him his marching orders ...
Mind you, there are always two sides to every story and it was intriguing to hear what Ronnie had to say about the split. Initially, he was loathe to comment and told me: "At this juncture, I'd rather not say anything." Dio was evidently waiting to see what Iommi and Butler would tell the music press. And so recently I telephoned him at his LA home, figuring that he must have seen the papers by now - he obviously had!
"Well, I guess enough has been said by them," began Ronnie, "so it must be my turn now. The first thing I'd like to do is refute a couple of lies they came up with. That thing about me sneaking into the studios like a little weasel, after they'd been waiting around, and tampering with the tapes is absolutely untrue.
"In tact I was usually the first to arrive at the studios, with the engineer, and we would wait and wait and wait. But as we waited, they never showed. If they did, then there was this real 'coldness' about the place."
So why would Iommi and Butler say such things if they weren't true?
"Because it was time for them to protect themselves - it was always their name and their band. Their version of the story just shows what frightened little rabbits they are, as far as I'm concerned. Other than that, it just got to be no fun at all. There were too many little innuendos - too many knives being shoved in people's backs."
"I don't know why ... I guess that basically they're extremely paranoid. Everyone felt that Tony was some sort of God figure and Geezer tagged along behind. Tony wants to be the 'controller', but it takes more talent than just being a good guitarist to do that. It requires cemented and respect, and Tony couldn't get that. In the beginning it was great: the band had a lot to offer and it was fun, but it all fell apart in the end."
What about the allegations that Dio was taking over?
"Well, in actual fact, that's probably very true," Ronnie admits. "But it wasn't something that was pre-planned by me. If you've got weaker characters in a band then it's only natural that the strong take over. It's not my fault that I'm strong and they're weak. I'll readily confess to having a strong character. I also thought that spending five months putting a live album together was criminal."
Ronnie considers it a shame that Iommi and Butler decided to make such an issue of the bust-up and reckons: "They could have left the whole thing to rest, but they had to be fools and bring it up. It just proves what idiots they are!"
So no love has been lost then?
"Not really, no and I am a bit disappointed at the way things have turned out, but there you go. When I left Rainbow, Ritchie and I didn't part as enemies, contrary to public opinion. We were friends and we still are. But I know I will never be a friend of either Geezer Butler or Tony Iommi. I respected Ritchie Blackmore because he was a gentleman - I wish I could say the some thing for them. I could say more but it really isn't worth airing the dirty laundry."
Meanwhile, Dio has cut 'Holy Diver' with the aid of ex-Sabs skin beater Vinnie Appice, bassist and old Rainbow 'chum' Jimmy Bain and guitarist Vivian Campbell, who used to be in the Irish band Sweet Savage.
"I spent a month and a half in the studio," says Dio, "which was more or less what I expected. It was pretty well prepared and in fact I'd had the deal for two years. But I never let it get in the way of Sabbath and while I was with them I had plenty of commitments with touring and recording. As soon as I'd split from the Sabs though I started thinking about it and planning things out.
"When Vinnie and I decided that we were going to continue working together, we came over to England in search of a bassist and a guitarist. We definitely wanted to use British musicians - I've always been very influenced by the scene over there - and I didn't really want to work with Americans.
"As soon as we got to London the first person I called was Jimmy Bain because thought that he might be able to recommend some people and it turned out that he wasn't doing anything at the time. We then decided to have a blow and he recommended Viv and things seemed to work out very well. Jimmy and Vinnie make a great rhythm section and so they decided to come over to the States."
Ronnie produced 'Holy Diver' himself ("I was sick and tired of bending to the whims of others") and it should be released in the next month or so. There are nine cuts featured and the titles include 'Don't Talk To Strangers', 'Rainbow In The Dark', 'Straight To The Heart', 'Gypsy' and 'Caught In The Middle'. Dio is responsible for the bulk of the songwriting, although he has collaborated on a few tracks with Bain and Campbell.
What about touring plans?
Ronnie revealed that he might add a keyboard player, one that's prepared to take a 'shadow role', but he's hoping that the line-up of himself, Bain, Appice and Campbell will be able to deliver the goods on their own. I must confess that Dio has always been one of my favourite hard rock vocalists and it'll be interesting to see how things developed.
Having completed our interview, Ronnie wanted to add just one more thing about Sabbath. "The thing that just about sums up everything is the cover of the 'Live Evil' LP. If you take a good hard look, you'll see what I mean. For a start, all the names used to be in alphabetical order but on the sleeve they read 'Butler/Iommi/Dio' - the same goes for the writing credits.
Secondly, my professional working name is Ronnie James Dio and not just Ronnie Dio - that ws a swift kick up the ass. I'm sure it was done deliberately. And as far as Vinnie's namecheck goes - written very small - that just makes no sense at all. Even if he was a 'hired hand', he was still one quarter of the band. There are other things like the pictures, but it's not worth going on and on.
"I hope this will be the final time that I have to say anything about the whole issue - but I figured that I might just as well have my say and let people know my side of the story.
© Pete Makowski, Kerrang! - April 1983