For those who surrender to their obsessive/compulsive natures and routinely alphabetize every piece of entertainment that they own it is guys like Bobby Rondinelli who just reek havoc on all sense of order. The man has hauled his drum kit through nearly the entire alphabet of Hard Rock music, from BLACK SABBATH and BLUE OYSTER CULT to QUIET RIOT, RAINBOW and the SUN RED SUN sessions. The sanity saver in all this is that when you have cross referenced it all you find that not once does a single beat that the man has played ever fail to thrill and he is about to do it again.

Bobby, along with his guitarist brother, Teddy, vocalist Tony Martin and bassist Neil Murray, is preparing to launch the second RONDINELLI disc which should be manna to the truly Hard Rock starved. If you look at the names involved on this project not only can you see more cross referencing possibilities than on your average tribute record but also the near recreation of one of the classic BLACK SABBATH lineups from the nineties and that can only be a good thing.

While I was researching for a book project specifically on BLACK SABBATH Bobby was good enough to lend some time and insight into his dealings with that group as well as touching on some other topics. By conversations end I thought it a waste not to use it all somewhere, somehow so here is a bit of a tease for both the book and the new RONDINELLI disc.

As legend has it you were first spun into orbit around BLACK SABBATH by Ray Gillen who was the singer in your band, RONDINELLI. Was it that Tony Iommi was looking for a singer and he came to see RONDINELLI, is that how it went?

BR: No, that is not true at all. What actually had happened was that I found Ray when he was just doing cover stuff and I got him in my band. We rehearsed for a year before we even did a gig and then we were out doing gigs and shopping the demo tapes that we had made. We had a few companies interested but then SABBATH stole him!(laughs)

Did Ray just call you one day and say, "Hey I am going to go with this other thing..." or did you know he was auditioning for SABBATH?

BR: Actually a friend of his called me and said, "I think that you better check out what is going on with Ray" and I said, "Well, you know, let him do what he wants." I believe that you can't stop anybody from doing what they want to do but that they should be a man and call you and tell you but we buried the hatchet a little while after all that. The funny thing is that I had just turned down WHITESNAKE three weeks before he did this and he (Ray) was like, "Oh, that is so cool man because Coverdale is my favorite singer and I can't believe you said no to him." And I said, "Well, you know, I believe in this band. . ." and then like a month later he is gone!(laughs)

And then he ended up just finishing the tour with SABBATH and then dumping them!(laughs)

BR: Yeah. And then the WHITESNAKE record sold like eight million copies! I can't believe that I turned that down but what are you going to do, life goes on. And, like I said, we made up at the end, we were friends.

That's right, the two of you actually worked on the same record together just before he died, right?

BR: Yeah but it was weird because he was here doing vocals while I was with SABBATH!(laughs) It was like I had done the drums and then I gave him a call and asked if he wanted to sing on it but I wasn't actually around when he was doing any of it because I was in England rehearsing with SABBATH. It is a small world you know.

That was kind of an unexpected deal there, you joining SABBATH, because not long before "CROSS PURPOSES" came out there was to be a full blown reunion with Ozzy happening but the Osbourne's gave Tony a screwing on that at the time, or so it seemed?

BR: Yeah, there was always a lot of that going on but I was never really that well informed, in fact, I found out that they were getting back with Ozzy through MTV.(laughs) Nobody called me!

They did it again!(laughs)

BR: Yeah, that hurt, they could have at least called.

That seems to be standard practice in this business.

BR: Yeah and it is unfortunate because I really like Tony. I think that he is a really good guy and I hope that he does well which he seems to be doing.

Yeah, they will ride this until it is completely dead or the arthritis sets in.(laughs)

BR: Yeah!(laughs) They still have a few years left anyway. I think that Tony actually got better to be honest. I mean, he was always really good but I think that he is better now than when he was a kid. Some guys can just lose it but Tony takes it very serious, Iommi is not just in it to be a Rock star, he really loves playing guitar. We would go to soundchecks sometimes and he would screw around with his amps and things for like and hour or an hour and a half just trying to get it perfect and I respect that about him.

That is great and unusual because most guys who have been around that long will let their techs do the sound checks.

BR: No, Tony took it all really seriously and you know he just loves to play, he loves to jam, and he loves to screw around. He is a really good guy too and I really enjoyed playing with Tony.

You actually had two separate tenures with the band, once with the "CROSS PURPOSES" lineup and tour and then they called you back in when Cozy Powell quit during the "FORBIDDEN" tour?

BR: Yeah.

Was the material that came to be "CROSS PURPOSES" pretty much ready to record when you were called in or was there still some writing that went on involving you?

BR: They had some riffs and a few songs put together but it wasn't completely done, no. They were still in the writing stages when I got there. The first day after I got there they just started throwing some riffs at me and we just played with them and had a good time. They were smiling about it and I was in I guess.(laughs) It was fun and we would do a lot of jamming and working out parts so it was a good working situation actually.

How long were you over there before you actually took it into the studio to record "CROSS PURPOSES?"

BR: I think we might have done like a month or six weeks of rehearsing and writing and then we took like a week off and I went home for a bit and then flew back to go in and do the album.

By this point SABBATH was on an independent label with a smaller budget so was there a producer there directing things or did you guys pretty much get it to the point where someone else would come in and polish it off?

BR: I think that the producer's job on that one, his name was Leif Masses, I think he got credit for producing but I am not sure. He was the engineer and we kind of knew what we wanted to do going in because we were pretty well rehearsed you know. It was like we dictated how the band was going to sound. We did a lot of demos at rehearsal and stuff like that so we kind of knew what we wanted going in.

Do you get much chance or have the desire to listen to that record now?

BR: I throw it on every once in a while, I think it was a good record, I really do.

You like the final product that you got then?

BR: I like the sound on it. When you first get a record you go, "I wish that was a little different" but when you stay away from it for a little while and just put it on it kind of rocks. It really had some life to it. It sounded like it was really a Rock band playing on it.(laughs)

It seems like all involved, with the possible exception of Geezer, remember that period fondly so it was a little weird that when the original three of Ozzy, Tony and Geezer decided to do a "re-union" they opted to use Ozzy's solo drummer and then later Vinnie Appice instead of giving you the gig, I mean, you were the last drummer of record at the time. Any insight into why that was?

BR: I don't really know the answer to that but they did call me to do one of the Ozz-Fest shows at one point, while I was in BLUE OYSTER CULT, and I already had that commitment so I couldn't do it.

Was that on the American Ozz-Fest?

BR: I am pretty sure that it was American. I think that it was one of the last shows that they did with the guy from FAITH NO MORE. I think that he had another commitment and couldn't do the last show and Tony supposedly said, "It has got to be Bobby or Bill" to Sharon Osbourne but who knows. There is so much politics involved with a lot of that stuff but I know that from a musical point of view I always got along great with Tony. Geezer, I always thought Geezer was a great bass player too.

You actually played with two different bass players in SABBATH, first Geezer and then Neil Murray with whom you are actually doing another RONDINELLI record?

BR: That is right! Neil was actually just here last week in fact.

So you have kind of recreated about three-quarters of that SABBATH lineup because Tony Martin is singing on the disc, right?

BR: Yes, yes and it is really coming along great. Neil played his ass off on it to. I knew Neil was great but I think he is even greater now because he really played incredibly on this thing. I think that this is going to make even his biggest fans smile.

Like you, he is one constantly working guy.

BR: Yeah, he is a working Mofo.(laughs) He is always doing something.

Is this record going to sound like the first RONDINELLI record that you did with Ray Gillen?

BR: No, this is going to be much heavier. This is going to be more Hard-Rock and maybe a little more Progressive at times. I don't know, it is just us now. Back in the eighties you were trying to be a little more commercial and this and that but I know that this thing ain't going multi-platinum today so we just play the way that we want on it!(laughs) It is kind of like, "Lets show 'em that we can Rock" and I am very happy with it so far. Neil really did an excellent job on it to, whew!

Is there a label set to distribute it yet?

BR: It will be on MTM Records in Europe and we are still working on Japan and the States to see where it is going to be. But, man, I am so happy with it. It is the best playing that I have done on any record.

Is it all new material?

BR: All new material, all brand new.

Well, you seem to have settled in quite nicely with BOC. Actually, the last time I saw you play here you were obviously having a blast and jumping up on stage with FOGHAT and all that.

BR: Yeah, you know, I love to play and I love those guys in FOGHAT so whenever they ask me to come up with them and hit some stuff I will hit some stuff. I have been with BOC for five years now and it is really OK because we work a lot and it is a good band with good guys. The way that we tour is really very cool because what we do is we go out for a couple of days and then go home, go out for a couple of days more and then go home so I can do other things at home. I can work on my record if I want, I can teach if I want to or do other sessions whereas in some other bands you are out for three months and then you are off for six and that I don't really like so I always know that I am never too far from the stage while I am in BLUE OYSTER CULT.

And then after having been in the band for five years you actually got to play on a full BOC album too!(laughs)

BR: Right, yeah. It was a happy experience all around. I thought that we worked well together though I wish that the drums were louder in the mix but other than that I think that it was very pleasurable.

I don't know if I have ever heard a drummer not say that!(laughs)

BR: Well you are gonna when I tell you about my album! I might even say, "The drums could have been a little lower in the mix!"(laughs) They will be loud enough, I guarantee that much!

by David L. Wilson, Electric Basement, Februari 2002