Simon Wright and Dio Disciples – Keeping DIO’s Memory Alive

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Three days after the release of Very Beast Of Dio Vol. II, Simon Wright was proud to share his excitement about the event.   Wright explained that fans were ready for “Volume II”.  The 17 track CD includes several of DIO’s best—including 3 bonus tracks, Electra, Prisoner of Paradise, and Metal Will Never Die.   Tracks for this album were chosen by Wendy Dio, Ronnie James Dio’s widow, and her office manager Dean Schachtel, which was a heartfelt and emotional choice since Ronnie’s passing on May 16, 2010.

After choices were made, band members were given the opportunity to take a look, and were quiet pleased with a good retrospect of the albums from 1996 to 2004.   Electra was chosen from the Magica II album which sadly was never completed.  Prisoner of Paradise was from DIO’s final studio album, Master of the Moon and had only been released in Japan.  Metal Will Never Die was recorded for his friend and cousin, David Rock Feinstein, originally on Bitten by the Beast, and had been Dio’s last recording.  When asked if there was a chance for a Volume III, Wright answered, “There are some tracks hidden away, as Ronnie did start to work on the Magica II and III albums, but they are still only in demo form.  Wendy looks after those and has indicated at some point she would possibly release them.  It would be great to have them released, but they need to be handled very delicately as they are in demo form and incomplete.   Therefore, we are waiting on the word from Wendy as to how we proceed.”

This offering packs a punch for the hardcore fans.  The follow-up to a gold certified Volume I, The Very Beast of Dio VOL. II has its strength in the solid rock and masterful guitar work by Craig Goldy and Doug Aldrich with Jimmy Bain on bass.  Undeniably, Ronnie James Dio’s vocals are the driving force behind every song.  Expertly written lyrics and music was always a treasure trove on any DIO album but which came first?  The music or the lyrics?  “Hahaha, Ronnie had his ‘scratchings’, so he called them,” explained Wright,  “he was always working in his studio.  He would be scratching around on the guitar with the real basics, it would always come from that.   Then he would get an idea with a lyric and he would take it as far as he could.  Ronnie’s ideas were always the main focus and are what made it DIO.  He would bring in certain people.   I was lucky enough to be one of them, along with Craig and Doug, and obviously so was Vivian and Jimmy.  We would gather in the studio and he would sort of channel his ideas through the guitar players and see what they could come up with.  They all would work really closely together and pass suggestions back and forth to one another for the best possible scenario.”

To have any DIO band member choose a favorite song, album or moment would be mockery.  “I like so many songs and there are so many albums there is no way I could ever choose a favorite”, states Wright.  “Favorite moments total up more than any number of songs or albums ever could.  Too many again to choose from, though Ronnie always made it a point to bring it to everyone’s attention when we played in my hometown of Manchester,England.  He would make notice this was MY hometown gig.  I guess the most emotional of them and a really special moment for the band and him, were when we played the WACKEN OPEN AIR FESTIVAL 2004.  As soon as the show ended, we were still on stage, and Ronnie was presented with a trophy for a Lifetime Achievement In Metal Award.   The crowd was chanting DIO, and it was just a goose bumps kind of deal, very emotional for all.”

It’s like losing a family member, you just don’t stop remembering them.

Since Ronnie’s passing, the remaining band mates were left without a leader and Dio Disciples was born.  Dio Disciples include Simon Wright (Drums), Craig Goldy (Guitar), and Scott Warren (Keyboards).  “After Ronnie passed, we were all completely shattered.  We didn’t know what they hell was going on, or what to do and really didn’t even want to do anything.  I know I didn’t for a long time.  It affected us really, really hard.  We finally began to toss around the idea between us of doing something”, said Wright.  “It’s like losing a family member, you just don’t stop remembering them.”

The band felt they had to do something but no one knew yet what that was or meant. The work ethic Ronnie James Dio had instilled into his band was, work, work, work and then some more work, and it became apparent that they couldn’t stop.   They had to figure out what they wanted to do.  “We spoke to Wendy about it, we had to.  We would talk, let it go for a while; but ultimately, we couldn’t let it go.  In the end it all came together.  Wendy and Ronnie knew Tim “Ripper” Owens, who has an incredible voice, so Tim was chosen as one of the vocals for the Disciples.  We really wanted two singers that were their own person.  We didn’t want a Ronnie sound alike as that would have been completely wrong.  We didn’t want two vocalists that were trying to replace him.  We wanted them to be there to celebrate him with the utmost respect.”

Dio’s Disciples were realized, ready for rehearsals and eager to spread the word.  “Soon after, we took it on the road.  So far we have done a quiet bit of touring and have done it with Ronnie and the fans in mind.  The people seem to like it and have given us a great response.  We try to play what they want to hear and I believe they are getting what it is we are trying to do, which is celebrating Ronnie’s life and music.  We try to play older songs too or those which may have never been done.  Of course we have to play the classics like Heaven and Hell, Rainbow in the Dark, and We Rock;  ya know, all of the great stuff, and try to mix it up each time.  No long infamous drum solos this tour, no long guitar solos. We only want to focus on Ronnie’s music.”

In addition to the CD release, a new set of tour dates were announced.  Beginning the tour in California and crossing the US toward the East Coast.  More dates and cities are hoping to be added, but as Wright explained, “We would love to play everywhere!  The trouble with it is, it’s a difficult task to get everyone’s schedule sorted and all free at the same time.  Rudy has commitments and unfortunately won’t be with us on this tour.  Tim as commitments and other projects, so do I actually.  We just try to make the most of our time together and play as many places as we can.  We will eventually come to many other states; we just haven’t the time at this point.  We just haven’t talked about when that will be.  We hope it will be soon in the future.”

As the band toured last year in the UK, fans readily accepted Dio Disciples, without Ronnie as the lead.  They understand the band wants to keep DIO’S music alive and have seen the band do it with complete and total respect.  “We loved Ronnie, he was our father, so to speak, and we were all family, at least that’s how I saw us.  There are obviously naysayers, there always will be.  What I say to that is come along, see the show, and check us out.  We are doing this from the heart and we are not trying to fool anyone, we truly loved Ronnie and want to do something in his honor.”

To immortalize Ronnie James Dio would not be monumental task.  Fans around the world are receptive and enjoy the shows.  Wright stated he thought there wasn’t much difference between the US and the UK fans.  “There are more festivals in Europe and most definitely there are more fans into the heavier side of rock and metal in Europe than in the US.  It’s more like an underground or more of a cultish type metal in Europe.  In America, it’s so commercialized and people are hit with so much here.  Over there, it is more hardcore….that’s the only difference I see.  If you want to see just how intense and crazy fans can be in Europe, The Download festival is mild compared to The Graspop in Belgiumor The Wacken in Germany.”

DIO’S longevity in the music business is believed to have kept the fans coming back for more.  A younger fan base has also been noticed at the shows and Wright felt it is coming from the parents who loved the music, and the younger ones are beginning to appreciate DIO’S music.  “Ronnie’s music greatly affected and had such an impact on the way other bands played heavy music.  I feel it’s important for parents to let their children choose their music, but to inform them of what a great musician Ronnie was and for them to be exposed to it.  I feel if you are a good parent you will let your kids know that Ronnie was the inventor of the raising of the horns symbol,” Wright laughingly explains.  “But it is difficult, as now you will see Lady Gaga and Britney Spears doing it, and it just doesn’t have the same effect does it??”

As Wright stated earlier, he and his fellow band mates have other projects or commitments.  Having just completed a project with friends in Italy, Wright comes back to 3 chord rock with the band, The Rocker.  “I may be going to Italy to do a few shows in December,” says Wright.  “It’s  an album that turned out really well.  It will probably be out sometime next year, so I’ll just see how it goes.  However, my main focus is Dio’s Disciples, as is for the rest of the group.  Just remember metal will never die.  It has stood the test of time.  It will continue to evolve and there will always be people that will enjoy the heavier side of music known as heavy metal.  More tour dates are to be added in the future, so keep your eyes peeled and your horns raised for Dio’s Disciples!  It would be great to see everyone there!”

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