SIMON WRIGHT (DIO DISCIPLES) INTERVIEW:
October 28, 2012
Sleaze Roxx recently caught up with Dio Disciples drummer Simon Wright, who has played with the likes of AC/DC, UFO, Rhinobucket and Dio throughout the years. Wright was the ‘go to’ guy when longtime Dio drummer Vinnie Appice left the fold, playing on latter albums ‘Lock Up The Wolves’, ‘Magica’, ‘Killing The Dragon’ and ‘Master Of The Moon’. Wright and his new band Dio Disciples, a group comprised of former members of Ronnie James Dio’s band, will be touring this fall on the west coast. Wright filled Sleaze Roxx in on how Dio Disciples came to be, his take on the new Dio compilation ‘The Very Beast Of Dio Vol. 2’, and the rare tracks featured within.
Sleaze Roxx: How did you get involved with Dio Disciples? Aside from singers Tim ‘Ripper’ Owens (Judas Priest, Iced Earth) and Oni Logan (Lynch Mob) everyone involved was in the Dio band at one point so it’s not exactly a ‘tribute band’. How would you describe what you guys are doing?
Simon Wright: When Ronnie (James Dio) passed we had to do something, we have to keep his memory alive. It’s like when a family member dies you find ways to remember them. We’re musicians and Ronnie was too — this is the best way to do it. We just had to be careful how we did it. We’re doing it from the heart and with great respect. We got Wendy Dio’s blessing which was important. We did an American tour the year before last, we’ve been out in Europe doing festivals and the people get what we’re doing and they really seem to like it. It’s a release for us and a little bit of release for the fans as well. You’re right, we were all in his band — it’s not a ‘tribute band’ because we were actually in the band. The one thing we didn’t want to do is get a singer that sounded like Ronnie because that would be wrong. There’s only one Ronnie James Dio. Our singers, Oni Logan and Tim ‘Ripper’ Owens, are their own singers — they capture some of how Ronnie would do it but they have their own identity.
Sleaze Roxx: How did you get involved with Dio Disciples? As far as Dio drummers go it’s been you and Vinnie Appice.
Simon Wright: Yeah, Vinnie hadn’t been in the band for close to 14 years. He obviously had been with Ronnie in Heaven & Hell, but I’d been in the band Dio longer than Vinnie. It was our idea that the last Dio band would carry on and pay respects to Ronnie and celebrate his music. Myself, Craig Goldy, Scott Warren and Rudy Sarzo were his last band and we wanted to keep remembering him — and what better way to do it.
Sleaze Roxx: You came on board during the recording of the ‘Lock Up The Wolves’ album. How did you land the Dio drumming gig?
Simon Wright: Yeah, that was in 1990. It was basically a friend of a friend — that kind of thing, you know. I had finished up my time in AC/DC, I had been in that band for about 8 years, and I didn’t want to stop and not do anything… luckily it just kind of happened. I had heard through the grapevine that Vinnie was thinking of moving on and doing something else. I called Ronnie and I had known him a couple of years by that point as we’d done shows together when I was in AC/DC — I’d gotten to know him a little bit. My wife knew Wendy Dio, and I knew Wendy Dio, and it was happenstance really. It really worked out.
Sleaze Roxx: You played on all the latter Dio albums which I don’t feel got their due in North America. Which one of those albums do you think is the ‘definitive’ Dio record and why?
Simon Wright: (pause) It’s hard to say because I think they all have some special moments on them. They are three very different albums but they are kind similar as well — they have the Dio sound to them. I really enjoyed working on ‘Magica’, Ronnie was really proud of that album. Craig and I did a lot of the demoing for that album and we got the chance to see that album evolve. Ronnie had a story for the album because it was a mini-concept album. We worked on that album for about 9 months and it was a wonderful experience. The other albums ‘Killing The Dragon’ and ‘Master Of The Moon’ were special albums as well. It was just great working with Ronnie. He has a fantastic work ethic and he’s relentless. He just keeps going and going — he’d run all over you and me! It’s like he’s 20 years old or something (laughs)! It was just a magical time.
Sleaze Roxx: I lean more toward ‘Killing The Dragon’ in terms of latter Dio albums but I have to say the most underrated of those Dio records is ‘Master Of The Moon’. That didn’t get much of a push in the United States, which was very unfortunate.
Simon Wright: You’re right. I think all of those albums have been a little bit overlooked. That’s why I think the new ‘Very Beast Of Dio Vol. 2’ is a very important record because it’s a great retrospective of these albums and doesn’t just cover the hits but digs deep into those records. If you’re a Dio fan this album would sit very well in your collection. I think of it as an advance screening of those albums. We did a lot of touring for those albums, but it might have been the musical climate or something. I encourage Dio fans to check ‘Very Beast Of Dio Vol. 2’ — it’s a good collection.
Sleaze Roxx: As a fan that owns the albums that make up ‘Very Beast Of Dio Vol. 2’ I have to point out that there are some rare tracks on there too.
Simon Wright: That’s right. There’s the track “Electra” — it’s the last track that we recorded with Ronnie. It’s actually a prelude to the albums that Ronnie was working on which would have been ‘Magica 2 & 3’. That’s the special bonus on the album. There’s also the track “Metal Will Never Die” which is a song that Ronnie recorded with David ‘Rock’ Feinstein, his cousin from the band The Rods. That was the last song that Ronnie ever sang on. There’s also the song “Prisoner In Paradise” which is a bonus track on the Japanese edition of ‘Master Of The Moon’ — I believe it’s very difficult to find that song.
Sleaze Roxx: It was issued on a limited edition tour box set I believe.
Simon Wright: That could be! That’s right Ruben. That’s right, that’s right.
Sleaze Roxx: How far back does the track “Electra” date?
Simon Wright: (pause) I think that goes back to around the middle of 2010. I remember that at the time Ronnie still had some touring to do with Heaven & Hell and we started rehearsing for the Dio tour that didn’t happen in December. Ronnie got the unfortunate news (about his cancer diagnosis).
Sleaze Roxx: Are you aware of the existence of partial recordings left in the vaults?
Simon Wright: There are some demos for the ‘Magica 2 & 3’ albums. I’d say there about 3 to 4 of them in there. I think there has been talk of releasing them at some point, but they’re not finished. I don’t know how we’d make them ‘finished’ at this point — that would be totally up to Wendy because she controls all of that and we’re just concentrating on the touring side of Dio Disciples.
Sleaze Roxx: I’ve read the reviews of your shows and I as a metal fan and a Dio fan I am excited that you’re doing a west coast tour.
Simon Wright: That’s right, we’re coming to your area. We’re doing a lot of stuff that you’ll be familiar with. We’re doing all the important songs — “Heaven & Hell”, “Rainbow In The Dark”, “Holy Diver”, “Long Live Rock ‘N’ Roll”, and we try to bring all of these classics back to life. There’s going to be stuff from ‘Magica’, ‘Killing The Dragon’ and ‘Master Of The Moon’ as well. We look at the set list very carefully and make it a little bit of a surprise. We were in his band, but we also try to look at it from a fan’s perspective as well. It can become difficult because you have to include the staples but it must be kept to a reasonable number otherwise we’d be playing a four hour set (laughs)!