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Man on the Silver Mountain: Exclusive Ronnie James Dio Interview

By Mick Stingley, Contributor
Monday, August 11, 2003 @ 1:57 PM


Mick Stingley Sits Down With D

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Dio was in his publicist's office, doing a "Day Of Press," and as luck would have it -- I was the "last in line." I arrived a little early for the interview and hung out in the kitchen while RJD talked with his manager and his publicist. He also took time to have a sandwich, drink a Coca-Cola and crunch on some chips. I sat quietly listening the "the adults" talk, as Dio waxed thoughtfully about Seabiscuit, his love of books, sports and spoke with a "Record Label Guy" about the Midwest concert venues. He was loose, chatty and very down-to-Earth. I was delighted to have the opportunity to speak with him (up-close, live and in-person!) and knew from his disarming smile this was going to be a real fun time...

As Dio had recently done an in-depth two-parter with Jeff Kerby for KNAC.COM only seven months before, I felt this interview ought to be light and fun...

As we sat in the living room of his publicist's office, it dawned on me that the wicker chair Dio was sitting in looked oddly like a throne. (An “Evil” wicker throne, perhaps?) I was acutely aware that time was an issue, as Dio’s manager, Willie, was checking his watch quite often; be that as it may, Ronnie James Dio never made me feel rushed -- in fact, I felt that I might be rushing him. He is a fountain of charm and a pleasure to talk to. He doesn’t like Herb Alpert; loves his pets and is as timeless as Tony Bennett. He also cooks.

KNAC.COM: I don't want to waste your time asking a bunch of the same questions you've probably had to answer all day... but I overheard you talking with your publicist and manager -- did you say you were thinking about teaching?
DIO: Well, that-- I’m always asked questions about singing: “How do you sing like that? How do you do this…” and I usually get that from other singers who say it to me like this [speaks in raspy voice]: “How do you sing like that?” Well… I know what you’re doing wrong… are you singing from the diaphragm? “No, I sing from up here.” Well, there you go -- there’s your first mistake. But, it goes so far beyond that and all the things that I’ve learned about how to do it which all came very naturally to me because I started as a trumpet player. I started when I was five years old, so I just applied the same technique. So, I think that I probably will, at some point, do a video, and show people how I do it, anyway, and see if that helps ‘em out at all.

KNAC.COM: Nice!
DIO: Because I’ve had one guy -- only one guy -- that I’ve ever really told any of my secrets to, and that’s a guy by the name of Jeff Pilson. Jeff, who’s played with George Lynch and Dokken, and who played with us as well. Jeff had come to me and said, [in a high, strained voice], “Gee… how do you do that?” [laughs] “Oh, well, Jeff, here’s what I do… THIS!” and he goes, “Ohhh… so that’s it!” He was able to apply it. Everybody else that I’ve told this to, they get this big blank look on their faces, so I think I just need to learn how to explain it a bit better to people, perhaps. Or I think maybe I should just have more time to do it, as usually it’s the guy going [raspy voice] “How do you do that?” and it’s between sets, you know? Well, I tell them I’ll be doing a video someday. And they go [raspy voice] “I’ve give you thousands of dollars if you’ll just teach me -- just be my teacher!” You know, that’s not what I do. I’ll do that when it’s all over for me. I don’t want to give my secrets away anyway! [smiles]

KNAC.COM: Fair enough. That’s also interesting since I wanted to ask you -- you know Jizzy Pearl?
DIO: Sure, of course. Good guy…

KNAC.COM: I was reading in one of his books, Angst For The Memories, and he mentions what’s it like to be on the road touring and he credits you in there, saying he’s never seen you put on a bad show – ever -- but he has no idea how you do it, because he says you don’t warm-up.
DIO: I don’t.

KNAC.COM: But you have this technique -- you have something…
DIO: I just know how to do it, you know? There are ways to do things. The first thing you do is you start with a song that warms you up: you don’t start with something that’s going to blow your brains out, ‘cause if you do that, you’re screwed! The unfortunate thing for me is… song #2, through whatever comes next will blow my brains out! But at least I’ve had a chance, via that first song, to find out what shape I’m in, what I need to do and how I need to do it. See, I’m a very lucky person. When I sing, I get stronger and stronger and stronger as I go along. So if I do two hours, by the times two hours has passed, I could do another four hours ‘cause it’s easy for me. Then I’m really, really warmed up. But warming up has been something that I’ve always hated. I hated warming up as a trumpet player, so I never did that either. And I hated warming up as a singer, ‘cause I couldn’t stand to hear people in the next dressing room going, “oh-ho-ho-ho-HO-HO”! What the fuck are you doing, anyway? This is rock and roll, pal! You know? If you can’t do it without doing that -- FUCK OFF! But that’s what they have to do; that’s what they have to do, and I’m one of those very, very fortunate hybrids of nature who doesn’t have to do that. Hey, perhaps I’d be ten times the singer I am if I warmed up -- but I don’t think so. My attitude has always been this: I’ve only got so many notes in my voice that someone either there [points up], or there [points down], has given me, and I’m not gonna waste ‘em. I don’t waste them in the shower, in the car: I only sing when it’s time to sing. So, when it goes, “One, two, three, four”—BAM -- I sing! The first note goes out, I go, “Not bad. I can deal with it.” I’m just giving my secrets away already here…

KNAC.COM: But this is great stuff!
DIO: Sell a book, Mick, we’ll make a fortune, man!

KNAC.COM: I-- all right, I’m in, I’ll do it! But Jesus, man, I don’t think you need anybody… The video idea sounds great [laughs.] Now… if you answered any of these questions for anybody today, please tell me, because I don’t want to be redundant and I don’t want to waste your time.
DIO: Okay!

KNAC.COM: Iron Maiden announced recently that this tour [‘Give Me Ed ‘Til I’m Dead’ 2003] would be their last huge full-length world-wide arena tour, limiting future appearances to festivals and short runs. This is a big tour for you as well: do you have any similar plans? Is this true for you as well?
DIO: Mmm… No, I never could say that. I think that they are, Maiden, in the throes of retirement, again, if you know what I mean. They won’t retire, but, I’ve heard rumors to that effect -- not from them, but from other people. Scaling back… the last big tour they ever do. I think Bruce is going to carry on I think… again, it’s hard for me to answer for them. But as far as what goes for me: No. I will look at what comes up, I’ll look at what’s offered, and if it’s an arena tour, something to do that makes sense to me, I’d do that. If it’s playing smaller places, theaters… whatever it may be, I’ll do that, too. Because I never set myself up, at the beginning of my career, or thinking that eventually when my career wound down, which I don’t-- I don’t know what that word means… that I would “give up.” I mean, I look at it this way: when Tony Bennett quits, maybe I’ll start thinking of quitting! I mean, this guy’s in his ‘70s and he can still belt it out, that means I should be able to do the same thing when I’m in my ‘70s! Not that I want to… I think it’s ludicrous to see somebody leaping up and down in a rock and roll manner when you’re 70, but hey, by the same token, those same bands that are out there now, you know, all of them are 16 and 17 years old -- there’s some people that may want to jump up and down when they’re 77, too! So there’ll be a whole bunch of Zimmer-frames and wheelchairs [laughs] but that’s cool… No, I don’t see us-- I don’t think I’m winding down. Winding down makes no sense to me. “Winding down” means that you’re thinking about doing something that is counter-productive. “Winding down”… “Down” makes no sense to me! The only thing that makes sense to me is carrying on and going forward, going onward and progressing. So “winding down” isn’t even in my vocabulary -- it’s not something that I would think about. I’ll know when it’s time to go, because I’ll know whether I can do it again or not -- whether I can do it at this level. When I can’t do it at this level, that’s when I’ll stop! My [points to throat] here starts to go, and I know I can’t do it and it doesn’t give me great pleasure, then I’ll stop. So, no: I don’t want to put myself in the same area as what Maiden might be talking about. What’s good for them may not be good for me, and vice-versa.

KNAC.COM: You’re like a shark; if you stop, that’s it.
DIO: Oh, if I stop -- that’d be it, yeah. Oh hell, yeah.

KNAC.COM: I like the Tony Bennett reference. I’ve seen Tony Bennett a couple of times, so I know what you mean…
DIO: The guy’s unbelievable! You think to yourself, “How can he possibly do this anymore at that age?” Simple, he’s that good. You know, some of the great opera singers have been able to do it for so long, because they’ve got technique -- just like I know how to do it, Tony knows how to do it. Pavarotti knows how to do it -- that’s a different animal though… opera. Opera singer is a different animal. That’s so much tax on the voice, I mean, at that level all the time, it’s hard to be that… and most of them die of heart attacks, anyway, because they start to overeat and emote so much. I think, again, if hey, Sinatra was still singing when he was that old, you know? It can be done. Why not? Sammy Davis, Jr. was belting it out before he died, and I mean that was the greatest entertainer that ever lived, so, why can’t I do it? [smiles] Sure I can. If I can be this much of what those people were, then I’m blessed.

KNAC.COM: Oh, man… you have no idea how weird that is that you just mentioned that… I was sitting in my apartment last night going over my questions for you today, and I’m listening to Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis, The Summit At The Sands, Tony Bennett, Carnegie Hall ‘63 and Sammy Davis, Live At The Cocoanut Grove… and then I’ve got The Beast Of Dio, Mob Rules and the first “Rainbow” disc…
DIO: Cool! Wow… what good company! Thank you for that, man! [laughs]

KNAC.COM: Well… I’m mad at myself [points to notebook] -- I just don’t want to ask you these questions now. I’m much more interested in learning about who you are; what are your influences? Not just dumb “rock stuff.”
DIO: Well, I think, you know, I think you can answer questions within a kind of “rock veneer,” but the world is so much more than that… you know, I think my world is so much more than just being a rock singer. There are probably those who can’t do anything else and don’t know how to talk about it. Probably-- I don’t know if you’ve ever done [an interview with] Blackie Lawless, but he probably talks about nothing but that, I would imagine, or how many parties he’s had… if you’ve ever done him, I don’t know…

KNAC.COM: No, never.
DIO: I like to think of myself as “a man of the world,” who’s well-spoken; who thinks beyond what a rock concert is about; who doesn’t go back to his room after the show and try to pick up little girls… what I do is I go back and read. I mean, I’ve done all those things in my life, I’m too damn old to do them now! I don’t want to repopulate the world with groupies -- and that’s not what I’m all about. I’m a thinking man. I’d like to be known for that more than I want to be known for being a rock and roll animal. I live within that scope, but not nearly like others.

KNAC.COM: Cool. Then I’m not asking these questions… [puts down notebook]. I think it’s much easier to just talk to someone, so this is not all “rock stuff” – I’m just going to ask you something things I’ve really wanted to know…
DIO: Sure, you can ask me anything you want.

KNAC.COM: Okay, you’re first-generation Italian American, is that right?
DIO: That’s right, but second; second-generation. Mom and Dad were born in America.

KNAC.COM: How much of that was an influence?
DIO: Huge. Huge…

KNAC.COM: You played trumpet, later you had a rock band -- the times were much different… Who were your heroes?
DIO: When I grew up it was obviously not rock that you hear today – it wasn’t heavy like that, you know, guitars weren’t whacking through distortion. For distortion, we would just pluck tubes out of our amps so we could get that “ughhnn” and then of course the amp would blow up after a while when it would fry all the other tubes… we knew what we wanted to do, but the music that was around was not this kind of heavy stuff, so you didn’t do that.

But growing up for me, first hearing music, was with my grandmother and grandfather who listened to opera all the time. My hero was a guy named Mario Lanza -- he was my hero. I loved that man so much when I heard him sing, I thought, “Wow! Check him out!” My dad was a really good singer, too, never was a professional, never even sang in an amateur way. I used to hear him sing and would think, “Whoa! That’s pretty good…”

I had wanted to be an athlete -- I wanted to be a basketball player, but you see that didn’t fuckin’ work out [laughs]. I wanted to be a baseball player, I wanted to be a football player -- I wanted to be all those things. Athletics to me is… you know, I’m like, you know these athletes who want to be rock guys? Mike Piazza came to the show the other night, it was great! Albie Lopez came down… I’m going, “Oh, man, can I get your autograph?” He asks me, “How come you want my autograph?” and I said, “’Cause you’re my hero!” and then it was back and forth... “You’re MY hero!” “NO! YOU’RE MY HERO! YOU SIGN THIS!”…[laughs] It’s like this mutual admiration society… David Wells is a rock fan; Sid Fernandez, in the old days, was a good friend when Sid was playing… so I’m living my life kind of vicariously through them. I’ll watch ‘em on TV -- I’ll write a lot of my songs watching a basketball game because there’s no music. I’m watching guys do what only they can do -- and I want to do -- so there’s my fantasy in front of me, and I’m writing fantasy things! SO… Those are the kind of people I admire for their dedication -- athletic people.

But in the case of opera, I heard these people singing, and I went, “Wow! Check that out! Wow, that’s amazing!” So I always wanted to take that attitude, and put it into a rock-attitude, when I had a chance to create my own things. Of course, I started out in copy-bands -- everybody does. You have to learn your craft somehow. So I sang a lot of R&B as a kid; then when I got to write things, wrote in a more classical way, because as a trumpet-player, I played orchestra music all the time -- that’s what I did. Most of my heroes at that time were trumpet players, from the guys in Stan Kenton’s band to Harry James in the old days, guys like Ray Anthony -- those kind of guys. Herb Alpert, whom I hated, what the hell are YOU doing with that horn? You should have that horn up your ass, not in your mouth! I liked only the best guys -- only the people that were just-- the greatest guys! And where I grew up as well, all the kids in my neighborhood all played instruments. They were all Italian, they’d come from school, and their parents would go: “Here! You’re gonna play THIS! Play that!” We all had lessons and everything -- we all were good! And, let’s face it: Italians have a natural affinity to Some kind of music. And there were so many great players that came out of my hometown, and I mean us the best that you could ever hear in your life! So I wanted to be like them…. But then I heard rock music and went, “That’s it for me!”

So I applied all those themes, and I’m talking classical ideas, opera ideas -- and was smart enough perhaps to put them into the music, and then lyrically, populate it with the people that I read. As a kid I was an only child, and I was just a voracious reader -- still am to this day, and I read a lot of Walter Scott, Edgar Rice Borroughs -- the John Carter of Mars series; I used to love that stuff that Borroughs wrote and all those wonderful things that maybe used my imagination. Knights on charges, you know? You didn’t know about those ‘cause nobody will ever see that -- nobody will ever see a dragon. So I had to create these things in my mind. I thought, “Wow, that’s so cool!” So when I had a chance to write I took all of those parts of my life and put them together, and what you got was “RONNIE JAMES DIO” – “Mister Fantasy” who’s stayed very true to what he’s done, which is one of the other reasons why I’ve been successful. When everybody else was chopping and changing, “Oh, that music’s not successful anymore… We’d better do this, or no -- better do this!” I went, “Nope. There’s only one thing I like to do. There’s only one thing I will do; and that’s why the loyalty I’ve been given is there -- because people know that I don’t take side-roads. I do the one thing that I like and the one thing that they like. So we together have done it. And that’s how I have put this all together in my life. [smiles]

KNAC.COM: Did it ever become a burden for you that people trump up the more “evil” aspects of your music and image, as opposed to [getting] the whole spectrum of everything you bring in [to a record or a performance]?
DIO: Not really, because I must say that, Sabbath is a great example: Sabbath were looked upon as being this evil, evil bunch of people who sacrificed goats and babies and monkeys and themselves, and they were continually reading the ‘book of the dead,’ you know? And when in reality, most of them were brought up Catholic and they were all good family people and had good morals and were brought up well -- and, my point being this: that none of us ever defended ourselves. We’re in Black Sabbath, oh, okay, well, that’s what people think? Okay. AND WHAT ELSE are they going to think when you got a name like “Black Sabbath” and you write songs like “Heaven And Hell” or “Paranoid” or “Iron Man” – or whatever it may be. They’re going to think that that’s what you are, so, we didn’t defend ourselves and everybody automatically put the label- “Here’s the label: EVIL!” So, with Dio -- “Holy Diver.” “Why is that monster killing a priest?” and my answer was always, “Why is that priest killing a monster?” Who’s the monster? And these days I think I was right about that… so, my whole point is: look under the package before you decide by the wrapping, who’s “evil.” But we never defended ourselves. And I never thought I SHOULD defend myself. If you want to believe I’m evil, then that’s what you have to believe. But if you’re smart, you’ll listen to what’s being said and you’ll see, that in the Sabbath case, and in the Dio case, it’s only that it’s us saying, “Hey, there’s a lot of evil out there -- you’d better make a choice, and your choice maybe should be the right one.” And the right ONE is the high road, and not the low road. But we haven’t defended ourselves, and I never felt it necessary to do that. Let people make up their own minds because they’re the ones that NEED to make up their own minds, and use their imagination. I don’t want to FEED you my imagination -- I want YOU to use your own. But that’s the way I’ve tried to write.

By writing, you know, more on the surface than getting so deep into the song because you don’t have enough time to get deep into the song -- you have to write a novel to do that. You can’t develop a character in the space of four minutes. You can’t tell someone how evil that character’s going to be, or how that character is, or how they interact against or with each other -- with FOUR minutes -- and a minute of that being a solo. You don’t have enough time to do that! [laughs] So you do the best you can and use… alliteration, imagery, or a lot of… just-- the ideas that make people think. “Oh, wait -- what was that he said? That’s weird…” you know? Hey, “The world is full of kings and queens/who blind your eyes and steal your dreams” – “Ooohh. That’s interesting, isn’t it? Who are these kings and queens?” Well… THINK. So that’s what I’ve tried to do. And, again, without defending ourselves, I-- we, have gotten this ‘evil’ connotation. So, that’s just part of the territory. I don’t care. I know what I am, and that’s what’s important.

KNAC.COM: Well, I mean… you’ve got this character -- I haven’t seen him in a while -- but he’s on the covers of Holy Diver and The Last In Line. He’s on the road-cases for your equipment…
DIO: Murray.

KNAC.COM: Murray! I mean- talking about “evil”… Iron Maiden has “Eddie,” Megadeth has “Vic Rattlehead”… and also, as a New Yorker, it’s the funniest thing to me because you’ve got--
DIO: We’ve got Murray! That’s right, that’s right -- we’ve got “Murray”! [laughs]

KNAC.COM: [laughing] I mean, how “evil” is a guy named “Murray,” you know?
DIO: That was the whole point! How evil is a guy named “Eddie”?

KNAC.COM: Good point.
DIO: You know? How evil is the guy? Shouldn’t his name be [dramatic voice] “BALTHAZAR!” Someone, at one point said, “Let’s call him, “MURRALISI.” [laughing] And I went: “Why? He’s MURRAY!” You know? What else would you want to call a monster? Because, we’re NOT monsters. Maiden are not monsters. We’re not monsters. So you got your monster -- what do we call him? “Murray!” Because it’s FUNNY, that’s why! And that gives him so much more of a persona than, [dramatic voice again] “BALTHAZAR!” I mean, how pretentious can you possibly get? I’m not pretentious… but he was a great logo. A great logo, because he, in some ways, epitomized what I’m saying to you – what I said to you before -- which was, we don’t explain what we are – we just create an image and you decide. And you give him a name like “Murray” then doesn’t that give the brighter person an insight as to, maybe, just maybe we were taking a little bit of a piss here? But he’s a great logo, and he was necessary for us, and it works!

KNAC.COM: Is he ever going to make it back to a [record/CD] cover? Maybe…
DIO: Murray-- well, he’s usually up there on our backdrop. We bring the “Murray” backdrop with us, a lot of our t-shirts feature Murray, as well, because he’s been our biggest seller -- he’s been our focal point, just like “Eddie” is a focal point of Maiden. Absolutely. He’s always there; he always will be. He’s been on almost every album we’ve done, in some way -- even in some subliminal way. He’s just part of what we are.

KNAC.COM: I like “Murray”… but I just think of an accountant when I hear the name, and then there’s this guy, you know, and I think of him burning in flames of Hell, going, “I’m schvitzing from here to Haifa!”
DIO: EXACTLY! [laughs] “Oy vey, ya! Stop with the ‘kvetching’-- what’re ya doin’?”

KNAC.COM: [laughs] Okay… I’m sorry… so, uh-- okay… how about the new DVD? I was at that show… and this is your first DVD… what can I possibly ask you about that? [still laughing]
DIO: The DVD… don’t worry about it, Mick, I’ll do it for you! The DVD was an opportunity that came up because we were asked if we would like to do a DVD of a show. And I said, “Yeah!” because it was such a long time since we had any kind of product out like that people might enjoy -- most of the things had been a video here and there for a song from an album… Nobody plays ‘em anyway. I mean, they should have played the last one, because Tenacious D were in it and it was so damn funny, you know? And THAT was great, and I loved it, and I thought the beginning and the end were the best of the video and what came in between I couldn’t care for more or less -- and I didn’t choose that song [to shoot as a video] in the first place. But that was a choice of the record company, you know: “What song will be ‘radio-friendly’?” EXCUSE ME? Nothing’s EVER been ‘radio-friendly’ for us, except IN THE DAY, when we were doing “Rainbow In The Dark” and “Last In Line” or “We Rock” or “Rock And Roll Children” -- and it WORKED in those days because attention was given to the form of music. The form of music that, for a while… created? defined? MTV -- and then MTV turned it’s back on it because that’s the way of the world. You can’t sell enough zit cream trying to sell music that “nobody wants to hear.” At that point -- at this point -- so this was a chance for us to… for this band to be shown in a good light, ‘cause the band was great. And I knew how good the band was and good it was to portray it at that time -- it was New York, it was Roseland -- a historic site. You know, I’m a New Yorker -- what more do you want? It was PERFECT for us, SO… we did it! And, it did what it had to do: it showed the band at it’s best. It was a sold-out show… it showed the audience. We did a little bit of an interview here and there…

KNAC.COM: There’s a little bit of the backstage stuff…
DIO: Exactly. If had been up to me, it would have been over-the-top. I would have done so many more things… but we’re going to release another one in probably about a year from now -- so much material, as I’ve got so many clips. There’s Sabbath and Dio and Rainbow and Elf and all of that…

KNAC.COM: “Hear N’ Aid”?
DIO: “Hear N’ Aid” and all of that! Exactly! So, that’ll happen at some point and the interview will be a little bit more in-depth, and obviously, different questions and different answers. So that’s what’ll happen. But the DVD was an opportunity to do this at this point when this band was blazing, and maybe needed to be done before we all fell into wheelchairs and zimmer-frames! So it’s purpose was ‘because it could be done -- let’s do it!’ because we know it’s going to be good! And it was a chance to bridge a gap after all these years. So, here’s the DVD! And wait until the next one, it’ll be better than that even!

KNAC.COM: This may be more of a statement than a question, but… I read “Sound Of The Beast” [“The Complete Headbanging History Of Heavy Metal” by Ian Christie - Harper Collins 2003] and you are quoted quite a bit in there. You really have taken on -- in my opinion -- with the clips from the DVD, and the quotes in the book, and now, meeting you in person… you really strike me as… well-- kind of… and I don’t know if this is offensive or not -- I don’t mean it that way -- but you really have become – forgive me, elevated to this status of “The Elder Statesman Of Rock.”
DIO: That’s fine with me. I’m not a young man anymore. In my heart I am -- a lot of years -- absolutely! And I think you have to bear that mantle after a while. You have to. What? Are you going to pretend that you’re going to pretend to capture the next generation of people? I mean, I find that stupid. I had my generation. I have THREE generations of people that I was lucky enough to be a part of. From Rainbow to Sabbath to Dio. Those are three generations of people, that… I have been the luckiest person on Earth. Most bands last for, three, four years -- if that! I’ve had three or four or five years with three different bands. And that’s pretty phenomenal -- I mean, that’s pretty lucky. Lucky, and call me ‘deserved’ too, because I’ve done it all pretty well at the top of my game too, and I insist upon doing that. That’s a mantle that I wear with pride. Sure, I can be an ‘elder statesman’ -- but, hey, guess what this elder statesman can still do? [smiles] And that’s what’s important to me, you know?

KNAC.COM: Well, I didn’t know where I was going with that, but I thought it [bore] mentioning…
DIO: All you have to do, Mick, is say one word to me -- and I’m off! [laughs]

KNAC.COM: [laughs] All right then… one word: cats.
DIO: We did the VH1 Rock Stars And Their Pets. And I have a cat named “Jack,” who’s the coolest cat, and who thinks he’s a dog. Doesn’t walk like a cat -- he runs like a dog; does everything in slow motion. He’s the most beautiful cat: he’s a long-haired – beautiful -- Burmese. He’s got a face like a raccoon -- he’s got beautiful coloring and he’s just like my best buddy on Earth. Any place I go, he goes -- he follows me around like a dog. “Talks” nonstop, scolds me at times: he’s never really too happy with me as I have to go away all the time: but he’s just an exceptional, exceptional animal.

And I love animals so much, I do because they are only asked unconditional love and they only give unconditional love back. That’s all I’ve ever asked for in my life and that’s all I ever wanted to give, was “Hey, I love you man. That’s all. And I’m not saying that for any other reason than ‘I love you’ and I want you to respect me and like me.” And that’s what my cat,Jack, does. I’ve had animals all my life. My best friend was my last dog, and he died when I was in Europe. He was about a 180 pounds -- big black Newfoundland and who was without a doubt my best ‘bud’ on the face of the planet. Better friend than I’ve ever had of a human being -- ever. Better friend than my wives probably, too -- though he never divorced me! He was just the greatest part of my life. I went everyplace with him. I bought a Range Rover because of him. I went looking for cars for him -- for space for him -- so I took him along with me. We went out, and I’d point at it and say, “What about this one?” His name was “Tubbs” -- “Mister Tubbs” -- he’d get up and get inside and then jump out. “Okay then, let’s go over here and try the Ford Explorer.” He looked in and went, “Nah, I don’t want that.” “Okay,” I said, “What about a Chevy?” He shook his head, “Naahhh…” I said to him, “You didn’t even try it!” So we go to the Range Rover place. Great big car-truck with a lot of room in the back. “What do you think, Tubbs?” He jumped up and went and laid down right away! “That’s the one, Tubbs?” “This is the one!” Okay… and we went everywhere all the time, and that was just the best!

But, the VH1 thing, that was for Jack. Jack is… all that remains and I haven’t been able to get another dog yet because I’ve been on the road too long. You have to dedicate yourself to an animal like that. So, I’m going to get another Newfoundland. Another giant dog and take him to the park so nobody can ever bother me. When I used to walk Mister Tubbs in the park, there would be this giant dog on the leash and people would be going, “Dog taking you for a walk today, mister?” or – my favorite -- “Mommy! That’s a bear!” I’d say, “No I’m not!” Of course they’d go, “NO! HIM!” and point at Mister Tubbs! And just a great conversation piece. Boy, you can pick up a lot of chicks, too, with a dog like that! And that’s just a big part of my life -- I love animals so much, so, when we did the piece for VH1, Rockstars And Their Pets -- and that’s a label I don’t like put on me -- but what else are you going to call me, I guess. “Plumber”? “TV Repairman”? So – this was just for Jack, because he deserves it -- and that’s why.

KNAC.COM: You did that thing-- with the cat’s tail…
DIO: Oh, the “Tail Whip”? Yeah I whipped his tail a couple of times. There are some cats that don’t like to have their tails whipped. My cats always love to have their tails whipped. What you do is just grab the tail between these two fingers [index and middle], like so, from the base of the tail all the way up. Whhhhssht! Just like that! And what it does -- it itches the bottom of the spine. Mollifies them, and the ‘elevator’ goes up, as they say. My other cat, Lizzie -- she’s about nine years old -- and she just loves to have her tail whipped. Addicted to tail whipping. I can sit there for fifteen minutes. I got to the point where I can do ‘double whips’ -- and you can do it so fast -- and she just loves it! I showed it to my vet and he said, “I gotta try that!”-- so he did and it worked. So, I got credit for “The Tail Whip” -- and this now, [makes “the horns”]. It’s stupid but -- you did ask…

KNAC.COM: [laughs] I DID ask! Oh, yeah! I wasn’t going to ask about that -- the devil horns -- I figured you must be sick of that by now…
DIO: I give the credit to my grandmother. I didn’t invent that -- it’s just from an Italian superstition. Other countries use it as well. It’s “the evil eye” or- to “ward off evil”…. My grandmother used to do it when I was a kid. We’d be walking down the street and she’d see somebody look at me funny and she’d go… [makes face, throws horns]. And all these years later -- in Rainbow -- came out with that. And then didn’t use it a lot. Then when I was in Sabbath, I thought it was the perfect thing. “Evil” with “Evil.” I’ve gotten credit for it and now because I’ve used it more than anybody else and I continually do and continually have, so I’ve been given some kind of credit for it. But I did not invent it: Gene Simmons will tell you that HE invented it, which is a complete and utter lie. Sorry, Gene, but Gene thinks that he invented AIR, too! But neither one of us invented it. I’m the one that used it most, that’s all. So I’ve gotten more credit than Gene, which probably pisses him off, but Gene’s a good friend, so he’ll understand.

[At this point, Dio’s manager enters the room. He is anxiously trying to keep RJD on schedule, as he has to do a concert in DC this evening. I think it is time to start wrapping it up…]

KNAC.COM: There was one last thing I wanted to ask -- growing up Italian, did you learn to cook? Do you cook now?
DIO: Oh, yeah! Yeah, I cook.

KNAC.COM: Any recipes you want to share? A ‘Fra Diavlo’ perhaps...
RJD [smiles] Well, I-- ah… no. I’ll tell you one of my secrets is that I don’t eat vegetables. I’m the opposite of a vegetarian -- a carnivore, perhaps? I like potatoes, and once in a great while I’ll have some corn.

KNAC.COM: No peppers? No onions?
DIO: I’ll put peppers-- tomatoes and peppers in my sauce. I can eat tomatoes and peppers if they’ve been boiled down, reduced for the sauce. And then just the flavor is there. It’s the texture of vegetables that bother me more than anything else. That rubbery kind of… bothers me. Since I was a kid. When I was a little kid, my mother would try and give me that spinach baby food, you know? And I’d go… [makes funny face with lips tightly closed, turns head away] “MM-mm! NO!” She’d bring something else – vegetables -- and I’d throw it on the floor! And my father would go, “Eat that! Or you don’t eat anything at all!” And I wouldn’t do it. I was willing to go days without eating, I hated that stuff so much. And I would say, “No! I won’t eat them, I absolutely refuse! I don’t care if you starve me, I won’t eat them!” So, my mom had to cook for them for me. But I learned to cook after that- for myself.

I’m really good with spices -- I make a brilliant sauce, absolutely brilliant tomato sauce! I cook a lot of pork -- lots of garlic… I have my own secret methods of using spices and cooking and what meats I’ll use… but my sauce always contains: pork, meatballs -- I make great meatballs -- sausage… the meatballs: sometimes I make them with pork and hamburger; sometimes with veal and hamburger…a mix of spices… I never -- NEVER use parmesan cheese; I always use Romano cheese. And I learned just doing it to my own taste… but everyone who has my pasta, and my sauce -- they just love it! Simon, our drummer -- he just can’t wait until I cook again! I would tell him, if we had time on the tour, “Simon, I’m going to cook a pasta!” and this look would come over his face, and he’d go, “Ohhhh….!” I love it -- I love to cook!

KNAC.COM: That’s great! That’s great! I’m so obsessed with Italian food… this is great!
DIO: Oh, hey -- I wish I could give you some really outlandish ideas, or recipes, but you know, I don’t eat eggplant or any of that kind of stuff. But what I do… my sauce… it’s so pure. It’s just right, to my taste.

KNAC.COM: Do you use sugar in your sauce?
DIO: I will, but only if it gets a bit too acidy. I’ll taste it and if I think it needs it, I’ll put just a little bit of sugar in, just to sweeten it up -- but only if it gets that acidy. Peppers do that. Peppers really give you a lot of acid. But, most of the time, I’ve gotten so good at it -- you don’t need it. When I do my sauce… it’s -- fantastic. And my chicken soup is also absolutely brilliant!

KNAC.COM: Oh yeah?
DIO: I put little meatballs in my chicken soup. And the pasta, it’s called, “Acine di Pepe,” it’s the little pasta. Let’s see- is it number 14 or number 11? It’s a tiny little pasta -- you can buy them -- “Acine di Pepe,” and that’s what I use I my chicken soup. [Looks at manager] Is my chicken soup good or what?

WILLIE (TOUR MANAGER): Aw, yeah. And the meatballs, too! With the sausages…

KNAC.COM: Well, I think that says it all. I guess we should wrap it up.
DIO: All right, thanks, Mick! Remember, “Acine di Pepe”! Are you going to the show at The Garden this Wednesday?

KNAC.COM: Oh, I’ll be there! Can’t wait! Oh… any chance you’re doing “Slippin’ Away”?
DIO: Nope -- no we’re not! Not this time around. I think the only time we’ve ever done that was on the tour for “Mob Rules.” After that, never did it. And I don’t know why.

KNAC.COM: Well, maybe, uh, “food for thought” for the next tour…
DIO: Oh, yeah… I think we’ll have to do “Voodoo” first, because that’s the other one I’m asked for all the time… but we’ll see if we can get to it at some point. Yeah… that’d be fun. Right now, it’s just not one of the songs that really fits within the genre of what we’re doing. Although, I’d rather do “Country Girl” myself. I would -- I love that song… Bill Ward hated it, so it can’t be that bad. [smiles]

KNAC.COM: He hated it?
DIO: Well, no. But Bill is a great guy -- one of the great gentleman of all time. One of the greatest gentlemen I’ve ever known. A dear, dear, dear man, and a great percussionist, as he calls himself.

KNAC.COM: All right, on that warm note, I’m going to wrap it up -- also I think I’m running out of tape…
DIO: All right then -- thanks for everything! Keep listening- and we’ll see you out there on tour!


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