Joined: 26 Jun 2006
Location: Upstate NY
|Posted: Fri Aug 31, 2007 5:39 am Post subject: Nice article about Dio in newspaper in Dio's hometown area.
Article published Aug 30, 2007
Ronnie James Dio: the metal legend returns home
You don't get to the top of the heavy metal heap without a lot of talent and a lot of hard work. Case in point: Ronnie James Dio, long known as one of the genre's leading singers though stints with Rainbow, Black Sabbath and his own band Dio.
The Cortland native grew up playing various venues around Central New York, relying on a blue-collar ethos to build his music career.
“There wasn't a whole lot of opportunity — everything was in New York City, and to go there was pretty foreign thing for people from Cortland, Ithaca and Binghamton, Whitney Point, Dryden to do in those days,” says Dio in a phone interview earlier this week from Los Angeles.
“You cut your teeth in those places, and once you went to New York you usually were pretty well prepared, because there were a lot of places to play back then. Unlike today, where there are hardly any places for a young band to learn their craft at all.
“So it was a great place to grow up, not only from a musical standpoint, but also for the people,” he continues. “People from upstate New York are real solid. They're like people from Chicago or Cleveland. They got one attitude: they work hard and they try to enjoy life to the max.”
Last year, Dio re-teamed with Black Sabbath's Tony Iommi and Geezer Butler as well as drummer Vinny Appice to reform Sabbath's 1982 lineup. The four recorded a trio of new songs for a Rhino Records compilation album, “Black Sabbath: The Dio Years.” But to avoid confusion with Black Sabbath, which is still an ongoing entity with Ozzy Osbourne, the band dubbed itself Heaven and Hell before hitting the road earlier this year.
Somewhat to their surprise, the band was greeted with an enthusiastic reception, selling out venues across North America. “It all struck home when they put the Radio City Music Hall seats on sale, and they went in 20 minutes. We went ‘Whoa!'” says Dio. “That showed us that there was a lot of interest right away. Then the other places started to come in, and we did well there, too. And we had done a Canadian tour first, and that was pretty amazing. So I think we were surprised initially, but after that we were just grateful for it. Then we did what we always do, which is try to be as good as we can always.”
This week, Heaven and Hell released a DVD and double CD of that Radio City Music Hall show. Next week, the band will kick off its fall tour at the Broome County Arena in Binghamton on Wednesday, Sept. 5.
Also on the bill are Alice Cooper, the legendary showman who just published his autobiography “Golf Monster,” and Queensryche, who just put out their new “Mindcrime at the Moore” live CD and DVD. Tickets for the 6:30 p.m. show are $35.50 and $42.50 and available via www.ticketmaster.com or by calling (607) 722-7272.
Dio, who has lived in Southern California since 1979, occasionally returns to upstate New York to visit his relatives (his mother passed away last year, but his father still lives in Cortland; his son lives in the Binghamton area). But he hasn't performed in the region since June 2002, when his band played at Tag's in Big Flats with Deep Purple and the Scorpions.
“I'm always happy to play there,” he says of returning home. “That's where I honed my craft, really, and had my first experiences. The fans at that time when I first started were absolutely wonderful, they were the best. Without growing up there, who knows what I would've become?”
A musical journey
Though raised in Cortland, Ronald James Padavona was born in Portsmouth, N.H. “My dad was in the service, and he just happened to be stationed there, and my mom was there at the same time,” he says. “All of my relatives are from Cortland and the surrounding area.” He graduated from Cortland High School in 1960.
From the late 1950s through the late 1960s, Dio played in a variety of Cortland-based rock and roll bands: The Vegas Kings, Ronnie and the Rumblers, Ronnie and the Red Caps, Ronnie Dio and the Prophets. In 1967, he formed the Electric Elves, which became Elf in 1969 and released three albums between 1972 and 1975.
In 1975, Deep Purple guitarist Ritchie Blackmore recruited most of Elf, including Dio, to form Rainbow, which went on to release four albums. Dio and Blackmore parted ways in 1979; fortunately, Black Sabbath was looking for a singer after the departure of Ozzy Osbourne. Dio hooked up with Iommi, Butler and drummer Bill Ward, and the quartet recorded 1980's “Heaven and Hell.” Appice replaced Ward for 1981's “Mob Rules,” but conflicts over the mixing of the 1982 “Live Evil” album soon led to another fracture.
Dio and Appice left to form the eponymous band Dio with guitarist Vivian Campbell and bassist Jimmy Bain, and released a trio of hugely popular and influential albums: 1983's “Holy Diver” (with its hit “Rainbow in the Dark”), 1984's “Last in Line” and 1985's “Sacred Heart.” Through the 1990s and into the 21st century, he has continued to release albums with various lineups, most recently 2004's “Master of the Moon” and 2006's “Holy Diver Live.”
Throughout this whole journey, Dio's music kept getting darker musically and more fantastical lyrically. In Elf, Dio wrote with pianist Mickey Lee Soule, so most of the music, such as “Hoochie Koochie Lady,” was piano driven. “As it went along with the Elf albums, you'll hear two or three songs that get heavier and heavier and darker and darker,” Dio says. “It obviously showed what I wanted to do; I just needed the right people to do it. And Elf was probably the wrong band to do that with.”
Rainbow was more to his liking. “With a guy who played guitar like Ritchie did and still does, and was a genius and who had this dark demeanor, it was perfect for me to get into a place where I could start writing darker and heavier things that I always wanted to do,” says Dio.
“Then Sabbath was absolutely the perfect vehicle for me — I could write as dark as I wanted to and that's where I've wanted always to be,” says Dio. “That's why it's more pleasurable for me to be back in this band than it would be to be in Rainbow, because that was a bit too bitsy and picky for me, with too many minds on it. (In Heaven and Hell), we all feel the same and everybody know what's right and what's wrong without have to discuss it a whole lot.”
Dio became well known for pitting lyrical opposites, such as evil and divine, dark and light, heaven and hell — not to mention using recurring images of dragons, witches, demons, tigers, etc.
“The books I read as a kid were fictitious novels, mainly about fantastic subjects,” he remembers. “I really liked science fiction a lot, because it's cloaked in a lot of medieval kind of darkness anyway. So that early reading was going to be something that was going to influence me as a writer. And I decided early on that I didn't want to write love songs, and saying ‘Baby' a lot was not where I was at.
“Again, a lot of it is the people you're doing it with,” he continues. “But I realized early on, that if you're going to successful, you've got to be unique, and no one was writing that way. No one wrote about fantasy, but I did because I thought it gave me a chance to say the same things that everyone else was saying, but put it in different words. We don't find other meanings of life, but we do find other ways to couch those meanings in words. So that's what I did, that's what I do, and I've been lucky enough to play with the people who've made that come alive.”
Third time's the charm?
While Dio has long since made his own name in the metal world, his time in Black Sabbath has been somewhat under-recognized. “That's true,” he says. “It was a time in the band when there was a new generation of Sabbath fans. Their two albums before I joined the band were not the most successful of their careers—their earlier ones were—but they started to get to the point where it was kind of falling apart.
“Most of the fans who heard the first album, ‘Heaven and Hell,' that we did together went ‘Who's this?' Black Sabbath? Oh that's cool.'And it created this whole new generation who hadn't heard of Black Sabbath with Ozzy before. And by coming back to it after all these, it shows you just how many people did grow up with that particular Sabbath era.
“Yeah, we certainly didn't get the notoriety because collectively we're not we're not wildmen like Ozzy is, and we're a lot more serious than Ozzy,” he continues. “And they've been doing the OzzFest for the past 10 years, which certainly gave them a lot higher profile. He certainly got a lot more attention that we did, but it just shows you that it's not the attention you get, it's what people remember and how much they wanted to see you again, and how much they want to see us now.”
Dio briefly returned to Black Sabbath for 1992's “Dehumanizer” album and tour, before splitting again. But he re-connected with Iommi in 2005 when Rhino asked them to record new songs for the compilation CD. “The reason why we could get this back together again is because we absolutely do have this handle on how to write together and a real sympathy for each others as writers,” Dio says. “We just think the same, and we always have from beginning to end. Which is always been surprising as to why we didn't carry on, or why these things fell apart.
“There are always reasons behind that, and good ones, too. Unfortunately, I'm not a very subservient person, so I have to do things my own way, and if they don't fit with somebody else's, well, that's too bad, and I'll carry on and do what I have to do. Which I have done, and have been able to create my own success that I'm very, very proud of. But it was great to create the success with this band.” Dio says Sabbath is the only one of his past bands with which he would reunite. “Three times—you'd think after the second time, we'd say, ‘No more of this!' And I did think that way,” he says. “But once this started again, I felt it was the right thing to do. We just fell right back into place, being the friends we've always been. That was never a problem.
“But this was the only band I would ever go back into, because these guys could be upstate New York guys — they could be from Cortland or Ithaca,” he continues. “Actually, they should be from there, because that have that working's man attitude. They all come from the same place (in England), their families are working-class people, they're Catholic; it's the same thing as me and Vinny. So it was always going to work, and that is the reason I would always go back to them, because it's the only way I would feel comfortable.”
This third time around with Iommi, Butler and Appice also seems to be succeeding because of its limited time frame: touring runs through the end of 2007.
“I think it does make it an awful lot easier,” says Dio. “We wanted to be sure we went into it with a definite end in sight. Knowing that there was an end in sight, it didn't put the pressure on what HAS to come. Now it's only a matter of, will anything come from this? And that's a decision that all of us have to make at some point.
“But it won't be too soon, because I have other commitments to the Dio band. And the other guys have some commitments to make, too. So putting a definite ending time made a great, great difference. It just took all the pressure away so we knew what we were going to do, and if anything was going to come out of it, it was going to be gravy.”It's about how Dio never forgot his blue collar routes and how he prefers Black Sabbath/H & H over Rainbow.