Chad Bowar: Does The Very Beast of Dio Vol 2 have more meaning for you, since most of the songs were from your era with the band?
Simon Wright: I guess it does have a little more meaning. They picked most of the tracks from 1996 to 2000, and I was in the band then. I’m on a lot of tracks. It’s pretty cool.
There are also three bonus tracks on the album.
“Electra” was released on a live compilation. It’s a special track. It was going to be part of Magica 2 and 3, which unfortunately didn’t happen. That was the way the next albums were going. There’s also “Metal Will Never Die,” which is probably the last song Ronnie sang. It was on his cousin Rock Feinstein’s album (Bitten By The Beast). And then there’s “Prisoner Of Paradise,” which was originally a bonus track for the Japanese edition of Master Of The Moon.
Eddie Trunk wrote the liner notes for the album, and I know he was a good friend of Ronnie’s.
Absolutely. Eddie’s great. It was nice of him to write what he did. Eddie and Ronnie really got along well.
You mentioned Ronnie was working on sequels to Magica. Are there any finished songs that might be released?
They are partially finished. They were in the demo stage. There is talk at some point that when the time is right and when it’s the right thing to do, they will be released. But that’s Wendy’s (Ronnie’s widow) deal. She keeps an eye on that kind of stuff. There are two or three, maybe four tracks.
You left AC/DC in the late ‘80s to join Dio. What led to that decision?
It was pretty much a no-brainer. I got the opportunity and I went for it. I had liked Ronnie’s singing going back to the Elf days. When I had the opportunity I said I would give it a shot and see what happens. Thankfully it worked out.
I’ve read from other former AC/DC members that the band was a machine that could chew you up and spit you out if you weren’t careful.
It was a little bit like that. When I joined the band it was like being in a washing machine. You kept spinning around and around. I was very young when I got the job. It’s a working machine, and you had to be on your toes. I was in the band about eight years. Towards the end I just really needed to move on and do something else. They kind of noticed it, and there’s no room for that in that band. You’ve got to give it 100 percent. So I moved on.
After Lock Up The Wolves, you were absent for a couple of albums. What led to your return for Magica?
I guess Vinny (Appice) had something else going on. I don’t know exactly why he left. I was very fortunate, because at the time I was in UFO. That was in early 1998. UFO had just imploded. We were in Japan and Michael (Schenker) didn’t like the way things were, and the band kind of ended.
A couple of weeks later I got a call from Wendy. Vinny was going to go off and do something else. Since I knew the songs I was able to step in, and I stayed there the rest of the way through, for 13 years.
You’ve played with a lot of charismatic frontmen over the years. What is the common thread that people like Brian Johnson and Ronnie have?
I think they’ve just got a spirit and a drive, and they are great in front of an audience. But I think it comes from within. You have to be super confident and just take command of the stage. Those are two guys who did it brilliantly. They want to entertain people and kick some ass.
What are some of your fondest memories of your time in Dio?
There are a lot, but I always find myself referring to a show we did in Germany. We were headlining, and at the end of the set Ronnie was presented with a heavy metal lifetime achievement award from the festival. That was a really special moment. 50 thousand fans were chanting “Dio!” It was hair raising stuff. I was very proud of him. It was a fantastic night.
You knew Ronnie even better than the other band members because you actually lived at his house for quite a while.
I went through a really horrible divorce. We were on the road, I think in 1999, and I wasn’t in a very good place. I told Ronnie I might move back to England and might have to quit the band. He said not to do that, just come and stay at his house. I did, and all of a sudden it was 13 years later!
It was great. He’d do his thing, I’d do mine. We would hang out. We did a lot of work together on the house as well. We did brick work and stairs and sprinkler lines, the whole thing. We hung out like two guys do, you know? I got to know him a little better than I would have if I wasn’t living there. He never asked me to leave and we became really good friends.
It has been a couple of years since Ronnie’s death. As you look back, what do you think his musical legacy has been?
It’s a legacy that will never die, and it’s a massive legacy. All the songs he wrote and all the brilliant bands he was in and fronted. It’s an endless supply of brilliant songs that he wrote. He’ll always be remembered, not only for being a great person, but for being a brilliant singer and songwriter. The songs he’s written are timeless. They molded they way heavy rock and metal went. Bands have taken so much from his songs. His legacy is just remarkable.
You are continuing that legacy with Dio Disciples. How did that project get started?
We weren’t sure what to do after Ronnie left us. It just became apparent that we couldn’t stop, we couldn’t let it go. It’s like when somebody in your family passes. You never forget them, and you find a way to remember them. This is our way of remembering Ronnie. It’s done with total respect. We are doing it for his fans, keeping his music alive. It’s a celebration of his songs. It works both ways. The fans seem to like what we’re doing, and it’s a release for us and the fans to listen to his songs again in a live setting. We’re just carrying on and keeping his spirit alive.
Is it more emotional being in Dio Disciples and playing those songs?
It does come across now and then, yes. You have a job to do, but for myself there are certain times in the set, the quieter moments, where you reflect a bit. You do get sad a little bit about things. But that was the one thing about Ronnie. He said you had to give it 110 percent. Work was the most important thing, playing great for the fans. He has instilled that in us. In that respect he has made it easier for us. It is a working band. But you do reflect sometimes.
Tim “Ripper” Owens is the singer. How have the fans responded to him?
It has been great. He does a great job with the songs. He’s very respectful to the meat and potatoes of the songs and the way Ronnie would phrase things. He’s very conscientious about that. He’s a big fan of Ronnie and they knew each other. They would talk on the phone quite a lot. Tim was managed by Wendy as well, so he’s family.
You have some Dio Disciples dates scheduled for October and November. Is there anything planned beyond that?
That’s what we’re working on at the moment. We’ll start in California and head east.
Are you involved in any other projects at the moment?
Dio Disciples does take up quite a bit of my time and Craig’s as well. I did just finish a project that I had a lot of fun doing. It was with an Italian band called The Rocker. We just finished up an album and it should be out next year sometime. It’s three chord rock, a very rocking album. I do other things like that, but my main focus is on Dio Disciples.