“This is your life
This is your time
What if the flame won’t last forever?
This is your here
This is your now
Let it be magical”
When Ronnie James Dio sang those words in 1996’s “This Is Your Life,” he couldn’t possibly have imagined how affirming they would be to a kid from Western New York whose friends never shared his love of heavy metal. He was simply delivering another sermon of hope and self-reliance just as he always had, but, to me, his sentiment was exactly what I needed to hear at a time when my lifelong struggle against The Extrovert Ideal was reaching its boiling point. I was beginning to shed whatever adolescent desire for acceptance I had left while the music of Dio, Black Sabbath, and Motorhead provided the soundtrack, which meant that plenty of futile exchanges with middle school teachers were on the horizon.
Despite the establishment’s attempt to frame the genre as something that people grow out of once they transition from the classroom to the boardroom, Dio’s work was a shining example of how to make mature metal that had just as much to say about man’s inhumanity to man as any protest music from the 1960s. He wrote about a cruel world where people in power blind your eyes and steal your dreams, and displayed such a versatile vocal range that he deserved to be mentioned among the greatest singers of his era regardless of style. His physical flame may not have lasted forever, but the legacy that he left behind for his family, friends, fans, bandmates, and the heavy metal community at-large is indeed magical.
I caught up with his longtime drummer/friend/collaborator Vinny Appice this week to discuss a tribute video that he and his brother Carmine put together to honor Ronnie on the 10th anniversary of his death. I know that we’re all suffering from concert withdrawal at this point, so, if you want to pay your respects from home, feel free to watch the video with your horns up.
MNOD: How did the idea for this tribute video come about?
VA: I was talking to my brother about 10 days ago and we decided to use a song we did from a few years ago called “Monsters and Heroes,” which was all about Ronnie. It was the most commercial song from the “Sinister” album and it fit the concept well. May 16 marks the 10th anniversary of his passing, so we decided to release the video that day as the perfect tribute.
MNOD: What do you remember about the first time that you met Ronnie?
VA: The first time I met him, I was struck by how nice and down-to-earth he was. How much he cared for his fans and the music was amazing to see. We were playing arenas and he always wanted to take time out for the fans. I remember one time Ronnie and I were in a limo and there were a bunch of fans hanging out by the gate trying to see the band. All of a sudden, Ronnie said ‘Stop the car’ and he got out to sign autographs and take pictures with everyone out there. It was cold out, but he didn’t care. He wanted to meet and talk to everyone, which was how he was all the time.
MNOD: Did you find it intimidating at all when you first stepped into the Black Sabbath fold given that they were already established as legends?
VA: Not really. I’ve always had a professional attitude and I knew that I had a job to do. I had to learn the songs and be ready to deliver them on stage every night. The process is the same with anything I do, because it’s about doing the best job that I can do.
MNOD: What were the differences between Ronnie’s approach to Sabbath and how he worked once the original Dio band took off?
VA: Both groups were easy, because he was so creative and always had ideas flowing about how a certain song should be. With Sabbath, there weren’t as many suggestions obviously, because they already had an established sound and vibe. He would always be singing along with us while we played to give us that inspiration. We would usually lay the drums down first and then bring the bass in. The goal was to make it sound dark and evil. With the original Dio lineup, he was always open to input from all of us and we were always trying different things to see what worked.
MNOD: Of the seven Dio studio albums that you were a part of, which one stands out as your favorite?
VA: “Holy Diver” is definitely the one. The songs were so high energy, the band was playing really well, and we just had a great time making that record. I think the music reflects that. It’s almost 37-years-old and it still sells and people still play it everywhere.
MNOD: The 2007 reunion tour for Black Sabbath under the Heaven and Hell moniker is one of the best shows I’ve ever seen. Was it easy for you guys to find that chemistry again after being apart for a while?
VA: It was like the band never ended. I went to Tony’s house in England and pretty soon we were getting along just like old times. I started recording some stuff that was already written and then we had a bunch of dates booked in addition to the new material. That tour was fun, because we were playing great and all getting along really well. Then, Ronnie got sick and we weren’t able to continue for as long as we wanted to. I would spend a lot of time with Ronnie as he was going through treatment and we all thought that, if anyone could beat this, it was him. He had such a big personality and was always full of life, but, sadly, he never got better.
MNOD: Do you remember the last time that you spoke with him?
VA: I remember talking to him on the phone and his voice was raspy, which was odd, because he always had such a powerful voice. He fought it with everything he had and always tried to remain positive throughout.
MNOD: I know that you’re involved in a number of different projects other than this, so how have you been dealing with the shutdown?
VA: I’ve been doing some drum lessons on Skype and catching up on a lot of movies. I’ve never watched so much Netflix. I’ve also been finding stuff that I didn’t know I had like boxes of stuff from the road and scrapbooks. Anything that I’ve been wanting to do for a while, I’m now getting to do, because I’m not on the road. I had some dates scheduled with Last in Line, the band I’m in with Vivian Campbell, but those have been pushed back until the end of the year. I’m also still doing the Resurrection Kings project with ex-Dio member Craig Goldy, so I’m hoping that things will get back to normal soon and everyone can get back out there.
The Appice Brothers will release their video tribute to Ronnie James Dio on Saturday, May 16, 2020 on YouTube and the Internet in general.