On May 16th 2010 one of the most influential and beloved heavy metal singers of all time, Ronnie James Dio, passed away at the age of 67. The rock and metal community wouldn’t be the same since then. It was in the late sixties Ronnie entered the scene with his band ELF, but his career really went sky high when he joined forces with legendary guitarist Ritchie Blackmore in his Rainbow. Ronnie’s career move to become lead singer of Black Sabbath in the end of the seventies seemed more than logical and it made him even more successful as a performer. But Ronnie also proved to be a rock star on his own, by starting his own band DIO in 1982, releasing 10 studio albums and doing numerous live shows till is death. His fans, band members and the rock and metal community won’t forget Ronnie, but it is also his wife Wendy Dio who promised her husband to keep his legacy alive. After debuting at the Wacken Festival in Germany last year, a hologram of the late heavy metal singer Ronnie James Dio will set out on a world tour backed by musicians who played with the legendary singer. The innovative ``DIO Returns’’ Tour is about to set the metal scene and the music scene in general upside down. HeadBangers LifeStyle talked with Wendy Dio about the ins and outs of DIO Returns: The Tour.
What was your first reaction when Jeff Pezzuti of Eyellusion contacted you about his idea of creating a hologram of Ronnie James Dio?
,,First of all I had a lot of doubts. I wasn’t sure if we should do this or not. It has never done before but the more we talked about it, the more I thought Ronnie would give his blessing because he was always very interested in all the attractions with holograms in Disney Land. In 1986 when we did the Sacred Heart Tour we had the head of Ronnie projected in a crystal ball and we were trying to make a hologram. Ronnie was an innovator of music so why not an innovator of technology? This is the first time it has ever been done with a live band.’’
How long did it take to realize the hologram and the preparation for a live show?
,,It has been almost two years now. We did a one-song debut at Wacken Open Air in Germany last year. But technology has come a long way in the last year, so this hologram of Ronnie we use for the tour is going to be much better than the one we used at Wacken and that one was pretty good. At the time I was thinking of doing some festivals to see how it would go but then Jeff convinced me to do this actual tour and we decided to do it in Europe. Now I am very excited about it. It is a big stage show as well. We will have a lot of other things and special effects going on besides the band that is playing. You will see the band of Ronnie he played with for the last 17 years of his life performing and Ronnie will come in and out a few times during the show. Ronnie will also interact with the two other singers.’’
,,When I saw him up there on stage with his band it was really very emotional to me.’’-Wendy Dio
How was it for you personally to see Ronnie on stage again?
,,It was very emotional, actually. I had watched it for the whole time during the process and it didn’t effect me. But when I saw him up there on stage with his band it was really very emotional to me. I thought it came off well. We also did a performance of that one song ,,We Rock’’ in Los Angeles during the Pollstar Awards Event but this new hologram is far more improved.’’
Were there moments of doubts during the making of? Moments you thought its not going to work?
,,Of course [laughing]. There is always something going wrong, somewhere. It’s been a long, long process; something like this takes a lot of time, a lot of money, a lot of hard work and new technologies. Things not always go to plan and we had a lot of those days. But we are on the right track now. I was at the production rehearsal yesterday, everybody was there and it is going really, really well. This tour is for the fans who didn’t get to see Ronnie when he performed live and also for the fans who want to see him back on stage again.’’
Can this show be performed in every club or theatre or are there certain practical demands?
,,Yes there are certain demands. For instance the ceiling height has to be at least 18 ft. We need a stage of at least 30 by 58. So we are having a little bit of a problem in some of the venues, especially like the first one because it is very small. We have to put people on risers to create space because the drummer can’t be sitting behind the hologram. This is the first time we go out and we don’t want to play in too big venues because it is still very debatable with people whether they like it or don’t like it. People accept it or not accept this. But I think people have to see it instead of saying `oooh I’m not going to see this’. They will see it is done with love and that we are just trying to keep Ronnie’s memories alive. The band members are all doing this for the love of Ronnie. So why not doing this? If people receive this tour well, we could continue doing other shows with hopefully more other special effects and bigger stages. And you know what? The company already has been talking to many people about doing a hologram also of for instance Frank Zappa and other big stars, because all the innovators have dying off. All these people who were the innovators of hard rock, there are not many left and there is not a lot of really good music coming up. Even Kiss is already talking about doing special effects in their show. There are a lot of other things you can do with hologram technology besides having musicians, like a tiger or a lion walk out or you can have a waterfall suddenly appear. It also makes travelling a lot easier instead of having 17 trucks, like we did with the Sacred Heart Tour. Everything we did back then, like the dragon, we could now do with hologram technology.’’
,,To be negative before you have seen something is really wrong.’’-Wendy Dio
How do you take the negative critics?
,,To be negative before you have seen something is really wrong. You have to see it. If you don’t like it you don’t have to come. I find a lot of times somebody’s critics are like, they are just very hurtful people, they say hurtful things. That is not just of us but to all the different musicians and that is unkind.’’
What exactly can expect the fans from this live show?
,,It is a 90-minute show and there are eight songs with Ronnie. It will start of with Ronnie coming out singing with the band. Then the band will play another song and Ronnie will sing with the two other singers Ripper Owens and Oni Logan. Ripper and Oni will continue singing different songs and then Ronnie will come out again, but you don’t know when exactly he will show up. It is kind of a surprise each time. The last song Ronnie will sing together with Oni and Ripper. All band members have instructions where to be on stage and how far they can move. Indeed a lot of choreography comes with it but basically they are doing the same on stage as they did when Ronnie was alive, because they couldn’t go into his space either. Ronnie always had his space and that was his space. You couldn’t go into his space. He could go into your space of course but not the other way around [laughing]. They have that already kind of marked out before him.’’
Is there a plan B when something goes wrong during a show?
,,We carry extra of everything, so if something breaks down we have another one to take its place, definitely. Even when we used to go out with Ronnie back in the days we always had backups of everything, just in case something happened. Because things happen. I remember the time when we did the Pyramid Tour. Vinny Appice was on the top of a Pyramid; it had like a canvas top that would lift up with smoke coming out of the beginning of the show. One time it got stuck on there and they couldn’t get it off. Vinny was left under there and could hardly breath because of the smoke and everything, but you know things happen all the time. The movie Spinal Tap is not really far from the truth when they try to find the stage, it happened a lot of times. Running around in the backstage, where is the stage? [Laughing].’’
Do you think this tour will make Ronnie even more iconic?
,,I hope so. When Ronnie passed away 7 years ago I assured him that he would not be forgotten, that I would try to keep his music, his memories and his legend alive and make it bigger, bigger and bigger. Right now our Facebook Page has over 2,5 million fans and I just think his music will never die. Ronnie was there for the fans, he was a very special person. He loved his fans and he spend time with his fans. He never turned away an autograph, he was always there for the fans. He loved them as people and he never forgot where he came from.’’
Can fans expect other activities or releases that will keep Ronnie’s legacy alive?
,,Yes, there are some other releases that we are talking about right now. Also Ronnie was writing a book before he passed away and I said I would finish it. At the time I couldn’t do it, but now I am talking with people and hopefully the book will be out next year. We are also working on a documentary as well, so yeah there are a lot of things we are working on to keep his memories alive.’’
,,I love work and doing many different things actually.''-Wendy Dio
What else do you do besides working on the RJD legacy?
,,I do a lot of charity work. I have a Cancer Fund formed when Ronnie passed away. I have 14 board members, which were all friends of Ronnie’s doctors, accountants, lawyers and other managers. We work very hard and we do two big events a year; The Ride For Ronnie, a motorcycle ride that ends in a park with a lot of bands playing and we also do the Bowl4Ronnie, which we just finished in October. We have raised over 2 million dollars so far for cancer research and education. I am very strongly involved in that. I also do a lot of animal charity work. We’re doing a `Designers gone to the dog’ at my house on 10th December. All of my friends bring in unwanted bags, shoes, phones, gifts, whatever and we all go have a little afternoon tea and some wine and buy each other’s stuff and raise money for the dogs. I also have another charity that I belong to called Freedom Foundation which is for teaching kids about American history and paying for some scholarships for them to go to the university for unprivileged kids. We work very hard on that. So yeah, I am very involved in a lot of different things outside RJD. It takes all my time but I love doing it. I love work and doing many different things actually.’’
In case you have a moment for yourself. What would you like to do?
,,I just completed one of my bucket list things; I went to Africa, I went on a safari in Kenya and it was really amazing. I’d like to go Egypt to see the pyramids, but it isn’t the right time of the year right now. I am very interested in history and I love to travel, going to different countries. I go to London a lot for the IAMC (International Art Music Convention), actually there are a lot of conventions I go to. I then do a little business and I see my family when I am there because I am originally from England. When I am back in America I do business here. Indeed never a dull moment for me [laughing].’’
What would you like to say to the fans?
,,Thank you for your support, the fans are fantastic, God bless them all.’’
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