- “We haven’t gone as far back as Elf yet,” says Wright of the band’s repertoire, “but we have been thinking about it.”
By rock god standards, Dio did appear to have a better-than-average sense of humor. After all, the diminutive New Hamphire native chose the name Elf for his early-’70s band. Decades later — after bringing his powerhouse vocals to Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow, taking over Ozzy Osbourne’s role in Black Sabbath, and subsequently fronting his namesake band Dio — Ronnie was still happy to join Jack Black’s satirical band Tenacious D in the studio, despite the fact that they’d written a song about taking the veteran rock icon to a nursing home.
So it’s easy to imagine the ghost of the legendary singer, who died in 2010, watching from the wings during Dio Disciples’ European tour last winter, which featured no less than three lead vocalists, one of whom happened to be a Ronnie James Dio hologram. Taking turns with the laser-projected Dio were former Judas Priest singer Tim “Ripper” Owens and Oni Logan of Lynch Mob fame.
“The only difference for me,” says Wright of the hologram-enhanced numbers, “was that I played to a click-track, so I had to get used to that.” Otherwise, the drummer barely noticed the ersatz Dio. “The hologram was up there to the right side of me, so I really couldn’t see it. I didn’t really have the best view in the house.”
The lineup that comes to Sunshine Studios on Aug. 17 will be slightly modified: Logan has gotten married and will be sitting out this leg of the tour, as will the hologram, which Wright expects to return for the next tour in a new and improved form. That still leaves the formidable Owens at the mic, along with former Dio members Craig Goldy on guitar and Scott Warren on keyboards, as well as Wright himself (whose credits also include UFO and AC/DC) manning the drums.
While Wendy Dio, Ronnie’s widow, is an active part of the tribute band’s camp — she, in fact, manages them — her enthusiasm isn’t necessarily shared by everyone, including former Dio guitarist Vivian Campbell, who has insisted that Dio Disciples have “zero credibility.”
“Unfortunately, a lot of people are kind of against the act,” admits Wright, “but I just say give it a chance and go see it before you start taking pot shots at it. But that’s just inevitable, I guess.”
In any case, Wright says the group plans to go into the studio after this tour. “Wendy managed to secure a record deal for us with BMG, and I think after the Colorado shows we’re going to stop for a little bit and then get down to rehearsals and writing. We’re trying to create a sound for Dio Disciples, so we’re going to be concentrating on doing that.”
In the meantime, Wright is happy to be out on the road celebrating his former friend and bandleader. “We play Dio, Black Sabbath and Rainbow songs; we haven’t gone as far back as Elf yet, but we have been thinking about it. It’s all about remembering and celebrating Ronnie.”