Former DIO keyboardist Claude Schnell has slammed the Ronnie James Dio hologram, calling it a "travesty" and "disrespectful" to the singer's memory.
The legendary heavy metal frontman died in 2010 at the age of 67 from stomach cancer. His hologram was created by a company called Eyeillusion and made its debut at the Wacken Open Air festival in August 2016 in front of more than 75,000 fans.
Schnell, who joined DIO in May 1983, after the "Holy Diver" was released but before the accompanying tour was launched, offered his opinion on the holographic version of Ronnie during a lengthy interview with the "Ouch You're On My Hair" podcast.
"To the fans who like it, good for them," Claude said (hear audio below). "If it makes anybody happy, then it's a good thing. Personally, I think it's a travesty; I don't think it's something that should have been done. But, of course, bear in mind that I'm the first to acknowledge that my opinion means crap — who cares? But personally, I think it's disingenuous to the memory of the man.
"If you were lucky enough to know who he was in life, and if you were lucky enough to see him in life and to enjoy him and his music, that should be enough," he continued. "To go ahead and use technology to try to… it just seems… It's not quite this word, but I don't think there's a word that puts it lighter than this, but it just seems disrespectful to his memory. And I'm not even addressing the fact that some will argue that it's just a cashgrab and it's a way for Wendy [Dio, Ronnie's widow and manager] to find herself making more money off his memory, which that's not here or there, and I'm certainly not about to stand in judgment of what other people do. But just in principle, I don't think it's right. But that's me. What do I know?
"I guess the bottom line, to me, it just seems cheesy, and if there's one thing that you'd never say to describe Ronnie, it's 'cheesy,'" he added. 'Because everything Ronnie did was always… he was always present, it was always full heart, it was always full emotion, it was always with the benefit of all of his faculties, being engaged… [He] was a guy who was authentic. [He] was a guy who what you see is what you get.
"Under the best circumstances, a hologram is, obviously, a hollow version of who the person was. And maybe if it's Michael Jackson, it doesn't matter; if it's Elvis [Presley], it doesn't matter; but when it's somebody who lives in my heart to this day, I just can't see… For one thing, I can't understand how Wendy can be okay with it, but that's between her and her own values. To go full circle, to me, it just seems like a travesty."
The Dio hologram production uses audio of Ronnie's live performances from throughout his career, with the DIO band playing live, consisting of Craig Goldy on guitar, Simon Wright on drums and Scott Warren on keyboards, along with Bjorn Englen on bass. Also appearing with them are former JUDAS PRIEST singer Tim "Ripper" Owens and ex-LYNCH MOB frontman Oni Logan.
After the tour's initial seven-date run was completed last December, Ronnie's hologram is undergoing "some changes" before the launch of the next leg of the "Dio Returns" world tour, scheduled for 2019.
Wendy Dio, who is a member of the Eyellusion team, recently said that the people that criticize the Ronnie James Dio hologram should at least see it in person before voicing their disapproval. "Don't criticize it if you haven't seen it," she told "Whiplash", the KLOS radio show hosted by Full Metal Jackie. "It's done with love. The band love doing it. And we just wanna keep Ronnie's memory and his music alive."
She added that a digital version of Dio makes perfect sense. "I think that Ronnie was an innovator of heavy metal music, so why not be an innovator of technology?" she said. "And I think technology is coming a long way with holograms — a lot of people are doing it now. And I think the reason is because we are losing all of our innovators; everybody is getting older. And we need to keep them alive and keep their memory and their music alive. I think it's a new way. It's like when people first came out with a CD or a cassette: 'Ooh, we don't want that.' But then it was the way of technology."
Photo courtesy of Claude Schnell's Facebook page