Tim "Ripper" Owens has once again defended DIO DISCIPLES' decision to go on the road with a hologram of Ronnie James Dio, saying that he is only doing it to "celebrate" the legendary heavy singer's "life and music."
Dio 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.
The "Dio Returns: The World Tour" production uses audio of Ronnie's live performances from throughout his career, with the DIO DISCIPLES 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 Owens and LYNCH MOB's Oni Logan.
Based on video footage of the first leg of last year's tour, Dio fans had mixed reactions to the apparition of their favorite singer, with some loving it and others thinking the performance didn't live up to the real thing or that it was just plain creepy.
Speaking to IndeOnline.com about how he came to be involved with the "Dio Returns" tour, the former JUDAS PRIEST singer said: "Wendy [Dio, Ronnie's wife and manager] and the hologram people both asked if I would be interested in singing. I love doing the DIO DISCIPLES stuff, and this is definitely done for the love.
"I'll hear people say, 'Oh, someone's making money.' No, someone — Wendy Dio — is spending tons of money to try to make fans happy," he continued. " We don't do it for the money. I get paid more doing solo stuff, but I love it. I love Wendy and Ronnie was a friend, so we just love doing it and celebrating Ronnie's life and music."
Asked if there was any trepidation on his part to take part in the tour, Owens said: "At first, I wasn't sure about the hologram. But I thought, 'I would love to at least see a David Bowie/Ziggy Stardust hologram or a Bon Scott hologram.' Maybe I wouldn't like it; I don't know. But with us, it's a live band playing to Ronnie's vocals. I think it would be really cool to see those other artists in the same way, so that's the way I kind of looked at it. I thought, 'Let me try this.' I get some people might not want to see it, but the strangest thing is that a lot of those people would go watch a movie with a digitally created person that has passed away and be fine with it. Not liking it is one thing, but to attack Wendy Dio, who is doing it to try to make fans happy, that's the problem."
In 2018, "Dio Returns: The World Tour" will make stops throughout Scandinavia, Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, France, Germany, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, United States, Venezuela and other countries, with many more dates to be announced.