Vinny Appice has defended Vivian Campbell over the way the guitarist was fired from DIO, saying that Ronnie James Dio's bandmates were "not getting" what they "were promised" by the legendary heavy metal singer.
Campbell, Appice and Ronnie James Dio worked together on the first three DIO albums — 1983's "Holy Diver", 1984's "The Last in Line" and 1985's "Sacred Heart" — before Irishman Campbell left to join WHITESNAKE in 1987. Vivian later publicly took issue with Ronnie's need for total control of the band, claiming that finances played a major part in the bad blood that preceded the split.
In a brand new interview Canada's The Metal Voice, Vinny spoke about the circumstances that led to Vivian's exit from DIO. "There were some business problems within the band," he said (hear audio below). "We were promised to be sharing in things, and we gave it up for the first album and tour, because, okay, it costs a lot of money to launch the thing and Ronnie is putting in his money and whatever. But then it never happened. We were doing tours in arenas. Back then, one of the tours grossed eight million dollars — that was in those dollars; that's probably eighty million dollars [in today's money]. But we got nothing out of it — [we only got] salaries and stuff — so what was promised never happened. And Vivian really… he called [Ronnie] on it and the management, so that kind of became bad blood with Ronnie. But we all felt the same way — that we're not getting what we were promised and we should be doing better than we're doing. Somebody's making a lot of money here, and it wasn't us. So that's what happened with Viv. And then Ronnie and Viv didn't see eye to eye, and then finally Ronnie said to me, 'I'm gonna fire Viv.' I'm, like, 'What?' I just was in shock. And I kind of mentioned [to Ronnie] that that's not a great idea, 'cause it's the sound of his band. And [Ronnie] decided that he can go on without [Vivian]. So that's what happened."
According to Appice, DIO lost part of its musical identity once Vivian was removed from the group's lineup. "Whenever you've got something that works with a band that's magical with the people in it, you don't do that," the drummer explained. "It's part of the sound. It's like LED ZEPPELIN. They didn't even continue with another drummer [after John Bonham died], [and] they could have. They [could have] made zillions of dollars, but they didn't for a while. And then they got John's son, Jason. The magic's within certain people in bands, and it really works, and then you change them around and it's not the same. Nowadays it's different — there's all these bands out with one original member or no members that were original; they just own the… somebody owns the name and it's a commercial enterprise and they go out and play. But they're good. Now it's a different music business. But back in the day, when you're writing the stuff that's becoming classic rock or is in the history books, then that's where it's important to not make the changes."
Vinny was also asked for his opinion of 1987's "Dream Evil", the first DIO full-length effort to be recorded without Campbell. "You know, but it's a good album, but it just lost the rawness of the band," Appice said. "And that's because of two things. One of 'em is more keyboards got into the music. We weren't really a keyboard band. On 'Holy Diver', [then-DIO bassist] Jimmy Bain played the 'Rainbow In The Dark' thing, and sometimes Ronnie played some backing chords on a couple of songs, and that was it; we were a guitar band. So as the tours went on, we got a keyboard player, which was Claude Schnell, and Claude's a great keyboard player and a great person, [and] the keyboards worked their way into the music more. So that kind of smoothed it out; it didn't have that rawness. And then [Vivian's replacement] Craig Goldy played a little bit of a different style than Viv. So I think the direction of the band just changed. And also, on top of all that, Ronnie started taking more control over everything, as in being a producer. Before, we did what we wanted to do and everybody's ideas were counted in, and that's what made it a great band. Then it became less of that and more of Ronnie driving the ship. All those things combined kind of made the band a little less vicious, I would say… [Ronnie] just became more [in] control of things. And the rawness… The stuff wasn't raw anymore; it was smoothed out, I think, with the keyboards and stuff. So the music just changed to not being as mean as it was and heavy."
The resentment between Campbell and Ronnie James Dio remained unresolved even at the end of the singer's life in 2010. Not long before he passed, Dio told an interviewer: " In my opinion, Vivian no longer had the commitment to the band he had in the early days. He was — and remains — an excellent guitarist. I never lost sight of how good he was as a musician, but as a person… Well, he was no longer on the same page as the rest of us. That annoyed me hugely. When you've got four people really stretching and straining to do their very best, and one person who's clearly holding back, it makes for an unhappy camp."
Bain, who played with Ronnie in an early version of RAINBOW and later appeared on seven DIO albums (from "Holy Diver" to 2002's "Killing The Dragon"), told U.K.'s Metal Hammer in 2012 that "Viv did nothing that warranted his removal from [DIO] in what is still considered to be a cowardly way. For me, firing Viv was the biggest mistake of Ronnie's career. The problem could've easily been resolved if there had a been a will to do so from Ronnie and Wendy [Dio, the band's manager and Ronnie's wife]."
Bain also felt that DIO was in decline by the time the band released "Sacred Heart".
"DIO should have gotten better with each album, but what happened was the opposite," Jimmy told Metal Hammer. "The production was watered down with all the keyboards, [and] the songs were not as good because it became harder to satisfy Ronnie's need to complicate arrangement and structure."
Campbell, Appice and Bain were part of the original DIO lineup, which reunited in 2012 alongside singer Andrew Freeman to form LAST IN LINE.
When LAST IN LINE formed, the intent was to celebrate Ronnie James Dio's early work by reuniting the members of the original DIO lineup. After playing shows that featured a setlist composed exclusively of material from the first three DIO albums, the band decided to move forward and create new music in a similar vein.