The Jerusalem Post recently conducted an exclusive interview with legendary heavy metal vocalist Ronnie James Dio (RAINBOW, BLACK SABBATH, DIO). A few excerpts from the chat follow:
On being synonymous with the devil horns, the slightly demonic hand gesture with a raised index finger and pinkie that has long been as an essential element as jeans to the hard rock fan's concert accessories:
"Of course, I invented the devil horns. Actually I saw my grandmother do it when I was a kid. She used it to ward off the evil eye. I think someone named Og invented it 50,000 years ago. But I've become synonymous with it. I'm proud of starting a trend that will last and has become a symbol."
On how he started playing music:
"I began playing trumpet when I was five, and grew up listening to opera, a nod to my Italian heritage. Then I formed my first rock band when I was 11. It's obvious in my performances there's lots of crossover. I eventually was offered a scholarship to Julliard, but I didn't want to go in that direction.
"The students that came [to nearby SUNY Courtland] were mostly from Long Island and Brooklyn, and they brought their own music with them and their attitudes - you could say more cosmopolitan. So I got a chance to emulate the kind of music they brought — people like Sam Cooke, Jackie Wilson and Sam and Dave. I got into music from the soulful end — at the end of the day, rock is blues-based."
On his stints as vocalist for a solo project by DEEP PURPLE bassist Roger Glover and in the late 1970s and early 80s as frontman for Ritchie Blackmore's RAINBOW and as Ozzy's replacement in BLACK SABBATH:
"It never seemed strange to me to go from being a fan of DEEP PURPLE to playing in bands with Roger Glover and then singing with Blackmore's RAINBOW. That was supposed to happen, it was part of a plan. I've never been one accused of lacking self-confidence."
On DIO's 1983 debut, "Holy Diver", which is still considered a heavy metal classic:
"I was surprised at the success of 'Holy Diver'. When we first did RAINBOW, Ritchie was antsy, after all it was his name on the product. I was sure it was going to be great, but he was the one out there. With Dio, it was my own name, and I was apprehensive — I hope this succeeds. I know what Ritchie went through. I was totally unaware that it would become a blockbuster. And it has held up."
On helping to shape a generation of music fans:
"I feel proud to have been part of three things — I think — that have defined a generation of music. RAINBOW 1, SABBATH's 'Heaven and Hell' — that band was dead in the water and we put it back together. Many people come up to me and say that this version of SABBATH was the one they grew up to — taking nothing away from Ozzy and the original...and 'Holy Diver'. They all stand the test of time."
On forming a mutual admiration society with Jack Black and his acoustic metal duo TENACIOUS D:
"Jack and Kyle (Gass) are fans and appeared on a video that we did for a song called 'Push'. I was knocked out by him — this guy is knowledgeable about rock.
"He especially like 'Heaven and Hell' — that's the one he grew up with. So in the video, he sang his own lyrics to the song and they appeared as two street buskers — it was hilarious. He told me that he and Kyle were in the process of writing a film and would I be in it? Two years later, I had forgotten about it, but he called and said 'are you ready?' He wanted me to play the part of Ronnie James Dio. I can do that pretty well, so I said sure."