Tim "Ripper" Owens has once again defended DIO DISCIPLES' decision to go on the road with a hologram of Ronnie James Dio, saying that the tour will be a chance for fans to celebrate the legendary heavy metal vocalist's life.
Dio died in 2010 at the age of 67 from stomach cancer. His hologram was created by a company called Eyellusion — with Ronnie's widow and manager Wendy Dio as part of the team — 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 singers Owens and LYNCH MOB's Oni Logan.
Based on video footage of the first leg of the 2017 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.
After the tour's initial seven-date run was completed in December 2017, Ronnie's hologram underwent some changes before the launch of the next leg of the "Dio Returns" world tour, scheduled for May 31 at the Barbara B. Mann Performing Arts Hall in Fort Myers, Florida.
In a brand new interview with St. Pete Catalyst, Owens said that he is puzzled by some of the negative reaction to the Dio hologram.
"I understand if someone doesn't like it," he said. "But what I'm sick of is the hatred that some people have. Wendy gets blamed, and really, all she's done is spend money on this to try to make the fans happy.
"A 'cash grab' is Wendy sitting on her couch, owning all of Ronnie's music. She's grabbing all the cash from that, so she doesn't have to do anything. Why would she spend the money to make fans happy?
"Listen, nothing's done not to try and make money in the long haul," Owens explained. "Anything you do. But Wendy does so much to try to make the fans happy, and it's nonstop. And I'll tell you what, that's exactly how Ronnie was. No one cared that he brought a dragon out on a tour back in the day — and it was such a big tour that he lost money. No one cared about that."
The "Dio Returns" 17-song set consists of seven tunes sung by the Dio hologram — the rest feature Owens and Logan separately or together — and encompasses material from Dio's lengthy career, including his earlier days in RAINBOW and BLACK SABBATH.