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 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 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 is undergoing "some changes" before the launch of the next leg of the "Dio Returns" world tour, scheduled for this spring.
Speaking to Meltdown of Detroit, Michigan's WRIF 101.1 FM radio station, Owens said that he is "looking forward" to hitting he road with the hologram once again.
"I wanna do it, because no one's ever really toured like that," he said (hear audio below). "I wanna experience it… And to celebrate Ronnie and to do this hologram thing will be pretty cool."
Owens said that he recognizes that some people may have a difficult time embracing a digital version of their favorite singer. "I understand it — everybody has their own opinion," he said. "But me as a fan, I think to myself, man, I would love to see a David Bowie hologram show. I mean, I would love to see a Frank Zappa hologram show… I'd love to go see an Elvis [Presley] show, 'cause I remember the year he died, I was a kid and I was supposed to go to his concert. My parents said, 'We'll take you to go see Elvis when he [comes] to Cleveland.'"
Even putting aside the fact that DIO DISCIPLES will be performing with a hologram, Owens says that the experience of listening to the legendary singer in a live setting should make for an exciting event.
"I just wanna go hear Ronnie's band playing live with Ronnie's voice coming out through the P.A. system — a live version of it," he said. "To me, that sounds like a real concert; it has a real vibe. So, to me, it's gonna be pretty cool."
Tim also addressed the "cash-grab" accusations leveled at the "Dio Returns" organizers and musicians, saying that the hologram has yet to turn a profit.
"People complain to me: 'The hologram, somebody is making money from it.' No, Wendy Dio is paying a gazillion dollars to try to get it to work," he said. "And second, people just went and watched dead musicians being played by somebody else in a movie. Or they go to a wax museum and they go, 'This is all right.' Well, who the hell is making money from that? C'mon, people.
"But I get people not digging it — I get it," he continued. "But I think the main thing is I just wanna celebrate it and do it."
Wendy Dio, who is a member of the Eyellusion team, 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."