By: Robert Cavuoto
It’s hard to believe it’s been over two years since the passing of Ronnie James Dio. It seems like yesterday when I saw him performing with Heaven and Hell at Radio City, and at the theater in Madison Square Garden.
Ronnie will always be remembered as one of the greatest hard rock/heavy metal singer to live and, of course, one that was taken too soon.
Thankfully, we have his music to remind us of the legend he was from Elf to Rainbow to Black Sabbath to his solo band, Dio, and then Heaven & Hell. His legacy will live on for generations to enjoy.
Just released is a second volume of Dio’s best tracks – The Very Beast of Dio Vol. 2, it’s a follow-up to the gold-certified The Very Beast of Dio.
This 17-track CD picks up exactly where the first volume left off – from 1996 onward. And in addition to featuring such latter-day Dio classics as “Killing the Dragon,” “Push,” and “Fever Dreams,” the compilation will also include several rarities that fans have long requested on a single disc – “Electra” (which previously was only a part of the ultra-rare ‘Tournado’ box set), “Prisoner of Paradise,” and “Metal Will Never Die.
I had a chance to chat with Craig Goldy, guitarist in Dio from 1986 to 2010 (for multiple LPs) and talk with him about the new Best of CD as well as remember the magic of Ronnie!
Robert Cavuoto: Tell me how you transitioned from Rough Cutt to Dio?
Craig Goldy: I think it was 1982, I was living in my car, because things at home were really bad and that seem a better option. I had the whole thing down. I had the clothes folded in the trunk, wind up clocks so I could go to work, as well as plastic soda bottles filled with water so I could wash my hair. I’d shave in the side view mirror in a little bowl.
I had just spent my last $20 on the demo tape, as one of the singers I was working with got a gig up in L.A and felt bad for leaving me behind so he made me a promise. He said, “When you’re done with your demo, I’ll pass it around.”
Once that was done, I sent it up to him. His band became friends with Rough Cutt and gave the tape to Dave, the drummer. He was really impressed so he played it for Ronnie, and Ronnie was really impressed. He goes, “We gotta get this kid up here.” He goes, “The only thing is he lives in his car,” [Both Laughing].
At the time I’d done a favor for a guy, and he let me stay at his house. Luckily there was a phone. Somehow they got the phone number and they told me they wanted me to come up and audition. I only had a guitar, so they had to rented equipment for me too.
Robert: Rough Cutt was originally managed by Ronnie and Wendy Dio .
Craig Goldy: Yeah, Ronnie and Wendy were there the night of the audition and wanted to meet me. I told them about how important his music was to me and I would study his music and melody lines and stuff like that.
I said, “It seems like when you say this that you really mean that.” He goes, “Exactly!” It was almost like I broke the code.
So, when we started the audition, Ronnie got so inspired that he wanted to sit in. I heard later that he rarely does that. We did “Man on the Silver Mountain” and “Heaven and Hell”. Afterwards he told me, “If I have anything to do with this, you’ve got the gig.” We became friends through that. Through Rough Cutt, we found that we had a really good working relationship in the studio together.
Little by little, we became even closer friends. There was one night I was kind of frustrated by the inner workings of Rough Cutt. I told him, “I wish I could just join your band.” He pushed stop on the tape real abruptly. Back then we had tape, and I go, “Oh, man. He’s pissed.” And he looked over at me and says, “You know what? If Vivian Campbell doesn’t ever work out, you’d be my first choice.” That’s why there were no auditions. He’s a man of his word.
Robert: Was it a challenge to pick up Vivian style of guitar playing and yet create your own identity on those early songs?
Craig Goldy: Ronnie’s a visionary and a producer, so he knew how to make it work. There were times in the studio when we needed a guitar part and he would just turn to me and say, “What about this?” He’d sing the part and I’d play it. He knew. I was very open-minded and studious, and I would work my ass off. He knew it would work.
Robert: What are some of the memories you have about the CDs you did record with Ronnie, like Magica and Master of the Moon.
Craig Goldy: A lot of people don’t know this but with Intermission, the night they recorded at San Diego, Vivian’s guitar was a little bit out of tune. They asked me to overdub his rhythm parts in the studio. They kept his solos because they ran it through a harmonizer. We didn’t have ProTools back then so when I re-recorded the parts, I had to cue up his guitar to mine by little whistles in the crowd. That was my first time working with Ronnie.
Dream Evil was my first full-length record with Ronnie. At the time, Jimmy was getting a little bit disenchanted for whatever reason. I took that time and wrote a bunch of ideas. I had like 135 ideas. Ronnie called me and said, “Okay, Goldy, you’re up. Apparently Jimmy is not into this right now.” I went over there and play then stuff and Ronnie grab my arm and say, “That’s great! That’s great!” I learned that he had happy feet. They’d beat just sitting on the stool. We’d be on headphones working on it. As soon as I’d see his feet go from side to side, I knew he liked that.
Magica to me was a great endeavor. Apparently the record sales had declined and I was told later that people were disenchanted with Tracy, especially in Europe.
One day I got a phone call from Wendy and the next thing I know I’m sitting on the couch at Ronnie’s house again and he’s telling me this concept about Magica. It was a special time because he knew how much I liked his lyrics and stuff. A lot of times he’d call me at night and say, “Goldy, you’ve got to hear this.” Even when he was in Heaven and Hell, he’d call me and go, “Goldy, you’ve got to hear this,” and read me his lyrics. He’d say, “As I wrote this, I knew Goldy would love this,” [Both Laughing].
Those kind of things are kind of special to me. He nicknamed me the Great Goldini during Magica, because we would record the entire album before we’d go into the studio and I would write notes about every song, so when we got to the studio we would have everything lined up. If a question came up, I had my notes.
Robert: The world is definitely a different place without him and his music.
Craig Goldy: He was the first and last of his kind. He left a huge hole in this world
Robert: Yeah, I think he had a lot more to give. That’s the sad part.
Craig Goldy: We were writing Magica II just before he passed away. At the time he had been given a clean bill of health. The doctor said, “You can do whatever you want to do.” Wendy looked over at him and said, “What do you want to do?” and he says, “Write with Craig.” You could tell that he was struggling, but on his way.
We have a song that we just have to finish and so eventually it will come out. Because of the spirit of doing things, we’ve been using guest vocalists on the bridge and it would have to be somebody in the Dio family. It makes sense if another singer came in and finished it that way. Other than that the song is ready to go. Some of the lyrics are heartbreaking because it’s cloaked about some of the stuff that he was going through. If you pay attention and listen to it, it will punch you in the heart.
Robert: What did you think of the last Heaven and Hell album?
Craig Goldy: I loved that band. We got a chance to rehearse some of the songs because Tony Iommi was on a different continent. I’m really jealous of Tony’s ability to come up with these really cool riffs. They’re so simple, interestingly simple and heavy. I think he is soloing better than he used too.
Robert: Many of the song on this new compilation album, The Very Beast of Dio Vol. 2, features you as the guitar player. How does it feel to see these songs repackaged and re-released?
Craig Goldy: It really is an honor just to be part of it, period. It’s nice to have been thought of in that way, because it wasn’t me who picked those songs. It was nice that that’s what they chose to do. It’s the original recordings remastered.
Robert: Your playing in Dio Disciples, a tribute to Ronnie. What’s next for the band?
Craig Goldy: It’s kind of hard to do Ronnie songs without Ronnie, of course. But ,we’re doing it because we want to pay tribute to him and keep his memory alive. When any major family member passes away, the remaining family members often get together in order to keep his memory alive and be remembered, so that’s what we’re doing. We were his family.
There were a lot of people doing tributes to Ronnie who weren’t in the band and some of them had no business doing it. Eventually there was a time when Wendy was like, “I think it’s time for you guys to go out and do it now.” And it made perfect sense to use Ripper Owens because Ronnie loved him. They were friends and he used to often come and visit the studio. Ronnie would stop everything while we were recording and ask him to come down. They’d talk and he loved his voice and wanted to help him with his career and Wendy managed him. By no means are we trying to replace Ronnie, but we’re just fortunate that we have a guy who does such a good job of singing these songs.
Robert: I know that Vivian, Claude Schnell and Jimmy Bain did a tribute to Dio. Have you heard anything about it and what do you think about it?
Craig Goldy: I understand because they were the original members and why they would want to do something, but the only thing that bothers me is where were they when Ronnie passed? Where were they through the years other than making slanderous comments? All of a sudden they want to pay tribute. That seems suspicious to me. I don’t like that part of it. it doesn’t seem in the true spirit.
Robert: When Ronnie was in Heaven and Hell, there was talk of Ozzy coming back for another Black Sabbath reunion. Did he ever talk to you about that?
Craig Goldy: Yeah, but that’s when we started writing for Magica II. I think it seemed so. I don’t really know completely. Ronnie for a long time brings me backstage during the Heaven and Hell tour and he’d grab my arm and go, “Trust me, we’re gonna do great things together. Just trust me.” He always had the next Dio record in mind. But Heaven and Hell snowballed and he couldn’t just walk away, just because he promised the guys they were gonna do another album.