Since the tragic passing of Ronnie James Dio earlier this year, live recordings of the late singer are starting to be released. Recently, we've seen the At Donnington UK set from the Dio band, as well as Heaven & Hell's Neon Nights set from the Wacken festival in Germany in the summer of 2009, which just happened to be the last filmed concert of the legendary singer. Many musicians from around the world have paid tribute and spoken out about Ronnie James Dio in recent months, and Sea of Tranquility Publisher Pete Pardo caught up with Dio's friend, band mate, and drummer in Heaven & Hell, Black Sabbath, and Dio, Vinny Appice, to get his feelings on the late singer, and his musical plans for the near future.
SoT: If there was ever a fitting tribute for Ronnie, "Neon Nights" seems to be it. Seeing as it was the last filmed performance of Ronnie, not only was the band on fire that night, but the Wacken crowd was huge, and the production elements of the show, both audio and video, is superb. What was it like for you that night, and how does it feel to look back on the Wacken gig now and know that it was the last time Ronnie appeared live on stage in front of cameras?
Vinny: Well, it was such a huge festival with so many people that you could feel the energy of the all the fans onstage. Looking back I am glad since its RJD's last video performance that it was a night that was without any technical problems in addition to the band being on fire. I thought it was one of Ronnie's best nights. He sang so amazing and he enjoyed that night!
SoT: Ronnie's passing has been hard on the entire hard rock & metal community, probably more so than any other artist in recent memory. He seemed like one of those figures that never aged, beloved by fans, friends, and family alike, and the 'heavy metal' embassador that would live forever, which I think is what has made his death so hard on us all. You were very close to Ronnie for many years-can you give us some thoughts on your relationship with him, and how you are coping with the loss of your friend & bandmate?
Vinny: I met Ron when I was 23 years old. He became my band mate but also more importantly a brother, leader and a best friend. We had many things in common, most of all the desire to play on "11" each night and kick each others butt onstage. I really miss being around him and it feels like we are going to start rehearsing soon and he will be there.
SoT: The set list for the Wacken show was great, as the band not only played the mandatory favorites, but you also threw in solid album tracks like "Country Girl", "Time Machine", and 'Falling Off the Edge of the World" alongside a few of the newer songs. How did you guys decide what was to be played from tour to tour over the last few tours to make sure you kept the set list fresh for the fans?
Vinny: We send emails back and forth before we start rehearsing for the tour. Usually starts with too many songs and we start eliminating. We may came up with ideas along the way which is how "Country Girl" became part of the show, playing only half the song before starting Neon Nights.
SoT: Before the announcement of Ronnie's illness, the band had planned another world tour. In addition, was there any writing going on for a possible follow-up album to The Devil You Know?
Vinny: No there was nothing in the can but Ronnie had a few songs he demoed in his studio. Tony and Geezer may have been working on some ideas and riffs too. But no official band writing session took place.
SoT: Can you talk a little about the Tribute show with Glenn Hughes & Jorn Lande? How was it working with both those singers? Is there any chance the three of you will collaborate with either singer in the future?
Vinny: It was very strange being in the rehearsal room together without Ronnie. We first played with Jorn, who sang great but still strange for us, especially when we played Heaven And Hell, that was hard to play the first time without it becoming emotional and sort of sad. Jorn did a great job and Glenn was brilliant as usual. We became a band for that show and for Ron and we played for the fans!
SoT: Speaking of the future, what does the future hold for Iommi, Butler, and yourself, as Heaven and Hell, or as any other entity?
Vinny: Right now we are in contact with each other but no plans have been made.
SoT: Eddie Trunk has been very vocal in his praise of Ronnie and the band since Ronnie's death. How close are you guys to Eddie? The candid interviews on the DVD were very well done.
Vinny: Eddie has been around the band and has become a very close friend of everyone. We all felt comfortable with Eddie, therefore he gets the best out of us.
SoT: Lastly, despite all that has happened in recent months, where would you like to see the career of Vinnie Appice go from here? Most heavy metal fans see you as one of the premier drummers and I'm sure are curious what your thoughts are as to where you, and the band for that matter, go from here.
Vinny: Well thank you, I would like to continue making music with Tony and Geezer. I enjoy playing together and was always honored to be part of their music, lives and history and it's the music I love.
I do want to have my own band and that's what I'm working on now. I am always a team player, with my own band it's 4 guys, not just me.