Monday, 26 September 2022, marked the UK premiere of the highly anticipated Ronnie James Dio movie DIO: Dreamers Never Die. As the late great Dio’s friends, family and bandmates gathered on the red carpet in the heart of London’s Soho to celebrate his remarkable life and works, MetalTalk spoke to those nearest and dearest to him about his music, his career and his legacy. Here are the thoughts of Toni Iommi and Wendy Dio.
Interview: Kahmel Farahani
Photography/Film: Steve Ritchie
The documentary is a fabulous record of a true musical giant’s work and a life well lived to the fullest. The film also manages to walk the fine line between star-studded tribute and a thoughtful, unflinching view of the long hard road to any success in the music industry.
“Fabulous, absolutely fabulous,” Wendy Dio told MetalTalk when asked how it feels to be celebrating Ronnie’s life and legacy. “I’m so happy. I’m so proud of the movie. I think Don Argott and Demian Fenton [directors] did an amazing job, and I hope everyone will love it. We made it for the fans, and we hope they love it.”
Toni Iommi told MetalTalk that it felt great to celebrate Ronnie James Dio’s legacy after more than 40 years of working together and sharing time. “He was a great friend, Tony said, “and we worked together really well. I’m looking forward to actually seeing this film. It’s been in the works for a while, but Ronnie was a great friend, a great singer, one of the best rock singers.”
Dreamers Never Die goes through all the eras of Ronnie’s work beautifully and with many musical changes. Did Ronnie ever think in terms of labels, this is rock, this is Metal? “No,” Wendy says. “He just did what he wanted to do. That’s what the story is all about. Never give up what you are doing. He wanted his fans to love the music and didn’t want to be commercial. He didn’t care about money. He didn’t care about fame. He cared about his fans and his music, and that’s what it’s [Dreamers Never Die] about.”
With the release of Heaven And Hell in 1980, it’s funny that a lot of labels came, like Black Sabbath created Power Metal, or they created a new way forward in Heavy Metal. Tony says that was not in their thoughts, and the process was natural. “With any music that we did with Black Sabbath or Heaven And Hell, what came up at the time was from how we felt. We weren’t thinking, ‘oh this is going to be that’. It was whatever we liked, whatever we felt. When I write riffs, I always have to feel it. I’ve got thousands of them… throwaway riffs. I would never use them. So I have to really like something. If I play something and I like it, then we use it in the songs.”
The documentary covers the years when Heavy Metal was a little on the decline. Does Wendy think that changed Ronnie’s musical direction for a while? “Maybe a little bit, but not really,” She says. “He did what he wanted to. It was a very devastating time for us. To lose your label and not have a label and have to play clubs after playing arenas. But you know what, Ronnie didn’t care if it was 80 people or 800,000. He would give his all, no matter what.”
It is a testament to Black Sabbath’s musicality that they were able to mould and remould around so many different singers, something most bands can’t even do once. “That’s right,” Tony says. “I mean, we have had some really good singers, Ian Gillan and Glenn Hughes, with me… Tony Martin, Dio, Ozzy of course …. and it’s funny because a lot of the singers we’ve had have been in the band twice. Ronnie was in the band twice, Ozzy in the band twice, you know, Tony martin in the band twice. So it’s weird.”
There was a kind of closing of a chapter with Devil You Know, such a wonderful album and it is prime Sabbath, in a way. “I think it was really sad,” Tony says, “because we were really on a roll with Devil You Know. We were touring, and we were really enjoying it. I remember talking to Ronnie when we were in Japan.”
Tony and Ronnie went for dinner one night. “We said, look, we’re not going to say we’re going to go for five years,” Tony says, “we will just try it and see where it goes. We were done with the tour, and we loved it. We enjoyed it. We were in this restaurant, and I said to Ronnie, ‘Do you fancy doing anything more?'”
Ronnie enthusiastically said yes. “We’ve got to do another album,” Ronnie told Tony.
“That was the plan,” Tony says. “That’s what we were going to do. Of course, you know, Ronnie didn’t make it. But it was going so well, and we had a great time being together. We loved working together. I loved working with Ronnie, go on the stage, and you know what he is going to do. He loved his audience and loved his fans, you know. Real genuine.”
Tony’s abiding memory of working with Ronnie was of someone very professional and a top singer. “He is the best rock singer,” Tony says.
Does Tony think Ronnie is the greatest Heavy Metal vocalist of all time? “I do,” Tony says. “He was great, and a lot of other Metal vocalists will say that as well. It was just so powerful. When I first heard him, I couldn’t believe that voice coming out. It was such an incredible voice.”
Ronnie James Dio’s legacy will live on forever. How does Wendy feel when she sees kids now who were not born when those records came out? “It’s amazing,” Wendy says. “Especially with Stranger Things, unbelievable. The Thor movie has got Ronnie’s music in it. I think the younger generation is fantastic. The first time ever in history that kids listen to their parent’s music. Never before. I didn’t listen to my parent’s music.”
It seems like music has crossed all barriers. “Well, I think it’s the innovators,” Wendy says. “They were all innovators, Sabbath, Zeppelin, Purple, Priest. They’re all innovators, and their music is timeless. And I’m glad the new kids, the young kids, are finding the music again and listening to it.”
An emotional evening, fans and Heavy Metal lovers will love DIO: Dreamers Never Die. The worldwide release is tonight.
In Part One, Wendy discusses Ronnie’s severed thumb, those doo-wop recordings, her role as manager and her relationship with Sharon Osbourne and Mick Wall. You can read Part One at https://www.metaltalk.net/wendy-dio-we-wanted-to-portray-ronnie-james-dio-throughout-his-life.php.
In Part Two, they cover Rainbow and Black Sabbath. You can read Part Two at https://www.metaltalk.net/wendy-dio-ronnie-loved-the-black-sabbath-camaraderie.php.
In Part Three, the cover DIO, the band, the dragon and how Wendy is happy that people are still listening to Ronnie’s music. You can read Part Three at https://www.metaltalk.net/wendy-dio-im-so-happy-that-people-are-still-listening-to-ronnie-james-dio-music.php.
You can read MetalTalk’s review of the film at https://www.metaltalk.net/dio-dreamers-never-die-a-solid-gold-testament-to-one-of-the-legends-of-heavy-metal.php.
Tickets for Dio: Dreamers Never Die are available from www.diodreamersneverdie.com.
You can read about and donate to the Ronnie James Dio Stand Up And Shout Cancer Fund at https://diocancerfund.org/donate/.