On May 16th, 2010 the music world mourned the death of one of the greatest rock vocalists ever with the passing of Ronnie James Dio. Ronnie is known for both his solo career in DIO and his work with the legendary Rainbow and Black Sabbath. He was beloved by both fans and fellow musicians who often cited Ronnie as a major influence, mentor, and friend. With the support of Ronnie’s wife, a group of his bandmates came together to keep his music and magic alive with the formation of Dio Disciples. I had the opportunity to speak with vocalist Oni Logan and find out what is going on with Dio Disciples. Join us as we talk about their upcoming tour and Oni’s personal relationship with Ronnie.
Kris: Welcome Oni and thank you for joining us here at BackstageAxxess.com. How are you?
Oni: Hi Kris! Yes, thanks everything is fine here in sunny, hot California over here.
Kris: For those people who may not be familiar with Dio Disciples, can you explain what the band is all about?
Oni: Well, yes I can. The Dio Disciples are a band of brothers, mostly the original band, the existing band that backed Ronnie James Dio. Ronnie Jame Dio came out of a well know band by the name of Rainbow and later it would be Black Sabbath and then he ventured off on his own as a solo artist as DIO. For many years, he toured the world and made records, platinum success, gold success, had videos and brought a lot of people great rock and roll and happiness. What we are, the Dio Disciples as I had mentioned, is we are the existing band excluding myself because I’m a singer. I’m one of his friends from 1989.
Kris: So you knew Ronnie?
Oni: Oh yes, Ronnie was a friend and we met in West Palm Beach and we continued our friendship and he’s the main reason why I came out to California to follow my dreams. Because he took time out once backstage at a show in West Palm Beach in 1989 to ask me “Well, what do you see for yourself in the future?” basically asked me what I wanted to do. And I said well I wanted to follow my aspirations of becoming a singer and a recording artist and that’s what I did. And he said, “Well what’s stopping you?” I said well I don’t know anybody out there and he said well you do now and he gave me his number. And so from 1989 we had developed a friendship and when I came out here we had known each other ever since until his passing in 2010. So I’m one of the singers. The other singer is Tim “Ripper” Owens who was in the band, he took over Rob Halford’s place in Judas Priest. For all rock fans who don’t know Judas Priest, they were a major rock band (laughter) with many albums sold. So we both get up onstage and we pay homage to continue his legacy and bringing his music to all four corners of the globe alongside with his original bandmates which are Simon Wright on drums, Craig Goldy on guitar, Scott Warren on keyboards and there’s a new addition who’s been around just as long as I, since 2012, and that’s Bjorn Englen on bass and Tim “Ripper” Owens and myself, Oni Logan. We bring it and pay homage to his music. We just got back from South America bringing it to the Brazilian fans down there which were fantastic and we did Mexico City, Guadalajara, Monterrey, and we’re coming back to the States and we’re gonna bring it to the East Coast and Canada and we look forward to performing.
Kris: Ronnie was such a huge influence to so many and it’s good to see his legacy and his magic being kept alive.
Oni: Absolutely, that’s what it’s all about. He was the type of artist that would not isolate himself from his fans. It could be you know 50 degrees out and he’d step out of the bus and sign autographs and take his time to talk to people and for me way back in the day, he didn’t have to talk to me for an hour you know and give me his phone number. He was just a quality type person and a gentleman and I think he showed that with all who surrounded him.
Kris: Dio Disciples has some dates coming up in Canada and a show in Western New York on July 20th at the Willow Creek Winery. Are you looking forward to this leg of the tour?
Oni: Absolutely, we always have a great time playing for the people, our fans, up in the East Coast. We have a lot of friends there and we’re looking forward to bringing it to Canada. I believe this is the first time for Dio Disciples bringing it to Canada and we have the addition of Vinny Appice who is the original drummer who they had worked with together when Ronnie joined Black Sabbath, Vinny joined as the drummer. So you had two Italians and two Englishmen and they went ahead and when Ronnie left Black Sabbath, Vinnie went with him and he did the first DIO album and the rest is history. So we’re bringing back another very important piece of the DIO family which is Vinny Appice who is just a fantastic well known drummer worldwide.
Kris: Will Vinny also be at the Willow Creek Winery show then?
Oni: Yes that is correct.
Kris: I know that Vinny wasn’t always supportive of Dio Disciples, so it is good to see him have a change of heart and be on board.
Oni: Absolutely it is.
Kris: Since Dio Disciples tours with two vocalists, both you and Ripper, how are you sharing vocal duties for the tour?
Oni: Well, there are specific songs that work better and lend themselves vocally to each of our voices better than others. Well let me rephrase that, basically what happens is that our tonalities, our quality of voices, whatever suits us as far as what the catalog that Ronnie has being there in front of us, we pick and choose. And we also, when we’re onstage, we share a couple of songs together, some of the classic songs from Rainbow, from Black Sabbath and also we sing a few on our own. And they’re all designed for our voices.
Kris: Well, that brings the next question I was going to ask which is the set list. It includes the full range of Ronnie’s career then, including his solo work and Rainbow and Sabbath?
Kris: Ronnie was known for putting on such elaborate shows, very theatrical. What can fans expect to see at a Dio Disciples show?
Oni: Well as far as production, there is not the production that Ronnie took out on the road with the dragons and everything. That you won’t see, but you will see a quality show with regards to the lighting as well as the participation and how the band delivers onstage and how we perform the songs. It’s quality, it’s the best (I would say) band out there portraying Ronnie’s legacy. With respect.
Kris: What has the fan reaction been? Have people generally been supportive?
Oni: Well there’s both you know. For the most part, anywhere on the positive, I will speak on the positive. For the most part, I mean going down south to Brazil and going down to Mexico City, you had fans waiting from early morning til 12 at night just to take photos or get some signatures and sign albums that the existing band, Simon and Craig, had been involved with. So there’s an endearing, heartfelt love for the situation and when we perform you can see on the faces of the fans that they are genuinely having a good time and they sing the lyrics. They are participating and you know you just see their faces when you play, say for instance, performing “Children of the Sea” you can tell there’s people out there getting goosebumps. You know on the other note, there’s mixed feelings about it because you know there’s people that say we’re probably taking advantage of the situation and that we’re only out there for selfish reasons and stuff. But this is not the case because this was all designed from management which it is Wendy Dio who was married to Ronnie for many years. It was her idea and her blessing to make this happen, to carry the history of his music and keep it alive. That’s why we do it. We were all friends with him and most of all most of the guys in the situation played with him for many years. Scott Warren played with him for 17 years. Craig was with him I think probably 15 years you know, Simon as well, many years. And so it’s out of love. We do it for the right reasons and that’s what keeps it going. And we enjoy playing his music. We’ve all been influenced by Ronnie especially for myself and Tim “Ripper” Owens as vocalists, it’s not the best heavy metal vocalist to ever sing those great songs but it’s the least we can do for a friend.
Kris: Has it been difficult vocally to step in and handle those songs on the tour? A little intimidating perhaps?
Oni: Absolutely it can be intimidating at times especially if you have five in a row which is what we have coming, you know. It’s not easy you know. He had a God given voice. For a person to step up there that never warmed up before the show, I mean Ronnie would not warm up. He would just walk up onstage and it would be there, he just trusted it would be there. Now that’s something truly magical and I’ll quote that word “Magical” and he had the magic on that end for sure. And the tonality and the way that he used his voice like an instrument, it’s daunting you know. People put me and Tim on a pedestal sometimes but we’re only human. So sometimes we might hit a little bit of a sour note (laughter) but we try to do the best that we can and I think not to blow smoke up our behinds here but I think we do it well between both voices.
Kris: Now you were also the original singer for Lynch Mob. Are you still involved with the band now?
Oni: Yeah, you know George and I have been in touch via email. We haven’t really spoken. I know that he’s doing some things, has a project going on here and there. I’ve been doing the Dio Disciples but we’ve been threatening to get back together and write some songs. Maybe record a new album or go out and do some dates. You know I think that will happen and probably in the not so distant future, more closer to now. I anticipate it happening sooner rather than later.
Kris: Do you have any other projects cooking right now or when the Dio Disciples tour wraps up?
Oni: I don’t know. I’m contemplating that. I’m sort of keeping myself open to other possible ideas, touring with other people. It’s not yet been solidified but there’s talk of putting a few well known musicians together and going out and bringing some of our own prospective paths individually with the other people that are known in the business so we’ll see how that works out if it should work out.
KE: That sounds exciting. I can’t wait to hear whatever you take on next. We’ll look forward to the Dio Disciples tour and some future Lynch Mob music as well. Thanks again for taking the time to talk with us today.
Oni: Thank you Kris!
We would like to thank Chip from Chipster Entertainment for setting up the interview with Oni. For more information on the Dio Disciples tour including their stop at the Willow Creek Winery on July 20, please visit: Dio Disciples.