A Legacy of Love and Loyalty to Ronnie James Dio: Interview with Scott Warren of Dio Disciples

Backstage at the White Oak  Music Hall,
(courtesy John Escamilla), Houston
By: Carox Rox.

The lineup included support bands Love and War, Tame Fury and Red Iris.
Carox: How long have you been playing with the Dio Disciples?
Scott: Well as long as there have been a Dio Disciples which was somewhere mid-2011. Ronnie died in 2010 and we were grieving for about a year and a half or so and so were our fans, so as a sort of resolution to that Wendy Dio said, “Let’s try this and see if it works”.
Carox So you guys have been playing ever since then every year, but I do know that you are all involved in other projects?
Scott: Well, we do all have different projects but we kind of committed to this although, this is a work of love. It isn’t so much like other bands where we are just trying to make money. It is a work of love and honor for the fans and for the memory of Ronnie to keep his music alive.
Carox: I must admit I have read a lot of interviews and responses and I feel as if you guys always have to try and justify or explain that you are not just trying to make some money. Is that because there has been some criticism of the Dio Disciples?
Scott: Well, how do I put it objectively? A lot of people don’t understand why we are doing it and there has been a lot of criticism right from the beginning because in a way it has not really ever been done before. When Ronnie passed away I looked up and said: “Now what am I going to do – cos I am never going to play another Dio song in my life with a tribute or anything – like it is done.” Then there was a notion from somebody about getting another singer, and you know you can’t just “replace Ronnie James Dio” especially since that is all his music.
Carox: Well that is like trying to replace David Bowie, you just can’t.
Scott: And the whole idea was of that, no way. But when Wendy turned it around from a different perspective which is “what would Ronnie have wanted.” You know we all had to search our souls to see what individually we all felt about that, and it was not okay to “go and replace him”.  We never did replace him. We just invited other singers, not even to imitate him but just to come in and sing the songs the best they could do.
Carox:  How do you choose the set list?
Scott: We select the songs very carefully. It is sort of a process. There are the staples that we have got to play. Like if people come to the show they expect to hear songs like Holy Diver, Rainbow in the Dark. Sometimes we shift the songs around. I mean there is only a certain amount of time to fit in the songs and that is kind of good because we have the whole legacy of songs available to us.  Rainbow songs, Black Sabbath songs, Heaven & Hell songs and Dio songs. We kind of thought about Elf songs at one point but they did not really match.

But other than that we choose songs that people will expect to hear and then other songs which I call the “Special” songs that aren’t necessarily the ones people expect to hear. Right now we have added Falling off the Edge of the World and it’s special because people do not expect that one. On every tour we will add one or two new ones in there and shift things around, and we always do it, but we always do it very carefully and we are limited by time.
Carox: How has the process of playing In Dio Disciples helped the grieving process? So little has been written about the fact that you guys are playing again and again whilst grieving the loss of the main man.
Scott: Certainly it helps. And I myself as keyboardist got thrown into it pretty early on because I was asked to play at the services, which was the funeral and then the public service at Forest Lawn in 2010, 2 weeks after he died. We had Glenn Hughes, we had Joey from Anthrax sing a song, there was Geoff Tate of Queensryche… so here I am in a rehearsal room playing with all these musicians, not Ronnie. That was very trying because I did not think I could get through it, these songs without Ronnie singing them.

Also early on I was on the Heaven & Hell tour with Ronnie and that’s where I left off. Actually, we were in the rehearsals with Dio getting ready to go out again just at the end of the Heaven & Hell tour. They had one particular commitment still left even although Ronnie was gone, and I was invited to play, so it was kind of like a 12 gun salute. (Heaven & Hell would perform a one-off tribute to Ronnie James Dio at the High Voltage Festival, London on 24 July 2010. This was the band's last performance under the name) That was very trying as here is Black Sabbath (Heaven & Hell) with no Ronnie. I remember we rehearsed for a week (in the same studio in Wales where Queen recorded, Rockfield Studios). On the first day, we were in rehearsals there and it was just myself, Vinny Appice, Tony Iommi and Geezer Butler.

It was okay at first but then it just got slower and slower in the room and we were all just sort of standing there and it was like how are we all getting through this?
Carox: And you have! What I appreciate about it is you are bringing the music to his fans and a whole new generation. Just listening to the sound check was bringing chills up my spine.
Scott: Yes that happens to us too. We have played these songs for so many years and so many times but there is still always a moment when you get pinched by yourself and you go oh wow, I can’t believe we are still playing these songs.
Carox I did read somewhere that Dio Disciples might be bringing out an album of original songs, is that true?
Scott: Yeah, that has been a long time coming. We have been talking about that for years, but that was always going to be a big hurdle because it is like okay, Ronnie passes away and we start “using his name to suddenly come out with our own album.” That was not going to happen. It was more “how can we do this in good taste and respectfully?”  It will be good if we can include some of our own individuality in this process with some of our own music in the set and show we are not riding on Ronnie’s coat tails like okay, “we rode in with Ronnie.” I think this will be a good time 8 years later to show some fresh stuff – always a challenge these days - but we would like the fans to expect some new music too.
Carox: Well I think you guys have certainly earned your badge to do just that. Do you have a memory of Dio to share for me? Was he funny?
Scott:   He was funny and had a tremendous sense of humor but when I try to gather up some funny anecdotes like this well, he was always the sort of director of the humor. He would let us be the clowns and then he would make a joke and put everything into perspective. On the whole, we were all our own individuals and I did some crazy stuff, not saying that I was the one that was funny but he had a way with words. He liked to sit back and watch everybody – he didn’t get involved in a lot of the pranks – a lot of the pranks he would tell stories about were before our time …but I mean he was mostly very serious then he would say something under his breath which would be against his character that would make us all laugh. If you had asked Ronnie if he had a story about me he probably would have hundreds, as well as sort of grinning about it – as he would have stories about the entire band!
Carox:  What I do like about your band is how you deal with criticisms, you are all so loyal. There is something about him that created this intense loyalty.
Scott: Well he was very loyal. I mean there are so many things that I did that make me look back, I think how did he let me do that? I never missed a show musically. I was straightforward.  But even if we might get into a couple of spats and stuff but he was always loyal. I was on the Heaven & Hell tour and that was pretty high pressure for me. He had been there before and I thought this is going to be a challenge and I turned to Ronnie on the bus and I said: “I hope I don’t do something wrong and get fired.” And he turned to me and said, “Don’t ever say that, don’t ever talk about getting fired.” So as far as the loyalty goes - and I may have posted this but towards the end there - one day I had a film score I was working on and I couldn’t do rehearsal that next day. Ronnie took rehearsals very seriously and we went outside and he said: “Look you do what you need to do son, I wish you much success with that”. He knew that it might mean something that might interfere with the band and so I said to him “Look, as long as this train is running I am on it, as long as you are there and I am here this is what I am doing regardless of what is coming up”. I could see his eyes tear up a little and he said, “I am telling Wendy that story” and a couple of years later in a bar, he told me “I told Wendy what you said”. And that meant a lot to me. Basically what he was saying was he felt my loyalty. Each of us as a band has their own story of his loyalty in the band. That was one that really reached me.
Carox: Does Wendy ever come to a show?  What is she like?
Scott: She is very shrewd, intelligent and crafty. She is very experienced. As a person she is funny (English like Carox) She is a really warm person. I don’t want to get in a whole thing with the press.  I do want to touch a little on this and say that a lot of people have maybe misunderstood her. They might have been on the other side of her camp as a band manager or feel that they got treated unfairly but she has always been fair and honest with everyone and me. Some of the nasty things people say on the internet could have been something way in the past that I certainly never saw since I have been working for her. She has just been a really wonderful person.
Carox: I am really interested in seeing her book. I’m interested to see another piece of her life and more of the beautiful jigsaw of Dio. What would you like to say the fans for them to know? The old ones and new ones? What are you bringing them?
Scott:  We want to give back to the fans and also we are getting back, I have to say, from those we inherited as Ronnie’s fans. There is a rewarding interplay even with the new generation of fans. We are keeping the music alive for new generations. Before we even considered doing this the question was “What would Ronnie have wanted?”  It still is. Some people have said we are just taking advantage of a dead man’s legacy. Wendy and Ronnie were like our godparents. We were a family. They took care of us, made sure we were happy and taken care of. If you think about a family like saying Joe’s Pizza and Papa Joe and sons have a pizza place with a special pizza recipe, and Papa Joe dies, what would be the most honorable thing to do, close the business or keep the secret recipe alive for generations to enjoy, those who have already tasted it and those who can now taste it?
Carox: Well I believe it is a legacy entrusted to the right people.
Scott: Well I can say this without sounding arrogant; we are the people who were invited to be in his band at the end of his career. We were handpicked ultimately. I didn’t say we were the best band he ever had.  I would say we were the ones he chose. And back to the question about new fans, it’s the younger generation; for them, it is not only Dio that has gone. It is also people like David Bowie. We are reaching an age when all these great artists are all disappearing.

I feel entitled to have lived through an era with all of these great artists that inspired me to be a musician like Dio. Eventually, there will be no one left to do it, it seems to me. The threads of the legacy of those artists that evolved from the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s 80’s and 90’s are dying because the artists are dying. I feel that it is very important to keep that music alive. And talking about the old fans - the first show we did as Dio Disciples was in Moscow. We were like fish out of water.  I was scared someone might come and shoot me. People were still very emotional in 2011 and his fans were very emotional and some fans just wanted everything to be buried very nicely, including his music, around his tombstone and felt very strongly about that. I was scared we would be boycotted. But the fans that came that day all thanked us one by one. There were tears and hugs. It was so elevating. They understood why we were there and it was just really inspirational.

Even more inspiring now is when they bring their kids. Even better is when kids bring themselves now and these kids are new musicians coming to our shows! I’m not saying we are the greats, I’m saying we are the tail of the greats. It is not just flattery, it is encouraging to see a new generation coming to experience what Dio was then and would have been now.  When he was diagnosed with cancer, he went into remission at one point and then Wendy called me up and said “He wants to do a show right now! He wants us to book Universal Amphitheatre.” The first thing he wanted to do a show right then and I just know he would have been doing it till he was a hundred and ten if he could have!

Thank you Scott Warren for this interview.