The backbone behind Dio’s latter-day works and AC/DC’s underrated mid-80’s efforts, there are few drummers that better play the “four-on-the-floor” style needed in classic rock and metal than Simon Wright. Wright, who joined AC/DC at the ripe age of 21, was tasked with keeping time for a band that had no fills or deviation from the beat. While the drummer role in AC/DC is central to the band’s sound (see: Phil Rudd), Wright was an invisible entity behind the schoolboy wizardry of Angus Young and the mad-capped Brian Johnson. After he recorded 1988’s Blow Out Your Video, Wright was out, and in need of a new gig. As luck would have it, Ronnie James Dio remembered Wright from several encounters of the 80’s and extended the proverbial olive branch.
Wright’s first stint in the Dio band was for 1990’s Lock Up the Wolves, but it his work on Dio’s Magica (2000) and beyond albums that has made him an integral part of the Dio camp. As you’ll read below, Wright became close friends with the singer, developing a bond that would last all the way until Dio’s 2010 passing. Wanting to keep the man’s legacy alive, Wright, along with guitarist Craig Goldy, keyboardist Scott Warren, and long-time Dio manager Wendy Dio came up with the idea of Dio Disciples, a tribute act to Dio’s works. Now into their second year of existence, Dio Disciples has been embraced by the metal community for paying its respects to Dio in a dignified and classy manner, just like our man would have liked it.
The purpose of our chat with Wright was to wax on The Very Beast of Vol. 2, the second Dio “best-of” compilation. However, as our conversation unfolded it was practically unavoidable to talk about the diminutive singer, who to this day stands as tall as ever…
Blistering.com: With the release of the second Dio “best-of” compilation, does it bring up a lot of memories regarding your time in the band?
Simon Wright: It does indeed. The period from 1996 through the 2000 years, yeah, there’s some great times and some great songs came out of that period, Killing the Dragon, Magica, Master of the Moon…definitely.
Blistering.com: I think you’ll agree with me on this, but this particular era of Dio is very underrated. Everyone wants to go for Holy Diver or The Last in Line, but there are some very strong songs here.
Wright: I think you’re right. The first period when Dio exploded with Holy Diver, The Last in Line, those albums, this period I think is a very important period. It was a quite a lot of great songs in there. I was in the band for 13 years, so there’s quite a few great tracks on there. The bonus tracks on there like “Electra,” which is one of the last songs we recorded with Ronnie and that was going to be on Magica Part II and III. Also “Metal Will Never Die,” which is the last song Ronnie sang on with Feinstein. It’s quite an important retrospective for all Dio fans.
Blistering.com: The proposed Magica II and III albums, how far did you guys make it in terms of the songwriting for those albums?
Wright: There’s four songs that are knocking around that I’ve heard at some point, are going to be released. They’re just in demo stages. Wendy is control of those, obviously. She has indicated that at some point they’ll be released.
Blistering.com: What are they like direction-wise?
Wright: It’s more back to the vein of Magica. “Electra” is one song that I think would have been included.
Blistering.com: You rejoined the band around 1998, so can you describe what the atmosphere in the band was like at the time?
Wright: It was back to business as usual when I got back into the band. Ronnie was Ronnie. He still had a very clear vision of where he wanted to go and who he was and what he wanted to do. It was a great time. Actually, it was a fantastic time. I got a second chance to be in his band; I was so grateful. It was happenstance. It was real lucky. I guess Vinny [Appice] was going to go off and do something else, and I got a call and went along. Things hadn’t changed that much; Ronnie was still Ronnie. Some members had changed from when I was there in ’90. When I joined, it was Larry Dennison [bass], Tracy G. [guitars] and Scott Warren, who is still in the band.
Blistering.com: You played with Rowan Robertson, Tracy G., Craig Goldy, and then Doug Aldrich. Is there any player you prefer?
Wright: No, that would be unfair [laughs]. They all bring something special. They’re brilliant people and great guitar players. That was the thing with Ronnie – he always surrounded himself with brilliant guitar players.
Blistering.com: The recording sessions for the Magica album…what do you recall considering it was your first album being back in the band?
Wright: It was a great time. The album took about eight or nine months to demo. He had so many ideas for it. I’d be down there in the studio, messing with the drum machine and doing rhythms. And Craig Goldy was there helping with ideas Ronnie had. It was a real time of camaraderie. I remember he told me the story of [it] and I was like, “Wow, how is this going to go?” But it turned out great. He had such a vision for it. It’s a real dense album; it’s got so many fantastic moments that he and Craig created. It was just a marvelous time.
Blistering.com: Speaking of camaraderie, I read that you stayed at Ronnie’s house for a while.
Wright: I ended up there because I had a bad divorce. I was going to quit the band and move back to England, but he said “Don’t do that!” I’ve had enough of everything, but he said, “Come to stay at my house, I have plenty of room.” He had a big house with lots of rooms. He did his thing, I did mine. We started building stuff when we weren’t doing the music, building brick walls and painting, installing sprinkler lines. It was two guys getting away from the music, out there, and having a good laugh. Drinking beer and stuff. After so many years, we became really great friends.