Dio’s Holy Diver (Super Deluxe Edition) is set for an official release via Rhino Entertainment next Friday, July 8th, featuring remixed and remastered versions of the original 1983 album, and special unreleased performances, outtakes, and rarities. Metal Contraband’s Scott Sommer recently spoke with Wendy Dio about the release, what makes Holy Diver such a special record, memories of Ronnie, and more. Check it out below.
We are over the moon to talk about the Holy Diver Super Deluxe Edition. This collection has two versions of Holy Diver. Why was it important to you to have that original mix from 1983 updated with today’s technology?
It was actually Rhino that suggested it to me. First I was asking, “How can you improve what Ronnie did?”, then I thought, why not? It should be something that is redone to modern standards. Then I looked into so many different people, including Joe Barresi, and being that he has done Tool and Queens of the Stone Age, I ended up talking to him. At first he was very apprehensive because he didn’t want the fans mad at him for changing it. I didn’t want him to change it, but bring it up to modern standards. I am super pleased with what he did, as he gave it a new face, and it is really in your face. He just did an amazing job, love what he did, and I know Ronnie would be proud of him.
Joe Barresi is a legendary producer and engineer and it was so cool that he was brought on board to do this. What do you feel his mix brought to the table that would excite long-time listeners of the original?
It is really in your face and I am just excited about the sound he got from it. You can listen to every piece of the musicianship. He also found some outtakes that you never would have thought about. He knew the kids would like to listen to how the record came about. I thought that this was great from the treasure chest that kids would love to hear.
The making of that album was such an interesting time in Ronnie’s life, having left Sabbath at that time and forming his own band, and making their first record. What was that time like from your perspective?
It was very very busy. I had so many things to do and we didn’t know how big of an album it was going to be. There was certain things that I took upon myself to do. The original album was the cover we had to think about, and neither Ronnie or I could draw. We had in our minds what we wanted to do so we found this guy Gene Hunter and we told him what we wanted. So he actually created it at the ocean with a photographer. He dressed as a priest and he almost drowned with the chains as he told him to take the picture. Gene Hunter and the photographer, they got the photo with the priest down there and he asked us if this was what we were looking for. We told him that was great, and now we wanted a monster at the top. It was a very exciting time. There was an insert for the record sleeve and I wanted to do something creative there. We originally wanted that to be a competition that didn’t happen with the record label, where I took a lot of different illustrations and each one was a song, and you had guess how many songs were on there, but that never happened. Ronnie had already written “Holy Diver” and “Don’t Talk To Strangers” musically and lyrically because they were supposed to be Sabbath songs. He had two songs ready and he had to get a band together and Vinny left with him, and he was talking to Jimmy Bain [who] he had been in Rainbow with, and together they went to find a guitar player and that is how the band got together. It was a very exciting time but we didn’t know what was going to happen and if it was going to be well received, and it was just amazing. The first time I saw them play, the audience was blown away and I got goosebumps watching them. That brings me to the other part. We also found an 1983 live show in Fresno from the Holy Diver tour so that is included in the package as well.
If you were trying to explain to someone who had never seen Ronnie but had heard the music, how would you explain the electricity he brought to the stage that changed the music into something so much bigger than it was?
Ronnie became someone else when he was on stage. He was completely magical. He had complete control over what he was doing. He had this amazing ability with his audience. He could be singing and looking at the people, and each person could have thought that it was just for them. He had the ability to be able to do that.
Do you think Ronnie would be surprised to know the album is still today considered to be a pinnacle of Heavy Metal and Rock ’n Roll history?
Ronnie was such a humble person. He never took for granted what he was able to do. He loved his music and loved his fans. He would be very pleased that a younger generation has accepted him.
Fans are very familiar with this album, with tracks such as “Don’t Talk To Strangers”, “Holy Diver” and “Rainbow in the Dark”. Are there any tracks that are on Holy Diver other than the singles that you feel should get more recognition, and fans should give a little extra attention to when listening to this album?
Maybe “Invisible”. “Invisible” was written long before all this transgender stuff was in the news, and it was written about a kid who doesn’t quite know what he or she is. The person is not quite knowing what is going on in life and it is kind of like telling you to follow your dreams and heart and to not care about what other people think. I think it was so far advanced as this song was written almost 40 years ago, so it was far ahead of its time. He cared about all people regardless of gender, religion, what they believed in. He cared about them and wanted them to follow their dreams and never give up. He was always full of hope.
What a lot of people don’t know is that before Dio, before Sabbath, or even before Heavy Metal, Ronnie was in a doo-wop band.
Yes, he was, and in the documentary which we hope comes out in the fall, there’s actually a lot of songs from the doo-wop era and photos from that time.
Do you think that anything he learned in the doo-wop era, he was able to apply to the heavy metal world?
Absolutely. When he played trumpet which had had to practice for 4 hours a day at 5 years old, that gave him the breathing exercises because he sang from his diaphragm instead of his throat so that helped with his metal career. But I think he also progressed. He was doing the doo-wop stuff, he copied the Beatles and different cover tunes, and then he fell in love with Deep Purple and that made him want to bring a heavier style to the blues.
It was always great to see Ronnie evolve with the changing sounds of the times. Shortly before he had passed, did he know where he wanted his music to go and evolve in the future?
No, I don’t think he thought about it. We didn’t think he was going to pass. We thought he would overcome it. He was a strong person with a strong will. Every two weeks when he would sit through six hours of chemo we were always positive. We would always call it “Killing the Dragon” and the cancer was the dragon. 3 weeks before he passed away, he was accepting the Golden Gods Award. We always thought over and over that he was going to be fine, and he wasn’t, which was a big shock for all of us. What I hoped to be able to do, because Ronnie had every right to not be forgotten, not just his music and talent but what an incredible person he was. He loved people, he loved his fans and his music. He wouldn’t change for anyone. He could have become commercial and made millions but he wasn’t that kind of person. He always wanted to be true to himself.
I know Ronnie would have been turning 80 on July 10th. Is there anything special that you would like fans to do to celebrate his legacy?
Play his music, and those of you that live in the LA area, we are having a big party on the 7th at the Rainbow Bar and Grill on Sunset, that is a big celebration for Ronnie’s 80th birthday and the Holy Diver re-release, which will be 40 years next year since it came out.
Are there any other masters or reworks?
I’ve got a lot of stuff in the vault. Wayne Davidson was Ronnie’s long-time engineer and actually mixed the live album, he went through the vault and he told me we have a gold mine, and he has been putting it all together so we know exactly what we’ve got there. I don’t want to flood the market with everything, but we can bring a little bit out every so often. I don’t want to ever oversell or have people think we are doing it for capital gain. I just really want to keep Ronnie’s legacy alive.
Any plans for live shows like the hologram tour?
We are working on a new show, not the hologram this time, because the technology changes all the time. I thought the hologram was great but the fans want to see the real Ronnie. I loved to look through all the stuff for making the film, there is so much stuff we have there. Obviously there will still be the Dio band, but we will also do some special effects that we have. I am going to go through all the videos we have and do Ronnie through the times, and we will do Rainbow Footage, Dio Footage, and Black Sabbath footage. It will be Ronnie singing with the band playing but it will be video of Ronnie, which I think the fans will like because it will be real Ronnie.
You mentioned the album art for Holy Diver, wanting that demon on there. That Demon has become known as Murray. What is the story behind Murray, what did Ronnie think of him, and how did he get that name?
Ronnie just came up with it one day. Instead of Lucifer, it was Murray. Ronnie had a very funny side to him. Ronnie’s idea of the cover – because he always loved his fans and some of them were people who were made fun of, so on the album cover it is really…So you look at it, it looks like a monster drowning a priest, but why? Why is Murray a bad guy? Because he looks like a monster? That cover represents, never judge a person for what they are wearing, and to never judge a book by its cover and how they are as a human being.
Ronnie was a prankster. What are some funny stories about Ronnie that make you chuckle?
Tony was always afraid of snakes, and one day Ronnie found the skin of a rattler and he left it on his car door handle so when he opened it, it jumped out.
Did they ever get in trouble for anything?
Well, a few times. Mostly got in trouble when Ronnie was in Rainbow because Cozy Powell was a terrible jokester. I never got undressed to go to bed on that tour, because I knew in the middle of the night we were going to get kicked out of the hotel because they’d have done something like setting off the fire alarms. So many stories from the Rainbow days. But he was also a normal guy who loved sports, his animals, and his friends.
Metal Contraband thanks Wendy Dio for the interview!