“I’m sure there’s a lot of people who never had the chance to see Ronnie when he was alive, so that’s about as close as it’ll come,” the guitarist says.
During an appearance on Meltdown, classic Dio guitarist Vivian Campbell was asked for his thoughts on the ongoing Ronnie James Dio hologram tour.
As widely reported, the hologram is backed by a live band called Dio Disciples, featuring Craig Goldy on guitar, Simon Wright on drums, Scott Warren on keyboards, Bjorn Englen on bass. Guest vocalists include Tim “Ripper” Owens and ex-Lynch Mob singer Oni Logan.
Back to the question, Vivian replied (via Blabbermouth):
“Well, I’m very flattered that those guys continue to keep the music that we made with Ronnie alive.
“I do honestly think that the early Dio albums were probably the strongest. There was such an immediate chemistry of the original band, between Vinny [Appice, drums] and Jimmy [Bain, bass] and Ronnie and myself, and that music that we created.
“So it’s great that they are doing it. I think what they’re doing is a benefit to us because they’re bringing attention to the legacy of the music we created. And I think what we do is a benefit to them, so I think it’s mutually beneficial.
“I’ve never seen the hologram, so I don’t really know. But I do understand why they would wanna do it. I’m sure there’s a lot of people who never had the chance to see Ronnie when he was alive, so that’s about as close as it’ll come.
“And then, on the other end of the equation, there is Vinny and I in Last in Line, the two remaining members of the original band, and we’re also doing our part to keep the legacy of the music alive while still looking forward by writing and recording and releasing our own original music and going out there and playing it side by side with the Dio classics.
“We’re in a good position now having our second album [‘II’] out there to really balance the show between playing the key Dio classic songs and our own original music, which I think sits pretty well side by side.”
Asked on what his relationship with Dio was like when the singer passed away in 2010, Campbell replied:
“I hadn’t seen Ronnie [in many years]. I got fired from the band halfway through the [1985’s] ‘Sacred Heart’ tour. And the way everything went down and the way it was portrayed in the press afterwards left a very, very uncomfortable taste in my mouth.
“I wanted nothing to do with Dio, with the legacy or the music. It was only after Ronnie passed away, and maybe that’s what it took, but it was only after that, and together with a couple of other things that were going on in my life, that kind of led me back to opening that door again and reconnecting with Vinny and Jimmy and playing that music, and that ultimately led to the Last in Line.
“But I do feel that Ronnie and I, had the gatekeepers gotten out of the way, I do think if we bumped into each other in the street, we eventually would have made up.
“Ronnie was a complicated human being – like we all are – there’s no black and white in human nature; it’s all very nuanced. Even when I was in the band with Ronnie, I feel like he was very, very proud of me when I first came to L.A. and we were doing the [1983’s] ‘Holy Diver’ record.
“He kind of looked at me like his Randy Rhoads, if you want – ‘a great guitar player I discovered; this unknown guy.’ And he had kind of this fatherly attitude towards me. That’s kind of how I looked at it.
“It was a bit like being in a band with your stepdad, who happened to be an international rock star. I was always very uncomfortable around Ronnie because I was a fan. I had [Rainbow’s] ‘Long Live Rock ‘N ‘ Roll,’ ‘Rainbow Rising’, I had the ‘Heaven and Hell’ album, ‘The Mob Rules’ [by Black Sabbath] – I had those records.
“I was listening to those records when I got a call to come and audition for this new band. So to be transported then from Belfast, Northern Ireland to L.A. in the ’80s and then to be around these guys and working with them, it was very, very bizarre to me – it was quite surreal.
“And I never really felt like I had a proper relationship with Ronnie because of that, and because of my own discomfort and unease of being around these people that I felt were icons to me.
“Anyway, so one thing led to another, we made some great music, we wrote those records, we wrote the songs, we made great albums, we had great tours, we had great success.
“Unfortunately, getting back to the industry gatekeepers, more to the point, I don’t think I ever would have been fired from the band without the influence of those people.
“I think that Ronnie and I connected on a level that was very, very beneficial musically. Maybe not so much personally – our personal relationship was a little bit strained because of that inherent discomfort and that generational gap and whatnot. But the one thing we could do together was [to] write and record great music.
“And I know that Ronnie knew the value of that. And that’s maybe why I was particularly angry with him when I got fired. I think he knew what he was doing when he kind of threw that away.
“He threw away the magic of the original band because I think he was afraid of going against the industry people that were advising him at the time. So that was always my beef with Ronnie. He didn’t uphold his bargain with us.
“And I felt a little bit of anger there because he knew what he was doing. But having said that, I think if we met each other and whatnot, we would have had a beer and kissed and made up and maybe made more great music together.”
You can watch the hologram live in action in the embedded player below