Ronnie James Dio passed away one year ago this past week after a lengthy battle with cancer. Drummer Vinnie Appice had played with Dio, off and on, since the early 1980s, when Appice replaced Bill Ward in Black Sabbath. Appice and Dio also toured and recorded together with Heaven & Hell, a reformation of the early ’80s earl Sabbath.
Appice talked with Noisecreep recently about his early days with the band and his memories of the legendary metal singer.“Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler, and Ronnie Dio – you’re talking about three legends right there,” Appice said. “Even though I played with them on and off since 1980, there was still something special about looking over and seeing them on stage with me. I felt lucky to have played with them.”
Appice recalled his first meeting with the band:
“I got a call from Paul Clark, Black Sabbath’s tour manager, telling me that they were looking for a new drummer. I was in Los Angeles at the time, so I went over to the Sunset Marquis and met with him. We were in the middle of our conversation when Tony Iommi came into the room. We hit it off immediately and started joking around with each other. He then told me to meet him the next day at S.I.R. Studios to jam with him and the rest of the Sabbath guys.
“I remember walking in and seeing Geezer and Ronnie and feeling really intimidated. I was still pretty young at that point, and knowing that these guys I was about to play with already had done huge things definitely made me a bit nervous. But I didn’t let it get in the way of what I was supposed to do, so I hopped on the drums and we kicked ass together. We clicked and they asked me to join shortly after that.”
Over time, the former Rick Derringer drummer felt at home with the band:
“It was obviously easier to get to know Ronnie easier since we were both New Yorkers. We also shared a lot of interests and sense of humor. At that point I hadn’t had that much contact with British people, so it took a bit longer to get to know Tony and Geezer. It took a little bit of time to learn their humor and expressions, but I finally did [laughs]. Tony loves practical jokes and winding people up and he did that to me – but it broke the ice. Geezer isn’t as out-going, but he’s definitely got a dry sense of humor.”
The Long Island native still finds it difficult to deal with the loss of his longtime friend.
“What hurts the most is when I think about the things we could be doing together if Ronnie was still with us. Like I said, we had a lot of things in common. We both loved building things. I don’t know if people know this or not, but Ronnie loved going to Home Depot (laughs). When Simon Wright (ex-drummer of Dio and AC/DC) lived at Ronnie’s house, they would build all kinds of stuff together.
“Ronnie was a special person and all I can do for him is continue playing the songs to keep the music alive. I play in an all-star group with Joe Lynn Turner, Phil Soussan, and Carlos Cavazo called Big Noize and we just played the M3 Festival last weekend. We did ‘The Last in Line’ and some other Dio songs and the response was amazing. His music lives on and I miss him terribly.”