|You have heard his playing whether its ACDC, DIO, Rhino Bucket or UFO as Simon Wright has been the go to stick man for some of rock's most legendary bands. |
Wright began his career in England with local band Tora Tora before joining Manchester group A II Z, a New Wave of British Heavy Metal band founded in 1979. Little did he know that in less than five years he would find himself playing with the legendary ACDC and touring the world stage and setting in motion a career only some could dream of and few ever realize.
As the drummer for Ronnie James Dio, Wright was a long-time collaborator with the much beloved rocker and is carrying on his legacy with Dio's Disciples. We had the chance to catch up with Wright before he set off on tour and talk to him about all things rock, double bass drums and how a classified ad can change your life.
Maximum Metal: Ok, Simon- first off you're a bit of an enigma...you've played with at least two of the most famous rock bands ever, and yet you fly a bit under the radar. There's no Simon Wright Rocks fan page, etc. so tell our readers more about yourself...I found it unusual...
SW: I started in local bands as a kid, same as every other drummer really, I got a break in England with a band that had a record deal and we went out on the road with a band called Girl's School, and that finished up and then I moved down to London and was in a band there and one day I answered an advert in a music paper for a drummer in the classifieds section. It happened to turn out to be ACDC. So it really pays to read the classifieds!
MM: Ok, so how come that never happens when I answer the classifieds?
AW: (laughing) It very rarely happens, and I was very lucky and still feel lucky today...I was in ACDC for probably 8 years, did lots of touring, went around the world first class, it was amazing, I was blown away to get involved with a band like that- mind you it was hard work, and I was feeling a bit complacent and not really happy for one reason or another and around 1989 so I decided to move on and I was lucky enough to become the drummer in Ronny James Dio's band. The first time was for a short time, and then played with Rhino Bucket and then played for a while with UFO ...and UFO came to an abrupt ending and then I was back in Ronnie's band and I was in Ronnie's band for 13 years and unfortunately ours was Ronnie's last band. We now have Dio Disciples that carries on his name and his songs for his fans and it seems to be well.
MM: You mentioned once Cozy Powell, Tommy Aldridge and John Bonham as some of your influences and as each of those are very different drummers in terms of style...if you could name one thing from each of them, how would you break it apart?
SW: You know I don't think you can break it apart into just one thing. In my ears I hear so many different things...John had such sensitivity and such songmanship, he wasn't just a basher he was so soulful, with Tommy , he was one of the innovators of double bass drumming and some of those fills he would do and his showmanship was just amazing. Cozy was the same- they all had their own styles, his was the "hammer it down guy" you know? He was also great at double bass...I heard he used to cover his bass drums in tinfoil inside just to make them a little bit louder you know? (laughing) There's so many other drummers that are brilliant, another favorite is Brian Downey from Thin Lizzy and there's an endless stream of great drummers that I just love listening to.
MM: How did the experience with Ronnie James shape you? You never heard much negativity about him as a performer...how do you look back on that experience?
SW: I think everybody will attest that once you met Ronnie, you were meeting a true gentleman...he was funny—really funny—he was cool, funny and a gentleman and I am sure loads of people will attest to that. Being around him some of those things rubbed off on his fans he was great, he would take all of time in the world with his fans, he was really great. He really cared. You see after so many times, you start to see that and besides being so talented you saw how much of a true gentleman he was and all of that rubbed off on me.
MM: It's left a big hole with the fans...Let's talk about the Very Beast of Dio II –it just has been released, is it a project to keep Dio's work going for the fans?
"It's best to listen to those around you, other drummers, etc. That's what I do. Step back a little bit and listen. You'd be amazed at what you can learn."
SW: Well the first Very Beast of Dio, covered Ronnie's early work, the first 4 or 5 albums and there were other albums afterwards, and I believe the new release is a brilliant retrospective of all of those albums from 1996 to the 2000 years, which were strong, great albums and it also has bonus tracks, including "Electra" which is the last song we recorded with Ronnie. There is also the last song he sung on and a Japanese outtake, so all in all it's a great retrospective of all of that music, from that time period covering some really good albums.
MM: You've obviously had a long illustrious career Simon...you've been at this since you were 13 yrs old...as you look back over your career what is the one major change you have witnessed in the music business?
SW: I think in terms of the way things were in the 80's , there were so many bands, and MTV, they were playing so much heavy rock and metal...I did begin to think that eventually one band began to sound like another. I think when Nirvana hit the scene the music world changed too... they made everyone aware that you don't need a $300,000 budget to make a video...that really turned things around with record companies and heavy metal and rock. I think in Heavy Metal, Rock –it never went away, it just changed in terms of what people were listening to...there have always been hard core fans...its proved today especially in Europe, Germany...the fans are just rabid for it. There are festivals every week there. So I don't think Heavy Metal and rock went away.
MM: Do you think there is a cultural difference between Europe and the US when it comes to rock and supporting it? Granted I am looking at the musical landscape in my own backyard as it were and I'm a little worried, Simon! If I see another video of Nicki Minaj I may put a gun to my head!
SW: Aww, don't do that Kim, just put on a Black Sabbath record instead! (laughing)
I'm not exactly sure—I have some thoughts about it...in America there seems to be a lot of everything. There's a lot of commerciality around and there's less of that in Europe, its more cult like. They seem to hang together, in America there's so much going on and season tickets and such, everybody's seen everything already but in Europe it's a bit more underground and stronger. Hopefully it will change because America used to be you know, it still is, there's some great festivals that go on but not as many...they are everywhere in Europe.
MM: You're always going to be, as a drummer, the back bone of any band...so what is the one mistake you try to avoid as a drummer?
SW: Well, I think that has helped me is it is good to listen to people around you and I know that sounds a bit strange, but a lot of people think they have it all figured out but you don't...you're always learning...when you're playing a song listen, really listen to the musicians around you. Some drummers just think they know it, you may for a little while but you're going to get tripped up. It's best to listen to those around you, other drummers, etc. That's what I do. Step back a little bit and listen. You'd be amazed at what you can learn.
MM: Not many people can claim the kind of success you can—when you sit back and look at your career, besides having the talent and the good sense to look in the classifieds, what do you think at the end of the day has contributed to your success?
SW: I don't know...pure stubbornness really! Maybe because it's because I used to work in construction and I don't want to go back to that! (laughing) It is really a stubbornness in a way, I just really love playing drums and I will jump at any chance to play - well not anything, but it's a love of drumming- it's also that fine line between being a hobby and something fun to being a job...you feel sometimes like you're wandering round in the wasteland not sure what you are going to do-I've been very lucky and I've been stubborn, and made it work, but it hasn't been an easy road.
MM: Tell us about what to expect next—Dio's Disciples specifically.
SW: I have other projects but Dio's Disciples is my focus now,...hopefully everyone will come and check us out-we're keeping Ronnie's spirit and music alive and we want to meet as many of the fans as we can...we meet everyone afterwards- It's great meeting the fans, they all have stories you know and it's great. So come out and see us.
MM: Awesome, well Simon have a great tour and good luck on any future projects.
SW: Thanks it's been great talking with you Kim.
Dio's Disciples is:
The players are:
Oni Logan - vocals
Bjorn Englen - bass
Craig Goldy - guitars
Scott Warren - keyboards
Simon Wright - drums
Tim "Ripper" Owens - vocals.
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