An Interview with
Drummer of Dio Disciples, Hellion & Geoff Tate’s Queensryche
and formerly of AC/DC, DIO and many more
that took place at Loaded Bar, Hollywood, California on July 26th.
Interviewed by Glenn Milligan.
Glenn: So I’m sat here in Loaded Bar with Simon Wright, famed drummer, what got you into music in the first place?
Simon: Hiya Glenn, I think it was just radio and then heavy rock came along watching ‘Top Of The Pops’ and if you're English you’ll know what I mean but if your not that was a programme on BBC Television. It was the only programme in the early 70’s and it went through the 80’s as well but the early 70’s which was the only release for like heavy rock music and just music in general. It was the music tv show and it was the only one that was around so people had no choice sometimes too. They played a lot of crap but there was some good stuff on there. I think that was the first sort of introduction to it.
Glenn: I read that your favourite drummers were people like Tommy Aldridge, Cozy Powell and John Bonham as influences as drummers.
Simon: There were lots of them. I got started with Thin Lizzy with Brian Downey and then along came John Bonham and Tommy Aldridge with Pat Travers. I’d heard lots of stuff on that programme I was talking about. Even Mick Tucker from a band called ‘Sweet’. A lot of their music was really kind of drum driven. There were lots of influences and it just really interested me so I tried to listen to as many drummers as I could and that heavy rock groove always appealed to me. So all those guys.
Glenn: Yeah. Why drums?
Simon: I don’t know. I just thought that looks like a cool gig and I heard they all the chicks so... (We laugh) No it was just something that looked appealing to me and when you’re tapping away on stuff and you think you know how to play. You know a lot of people think they do and can’t. Some people have a natural aptitude towards it and I felt that way as well and a lot of people do have a natural aptitude. My dad was always encouraging and my mum was the same way. They were never those parents would scream ‘Shut Up!’. They were always good and they’d always encourage me and see where it went. So I was lucky that way as far as parents go. They were just great. I just kept trying to learn and playing along to records and trying to figure out everything and I’m still figuring things out today.
(Photograph taken by Butch Sorrentino)
Glenn: Right. Yeah.
Simon: You’ve always gotta keep learning.
Glenn: Otherwise if you think you are too good you start dropping don’t you so you’ve got to keep learning stuff?
Simon: Yeah. If you think you know everything, you’re doomed for starters. (He laughs)
Glenn: So what were the first records you learned to play with?
Simon: They were just like… I must admit a lot of Status Quo – the simple stuff which is just straight ahead rock ‘n’ roll. There was some ‘DC in there. I didn’t have a lot of records when I started because we didn’t have a lot of money. But just the more simple stuff and then it sort of progressed from there and you start to learn the basic beats first which I always think is the best way to do things because if you start learning all the fills first you haven’t developed a groove and a feel.
Glenn: You’ve gotta have the concrete?
Simon: Yeah you’ve gotta have that foundation first and then build on it from there work up and do your fills and keep your fills simple and then put in a bunch of flash stuff later but learn the basic.
Glenn: I was lucky enough to see the Frantic Four version of Status Quo play as well!
Simon: Oh yeah. It was good.
Simon: I saw them a couple of times. I think that must have been in the late 70’s/early 80’s. It was terrific. The atmosphere at their shows was quite somethin’. A lot of singing and head banging goin’ on. It’s brilliant.
Glenn: It’s a party show isn’t it?
Simon: It is. They are a real party band and I’ll always still like ‘em. They are a great band. Well they are like an institution now aren’t they?
Glenn: Well yeah.
Simon: You’ve gotta have that groove to be in that band.
Glenn: What was the first kit that you acquired?
Simon: It was a really small kit from a neighbour. A next door but one neighbour. He was a keyboard player and he started on drums but became a keyboard player it was like a small beat up.. slashed up skins – it was an Olympic kit which is like a sideline of Premier drums. It was really just a one tom, one floor tom, bass drum and snare. The bare essentials but I loved it. It was mine and I made it work and I got it fixed up. The next thing I know, I got another tom and it just went from there. Like you do when you love playing.
Glenn: So I guess you played to Quo songs and all sorts of songs on your first kit and you built up different styles from that?
Simon: Yeah I tried to always get things kind of right and really listen to the drummers because I felt it was important to learn the parts and it stood me in good time when I have to go into all these other different situations. So there was Quo. I was just loving what I was doing. I just really enjoyed it figuring out the parts and learning how to play the drums yeah. So it was all sorts.
Glenn: You’ve been in various bands since you joined the big ones. How were your first gigs when you first got up there and played in front of a crowd early on?
Simon: Oh early on it was just some kind of drunken haze really. The very first audience I played in front of was at a rugby club. It was me and two friends from school, Paul and Pete - Pete North and Paul Wheeldon and we didn’t have a bass player – we didn’t care. We tried to keep sober but we were terrified because it was at a rugby club. The wives were there and all these big rugby players. We were sort of terrible and we were like, “Can we get on, can we pay?”, because we wanted to get on and then get drunk. So we just did some Thin Lizzy songs or tried and we went down good. They seemed to like what we were doing. It wasn’t very good but our enthusiasm carried us a long way.
Glenn: It’s funny you should say that because my brother was in a club band and the first gig he played was at Edlington Rugby Club.
Simon: Yeah hahahahaha.
Glenn: He was sh*tt*ng himself because all the women looked like blokes and they were like, “That’s my f*ck*n’ seat”, you know?
Simon: Yeah. They were a tough crowd but I think after a few beers they’d lightened up.
Glenn: You often find the roughest looking spots are often the best crowds.
Simon: Yeah I think they bring you in and make you their own. Like, “Oh we better look after this lot. We won’t kill ‘em just yet. We won’t kill ‘em today”. (We laugh). But I mean we were only like 14, 15 maybe – we were just kids.
Glenn: Yeah just learning the trade so to speak and just working your way up?
Simon: Yeah. That was the first one. There were a bunch of other first ones as well. I remember one show we played at – this band called ‘Tora Tora’ when we started, I forget which year but we ended up… we were playing up in Oldham – Oldham, Manchester and there was a gig we’d been book. It was a church and it was church that had been turned into a rock club. We pulled up in the guitar player’s dad’s car, the bass player’s dad’s car was behind us and it was a riot. I mean there was like a full scale riot going on in Oldham at the time. I don’t know what they were rioting about but cars were being set on fire and we just idiotically thought, ‘Oh we’ll just go and play’. There was all sorts. The bartender got hit over the head with cast iron handle before we played so we all pretty much decided, “Well okay, well we’d better have a drink now”. So by the time we got to play we were completely paralytic. There was only like four people there anyway so it didn’t really matter.
Glenn: Did they like you?
Simon: Erm, I think they did yeah. I forget because I fell off… that’s probably the first and last time that I ever played drunk and that was when I was like 15 or 16. After that I fell off my drum stool and I thought after that I’m not dealing with getting drunk anymore. (Laughs) Even though there was nobody there it’s just stupid.
Glenn: How did you manage to go from the small bands to the bigger bands? Was it just meeting up with people and having a contact in-between?
Simon: I think it was a bit of all of that actually. It started off in Manchester. I got a gig with a band that were called ‘A II Z’ and they were quite an up and coming band. They were getting a lot of help from this management company that managed 10CC and Sad Café. I found out that via someone. It was a bit of all of that. Someone told me about it and I was in a band but it wasn’t really happenin’ and I needed to move on and this A II Z had a record deal with Polydor. It just sort of evolved from there. I went on and I did a tour with them. It was all very short lived.
Then after that I thought, ‘Sod it, I’m gonna try my luck in London’. I went down there and I was in a band in London. They were called ‘Tytan’. There were some members of the band, ‘Angel Witch’ and it is, it’s just like what you said, it’s just… you know like from there came that big break with AC/DC because I was down there in London doing nothing because Tytan really didn’t do much for one reason or another beyond our control.
It is, it’s like you say, it’s situationist. You have to be there at the right place at the right time and talk to the right person. I’ve been very fortunate and I’ll never forget that, you know, some of the breaks I’ve had but when you get ‘em you’ve gotta work at em. You’ve gotta keep it goin’. It’s alright going, “I’m in one of the biggest Rock ‘N’ Roll bands in the World’ but if you can’t pull it off and you can’t work it, you know, it means being away from home for ten months. All sorts of sacrifices. I’m not complaining but it’s just something that if you get a break, you’ve got to be prepared for.
Glenn: You can’t get homesick and miss your mum and dad can you?
Simon: Well you can but you can’t really do anything about it. You’ve gotta keep goin’ cause it’s work. You know you are working.
Glenn: I bet you’ve been asked this a million times but how did you meet up with AC/DC? How did you get given that break and where did they meet you? How did they find you?
Simon: Well they found a lot of drummers. They put an ad in a magazine in England called ‘Sounds’. I wasn’t really looking but through one thing and another it was all sort of like in the paper that said, ‘Heavy Rock Drummer Required – If You Don’t Hit Hard Don’t Apply’. So long story short, I applied and I went down there, didn’t know who it was, played to three cover songs, I came home, they called me back and then when I went back… I couldn’t afford to go back so they paid for the taxi because I was broke. So I go back anyway and I’m taken into this other rehearsal room in the same complex and there’s like flight cases with AC/DC on ‘em and I’m like, “Holy F*ck*n’ Sh*t, what’s goin’ on ‘ere then?” (Laughs) So I go in and there all there and we said hello and just played. I mean there was no big fanfare introductions really. It was just like get on with it and let’s work. So we played for like half an hour or 40 minutes and then we sat down for a bit and they just started talking about the next tour and stuff. I turned round to, I think it was Mal and said, “Does this mean I’m in the band?” and he was like, “Yeah looks like”. So you know, it’s all very low key.
Glenn: It’s got to be hasn’t it?
Glenn: Otherwise they get a million and one drummers and their Granddad trying to join AC/DC.
Simon: Well it was a big cattle call. It was a lot of drummers. I’m not trying to shout my own praises. I don’t know why I got the gig. Probably because I’m not very tall or something. (Laughs)
Glenn: Yeah because they’re only little guys in AC/DC. Can you remember the cover songs that you played for the audition for AC/DC?
Simon: Yeah that was ‘Tush’ by ZZ Top, ‘Shoot To Thrill’ by ‘DC and ‘Black Dog’ by (Led) Zeppelin. I sort of knew them because they are all songs I loved. I was always listening… I still do listen to Heavy Rock and Metal and everything but back then I was learning and listening so sort of knew ‘em and I just kinda beat my way through ‘em or whatever and the Drum Tech was there. Yeah I just got really lucky. It was an absolutely amazing… unbelievable… it was just like a musicians dream. A drummers dream, a guitar players dream – same thing. F*ck*n’ unbelievable.
Glenn: What are they like as people?
Simon: Great. Really nice people. I mean they were a lot older than what I was. I mean I was just a kid in a big, big rock band. So there was a little difficult… well not difficult because they were very cool about keeping things low key and organised - great hotels, cars, planes. It was great like it should be. Like you expect it to be. But they were a lot older and wiser than I was and I learned a hell of a lot from them. Great people.
Glenn: The reason I asked what they were like is because you never see interviews with Malcolm or Angus. I mean Brian is never off the TV half the time now as he’s got his ‘Rockers And Rollers’ Programme.
Simon: Well they are very private people as well. You’d be surprised. They do them now and again but I think a lot of the time they’d sooner let the music do the talking.
Glenn: It keeps them as an ‘Enigma’ – the mystery is always there.
Simon: Yes. ‘The Mystery’. You’re right, you’re right and I learned a lot about that as well. I didn’t do a hell of a lot of interviews but you just learn a lot from watching them in just the way they carry themselves and deal with business as well. I was very lucky, very lucky.
Glenn: Malcolm and Angus run the band?
Simon: Yes they do. They do. Especially Malcolm. Nothing against Angus, I mean they’re both in there as well but Malcolm’s more the business side of things and dealing with the daily business. I’m not sure exactly what’s happening with him..
Glenn: Yeah bless him…
Simon: But I managed to get a message over through a friend in Australia to tell him if she could wish him well and I hope he’s okay. But that was horrible news. I just hope he’s doing alright.
Glenn: We all do.
Simon: Yeah we all do. I mean, god streuth, I mean, what, you know, what a player. It’s like the rhythm guitar player.
Glenn: Full time. He’s the God isn’t he?
Simon: He is. He’s like the engine. I was lucky enough to have a little combo amp by the side of my floor toms that I could adjust as well as having Mal in the monitors and it was just marvellous playing with him in that band. He was just like solid as a rock and what a groove he has. He’s just the master at it. A brilliant rhythm guitar player and I learned a hell of a lot from him. He’s a really cool guy.
Glenn: So when you first got in the band and rehearsed, did you do a lot of rehearsing before you got out on the stage with the band?
Simon: Well I wasn’t sure how it was gonna happen actually. But we rehearsed and we made sure that things were okay. First of all we did about two days of rehearsal – me just playing away with them and then I did another two days in that same rehearsal on my own with the tunes because they had business. They had to leave and deal with some other business in the U.S. because all this took place in London. Then I think it was about two weeks later and then we rehearsed in England.
We came back to Nomis where we had the first initial meeting. We did that for about a week and I think there was about another week off and then we went up and we did pre-production somewhere – the big stage and everything. That was in Los Angeles. We filmed some of the ‘Flick Of The Switch’ videos there. We filmed us doing ‘Flick Of The Switch’ and a couple of other songs as well. It was an amazing rehearsal place because we were just in one corner of it. It was just basically a big building and apparently they used to flood it for the movies and it turned into like the ocean or something and the floor drops and another floor came up. But it was all just a blur. It was like putting your head in a washing machine. Everything was happening at 300 miles an hour.
Glenn: What are your thoughts to making some of the videos because you see the videos and you are like ‘Wow’! What were thy like to make, especially ‘Fly On The Wall’ with the fly buzzing around?
Simon: Yeah, yeah. We didn’t really see that. We saw that afterwards. We just did the initial us playing shots in New York in Brooklyn. I t turned out okay I think, a little bit offbeat I think. We were kinda holed up in a hotel in while in New York for a while before we even did anything. That was cool. A great place – I love it. But it was a lot of organising. It turned out okay. It turned out good.
Glenn: When you first started playing the songs, which ones really blew your mind when you were sat there playing with the guys?
Simon: I think all of ‘em but I remember ‘The Jack’. When it comes to the breakdown in the middle you are just sitting on the hi-hat and the bass drum and you’ve got like 25, 30,000 people singing ‘She’s Got The Jack’ and the lighters are in the air. It’s like, ‘Oh wow’. That was always, you know, it brings a big smile to your face and the rush from that many people and just the volume is incredible. It’s a buzz that you never forget.
Glenn: I guess you are all plugged up because it’s bloody loud?
Simon: Yep. You’ve got the volume of your monitors and the guitars on stage. They were always a loud band. We were always a loud band. They still are. I mean the crowd is as loud if not louder sometimes than the band.
Glenn: Because there were so many people?
Simon: Yeah. It’s absolutely breathtaking. There were many other songs too which were just incredible like ‘Dirty Deeds’, ‘Back In Black’, ‘You Shook Me All Night Long’ – all those songs are just classics. To be actually playin’ ‘em was just absolutely incredible. The whole thing was unbelievable. I’ll never have enough thanks for them letting me come and go on that ride. You learn so much and I have so much respect for them. I’ve nothing but gratitude and respect.
Glenn: Yeah, I was telling my buddy Rick Wilson that I was gonna be meeting you and he said that was absolutely amazing and that the first time he saw you was the televised Detroit '83 show.
Simon: Oh yeah that was Joe Louis Arena wasn’t it?
Glenn: Yeah. Do you remember much about that show?
Simon: Not much. Again, when I say not much I mean it was a massive loud crowd -a great crowd. Detroit has always been and is today still today like one of the heavy rock meccas of America, like New York’s pretty cool that way too, Los Angeles, Boston, Chicago – Detroit has always been as well a rock city – ‘Detroit Rock City’ mate.
Glenn: Yeah, it says it all in black and white.
Simon: It does. It was Technicolor that night though (laughs).
Glenn: What shows really stand out in your memory of your time with AC/DC and why?
Simon: When we played ‘Castle Donington’ with Van Halen. That was a pretty tremendous time. I had all my family down and just headlining ‘Castle Donington’ – it was unbelievable. I went down early to watch Van Halen. It was just unreal. I mean it was in 1984 and I think maybe 3, 4, 5 years before that I’d been home at home listening to Van Halen and now I’m standing at the side of the stage watchin’ ‘em and then my band goes on after ‘em.
Glenn: It’s amazing how things happen like that.
Simon: It’s really bizarre. A lot of it was surreal. You know what I mean? You get thrown into something like that and you go like, ‘Wait a minute, that’s Eddie Van Halen in the tuning room, in the dressing room and you get to talk to him. I know many other people too.
I remember Phil Collins. It’s all so surreal. I got to talk to Phil Collins one time in New York. I really enjoyed Phil Collin’s drumming in Genesis. I always had lots of influences so to actually meet him and say hello to him and to actually meet him – he didn’t say very much, you know, it was a thrill. I think it was two or three nights sold out at Madison Square Gardens so he came along as well and we were on the same record label. It was unbelievable.
Another time was when we played Rock In Rio in ’85. That was unbelievable. A huge sea of people – 250,000. Just people for miles and miles and miles. It was unbelievable. I was so lucky. Those shows stick in your head. Fantastic.
Glenn: Wow. What stood out to you recording some of the songs and what songs did you enjoy recording most?
Simon: Well it was a real basic way – a straight ahead way. I enjoyed a lot of the songs that we recorded together. ‘Fly On The Wall’ had some really great moments and ‘Blow Up Your Video’ had some great moments too. ‘Who Made Who’ I think was a bit more geared towards the movie that went with it and it was kind of a little bit of a greatest hits album as well. It was all good. I liked the track ‘Who Made Who’. I think that turned out good. I think ‘Fly On The Wall’ is a kind of a more raw sounding album.
Glenn: It’s really loud as well.
Simon: It is. It has a real edge to it. That turned out great I think. I just really enjoyed it. It was just a basic way. We just banged out the songs in rehearsal. Banged ‘em out barely rarely a couple of times in the studio and just went for the best track – the best backing track.
Glenn: I first got into AC/DC when a buddy brought up the ‘Blow Up Your Video’ album and I thought it sounded amazing and my Mum’s like, ‘What’s this noise?’ Like the voice of Brian – like what the hell’s this?
Simon: What’s this bloody racket? Turn it down. (Laughs)
Glenn: That’s when you know it’s good. But of course your Dad likes it. It was amazing. I remember you did the mime for the video on the stage and you had the missile.
Simon: Oh that was for ‘Heatseeker’. We did that in London I think if I remember right. We had some trouble with that. I think we had some trouble with that rocket coming up.
Glenn: So what’s the reason you left ‘AC/DC’?
Simon: I’d been in the band that seemed to me for quite a long time and it was pretty close to eight years and I just had other things going on. I just wanted to do more as a player and a musician. It sounds pretty crazy. You’re gonna leave one of the biggest Rock ‘N’ Roll Bands in the World’. But it’s not always about the money. It’s about playing and you are just kinda growing within yourself. It was a gradual process and I became a bit complacent with what was going on and it was nothing against the band. Their music is brilliant and it always will be brilliant. There’s some classic stuff there.
They could see that I wasn’t 100% behind it and it’s no use to a band like that because they need someone who is 100% behind everything and it was a kind of a mutual, gradual thing. It wasn’t a big drama thing or anything like that and I’ve been back to see ‘em. I think it was three years ago at the (LA) Forum and it was on the ‘Black Ice’ Tour. There’s no animosity about what happened with them or me. Obviously…
Glenn: You needed a change?
Simon: Yeah. It just happened like that. That’s just the way it happened and you’ve got to move on from there and luckily I found Ronnie James Dio and played in his band so it worked out alright.
Glenn: Was that a recommendation or did he come to your first?
Simon: It was kind of a recommendation by a couple of people. I went down there and played and it just seemed to click in rehearsal. Ronnie had just gotten this all pretty much new band. He’s had some problems with some of his other musicians or whatever. So things were on the change and he was looking for a fresh new start to things. He had a new bass player, he was looking for a drummer, keyboard player and a brand new guitar player. So that turned out to be the ‘Lock Up The Wolves’ album.
So obviously I knew Ronnie and knew what he was about. I met Ronnie when I was in ‘DC earlier at one of the ‘Monsters Of Rock’ Shows. DIO was on the bill as well and I got to sit down with him and chat about things for probably about half an hour. He was just amazing. I mean, very clever, very smart, very funny, a very wise man. You could tell straight away as I know everybody will say who has met him. He gave me a couple of little snippets of advice that lasted me a long time especially because I was such a youngster in such a massive band. It was great. I was lucky enough to move on from that massive machine into another brilliant, brilliant situation. So I was very humbled, very grateful but like I say that worked out.
Glenn: It’s a bit more cryptic and way more to it than some of the stuff you were doing in AC/DC.
Simon: There is. He was very good about it though. He said because I would ask him about things about the music once I got in the band. He said, “Well just interpret it you way. It’s your gig. It’s like your deal”, and I like to think I was smart enough to integrate a lot of the stuff that was played on the DIO albums prior to me joining in the drumming that is important to the songs. I think that’s an integral part to a lot of the songs. A lot of stuff you do, you try and do it exactly but Ronnie always left me room for interpretation for myself so that was really cool of him.
Glenn: When you read about him from some other members, some say he was a controller and all that but to see him as a guy he seemed really cool and down to earth.
Simon: Well he was both. He was the boss. It was his band. All that sh*t was laying on his shoulders and he was a boss and he had to run a band and he could be quite demanding at times. I didn’t mind that because it’s like you’re leading a band and this band’s called DIO – he could kick ass sometimes but there’s also the other side of him too where he could be just really funny. You know, this dry sense of humour and it was just great. He was just an all round really, really cool guy.
Glenn: He came across that way.
Simon: Well he’s from New York. He’s Italian. He’s high spirited. He’s got that Italian blood goin’ on. He would lose his mind now again which was like….
Glenn: He almost came across British with his European side because he was so funny with the wacky things he would could out with.
Simon: He’s hung around with a lot of British musicians and I think that rubbed off on him. The jokes he would tell, the dry sense of humour, Monty Python – he loved all that.
Glenn: I mean, anyone who brings a dragon on stage, you know you are gonna get some stick.
Simon: Hahahahaha. Yeah but it’s a really big f*ck*n’ dragon. You can’t argue with a really big f*ck*n’ dragon. (We laugh). I mean if it was like a Stonehenge Dragon it’s not gonna work is it?
Simon: No he never did things by halves. He always had this grand vision. His thoughts and everything. His ideas for the staging and just the way he wrote songs. I mean, when you think of those ideas, like you say but he would make them work and he would be the ‘Man On The Silver Mountain’ and sh*t like that and he would actually bring it all into focus and he would make it cool – not goofy it would be cool because he always had a way of kinda double relating what those songs mean like ‘Stargazer’ to ‘Man On The Silver Mountain’ to ‘Gates Of Babylon’.
They always had another meaning to them where people could get drawn into it and get that double meaning and almost feel like, ‘That could be me’ or that song is about, like that could relate to my sister or my brother or something like that. It was always a human aspect with the whole big stage theatric thing.
It was very down to earth. It was a very human way of looking at things and I was amazed by that because there’s a big dragon up there but that dragon meant so many other things. It had so many other crossed purposes. It was like it could mean anything that dragon up there to anybody and relate to any situation. That was incredible to write songs like that and have that other interpretation and open to everybody to interpret.
Glenn: What were the most memorable times with Ronnie either in the studio or in concert?
Simon: Oh there’s so many. With the first tour on ‘Lock Up The Wolves’ we did some incredible shows. We did some shows I remember in Europe with Metallica. It was Metallica then us and Bonham opened up and there were some festivals. Those were fantastic. The European festival fans that you get to see were just incredible. We did a lot of smaller shows which were just as good. It was the intensity and the way.. I mean, the fans, they know all the words.
Glenn: And I guess they’d just sing all the songs?
Simon: Yeah, yeah and just the overwhelming… he was a force to be reckoned with Ronnie – you know what I mean? Every place he went it was just like crazy.
Glenn: A little guy with the biggest, most incredibly powerful voice.
Simon: Yeah he always had a way of.. he had his way of dealing with stuff. I don’t know, I just think it was a very admirable way. He was a very human, human being but when needed he could grow into a giant. It was unbelievable.
Glenn: Would you say that there were certain songs that you were proud to be part of that stand out?
Simon: Yeah. All of them had their moments. I mean we did ‘Magica’ and I know that was quite undertaken. That took quite a bit of time to write it and it was a big story and a big epic that was very, very close to Ronnie’s heart and his ideas. He really wanted to make that work and I think it turned out alright. There’s some great stuff on there. It’s a really dense album. You’ve really gotta sit and listen to it and take in what’s going on and I think it turned out brilliant.
‘Killing The Dragon’ was after that and that’s more of a straight ahead Rock ‘N’ Roll album I think. It was nice having Doug (Aldrich) in the band. He is a brilliant guitar player and ‘Master Of The Moon’ – that was cool because that’s when Craig Goldy came back and it was a lot heavier I think than ‘Killing The Dragon’ and it had more of a darker attitude to it.
There’s great moments on each album and I think it’s a period that was a little bit lost. We still did some incredible shows touring ‘Magica’ and Master Of The Moon’ but I think a lot of bands are feeling the strain of maybe grunge or whatever and everything seemed to change which everyone’s been through. But there’s some brilliant music on there and we were a hell of a band and we’re keeping a lot of that alive with what we do now with DIO Disciples as well.
We still feel it as strongly now as… Ronnie’s not there but we still attack the music the same way with the same attitude and our respect for the fans has kinda tripled if you like from what it was because they come out and they see us and we all celebrate it together. Not that we’d never had any respect for them obviously but when you see people out there and they’re like crying.. they get so upset about thing. It’s really incredible. It gives you a jolt again and it reminds you how much Ronnie meant to these fans. You know, when you see ‘em like that – they get really emotional. It’s not diminished in any way in the shows we do.
We just did some shows last month in Mexico and it was unbelievable. It was just like packed. There were like Police and Police dogs everywhere. It was just amazing – the excitement to hear these songs and celebrate Ronnie’s music - it’s just unbelievable.
Glenn: I know the time I saw DIO Disciples, that was at Download @ Donington Park a few years ago. It was Ripper on vocals and also Toby Jepson as well. You played that one yeah?
Simon: Yeah, yeah. I’m the only one DIO Disciple. Well actually we all have different things going on but I remember that. That was terrific playing Download.
Glenn: It must have been so weird for you to come all those years later and play that same area and the name change as well. What went through your head when you sat there on drums because you played all those years ago?
Simon: Well it was. Those festivals can be quite emotional. Obviously you’ve so many people. There’s a lot of people there. That was one thing. It was a great show. It was just a fantastic show. I mean there was the camaraderie between the band and all the fans because that’s what we’re tryna do here with ‘Disciples. It’s not really about us, it’s really about Ronnie James Dio so there’s the certain camaraderie that happens. Something really special that happens between the band and the fans. We weren’t sure how to deal with things after Ronnie passed away.
We knew we had to do something and I’ve said this many times before and it’s still I think our credo if you like that we’re here to celebrate Ronnie and when we did Donington, I remember we did Sonisphere on that tour as well and other festivals and it was just amazing how everybody came together. We’d arrive at the festival and we’d pull up. Everybody was there to help us. Everybody was respecting what we were doing. We were just trying to keep Ronnie’s music alive. Everybody was so happy that we were there doing it. It’s difficult sometimes because we’re just there doing it because…. It still is a little personal to us. We wanna share it you know? The one thing that Ronnie always instilled in us is the fact that it’s work, work, work, work, work. You know, it’s gotta be good, it’s gotta be better, it’s gotta bet unbelievable in rehearsals, from doing an album, from doing rehearsing for a tour. He instilled that in us – me, Scott and Craig and that’s the way feel about it. So we work very hard to make sure the band is super tight.
We’re very focused on what we’re doing and it’s a fantastic situation with regards to how people.. when people like what we’re doing and we all come together and it works like that. Donington was like that and we really worked. Bloodstock as well and that was incredible too – the people of Bloodstock. I might say what a fantastic festival that is. It’s so well run and the people are just absolutely professional and so nice.
Glenn: Yeah Victoria and all those people?
Simon: Yes they are such a fantastic family. It was just awes inspiring. It was just great.
Glenn: Do you feel that sometimes Ronnie’s there with you when you are on that stage?
Simon: Oh no I don’t think that because that would freak me out. No, no. I think beforehand I stop and have a think and there are moments in the set too but it’s work. That’s what Ronnie did to us. He made us work and we’re working at it. We’ve no time to sentimentalise. We’re there to work otherwise we’d, well I would, I’d just crack up and wouldn’t be able to do it. There are moments in the slower songs I’ve said before, we do ‘Catch The Rainbow’, you know, and you kind of go, ‘Oh sh*tty isn’t it? He’s not here, he’s not here, you know. But we’ve gotta get on and do it to form and get it f*ck*n’ done that’s the way.
Glenn: Your keeping him alive so to speak, keeping his music alive at least?
Simon: We’re trying to keep his music alive. It’s a celebration. If people wanna come they can come. It’s like we’re there and we’re doing it and we totally respect and if they come and see us you know it’s gonna be good. We’re not messing around here so we’re doing our utmost to make it right and do it the way we feel and we hope Ronnie would like so that’s the best sentiments we can give.
Glenn: How does it feel to you to have played on the last ever DIO album (Master Of The Moon)?
Simon: Oh I feel honoured and privileged and I didn’t know it was gonna be the last album.
Glenn: No one did.
Simon: I don’t know. I just think back and I go… I mean we did stuff after that that never saw the light of day. So it would have on. I wish I didn’t have to do DIO Disciples.
Glenn: You wanna be in DIO with Ronnie.
Simon: Yeah. Because there was nothing wrong with it. It was going good. We were a rocking little unit. Ronnie was doing ‘Heaven And Hell’ – he really wanted to do that but he was always talking to me and Craig about when we’re gonna get back together and do stuff and we had a British Tour set up if I remember and we were rehearsing for it when we got the awful news.
Glenn: I remember because I wanted to cover it and all of a sudden the tour disappeared and you know, the rest is just tragic history.
Simon: Yeah and it was bloody awful. It was so tough for him not to be able to do stuff because he had so much stuff and so many ideas right to the very end. He had so many plans and so many big ideas that were gonna be groundbreaking and it never happened. It just…
Glenn: You keep everything going for him, for the great man you know?
Simon: Yeah. But it would have been superb to have kept going because I knew what was gonna be happening if he could have carried on and there was some fantastic ideas. I mean he had ideas for ‘Magica 2 and 3’ and making it a real big stage show – more theatrical and bringing all that kinda stuff back.
Glenn: He was a one-off genius.
Simon: He was still Rock ‘N’ Roll but he was a genius. I mean he was tough you know but he had such great ideas and they were his ideas and if you didn’t like ‘em then ‘F*ck You’. I mean that’s Ronnie you know?
Glenn: Yes that’s the Italian in him as well isn’t it?
Simon: Yeah he was the best. He is the best.
Glenn: And always will be.
Glenn: So what else have you also been involved in apart from DIO?
Simon: I was in UFO, I did the Rhino Bucket stuff and well.
Glenn: I’ve got the 'Pain' album with you on it.
Simon: Yeah, yeah, yeah. That was good. That was a good thing. I’ve been lucky enough to do a bunch of stuff. I mean being in UFO was very, very nice. It was a great bunch of characters. I really, really enjoyed being in that band. I’m very, very lucky and very, very humbled by the whole thing. Like I say, it was hard work when you got it again but we had some great moments with UFO. That was with Michael Schenker playing guitar and he’s just incredible. We did some fantastic shows. Just up the street here at The Palace we played in ’95 and it was kind of like return of UFO. They hadn’t really played here for a while with Michael at least anyway and it was a really special night. I mean, everybody came down – it was a great night. Slash was there and he got up and jammed with us.
Simon: That was very cool.
Glenn: He’s a really nice guy.
Simon: Oh great guy. I love Slash. He’s a very down to earth guy.
Glenn: He is. I was backstage with him with Slash’s Snakepit in December 2000 – 3rd December it was because I got the gig for him and it was in Sheffield. The only time he has ever played Sheffield.
Simon: That’s great, that’s great. It was just one of those magical nights. Slash is a great guy and everything. There were so many other great shows that we did. We did like a bunch of shows in Chicago. It was like four or five in a row at The Vic Theater. It was really special. That’s where ‘Strangers In The Night’ was recorded. So I was a fan of UFO for a long time so to actually be in Chicago with UFO and you hear, “Hello Chicago. Will you please welcome from England, UFO!”. You’re like, ‘Oh my god, this is really cool”. They’re just great people. We still keep in touch, we talk to each other. We’re friends forever. They’re good brothers. It’s great – really good.
Simon: And then there was Rhino Bucket. There’s been a lot, I’ll tell ya. (Laughs) I’ve been very lucky and very fortunate and I’m very humble about all the great situations. I’ve played with some fantastic people – musicians. I don’t know, I’m just working my ass off – that’s all I’m doing. I love playing drums. All I wanna do is play drums and rock and play some good songs and keep in touch – great people.
Glenn: You must get offers all the time – Will you be in my band? Will you put this drum tack down, Will you come on tour with us? It must be hard sometimes for a guy like you? Like, “I’ve got so many offers, what do I pick”, and it’s having the thing that sounds best for you.
Simon: Well it’s kinda like a double-edged sword really because I manage to do things. I’ve got some stuff going on with different sessions and work and all but there are a lot of people that I feel think, ‘Oh god, he was in AC/DC, he was in DIO or whatever and they go like, “There’s no way”, you know? People won’t contact you because of that and that kinda thing.
Glenn: It stereotypes you to certain styles?
Simon: Yeah and it’s difficult because all I wanna do is be involved with cool stuff and everything and that kind of thing. But sometimes you do have to pick and choose because there is situations that could compromise other situations because it’s not the cool thing to do or this guy oh you know? And it’s scheduling as well. But I’m very honoured if someone calls me up and wants me to play on their stuff or whatever. I’ll help ‘em out with some stuff. It’s all part of the music industry.
Glenn: You had a session yesterday as well.
Simon: Exactly. Little things come up and I’m like, ‘Cool, I’m working, I’m playing’. It’s great. Like I say, sometimes it’s difficult because I think some people are scared to get in touch because they think, ‘Oh no, no’, it’s you know? But it doesn’t matter. If the music’s good, it’s got a good vibe and the people are cool - Hey you know, let’s do something. Work around the schedules and stuff like that. Yeah I must admit, it’s a busy schedule.
Glenn: I mean, you are in like two or three bands at the same time aren’t you?
Simon: Yeah but it’s good. These days a lot of musicians are in two or three different bands…
(Photograph taken by Nicola Conte)
Glenn: To make ends meet?
Simon: Yeah because the musical economy is not what it was. There are no record companies bringing you $350,000 to make an album or support you on the tour or any of that stuff anymore. You’ve gotta basically get by with t-shirt sales and a wing and prayer you know?
Simon: So yeah it can be difficult but a lot of people, a lot of musicians… it’s almost gone back to the way it was in the early days of like Metal and Heavy Rock. Kinda slog around and some stuff, some shows and…
Glenn: Play underground?
Simon: Yeah where you’re in the fans face. There’s no, you know, 16 tour buses - whatever. There are some acts that can still manage to deal with touring like that.
Glenn: That’s more like your AC/DC’s, your Aersomith’s – the big bands.
Simon: Yeah. Yeah.
Glenn: It seems funny mentioning AC/DC but you know what I mean, it’s just you know?
Simon: Well it is, I mean there’s that situation where there’s like the middle tier of bands and all and then there’s this other tier. It’s like who cares about tiers? It makes you cry and then you’re really f*ck*d! I’m sorry (We laugh)
Glenn: I like it. That’s funny.
Simon: Oh good god. (We laugh) No more tears.
Simon: I mean there’s certain levels of bands and stuff. You finds its like what Agents have to deal with. You know Promoters and stuff, there’s a certain level that Agents and Promoters have to work with. But to me it’s all about the music and just playing. It’s great. I’m happy. I’m good.
Glenn: What was it like for you when you got contacted by Geoff Tate because there’s been a lot of controversy? What’s it like for you being a member of that band?
Simon: It’s okay. I got contacted… well I think Rudy (Sarzo) mentioned something to Geoff because I guess for one reason or another Bobby wasn’t working out, I don’t know exactly why but Geoff called me and he asked me if I would be interested in doing it and I said, “Sure, I would love to do that “ and he thought it was a great idea. We did talk a little bit about the progressiveness of Queensryche and he said, “You know, it’s kind of a progressive thing and stuff and everything like this”, and I said, “Yes, I realise that”. I’ve listened to Queensyche and Queensryche opened up for ‘DC back in the 80’s.That’s where I met Geoff actually. I said hello to him and everything. We was cool. We sat and met with him and he’s a super intelligent guy – a really nice fella.
But you know, I kinda put the phone down and then I kinda went, ‘Oh man, what have I got myself into here’. So I started listening and I’m learning and I’m going, “What is this? Wait a minute? Wait – what’s going on there?” and I got myself into a little bit of a situation. I was kinda getting bogged down with it. You know, Scott (Rockenfield) is an amazing player. He has his way of playing and I have my way of playing. He has a way and I have a way and musicality within drummers is obviously open for interpretation and that is how the way I felt about it. I said, “Listen, I have to deal with this my way”, because…. And we do. Rudy’s the same way. They’re great players. Me and Rudy, we just captured the best we can – our interpretations of the parts which again are integral to the songs. But we didn’t wanna actually copy everything. We wanted to be ourselves. I think we deserve to be ourselves.
I think it’s important that fans still know that I’m playing drums and Rudy Sarzo’s playing bass. So we just kept that momentum going and me and Rudy just decided to do this the way that we felt we could interpret it best and we just went out there and said, “F*ck It – Rock! Bit in Queensryche it was important that we kept the integral part again and respected the music. Me and Rudy respect the players in Queensryche because there is such a battle goin’ on. You know - whatever. We do what we do and they’re doing what they should do – they are the band but we have to interpret out way and it seems to be going quite well. A lot of shows are sold out.
Glenn: Yeah because I heard a rumour that Geoff was actually stopping his version of Queensryche but he’s keeping it going.
Simon: Yeah well there’s been a lot of speculation but it finally came through a couple of weeks ago about the settlement and it seems that… I think things will be changing. We’re doing a farewell tour and it’ll be a greatest hits tour. We’ve done a greatest hits tour before but ‘Operation Mindcrime’ – we’ve been doing the whole thing. I’m not a hundred per cent sure what is going to be happening after this tour. I know he’s got a lot of music recorded and he’s thinking about doing another album. He’s talked about doing a double album, a triple album. So he’s all fired up and ready to write and go so we’ll just have to wait and see what happens. But as far as so far as being with Queensyche it’s been an absolute joy. I mean, some of the playing in some of those songs, it’s just really cool. They are brilliant songs and when you really get into the to the songs learning them, there’s a lot of great little parts that have been created. So all respect to the band who created them.
Glenn: So how would you describe the drum style of Simon Wright?
Simon: I don’t know. I don’t think about it too much. I am too busy learning songs. (Laughs). No I mean I try to be solid and solid first. I try to play for the band for the song. I try to make people groove and enjoy the song and that’s all I can do and I’m sure at best that’s what most drummers do you know? I just try to do what I’m doing. I don’t know. I would like to think I’m a pretty solid drummer and if that be the case then I’m fine with that.
Glenn: Well that’s what I thought you’d say before I was talking to Matt Duncan the other night and he said he was playing with you last Saturday.
Simon: Oh yeah right. Right, right. Matt’s great.
Glenn: And he was saying that he was playing on the bass and said he was used to solid, hard, powerful players and that’s what Shawn’s like and he said it was weird because he said it was like having someone like Shawn behind him and he found it really great to play with you guys.
Simon: Oh yeah, yeah, yeah. Shawn’s a… the three brothers are just brilliant together. They’ve got DC4 and they really… there’s like this brotherly kinetic thing going on.
Glenn: Yeah I was talking to him the other night.
Simon: They are a great band DC4. Matt’s a great bass player - absolutely fantastic. A really cool player. It was really cool playing with him the other day. He was helping us out. It was really cool.
Glenn: If you could pick any particular moments in your career that really stand out so far which ones would they be?
Simon: Oh Man. There’s so many for different reasons. A lot of it’s like what I’ve already said really. I mean there are moments with like ‘DC where there were really human moments. I remember… here’s a time when Mal had a real problem with things and we didn’t really know and he had… it’s been documented and I’m not telling any porky pies or lies but you know he had a problem with his drinking and his nephew Stevie came in and that was a really hard moment, a really difficult moment because it was like… but it got dealt with and Malcolm came back stronger than ever and Mal’s just really happening’ and I hope he’s doing well now.
Then there’s other things with Ronnie. I’ll tell this story, we were in Russia and we came off and we came off a plane. We had our own plane and we were doing this Russian Tour. We got out the terminal and there were lots and lots of media and they were there with their camera and Ronnie stopped them all, went back in the bar, got some milk and was feeding the cats – the stray cats – not the band the actual stray cats. (We laugh) Like, “Hey, you got some milk buddy?”. No but it was like moments like that, that are you know, nobody’s overdosing on drugs or throwing tv's out of hotels but those are like the moments that you hear about. Not that you hear about them but you really take it to heart. Yeah there’s other stuff but it’s all been great. I’ve been very, very lucky.
Glenn: I mean, guys like you, it doesn’t seem to be about like girls and tv’s and smashing hotels and drugs and stuff. It’s more about being a great player and appreciating things. That’s what comes across from someone like your good self.
Simon: Well you’ve gotta plan it you see. If you’ve got a couple of days off you can smash a tv up but then you’ve gotta sober up and play your gig you see? (We laugh) It’s all about timing. You’ve got to time things right. No I’m only joking. I’ve never thrown anything out of a window. I’ve thrown a beer out once but never mind. It was in Hollywood.
Glenn: So what are you currently busy with right now?
Simon: Well right now I’m gonna be doing the Geoff Tate 'Queensryche' for all of August and I’ve got this new project with Ann Boleyn and we’re going all through October in America called ‘Hellion’ and it’s kinda like a resurrection of her band. We’re going out right through October and it’s gonna be great and we recorded 5 brand new songs on an E.P. ( called ‘Karma’s A Bitch’) and it turned out really good. That’s another project that I’m really excited about and we’ve got Scott Warren on board from DIO.
We’ve got some more surprises that are coming up and people involved with it that will do the tour. It’s baby steps at the minute. They’re smaller places but we’re gonna try and go out there and kick ass. So it should be interesting and Ann hasn’t been playing for quite a while so a lot of people are excited and it does look like a lot of people. Very exciting so that’s a good project to get involved with.
Glenn: For the fans out there that are reading this interview, what would you like to say to them?
Simon: I’d just like to say that you rock and I can’t do without ya and I’m looking forward to being on the road and total respect and hopefully we’ve got some really, really new good things coming up as well. Very humbled. You all Rock! Love Ya!
Glenn: Thanks a lot Simon, That’s great.
Simon: Sure Glenn, no problem mate. All the best.
Glenn: That’s so much appreciated.
A big thankyou goes to OZZFestAmy for taking the photographs of me with Simon Wright and suggesting this venue, Denise @ Loaded Bar, Hollywood for keeping us in a great supply of drinks, Ann Boleyn of Hellion for the amazing company and of course Simon Wright himself for one of the best Interviews in the history of Metalliville!
Many photographs have used by kind persmission of Simon Wright and photographers have been credited where possible.