By Kelley Simms
Simon Wright has an impressive resume. He has built up a solid reputation for being a dependable skinsman.
Wright has performed in many diverse and influential acts such as AC/DC, DIO, RHINO BUCKET, A II Z, TYTON, MOGG/WAY and UFO. Since Ronnie James Dio’s passing on May 16, 2010, Wright has been performing in the ultimate Dio tribute band, DIO DISCIPLES.
The loveable, roly-poly drummer was born and raised in Oldham Manchester, England (he’s a United fan) and began bashing away on the drums at the age of 13 on a tattered Olympic kit. He never took drum lessons, and as a self-taught DIY drummer, he learned by playing along with the stereo wearing headphones and emulating his heroes such as John Bonham, Cozy Powell and Tommy Aldridge, all along dreaming of becoming a rock star one day.
“I knew rock stars got girls and figured I could do that! I just knew I wanted to play in a heavy rock band of some kind. Stubbornness just kept me trying to doing it. I went through what every drummer goes through; you have friends at school, you form a band, play in the garage … you do all that stuff. That’s the way to do it and learn. But I always knew that it was what I wanted to do. I felt really strongly about it. I worked construction when I first started off, and I thought that drumming has got to be better than doing construction. And I just pursued it.”
Wright snagged his first professional gig in 1980 playing in A II Z, who came out of the burgeoning NWOBHM scene. Wright went on the road opening up for the famous all-girl British rockers GIRL SCHOOL. Although he never recorded an album with A II Z, it was an exciting time to be in the British heavy metal scene at the time.
“It was kind of underground and if you were a musician involved in it, it was like, ‘Yeah, this is ours!’ Because before that, there was nothing. I mean, obviously there was ZEPPELIN and stuff like that, but it was really stale for bands. There wasn’t much going on and then a resurgence came back and it was a whole new thing, there were all these new bands. These clubs started opening up and there were places to play and it was a whole new thing. It was a great time to be around and there were some great bands, too.”
After A II Z dissolved, Wright went from relative obscurity to playing in one of the biggest bands in the world when he replaced the dependable Phil Rudd in AC/DC in 1983. He manned the drum throne for them until 1989 and recorded three albums with the band: Fly On The Wall, Who Made Who and Blow Up Your Video.
“All the touring and the recording of the albums was great. I think there was a little bit of a dip in popularity there with those albums. Because AC/DC did three massive albums: Back in Black, For Those About To Rock and Flick Of The Switch. It’s hard to keep that momentum up. That’s what happened with those three albums. Now they have become a part of AC/DC history and the catalog. People have gone back and listening to them and enjoying them because there’s some really rocking songs on there. I loved playing on those albums.”
Departing AC/DC in 1989, Wright joined up with Dio and did two stints with the band (1990-91 and 1998-2010) while participating on four studio releases: Lock Up The Wolves, Magica, Killing the Dragon and Master Of The Moon. These albums were a little under appreciated and went somewhat unnoticed due to the grunge movement in the ’90s and the lack of radio and MTV play. Celebrating these releases in the form of the latest Dio compilation, The Very Beast Of Dio Vol. 2, is the best way to introduce some of these songs as a collective of later-era Dio material.
“It seemed that there was just a little bit of a disinterest and I’m not sure why exactly. It might have been a change in the musical climate. Ronnie was still writing some great songs and there’s some great strong material on there. If it’s been overlooked then it needs to be looked at now and this is the compilation to have a look at it. And the good thing about it too is that it digs deep into the albums. It’s not just dealing with the hits off the albums, it deals with some of the songs that were really consistent but not quite as well known. It’s a great retrospect. It fits well in the Dio catalog, that’s for sure. There’s some really consistently great songs on here that stand up and it’s good that they’re being released like this.”
Anyone who has ever met or played with Ronnie, never had a bad thing to say about him. Wright has many memorable moments that he got to share with Ronnie during his time with the band.
“It wasn’t just one or two things, it was a combination. It was always something that he’d come up with and you’d see how he’d work and there was so much to take from. He was the smartest, cleverest, quick-witted guy you could ever meet. He was so caring. And he’d just remember everything, it would blow your mind. He was a remarkable man.”
To celebrate the life and music of Ronnie, Wright, along with members of Dio’s band and other veteran metal musicians formed Dio Disciples in 2011 and began playing shows worldwide.
“It is difficult sometimes getting this band together because we do have all our other projects. But we’ve managed to pull some things together. We started up on the 20th of October at the Anaheim House of Blues and we have two or three other California shows that are being worked out at the moment. We end up on the 21st of November in Watertown, New York and I think there’s three or four New York shows in that time period. In between that, we’ll try to fit in as many shows as we can all over the place. We want to keep this thing going, and we’ll keep the flag flying for Ronnie.”
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