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Interview with Bobby Rondinelli

The Lizards, featuring veteran rock drummer Bobby Rondinelli, did a European tour in early spring 2005 in support of their third album, Cold Blooded Kings. By the time you read this, The Lizards will be in the middle of yet another tour, this time as support act to UFO. I caught up with Bobby in early March when they toured as support act to Glenn Hughes and did an interview shortly before the soundcheck. Welcome to this exclusive Bobby Rondinelli interview.


Paul: How has the tour been so far?

Bobby Rondinelli © Paul DeblondBobby: So far very good.

You’ve been to Sweden, England and Denmark?

We didn’t play Denmark yet, we play in Copenhagen tomorrow.

Yeah, that’s right.

This is our last gig in Sweden. We like Sweden.

You do?

Like it a lot.

The women?

Well, the people seem to like us you know, that’s good. If they like you it’s hard not to like it. Plus it’s a nice and beautiful country.

Thanks for saying that. How has Glenn been treating you?

Glenn’s great!

Have you meet Glenn before this tour?

Yes, I’ve met Glenn quite a few times.

Have you ever played with him?

Never...he was going to play on my solo album at one point...but then plans change and I used Tony Martin and Glenn was busy he couldn’t do it.

Bobby Rondinelli © Paul DeblondMaybe on next album?

You never know.

You are of Italian heritage aren’t you?

Yes.

Do you speak Italian?

No, just pizza and ravioli [laughs], I really don’t speak Italian. I wish I did.

Do you have relatives in Italy?

I know there’s some distant cousins there somewhere...most of my family, you know is in the states.

How and when did you first get involved with The Lizards?

I got involved because I did a record at Randy’s [Pratt, bass] studio. So we met and we liked each other and they liked the way I played...they were having problems with their drummer and they asked me if I would like to play on some of their songs. So I did and I liked it and they liked it. I was with Blue Oyster Cult at the time...and I knew they were looking for a drummer so I said, you know I would do it as long as we could work around BOC’s schedule, you know. So they said yes and that was a little over three years ago. So for almost three years I was doing both The Lizards and BOC.

How was that?

That was busy man, I was working a lot. It was good, it was actually very good. But The Lizards starting getting busier and it became difficult do the two...so in September I left BOC.

After seven years?

Seven or eight years, something like that, yeah.

How come you left them, why didn’t you stick with BOC?

Because...as I did it for seven or eight years I was ready for a change. I really enjoy playing with Lizards I enjoyed BOC also and I’m still very good friends with them. It was just time for a change.

What’s the main difference to play with BOC than to play with The Lizards?

I get to play a little freer in The Lizards you know, a lot freer actually. So that makes it a lot of fun to me. I can go crazy if I want.

That sounds good. Are you going to go crazy tonight?

Paul & Bobby © Paul DeblondI hope so.

We’re looking forward to that.

Thank you me too.

The Lizards have done three albums, right?

Right.

Have you played on all of them?

No, the last two, The Lizards Rule and Cold Blooded Kings. The original guy was on the first.

I have to tell you that I hadn’t heard about The Lizards before until your name came up. So I guess that it was a smart move to recruit you.

I guess, I don’t know. You never heard any of the stuff yet?

Oh yes now I have. I’ve got the latest album Cold Blooded Kings. It’s really good.

Thank you.

Sounded like 70s...Zeppelin, Sabbath.

Yeah, we wanted to sound like...that’s what we like you know. We want to play what we want to play and not worried about what’s in...the current music. We want to play what we like and that’s what we like.

Prior to leaving BOC, was there ever talk about a new album?

Yeah, they’re probably going to do another album?

With who?

They have a new drummer named Jules Redino and a new bass player named Richie Castellano because Danny Miranda left also. He’s playing with Queen now.

Soundcheck © Paul DeblondOn the Queen Paul Rodgers tour?

Yes, so BOC has a new rhythm section.

Let’s Talk about Rainbow. Is that OK?

Yeah.

How did Ritchie discover you in the first place?

It’s a long story but...basically a friend of his Barry told Ritchie about me and brought Ritchie to see me at a club. I’ve been trying to get in touch with Ritchie because I heard that Cozy was leaving and you know I was a Rainbow fan...and I really wanted a shot at the gig. So I was playing a club in New York called Hammerheads and after the set this guy comes up and says, “Hi my name’s Barry, I’m a friend of Ritchie Blackmore’s”. I go, “Really? I’ve been trying to get in touch with him”. He goes, “Good, because he’s here and wants to meet you”. So that’s how I meet Ritchie.

Which band did you play in?

Back then it was a band called Samantha.

I guess it was a major life turn to join Rainbow?

Yeah, it was...a change but it felt normal...I always believed I was going to be in a big band or big bands so when I did it, it was very natural but a change yeah.

Did you have any input in Rainbow’s new Americanised sound?

You know...I guess...I was the new guy but I had some sure...me and Ritchie used to jam a lot before we even got together with the rest of the guys because we lived very close together.

Did you have to do an audition or jam prior to joining Rainbow?

No, I mean me and Ritchie got together and jammed...you know and...the other guys in the band, you know when Ritchie told them about me...they said, good let’s get together and check him out and Ritchie was like...no he’s in. Let’s get together and check it out with him, they said...but Ritchie got pretty heavy. I mean to me it would have been OK but Ritchie knew what he wanted.

You and Joe joined Rainbow about the same time, both of you were the new guys. Did that make a special bond between you and Joe? Did you hang around?

We hang around a bit, we were friends yeah. We got along well. When we started the first album Graham Bonnet was the singer. We were recording in Copenhagen and a couple of weeks into the recording...Ritchie and Graham had a fight and there was no more Graham. So we finished the record without a singer and when we got back to the states the same guy that found me, Barry found Joe.

Did Ritchie do any practical jokes on you?

Oh, Ritchie would always do practical jokes on everybody.

Especially on the new guys I can imagine.

Oh yeah, he used to hate that I could sleep anywhere you know and he couldn’t sleep well you know. He would wake up all hours of the night and stuff...so he had this Kate Bush song...”Rolling The Ball” and he went into the studio and just took those words “Rolling The Ball”, “Rolling The Ball” and made like an hour tape and he used to put this big stereo outside my room when he couldn’t sleep. When he couldn’t sleep he didn’t want anybody to sleep.

Soundcheck © Paul DeblondDid you ever get back at him?

Not really.

Were you scared of him?

No, I mean I would play jokes at him back but he were the better joker so.

What do you remember the most about being in Rainbow, any fond memories?

Yeah, I mean I was in a band with you know a couple of guys...that I used to listen to in my bedroom when I was a kid it was great you know...a great experience and a great band.

Recording with Rainbow was that a smooth operation or was it a hassle?

It was work you know, but it wasn’t tortures. Making records is hard work you know. But Roger was a good producer and we had good songs so it wasn’t that bad.

Did you have free hands playing drums or did Ritchie tell you how to play?

Bobby Rondinelli © Paul DeblondYeah, pretty much I played what I wanted you know.

You got any favourite Rainbow album?

Yeah, I love the Rainbow Rising.

That is probably the most famous and best album.

Yeah, I love that record.

And your own records Difficult and Eyes?

I like them both I mean when I listen back to them they’re good records, still today.

Do you have a favourite Rainbow line up?

Yeah, I like the Dio line up with Cozy...you know it was very heavy and it’s weird not to pick the one I was in. The one I was in was great you know...but I like the Dio/Cozy Rainbow a lot.

Are you still in contact with any ex-Rainbow members?

I saw Roger over the summer...I run into Ritchie every couple of years in Long Island or something you know but I haven’t seen him in a while. I heard his birthday’s coming up so I wish him a Happy Birthday. And I see Joe once in a while I run into him you know, I saw Don Airey not long ago at a Purple gig, I saw Dave Rosenthal about a month ago at a trade show. So I guess I see them once in a while, not often.

Were you asked to leave Rainbow or did you leave by yourself?

I left by myself but I think if I didn’t I would probably been asked.

Bobby & Randy © Paul DeblondWas there a problem?

There was always something going on, you know what I mean.

So you left in good terms?

Yeah.

There wasn’t any big fallout or something?

No.

After Rainbow you kind of disappeared. What happened?

I put my own group together with my brother Teddy and we got James Lomenzo who then played with White Lion and Ray Gillen and had that band for a while. We were just about to sign a big record deal when Ray left to join Sabbath...so that was kind of like bit of a drag.

You also played with Doro for a while. Was that in Germany?

No, when I played with her she lived in New York.

And then you turned up in Black Sabbath. How did that happened?

Somebody called me and told me that Tony Iommi from Sabbath was looking for a drummer, and he gave me Tony’s number and I called him and got the gig. He said that they were going to call me anyway they had a list of names and I was on it.

Sabbath and Rainbow have about the same fan base. Did you meet old friends whilst on the road with Sabbath?

You always meet old friends whatever band you’re with, you’re always going to run into somebody who says you know...I saw you at the Rainbow show, saw you at the Sabbath show. With rock there are so many people that’ll go to every hard rock show.

You only recorded one album Cross Purposes with Sabbath. How come?

My manager and their manager had a falling out so I was out of the band, and they did the next record with Cozy and halfway through the tour they called me up and asked me if I would finish the tour.

Bobby Rondinelli © Paul DeblondAnd you did?

Yeah.

Did Cozy leave in the middle of the tour?

Yeah, well he left after the US leg. He just didn’t want to tour so much anymore.

How are Blackmore and Iommi similar and how are they different?

They’re similar in the fact that they’re both very unique. Tony sounds like Tony you know...and Ritchie sounds very much like Ritchie. There’re very few guys where you can hear...if it’s a new song that you’ve never heard where you can listen to like two seconds of a song and you know...you can tell Ritchie’s playing...two notes usually if it’s something you didn’t hear. And they’re both similar also in the way that they both invent hard rock music, you know what I mean. Ritchie is more like on the classical side and Tony is maybe more on the darker side you know...they’re both pioneers.

How was it to play with Buck Dharma?

Buck was great...a great guy...great guitar player.

Didn’t Cozy used to tease you since you seemed to replace him in a couple of bands?

Yeah, he called me up once and he said, “Bobby, Cozy here, I’m going to give you my girlfriend’s number mate because you’ve had about everything else I’ve done you might as well do her too”. He was a good guy.

So you and Cozy were friends?

Yeah, definitely.

The Lizards © Paul DeblondHow did you take his sudden death?

I missed a few BOC shows and I went over to play at the tribute concert.

With Neil Murray?

Yeah...I was sad...I was sad.

Were Cozy a big influence on you?

I liked they way he played a lot yeah.

Anyone else?

Ginger Baker, Carmine, Buddy Rich, Dino Dinelli, Mitch Mitchell...all great rock drummers.

Who’s Dino?

The Rascals.

An American band?

Yeah, the young Rascals.

You played on a Riot album, Through The Storm. How did that happened?

I had some free time...Mark Reale called me and asked me if I wanted to do this record and I said, yeah let’s do it.

Was Mike in the band at the time?

Yes.

So you and Mike were old buddies?

No, not really. I only saw him once at a rehearsal doing the record and when I actually did the recording he wasn’t there at all. And after I heard the record I really liked the way he sang. That’s way...when Lizards were looking for a singer he was the first guy we called.

You were asked to join Scorpions too weren’t you?

No, I did a record. I did Love At First Sting but I was never asked to join the band.

So you were just a hired gun for the recording?

Pretty much, at one point they thought about me and Jimmy Bain joining but the management talked them out off it...thought they should stay back then all German.

Bobby Rondinelli © Paul DeblondSo they only wanted German musicians?

Well, they were the first big German band...so at one point the wanted to keep it like that.

Were you disappointed?

Not really, they just hired me to do the record and I wasn’t really thinking past the record you know.

About the same time as you joined Rainbow, didn’t you do an audition for Kiss?

Yeah, in fact when I met Ritchie he said, “You know if you don’t get the Kiss gig I would like to get together and jam” and I said, “I'd like to jam whether I get the gig or not”, you know. Yeah, I was up for the gig in Kiss me and Eric Carr. Out of like two thousand tapes or something it was down to me and him and he got it.

Were you offered the Kiss job?

No, he sang more and I also heard that I was too well known in the New York area and they were wearing the make up you know. I’ve been playing that area for years you know.

Yngwie Malmsteen has gone through a lot of ex-Rainbow musicians, has he ever approached you?

Graham Bonnet had called me when...I guess it was Alcatrazz and Yngwie was in the band and asked me to join but I was doing something at the time so I said no.

The Rondinelli album Our Cross Our Sins has quite an impressive line up. Will there ever be another Rondinelli album?

I’m sure it will, I don’t know if it will be the same line up or not, but I will eventually do another record with my brother sometime yeah. Maybe with that line up, I thought they did great. I thought it was a great album.

How did that album happen?

A friend of mine got me a deal. You know, I always wanted to do an album were I had the final say and everything. So I got the deal and me and my brother wrote everything. We recorded our parts and then we flew over Neil and Tony and I’m very happy the way it came out.

With all the bands and musicians you’ve played with, do you have any favourites?

It’s hard to say...you know, I mean Rainbow will always have a special place because it was my first big group but...I love a lot of different bands for a lot of different reasons, you know what I mean.

Bobby Rondinelli © Paul DeblondAny regrets?

Nah, but what are you going to do, you can’t undo them so no, no regrets.

Is there any musician or band that you haven’t played with that you would like to?

I wouldn’t mind doing an album with Jimmy Page. Yeah, I would like that. I love the way he writes and I think he understands drummers.

Should it be Zeppelin music or?

Hey, if it would be Zeppelin music wow! [Laughs] Yeah, I would love to do a record with him...he’s the one guy that I didn’t work with that I would really like to.

Any others?

I’m sure there are a million of them but I can only name one, you know what I mean.

What kind of music do you listen to at home?

I listen to...a lot of old rock. I listen to fusion, jazz fusion...funk kind of stuff probably more than anything.

You live in New York, how’s the rock scene there?

The rock scene was better a couple of years ago but there’s still a few clubs that play rock, where you can go out and hear some good music.

Rock is sort of coming back, isn’t it?

The Lizards © Paul DeblondI hope so, I really hope so.

If you weren’t a drummer/musician, which profession would you like to have?

Probably a cop...I like to shot people, no [laughs]. I don’t know, maybe a policeman or something.

Which profession would you not like to have?

Fireman.

Because of the heat?

That’s a lot of heat.

If heaven exists, what would you like to hear as you enter the pearly gates?

I’d like to hear a band playing in the background, maybe with John Bonham, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin singing, Felix Pappalardi [Mountain] on bass something like that. With a big jam session were the musicians keep changing, so I can get up [laughs].

That’s it Bobby, thank you.

Great man excellent, thank you.

I want to thank William James at Glass Onyon PR, George Feddon, The Lizards and of course a special thanks to Bobby Rondinelli for his time and generosity. More info on Bobby and The Lizards can be found here.

© 2005 Paul Deblond

 


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